Last edited on Friday, December 10, 2021, at 10:08 AM.
Welcome to The Blanch Law Firm’s weekly digest of New New York Criminal Cases. Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country.
As always, unless otherwise disclosed, none of the defendants mentioned in these summaries are clients of our firm.
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Friday, December 10, 2021
Stealing Taxpayer Money Meant for Small Businesses
The first case we will examine from New York criminal courts is one in which two New Yorkers have been indicted for using a fraudulent loan scheme to steal more than $1.3 million from small businesses nationwide. The two New Yorkers are Kelly Fontaine, 56, and Anthony Burges, a/k/a Anthony Sasso, 53.
According to the indictments, it is alleged that Fontaine and Burges targeted more than 40 small businesses, many of whom were already experiencing hardship thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. When they contacted them, they offered phony loans and lines of credit, while pocketing the upfront fees and costs. Their New York State Supreme Court indictment charges them with a Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, along with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree.
Sending Threatening Letters to Protected Groups
This week also featured a case that saw the unsealing of a criminal complaint in which the Defendant allegedly threatened several LGBTQ groups and individuals with bombings and mass shootings. The criminal complaint was unsealed in Central Islip federal court on Dec. 6. The complaint charged Robert Fehring with mailing threatening letters to LGBTQ+ affiliated individuals, organizations, and businesses. In addition, Fehring was arrested earlier the same day and later in the day, he made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke.
The arrest was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace, along with Michael J. Driscoll, who is the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. According to the complaint, Fehring has been sending individuals associated with the LGBTQ+ community letters in which he threatened violence since at least 2013. One of the letters threatened to meet the 2021 New York City Pride March with “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk” and similar threats.
Investment Advisory Fraud & Money Laundering
Earlier this week, on Dec. 6, a federal court in Central Islip unsealed an indictment charging Jeffrey Slothower with wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, and money laundering. The charges stem from an investigation of a scheme in connection with a scheme to misappropriate more than $1 million from current and prospective clients. The arrest was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace, who as accompanied by Michael J. Driscoll, who is the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
According to the indictment, while Slothower was operating Battery Private, he solicited business from Victim-1 and Victim-2, a California couple whose money he had managed at another financial services firm. Slothower promised them he could beat any rate of return they were receiving, with no market risk.
Soon after, the woman (Victim-2) signed an investment advisory contract with Battery Private. Slothower continued soliciting Victim-1’s business, and, in 2017, he offered to invest Victim-1’s money into what Slothower described as bonds backed by homeowner’s association fees (the “HOA Bonds”), which would pay Victim-1 an eight percent return. Based on these representations, Victim-1 agreed to invest money with Slothower through Battery Private.
Pharmacist Indicted for Kickbacks and False Statements
In federal court in Brooklyn on Dec. 7, ann indictment unsealed charging Bruce Snipas, the owner and pharmacist-in-charge of B&E Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“B&E”) in Queens, with conspiring to make false statements in health care matters, making hose false statements and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. Snipas was arrested Dec. 7 and arraigned later that day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy. He was later released on a $150,000 bond.
The indictment and the subsequent arrest were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Breon Peace, alongside Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
According to the indictment and supporting court documents, it is alleged that Snipas, as a pharmacist and health care professional, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to take advantage of the Medicaid program and profit by accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks while helping a health care company cover up their processing of fraudulent claims totaling more than $30 million.
Stolen Antiquities Found, to be Repatriated to 11 Countries
On Dec. 6, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announced that Michael Steinhardt, who has been considered among the world’s most prolific collectors of ancient art, has agreed to surrender 180 stolen paintings/antiquities valued at $70 million. He also received a first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities. This development followed the resolution of a multi-year, multi-national investigation into his criminal conduct.
The seized pieces had been looted and illegally smuggled out of 11 countries, trafficked by 12 criminal smuggling networks, and lacked verifiable provenance prior to appearing on the international art market, according to the Statement of Facts summarizing the investigation. According to documents filed in court, the criminal investigation into Steinhardt began in February 2017.