Last edited on Friday, December 04, 2020, at 9:40 AM.
Welcome to The Blanch Law Firm’s weekly digest of New New York Criminal Cases. Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country.
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Friday, December 04, 2020
I. Five Arrested for Drug Distribution
On November 30, 2020, it was announced that Garrick Bailey, 29, Chavon Sutton, 30, Timothy Kingsland, 56, and Tracey Kingsland, 48, all of Schenectady, and Christina Altieri, 46, of Clifton Park, had been arrested the previous week and charged by criminal complaint with drug crimes. Sutton is charged with distributing crack cocaine and heroin. The other four defendants are charged with distributing crack cocaine.
The alleged conduct occurred between September 15, 2020 and November 17, 2020. The announcement was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette T. Bacon and John B. Devito, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s New York Field Division. The defendants initially appeared in court November 24, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Stewart, who ordered Bailey and Sutton detained pending trial.
Timothy Kingsland, Tracey Kingsland and Christina Altieri were ordered released on conditions. If convicted, Bailey faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison, and post-release supervision for at least seven years and up to life. The remaining defendants each face at least 5 years and up to 40 years in prison, and a term of post-release supervision of at least 4 years and up to life.
II. Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition of Co-Founder of Global Cryptocurrency Ponzi Scheme
On November 30, 2020. Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that Gutemberg Dos Santos, a citizen of Brazil and the United States, was extradited from Panama on November 25, 2020. Dos Santos is charged by indictment with co-defendants Pablo Renato Rodriguez, Scott Hughes, Cecilia Millan, Karina Chairez, and Jackie Aguilar, for their roles in an internationally coordinated fraud and money laundering ring involved in defrauding individuals through investments in AirBit Club, a purported cryptocurrency mining and trading company.
Dos Santos was arrested on August 18, 2020, in Panama City, Panama, and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker on November 30, 2020. Rodriguez, Hughes, Millan, and Aguilar were arrested in the United States on August 18, 2020, and Chairez was arrested in the United States on October 20, 2020. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels.
III. Three Defendants Charged in Connection with Bronx Home Invasion Shooting and Robbery
On December 1, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced charges against Shawn Garcia, a/k/a “Ralph Porter,” Oscar Rios, a/k/a “Oski,” and Sutha Taylor, a/k/a “Sutha Colon,” (collectively, the “defendants”), in connection with their participation in an August 29, 2020 armed home invasion robbery in the Bronx, New York.
Garcia and Taylor were arrested earlier this morning and will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker. Rios remains at large. According to the allegations in the complaint charging Garcia, Rios, and Taylor, unsealed Dec. 1 in Manhattan federal court, on or about August 29, 2020, the defendants participated in an armed home invasion robbery of an apartment in the Bronx, New York.
Shortly before the robbery took place, defendant Oscar Rios, a/k/a “Oski,” coordinated with certain other co-conspirators to cause a resident of the Apartment (“Victim-1”) to leave the Apartment, under the guise that CC-1 wanted to buy liquor from Victim-1. Once Rios learned from CC-2 that Victim-1 was about to exit the apartment, Rios informed defendants Garcia and Taylor via text message.
When Victim-1 opened the door to the Apartment, Garcia, Taylor, and a third co-conspirator (“CC-3”) ran into the Apartment and physically assaulted Victim-1, including by striking them in the head several times with at least one firearm. While the assault on Victim-1 was in progress, another resident of the apartment, Victim-2 was thrown into the bathroom and ordered to remain there.
Victim-1 was then shot once. As a result of the assault and shooting, Victim-1 was hospitalized for several days.
IV. Four Charged with Crack Cocaine Distribution in Peekskill
On December 1, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several law enforcement officials, announced the unsealing of a one-count indictment charging Jordan Campbell, a/k/a “Jayoh,” Derrick Dickey, a/k/a “D,” Terrance Patterson, a/k/a “Cupid,” a/k/a “Q,” and Johnnie Thomas, a/k/a “Country,” with crack cocaine distribution in the Peekskill area. All four defendants were taken into custody Dec. 1. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas.
As alleged in the Indictment, Campbell, Dickey, Patterson, and Thomas, conspired to distribute at least 280 grams or more of crack cocaine between March 2020 and August 2020. If convicted, each defendant faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison.
V. 18 Gang Members Charged with Racketeering, Murder, Narcotics, Firearms, And Fraud Offenses
On December 1, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with other law enforcement and corrections officials, announced the unsealing of a 16-Count indictment charging 18 members of the Untouchable Gorilla Stone Nation Gang (“Gorilla Stone”) with committing various racketeering, murder, narcotics, firearms, and fraud offenses.
Brandon Soto, a/k/a “Stacks,” is also charged in connection with the September 21, 2020, murder of a minor in Poughkeepsie. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Philip M. Halpern.
As alleged in the indictment, the 18 defendants are parts of a racketeering conspiracy known as Gorilla Stone. It is alleged that members of Gorilla Stone committed terrible acts of violence, trafficked in narcotics, and even engaged in brazen fraud by exploiting benefits programs meant to provide assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
VI. Long Island Man Charged with Defrauding Investors
A criminal complaint was unsealed December 1, 2020 in Central Islip federal court charging Mark Lisser with wire fraud for lying to investors and potential investors to induce them to invest in what they believed were shares of several companies prior to the companies’ initial public offerings. Lisser was arrested that morning and made his initial appearance later that day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.
According to the complaint, between October 2018 and January 2019, Lisser was a partner in Knightsbridge Private Partners LLC (“Knightsbridge”), which operated a series of websites and call centers used to solicit investments in purported pre-IPO shares of companies. Lisser and employees of Knightsbridge solicited these investments by telling investors and potential investors that Knightsbridge owned the shares it was selling, that Knightsbridge was on the capitalization table of the pre-IPO companies and that Knightsbridge and its employees earned no commissions or fees until after the shares were issued to the public and the investor made money.
In fact, as Lisser knew, Knightsbridge did not directly own any of these pre-IPO shares, it was not on the capitalization table of any of the pre-IPO companies, and Lisser and Knightsbridge employees received money and commissions from the investments at the time they were made.
As a result of this fraud scheme, Lisser misappropriated more than $700,000 in investors’ funds which he used to make payments to companies controlled by Knightsbridge employees, pay salaries and sales commissions, and to pay his personal credit card bill and to make his own mortgage payments.
VII. Six Indicted for Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme Operating Seven “Birth Houses” in Suffolk County
On December 2, 2020, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, an indictment was unsealed charging Ibrahim Aksakal, Indicted Co-conspirator #1, Enes Burak Cakiroglu and Sarah Kaplan with conspiring to commit visa fraud, health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Fiordalisa Marte and Edgar Rodriguez were also charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, for their participation in a so-called “birth tourism” scheme in Suffolk County between 2017 and 2020.
The scheme facilitated pregnant Turkish women fraudulently entering the United States using tourist and business visas to give birth so that their children would obtain birthright citizenship and medical benefits. Five of the defendants were arrested and were arraigned December 2, 2020, before Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke. One defendant remains at large. Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced the arrests and the indictment.
As alleged in the Indictment, from at least January 2017 to the September 2020, the defendants advertised a birth tourism scheme on two Turkish-language Facebook pages, facebook.com/bebegimamerikadadogsun, and facebook.com/amerikadadogum.org, and a Turkish-language website; amerikadadogum.org. Translated into English, “bebegimamerikadadogsun” means “My baby should be born in America,” and “amerikadadogum” means “Giving Birth in America.”
As translated, some of the defendants’ advertisements stated, “If you believe your baby should be born in the USA and become a U.S. citizen then you are at the right place.” As a result of the defendants’ scheme, the indictment alleges that Medicaid disbursed more than $2.1 million in fraudulently obtained benefits and estimates that the defendants’ received approximately $750,000 in fees from the pregnant women, a portion of which was funneled to one or more bank accounts in Turkey.
VIII. Licensed Attorney, Disbarred Attorney Charged with Securities Fraud in Fraudulent Opinion Letter Scheme
On December 2, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of an indictment in Manhattan federal court charging Richard Rubin, a disbarred attorney, and Thomas Craft, a licensed attorney, with securities fraud. The indictment alleges that Rubin and Craft engaged in a fraudulent scheme in which Craft falsely represented that he had undertaken certain legal work in connection with three types of attorney opinion letters, all of which enabled the relevant securities to be sold to the investing public.
In truth and in fact, Rubin, despite his disbarment, had undertaken all of the legal work attested to in the letters; Craft merely served as a “rubber stamp” on the letters in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in monetary compensation. Rubin was taken into custody Dec. 2 in New York City, when he was presented before Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker in Manhattan federal court.
Craft was taken into custody the same day in West Palm Beach and was presented in federal court in Florida. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
IX. Five Current and Former MTA Employees Charged with Extensive Overtime Fraud
On December 3, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of complaints charging Thomas Caputo, Joseph Ruzzo, John Nugent, and Joseph Balestra, four current and former longtime employees of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and Michael Gundersen, a longtime employee of the New York City Transit Authority (NYC Transit), with federal program fraud for submitting time reports falsely claiming to have worked hundreds of hours of overtime that they did not in fact work.
Caputo, Ruzzo, Nugent, and Balestra were charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Dec. 2 (the “LIRR Complaint”), and Gundersen was charged in a separate criminal complaint unsealed the same day (the “NYC Transit Complaint”). Caputo, Ruzzo, Nugent, Balestra, and Gundersen were scheduled to be presented on Dec. 3 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.
Caputo, Ruzzo, Nugent, Balestra and Gundersen each allegedly schemed to fraudulently receive thousands of dollars in compensation from the MTA by falsely claiming to have worked hundreds of voluntary overtime hours (and in the case of Gundersen, some regular time hours as well) that in fact they did not work. The overtime pay the defendants claimed led to significant increases in their salary and led to them ranking among the highest-paid MTA employees, and in the case of Caputo, the highest-paid MTA employee in 2018.
The defendants frequently volunteered for overtime and then claimed to have been working lucrative overtime shifts at times when they were in fact at home or at other non-work locations, such as, in the case of Caputo, a bowling alley, or in the case of Gundersen, family vacations.
X. Vitol Inc. Agrees to Pay over $135 Million to Resolve Foreign Bribery Case
Vitol Inc. (Vitol), which is the U.S. affiliate of the Vitol group of companies, one of the largest energy trading firms in the world, has agreed to pay a combined $135 million to resolve the Justice Department’s investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to resolve a parallel investigation in Brazil. The resolution arises out of Vitol schemes to pay bribes to officials in Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico.
Vitol has also agreed to disgorge more than $12.7 million to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in a related matter and to pay the CFTC a penalty of $16 million related to trading activity not covered by the deferred prosecution agreement with the department.
According to the company’s admissions and court documents, between 2005 and 2014, Vitol and its co-conspirators paid bribes of more than $8 million to at least four officials at Brazil’s state-owned and controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras (Petrobras). Vitol paid these bribes in exchange for receiving confidential Petrobras pricing and competitor information.
Vitol concealed the scheme through the use of intermediaries and a fictitious company that facilitated the payments to offshore accounts and, ultimately, to the Petrobras officials. Vitol also admitted that from 2011 to 2014, it bribed at least five other Petrobras officials in exchange for receiving confidential pricing information that Vitol used to win fuel oil contracts with Petrobras.
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