Last edited on Friday, June 26, 2020, at 2:19 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, June 26, 2020
I. U.S. Army Soldier Charged with Terrorism Offenses For Planning Deadly Ambush On Service Members In His Unit
On June 22, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, along with several other law enforcement officials, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Ethan Melzer for allegedly planning an attack on his U.S. Army unit by sending sensitive details about the unit , such as information about its location, movements, and security – to members of an extremist organization named Order of the Nine Angles (“O9A”), an occult-based neo-Nazi and racially motivated violent extremist group.
Melzer is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder U.S. nationals, conspiring and attempting to murder military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to murder and maim in a foreign country. The FBI and the U.S. Army thwarted Melzer ’s plot in late-May 2020, and the FBI arrested Melzer on June 10, 2020. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Gregory H. Woods. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Strauss, “As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within.”
II. Buffalo Man Accused Of Selling Drugs That Led To One Fatal And Two Non-Fatal Overdoses
On June 19, 2020, the U.S. Attorney fr the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that a federal grand jury had returned a 14-count superseding indictment charging Kalijah Long, 36, of Buffalo, NY, with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, a controlled substance causing death to one and causing serious bodily injury to another.
He was also charged with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, fentanyl and cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and fentanyl, maintaining a drug involved premises, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. If convicted, Long faces up to life in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremiah E. Lenihan and Michael J. Adler, who are handling the case, noted that, according to the superseding indictment, between August 1 and September 19, 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted six controlled purchases of fentanyl and cocaine from the defendant.
Through the course of the investigation, the DEA learned that Long distributed fentanyl to an individual identified as D.H. that led to his death. It is also alleged that the defendant distributed narcotics that led to the non-fatal overdoses of individuals identified as R.M. and G.A.
In late September 2019, investigators executed a search warrant at Long’s residence and his vehicle. Inside his residence, they recovered narcotics paraphernalia and ammunition, including .380 caliber ammunition. Inside the defendant’s vehicle, investigators recovered a loaded .380 caliber handgun along with a bag containing 17.5 grams of fentanyl and 9.2 grams of crack cocaine.
III. Niagara Falls Man Indicted On Multiple Drug And Gun Charges
On June 19, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy Jr. announced that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Verquan Jackson, 32, of Niagara Falls, NY, with attempted possession with intent to distribute MDMA, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking offenses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Watkins, Jr., who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and a previously-filed complaint, on February 13, 2020, the United States Postal Inspection Service was notified about a box that was shipped from California to Niagara Falls breaking open during transit.
Inside the box, which was addressed to Jackson at his 65th Street residence, were approximately 41 lbs. of 2 oz. individual narcotics distribution baggies. Subsequently, on April 8 and May 19, 2020, search warrants were executed on packages addressed to the defendant’s residence, but in the names of B. Jackson and Jane Brown.
One package contained approximately 695 grams of suspected marijuana and paraphernalia, while the other package contained approximately 652 grams of multicolored pills containing MDMA and fentanyl. If convicted, Jackson will face up to 45 years in prison.
IV. Long Island Man Indicted on Sexual Exploitation and Child Pornography Charges
An indictment was filed in federal court in Central Islip on June 19, charging Thomas Blaha with traveling to the Philippines with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, sexual exploitation of a child, distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography.
Blaha was arrested on a complaint in February 2020 and released on a $1 million bond. He will be arraigned at a later date. The announcement of the indictment was made by Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), announced the charges.
According to the indictment, Blaha allegedly traveled halfway across the world, in order to sexually exploit a minor that he had enticed through Facebook and to create child pornography. “It is alleged Blaha made trips to the Philippines to sexually abuse a 13-year old female who was being exploited for money,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh.
According to court filings, in September and October 2019 Blaha traveled from New York to the Philippines to engage in sexual activity with a 13-year-old female and persuade her to take sexually explicit images of herself and send them to him in exchange for money.
As a part of the government’s investigation, in December 2019, search warrants were obtained for Blaha’s Facebook account, as well as his residence in Garden City and his electronic devices. The searches revealed hundreds of images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
V. Ophthalmologist Previously Charged With Healthcare Fraud Indicted For Defrauding SBA Program
Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Ameet Goyal, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Rye, New York, previously indicted in this District for healthcare fraud offenses in November 2019, has been charged in a superseding indictment with fraudulently obtaining government-guaranteed loans intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic while he was on pretrial release.
Under the rules of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), GOYAL and the ophthalmology practice he owned (the “Practice”) were ineligible for PPP relief due to Goyal’s pending criminal charges.
In April 2020, in order to gain access to PPP funding, Goyal falsely represented on two separate applications to the SBA and to a financial institution headquartered in New York, New York (Bank-1), that he was not subject to any pending indictment.
The PPP also limited each business to one loan, with a maximum loan amount, and required applicants to certify that they have not and will not receive another PPP loan until December 31, 2020.
While making that certification, Goyal circumvented the single-loan requirement by submitting two separate applications, with different business names, email addresses, business identification numbers, and loan amounts, for the same underlying practice, while disclaiming on each application that he owned any other business.
Due to these misrepresentations, Goyal successfully obtained two PPP loans totaling more than $630,000. Goyal is scheduled to be arraigned on June 26 in White Plains federal court before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel.
VI. Seven Members and Associates of Elite Assassin Millas Gang Charged with Racketeering Conspiracy, Murder, Attempted Murders and Firearms Offenses
On June 24, 2020, an indictment was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn variously charging seven members and associates of the Elite Assassin Millas (EAM), a subset of the Bloods street gang, with racketeering conspiracy, murder in-aid-of racketeering, attempted murder in-aid-of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, assault in-aid-of racketeering, interstate stalking, accessory after-the-fact to attempted murder and assault and related firearms offenses.
Five (5) defendants were arrested on June 23 and made their initial appearance via videoconference before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak.
The two (2)remaining defendants are also in federal custody and will be arraigned at a later date. Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and several law enforcement officials announced the charges and arrests.
- TYSHAWN CORBETT (also known as “Reck”)
- Age: 30
- Brooklyn, New York
- QAWON ALLEN (also known as “40” and “Phorty Wap”)
- Age: 26
- Brooklyn, New York
- DESMONN BECKETT (also known as “Des”)
- Age: 27
- Brooklyn, New York
- DEVON BRISTOL (also known as “D”)
- Age: 29
- Brooklyn, New York
- MARLON BRISTOL (also known as “Marlo”)
- Age: 32
- Brooklyn, New York
- ANDREW CAMPBELL (also known as “Phaze”)
- Age: 24
- Brooklyn, New York
- QUANDEL SMOTHERS (also known as “Chucky”)
- Age: 29
- Brooklyn, New York
As detailed in the government’s detention letter, which was filled earlier on June 24, the EAM set of the Bloods street gang follows many of the rules and the hierarchical structure of other Bloods sets, earning money through drug-trafficking and fraud, and protecting their reputation through violent crimes and firearms offenses. In recent years, Quandel Smothers has held EAM’s highest-ranking position of “Godfather.”
- If convicted of murder, Corbett faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, and is eligible for the death penalty.
- If convicted of the firearms offenses, Allen faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, and Smothers, Marlon Bristol and Devon Bristol each face a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of life in prison.
- If convicted of the conspiracy to commit murder in-aid-of racketeering, Campbell faces up to 10 years in prison, and Beckett faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted as an accessory after-the-fact to the assault in-aid-of racketeering.
VII. Members Of The Mac Baller Brims Gang Charged With Murder
On June 25, 2020, Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with a number of New York-based law enforcement officials, announced a Superseding Indictment in United States v. Lawrence, et al. 19 Cr. 761 (JPO).
In the initial indictment, unsealed on October 24, 2019, 13 defendants were charged in connection with the activities of the Mac Baller Brims gang that operated in and around the Mount Hope section of the Bronx between 2017 and 2019.
In the Superseding Indictment, defendants Derrick Casado, a/k/a “Big Bank,” a/k/a “Papa D,” and Carlos Rosario, a/k/a “Baby Bottle,” a/k/a “Carlito,” a/k/a “Barlito,” a/k/a “Barlos,” are charged with offenses relating an October 5, 2019 robbery in Manhattan, during which Rosario shot and killed Jonathan Rodriguez, 27. A racketeering conspiracy charge was added against defendant Juan Tejada, a/k/a “Gotti.” The case is proceeding before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As charged in the Superseding Indictment, Carlos Rosario and Derrick Casado were responsible for the murder of Jonathan Rodriguez. This is one of many acts of violence alleged to have been committed by members and associates of the Mac Baller Brims gang. Thanks to the outstanding work of our law enforcement partners at the NYPD, HSI, and DEA, Rosario and Casado now face federal charges for murder.”
VIII. 11 Members and Associates of the Bully Gang Charged with Narcotics Conspiracy, Illegal Weapons Possession and Money Laundering
Two criminal complaints were unsealed on June 25, 2020 in federal court in Brooklyn charging 11 members and associates of the New York City-based Bully street gang with crimes related to conspiracies to distribute drugs throughout Maine and in New York, smuggling drugs into Rikers Island, illegal weapons possession and money laundering.
The initial appearances of six defendants arrested today in Brooklyn and New Jersey—alleged Bully gang member Derrick Ayers and gang associates Bermon Clarke, Amy Sonnenblick, Nia Govan, Paul Harris and Anthony Kennedy—are scheduled for this afternoon before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak. Defendant Amanda Walton was arrested in Maine. Defendant Amanda Huard is currently not in custody. The remaining defendants were previously incarcerated.
Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, along with John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Division (ATF), and a few other law enforcement officials announced the charges on June 25, 2020.
Defendants include the following:
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-MJ-453 (RER)
- Derrick Ayers (a/k/a “Mel”)
- Age: 33
- Rahway, New Jersey
- Bermon Clarkel (a/k/a “G”)
- Age: 28
- Rahway, New Jersey
- Nia Govan (a/k/a “Cam”)
- Age: 29
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Amanda Huard
- Age: 38
- Jessica Pelkey
- Age: 26
- Presque Isle, Maine
- Amy Sonnenblick
- Age: 48
- Brooklyn, New York
- Amanda Walton
- Age: 31
- Portland, Maine
- Demetrius Wright (a/k/a “Clean” and “Meexhi Brim”)
- Age: 22
- Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-MJ-472 (CLP)
- Moeleek Harrell (a/k/a “Moe Money”)
- Age: 30
- Brooklyn, New York
- Paul Harris (a/k/a “Baldhead”)
- Age: 31
- Brooklyn, New York
- Anthony Kennedy (a/k/a “Biggie”)
- Age: 34
- Queens, New York
“As alleged, these defendants trafficked narcotics between Maine and New York, including smuggling dangerous contraband drugs into Rikers Island,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.
“Drug dealers, and those who launder their drug proceeds, destroy lives and communities and, in this case, jeopardized the safety and security of a prison.”
Friday, June 19, 2020
I. Ulster County Man Charged with Distributing and Possessing Child Pornography
On June 15, 2020, Anthony Hadden, 27, of Modena, New York, appeared in federal court on charges that he distributed and possessed child pornography. The announcement of the charges was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Grant C. Jaquith, along with Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hadden had a detention hearing the same day, before United States Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel, who ordered him detained pending further proceedings.
According to a criminal complaint, between December 13, 2017 and July 31, 2018, Hadden distributed and received images and videos of child pornography through a group messaging application on his phone. An examination of his phone revealed that it contained numerous files depicting child pornography.
The charges in the complaint are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Hadden faces at least 5 years and up to 20 years in prison, a term of post-release supervision of at least 5 years and up to life, as well as a fine of up to $250,000.
II. Bronx Man Charged With 2015 Murder Of Nestor Suazo
On June 15, 2020, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Dermot Shea, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”), and Peter C. Fitzhugh, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the return of an Indictment charging Derrick Richardson, a/k/a “J Rocc,” with the September 19, 2015, murder of Nestor Suazo, 25, in the Bronx, New York. Berman said, “Nearly five years ago, Nestor Suazo’s life was senselessly taken.”
As alleged in the indictment, Richardson is a member of the Rollin’ 30s Crip, a racketeering enterprise. In order to fund the enterprise, protect and expand its interests, and promote its standing, members and associates of the Rollin’ 30s committed, conspired, attempted, and threatened to commit acts of violence, including murder and robbery.
In connection with his membership in the gang, on or about September 19, 2015, Richardson shot and killed Nestor Suazo in the Bronx. Richardson is charged with murder in aid of racketeering, which means he faces life in prison if convicted, and murder through the use of a firearm, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years to life in prison.
III. Two Queens Men Charged in Armed Robbery at Aqueduct Racetrack
On June 15, 2020, two criminal complaints were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Lamel Miller and Lafayette Morrison, both from Queens, with Hobbs Act robbery.
The charges are in connection with the March 7, 2020 armed robbery of over $280,000 in cash from Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Queens. Miller and Morrison were arrested earlier in the day and their initial appearances later in the day, before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr. Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, along wirh several law enforcement officials, announced the arrests and charges on June 15.
According to court documents, at approximately 9:45 p.m. following the Gotham Day races at Aqueduct, Miller and a co-conspirator held up at gunpoint several racetrack employees – including Morrison, who was employed as a racetrack security guard – as they were transporting more than $280,000 in cash earnings to a vault.
Miller and the co-conspirator, who were wearing surgical masks, emerged from their hiding spot in a stairwell and confronted the employees at gunpoint. Aqueduct surveillance video shows Miller and the co-conspirator, still wearing surgical masks, carrying a garbage bag and a duffel bag when they exited the racetrack office and walked toward a parking lot at approximately 10:05 p.m.
IV. Former London And Miami Art Dealer Arrested For Fraud Scheme
On June 12, 2020, Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the unsealing of a Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging Inigo Philbrick, an art dealer specializing in post-war and contemporary fine art, with galleries in London, U.K., and Miami, Florida, with engaging in a multi-year scheme to defraud various individuals and entities in order to finance his art business.
In total, Philbrick allegedly fraudulently obtained more than $20 million as a result of the scheme. Federal law enforcement agents took Philbrick into custody yon June 11, 2020. in Vanuatu, after Vanuatu authorities expelled Philbrick from Vanuatu at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea in light of the charges in the Complaint. Philbrick was then transported to Guam, where he was presented in federal court on June 15, 2020.
According to the complaint, from approximately 2016 through 2019, to finance his art business, Philbrick engaged in a scheme to defraud multiple individuals and entities in the New York art market, as well as markets abroad. Philbrick furnished fraudulent contracts and records to investors to artificially inflate the artworks’ value and conceal his scheme, including a contract that listed a stolen identity as the seller.
V. Indian Man Arrested After Attempting To Smuggle More Than 3000 Pounds Of Marijuana Into The United States
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy Jr., announced on June 16, 2020 that Gurpreet Singh, 30, a citizen of India, was arrested and charged with unlawfully importing and possessing with intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case and according to the complaint, in the early morning hours of June 13, 2020, a commercial truck carrying 22 skids of peat moss and bearing Ontario, Canada license plates attempted to enter the United States at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry.
During primary inspection, Singh told a CBP Officer that he was transporting the peat moss to Orange, VA. During the secondary exam, officers observed five pallets of peat moss packaged in large white plastic positioned at the rear of the trailer. Behind the pallets were 58 large cardboard boxes in the middle of the trailer.
Behind the boxes were 14 additional pallets of peat moss. Inspection of the cardboard boxes revealed thousands of vacuum sealed bags containing suspected marijuana. The total weight of the suspected marijuana was approximately 3,346.35 pounds, with an approximate value of $5,000,000. Singh made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and is being detained pending a detention hearing on June 17, 2020.
VI. Two From Brooklyn and One in Greene County Indicted, Connected to Molotov Cocktail Attacks on NYPD Vehicles
On June 11, 2020, two indictments were returned in federal court in Central Islip, New York, charging Samantha Shader, and co-defendants Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman in connection with their alleged attempts to use improvised incendiary devices, commonly known as “Molotov Cocktails,” to damage and destroy New York City Police Department vehicles during protests this past month.
The seven-count indictments each charge the defendants with the use of explosives, arson, use of explosives to commit a felony, arson conspiracy, use of a destructive device, civil disorder, and making or possessing a destructive device. Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, long with several law enforcement officials, announced the charges.
Based on several court filings in the case, an NYPD surveillance camera recorded Rahman tossing a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle parked near the 88th Precinct in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, before fleeing in a tan minivan. Police Officers pursued the minivan and arrested Rahman and Mattis, who was the vehicle’s driver.
In the vehicle, the NYPD found several component items for Molotov Cocktails, including a lighter, a bottle filled with liquid suspected to be gasoline and toilet paper, additional bottles and toilet paper, and a gasoline canister.
At the same time, a video recorded by a witness captured Shader igniting a Molotov cocktail and throwing it at an NYPD vehicle occupied by four police officers, shattering two of its windows. Police officers pursued Shader as she attempted to flee and apprehended her at the scene. If convicted on all counts, all three defendants face up to life in prison.
VII. Jamestown Man Pleads Guilty After Being Caught With Meth And Gun In A Car
On June 17, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced that Jacob Graham, 19, of Jamestown, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara possessing with intent to distribute five grams or more of actual methamphetamine, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. With the guilty plea, Graham face at least 10 years and as much as life in prison and a possible fine of up to $5 million.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua A. Violanti, who is handling the case, on May 07, 2019, Jamestown Police officers observed two males fighting with another male in the area of Crescent and Cheney Streets.
The suspects quickly got into a silver vehicle and sped away from the scene. Detectives followed the suspect vehicle in an unmarked police car, but also requested the assistance of a marked patrol unit. The marked patrol unit initiated a traffic stop at the driveway of a residence on Lincoln Street in Jamestown.
A detective approached the passenger side of the vehicle and opened the front passenger door. Inside, the detective observed two baggies of what appeared to be methamphetamine. The front seat passenger, identified as defendant Graham, exited the vehicle and was placed under arrest.
VIII. Queens Man Charged In Connection With Arson Of An NYPD Vehicle In Manhattan
On June 18, 2020, Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with John B. DeVito, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”), and several New York-based law enforcement officials, announced that they had arrested Victor A. Sanchez-Santa in connection with his attempts to destroy a police car in midtown Manhattan. Sanchez-Santa was arrested this morning and will be presented in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate James L. Cott later today.
During the announcement, Berman stated: “As alleged, the defendant selected a clearly marked NYPD vehicle, walked up beside it, started a fire under the vehicle, and fled the scene. In allegedly doing so, he maliciously targeted law enforcement.
Arson is also a threat to more than its immediate victim, with the potential to destroy and terrify far beyond the place where a fire is set. We have the quick response of members of the NYPD, FDNY, and ATF to thank for controlling the fire and identifying the defendant so he can face the significant charge for his alleged crime.”
Friday, June 12, 2020
I. Two Charged with Gunpoint Robbery Of Manhattan Jewelry Store While Impersonating NYPD Officers
On June 8, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, along with Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),announced that Ismael Igartua, a/k/a “Ismeal John,” a/k/a “John Igartua,” and Jose Rodriguez had been arrested for their participation in an armed robbery of a Manhattan jewelry store on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
Igartua, 59, of Queens, and Rodriguez, 59, of the Bronx, are each charged with one count of robbery conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of brandishing a firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. If convicted, both Igartua and Rodriguez could spend the rest of their lives in a federal prison.
II. Troy Man Charged with Threatening Police Over Facebook
Jahjuan Sabb, 20, of Troy, New York, was arrested on Saturday, June 6, 2020 and charged with threatening to attack the Troy Police Department during a demonstration that took place on June 7, 2020. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Sabb is charged by criminal complaint with making threats to injure another person, and also with distributing information pertaining to the manufacture of an explosive or destructive device with the intent that the information be used for, or in furtherance of, a crime of violence.
The complaint alleges that on June 5, 2020, Sabb made Facebook Live recordings in which he threatened to throw bricks at the Troy Police Department, Troy Police vehicles, and Troy City Hall, during a demonstration that took place June 7, 2020 in downtown Troy. The complaint alleges that he also offered instructions on how to make firebombs with the intent that they be used during the demonstration. If convicted, Sabb faces up to 20 years in prison.
III. Albany Man Charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
Zaiqua Acosta, 21, of Albany, New York, was arrested on June 4 on the charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon. The announcement was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Grant C. Jaquith, along with John B. Devito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and Eric Hawkins, Chief of the Albany Police Department.
The complaint alleges that Acosta, a felon, possessed a handgun in Albany on May 5, 2020. If convicted, Acosta faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of post-imprisonment supervised release of up to 3 years. Acosta was released on conditions following an initial appearance on June 5 before United States Magistrate Daniel J. Stewart. This case is being investigated by the Albany Police Department and ATF, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel L. Williams.
IV. Man From India Arrested for Attempting To Smuggle Marijuana Into The United States
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. announced today that Arshdeep Singh, 21, a citizen of India, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute and import.
If convicted, the charges carry a penalty of at least five years and up to 40 years in prison, along with a 5,000,000 fine. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in the early morning hours of June 5, 2020, a commercial truck carrying coffee makers and bearing Prince Edward Island, Canada license plates, attempted to enter the United States at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry.
The commercial truck was referred to the Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System for a non-intrusive x-ray exam, which showed inconsistencies between the cargo in the nose of the trailer and that of the rest of the load. Officers also observed that the trailer did not have a commercial seal securing the back doors. As a result, it was referred to the Peace Bridge warehouse loading dock for a physical exam.
During the initial physical exam, officers located four skids containing seven crates that differed from the rest of the load. Inspection of the crates revealed coffee grounds but beneath the coffee grounds were vacuum sealed bags containing a green leafy substance, later identified as marijuana. More than 1,600 vacuum sealed bundles of suspected marijuana, weighing nearly 1,800 lbs., were removed from the original shipment containers, with an approximate value of $2,500,000.
V. Buffalo Woman Pleads Guilty to Lying To The Grand Jury About Her Cousin’s Role In A Murder At The Towne Gardens Apartment Complex
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced on June 8, 2020 that Shanna Smith, 25, of Buffalo, NY, has pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo to a charge of making false declarations before a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice.
The charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth T. Molisani, who is handling the case, stated that on July 31, 2018, the defendant, while under oath, lied to a federal grand jury regarding the murder of Xavier Wimes on January 1, 2017, and the role of her cousin, Dalvon Curry, in that murder.
Curry was a member of the CBL/BFL Gang. Smith testified that she was with Curry the night that Wimes was shot dead outside the Towne Gardens Apartments. The defendant stated that there were approximately 20 guys around Wimes at the time he was shot: “Zave was fighting them, but I didn’t – then I heard gunshots, but I didn’t see who shot him. I just heard gunshots.” Smith also testified that as police officers arrived, she saw the gun on the ground in the grass near the sidewalk. Smith denied seeing someone throw it.
The defendant also stated: “Dal picked it up. I mean, he was probably trying to take it, but he threw it in the bushes when he saw the cops.” Back in February 2020, a federal jury convicted Curry of murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Xavier Wimes. He is currently awaiting sentencing.
VI. Oneida County Felon Pleads Guilty to Possessing Firearms and Ammunition
On June 10, 2020, Joseph W. Cromp, Sr., 46, of Blossfield, New York, pled guilty to possessing two firearms and over 100 rounds of ammunition as a convicted felon. The charges and the guilty plea were both announced United States Attorney for the Nrthern District of New York, Grant C. Jaquith, along with John B. DeVito, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett.
As part of his guilty plea, Cromp admitted that he possessed a Rohm .22 caliber revolver and an Izhmash SAIGA 7.62 x 39 mm AK-47 style semiautomatic rifle, as well as 113 rounds of rifle ammunition that were seized pursuant to a search warrant by New York State Police from the defendant’s home in Blossfield, New York, on October 2, 2019. Cromp was previously convicted of the felony offense of Attempted Assault in the Second Degree in Oneida County Court on February 9, 2001. The search warrant followed a confrontation Cromp had with another man earlier in the evening.
VII. Middletown Man Charged with Sexual Exploitation Of Minors
On June 11, 2020, Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Office of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced the arrest of Jonathan Weiss, a/k/a “Ian Jameson.”
Weiss is charged with communicating with three different underage victims online and directing them to take sexually explicit images and send them to Weiss. He was arrested this morning and presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy in Manhattan federal court and detained.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman said: “Jonathan Weiss’s alleged crimes are abhorrent and predatory. Using a common social media app, Weiss allegedly sexually exploited three 13-year-olds. We will continue to work with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations to vigorously investigate and prosecute defendants who prey on children.”
Charging documents alleged that Weiss posed as a minor and directed his teenage victims to take and send sexually explicit photographs to him through Snapchat.
VIII. Man Charged with Setting NYPD Vehicle on Fire in Brooklyn
A criminal complaint was filed on June 11, 2020 in federal court in Brooklyn charging Michael Rodriguez with setting an unoccupied New York City Police Department vehicle on fire on June 2, 2020 in Williamsburg.
Rodriguez was arrested Thursday morning and was ordered detained pending trial this afternoon by U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann. Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Daniel Nigro, Commissioner, Fire Department of New York (FDNY), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the arrest and charges.
According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Donoghue, “Under the cover of pre-dawn darkness, Rodriguez allegedly set fire to a vehicle bearing an NYPD placard on a residential block in Brooklyn, endangering innocent residents of the area and first responders to the blaze and damaging a second vehicle. The defendant’s actions have no place in civil society, and this Office will vigorously prosecute him and others who commit such acts of violence in our community.
As charged, Rodriguez’s deliberate actions put not only the lives of New York City Police officers at risk, but also those of the FDNY first responders and civilians. Thanks to the dedicated work of the ATF/FDNY/NYPD Arson and Explosives Task Force, this suspect was quickly apprehended. I would like to thank to the United States Attorney’s Office for their work in prosecuting this case,” stated ATF Special Agent-in-Charge DeVito.
Friday, June 5, 2020
I. Buffalo Man Charged with Arson After Throwing A Burning Basket Into Buffalo City Hall During Weekend Protests
On June 1, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy Jr., announced that Courtland Renford, 20, of Buffalo, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with maliciously damaging or destroying, or attempting to damage or destroy, by means of a fire or an explosive, Buffalo City Hall, a building used in or affecting interstate commerce. If convicted, Renford faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years.
According to the complaint, on May 30, 2020, during a gathering of protesters in Niagara Square in Buffalo, an individual, later identified as Renford, was captured on video approaching Buffalo City Hall, carrying a green laundry basket that contained a fire.
The defendant then threw the burning laundry basket into a window of Buffalo City Hall, causing a fire inside. Buffalo Fire Department personnel extinguished the fire, which destroyed and/or damaged items inside. News cameras captured the defendant throwing his hands up after he had thrown the flaming laundry basket into City Hall.
II. New York Man Indicted On Mail Theft, Bank Fraud, Identity Theft, And Conspiracy Charges
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on June 1, 2020, that on May 29, 2020, Marlon Valoy De La Rosa, 21, of Bronx, New York was indicted by a federal grand jury on mail theft, attempted bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and criminal conspiracy charges.
According to U.S. Attorney David J. Freed, the indictment alleges that on January 4, 2020, in the borough of Steelton, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, De La Rosa along with two other individuals, tampered with a U.S. Mail blue collection box using a white rope with an object attached to it to “fish” into the mailbox’s opening.
The indictment also alleges that De La Rosa, along with two other individuals, were in possession of what appeared to be a “washed” check—a check from which the writing had been visibly removed—several debit cards in different names, and a stolen license plate that is believed to have been used for mail fishing. The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Steelton Borough Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Romel Sharma is prosecuting the case.
III. Two Brooklyn and One Greene County Resident Charged in Connection with Molotov Cocktail Attacks on the NYPD
Two criminal complaints were filed on May 30, 2020, in Brooklyn federal court charging two women and a man with using and attempting to use improvised incendiary devices commonly known as “Molotov Cocktails” to damage and destroy New York City Police Department (NYPD) vehicles.
The Defendants, both residents of Brooklyn, were arrested in a van early in the morning of May 30 while allegedly in possession of explosive device components shortly after Rahman hurled a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle before fleeing.
A separate complaint charges Samantha Shader, a resident of Catskill, New York, who was arrested after allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle occupied by four police officers. The defendants charged in each of the complaints made their initial appearances via teleconference on Monday, June 1, 2020, before United States Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced the arrests and charges. Donoghue said, “These defendants are charged with attacking the New York City Police Department while its Police Officers are risking their lives to protect the Constitutional rights of protesters and the safety of us all. No rational human being can ever believe that hurling firebombs at Police Officers and vehicles is justified. The Eastern District of New York will do everything in its power to protect those who protect us all, and we will ensure that criminals who use the camouflage of lawful protest to launch violent attacks against Police Officers face justice.”
IV. Professor Of International Studies Pleads Guilty To Money Laundering
Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced on June 1, 2020, that Bruce Bagley pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff to two counts of money laundering. Bagley used bank accounts in his name and in the name of a company he created in Florida to launder over $2 million in proceeds of a Venezuelan bribery and corruption scheme into the United States.
According to the Indictment, on or about November 2016, Bruce Bagley, 73, of Coral Gables, Florida, a professor of international studies with publication credits including the book Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Violence in the Americas Today, opened a bank account (Account-1) on behalf of a company (Company-1) that Bagley owned and controlled.
Between in or about November 2016 and in or about November 2017, Account-1 had minimal activity. In or about November 2017, Account-1 began receiving monthly deposits of hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank accounts located in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (the Overseas Accounts).
Each month, Bagley would receive a deposit of approximately $200,000 from one of the Overseas Accounts into Account-1. Thereafter, he would withdraw approximately 90 percent of the funds in the form of a cashier’s check, payable to an account held by another individual (Individual-1). Bagley continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Overseas Accounts after opening Account-2. Bagley transferred the majority of these funds to Individual-1 but retained a commission for his services.
Bagley pled guilty to two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Rakoff on October 1, 2020, at 4:00 p.m.
V. New York Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges following Safe Streets Task Force Investigation
A former resident of the Bronx borough of New York City pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to drug trafficking in connection with a large-scale investigation conducted by the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott W. Brady, announced during a conference on June 2, 2020. On that day, Holiday Vaughn, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, and one count of possession of heroin and fentanyl, before United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV. Vaughn is one of 36 defendants charged in the indictment.
According to the guilty plea, in 2017, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force initiated an investigation primarily targeting the Darccide/Smash 44, or DS44, neighborhood gang, and its drug-trafficking activity, in and around the South Side area of Pittsburgh. As part of this large-scale narcotics and firearms investigation, in February of 2019, the United States received authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through June of 2019.
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