Last edited on Friday, July 09, 2021, at 2:25 PM.
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, July 09, 2021
I. Defendant Arrested for Selling Xanax, Heroin, and Fentanyl Causing a Death
On July 7, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, announced that Luis Lee had been charged in a criminal complaint with narcotics distribution resulting in the death of Pathjrie Roman, who died two days before her 21st birthday. Lee was arrested July 7 and was presented that afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott.
As alleged in the Complaint, on or about September 18, 2020, Pathjrie Roman contacted Lee on Instagram and asked for Xanax and a depressant, or a “downer,” of which heroin is a type. That evening, Lee met Roman outside her apartment in the Bronx and delivered the Xanax and heroin. The heroin, however, was mixed with fentanyl. Lee’s meeting with Roman was corroborated by their contemporaneous Instagram messages, by Lee’s cellphone location, by building surveillance, and by witness information.
The next day, September 19, 2020, NYPD and emergency medical personnel found Roman deceased at her apartment. Following an autopsy, the New York City Medical Examiner determined that Roman died of acute intoxication from the combined effects of fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, heroin, and alprazolam (generic Xanax). Hidden inside Roman’s phone case were four glassines containing residue of fentanyl, acetyl fentanyl, and heroin.
II. Defendant Arrested for Selling Xanax, Heroin, and Fentanyl Causing a Death
On July 8, 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 FBI Office, announced the arrest today of Steven Short, the former head of E.M. Systems & Services, LLC, and affiliated companies (E.M. Systems), on charges of fraudulently obtaining credit card processing services for his deceptive Florida-based telemarketing operation.
As alleged in a superseding indictment unsealed July 8, which also contains charges previously announced against Brandon Becker, the former CEO of CardReady, LLC (CardReady), Short and Becker fraudulently carried out a credit card laundering scheme that provided access to the credit card system for Short’s underlying telemarketing scheme.
According to the indictment, from about 2012 through 2015, Short and E.M. Systems generated over $19 million from thousands of customers who received cold calls promising to reduce their overall debt burdens in exchange for fees of up to $1,495. The telemarketing operation resulted in hundreds of complaints of fraud and deceptive tactics, and requests for millions of dollars in refunds and chargebacks.
The charges include that, from approximately 2012 through 2015, Short, Becker and their co-conspirators carried out a fraudulent credit card processing scheme, processing credit card charges for Short’s telemarketing operation, even though applicable contracts prohibited the processing of credit card charges for Short and Becker are charged with accomplishing this processing fraud by creating dozens of sham merchant accounts and false merchant applications, concealing the true nature of Short’s telemarketing operation, and defrauding an associated credit card processing company and a federally insured bank into processing more than $19 million in payments for the scheme.
III. Disbarred Attorney Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud In Connection With Fraudulent Opinion Letter Scheme
On July 8, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced today that Richard Rubin, a disbarred attorney, pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to securities fraud. Rubin’s guilty plea results from his involvement in a fraudulent scheme in which he falsely represented that he was a licensed attorney in signing certain attorney opinion letters, which enabled the relevant securities to be sold to the investing public.
In addition, Rubin engaged in the fraudulent scheme with Thomas Craft, a licensed attorney, who falsely represented that he had undertaken certain legal work in connection with other attorney opinion letters, when in truth and in fact, Rubin, despite his disbarment, had undertaken all of the legal work attested to in the letters.
Rubin was arrested on December 2, 2020, and pled guilty July 8, 2021 before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer. As alleged in the indictment filed against Rubin and his co-conspirator Craft, and other statements made in open court, from at least in or about 2011 through at least in or about September 2018, Rubin, 79, of Brooklyn, NY, and his co-conspirator Craft participated in a fraudulent scheme in which Craft falsely represented that he had undertaken certain legal work in connection with Seller’s Representation Letters, OTC Markets Attorney Letters, and S-1 Opinion Letters, all of which enabled the relevant securities to be sold to the investing public.
In addition, in connection with the securities of certain issuers, Rubin, the defendant, falsely represented that he was an attorney in Seller’s Representation Letters and OTC Markets Attorney Letters, all of which enabled the relevant securities to be sold to the investing public. The false representations were in letters pertaining to over a dozen companies.
IV. Albion Man Indicted on Charges of Distribution and Possession of Child Pornography
On July 8, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that a federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment charging Spencer Hart, 37, of Albion, NY, with three counts of distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. If he is convicted, Hart faces at least 15 years and up to 40 years in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine. Hart was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and is being held pending a detention hearing on July 14, 2021, at 10:00 a.m.
According to the indictment, Hart allegedly distributed child pornography on March 17, June 21, and June 22, 2020. In addition, on July 16, 2020, Hart possessed a hard drive containing an image of child pornography involving a prepubescent minor under the age of 12. The defendant was previously convicted on a state charge involving possession of child pornography.
V. New York Man Who Allegedly Harassed NYPD Officer Charged with a Gun Crime
On July 9, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Prerak Shah, announced that a New York man who allegedly hurled racial slurs at an NYPD officer has been charged with a gun crime. The target of the criminal complaint, Shermaine Laster, 46, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 25, then almost immediately was charged via criminal complaint with possession of a firearm by a felon. A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted him on the same charge July 8.
The criminal complaint says that Laster, a convicted felon, flew from New York to Dallas to visit a local gun range, where he allegedly fired a 7.62×39 caliber rifle. Prior to shooting the weapon, he allegedly signed a “Firearms Eligibility Experience & Range Safety Waiver,” which reminded signatories that “it is unlawful for a felon or illegal alien to possess or rent firearms or ammunition.” When the form asked if he’d ever been convicted of a felony, Mr. Laster indicated he had not.
In a video recorded at the gun range and later posted to Instagram, the defendant allegedly fired several rounds at paper targets, noting, “I’m going to be demonstrating how to take out your opponent.” A review of the Instagram feed revealed numerous photographs of handguns, with captions like “I’m ready for WAR,” “No games… fight in the dark,” and “Black Power.”