Last edited on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 3:11 PM.
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Friday, April 02, 2021
I. South Dakota Woman Charged with Assaulting Federal Officer
On March 29, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Dennis R. Holmes announced that a federal grand jury had indicted a Fort Thompson woman for he the charge of Assaulting, Resisting, and Impeding a Federal Officer. The woman, Jennifer Surrounded, 35, was indicted on March 9, 2021, and she made her first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on March 24, 2021, where she pled not guilty to the indictment.
If Suppose she is convicted at trial, Surrounded faces as much as 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, in addition to three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. The court may also order some form of Restitution.
According to the Indictment, on February 12, 2021, in Fort Thompson, SD, Surrounded allegedly assaulted an officer with a knife while the officer was engaged in the performance of his official duties. The investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Crow Creek Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy R. Morley is prosecuting the case. Surrounded has been remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial, a date for which has yet to be set.
II. South Dakota Man Charged with Assault
On March 29, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Dennis R. Holmes announced an indictment by a federal grand jury against Gavin Drapeau, 29, for wo two counts; Assault with a Dangerous Weapon and Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. The man, was indicted on March 9, 2021. Drapeau appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on March 24, 2021, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment.
If he is convicted of these charges, Drapeau faces as much as 10 ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He also faces three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered. According to the indictment, on January 11, 2021, in Fort Thompson, Drapeau unlawfully assaulted an individual with shot feet, and said assault resulted in serious bodily injury to the victim.
III. Man Charged with Organizing Smuggling Event that Led to Deaths of 13 Mexican and Guatemalan Nationals
Jose Cruz Noguez, who once came from Mexicali, Mexico, but is now a permanent legal permanent resident of the United States and, more specifically, San Jose, California. was charged in federal court on March 30, 2021, for his role in the coordination of a smuggling event on March 2, 2021. That event, in turn, led to the deaths of 13 Mexican and Guatemalan nationals, which occurred when their overloaded vehicle crashed near Holtville, California.
Cruz was arrested and taken into custody on March 29, as he crossed into the U.S. from Mexico at the Calexico Port of Entry. He made his first appearance in federal court in El Centro on March 30 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro. That was when Cruz was charged with Conspiracy to Bring Aliens to the United States Outside a Port of Entry, Causing Serious Bodily Injury/Placing a Life in Jeopardy, and Bringing in Aliens Without Presentation for Financial Gain.
Judge Montenegro ordered that Cruz remain in custody and scheduled a detention hearing for Monday, April 5, 2021.
IV. Nevada Exec and Healthcare Staffing Company Indicted for Colluding to Suppress School Nurse Wages
On March 30, 2021, a federal grand jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, returned an indictment charging a healthcare staffing company, VDA OC LLC (formerly known as Advantage On Call LLC), and Ryan Hee, of Las Vegas, NV, and a former manager of the company, with entering into and engaging in a conspiracy with a competitor to allocate employee nurses and to fix the wages of those nurses, in violation of the Sherman Act.
According to the felony indictment filed March 30 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Hee and a co-conspirator agreed not to recruit or hire nurses staffed by their respective companies at Clark County School District facilities and to refrain from raising the wages of those nurses. During the alleged conspiracy, from about October 2016 until July 2017, Advantage was one of two primary providers of contract nursing services to the school district and employed Hee as a regional manager in its Las Vegas office.
Advantage changed its name to VDA OC LLC after its assets were acquired by another company in July 2017. If he is convicted, Hee and the company will face up to 10 years in prison for violating the Sherman Act, and could be fined as much as $100 million.
V. New Mexico Tax Preparer Charged with Preparing Fraudulent Tax Returns
On March 30, 2021, 47-year-old Albuquerque resident Solomon Gbara, was arraigned in federal court on a 13-count indictment issued on March 12, for aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent income tax returns. If he is convicted, Gbara faces up to three years in prison for each count of the indictment.
According to the indictment, from February 10, 2015, through March 13, 2017, Gbara allegedly assisted in the preparation and presentation of individual income tax returns (IRS Form 1040) that included numerous claims that Gbara knew to be false, including claims for dependents and Schedule C businesses to which the taxpayers were not entitled under the provisions of internal revenue laws.
VI. Minnesota Man Charged with Illegal Possession of Firearms, Ammo
On March 30, 2021, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota W. Anders Folk announced a federal criminal complaint charging Thomas Wilder Moseley, 29, with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Moseley made his initial appearance on March 31, 2021, before Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson in U.S. District Court.
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint, on August 15, 2020, a protest took place at the 5th Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department, located in south Minneapolis. When individuals began throwing rocks and other objects, the protest became far more intense, with broken windows, and protesters firing mortar-type fireworks at the building and at the officers stationed on the roof.
Protesters also started to spray paint the building, and to use paint to obscure the video surveillance cameras. After reviewing video surveillance footage, investigators allegedly identified Moseley as one of the individuals who was spray painting the front windows of the building. The building sustained several thousand dollars’ dollars worth of damages as a result of the incident.
VII. West Virginia Woman Indicted on Fraud, Money Laundering Charges
On March 30, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of West Virginia Randolph J. Bernard announced that Shelly Anne Leipham, 65, of Las Vegas, Nevada, had been indicted on March 2, 2021, on three counts of Wire Fraud, five counts of Mail Fraud, and three counts of Money Laundering. The charging documents allege that Leipham allegedly called an elderly victim living in Harrison County, West Virginia, claiming the victim won $1 million.
Leipham is accused of defrauding the victim of nearly $25,000 by directing the victim to send that amount to her over the course of two years by mail and wire. The government is also seeking a monetary judgment in the amount of $336,402.
If she is convicted, Leipham faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as fines of up to $250,000 for each of the wire fraud and mail fraud counts. She is also looking at up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 for each money laundering count. This case is being prosecuted as a part of the Department of Justice Elder Fraud Initiative.
VIII. New Hampshire Man Indicted for Fentanyl Trafficking, Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises
Michael Cicciu, 41, of Manchester, NH, was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 29, 2021. According to the indictment, on September 3, 2020, Cicciu possessed a quantity of fentanyl with intent to distribute. The indictment also alleges that between October 26, 2019, and September 3, 2020, Cicciu managed and controlled a property on High Street in Manchester and made the premises available for storing, distributing, and using controlled substances.
The indictment charged him with one count of possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute and another count of maintaining a drug-involved premises. The charges were announced on March 30 by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, John J. Farley, on March 30, 2021. Cicciu was arrested on state charges on September 3, 2020, and is currently is being detained by the state of New Hampshire.
IX. Philadelphia Attorney Charged With Mail Fraud And Tax Evasion
On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania made the announcement that Jonathan Olivetti, 40, a licensed attorney in Philadelphia, had been charged by criminal information with mail fraud and tax evasion. According to the criminal information, it is alleged that between November 9, 2015, and July 15, 2020, Olivetti attempted to evade paying his taxes by hiding funds and providing false information to an Internal Revenue Officer.
According to the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler, the information alleges that Olivetti stole approximately $91,991.28 from an estate that he represented as an attorney. The case was investigated by the IRS. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts is prosecuting the case. If convicted, Olivetti faces up to 25 years in prison, as well as a term of supervised release and a fine.
X. Five Men Face Federal Indictment for Conspiracy to Kidnap Victim They Met at a Casino
As of April 1, 2021, five men from DC/Maryland now face a federal indictment for allegedly kidnapping and robbing a man they met at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The federal grand jury returned an indictment on March 31, charging five men with conspiring to commit a kidnapping, in connection with an incident on February 3, 2021.
The defendants charged in the indictment are: Darius Lawrence Young, a/k/a “Mup,” 28; Christopher Allen Young, a/k/a “40,” 26, both of Washington, D.C.; Anthony Erik Hebron, a/k/a “Pain,” 28, also of Washington, D.C.; Tray David Sherman, a/k/a “Racks,” and “Fat Det,” 26, of Germantown, MD; and Lamar Jamal Perkins, a/k/a “Lou,” 27, of Washington, D.C. Young and Sherman were arrested on March 31, 2021, on a criminal complaint filed on March 30, 2021, for the same charge.
Darius Young was already in custody on a related charge. Hebron and Perkins are fugitives. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner, along with several federal and Maryland law enforcement officials.
According to the indictment and the affidavit filed in support of the previous criminal complaint, on February 3, 2021, the five defendants conspired to kidnap at gunpoint an individual they had met at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in National Harbor, Maryland.
Sherman and Hebron were allegedly seen on surveillance footage leaving the hotel & casino with the victim. The three men then allegedly drove to Washington, D.C. in Sherman’s vehicle, and the victim can be seen in surveillance footage getting out of the car and meeting with an unknown male.
XI. Reality Show Stars Charged with Running Nationwide Telemarketing Fraud Scheme
According to an announcement made by Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several prominent law enforcement officials, a Superseding Indictment was returned on March 30, 2021. The indictment charges two cast members of a “reality” television show, Jennifer Shah and Stuart Smith, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with telemarketing fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein. Shah and Smith were both arrested the same day the indictment was returned and were presented in Salt Lake City federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead.
According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment, Shah, 47, of Park City, Utah, and Smith, 43, of Lehi, Utah, along with other participants, allegedly made fraudulent sales themselves and also generated and sold sales leads to other telemarketing sales floors with the knowledge that the individuals they had identified as “leads” would be defrauded by the other participants.
Shah and Smith received as profit a share of the fraudulent revenue per the terms of their agreement with those participants. Shah and Smith often controlled many aspects of the frauds perpetrated by other participants on the individuals they had identified by, among other things, determining which “coaching” sales floor could buy leads from them, selecting the downstream sales floors to which the “coaching” sales floor was permitted to pass the leads, choosing the firms to provide “fulfillment” services, that is, documents and records purporting to demonstrate that the services the Participants claimed to provide to those Victims were actual and legitimate, setting how much the downstream sales floors could charge, and determining which “products” each of the downstream sales floors could sell.
XII. Two Former Mortuary Technicians Charged with Stealing Decedents’ Property
On March 30, 2021, Mark J. Lesko, who is the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, along with a number of prominent law enforcement officials, announced the arrests of and several charges against two mortuary technicians who were the subjects of criminal complaints that they allegedly stole credit and debit cards from some of the dead people they worked on and used those cards to make thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases.
On March 30, two criminal complaints were unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging Charles McFadgen and Willie Garcon with access device fraud. According to the complaint, they both allegedly used credit and debit cards belonging to recently deceased individuals whose bodies were in the care and custody of the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME.) The two were arrested the same day, which is when they also made their initial appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann.
XIII. New York Man Charged with Attempted Sex Trafficking of Two Minors
The Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig, has announced that a New York man made his initial appearance on April 1, 2021, on charges that he attempted to engage in sex trafficking of two minors, as well as for transported transporting the minors to engage in unlawful sexual activity.
The man in question, Berry Norman, 32, has been charged in a three-count complaint with attempted sex trafficking of two minors and transporting those minors to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Norman subsequently appeared by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor later that same day.
According to documents and court statements filed in this case, on Feb. 24, 2021, Norman enticed the victims, both minors, to travel with him from Ohio to New Jersey. On Feb. 25, 2021, Norman housed the victims in a hotel in Hudson County, New Jersey. Norman allegedly attempted to convince the victims to engage in commercial sex acts.
Norman told the victims that they could “get paid” for having sex with men and for performing sexually explicit “shows” on the computer. The victims declined. On Feb. 27, 2021, Norman engaged in sex acts with one victim.
XIV. Rochester-Area Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Money Laundering, Tax Offenses
Michael Bartusek, 58, of Fairport, New York, who once served as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a company based in New Hartford, NY, pled guilty April 1, 2021, to wire fraud, money laundering, and filing a false tax return. The announcement of the charges was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon of the Northern District of New York, along with several federal and state law enforcement officials.
In addition to the fraud and money laundering charges, Bartusek pled guilty to filing a false tax return for the tax year 2015, and he admitted that he underreported his total income that tax year by approximately $123,000. He admitted further that he underreported his total income for the 2016 tax year by approximately $46,000.
As part of his guilty plea, Bartusek admitted that, from the summer of 2015 through the end of 2016, he defrauded his employer of approximately $776,000, which he used to invest in a high-risk scheme to purchase and sell diamonds from overseas, hoping to profit personally from their sale and return the money he stole from his employer before his fraud was discovered. However, the opposite happened, and the diamond investment went bust, so the money was ultimately lost. Sentencing is scheduled for July 28, 2021.
XV. New York Man, Alabama Woman Charged in Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIS
On April 1, 2021. Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several federal and state law enforcement officials, announced the arrests of James Bradley, a/k/a “Abdullah,” and Aawa Muthana on March 31, 2021, at a seaport in Newark, New Jersey. A criminal Complaint complaint was subsequently filed in Manhattan federal court charging the couple with attempting and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, better known as ISIS.
As alleged in the Complaint, Bradley, who is 20 and resides in the Bronx, New York, has expressed his support for ISIS and his desire to join the group overseas or commit a terrorist attack in the United States. Bradley and his wife Muthana, who is 29 and from Hoover, Alabama, who has also expressed her support for ISIS, were arrested while attempting to travel together by cargo ship to the Middle East to join and fight for ISIS.
Bradley and Muthana were presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman in Manhattan federal court the same day.
XVI. Previously Convicted Sex Offender Arrested on Multiple Child Pornography Charges
On April 1, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that John Geimer, 54, of Rochester, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with receipt, distribution, and possession of child pornography. If he is convicted, Geimer faces between 15 years and life in prison.
Geimer made an initial appearance that same afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark W. Pedersen, where he was ordered held pending a detention hearing on April 6, 2021. The complaint is the result of an investigation by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia.
Friday, April 09, 2021
I. Massachusetts Woman Charged with Wire Fraud and Stealing Social Security Benefits
On April 5, 2021, Shirley Buchanan, 66, of Cambridge, was arrested and charged with the theft of Social Security benefits and committing wire fraud to receive SNAP benefits, formerly known as “Food Stamps.” Buchanan was indicted on one count of theft of public funds and three counts of wire fraud, and she made her initial appearance the same day before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal.
The indictment alleges that Buchanan maintained and used two Social Security numbers under two different names and that she applied for and received Social Security benefits under both. It is also alleged that Buchanan used the same two names and Social Security numbers to apply for and receive SNAP benefits she was not entitled to.
In all, the indictment also alleges that Buchanan stole approximately $184,410 in Social Security benefits from March 1993 through November 2018 and approximately $12,916.89 in SNAP benefits from February 2012 through April 2020. If convicted, Buchanan faces up to 10 years in prison for the charge of theft of public funds and up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge.
II. Corrections Officer Indicted for Plan To Smuggle Drugs Into Prison
On April 5, 2021, the Acting Acting U.S. Attorney Karin Hoppmann announced the return of an indictment charging Wayne Grant, Jr., 27, of Orlando, with receipt of a bribe by a public official. According to the indictment, as Grant was working as a corrections officer at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County in December 2020, he unwittingly began contacting an undercover agent in order to smuggle methamphetamine into the prison for an inmate in exchange for money.
Subsequently, during his assigned shift on February 4, 2021, they watched Grant smuggled the contraband into the prison and provided it to an inmate. According to court documents, federal agents mailed approximately 70 grams of fake methamphetamine and $2000 in money orders to a post office, which is where Grant had requested the drugs be sent.
Agents also observed Grant retrieving the package from the post office and then depositing the money orders into his bank account.
III. South Dakota Man Charged with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
Patrick Red Legs, 27, of Huron, SD, was indicted on March 9, 2021, on a charge of Failure to Register as a Sex Offender., and he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on March 29, 2021, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment. The announcement of the indictment and Red Legs’ first appearance was made by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Dennis R. Holmes.
If he is convicted of the charge, Red Legs faces as much as 10 ten years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, from five years to the life of supervised release and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered. The Indictment alleges that on multiple occasions between May 31, 2020, and September 16, 2020, Red Legs, a person required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, knowingly failed to register and update his registration as required by law.
IV. Two Brothers, Including Self-Identified Proud Boy, Charged with Crimes Related to U.S. Capitol Breach
Matthew Leland Klein, 24, and Jonathanpeter Allen Klein, 21, two brothers from Oregon, one of which is a self-described “Proud Boy,” have been arrested and ordered held without bond after they were formally charged with conspiracy and other charges related to the Capitol attack that occurred on January 6, 2021.
Matthew Leland Klein, 24, and Jonathanpeter Allen Klein, 21, both of Oregon, were indicted in federal court in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; and , and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds.
As alleged, Matthew Klein assisted members of the crowd with using a police barricade to climb a wall and gain access to an external stairwell leading to the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol. At 2:16 p.m. on Jan. 6, Jonathanpeter Klein entered the Capitol building on the northwest side with his brother entering shortly after through the same door at 2:18 p.m.
After exiting the building, the brothers worked together to forcibly open a secured door on the Capitol’s north side, with federal officers visible on the other side, causing damage to the building in excess of $1,000. When the officers responded to the violent entry, Matthew Klein put on protective goggles and advanced toward the officers waving a flag affixed to a pole so as to interfere with law enforcement’s efforts.
V. Chicago Area Tax Preparer Charged With COVID-Relief Fraud
On April 6, 2021, John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced that a Chicago area tax preparer, Haim Isbaih, 39, of Palos Heights, had been indicted April 5, 2021, on federal fraud charges. Among the charges alleged include one count of providing fraudulent assistance to customers in obtaining millions of dollars in loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and another four counts for wire fraud.
The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois, and he made an initial court appearance on April 6, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth W. Jantz.
Two sources of relief established by the CARES Act, passed by Cngress Congress in March 2020, included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL). According to the indictment, Isbaih owned and operated Flash Tax Service Inc., a tax and investment consulting business in Bridgeview, Ill.
From April to October 2020, Isbaih submitted on behalf of hundreds of Flash Tax customers PPP and EIDL applications that contained materially false statements and misrepresentations about the customers’ businesses, such as gross revenues, expenses, and the number of employees, the indictment states.
Isbaih’s false representations and statement statements led to millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained PPP and EIDL funds to be being disbursed.
VI. Southern California Man and His Sister Charged in Real Estate Scam
On April 6, 2021, a brother-and-sister team from Southern California were arrested on federal charges alleging they orchestrated a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which they listed homes without the owners’ consent and collected money from multiple would-be buyers for each of the not-for-sale homes.
Later that day, Adolfo Schoneke, 43, of Torrance, and his sister, Bianca Gonzalez, a.k.a. Blanca Schoneke, 38, of Walnut, each pleaded not guilty to the nine charges contained in an indictment, which charges Schoneke and Gonzalez with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Schoneke and Gonzalez, along with several co-conspirators, operated real estate and escrow companies in places such as Cerritos, La Palma, and Long Beach under several names, including MCR and West Coast.
The indictment alleges the siblings, Schoneke and Gonzalez, found properties to list for sale, including some that were not actually for sale and for which they had no authority to list them for sale, Despite that, they marketed the properties as short sales, which they would sell at below-market prices.
Using other people’s broker’s licenses, Schoneke and Gonzalez allegedly listed the properties on real estate websites. In addition, these homes were marketed through open houses after they tricked homeowners into allowing their homes to be used in that way.
VII. Maryland Man Charged with Enticement of a Minor, Possession of Child Pornography
On April 6, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzne announced the filing of a criminal complaint charging Derrell Lamar Hooker Orange (“Hooker Orange”), 36, of Brandywine, Maryland, with the enticement of a minor and possession of child pornography. The criminal complaint was filed on April 1, 2021, and unsealed at Hooker-Orange’s initial appearance on April 2, 2021.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office (“CCSO”) of Green Cove Springs, Florida, responded to a sex offense call in which an adult female discovered sexually explicit messages on her 12-year-old daughter’s cell phone. CCSO spoke with the victim at her residence and discovered the victim had been communicating with “Lamar Thompson” of Washington, whom she believed to be a 16-year old male, from approximately July 2020 through October 2020.
The victim stated she met “Thompson” on a video creation application and continued to communicate with him, primarily through text messages and cellular phone calls. CCSO also observed sexually explicit text messages and images on the victim’s phone. With the adult female’s consent, the cell phone was placed into evidence at the CCSO.
On October 22, 2020, the Clay County State’s Attorney allegedly received information that identified Hooker Orange as the subscriber who had been communicating with the victim.
VIII. Federal Immigration Official Charged with Illegally Obtaining U.S. Citizenship Under Fake Identity
An immigration services officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was arrested this morning in Maryland on a federal charge that alleges he obtained U.S. citizenship under a false name. The defendant is charged under the false name of “Karl Nwabugwu Odike Ifemembi,” but the criminal complaint, in this case, notes that his real name is Modestus Nwagubwu Ifemembi, originally from Nigeria.
Ifemembi, 48, who previously resided in Aliso Viejo, but relocated to Rockville, Maryland last year, has worked for USCIS for seven years. Ifemembi is charged in the complaint with one count of unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship.
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, Ifemembi allegedly made false statements on various government forms to obtain both U.S. citizenship and his employment with USCIS. The affidavit also alleged that Ifemembi first entered the United States in 2000, when he flew from France to Chicago with a British passport that had been issued to another person but had been altered to display Ifemembi’s photograph.
While immigration officials in Chicago caught Ifemembi – who admitted his fraudulent use of the U.K. passport, the affidavit states that he ultimately was granted asylum after falsely claiming his real name was “Karlos Mourfy” and that he was a native of Sierra Leone. Following he was granted asylum, Ifemembi attended the University of California, Berkeley, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2004.
He soon then earned a J.D. (Law Degree) from the University of Oregon School of Law. Then, in late 2010, “Karlos Mourfy” applied for U.S. citizenship and asked to change his name to Ifemembi – requests that were granted in May 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Ifemembi was hired by USCIS, according to the affidavit.
IX. Richmond Assisted Living Facility Owner Charged with Elder Fraud
A federal grand jury returned an indictment on April 6, 2021, charging the former owner of an assisted living facility, Mable B. Jones, 77, of Richmond, with allegedly diverting hundreds of thousands in federal and state benefits that were intended to pay for the care of the facility’s residents. As alleged in the indictment, the defendant diverted the benefits of her residents while leaving the facility’s in a condition described by many as “deplorable.”
The indictment alleges Jones owned and operated Jones & Jones, an assisted living facility complex that served primarily elderly and incapacitated adults. For residents who were legally incapable of managing their own funds, Jones & Jones served as a representative payee and regularly received state and federal benefits payments on behalf of those residents.
Representative payees are required to use Social Security benefits to provide only for the beneficiary’s needs, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care, but no more than that. Similar requirements also apply to auxiliary grants issued by the Virginia’s Virginia’s Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
However, according to the indictment, beginning around December 2015 and continuing throughout the facility’s existence, until its closure in 2019, Jones converted more than $800,000 of the residents’ federal and state benefit money for her own personal use.
For example, Jones used the residents’ benefit money to satisfy her personal debts, including her mortgage and bankruptcy payments, as well as to fund her personal travel, retail purchases, and gambling expenses at casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
X. New Jersey Man Arrested for Assaults on Law Enforcement Officers During U.S. Capitol Breach
On April 7, 2021, a New Jersey man was arrested for assault against several U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers and several other crimes. These actions occurred n January 6, during the U.S. Capitol breach that disrupted a Joint Session of Congress as they affirmed the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
Christopher Joseph Quaglin, 35, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, has been officially charged by criminal complaint with assault, resisting or impeding certain officers or employees; employees, civil disorder; disorder, and obstruction of an official proceeding.
Quaglin made his initial appearance on April 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. According to court documents and publicly available video, Quaglin was seen repeatedly repeatedly seen assaulting multiple law enforcement officers guarding and protecting the Capitol. Police body camera footage shows Quaglin, who was wearing protective gear like a helmet and gas mask at the time, as he engaged with police violently and disruptively.
Additional Capitol Police surveillance video shows Quaglin pointing at and shoving a USCP officer on the Lower West Terrace while appearing increasingly agitated. He is seen grabbing and pushing the USCP officer by the neck before working with other rioters to rip one of the barrier fences away from MPD officers. At just after 2:30 p.m., body camera footage also showed Quaglin lunging at an officer and pushing him down.
As a result, several officers dropped their shields, which Quaglin and other rioters stole, and passed back into the crowd.
XI. Seven Charged for Kidnapping, Robbery, Firearms, Narcotics Offenses
On April 6, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of a nine-count superseding indictment charging Fernando Ra, Kenny Batista, 25, Fernando Rosario, 27, Yonathan Junior Garcia, 21, Anttwan Crosbie, Elmer Gill.36, And Michael Ashley, 30, with kidnapping, robbery, firearms, and narcotics offenses.
As alleged in the Superseding Indictment and other documents, the charges arise, at least in part, from an October 3, 2020 kidnapping and robbery, during which certain of the defendants brandished a firearm and assaulted two victims in connection with the defendants’ trafficking of cocaine. Ra was previously charged by indictment with firearms and narcotics offenses based on his possession of an assault rifle, a loaded pistol, and approximately 700 fentanyl pills.
XII. President Of New York-Based Company Arrested For Conspiring To Violate U.S. Sanctions Against Iran
On April 6, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of charges against Michael Rose for a conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) and to participate in bank fraud and money laundering conspiracies.
Rose was arrested by the FBI and OEE the same day, and he was presented the same day in Manhattan federal court beforeU.S. Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron. Rose, 50, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, is charged with conspiracy to violate IEEPA, (2) conspiracy to launder money, and (3) conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
As alleged in the indictment, Rose, who serves as the president of a cosmetics manufacturer and distributor based in Long Island, participated in a years-long scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran by surreptitiously exporting cosmetics to Iran via front company intermediaries in the Middle East. Between 2015 and 2018, Rose participated in a conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran by causing Company-1 to export more than $350,000 worth of cosmetics from the United States to an importer in Iran.
In or about June 2015, Rose signed a contract establishing that Importer-1’s Iran-based company would be the exclusive distributor for Company-1’s products in Iran. Importer-1 then used front companies based outside Iran to make payments to Company-1 in New York and to arrange for the transshipment of Company-1’s goods to Iran via the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to shipping goods and accepting payments in violation of U.S. sanctions, Rose also filed false and misleading information on United States Department of Commerce Shipper’s Export Declaration forms in connection with the illegal shipments.
XIII. Queens Man Charged For Defrauding Rental Assistance Programs
On April 6, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of a Complaint charging Paul Fishbein, 47, of Far Rockaway, NY, with theft of government funds, wire fraud, and mail fraud for his attempts to defraud rental assistance programs administered by New York City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), New York City’s Housing Preservation & Development (HPD), and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), by falsely claiming to be the owner and landlord of 20 properties (the Properties) in New York City, renting out the Properties to families in need through the rental assistance programs, and collecting money – including city, state, and federal funds – from HRA, HPD, and NYCHA as the purported owner and landlord of the Properties. The defendant is also charged with Medicaid fraud.
From at least 2013 through the present, Fishbein allegedly defrauded the Agencies’ rental assistance programs by falsely claiming to be the owner and landlord of 20 different Properties in New York City based City-based on forged deeds that purported to transfer the Properties from legitimate owners to the defendant. The defendant rented out the Properties to homeless and low/moderate-income families through the Agencies’ programs and collected payments from the Agencies as the purported owner and landlord of the Properties.
In addition, the defendant falsely represented to HRA that he used a broker to rent out the Properties and collected and kept certain broker’s fees that HRA issued for the Properties fr himself. The defendant also took advantage of the homeless and in-need families who were placed in the Properties.
XIV. Bank Employee Arrested For Defrauding Her Employer Of $1.7 Million
On April 8, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging Gangadai Rampersaud Azim, a/k/a “Julie Azim,” with wire fraud, bank fraud, bank theft, money laundering, and conspiracy, for her role in a scheme to defraud her employer, a Manhattan-based bank, of approximately $1.7 million. Azim was arrested and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron the same day, April 8.
Based on the allegations made in the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court on April 8, between August 2008 and January 2021, Azin, a long-time employee of a New York City bank, executed hundreds of wire transfers of Bank-1 funds to co-conspirators and related companies, who then sent portions of the ill-gotten funds to Azim’s personal bank account. Azim continued this behavior throughout the entire 12-year period.
XV. Man Charged in String of Armed Home Invasion, Gas Station Robberies
On April 9, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that Tishawn C. Woods, 20, of Newburgh, New York, has been arrested and charged based on his participation in a series of robberies in and around Newburgh, New York in March. Woods is considered the prime suspect in many home invasions and gas station robberies.
In addition to the robberies themselves, Woods also allegedly left at least one robbery victim with a life-threatening gunshot wound. Woods was arrested April 8 in Orange, New Jersey, and is scheduled to appear later, April 9, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew E. Krause in White Plains federal court.
According to the allegations in the complaint against Woods, in the early morning hours of March 17, 2021, Woods and an accomplice were both armed with handguns when they burst into an apartment in Newburgh, New York, where they robbed and shot the apartment’s occupant, inflicting life-threatening injuries.
Additionally, on March 22 and March 28, 2021, Woods and an accomplice committed armed robberies of gas stations in New Windsor, New York, during which they fired shots near the clerks at those stores.
Friday, April 16, 2021
I. Texas Man Indicted for Fraudulent Online Sales of Purported Native American-Made Goods
On April 12, 2021, a federal grand jury based in San Antonio indicted a Kingwood man for selling allegedly fraudulent Native American-made goods on the internet. The charges were announced that day by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District, Ashley C. Hoff, along with several other law enforcement officials.
The indictment charges Kevin Charles Kowalis, 58, with four counts of mail fraud and four counts of misrepresentation of Indian goods under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. According to the indictment, it has been alleged that from January 23, 2020, to July 15, 2020, Kowalis fraudulently marketed and sold on eBay.com pieces of jewelry he received from a manufacturer in the Philippines who is in no way associated or shares an affiliation with any federally recognized Native American tribe.
The indictment alleges that Kowalis described the items for sale on eBay as “Native American Indian Handmade,” “Zuni,” “Navajo,” and “genuine Indian handcrafted” and received payment for the jewelry using PayPal.com. As further alleged in the indictment, once he received payment, Kowalis shipped the jewelry to the customer using the U.S. Postal Service. Each parcel contained counterfeit Native American-style jewelry to a purchaser in San Antonio.
If convicted, Kowalis faces up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud and up to an additional five years in prison for misrepresenting Native American goods.
II. Charleston Man Indicted for Allegedly Failing to Pay Employment Taxes and Personal Income Taxes
An indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on April 12, 2021, charging Jay Fisher, of Charleston, Ill., with 21 counts of tax fraud, for allegedly failing to report and pay federal employment taxes and personal income taxes. Fisher is scheduled to make his initial court appearance in federal court on April 19, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. The court hearing will take place in Urbana, via videoconference, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long.
According to the indictment, Jay Fisher was responsible for Financial Logic Inc. and was therefore legally required to file a Form 941 and remit employment taxes for every one of his employees. Those taxes include federal income tax, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. The indictment alleges that between 2015 and 2018, Fisher failed to pay more than $300,000 in employment taxes owed on behalf of employees.
In addition to employment taxes, the indictment alleges that Fisher failed to file and pay his own income taxes. If convicted, Fisher faces up to five years in prison for each of the 16 counts of failure to pay employment taxes.
III. Massachusetts Man Arrested on Child Exploitation Charges
A man from Fall Rover, MA, Charles Eugene Schnitzlein III, 34, was charged via criminal complaint in Boston federal court on April 13, 2021, in connection with travelling to New Hampshire to attempt to have sex with a teenage girl. The criminal complaint charges Schnitzlein with traveling travelling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under 18 years of age. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
The charging documents allege that Schnitzlein used a messaging application to communicate with an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl and devised a plan to meet the purported child to have sex. On April 9, 2021, Schnitzlein allegedly drove from Fall River to a mall in Nashua, NH, to meet with the undercover officer posing as a teenage girl.
On his way to the meet up meet-up location, Schnitzlein allegedly stopped to purchase condoms, flowers, soda, and candy for the encounter. Officers arrested Schnitzlein when he arrived. During an interview with law enforcement, Schnitzlein admitted that he had traveled from Fall River to meet the purported 13-year-old girl and that he had booked a hotel room in Nashua, N.H., so he could have sex with the girl.
IV. Newark Man Arrested for Bank Robbery
A Union County, NJ, a man was arrested April 13, 2021, for robbing a bank in Rutherford, NJ. The announcement of the charges was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Senenca Wilson, aka “Seneca Wilson,” 42, of Clark, New Jersey, was arrested, April and charged by complaint with one count of bank robbery. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance by videoconference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III.
According to court documents and statements, on April 7, 2021, Wilson entered Victim Bank-1 in Rutherford, wearing a thin windbreaker over a dark t-shirt with a white logo. Wilson was also wearing a dark New York Yankees baseball cap, sunglasses, a neck gaiter over his face, and a glove on his left hand. Once inside the bank, Wilson handed the teller a note demanding money with no straps on the bills.
The teller put currency into a white plastic bag that Wilson provided, and Wilson then walked out of the bank with he the bag of cash. Moments later, a doorbell camera on a nearby residence recorded Wilson running south down the sidewalk away from Victim Bank-1. Seconds later, a car registered to Wilson was seen driving away from the area, and the Yankees baseball cap that Wilson wore during the robbery was found by law enforcement in a nearby recycling bin. If convicted, Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.
V. CPB Officer Charged with Using Unreasonable Force at Calexico Port of Entry
On April 14, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Marcos Valenzuela was charged in an indictment with using unreasonable force on an individual from Mexico who had applied for admission to the United States. The indictment alleges that Valenzuela encountered the individual, identified only as “J.L.,” on August 16, 2019, while on duty at the Calexico West Port of Entry.
During the inspection, Valenzuela allegedly deprived the individual of their Constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable force. The indictment also alleges that Valenzuela’s actions resulted in bodily injury to the person seeking admission into the U.S.
Valenzuela was arraigned on the Indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro on April 14, and he is also scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino on May 21, 2021, for a motion hearing. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Christopher P. Tenorio.
VI. Wyoming Man Charged with Possession of Child Porn
On April 14, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray announced that Kyle Doussett, 49, of Casper, WY, had been indicted by a federal grand jury on March 25, 2021, for one count of possession of child pornography. The Indictment alleges that on January 2, 2021, Doussett possessed a cell phone containing digital images depicting prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Doussett appeared before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin on April 5, 2021, and pleaded not guilty to the charge in the Indictment. A jury trial has been set for May 24, 2021, in Cheyenne before Federal District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson.
If he is convicted, Doussett faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and special assessments of $100, $5,000, and $17,000, as well as mandatory restitution of $3,000 per requesting victim and five years to the life of the supervised release.
VII. New Jersey Man Indicted For Attempting To Hire A Hitman On Dark Net To Murder A 14-Year Old Child
A Camden County, New Jersey, man, John Michael Musbach, 31, of Haddonfield, who was under investigation by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for child pornography-related offenses, was indicted April 14, 2021, for allegedly paying $20,000 in bitcoin to have the 14-year-old child victim murdered. The indictment was announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig.
Based on court documents and statements made in this case, Musbach began communicating with the victim, who was 13 years old at the time, during the summer of 2015. He communicated via an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) website. Musbach began using those IRC conversations to request and receive sexually explicit videos and photographs of the minor victim, as well as to send to the victim sexually explicit videos and photographs of himself.
In September of 2015, the victim’s parents discovered the nature of Musbach’s communications with the victim and notified local law enforcement officers in the State of New York, where the victim resided. Officers began investigating Musbach’s conduct and called Musbach to notify him that he was under investigation for his online sexual contact with the victim and that he was to stay away from the victim.
Upon identifying Musbach as a resident of Atlantic County, New Jersey, New York law enforcement officers reached out to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office (ACPO), which continued the investigation. Musbach was subsequently arrested by ACPD officers on March 31, 2016.
VIII. Connecticut ANG Soldier, also a Rikers Correction Officer Charged with Defrauding VA, NYC Dept Of Correction
On April 13, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several federal and state law enforcement officials, announced that Shawn Pierre Hobbs, who is a soldier with the Connecticut Army National Guard and a Rikers Island correction officer employed by the New York City Department of Correction, was arrested in El Paso, Texas, on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.
Hobbs is alleged to have defrauded the VA and NYC DOC in order to receive financial and other benefits to which he was not entitled. Hobbs was presented in federal court in El Paso that afternoon.
The complaint alleges that, from at least in or about April 2015, up to and including at least on or about April 8, 2021, Hobbs served as a soldier in the Army National Guard (ANG). ANG soldiers hold civilian jobs or attend school while maintaining their military training part-time. The VA provides certain benefits to veterans, including ANG soldiers, who work in approved on-the-job training programs (VA Benefits).
From at least in or about January 2019, up to and including at least on or about April 8, 2021, Hobbs was employed by NYC DOC as a correction officer at Rikers Island, a VA-approved on-the-job training program. NYC DOC employees who are members of the military are entitled to paid leave, with certain limitations, while they are engaged in the performance of ordered military duty.
The fraudulent military memoranda each bore the seal of the United States Department of Defense and the letterhead of the Army National Guard and falsely represented that Hobbs had served military duty on hundreds of days on which he had, in fact, not served.
At the same time, Hobbs transmitted by fax 16 fraudulent employment certifications to the VA that were purportedly from NYC DOC and falsely represented that he had worked for NYC DOC for hundreds of hours, which he had not worked. To effectuate this scheme, Hobbs used the names, identities, and signatures of a Platoon Leader, a Readiness Noncommissioned Officer, and a an NYC DOC employee without their knowledge, consent, or authorization on the fraudulent military memoranda and employment certifications.
IX. U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition of Canadian Citizen for Role in Int’l Fraud, Money Laundering Network
On April 9, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Yusuf Owolabi Abdul, a/k/a “Saheed Sador,” a citizen of Nigeria and a resident of Canada, was extradited today from Germany. Abdul has been charged with participation in a scheme designed to fraudulently access the funds of victims and then to subsequently launder the money.
This scheme was repeated from at least in or about 2013 until at least April 2019. Abdul was arrested in Germany on December 11, 2020, on an Interpol Red Notice, and he is the fifth defendant charged in this case. Abdul appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang on April 12. His case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
The indictment alleges the following: From at least 2013 through 2018, Abdul and various other conspirators, located in countries including the United States, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates (collectively, the Conspirators), were involved in a scheme to fraudulently access the bank accounts of individuals and corporations and to conduct financial transactions using those bank accounts without the knowledge or authority of the accounts’ legitimate owners (the Bank Scheme).
Part of the Bank Scheme had the conspirators placing thousands of calls to various U.S. banks, holding themselves out as legitimate account holders of particularly targeted bank accounts and using the stolen personal identifying information belonging to those account holders. Using a particular telephone number “spoofing” service and voice-altering technology, the Conspirators would deceive bank representatives into believing that the conspirators were actual account holders.
In so doing, they convinced multiple U.S. banks to, among other things: move money from a victim’s savings account to the victim’s checking account to make it easier to make unauthorized transactions.
X. Jamestown, NY Man Charged With Sex Trafficking Crimes
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced April 13, 2021, that Anthony Burris, 30, of Jamestown, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with sex trafficking and enticing travel to engage in sexual activity. According to AUSA Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, the criminal complaint alleges that, on January 21, 2021, a mother contacted the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office to report the possible sex trafficking of her daughter (Victim 1).
The mother reported that her daughter was involved in drug use and prostitution and had to perform sexual acts with others in exchange for drugs and other items from the defendant. The mother also reported that Burris was physically abusing her daughter.
The mother provided Victim 1’s Facebook profile, which an investigator recognized from ads he previously saw on a website used to post advertisements for commercial sex acts or other illicit business, like the sale of controlled substances. On February 28, 2021, Victim’s 1’s mother told investigators that she learned her daughter was assaulted by the defendant and was at a medical clinic in Erie, Pennsylvania, seeking medical treatment for her injuries, which included significant bruising and swelling, as well as a laceration to her left eye.
Victim 1’s mother stated that Victim 1 was assaulted because she was going to try and leave Burris. A law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania went to the medical clinic to speak with Victim 1, who was uncooperative, stating that she sustained her injuries from falling and refused any help. While in the parking lot of the medical clinic, the officer observed the defendant in a vehicle.
XI. Five Charged in Offering Fraud, Stock Manipulation and Money Laundering Schemes
A five-count indictment was filed April 14, 2021, in Brooklyn federal court, charging Richard Dale Sterritt, Jr., Michael Greer, Robert Magness, Mark Ross, and Robyn Straza with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, among other offenses. The charged crimes arise out of a series of securities fraud schemes, including one offering fraud targeted at investors and potential investors in an oil and gas company in Texas and the attempted manipulation of the publicly traded stock of a cannabis company.
The defendants were arrested on April 14. Sterritt, Greer and Straza, made their initial appearance in federal court in Dallas, Texas, the same day, while Magness and Ross made their initial appearance in Brooklyn. The announcement of the indictment and arrests was made by Mark J. Lesko, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, along with William F. Sweeney, Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrests and indictment.
In all, it is estimated that the scheme misappropriated more than $10 million, which was used by defendants to purchase luxury items, a Bentley, and even plastic surgery.
XII. Two Charged in High-Risk Int’l Financial Scheme
An indictment was unsealed April 14, 2021, in the Eastern District of New York, charging two defendants with failing to maintain anti-money-laundering controls, failing to file suspicious activity reports, and operating an unlicensed business to transmit money. The indictment alleges that from 2014 to 2016, Gyanendra Asre, 53, of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Hanan Ofer, 67, of New York City, devised and executed a scheme to bring lucrative and high-risk international financial business to be small, unsophisticated financial institutions.
It is alleged that they enabled more than $1 billion in high-risk transactions without any of the usual controls in place to prevent money laundering. Both Asre and Ofer were trained in anti-money laundering compliance and procedures and represented to the financial institutions that, because of their experience and training, they understood the risks associated with the high-risk business and would conduct appropriate anti-money laundering oversight as required by the Bank Secrecy Act.
Based on the defendants’ representations, the New York State Employees Federal Credit Union (NYSEFCU), a small financial institution with a volunteer board that primarily serves New York state public employees, allowed Asre and Ofer to conduct high-risk transactions through their facilities. However, contrary to their representations, Asre willfully failed to implement and maintain the requisite anti-money laundering programs or conduct oversight required to detect, identify, and report suspicious transactions.
The NYSEFCU processed more than a billion dollars in high-risk transactions during Asre’s tenure without ever filing a single Suspicious Activity Report, as required by law.
XIII. New York City Man Arrested for Carrying Out Hoax Bomb Threat at Manhattan Restaurant
On April 14, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several law enforcement officials, announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging Malik Sanchez, a/k/a “Smooth Sanchez,” with making a hoax threat to detonate a bomb at a restaurant in the Flatiron neighborhood in New York City on or about February 13, 2021. Sanchez was arrested April 14 in Manhattan, and he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang that afternoon.
The Complaint alleges that Sanchez self-identifies as an “Involuntary Celibate” or “Incel.” The term refers to a group of individuals, mostly men and primarily online. They tend to believe that society unjustly denies them sexual or romantic attention to which they are entitled. Sanchez has posted multiple videos to social media accounts depicting Sanchez harassing, threatening, and in one instance harming individuals whom Sanchez encounters in Manhattan while expressing support for Incel ideology, including for carrying out violence against women in the name of the group.
On or about February 13, 2021, Sanchez posted a video that depicts him perpetrating a hoax bomb threat at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood. The video shows Sanchez approaching an outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant and stating: “Let’s enhance their meal.” He then positioned himself close to two women seated at one of the tables and conveyed that he was about to detonate a bomb.
Friday, April 23, 2021
I. Jewish Sect Leaders Charged with Child Exploitation Offenses
On April 19, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office, announced new charges against Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner, Yakov Weingarten, Shmiel Weingarten, and Yoil Weingarten for conspiracy to transport a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, in connection with the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl (“Minor-1”) from New York to reunite her with her adult “husband” outside the United States for purposes of continuing their sexual relationship.
The defendants are among other members of Lev Tahor, an extremist Jewish sect. Several other members of the group were previously charged with similar crimes related to the kidnapping of Minor-1 and her younger brother. They were allegedly returning the 14-year-old minor to her adult “husband.”
According to the criminal complaint, beginning in about 2017, Helbrans arranged for his then-12-year-old niece to be “married” to a then-18-year-old Jacob Rosner. The two were “married” the next year when the niece was 13 and Rosner was 19. According to the rules of Lev Tabor, the minor was required to have sex with their “husbands,” to pretend to be older, and to deliver babies at home rather than in a hospital.
II. Massachusetts Man Charged for Child Porn
On April 19, 2021, it was announced that a federal grand jury in Springfield had indicted a Pittsfield man on child pornography charges during the previous week. The man, Benjamin Shacar, 34, was indicted on April 15, 2021, on 10 ten counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Previously, Shacar was charged by with a criminal complaint in March 2021.
According to charging documents, it is alleged that, between August 2020 and March 2021, Shacar allegedly received and possessed child pornography. Law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Shacar’s residence and uncovered a thumb drive containing multiple files depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
During an on-scene interview, Shacar also allegedly admitted that he viewed and downloaded child pornography from the internet. The charge of receipt of child pornography means Shacar faces at ;east least five and a minimum sentence of five years and up to 20 years in prison, while the charge of possession of child pornography means he faces up to 10 years in prison.
III. Three Indicted In ID Theft, Fraudulent Credit Card Scheme
On April 19, 2021, it was announced that a federal indictment returned by a grand jury on April 2, 2021, and unsealed on April 16, 2021, has charged three people with having been in possession of dozens of items, including fraudulent drivers’ licenses and credit cards, equipment to produce credit cards, and stolen personal identifying information obtained and placed into a list.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that Courtney Hilaire, 28, of Providence, RI, Hugh A. Martin, 32, of Pawtucket, RI, and Shawn K. Hilaire, 30, of Avon, MA, were was in possession of these devices and equipment in order to create fraudulent credit cards with the use of stolen credit card numbers and personal identifying information, such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
All three men face charges of with conspiracy to possess fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of device-making equipment, and aggravated identity theft.
Since the issuance of the indictment, further investigation into Courtney Hilaire’s alleged criminal activity has resulted in the return of a 17-count indictment charging Courtney Hilaire with using stolen Social Security numbers and personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for CARES Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA.
IV. Cincinnati Man Charged with Impersonating Federal Employee and Federal Agent
On April 19, 2021, a federal grand jury charged David Lomache, 61, of Cincinnati, with impersonating a federal employee and making fake IDs claiming he was a Special Agent with Homeland Security, as well as an employee of the Defense Logistics Agency, which is the Department of Defense’s combat logistics support agency. Lomache was arrested by federal agents on April 16, and his case was unsealed on April 19. He appeared in court for a detention hearing on April 21.
According to the indictment, Lomache fraudulently obtained a United States Federal Contractor badge so that he could impersonate a civilian contractor technician for the Defense Logistics Agency. In January 2021, he allegedly produced fake identification documents for both the Defense Logistics Agency and for Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”).
In all, he faces two counts of fraud in connection with identification documents, which could send him to prison for up to 15 years, plus one count of impersonating a federal officer, which carries up to three years in prison.
V. Rhode Island Man Indicted for CARES Act Fraud
On April 16, 2021, a federal grand jury in Providence returned a 17-count indictment charging Courtney Hilaire, 28, of Providence, who used the moniker “Mr. Vacation,” with using the stolen Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for CARES Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration.
It is alleged in the indictment that beginning in March 2020, Hilaire obtained from the Internet personal identifying information, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of numerous individuals, then accessed commercial public records databases to obtain additional information about the identity of his victims. In July 2020, using the stolen identities, the indictment alleges that Hilaire filed a at least six applications for unemployment insurance payments from the State of Pennsylvania.
On at least seven occasions beginning in August 2020, Hilaire withdrew fraudulently obtained CARES Act unemployment funds from bank accounts he accessed through ATMs all over Rhode Island.
VI. Texas Man Indicted for Armed Pawn Shop Robbery
In Austin, Texas federal court on April 20, 2021, a grand jury charged Joe Quinonez, 32, of Austin, with armed robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act and a federal firearms charge. The indictment and the charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff, along with Fred J. Milanowski, the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division of the ATF.
According to the indictment, Quinonez faces one count of violating the Hobbs Act or interfering with commerce by threats of violence. The indictment alleges that on January 2, 2021, Quinonez entered a Cash America Pawn Shop in Austin and brandished a firearm at two persons in the store while robbing the store of firearms.
In addition, the indictment charges Quinonez with discharging a firearm during the robbery. Quinonez was arrested by officers of the Austin Police Department on January 6, 2021, and has remained in police custody. Quinonez has been remanded into federal custody for his initial appearance, which is expected next week.
VII. Florida Tax Preparer Indicted for Tax Fraud
Kasali Opabola, Jr. of Palm Beach County, Florida, appeared before Federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in West Palm Beach on April 15, 2021, in order to face an indictment charging him with two counts of filing a false individual tax return for tax years 2014 and 2015; and one count of failing to file an individual tax return for the tax year 2016.
As stated in the indictment, Opabola operated a tax return preparation service in Palm Beach, Florida, called FTP Tax Solutions, LLC. The charges in the indictment allege that Opabola falsely underreported the total income and gross receipts for FTP Tax Solutions and that Opabola, Jr. knew that the total income and gross receipts were substantially greater than the reported amount.
In total, ff after being convicted of the charges in the indictment, Opabola, Jr. faces up to four years in prison.
VIII. Two Texas Men Charged with Dealing Cocaine
On April 20, 2021, two residents of Texas, Felipe Ramos, 41, and Ruben David Apellaniz-Figueroa, 38,rwere were the subjects of a two-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating federal narcotics laws. The announcement of the indictment was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Kaufman.
According to the Indictment, in March 2021, Ramos and Apellaniz-Figueroa possessed and conspired to distribute a mixture and substance containing 500 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. If convicted, both defendants face more than five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000,000.00, and a term of supervised release of at least 4 four years, or a combination thereof.
IX. New Jersey Man Charged with Mortgage Fraud, Using Fraud to Obtain SBA Loan, Aggravated Identity Theft
On April 22, 2021, a Bergen County, New Jersey man, Nathanael Zimmerman, 40, of Wyckoff, New Jersey, was arrested on charges of engaging in mortgage fraud, fraudulently obtaining an SBA loan, and stealing another’s identity information.
The complaint was announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Zimmerman is charged via complaint with one count each of wire fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He appeared by videoconference the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen.
According to the complaint, from August 2013 through January 2014, Zimmerman orchestrated a scheme to engage in mortgage fraud concerning FHA-insured loans. Zimmerman aided individuals in applying for FHA-insured loans and caused fraudulent representations to be made to the lenders, including submitting false bank statements.
Zimmerman received a portion of the loan proceeds. Later, these unqualified individuals defaulted on their loans, causing losses to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of more than $300,000. In 2020 Zimmerman used his deceased brother’s identity to obtain an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, for which he received more than $150,00.
X. New York Man Facing Federal Indictment in Maryland for Cyberstalking and Aggravated Identity Theft
On April 21, 2021, a federal grand jury in Maryland returned an indictment charging Desmond Babloo Singh, 19, of New York City, for the federal charges of cyberstalking and aggravated identity theft. The Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner announced the indictment, along with James R. Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.
The indictment alleges that Singh had used more than 100 online accounts to intimidate and harass a woman for whom he declared his love, even though he never met her in person. Singh is the younger brother of a former middle-school classmate of the victim, with whom he had interacted on a large number of social media platforms.
From in or abut about 2014 until February 14, 2020, he and Victim-1 exchanged communications, but there was never anything romantic between them. As Victim-1 pointed out during the investigation, the two had never met in person. Despite this, on February 14, 2020, Singh made a social media post in which he professed his love for Victim-1.
XI. Brooklyn Resident Charged in Molotov Cocktail Attack on NYPD Officers
A criminal complaint was filed on April 19, 2021, in Brooklyn federal court, charging Lionel Virgile with attempted arson because he allegedly used an improvised incendiary device commonly known as a “Molotov Cocktail” to damage and destroy a New York City Police Department (NYPD) vehicle while police officers were inside.
Virgile was arrested on April 17 and made his initial appearance April 19 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, where the defendant was ordered detained pending trial. The announcement of the charges was made by Mark J. Lesko, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, along with several prominent law enforcement officials.
The allegations made in the criminal complaint against Virgile include a description of an incident that occurred on April 17, 2021. Two NYPD officers in a marked vehicle saw Virgile driving his Lincoln Town Car through a steady red light at the intersection of Clarendon Road and East 45th Street in East Flatbush.
When the officers approached Virgile, he opened the driver’s side door and threw a cup containing a chemical substance (later identified as bleach) into the eyes of one officer, who suffered burns to his face. Nearly 10 minutes later, Virgile pulled over, exited his Lincoln Town Car, and threw a lit Molotov cocktail at the NYPD vehicle. The Molotov cocktail struck the windshield of the NYPD vehicle and shattered on the sidewalk.
The Molotov cocktail, which consisted of a glass beverage bottle containing gasoline and a cloth wick, bounced off the windshield of the police car and crashed into a parked car. Virgile was apprehended by the NYPD, where they found five additional Molotov cocktails and a red jerry can in Virgile’s car.
XII. Three Brooklynites Charged with Money Laundering
On April 20, 2021, an indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging Val Cooper, Alex Levin, and Garri Smith with money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to violate the Travel Act. The charges stem from a scheme to steal more than $30 million in cash and other valuables from safe deposit boxes located at overseas banks, primarily in Eastern Europe.
All three charged were arrested this morning and will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy. The announcement of the indictment was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, along with numerous law enforcement officials from the FBI and the NYPD.
Put simply, the three defendants and several co-conspirators allegedly created duplicate keys for safe deposit boxes and used them to steal cash and other valuables. According to the indictment, between March 2015 and October 2019, they managed to steal more than $30 million worth of goodies overall.
The safe deposit boxes were located in banks in foreign countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, and Azerbaijan, among others. Cooper was the leader of the group and often used his U.S. bank accounts to launder the funds.
XIII. Two Texas Men, One Oregon Man Charged in Fraud Scheme
On April 22, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and other law enforcement officials, announced that Apocalypse Bella, a/k/a “Dias Yumba,” Mackenzy Toussaint, a/k/a “Mack,” and Amos Mundendi, a/k/a “Mos,” a/k/a “El Ashile Mundi,” had been charged with participating in a fraudulent scheme to obtain over $14 million in federally-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toussaint and Mundendi are expected to be presented Friday before a U.S. magistrate judge in the Northern District of Texas, while Bella was arrested March 18, 2021, in the Eastern District of Virginia. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.
According to the Indictment, Bella, Toussaint, and Mundendi were part of an extensive scheme designed to prepare and submit fraudulent applications to the SBA under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in order to obtain nearly $14 million in government-guaranteed loans for various companies through the PPP, designed to provide financial relief to qualifying companies during the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, the scheme resulted in the approval of fraudulently procured loans for two companies located in the SDNY and netting approximately $4 million, all of which was deposited into their own bank accounts in the U.S. and elsewhere.
XIV. Dobbs Ferry Man Charged in White Plains Federal Court with Destruction of MTA Vehicle
On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several law enforcement officials, announced that Nicholas Skulstad, 33, of Dobbs Ferry, New York, had been arrested and taken into federal custody, based on a criminal Complaint filed in White Plains federal court.
The complaint charges him with the destruction of a motor vehicle employed in interstate commerce in connection with Skulstad’s alleged assault on an MTA transit vehicle in Ossining, New York, on April 5, 2021. Skulstad was presented later that same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison.
According to the Complaint, on April 5, 2021, Skulstad was seen ramming his vehicle repeatedly into an MTA vehicle driven by an MTA employee in Ossining, New York. This damaged the MTA vehicle and forced it off the road. Skulstad subsequently exited his vehicle, approached the MTA vehicle on foot, and banged on the driver-side window until it shattered.
When Ossining Police Department officers arrived at the scene, Skulstad yelled at an officer, “I’m Jesus Christ! You are going to die today! Are you ready to die?” Skulstad then charged a police vehicle, throwing his body into the driver-side door and yelling threats at an officer inside. Skulstad resisted officers’ attempts to subdue him before ultimately being taken into custody.
After taking Skulstad into custody, law enforcement found in Skulstad’s vehicle, among other things, a shell casing and a notebook with a page entitled, “List – To Kill,” which listed the names of various current and former public officials and other public figures.
XV. Owner of Racehorse Doping Websites Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court
On April 23, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Scott Mangini had pled guilty to conspiring to unlawfully distribute adulterated and misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud and mislead. For years, Mangini sold performance-enhancing drugs (PED) with names like “Blast Off Red Blood Builder,” “Green Speed,” and “Extreme Explosion.”
Mangini contributed to the conspiracy by using his training to design and create custom PEDs that were advertised and sold online, using misleading labels, packaging, and return address information, including sales to customers in the Southern District of New York. Mangini and his co-conspirators repeatedly touted illegal drugs sold on these websites as substances that “WILL NOT TEST” in the event of drug screens by racing officials.
For example, Mangini’s pain-numbing product “Numb It Injection” was advertised as a “proprietary formula and without question the most powerful pain shot in the market today AND WILL NOT TEST,” and customers were expressly directed to administer the drug by “injection as close to the event or extreme exercise as possible.”
XVI. U.S. Attorney for SDNY Announces Extradition of UK Citizen for International Carbon Credit Fraud Scheme
On April 22, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Jonathan D. Larsen, the Special Agent in Charge of the IRS New York Field Office, announced that Christopher Wright, a citizen of the United Kingdom, had been extradited from Spain.
Wright is charged with wire fraud and money laundering relating to his role in a telemarketing scheme involving the fraudulent sale of purported “carbon credits” to victims in the United Kingdom. Wright will be presented on April 23, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott. Wright’s case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman.
It is alleged that Wright and his codefendants deceived retirees in the United Kingdom with false promises of big returns on restricted stock and environmentally friendly ‘carbon credits.’ Many of the victims lost their life savings, while Wright and his criminal associates allegedly hid the proceeds in the United States and overseas.
More specifically, it is alleged that, from in or about 2009 to in or about 2015, Wright and other co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud victims in the United Kingdom through the sale of false, fraudulent, and materially misleading investments and to launder the proceeds of the fraud through bank accounts in the United States and foreign countries.
Friday, April 30, 2021
I. California Man Arrested for ‘Animal Crushing’ for Allegedly Slitting Dog’s Throat, Posting Video
On the morning of April 26, 2021, authorities arrested a Riverside man on a federal charge alleging that he first slit the throat of his young dog, then produced a video of the dying puppy, and posted the video on his Snapchat account. The man who allegedly perpetrated this act, Angel Ramos-Corrales, 19, was arrested without incident by the FBI and the Riverside Police Department.
He is made his initial appearance in Riverside U.S. District Court later that afternoon. Ramos-Corrales had been named in a federal criminal complaint filed on April 23, charging him with “animal crushing,” referring to a federal crime of purposely subjecting domestic animals to serious bodily injury. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, the Riverside Police Department received a complaint on February 13, 2021.
The complaint came soon after Ramos-Corrales allegedly posted a video on Snapchat depicting the small brown dog with a large laceration on its neck. On In the video, a person believed to be Ramos-Corrales makes a series of statements, including “I’m cold-hearted,” and then callously kicks the still-alive dog, which he had named Canelo.
II. Broward County Resident Charged with Theft of Postal Service Property
A Broward County resident was charged by indictment on April 25, 2021. The indictment includes forty counts of theft of government property, and the charges were returned for a scheme to steal over 37,000 stamps from the United States Postal Service.
Based on the allegations contained in the indictment, from on or about September 11, 2019, through on or about September 13, 2019, Jeffery Allan Grant, Jr., 38, of Fort Lauderdale, visited 29 post offices located in Palm Beach and Broward counties and presented forty checks drawn on his personal bank account to purchase a total of 37,100 stamps.
The stamps were the property of value belonging to the United States Postal Service. Grant’s bank account had insufficient funds to cover the checks presented for the transactions. As a result of Grant’s theft of the stamps, the United States Postal Service lost approximately $20,405.
Grant had his initial appearance on the indictment later that same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in the Southern District of Florida. Grant’s arraignment is scheduled for May 3, 2021. If convicted, Grant faces up to 10 years in prison.
III. Married Couple Indicted for Underreporting Over $1.1 Million
A married couple, Oganes Berberyan, 63, and Valentina Zemlyak, 63, both of Las Vegas, Nevada, made their initial appearances in federal court on April 21, 2021, for their alleged roles in a sleep study fraud scheme and for their attempts to evade tax payments on more than $1.1 million in income.
The indictment was announced April 26, by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Christopher Chiou, along with and Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation, Carissa Messick.
According to court documents, Berberyan and Zemlyak allegedly attempted to evade paying taxes owed to the IRS for tax years 2014-2016. From November 2014 to December 2015, co-defendant Armen Magzanyan (a/k/a “Arman Magzanyan” and “Arman Magz,”43, also of Las Vegas, operated GR8SLEEP.com, d/b/a Las Vegas Sleep Lab and claimed to conduct monitored sleep studies.
As part of a fraudulent scheme, Las Vegas Sleep Lab billed at least one health insurance company more than $5 million, claiming to have performed hundreds of sleep studies, even though it failed to provide such services to anyone. Despite that fact, one health insurance company paid more than $1.8 million to Las Vegas Sleep Lab.
Meanwhile, Berberyan, Zemlyak, and Magzanyan used the proceeds of their scheme to pay for various personal expenses, including private school tuition, real property purchases, luxury vehicles, as well as personal mortgage payments.
IV. Two Indicted in Hate Crimes Case Alleging Restaurant Attack
On April 26, 2021, a Los Angeles federal grand jury indicted two area men on conspiracy and hate crime offenses following an alleged attack on five victims at a family-owned Turkish restaurant. It has also been alleged that the defendants shouted anti-Turkish slurs, hurled chairs at the victims, and even threatened to kill them. The indictment was unsealed today, after the arrest of Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 23, of Tujunga.
The second defendant in the case, William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, is already currently in state custody. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in this case over the next few weeks. Chalikyan and Stepanyan, both of whom are Armenian-American, are charged with one count of conspiracy and five hate crimes counts.
V. Cincinnati Political Consultant Charged with Embezzling $1.4 Million from Congressional campaign
A political and media consultant located in the Cincinnati area, James R. Schwartz II, 41, was charged on April 27, 2021, with wire fraud and falsification of records related to his embezzlement of more than $1.4 million from a United States Congressional campaign. A bill of information was filed that day against Schwartz. At the same time, a plea document, in this case, was filed the same time, which will be dealt with in a future plea hearing.
According to court documents, from approximately 2011 through 2019, through his companies, Fountain Square Group LLC and Prime Media LLC, Schwartz worked as a consultant on behalf of a Congressional campaign. At the same time, Schwartz also served as the de facto treasurer for the campaign. It is alleged that, from those positions, Schwartz embezzled funds from the Congressional campaign by writing checks from the campaign’s bank accounts to himself and his companies.
The checks were also for far more money than he and his companies had actually earned. He allegedly concealed the embezzled funds by misrepresenting the amounts paid to him and his companies in reports to the Federal Election Commission.
VI. Two Charged in Nevada For Online Sales of Over 4,500 Stolen Goods
On April 27, 2021, two men from the Reno, Nevada area were hit with federal charges for their sales of more than 4,500 stolen items online to buyers all over the United States and in several foreign countries. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Christopher Chiou for the District of Nevada and IRS Special Agent in Charge Ismael Nevarez Jr. Gennaro Paolo Canta, 42, and Jess Legarza, 37, were indicted on one count of conspiracy and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Canta also is charged with one count of monetary transactions in the criminally derived property. Both defendants made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb on April 27, when he scheduled a jury trial to begin on June 21, 2021.
Based on the allegations in the indictment, from about June to August 2016, Canta and Legarza regularly purchased merchandise they knew had been stolen from retail stores and then resold them online in nearly all 50 states and foreign countries. Canta then used the proceeds from these sales to buy more stolen merchandise.
In all, Canta and Legarza allegedly sold more than 4,500 stolen items online. If they are convicted, both defendants face up to five years in prison.
VII. Former Temp Agency Owner Charged with Defrauding Lenders, Failing to Pay Employment Taxes for Workers
On April 26, 2021, a federal criminal information was filed, charging Crystal Jones, a/k/a Crystal Powell-Jones, 53, of Laurel, Maryland, for both wire fraud and failure to pay to the IRS employment taxes withheld from employees’ wages. The criminal information was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner, along with IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon of the agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, in its Washington, DC Field Office.
Based on the allegations made in the criminal information, as the owner and managing partner of JAG Professional Resources, a temporary employment agency doing business in Howard County, Maryland, Jones exercised control over all aspects of JAG’s business, including its finances. A relative of Jones was a silent minority partner in JAG.
From at least February 2013 through October 2016, Jones obtained factoring services from Victim Lender 1 for JAG. Factoring is a means by which cash intensive cash-intesive businesses, like JAG, could obtain cash quickly and reliably by leveraging accounts receivable.
JAG was cash intensive cash-intensive because they had to pay their temps weekly or biweekly, as prescribed by the employer, even though they often did not receive payment from clients for at least 30 days after services had been rendered. That could make them cash poor cash-poor for several weeks each month.
That said, JAG sold its account receivables to Victim Lender 1 and JAG received cash advances from Victim Lender 1, totaling approximately 90% of JAG’s accounts receivables. Upon receiving payments from JAG’s clients on the outstanding invoices, Victim Lender 1 sent JAG the remaining 10% of the invoice that had been purchased, less fewer fees Victim Lender 1 charged for its factoring services.
VIII. Sabana Seca Resident Indicted for Firearms Trafficking
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow, announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Luis Antonio Visalden Arriaga with unlicensed firearms trafficking. The FBI is leading the investigation.
It is alleged that Arriaga sold a number of semi- and fully automatic weapons for prices ranging from $2,000 to $2,700 each. He also allegedly arranged for the sale of AK-47 rifles and stated that he received shipments of fifteen machine guns at a time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanette Collazo, who works in the Violent Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s office, is in charge of the case prosecution. If convicted, Arriaga faces as much as five years in prison.
IX. Wilkes-Barre Man Indicted for Drug Trafficking, Firearms Offenses
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Michael Jones, Jr, 40, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had been indicted by a federal grand jury the day before offenses related to firearms and drug trafficking offenses.
According to the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that between December 2020 and March 14, 2021, Jones conspired with others to traffic at least 280 grams of crack cocaine and 40 grams of fentanyl.
It has also been alleged that, on March 14-15, 2021, Jones also possessed with intent to distribute crack cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. In addition, the indictment alleges that on March 14-15, 2021, Jones possessed a stolen firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities, even though he is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a prior felony conviction.
The case has been and continues to be investigated by the FBI, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.
X. Albuquerque Investment Broker Indicted for Mail & Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Failure to File Tax Returns
On April 29, 2021, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico announced that Richard Kessler, 49, of Albuquerque, had been arraigned the day before in federal court on a previously returned indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and failure to file tax returns. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury back on March 12.
According to the indictment and other court records, Kessler allegedly stole investment funds from several clients, then failed to file federal income tax returns for tax years 2014 through 2017. Kessler operated as a financial advisor and investment broker under the business name Guardian Group Investments, LLC. From his position, from on or about Feb. 26, 2016, to Aug. 23, 2016, Kessler allegedly induced investors to provide him with what he characterized as investment funds, but which he subsequently diverted to a business savings account for his own benefit and use.
Placing investor funds into such an account is specifically prohibited by both SEC and New Mexico state securities regulations. In addition, Kessler repeatedly moved funds from that account into his personal checking account, which is also a specific violation. In all, Kessler allegedly appropriated over $123,000 this way from at least four victims.
XI. Monroe County Man Indicted For Bank Robbery
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania made an announcement that the day before, a grand jury had indicted Terrance Tyson, 44, of East Stroudsburg, for bank robbery. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that on September 24, 2019, Tyson committed a robbery of the NBT Bank located in East Stroudsburg and took approximately $5,226.
The Stroud Area Regional Police Department conducted a full investigation. With the assistance of the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. O’Hara is prosecuting the case. The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in law enforcement’s efforts to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.
XII. Former NY Giants Player on Home Confinement Charged With Narcotics Trafficking
On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several law enforcement officials based on in New York City, announced that Clyde Hall, a/k/a “Peter,” 82, of New York City, had been arrested on April 24, 2021, in New York City.
A criminal complaint was subsequently filed in Manhattan federal court charging Hall with possessing with intent to distribute over five kilograms of suspected cocaine. Hall, who was once a professional football player with the New York Giants, was previously sentenced in 2010 to 20 years in prison following his conviction for various financial fraud crimes.
Hall was serving his prison sentence and was recently released to home confinement by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) under the CARES Act, which expanded the authority of the BOP Director of to place federal prisoners on home confinement earlier than was otherwise permissible.
Hall was arrested on the instant narcotics charge while on home confinement and appeared on April 26 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. As alleged in the complaint, on April 24, 2021, Hall was found in possession of approximately seven kilograms of suspected cocaine, which he attempted to sell to a confidential source.
At the same time, Hall claimed that another five kilograms was were on its their way.
XIII. Waterford Man Charged with Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child
On April 27, 2021, Bradley Boisen, 25, of Waterford, NY, appeared in court on a charge that he attempted to pay $60 to an adult in order to have sex with a 14-year-old child. The announcement of the charges was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette T. Bacon and FBI Agewnt Agent-in-Charge of heir Albany Field Office, Thomas F. Relford.
According to the criminal complaint, on April 21, 2021, Boisen arranged to pay $60 to someone in order to have sex with a 14-year-old child. In a hearing the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, Boisen was ordered detained pending further court proceedings.
If he is convicted, Boisen faces between 10 years and life in prison, as well as a term of supervised release of between 5 years and life following any prison term.
XIV. New York Man Arrested for Role in Jan. 6 Capitol Breach
A New York man was arrested on April 27, 2021, for a series of crimes he allegedly committed related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which disrupted a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the Presidential election.
Jonathan J. Munafo, 34, of Albany, NY, has been charged with federal offenses that include forcibly assaulting, resisting, impeding, or interfering with an officer of the U.S. government; knowingly entering or remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority and while carrying a dangerous weapon; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Among the more specific allegations include an alleged attack on a police officer, theft of a riot shield, and attempting to smash a Capitol window with a flag pole.
XV. Former White House Adviser Arrested For Stealing $218,000 From Charter Schools He Founded
On April 27, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with numerous law enforcement officials in the New York City area, announced the unsealing of a complaint charging Seth Andrew with wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution, in connection with a scheme in which Andrew stole $218,005 from a charter school network that he founded.
Andrew was arrested in New York City the same day and was also presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. As alleged in the Complaint, in 2005, Seth Andrew helped create “School Network-1,” a series of public charter schools then based in New York City.
In the Spring of 2013, Andrew left School Network-1 and accepted a job in the United States Department of Education and, eventually, as a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House. While employed at the Department of Education and the White House, Andrew was paid by School Network-1.
In November 2016, Andrew left his role in the White House and, shortly thereafter, in January 2017, Andrew officially severed his relationship with School Network-1. After that, on March 28, 2019, Andrew entered a Bank-1 branch in New York City and closed both Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2. Bank-1 provided ANDREW Andrew a bank check in the amount of $71,881.23 made payable to “School Network-1 Charter School” (“Check-1”) and a second bank check in the amount of $70,642.98 to “[School Network-1] Harlem Charter” (“Check-2”).
Check-1 and Check-2 represented the funds that were in Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2, respectively. The same day he closed both Escrow Accounts -he entered a Manhattan branch of a different FDIC-insured bank (“Bank-2”) and opened a business bank account in the name of “[School Network-1] Charter School” (“Fraud Account-1”).
To open that account, ANDREW Andrew represented to a Bank-2 employee that he was a “Key Executive with Control of” School Network-1 Charter School, which was a lie. Andrew then deposited Check-1 into the account but did not deposit Check-2. Five days later, Andrew used a Baltimore, MD ATM to deposit Check-2 into Fraud-Account-1.
XVI. More Leaders Of Latin Kings Set Gang Charged With Racketeering, Narcotics, And Firearms Offenses
On April 28, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several law enforcement officials in the New York City area, announced the unsealing of a fifteen-count Superseding Indictment charging 18 defendants with committing various racketeering, narcotics, and firearms offenses, as well as violent crimes in aid of racketeering.
Eleven of the defendants were previously indicted in December 2019 by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York with racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, and possessing firearms in furtherance of a narcotics conspiracy.
Five of the remaining seven newly-indicted newly indicted defendants were arrested and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein in Manhattan federal court on April 28. Defendant Mark Woods, a/k/a “Smokey,” is currently in state custody and will be presented at a later date. Defendant William Gonzalez, a/k/a “Bori,” remains at large.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni.
XVII. Corrections Captain Charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide in Death of Ryan Wilson
On April 28, 2021, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of Department of Correction Captain Rebecca Hillman, 38, for issuing orders that essentially prevented officers from saving the life of Ryan Wilson, a person in custody at Manhattan Detention Complex. She is also charged with making false statements in her written account of the incident.
The defendant is now charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Criminally Negligent Homicide and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.
According to court documents and statements made, Hillman was a DOC captain at MDC in the unit where Ryan Wilson was assigned housing. On the afternoon of November 22, 2020, Hillman decided to have Mr. Wilson moved to another housing unit after an argument with another inmate. Mr. Wilson, who remained locked in his cell pending the move, fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and attached it to a light fixture.
After calling an officer over, Mr. Wilson climbed on a stool, put the noose around his neck, and threatened to hang himself if Hillman refused to come and let him out of his cell. The officer attempted to calm Wilson down and call Hillman to make her aware that she was needed immediately. However, Hillman instead went into the control room and filled out some paperwork. Eventually, she left the control room and told the officer to open the cell.
She then declared that Wilson was “faking” because he was still breathing. She then ordered the officer to stand down and to stay out of his cell before leaving the area.
XVIII. Manhattan Man Arrested For $5.8 Million Scheme To Defraud COVID-19 Loan Program
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several law enforcement officials in New York City, announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging Marcus Frazier, 47, of New York City with major fraud against the United States, as well as bank fraud, wire fraud, making false statements, and money laundering.
The charges stem from his role in carrying out a fraudulent scheme to obtain $5.8 million in government-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frazier was arrested in the morning and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein later that afternoon.
According to the Complaint, unsealed April 28 in Manhattan federal court, one source of relief for small businesses provided by the CARES Act included as much as $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other business expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive unsecured SBA-guaranteed loans.
PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and/or utilities, among other specified expenses. Pursuant to the CARES Act, the amount of PPP funds a business is eligible to receive is determined by the number of employees employed by the business and their average payroll costs. Businesses applying for a PPP loan must provide documentation to confirm that they have in the past paid employees the compensation represented in the loan application.
Between in or about May 2020 and in or about April 2021, Frazier submitted at least seven applications for PPP loans for various businesses he controlled, and these applications all relied upon fraudulent statements regarding the number of employees of each business and the amount of payroll involved in each business and were often submitted along with fake bank statements, designed to support the fraud.
XIX. Ithaca-Area Man Arrested on Child Porn Charges
On April 28, 2021, Randolph Bullock, 64, of Dryden, New York, was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with possession of child pornography. The charges were announced by he the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette T. Bacon, along with FBI Special Agent Thomas Relford of the Albany Field Office.
The criminal complaint alleges that Bullock possessed images of child pornography on his desktop computer at his former place of employment.
If he is convicted of the charges, Bullock faces up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of at least 5 five years and up to life, and registration as a sex offender. Bullock appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks for an initial appearance on April 28, where he was ordered detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for May 3, 2021.