New York State Criminal Cases – Friday, July 16, 2021

Last edited on Friday, July 16, 2021, at 5:00 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.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

I. U.S. Postal Worker Arrested for Stealing Postal Money Orders

On July 13, 2021, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced that a criminal complaint had been unsealed in Brooklyn federal court, charging United States Postal Service (USPS) worker Jaleesa Wallace with stealing blank postal money orders and unemployment benefits cards.  Wallace was arrested the morning of July 13 and she made her initial appearance that afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James R. Cho.  

On July 9, 2021, Willie Cook, an alleged co-conspirator, was arrested for stealing USPS money orders in connection with the scheme. Cook was released on a $25,000 bond. As alleged in the criminal complaint, in February 2021, 10,000 blank postal money orders were reported missing from the Utica Avenue Post Office in Brooklyn.  

The postal money orders can be deposited with a financial institution for up to $1,000 each.  On July 9, 2021, agents executed search warrants and recovered over 3,000 of the stolen money orders from Wallace’s residence and approximately 300 from Cook’s residence.  At least $1.4 million worth of the stolen postal money orders had been cashed. Agents also recovered prepaid Department of Labor unemployment benefit cards and over $42,000 in cash from both apartments.  

Additionally, Wallace was in possession of approximately 42 pieces of mail from the Department of Labor that were not in her name.  Cook posted photos of stolen postal money orders on the social media app Telegram with the caption “let’s eat,” referring to getting paid for the postal money orders.  Cook is not a USPS employee.


II. Kidnapping Conspiracy Charges Brought Against Iranian Intelligence Officer, Members Of Iranian Intelligence Network

On July 13, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Mark J. Lesko, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, announced the unsealing of kidnapping conspiracy, sanctions violations conspiracy, bank and wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy charges against Alireza Shavaroghi Farahani, a/k/a “Vezarat Salimi,” a/k/a “Haj Ali,” Mahmoud Khazein, Kiya Sadeghi, and Omid Noori, as well as sanctions violations conspiracy, bank and wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and structuring charges against Niloufar Bahadorifar, a/k/a “Nellie Bahadorifar.”  

The charges are contained in a Superseding Indictment unsealed July 13 in Manhattan federal court.  The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams.  Bahadorifar was arrested on July 1, 2021 in California on charges contained in an underlying indictment, and he will be arraigned on the charges in the Superseding Indictment by Judge Abrams at a date and time to be set by the Court.  Farahani, Khazein, Sadeghi, and Noori, all of whom are based in Iran, remain at large. 

According to the information contained in the indictment, Iranian intelligence services allegedly engaged in a plot to kidnap a U.S. journalist and human rights activist in New York City and take him back to Iran for rendition. As U.S. Attorney Strauss said in a written statement,  “As alleged, four of the defendants monitored and planned to kidnap a U.S. citizen of Iranian origin who has been critical of the regime’s autocracy, and to forcibly take their intended victim to Iran, where t he victim’s fate would have been uncertain at best.  

Among this country’s most cherished freedoms is the right to speak one’s mind without fear of government reprisal.  A U.S. citizen living in the United States must be able to advocate for human rights without being targeted by foreign intelligence operatives.  Thanks to the FBI’s exposure of their alleged scheme, these defendants have failed to silence criticism by forcible abduction.”


III. International Factoring Company Executive Indicted for $30 Million Fraud

An indictment was returned in federal court in Brooklyn on July 13, 2021, charging Pushpesh Kumar Baid, also known as “PK Jain,” with wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft relating to a scheme to defraud investors in an international factoring company (the “Company”) of more than $30 million.  Baid, the former Business Head of the Company, was previously arrested in January 2021 on a criminal complaint and will be arraigned on the indictment at a later date.

As set forth in court filings, Baid was the Business Head of the Company, which purported to be involved in factoring.  The Company represented itself as an international factoring business run by an executive team experienced in factoring invoices in particular industries and geographic regions.  Between approximately April 2017 and October 2019, Baid and others at the Company conspired to defraud an investment firm (the “Investment Firm”), which made investments on behalf of approximately 50 investors.  

Specifically, Baid and his co-conspirators induced the Investment Firm to invest millions of dollars in the Company through a series of material misrepresentations about the individuals who purportedly operated the Company; the nature of the Company’s business; the relationship between the Company and the entities with which it was purportedly factoring invoices; and the ways in which investor funds would be used.  

In July 2019, the Investment Firm stopped receiving payments on invoices that it had factored through the Company, and ultimately suffered more than $30 million in losses related to those invoices.  In April 2020, the Investment Firm filed for bankruptcy.


IV. Three Charged in Organized Crime Money Laundering Scheme

On July 14, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with Aaron C. Rouse, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas Office announced  the unsealing of an indictment charging Yosef Cohen, a/k/a “Joe,” 58, of Calabasas, California, Vague Shagenovich Tergalstanyan, a/k/a “Vahe,” a/k/a “Vic,” 38, of Glendale, California, and Igal Ben Hanan, 43, of Las Vegas, Nevada, with conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

Tergalstanyan and Cohen were arrested and presented in California on July 9, 2021, and July 12, 2021, respectively, and will be arraigned in Manhattan federal court at a later date.  Ben Hanan was arrested on July 12, and was presented July 14 in Nevada. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain.

According to the allegations in the Indictment, Cohen, Tergalstanyan, and Ben Hanan worked on behalf of organized criminal enterprises operating in several countries around the world.  In recorded conversations with undercover law enforcement officers (the “UCs”) who represented themselves to be members of an international organized criminal enterprise that distributed narcotics and laundered money, the defendants planned money laundering transactions of narcotics proceeds and discussed moving tens of millions of dollars of illicit money on behalf of international criminal organizations.  

The defendants conspired to execute, and did execute, money laundering transactions with the UCs and others known and unknown.


V. Movie Producer Indicted for Operating a Prostitution Business, Money Laundering Scheme

On July 15, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along  with George M. Crouch Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Newark Field Office, announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging Dillon Jordan, a/k/a “Daniel Jordan,” a/k/a “Daniel Maurice Hatton, a/k/a “Daniel Bohler,” 49, of Lake Arrowhead, California, with conspiracy to violate the Mann Act, along with substantive Mann Act and Travel Act violations, as well as money laundering in connection with operating a prostitution business and laundering its proceeds through two front companies – a purported party and event planning company and an actual movie production company. 

Jordan was arrested July 15 in San Bernardino County, California, and was presented the same day in the Central District of California. As alleged in the newly unsealed Indictment, from in or about 2010 through at least in or about May 2017, Jordan operated a prostitution business throughout the United States and abroad.  

He maintained a roster of women who resided around the United States and who, in exchange for payment, performed sexual acts for Jordan’s clients at locations throughout the United States, including the Southern District of New York, and abroad.  Jordan communicated with his clients by email to coordinate the prostitution services, which included sending to clients photos of women who were available for hire, discussing the price of prostitution services, and overseeing travel logistics for women to travel to engage in prostitution.  

At times, Jordan himself arranged the interstate travel from the women to engage in prostitution, and at other times, clients did so. To facilitate his prostitution business, Jordan also coordinated with a United Kingdom-based madam by sharing and referring customers and prostitutes.


VI. Former CEO & CFO of Telecom Company Charged with Scheme to Defraud Investors

On July 15, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, as well as William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office, announced the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging Michael Palleschi, the former CEO of FTE Networks, Inc. (“FTE”), and David Lethem, the former CFO of FTE, with conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud, improperly influencing the conduct of an audit and aggravated identity theft.  

The charges in his indictment stem from the defendants’ years-long scheme to inflate FTE’s revenue, to conceal liabilities and expenses, and to embezzle company funds. Palleschi, was arrested early July 15 in the Northern District of New York and was presented later the same day in that district.  Lethem was arrested at roughly the same time in the Middle District of Florida and was presented in that district later the same day. 

According to the Indictment unsealed July 15 in Manhattan federal court, FTE was a telecommunications company based in Naples, Florida and Manhattan.  As of December 2017, its stock traded on the NYSE American market.  From 2014 to 2019, Palleschi was the chairman of FTE’s Board of Directors and its Chief Executive Officer.  Lethem served as FTE’s Chief Financial Officer from 2014 through 2019.


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