New York State Criminal Cases – Friday, August 20, 2021

Last edited on Friday, August 20, 2021, at 3:29 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. 

As always, unless otherwise disclosed, none of the defendants mentioned in these summaries are clients of our firm.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a state or federal criminal charge, or you are under investigation by the federal government, our top-rated attorneys are here to help.

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Friday, August 20, 2021

I. “KavKaz Nation” Crime Syndicate Member Indicted for Extortion and Other Charges

On August 12, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, announced that a  five-count indictment had been filed in Brooklyn federal court,  charging Roman Nikoghosyan, a member of a violent, Brooklyn-based Eurasian organized crime syndicate that operated primarily in the Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach neighborhoods, with two counts of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy, one count of Hobbs Act extortion, interstate transportation of stolen property and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  

Nikoghosyan was arrested in Los Angeles, California on July 20, 2021, where he was ordered detained pending trial.  He will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York at a yet-to-be scheduled date and time. According to court filings, KavKaz is a criminal enterprise that operates in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, with Brooklyn as its primary base of operation.  

Members of KavKaz frequently refer to their membership as the “KWAY” or “K WAY,” and can often be seen wearing jewelry or articles of clothing emblazoned with the word “KavKaz.”  Brooklyn-based members of KavKaz draw on ties to the Caucus region of Eurasia, namely Armenia, Uzbekistan, parts of Southern Russia and Azerbaijan, in furtherance of accomplishing their criminal goals, including extortion and narcotics trafficking. 

In early 2021, Nikoghosyan was operating a narcotics distribution scheme in which he employed the victim of one of his extortionate schemes to transport packages containing marijuana.  When the victim discovered the illicit content of the packages and refused to continue distributing the narcotics, Nikoghosyan, with the assistance of coconspirators, demanded $10,000 in extortionate payments from the victim, threatening to stab him or break his legs if he did not comply.


II. NYC-Based Investment Adviser Charged with Defrauding Clients, Misappropriating Their Money

On August 13, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several state and federal law enforcement personnel, announced the unsealing of a Complaint charging Marvin Ruiz with investment adviser fraud. The charges stem from a fraudulent scheme in which he defrauded his client investors using his investment advisory firm, Carter Bain Wealth Management (CBWM).  

More specifically, Ruiz targeted elderly clients living in New Mexico in a long-running scheme to part them from their money. Ruiz was arrested yon the morning of August 12, where he was presented before Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses. According to the allegations contained in the newly unsealed complaint, from at least in or about March 2011 through the present, Ruiz induced multiple individual investment advisory clients of CBWM, many of whom are elderly, to retain Ruiz and CBWM to advise them on how they should invest their retirement savings.  

While ostensibly acting in his fiduciary capacity as their investment adviser, Ruiz instead induced more than a dozen such clients to invest more than $10 million in an investment fund called RAM Fund through the purchase of limited partnership interests.  Ruiz did not disclose to those clients that he himself controlled RAM Fund and that he planned to misappropriate their funds.  

In fact, rather than invest the funds in legitimate investment projects and real estate, as he represented to clients, Ruiz misappropriated more than $8 million of client funds away from the RAM Fund, transferred those funds through a series of entities Ruiz also controlled, and spent most of the funds on personal expenses, including the purchase of a home, rent payments on several apartments, and the payment of his personal credit card bills.  In so doing, he violated his fiduciary duty to act in his clients’ best interest and avoid self-dealing.


III. New York Man Charged with Transporting a Minor for the Purpose of Criminal Sexual Activity

On August 17, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several prominent law enforcement officials, announced that Vernon E. Copeland III had been indicted earlier that day for transporting a minor from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Newburgh, New York, with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity with the minor.  Copeland was charged by criminal complaint on November 20, 2020, and arrested on August 3, 2021, in Tampa, Florida.  He will be transported to the Southern District of New York for arraignment and prosecution.

According to the Indictment, on or about February 7, 2020, Copeland allegedly transported a 13-year-old minor (“Victim-1”) from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Newburgh, New York, where he engaged, and attempted to engage in, illegal sexual activity with Victim-1. Copeland, 36, of Newburgh, New York, is charged with one count of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. If he is convicted, Copeland faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison.


IV. Onondaga County Man Pleads Guilty to Distribution, Receipt, and Possession of Child Pornography

On August 17, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon, announced that Timothy B. Pease, 32, of Kirkville, NY, pled guilty to charges of distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography.  Accompanying U.S. Attorney Bacon was Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office.

In pleading guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby in Syracuse, Pease admitted that, from December 2019 through January 2020, he used various online social networking applications to receive and distribute child pornography.  Pease also admitted that during this time he used another social networking application, on which he posed as a teenage girl, to solicit teenage boys to produce sexually explicit images and videos of themselves, which Pease then distributed to others.  

Pease also admitted to possessing thousands of images and videos of child pornography at the time of his arrest on January 23, 2020.


V. Rochester Man Arrested at the Peace Bridge With Cocaine And A Ghost Gun

On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced that Luis Amed Colon Molina, 42, of Rochester, NY, had been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute cocaine as well as for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking activity. If convicted, Colon Molina faces at least five years in prison, and up to life.

According to the complaint, on August 14, 2021, the defendant was encountered at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry after making a wrong tum onto the Peace Bridge. Headed towards Canada initially, Colon Molina apparently realized he was heading towards Canada and turned around coming back through United States Customs. During primary inspection, the defendant stated that he was following his GPS and made a wrong turn onto the bridge. 

He also stated that he and his wife, who was also in the car, live in Rochester, and were attempting to eat Puerto Rican food in Buffalo. When asked by a Customs and Border Protection officer, Colon Molina stated that did not have any narcotics or weapons.


VI. Felon Charged with Unlawfully Possessing a Firearm at Albany International Airport

Josef Jarvis, 32, of Albany, appeared in federal court ton August 18, 2021, on a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon at the Albany International Airport on August 16, 2021. The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon, along with; Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office, and Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple, Sr.

According to the  criminal complaint, it is alleged that Jarvis, who has prior felony convictions for racketeering and weapons offenses, possessed a loaded handgun while attempting to pass through a security checkpoint at Albany International Airport on August 16, 2021. Such possession is prohibited by federal law, which forbids previously convicted felons from possessing firearms. 

If he is convicted in a court of law, Jarvis faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, as well as a term of post-imprisonment supervised release of up to 3 years.


VII. Brooklyn Man Charged in $9 Million Conspiracy to Defraud IRS

On August 19, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig announced that a Brooklyn man had been charged for conspiring to defraud the IRS, Aleksander Zaretser, 41, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged by indictment with conspiracy to defraud the IRS. He will be arraigned on a date to be determined.

According to documents filed in this case, from 2011 to August 2018, Zaretser helped “Individual-1” conceal millions of dollars in insurance reimbursement checks that Individual-1 diverted from the Prime Aid Pharmacies, located in New Jersey and New York. For a fee, Zaretser either cashed the checks at Brooklyn check-cashing businesses using fraudulent check-cashing accounts or diverted them through Canadian bank accounts back into U.S. accounts that Individual-1 owned and controlled. 

Zaretser was recorded saying that Canada was “the best place” because it was more lenient “for white collar crime.” Attempting to minimize his criminal activity, Zaretser also stated, “We don’t steal from people we steal from fuckin’ government.”


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