Last edited on Friday, May 28, 2021, at 1:12 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, May 28, 2021
I. Brooklyn Man Arrested for Arson of Yeshiva and Synagogue
On May 22, 2021, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, announced that a criminal complaint had been filed in Brooklyn federal court charging Ali Alaheri with setting fire to a Brooklyn yeshiva (Jewish school) and synagogue on May 19, 2021. Alaheri was arrested in Dobbs Ferry, New York, May 21, and made his initial appearance then before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon.
According to both the complaint and the detention letter, Alaheri deliberately set fire to the sacred home of a yeshiva and synagogue, and viciously attacked a man wearing traditional Hasidic clothing. Alaheri was caught on surveillance video piling garbage bags against the side of a building, which is located on 36th Street in Brooklyn. The building housed a yeshiva (a Jewish school) and a synagogue. On the video, Alaheri could be seen igniting the garbage bags.
Firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the location and extinguished the blaze. However, Alaheri was again caught on video several hours later, as he repeatedly punched a man wearing traditional Hasidic clothing. There had been no interaction between Alaheri and the victim prior to the assault. When Alaheri was arrested on May 21, he appeared to be wearing the same clothing he was wearing in the video footage of the assault.
II. Queens Man Charged with a Series of Business Robberies
A complaint was unsealed May 21, 2021 in Brooklyn federal court charging Manuel Guzman Breton with eight counts of Hobbs Act robbery in connection with the robberies of eight grocery stores, laundromats, and other businesses during the month of April 2021. An employee was injured during one of the robberies. The announcement of the charges was made by the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, along with several state and federal law enforcement officials.
As alleged in the complaint, Guzman Breton practically conducted a one-man crime spree, in which he robbed and terrorized store clerks and other employees while armed with a knife or a boxcutter. Based on video surveillance and other investigations, between April 7, 2021 and April 27, 2021, Guzman Breton wore a hooded sweatshirt as he committed a spree of robberies in which he entered each store, threatened employees with a knife or boxcutter, and stole thousands of dollars from his victims.
An employee of a laundromat suffered cuts on the hand trying to wrest a knife away from the defendant during one of the robberies.
III. Wolcott Man Arrested, Charged with Receipt, Possession of Child Porn
On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Roger Roberts, 49, of Wolcott, NY, had been arrested and charged by criminal complaint with two counts; one for possession of child pornography involving prepubescent minors; and another for receipt of child pornography. If convicted of the charges, Roberts will face at least five years and up to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000.
According to the complaint, in October 2020, the New York State Police in Wolcott received a complaint regarding Roberts’ online activities. More specifically, on October 19, 2020, investigators searched the defendant’s residence in Wolcott, and found impressions in the carpeting in the first-floor den, indicating that furniture had recently been removed.
Power cords and computer related equipment were present in the den, even though no computer was present. Investigators found an iPhone and two shotguns in the residence. When they searched a barn located on the property, just across the street from the main residence, investigators discovered damaged remains of a computer desk and computer components in a garbage tote in the barn’s driveway.
Notably missing was a computer tower and/or hard drive. Concealed within a pile of wood scraps inside the barn were a damaged computer tower, another iPhone, and 10 additional firearms.
IV. Two Bank Execs Indicted for Money Laundering Related to Odebrecht Bribery and Fraud Scheme
On May 25, 2021, the Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, announced the unsealing of an indictment. In federal court in Brooklyn on May 25, 2021, an indictment was unsealed charging two Austrian bank executives, Peter Weinzierl and Alexander Waldstein, for their roles in a scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.
The laundered money was then used to pay bribes around the world and defraud the Brazilian government. Weinzierl was arrested in the United Kingdom May 25 pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States. Waldstein remains at large.
As alleged in the indictment, Weinzier was the CEO and Waldstein served as an officer of an Austrian bank (Austrian Bank), and both served as board members of an Antiguan bank (Antiguan Bank). Between 2006 and 2016, Weinzier and Waldstein conspired with Odebrecht and others to launder money in a scheme to defraud Brazil’s tax authority of more than $100 million in taxes and to create off-books slush funds used by Odebrecht to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for the benefit of public officials around the world.
V. Correction Officers, Employees Charged with Taking Bribes, Smuggling Contraband To NYC Jail Inmates
On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several prominent law enforcement specialists, announced the unsealing of indictments charging nine current and former employees and officers of the New York City Department of Correction with taking cash bribes in return for smuggling contraband such as scalpels, razor blades, drugs, alcohol, and cellphones to inmates in New York City area jails.
Nine defendants were arrested today and will be presented before United States Magistrate Judges. Seven defendants were arrested in New York, one defendant in Pennsylvania, and one defendant in Virginia.
According to the indictments, Miguel Compres, 35, of New York City, allegedly abused his position as a correction officer to smuggle scalpels, smokable synthetic cannabinoids, known as “K2” or “Spice,” cellphones, and large quantities of cigarettes into the Manhattan Detention Complex in downtown Manhattan, in return for over $6,000 in bribes, from at least November 2019 through August 2020.
He has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal crimes. If convicted, Compres faces up to 10 years in prison for the count of federal program bribery, and up to 20 years for the wire fraud count. Also charged are Tameka Lewis, 41, of Brooklyn and Dariel Diaz, 33, of Reading, PA, who abused their positions as correction officers to smuggle K2, a cellphone, and large quantities of cigarettes into the George R. Vierno Center on Rikers Island, in return for over $8,000 in bribes, from at least March 2020 through about September 2020.