New York State Criminal Cases – Friday, July 30, 2021

Last edited on Friday, July 30, 2021, at 6:05 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, July 30, 2021

I. Queens Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Exploiting Children and Possessing Child Pornography

On July 26, 2021, the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, announced that Orlando Lopez had pleaded guilty to nine counts of child exploitation and one count of possession of child pornography in a Brooklyn federal court. The proceeding took place before United States District Judge Eric R. Komitee.  If he is convicted, Lopez faces as much as 50 years in prison for each count of production of child pornography, as well as forfeiture, restitution and a fine.

According to court filings and admissions made in court when he entered his plea, Lopez created child pornography by sexually abusing children and taking photographs and videos of the abuse.  Many of the children Lopez targeted lived with their families near Lopez’s residence in Queens and were between the ages of two and 10 years old when he sexually abused them.  In order to gain access to his victims, Lopez attempted to befriend their parents.  

Law enforcement recovered thousands of photos and videos from Lopez’s residence depicting him engaging in sexual activity with children.


II. Two Charged In Connection With Robberies Of Luxury Watches In Areas Surrounding New York City

On July 26, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss,  along with a number of prominent law enforcement officials announced the unsealing of a Superseding Indictment charging Victor Rivera, 30, and Johan Araujo, 40, with conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery, attempted robbery, attempted extortion, interstate transportation of stolen property, money laundering, and firearms offenses.  

Araujo, was arrested on July 23, where he was presented and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker.  Rivera was previously charged in an Indictment in November 2020 and is currently in custody.  This case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. 

As alleged in the Indictment unsealed July 23 in Manhattan federal court and based on statements made in court proceedings and filings, from at least in or about October 2019 through November 2020, Rivera, Araujo, and others known and unknown, agreed to rob victims of luxury watches worth up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each.  

The watches owned by victims targeted in the robberies included Richard Mille, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe as part of the jewelers’ businesses based in Manhattan’s Diamond District.  Rivera used guns to commit several of the robberies, and in one robbery, shot a victim, who survived.


III. U.S. Sells Unique Wu-Tang Clan Album Forfeited by Convicted Hedge Fund Manager Martin Shkreli

On July 27, 2021, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the sale of the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” (the “Album”) which had previously been ordered forfeited as a substitute asset in connection with the approximately $7.4 million forfeiture money judgment (Forfeiture Money Judgment) entered against Martin Shkreli at his March 2018 sentencing.  

Proceeds from the sale of the Album will be applied to satisfy the outstanding balance owed on the Forfeiture Money Judgment.  The contract of sale contains a confidentiality provision that protects information relating to the buyer and price.

“With the sale of this one-of-a-kind album, his payment of the forfeiture is now complete,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis.  Kasulis acknowledged the significant efforts of the U.S. Marshals Service and, in particular, the work of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Office of General Counsel and the Complex Asset Unit of the agency’s Asset Forfeiture Division, as well as assistance provided by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch.


IV. IRS Obtains Court Order Authorizing Summonses For Records Related To U.S. Taxpayers Who Used Panamanian Service Providers To Hide Assets, Evade Taxes

On July 29, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced that U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods had entered an order authorizing the IRS to issue summonses requiring multiple couriers and financial institutions to produce information about any and all U.S. taxpayers who may have used the services of Panama Offshore Legal Services (POLS) and its associates (together, the POLS Group) to evade federal income taxes.

Specifically, the IRS summonses seek to trace courier deliveries and electronic fund transfers between the POLS Group and its clients, in order to identify the POLS Group’s U.S. taxpayer clients who have used their available services to create or control foreign assets and entities as a way to  avoid compliance with their U.S. tax obligations. 

According to the allegations set forth in the documents filed in support of the petition to authorize the John Doe summonses, and other information in the public record, POLS is a Panamanian law firm that advertises services, including to U.S.-based clients, to assist in concealing ownership of offshore entities and accounts.  Among other services, POLS and its associates offer assistance with forming corporations and foundations and creating offshore financial accounts, for purposes of asset protection.  

POLS highlights secrecy as a key advantage of its entity formation services, promising its clients “100% anonymity, privacy and confidentiality.”  Other members of the POLS Group similarly advertise that they can assist clients with concealing assets and avoiding taxes.


V. Former Nikola Corp. CEO Charged In Securities Fraud Scheme

On July 29, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging Trevor Milton, he founder of   Nikola Corporation (Nikola), with securities and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud and mislead investors about the development of products and technology by the company he helped found. 

According to the indictment, Milton, 39,  of Oakley, Utah, is alleged to have made false and misleading statements to investors as a way to drive up the value of Nikola stock. Milton has been charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud.

According to the allegations made in the Indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court, from at least November 2019 up through and including at least September 2020, Trevor Milton engaged in a scheme to defraud investors by inducing them to purchase shares of Nikola Corporation, the electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicle and energy company that Milton founded, through false and Milton’s scheme targeted individual, non-professional investors (retail investors) by making false and misleading statements directly to the investing public through social media and television, print, and podcast interviews.

Milton made these false and misleading statements regarding Nikola’s products and capabilities to induce retail investors to purchase Nikola stock.  Among the retail investors who ultimately invested in Nikola were investors who had no prior experience in the stock market and had begun trading during the COVID-19 pandemic to replace or supplement lost income or to occupy their time while in lockdown, and some of the retail investors that Milton’s fraudulent scheme targeted suffered tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.


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