Last edited on Friday, January 08, 2021, at 1:35 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, January 08, 2021
I. Ticketmaster Pays $10 Million Criminal Fine for Intrusions into Competitor’s Computer Systems
On December 30, 2020, in Brooklyn federal court, Ticketmaster L.L.C. (Ticketmaster or the Company) agreed to pay a $10 million fine to resolve charges that it repeatedly accessed without authorization the computer systems of a competitor.
The fine is part of a deferred prosecution agreement that Ticketmaster has entered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to resolve a five-count criminal information filed that same day charging computer intrusion and fraud offenses. Previously, on October 18, 2019, Zeeshan Zaidi, the former head of Ticketmaster’s Artist Services division, pled guilty in a related case to conspiring to commit computer intrusions and wire fraud based on his participation in the same scheme.
Both cases are assigned to U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie. According to Ticketmaster’s admissions and publicly filed court documents, Ticketmaster, a wholly owned wholly-owned subsidiary of Live Nation Entertainment, Inc. (Live Nation), was primarily engaged in the business of selling and distributing tickets to events and concerts. The victim company offered artists the ability to sell presale tickets – sold in advance of general ticket sales – on an online ticketing platform.
It also offered artists an Artist Toolbox (the Toolbox), which was a password-protected app that provided real-time data about tickets sold through the victim company.
II. Former NYPD Sergeant Charged With 9/11 Benefits Fraud
On January 7, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Dermot Shea, NYPD Commissioner, announced that Sally Spinosa was charged in Manhattan federal court with two counts of making false claims for monetary awards and medical benefits by falsely and materially overstating the amount of time she spent on recovery efforts after the September 11, 2001, attack on New York, as well as one count of aggravated identity theft for submitting a fraudulent affidavit in connection with her benefits application.
Spinosa surrendered that morning and was presented before Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox in Manhattan that afternoon. According to the allegations in the Complaint, following the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, Congress created certain programs to provide monetary compensation and medical treatment for victims of the attacks.
Specifically, Congress created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (the “VCF”) to provide compensation for any individual who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of either the September 11th attacks or the debris removal and recovery efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Congress also created the World Trade Center Health Program (“WTCHP”) to provide, among other things, monitoring and medical treatment benefits for individuals who have or may develop health conditions due to exposure at to disaster or recovery sites tied to the September 11th attacks. Both the VCF and the WTCHP are funded by Congress. An individual can be deemed eligible for a VCF award either by submitting medical documents and proof-of-presence documents directly to the VCF or by going through the WTCHP’s process for having a medical condition certified.
Sally Spinosa served as an NYPD officer from in or about July 1986 until July 2019 and was a sergeant in the investigations unit of the NYPD’s Patrol Services Bureau of Staten Island (the “Staten Island Investigations Unit”) on September 11, 2001. In 2010, Spinosa participated in a screening interview with the WTCHP in which she falsely stated that she worked for hundreds of hours at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island (the “Landfill”), from September 2001 to June 2002.
In 2014, Spinosa applied for a monetary award from the VCF, falsely claiming that she was at the Landfill for two hours each day for 62 straight days from September 20, 2001, to November 20, 2001. Contrary to Spinosa’s representations to the WTCHP and the VCF, in fact, she spent little to no time at the Landfill.
III. Buffalo Man Arrested After Cocaine, And A Loaded Weapon Were Was Found In His Residence
On January 7, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Adrian Funderburk, 37, of Buffalo, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. If convicted, Funderburk faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Watkins, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on January 6, 2021, the Buffalo Police Department, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, executed a state search warrant at the defendant’s residence on Wecker Street in Buffalo.
During the search, investigators recovered a loaded .40 caliber pistol, approximately one ounce of suspected cocaine a quantity of suspected marijuana, and approximately $81,000 in cash. Funderburk was taken into custody during the execution of the search warrant.
Friday, January 15, 2021
I. Thirteen Charged the Following Riot at the U.S. Capitol
Thirteen individuals have been charged so far in federal court in the District of Columbia related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. In addition to those who have been charged, additional complaints have been submitted, and investigations are ongoing.
In addition, approximately 40 people have been arrested and charged in DC Superior Court with offenses including, but not limited to, unlawful entry, curfew violations, and firearms-related crimes.
The federal cases are being prosecuted by the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and are being investigated jointly by the FBI; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Capitol Police; and the Metropolitan Police Department.
The ATF and FBI continue to urge the public to report suspected use of explosive devices or violent, destructive acts associated with the recent unrest. Anyone with information can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email [email protected] or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com.
It also offered artists an Artist Toolbox (the Toolbox), which was a password-protected app that provided real-time data about tickets sold through the victim company.
II. Man Arrested for Illegally Entering Office of Speaker of the House
On January 8, 2021, Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas, was arrested in Bentonville, Arkansas, on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building, where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Barnett was already in custody, and he was expected to make his initial appearance on Jan. 12, 2021, at 3 pm (via Zoom) in federal court in Fayetteville. He will ultimately be extradited to Washington, D.C.
According to court documents, U.S. Capitol Police learned that an individual had entered the restricted office area of the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and was photographed with his feet propped up on furniture. Those photos were circulated on numerous news media platforms, which identified the individual as Barnett.
A search of law enforcement databases confirmed that the individual in the news photographs did, in fact, appear to be Barnett. Barnett is charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and theft of public money, property, or records. If convicted, Barnett faces up to one year in prison.
III. Three Men Charged in Connection with Events at U.S. Capitol
Three men were charged on January 9, 2021, in District of Columbia federal court in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Jacob Anthony Chansley, a/k/a. Jake Angeli of Arizona was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Chansley was taken into custody the same day. It is alleged that Chansley was identified as the man seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white, and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants. This individual carried a spear, approximately 6 feet in length, with an American flag tied just below the blade.
In addition, Adam Johnson, 36, of Florida, was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; one count of theft of government property; and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Johnson was arrested yesterday and is currently in custody. On Jan. 6, 2021, Johnson allegedly illegally entered the U.S. Capitol and removed the Speaker of the House’s lectern from where it had been stored on the House side of the Capitol building. A search of open sources led law enforcement to Johnson, who is allegedly seen in a widely circulated photo inside the Capitol carrying the lectern.
A third man, Derrick Evans, 35, of West Virginia, was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. Evans was taken into custody Friday.
It is alleged that on Jan. 6, 2021, Evans, a recently elected member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, streamed live to his Facebook page a video of himself joining and encouraging a crowd unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol. In the video, Evans is allegedly seen crossing the threshold of the doorway into the U.S. Capitol and shouting, “We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”
IV. Two Men Charged in Connection with Events at U.S. Capitol
On January 10, 2021, two men were charged in District of Columbia federal court in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Larry Rendell Brock of Texas was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Brock was arrested on Jan. 10, 2021, in Texas.
It is alleged that Brock was identified as one of the individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol wearing a green helmet, green tactical vest with patches, black and camo jacket, and beige pants holding a white flex cuff, which is used by law enforcement to restrain and/or detain subjects.
Additionally, Eric Gavelek Munchel of Tennessee was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Munchel was arrested today in Tennessee.
Allegedly, Munchel was inside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photos depicting his presence show a person who appears to be Munchel carrying plastic restraints, an item in a holster on his right hip, and a cell phone mounted on his chest with the camera facing outward, ostensibly to record events that day.
V. Jamaican Man Charged with Smuggling Cocaine into the United States through Newark Airport
A Jamaican man made his initial appearance on January 11, 2021, on charges that he smuggled approximately one kilogram of cocaine into the United States. The announcement of the charge was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Perez Omar Gibbs, 37, of Jamaica, was arrested on Jan. 9, 2021, and is charged by complaint with one count of importation of controlled substances.
He appeared by videoconference on Jan. 11 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor, where he was remanded without bail. According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Gibbs arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport aboard a flight from Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Law enforcement officers discovered that Gibbs possessed approximately one kilogram of cocaine concealed inside two bags of coffee and four picture frames. If convicted, Gibbs faces at least five years and up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine.
VI. Virgin Islands Man Arrested For Fleeing From Park Rangers After Shots Fired On Buck Island
On January 12, 2021, Aneudis Acevedo, 33, of St. Croix, appeared before Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon, Jr., for an Initial Appearance following his arrest by National Park Service Rangers on charges of Interfering with Agency Functions, Violating a Lawful Order, Disorderly Conduct, and Resisting or Impeding an Officer of the United States.
According to court documents, in the late afternoon of January 10, 2021, shots were fired on Buck Island after a fight occurred on the beach. Immediately after the shots were fired, Acevedo fled the scene in his boat at a high rate of speed while carrying several passengers. He fled from a National Park Service boat, disobeying multiple orders directing him to stop.
Ultimately, the United States Coast Guard assisted and took Acevedo into custody, although, by that point, the boat passengers were no longer there. A subsequent search of Acevedo’s boat yielded a loaded firearm, a small amount of marijuana, and five cell phones.
VII. Massachusetts Man Arrested on Charges Arising from Fraudulent Tax Returns
A Salem man was arrested on January 12, 2021, and charged in connection with a fraudulent tax return scheme. Roosevelt Fernandez, 41, was charged by with a criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Fernandez made an initial appearance on Jan. 12 before Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy.
According to the charging documents, Fernandez used the identities of various individuals to submit fraudulent state and federal tax returns. A number of these returns included fraudulent W-2 Forms purportedly issued by employers for whom the named taxpayer did not work. Various fraudulent refunds were deposited into an account in the name of Soluciones Multi Service Multi-Service, an entity controlled by Fernandez.
It is further alleged that a May 2020 fraudulent Economic Income Payment – stimulus authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) – was deposited into this same account. Fernandez was allegedly depicted on ATM surveillance footage depositing another fraudulent tax refund check into this account. The investigation uncovered approximately 40 fraudulent tax returns totaling requested refunds that exceed $600,000.
VIII. Illinois Man Indicted on Child Pornography Charges
A man from Rockford, Illinois, was indicted on January 12, 2021, by a federal grand jury on charges of producing child pornography and committing felony sex offenses while he was required to register as a sex offender. Gary Wilson, 50, was charged with four counts of producing child pornography via the internet and one count of committing a felony offense involving a minor when he was required to be registered as a sex offender.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office. The Rockford Police Department assisted in the investigation. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Love.
According to the indictment, between June 2018 and April 2019, Wilson knowingly enticed four minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the conduct and then transmitting the depiction via the internet. The indictment also alleges that the production of child pornography by Wilson occurred while he was required to be registered as a sex offender.
IX. Researcher Charged with Theft of Trade Secrets from New Jersey-based Pharma Company
A former director of medical and scientific affairs at a New Jersey pharmaceutical company was arrested on January 13, 2021, on charges of stealing and illegally transmitting trade secrets. The announcement of the charges was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig. Shafat A. Quadri, 57, of North Potomac, Maryland, is charged via complaint with one count of theft of trade secrets and one count of unauthorized transmission of trade secrets.
He made his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor the same day and was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond. According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, “Company 1” is based in New Jersey and is among the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. They create vaccines, medicines, and consumer healthcare products.
Company 1 is incorporated in New Jersey and maintains email servers in New Jersey. In October 2019, Company 1 contacted the FBI to report suspicious activity by Quadri, who had been employed there since 2015 as director of medical and scientific affairs, immune -oncology. Company 1’s global immuno-oncology department specializes in research and development related to the diagnosis and treatment of more than 30 cancer types with biopharmaceutical products.
Quadri had access to the sensitive intellectual property of the company, including research and other trade secrets. He remained at the company through Sept. 30, 2019. Company 1 reported that an internal investigation revealed that before he left in September 2019, Quadri copied and removed thousands of files containing Company 1’s proprietary information, including research protocols, compound data, and strategic plans.
Quadri used unauthorized USB devices and personal email accounts to copy, transfer, and retain proprietary info from Company 1. Some documents that were copied and removed were outside of Quadri’s area of work responsibility. Quadri was not authorized to keep or transfer any sensitive or proprietary documents.
X. MIT Professor Arrested and Charged with Grant Fraud
A professor and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was were charged and arrested n January 14, 2021, in connection with failing to disclose contracts, appointments, and awards from various entities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Gang Chen, 56, was charged by with a criminal complaint with wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR), and making a false statement in a tax return. Chen made an initial appearance the same day before Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell.
According to charging documents, Chen is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in China. He is a professor and researcher at MIT, where he serves as Director of the MIT Pappalardo Micro/Nano Engineering Laboratory and Director of the Solid-State Solar Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC). Since approximately 2013, Chen’s research at MIT has been funded by more than $19 million in grants awarded by various U.S. federal agencies.
Since 2012, Chen has allegedly held various appointments with the PRC designed to promote the PRC’s technological and scientific development by providing advice and expertise – sometimes directly to PRC government officials – and often in exchange for financial compensation. This includes acting as an “overseas expert” for the PRC government at the request of the PRC Consulate Office in New York and serving as a member of at least two PRC Talent Programs.
Since 2013, Chen allegedly received approximately $29 million of foreign funding, including $19 million from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).
XI. Former CEO Of Real Estate Private Equity Investment Firm Charged with Securities Fraud
On January 12, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrest of Eric Malley, the founder, and former chief executive officer of real estate private equity investment firm MG Capital Management L.P., on charges of securities fraud and wire fraud for his role in a scheme to fraudulently induce hundreds of people to invest more than $50 million in total in two real estate investment funds by, among other things, lying about his own prior experience and investment track record and about the nature and characteristics of those funds.
Malley was arrested in New Canaan, Connecticut, n on Jan. 12, 2021, on a criminal complaint and was presented before a magistrate judge in the Southern District of New York.
As alleged in the Complaint, Malley founded MG Capital Management L.P. (MG Capital) in approximately January 2013 and served as its chief executive officer (“CEO”) from that time until approximately December 2019.
Malley described MG Capital as an opportunity for investors to invest in luxury residential real estate properties through limited partnership interests and formed two real estate investment funds, MG Capital Management Residential Fund III (“Fund III”) and MG Capital Management Residential Fund IV (“Fund IV”) (collectively, “the Funds”), in approximately February 2014 and September 2017, respectively. To market the Funds to investors, Malley touted two purportedly extremely successful prior funds he had formed, Fund I and Fund II.
Malley also assured investors that the Funds were debt-free and that the properties held by the Funds would be and were leased primarily to corporate tenants. Malley’s representations about the existence and performance of Funds I and II were largely fabricated.
Furthermore, the Funds were not debt-free but instead held mortgaged properties, and the properties that made up the Funds were almost entirely leased to an individual, not corporate, tenants. Malley, 50, of New Canaan, Connecticut, is charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
XII. Queens Felon Charged with Illegal Possession of Ammunition
A criminal complaint was filed on January 13, 2021, in Brooklyn federal court, charging Eduard Florea, 40, of Queens, with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Florea was arrested on Jan. 12, 2021, at his home in Queens, New York, and made his initial appearance this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara, who ordered the defendant detained pending trial.
The arrest and charge were announced by 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).
According to the complaint and statements made in court, Florea operated a social media account on Parler using the name “LoneWolfWar.” Florea, who was previously convicted of a New York state firearms-related felony, posted threatening statements online about killing a United States Senator-elect and about intending to travel to Washington D.C. as part of an armed group ready to engage in violence.
For example, on January 6, 2021, Florea posted “dead men can’t pass [expletive] laws” in response to a post about a United States Senator-elect. On January 12, 2021, FBI Special Agents and Task Force Officers with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force executed a search warrant at Florea’s home in Middle Village, Queens. Law enforcement recovered over 1,000 rounds of ammunition. If convicted, Florea faces up to 10 years in prison.
XIII. Defendant Charged with For-Profit Visa Fraud and Alien Smuggling Scheme
On January 13, 2021, an indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging Haiyan Liao in connection with a scheme to commit visa fraud, money laundering, and illegally bring Chinese nationals into the United States for financial gain. Liao was arrested this morning in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will make her initial appearance tomorrow in United States District Court, District of Nevada, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna Youchah.
The arrest and charge was were announced by Seth D. DuCharme, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and several law enforcement officials. According to the indictment, between January 2014 and December 2015, Liao conspired with others in a scheme to fraudulently obtain visitor visas for aliens from China by submitting applications containing false statements to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.
In addition, Liao and her co-conspirators obtained fraudulent documents for aliens to present to the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs, including fake birth certificates, marriage certificates, national identity cards, property deeds, and employment verification purportedly to show they had strong ties to China and were likely to return to their homeland. Liao and her co-conspirators allegedly met with alien applicants and instructed them to falsely answer questions during their visa interviews.
For the aliens whose applications were approved, Liao and her co-conspirators facilitated their travel to the United States by purchasing airline tickets, accompanying them on commercial flights, and instructing them how to clear customs after they arrived in the United States. The aliens and their families paid the defendant thousands of dollars to obtain the fraudulent visas.
Liao and her co-conspirators allegedly wired proceeds of the scheme from China to the United States. Liao’s co-defendant in the indictment, Ned Michael Moriearty, was recently deceased.
XIV. Brooklyn Man Indicted for Armed Robberies of Cab Drivers
On January 14m, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Dermot F. Shea, NYPD Commissioner o, and John B. DeVito, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the ATF, announced that Kymahli Lysius, 28, of Brooklyn, had been indicted in connection with a series of armed robberies he carried out last summer against livery cab drivers. Lysius was arrested last week and presented in Manhattan federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Kevin N. Fox.
As alleged in the Complaint, between on or about July 28, 2020, and August 7, 2020, Lysius committed eight gunpoint robberies and a ninth attempted gunpoint robbery against livery cab drivers. Two of the robberies were in Manhattan; the others were in Brooklyn. The robberies followed a simple but brazen pattern: On each occasion, a livery cab was ordered for a pickup at a specific location.
Upon its arrival, Lysius would get into the back seat of the cab. Shortly thereafter, he would pull out a firearm from a fanny pack strapped across his chest, place the firearm on the cab driver’s head or back, and demand all of the driver’s money. After taking all the cash, the driver had on him and any other cash in the cab, LYSIUS would get out of the cab and flee on foot. Each robbery occurred on dark streets, late at night, or in the very early morning hours.
Lysius is charged with two counts of Hobbs Act robbery and two counts of using a firearm in connection with the two robberies that occurred in Manhattan. The Hobbs Act robbery charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. If convicted of using, carrying, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of the Hobbs Act robberies, Lysius faces at least 7 seven years and up to life in prison.
XV. MS-13’s Highest-Ranking Leaders Charged with Terrorism Offenses in the United States
Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed in Central Islip, New York charging, 14 of the world’s highest-ranking MS-13 leaders who are known today as the Ranfla Nacional, which operated as the Organization’s Board of Directors, and directed MS-13’s violence and criminal activity around the world for almost two decades.
Specifically, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorists, conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to finance terrorism and narco-terrorism, conspiracy in connection with the defendants’ leadership of the transnational criminal organization over the past two decades from El Salvador, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere.
Defendant Borromeo Enrique Henriquez, a/k/a “Diablito de Hollywood,” is widely recognized as the most powerful member of the Ranfla Nacional. Three of the indicted defendants, Fredy Ivan Jandres-Parada, aka “Lucky de Park View” and “Lacky de Park View,” Cesar Humberto Lopez-Larios, aka “El Grenas de Stoners” and “Oso de Stoners,” and Hugo Armando Quinteros-Mineros, aka “Flaco de Francis,” remain at large and should be considered armed and dangerous.
As alleged in the indictment, the Ranfla Nacional comprises the highest level of leadership of MS-13. In approximately 2002, the defendants and other MS-13 leaders began establishing a highly organized, hierarchical command and control structure as a means to effectuate their decisions and enforce their orders, even while in prison.
They directed acts of violence and murder in El Salvador, the United States, and elsewhere, established military-style training camps for its members and, obtained military weapons such as rifles, handguns, grenades, improvised explosive devices (IED), and rocket launchers.
As leaders of MS-13, the defendants controlled swaths of territory and engaged in public relations efforts on behalf of the transnational criminal organization. Further, the defendants used MS-13’s large membership in the United States to engage in criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and extortion, to raise money to support MS-13’s terrorist activities in El Salvador and elsewhere and directed members in the United States to commit acts of violence, including murders, to further its goals.
Friday, January 22, 2021
I. Wisconsin Man Indicted for Cyberstalking, Possession of Ammunition
On January 15, 2021, Matthew D. Krueger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that three days earlier, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Jon E. Janikowski, 36, Winneconne, Wisconsin. The indictment alleges that Janikowski engaged in cyberstalking and illegally possessed ammunition.
According to the cyberstalking charge, Janikowski allegedly intended to “harass and intimidate another person” using a computer or “electronic communication system of interstate commerce” and that he engaged in a “course of conduct that placed that person in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily injury.”
The indictment also alleges that Janikowski, a felon, possessed ammunition. If convicted of the cyberstalking charge, Janikowski faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the ammunition charge, he’s looking at up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Janikowski was arraigned in Federal court in Green Bay on January 15, 2021, at which time the indictment was unsealed. Janikowski will be detained pending trial at the Winnebago County Jail.
II. New Mexico County Commissioner Charged for Breaching U.S. Capitol
A New Mexico County commissioner was charged on January 17, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for breaching the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021. Couy Griffin of New Mexico was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17, with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry.
As alleged in the charging documents, on Jan. 9, 2021, law enforcement received a tip that Griffin, an Otero County, New Mexico, Commissioner, was present at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and had posted videos to his Facebook page indicating that he intended to return to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2021, and “plant our flag” on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk.
An investigation into Griffin revealed that he is the founder of an organization called “Cowboys for Trump,” and that following the incident at the U.S. Capitol, Griffin posted a video to the Cowboys for Trump Facebook page in which he stated that he “climbed up on the top of the Capitol building and . . . had a first row first-row seat.”
III. Kentucky Man Arrested and Charged in Federal Court for Actions at the U.S. Capitol
On January 16, 2021, a Kentucky man was arrested and charged in connection with the riots at the U.S. Capitol last week, during which he joined a crowd of individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol and disrupted the conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
Chad Barrett Jones, 42, of Cox Creek, Kentucky, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of assault on a federal officer, one for certain acts during a civil disorder, one for the destruction of government property, one for obstruction of an official proceeding, one for unlawful entry to restricted building or grounds, and one for violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Jones was arrested in Louisville, and his initial appearance occurred on Jan. 19, 2021, before Magistrate Judge Colin H. Lindsay of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that video footage from inside the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, shows Jones in a red hooded jacket and gray skullcap among an aggressive crowd trying to breach a barricaded door to the Speaker’s Lobby, a hallway that connects to the House of Representatives chambers.
Members of the crowd were shouting and gesticulating at the Capitol Police officers guarding the door. Seconds after the officers began moving toward the adjacent wall as other officers in tactical gear arrived, Jones forcefully struck the door’s glass panels at least 10 ten times with a long, wood flagpole, the affidavit alleges.
The affidavit also alleges that chants of “Break it down!” could be heard and that a U.S. Capitol Police officer inside the Speakers’ Lobby, facing the door with a gun raised, can be seen at the side of the video in the close vicinity of the doorway.
IV. Minnesota Man Charged with Possession of Unregistered Firearm
On January 19. 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Erica H. MacDonald, announced a federal criminal complaint against Dayton Sauke, 22, charging him with possessing an unregistered firearm. Sauke was taken into federal custody on January 15, 2021, and made his initial appearance the same day before Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz in U.S. District Court.
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint and law enforcement affidavit, on July 30, 2020, the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office received information that Sauke was selling narcotics and manufacturing and dealing firearms without a license. Beginning on December 6, 2020, law enforcement agents monitored Sauke’s Snapchat account.
Sauke made numerous posts consistent with manufacturing and dealing firearms without a license, as well as using and dealing drugs. Between December 6, 2020, and January 12, 2021, Sauke posted pictures of a short-barreled shotgun and made several threatening posts about killing law enforcement and politicians.
On January 15, 2021, two undercover ATF agents met with Sauke and purchased from him a privately made firearm for $1,500. Sauke discussed with the undercover agents the cost for of manufacturing additional firearms. During the conversation, Sauke showed the photos of firearms the undercover agents could purchase and said he had a “sawed-off shotgun” in his car.
The undercover agents agreed to purchase two additional firearms from Sauke and paid him $900 toward the purchases. Once the purchase was complete, Sauke was taken into custody.
V. Texas Man Charged with $5 Million COVID-Relief Fraud
On January 19, 2021, Samuel Yates, 32, of Maud, Texas, was charged with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently, seeking more than $5 million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the SBA under the CARES Act. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. Yates was charged with two counts of wire fraud, and the indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Texarkana, Texas, on Jan. 14, 2021.
According to court documents, Yates allegedly made two fraudulent applications to two different lenders for loans guaranteed by the SBA for COVID-19 relief through the PPP. In the application submitted to the first lender, Yates allegedly sought $5 million in PPP loan proceeds by fraudulently claiming to have over 400 employees with an average monthly payroll of more than $2 million.
In the second application, Yates claimed to employ over 100 individuals and was able to obtain a loan of over $500,000. With each application, Yates submitted a list of purported employees that he obtained from a publicly available random name generator on the internet. He also submitted forged tax documents with each application.
VI. New Charges Filed Against Tennessee State Senator, Two Others in Fraud and Money Laundering Case
On January 19, 2021, Tennessee State Senator Katrina Robinson, 40, along with two other co-defendants, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the unsealing of the new federal criminal complaint today.
According to information presented in Court, the Healthcare Institute (“THI”) is a post-secondary educational provider located in Memphis, Tennessee. It purports to provide training programs for jobs in the healthcare field, including certified nursing assistant, phlebotomist, and licensed practical nurse.
It was founded in January 2015 as a Tennessee for-profit LLC, with Katrina Robinson as director. THI received more than $10,000 in federal funds each year between 2015 and 2019. During that period, Robinson is alleged to have stolen, converted, and intentionally misapplied the property of THI for her own use.
As a result, on July 30, 2020, she was indicted in Case No. 2:20-cr-20147-SHL, which is currently pending trial in the U.S. District Court.
VII. Oil Company Employee Indicted For Illegal Discharge, False Statements
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that a grand jury indicted Patrick Huse, 40, of Perkinston, Mississippi, for criminal conduct related to oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the eight-count Indictment, Huse engaged in criminal conduct on an oil platform known as Main Pass 310A (MP-310A). In July 2015, workers on MP-310A noticed a sheen on the surface of the surface of the water surrounding the platform, which meant that the platform was discharging oil or other hazardous substances into the Gulf of Mexico.
The workers alerted Huse, who was a Person-In-Charge (PIC) on MP-310A. The workers told Huse they believed the sheen was the result of sand buildup in filtration equipment on MP-310A. Rather than shutting in the platform to repair or replace the filtration equipment, Huse ordered certain wells closed but otherwise kept the platform operating.
This caused further sheening. The sheening continued for another four days until a worker finally activated an emergency shutdown device to stop the sheening. Huse then instructed the workers to lie to federal regulators about the reason for the emergency shutdown.
VIII. Two Indicted on Fraud Charges Involving SBA Disaster Funds
A Lawrence man and a Methuen man were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in connection with a scheme involving the use of stolen identities to fraudulently obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) and to launder the funds. Darwyn Joseph, 24, of Lawrence, and Ramon Joseph Cruz, Jr., 24, of Methuen, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and aiding, and abetting, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The defendants were charged by with a criminal complaint and arrested in December 2020. According to the charging documents, the defendants were involved in a conspiracy to use stolen identity information of U.S. citizens to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Specifically, Joseph and Cruz used stolen identity information of U.S. citizens to open fraudulent bank accounts, which were then linked to other fraudulent bank accounts set up to receive the SBA funds.
Joseph and Cruz also received through the mail some of the debit cards associated with fraudulent bank accounts into which SBA funds were deposited and then laundered those funds by using them to purchase large numbers of iPhones for re-sale resale.
Joseph and Cruz also wired some of the funds to the Dominican Republic in furtherance of the scheme. It is alleged that over $452,000 in SBA funds were fraudulently obtained in connection with this scheme. Approximately $250,000 of this money was used to purchase iPhones in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
IX. Two Massachusetts Residents Charged in Connection with Capitol Breach
A Massachusetts man and woman were arrested on January 19, 2021, and charged in connection with unlawfully entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Mark Sahady, 46, of Malden, and Suzanne Ianni, 59, of Natick, were each charged by criminal complaint with one count of entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and another for disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Sahady and Ianni made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Boston that afternoon.
According to the criminal complaint, Sahady is the vice president of an organization called “Super Happy Fun America,” which allegedly purports to advocate for the “straight community.” Beginning on approximately Nov. 16, 2020, Sahady tweeted statements exhibiting a belief that the presidential election was stolen and that people need to gather in D.C. on January 6, 2021, to respond.
Photos posted on a Twitter account connected to Super Happy Fun America show Sahady on a bus with other individuals with the caption, “Bus 1 of 11 coming to Washington DC. See you there!” According to the criminal complaint, Ianni is also involved with “Super Happy Fun America.” The complaint alleges that Ianni organized buses for Super Fun Happy America to transport individuals to Washington D.C. for the January 6, 2021 event.
Photographs show Sahady and Ianni standing next to each other inside the U.S. Capitol during the breach.
X. Connecticut Man Charged with Assaulting an Officer During U.S. Capitol Breach
A Connecticut man was charged January 19, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with assaulting an officer during the breach of the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021. He was presented in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York today, before appearing in Washington D.C., Patrick Edward McCaughey III was charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees; civil disorder; entering restricted building or grounds; and , and violent entry or disorderly conduct.
As alleged in the charging documents, on Jan. 6, 2021, a video posted to YouTube captured a large group of rioters attempting to break through the line of uniformed law enforcement officers who were in place to prevent rioters from entering the lower west terrace door of the United States Capitol.
In the front line of rioters an individual, who has subsequently been identified as McCaughey can be seen using a clear police riot shield to physically push against the left side of an officer’s body. The officer was pinned between the clear police riot shield being held by McCaughey and the lower west terrace door.
The officer appeared to be loudly crying out in pain. As the officer was being pinned to the door by McCaughey, a separate rioter was violently ripping off the officer’s gas mask, exposing the officer’s bloodied mouth. As McCaughey was using the riot shield to push against the officer, numerous other rioters behind and around McCaughey appeared to add to the weight against the officer.
XI. Rochester Man Arrested and Charged with Destroying Property and Obstruction of Congressional Proceedings
On January 15, 2021, a New York State man was taken into custody and charged with unlawful entry, destruction of government property, and obstruction of an official proceeding. Dominic Pezzola, 43, a/k/a “Spaz” and “Spazzo,” of Rochester, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, one count of destruction of government property, and one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.
Following a hearing in the Western District of New York, Pezzola was ordered detained. The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Pezzola unlawfully gained entry to the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, by breaking a window in the U.S. Capitol with a U.S. Capitol Police shield, as an individual in the crowd yelled, “Go Go Go,” before entering the Capitol building.
The affidavit also alleges that a video posted from inside the Capitol shows Pezzola smoking a cigar inside the building. In that video, Pezzola can be heard saying words to the effect of, “Victory smoke in the Capitol, boys. This is f***ing awesome. I knew we could take this mother***er over [if we] just tried hard enough.”
The affidavit alleges that Pezzola was photographed in December 2020 at rallies in Washington, D.C., that included individuals wearing clothing consistent with the “Proud Boys.” At some point after the incident at the Capitol had ended, Pezzola allegedly bragged about breaking the windows to the Capitol with a Capitol Police shield.
The affidavit also alleges that Pezzola and others stated that they would have killed anyone they got their hands on, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Michael Pence. The affidavit alleges that, in the days after the event, members of the group said that the group would return to Washington, D.C., and kill every single “m-fer” they could.
XII. Political Scientist Author Charged with Acting as an Unregistered Agent of The Iranian Government
On January 19, 2021, a criminal complaint was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, a/k/a “Lotfolah Kaveh Afrasiabi,” with acting and conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Afrasiabi was arrested yesterday at his home in Watertown, Massachusetts, and will make his initial appearance this morning in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. The arrest and charges were announced by Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, along with several law enforcement officials.
According to the complaint, Afrasiab, whoi who is a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, holds a Ph.D., and frequently publishes books and articles, and appears on English-language television programs discussing foreign relations matters, particularly Iran’s relations with the United States.
Afrasiabi has identified or portrayed himself as a political scientist, a former political science professor, or as an expert on foreign affairs. Since From at least 2007 to the present, Afrasiabi has also been secretly employed by the Iranian government and paid by Iranian diplomats assigned to the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in New York City (IMUN).
Afrasiabi has been paid approximately $265,000 in checks drawn on the IMUN’s official bank accounts since 2007 and has received health insurance through the IMUN’s employee health benefit plans since at least 2011. Nevertheless, Afrasiabi did not register as an agent of the Government of Iran.
XIII. Soldier Arrested For Attempting To Assist ISIS To Conduct Deadly Ambush On U.S. Troops
Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on January 19, 2021, the arrest of Cole James Bridges, a/k/a “Cole Gonzales,” a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, on federal terrorism charges. The charges are based on Bridges’ alleged efforts to assist ISIS to attacking and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.
Bridges was were charged by with Complaint with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempting to murder U.S. military service members. The FBI and Army Counterintelligence arrested Bridges the same day, and he was presented on January 21, 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
According to the criminal Complaint charging Bridges, he joined the U.S. Army in approximately September 2019, and was assigned as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Beginning in 2019 Bridges began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology.
Bridges also expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS”) and jihad on social media. In or about October 2020, Bridges began communicating with an FBI online covert employee (the OCE), who was posing as an ISIS supporter in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East. During these communications, Bridges expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS.
Bridges then provided training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, such as the 9/11 Memorial. Bridges also provided the OCE with portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics for use by ISIS.
XIV. Queens Man Arrested for Threatening to Murder Members of Congress
On January 19, 2021, a criminal complaint was filed in Brooklyn federal court charging Brendan Hunt, a/k/a “X-Ray Ultra,” with threatening to murder U.S. officials. Hunt was arrested that morning in Queens and made his initial appearance later the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., who ordered him detained pending trial.
The announcement of the charges was made by Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and numerous law enforcement officials. As alleged in the complaint, on January 8, 2021, two days after the riot in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Hunt posted a video to an Internet-based video sharing site in which he exhorted his viewers to violence, urging them that “[w]e need to go back to the U.S. Capitol when all of the Senators and a lot of the Representatives are back there, and this time we have to show up with our guns.
And we need to slaughter these m—–f——.” The video was one in a series of statements by Hunt posted on social media since at least December 6, 2020, in which he called for violence and “public execution” against members of Congress. If convicted, Hunt faces up to 10 years in prison.
XV. Bath Man Arrested For Trafficking In Child Pornography
On January 21, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Jeffrey Clark, 34, of Bath, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with receiving and distributing child pornography.
According to the complaint, in September 2020, an undercover law enforcement officer in Rochester, NY, received video files of suspected child pornography, including a file named “6Yo Babyj – Bedtime Rape.” In November 2020, undercover law enforcement officers in Rochester, Buffalo, North Dakota, and Texas also received video files of suspected child pornography.
A subsequent investigation traced the files to the defendant’s residence in Bath, NY. A search warrant was executed at the residence on January 13, 2021, during which investigators seized multiple digital devices, including Clark’s cell phone. If convicted, Clark faces between five years to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
XVI. Former State Employee Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud
On January 20, 2021, Srinivas Kancha, 52, of Selkirk, New York, was charged with conspiring to defraud his former employer, the Office of the New York State Comptroller (OSC). The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon, alng along with several law enforcement officials.
A criminal complaint alleges that between 2015 and 2017, while employed at OSC, Kancha conspired with the owner of a company (Company-P) to fraudulently obtain money by hiring computer programmers from Company-P to work on a project Kancha managed for OSC in exchange for a kickback from Company-P. From January 2015 through October 2016, OSC hired 17 programmers for the project at hourly rates ranging from $80 to $120. In late 2016, OSC learned that many of the programmers’ references and work histories were not legitimate, including those hired from Company-P, and launched an internal investigation.
According to the complaint, between February 2015 and October 2016, Kancha and his co-conspirator ensured that programmers from Company-P were hired by falsifying information regarding their experience and work histories and providing them with interview questions ahead of their interviews at OSC. If convicted of this offense, Kancha faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.
Friday, January 29, 2021
I. Bakersfield Man Indicted for Laser Strikes on Sheriff Helicopter
On January 25, 2021, Andrew Nathan Hernandez, 18, of Bakersfield, was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, McGregor W. Scott, announced the charges.
According to court documents, on Dec. 26, 2020, Hernandez aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter Air-1. Hernandez was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on Jan. 26. This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case. If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
II. Three in West Palm Beach Charged with Conspiring to Distribute Crystal Meth
On January 25, 2021, federal prosecutors in West Palm Beach charged three defendants with conspiring to distribute over 30 pounds of crystal meth. The three defendants are Mexican nationals, and two of them made their initial appearances that same day in federal magistrate court in West Palm Beach. The third defendant made his initial appearance on January 22, before a federal magistrate judge in Wisconsin, where he was arrested.
The criminal complaint affidavits filed in federal court allege that Armando Arizmendi-Garcia, 24, Bianey Gonzalez-Arizmendi, 28, and Oscar Daniel Martinez-Nunez, 21, conspired to move methamphetamine from Atlanta, Georgia, for distribution in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The plan was interrupted on January 22, 2021, when Arizmendi-Garcia and Gonzalez-Arizmendi delivered over 30 pounds of crystal methamphetamine to an undercover officer, say the affidavits. Arizmendi-Garcia and Gonzalez-Arizmendi were arrested on January 22 in West Palm Beach.
The third man charged, Martinez-Nunez, was arrested the same day close to Madison, Wisconsin. According to the charges, Martinez-Nunez was responsible for coordinating the drug delivery. If convicted, each defendant faces between 10 years and life in prison.
III. Stowe, VT Resident Charged Federally in Arson Case
On January 25, 2021, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Jeffrey M. Nolan, 62, was arrested by federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on Friday, January 22, 2021, at his home in Stowe, Vermont.
He has been charged by a criminal complaint in Stowe federal court with the malicious damage or destruction, by means of fire, of property used in or affecting interstate commerce. Nolan made his initial appearance in court on the complaint on Monday, January 25, 2021, where the Court ordered Nolan detained pending further proceedings.
According to the STF affidavit stated that, over the course of more than five years, a series of fires occurred in the Town of Stowe that resulted in millions of dollars of damages to structures, displaced several people from their jobs, and endangered the lives of residents, including first responders.
Local, state, and federal investigators worked together to investigate the individual or individuals responsible for setting the fires and creating an atmosphere of anxiety for the residents of Stowe. Following a fire at the Stowe Cable Systems building on Thomas Lane on January 7, 2021 — the second fire at that specific building in five months — investigators circulated security footage in the community and received multiple tips about the individual seen setting the fire.
On January 12, 2021, investigators obtained a state search warrant for Nolan’s residence and interviewed him about his potential involvement in that and other fires. The detectives interviewing Nolan reported that he admitted to having set the January 7 fire and to having and also having set at least seven other fires dating back to March 2019.
Nolan was arrested by state law enforcement authorities that day. He was charged in Vermont Superior Court in Lamoille County with various arson-related felonies on January 13, 2021, and was released by the court.
IV. Convicted Felon Charged With Possessing A Sawed-Off Shotgun
On January 25, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez announced the return of a two-count indictment charging Brandon Barnes, 29, of Lecanto, with possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon and possessing a sawed-off shotgun, which is an unregistered National Firearms Act weapon.
If convicted, Barnes faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each count. The indictment also notifies Barnes that the federal government intends to force him to forfeit the firearm and ammunition. Barnes is a five-time convicted felon for fraud and illegal drug possession. As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law.
According to court documents, on June 10, 2020, a state search warrant was executed at a Citrus County residence known for illegal drug sales. Barnes was found at the residence with a loaded, sawed-off shotgun on his bed.
The shotgun had an overall length of less fewer than 26 inches, making it subject to registration in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. The gun had not been registered.
V. Three Indicted For Firearms Trafficking
On January 20, 2021, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Carlos Osorio-Pérez, Luz Damaris Pérez-Velázquez, and Onyx Yerielle Olivera-Rivera in a conspiracy to obtain firearms in Florida and sell them in Puerto Rico, all without a license. Members of the conspiracy would mail firearms from Florida to Puerto Rico and send thousands of dollars from Puerto Rico to Florida.
The annpuncement announcement of the charges was made on January 26, 2021, by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow. The ATF is in charge of the investigation of the case.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy has been ongoing since June 2019. In the past three months, Mr. Osorio Pérez purchased over twenty-five AR-15 type pistols in Florida. Three packages sent via Priority Mail on December 14 and 15, 2020, from Florida to Puerto Rico contained eleven firearms.
Mr. Osorio-Pérez sent messages such as “Puedo dejarte los palos en 950” (I can give you the long guns for $950). Another message read: “Un duro necesita 3 cosas” “Dinero armamento y gente”; “Y somos algo necesario.” (A tough guy needs three things, money, weapons, and people. We are needed).
VI. Two Ohio Men Charged with Intent to Distribute THC Vape Cartridges and Psilocin
Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan announced today that a four-count indictment charging Gage Predojev, 22, and Justin Duma, also 22, both of Akron, with drug trafficking and firearm offenses was unsealed following the arrest of the defendants.
Predojev was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances (THC) and one count of felons in possession of a firearm. Justin Duma was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances (psilocin) and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
According to the indictment, in September 2019, it is alleged that defendant Predojev drove from Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio, with approximately 10,000 THC vape cartridges in his vehicle. Defendant Predojev allegedly intended to distribute the vape cartridges in the Northern District of Ohio.
In October 2019, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the Akron-area residence of the defendants and seized various controlled substances, including THC vape cartridges and 400+ grams of psychedelic mushrooms (psilocin); several firearms and ammunition; and $18,432.00 in cash. Defendant Predojev is prohibited from owning a firearm due to previous convictions of drug trafficking in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.
VII. Texas Man Charged with Coercing Minor to Engage in Sexual Conduct
Timothy Lee Tyler, 42, a former resident of Conroe, Texas, is set to appear in federal court on charges of sexual exploitation of children as well as distributing, receiving, and possessing child pornography. The charges were announced on January 26, 2021, by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Ryan K. Patrick. Tyler appeared on Jan. 26, 2021, at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy.
The indictment, which was returned on Jan. 13, alleges that in 2016 Tyler did or attempted to employ, use, persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of it. On various dates in September 2020, Tyler also allegedly distributed, received, and possessed material containing child pornography.
VIII. Former Media Producer Indicted on Charges of Extortion and Obstruction of Justice
On January 27, 2021, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging a former media producer with extortion and obstruction of justice during a federal investigation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón, 52, of San Juan, was charged with three counts of extortion and obstruction of justice related to his involvement in a scheme linked to the disclosure of Telegram chat messages during the summer of 2019 and his subsequent actions during the investigation of the allegations by the FBI.
According to the indictment, Díaz Colón attempted to extort a public official in the Government of Puerto Rico on June 20, 2019. Díaz Colón attempted to secure a $300,000 payment and other things of value from the official in exchange for the assurance that certain Telegram messages containing damaging information about various public officials in the government would not be disclosed publicly.
When approached by the FBI on July 26, 2019, Díaz Colón is alleged to have deleted Telegram messages containing information about his involvement in the scheme before surrendering his cellular telephone to the authorities.
IX. Federal Indictment of Chicago Man Charges Carjacking, Robbery and Firearm Offenses
On January 26, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted a Chicago man on carjacking and firearm charges for allegedly violently taking vehicles in Chicago and Cicero and attempting to steal another in Oak Park. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with several law enforcement officials.
According to the seven-count indictment, Jaheim Henyard, 19, stole a Dodge Charger from an Uber Eats driver in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2020, and a Kia Optima Hybrid LX from a victim in Cicero on Aug. 20, 2020. Henyard also allegedly attempted to steal a Mercedes GLC 300 by brandishing a firearm at a victim in Oak Park on July 17, 2020 but was unsuccessful.
The indictment also accuses Henyard and two others – Darius Young and Xavier Tate – of participating in the robbery of a UPS truck in Oak Park on Aug. 21, 2020. During the robbery, the UPS driver was ordered to lay face down in the street while the offenders removed boxes from the truck and drove off.
The indictment charges Henyard with two counts of carjacking, two counts of robbery, one count of attempted carjacking, and one count of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Young, 25, of Berwyn, and Tate, 23, of Chicago, are charged with robbery. Tate also faces a firearm count for allegedly illegally possessing a semiautomatic handgun in Chicago on the same day as the UPS heist.
in Chicago federal court have not yet been scheduled. If convicted, Henyard faces up to 15 years in prison for each carjacking count, although the charge for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence carries at least seven years and up to life in prison, which must be served consecutively, after the underlying carjacking offense.
X. Investment Manager Detained in Indonesia, Returned to Chicago to Face Federal Fraud Charges
On January 28, 2021, a Chicago investment manager who fled the country after being charged in a fraud scheme has been returned to the United States from Indonesia. Then manager, Marcus Beam, was indicted in January 2020 on charges he fraudulently obtained money from women he met online.
The charges and extradition were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with several law enforcement officials. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Stern.
According to the indictment, Beam falsely claimed to the women and other investors that their funds would be invested in stocks such as Uber and Lyft. Beam instead spent the money for his own personal benefit, including rent, auto loans, and retail purchases, resulting in a loss to investors of at least $500,000, the indictment alleges.
Beam, 50, of Woodridge, fled the United States after being released on bond in January 2020. The U.S. Marshals Service located Beam in Bali, Indonesia, and he was detained there in July 2020 on an INTERPOL Red Notice by the Indonesia National Police, National Central Bureau, and INTERPOL. On Jan. 27, 2021, Beam was deported from Indonesia and returned in custody to Chicago.
He pleaded not guilty to ten counts of wire fraud and mail fraud during his arraignment Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather K. McShain in Chicago.
XI. Kenyan NationalExtradited Of For Trafficking of Rhinoceros Horns, Elephant Ivory, and Heroin
On January 25, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Mansur Mohamed Surur, a/k/a “Mansour,” a Kenyan citizen, was extradited from Kenya and arrived in the United States.
Surur was arrested by Kenyan authorities on July 29, 2020, in Mombasa, Kenya, on charges of conspiracy to traffic in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both endangered wildlife species, which involved the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants. In addition, Surur was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin.
Surur’s co-defendant, Moazu Kromah, a/k/a “Ayoub,” a/k/a “Ayuba,” a/k/a “Kampala Man,” a citizen of Liberia, was previously deported to the United States from Uganda on June 13, 2019. Co-defendant Amara Cherif, a/k/a “Bamba Issiaka,” a citizen of Guinea, was extradited to the United States from Senegal on April 3, 2020.
Co-defendant Abdi Hussein Ahmed, a/k/a “Abu Khadi,” a citizen of Kenya, remains a fugitive. Surur arraigned later the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.
According to charging documents and other court records, from at least in or about December 2012 through about May 2019, Kromah, Cherif, Surur, and Ahmed conspired to transport, distribute, sell, and smuggle at least approximately 190 kilograms of rhinoceros horns and at least approximately 10 tons of elephant ivory from or involving various countries in East Africa, including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania, to buyers located in the United States and countries in Southeast Asia.
In all, the estimated average retail value of the rhinoceros horn involved in the conspiracy was at least $3.4 million, and the estimated average retail value of the elephant ivory was at least $4 million.
XII. Cryptocurrency Trader Charged with Fraudulent Scheme Involving Over $5 Million
On January 26, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with several law enforcement officials, announced the unsealing of a Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging Jeremy Spence, a/k/a “Coin Signals,” 24, of Bristol, Rhode Island, was a cryptocurrency trader who solicited funds for various cryptocurrency funds that he operated, with commodities fraud and wire fraud offenses.
As alleged in the complaint, from November 2017 through April 2019, Spence solicited investors in various cryptocurrency investment pools that SPENCE had created and managed (the “Funds”). Spence solicited investments for several Funds, the largest and most active of which were the Coin Signals Bitmex Fund, a/k/a the “CS Mex Fund,” the Coin Signals Alternative Fund, a/k/a the “CS Alt Fund,” and the Coin Signals Long Term Fund.
Investors who wanted to participate in a Fund would transfer cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, to Spence in order for him to invest it. Spence solicited these investments through false representations, including that Spence’s crypto trading had been extremely profitable when, in fact, SPENCE’s trading had been consistently unprofitable.
For example, on January 28, 2018, SPENCE posted a message in an online chat group falsely claiming that his trading of investor funds over the past month had generated a return of more than 148%. As a result of this misrepresentation, investors transferred additional funds to Spence.
In fact, over the course of approximately one month, Spence’s trading resulted in net losses in the accounts in which he traded investor funds. To forestall redemptions by investors and to continue to raise money from investors to fund his scheme, Spence generated fictitious account balances and made them available to investors online.
To hide his trading losses, Spence used new investor funds to pay back other investors in a Ponzi-like fashion. In all, Spence distributed cryptocurrency worth approximately $2 million to investors substantially from funds previously deposited by other investors.
XIII. IRS Agent Charged with Identity Theft And Wire Fraud
A 10-count indictment was unsealed on January 26, 2021, in federal court in Brooklyn, charging Bryan Cho, also known as “Yong Hee Cho,” with possession of a fake foreign passport; aggravated identity theft; making false statements during a background check, and wire fraud in connection with the purchase of an Upper East Side co-op apartment.
Cho was arrested this morning and is scheduled to be arraigned via videoconference that afternoon before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak. Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and several law enforcement officials announced the charges.
As set forth in the indictment, Cho has been employed as an IRS Special Agent in their Criminal Investigation Unit since 2008. During the course of his employment, Cho worked on an investigation through which he obtained identifying information for an individual described in the indictment as “John Doe.”
The investigation was eventually closed, but Cho retained items he obtained during the investigation and used John Doe’s identifying information to create false identification documents and open a corporate entity overseas in John Doe’s name.
The fraudulent documents included purported identification cards for the Philippines and the Republic of Marshall Islands in the name of John Doe, but bearing photos of the defendant, and a purported passport in the name of John Doe for the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.
XIV. California Man Charged With Making Threats to New York-Based U.S. Congressman and a Journalist
On January 26, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and Dermot Shea, the NYPD Commissioner, announced that Robert Lemke had been arrested based on a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court charging him with making threatening interstate communications.
According to the complaint, Lemke allegedly sent threatening text messages on January 6, 2021, to family members of a New York City-based U.S. Congressman and a New York City-based family member of a journalist. Lemke was arrested in Bay Point, California, and will be presented tomorrow in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
The Complaint alleges that, on January 6, 2021, the same day that individuals purporting to protest the 2020 Presidential Election gathered in Washington, D.C. and stormed the Capitol Building, Robert Lemke sent threatening text messages to the brother of the New York City-based Congressman, citing the Congressman’s statements about the results of the 2020 Presidential Election.
Lemke’s text messages included a picture of a home in the same neighborhood as the home of the Congressman’s brother. The text then stated that his brother’s statements were putting his entire family at risk and suggested that “we” had armed members in his neighborhood and were ready to strike. It is also alleged that Lemke sent similar threatening texts to the Congressman’s sister-in-law and a relative of a journalist.
XV. U.S. Attorney Announces Extradition of Two in Text Messaging Consumer Fraud Scheme
Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Ramsey E. Covington, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Boston Field Office, Criminal Investigation Unit, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, announced on January 26, 2021, that Michael Pearse, an Australian national, and Yong Chao Liu, a/k/a “Kevin Liu,” a Chinese national, were extradited from Australia and arrived in the United States Jan. 25, 2021.
Pearse and Liu were extradited on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and Pearse was were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The charges stem from the defendants’ participation in a scheme to charge mobile phone customers millions in fees for unsolicited, recurring text messages about topics such as horoscopes, celebrity gossip, and trivia facts, without the customers’ knowledge or consent – a practice that the defendants and their co-conspirators referred to as “auto-subscribing.”
The portion of the fraudulent scheme that Pearse, Liu, and their co-conspirators orchestrated generated more than $50 million in proceeds for themselves.
XVI. Social Media Influencer Charged with Election Interference Stemming from Voter Disinformation Campaign
A Florida man was arrested this morning on charges of conspiring with others in advance of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election to use various social media platforms to disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote. Douglass Mackey, aka Ricky Vaughn, 31, of West Palm Beach, was charged by a criminal complaint in the Eastern District of New York.
He was taken into custody this morning in West Palm Beach and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce E. Reinhart of the Southern District of Florida. The complaint alleges that in 2016, Mackey established an audience on Twitter with approximately 58,000 followers.
A February 2016 analysis by the MIT Media Lab ranked Mackey as the 107th most important influencer of the then-upcoming Election, ranking his account above outlets and individuals such as NBC News (#114), Stephen Colbert (#119), and Newt Gingrich (#141).
As alleged in the complaint, between September 2016 and November 2016, in the lead up to the Nov. 8, 2016, U.S. Presidential Election, Mackey conspired with others to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages designed to encourage supporters of one presidential candidate to “vote” via text message or social media, a legally invalid method of voting.
XVII. Three Charged as Part of a Meth Ring
On January 27, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and several law enforcement officials announced a criminal Complaint charging three defendants with narcotics and firearms offenses. Joseph Sweeney, Jasmine Tabak, and Kevin Turner, a/k/a “Tex,” were was arrested yesterday on Long Island, New York, and will be presented today in Manhattan federal court.
As alleged in the complaint, Sweeney, 39, Tabak, 34, and Turner, 43, all from Bayport, NY, allegedly trafficked large quantities of methamphetamine throughout New York City. From at least 2020 up to and including the present, defendants allegedly conspired to distribute large quantities of methamphetamine, some of which was obtained from suppliers in New York City.
Law enforcement officers seized more than approximately 1.5 kilograms of meth from Sweeney, Tabak, and Turner during controlled purchases and a parcel seizure. On November 23, 2020 Sweeney was arrested in Suffolk County after law enforcement officers observed him engaging in a hand-to-hand narcotics sale. In connection with the November 23, 2020, arrest, law enforcement officers seized meth and a loaded .38 caliber revolver from Sweeney.
In addition, on January 18, 2021, in connection with an undercover purchase of methamphetamine, Turner told an undercover law enforcement officer that Sweeney pointed a 9mm firearm at Turner’s head because he suspected that the undercover was a law enforcement officer.
The three defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, which means all three face between 10 years and life in prison.
XVIII. NYPD Officer Charged with Production of Child Pornography
A criminal complaint was filed in federal court in Central Islip on January 28, 2021, charging Carmine Simpson with the sexual exploitation of children. The charges relate to sexually explicit images and videos of children that the defendant requested and received from minors he targeted on Twitter.
Simpson was arrested on Jan. 28 and made his initial appearance via video conference the same day, before United States Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson. Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the arrest and charge.
According to court filings, Simpson, a police officer with the NYPD, allegedly targeted vulnerable children on Twitter for the purpose of having them create sexually exploitative photos and videos of themselves for him. Simpson often represented to his victims that he was 17 years old, and he sent them specially filtered pictures of himself where he appeared younger.
Simpson communicated with at least 46 children who appear to have been between the ages of 13 and 17. On Twitter alone, Simpson obtained at least 18 photographic images and 33 videos containing sexually exploitative material from children. If convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, Simpson faces at least 15 years in prison.