New York State Criminal Cases – Friday, October 08, 2021

Last edited on Friday, October 08, 2021, at 6:52 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, October 08, 2021

I. Latin Kings Member Charged With 2017 Murder

On October 1, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced the unsealing of a five-count Superseding Indictment charging Jonathan Garcia, a/k/a “Jayo,” 27, of Queens, NY, with racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, firearms, and narcotics offenses, in connection with Garcia’s involvement in the 2017 murder of Joshua Flores, a/k/a “Monster,” and offenses committed by Garcia as a member of the Latin Kings.  Garcia was arrested Oct. 1 and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein in Manhattan federal court.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni. 

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment, unsealed Oct. 1 in Manhattan federal court, Garcia is a member of a racketeering enterprise known as the Latin Kings, which operates in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island.  

To enrich the enterprise, protect and expand its criminal operations, enforce discipline among its members, and retaliate against members of rival gangs, members and associates of the Black Mob committed, conspired, attempted, and threatened to commit acts of violence; distributed and possessed with intent to distribute narcotics, including heroin, fentanyl, and crack; committed robberies; and obtained, possessed, and used firearms.  

In December 2019 and April 2021, several members, and associates of the Black Mob, including its senior-most leaders, were charged with racketeering offenses, narcotics conspiracy, and firearms offenses.


II. Current and Former NYPD Officers Charged with Bribery

The Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, an indictment was unsealed October 1, 2021, in Brooklyn federal court charging James Davneiro, 42, Bayside, NY, Giancarlo Osma, 39, of Deer Park, NY; and Michael Perri, 32, of East Islip, NY, with one count each of conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and one count of using interstate facilities to commit bribery.  During the relevant period, Davneiro, Osma, and Perri were NYPD officers assigned to the 107th Precinct in Queens.  

Perri retired from the NYPD in June 2020. The defendants were arrested Oct. 1 and were arraigned later the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. According to the indictment, beginning in approximately May 2020, after NYPD officers Davneiro and Osma responded to auto accident calls, they would steer the damaged vehicles to a licensed tow trucking and automobile repair business operated by Perri, instead of using the NYPD’s Directed Accident Response Program, as legally required. 

That program requires the NYPD to identify appropriate licensed tow trucking and automobile repair businesses to respond to automobile accident scenes and remove damaged vehicles.  In exchange for steering the removal and repair of damaged vehicles to Perri’s business, Perri paid Davneiro and Osma thousands of dollars in cash bribes.


III. New York Man Arraigned on Child Pornography Charge

Marc L. Leonardis, age 49, of Skaneateles, New York, was arraigned October 4, 2021 on an indictment filed by a federal grand jury charging him with Receipt of Child Pornography. The indictment was announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Antoinette T. Bacon. 

According to the indictment unsealed in federal court, it is alleged that, from April through June 2021 Leonardis used an instant messaging application to knowingly receive image and video files of child pornography. If he is convicted in a court of law, Leonardis faces at least five years, and up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a term of supervised release of at least 5 years and up to life. Je will also have to register as a sex offender for life.


IV. Four Charged With COVID-19 Fraud Scheme

On October 5, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced charges against Chanette Lewis, Tatiana Benjamin, Tatiana Daniel, and Heaven West for their participation in a scheme that defrauded New York City’s COVID-19 Hotel Room Isolation Program of more than $400,000.  Lewis was also charged with a second COVID-19 scheme involving unemployment benefits fraud.  

Lewis and Daniel were arrested today in New York and will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker in Manhattan federal court.  West was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia, and will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Catherine M. Salinas in the Northern District of Georgia.  Benjamin remains at large.

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City created the COVID-19 Hotel Room Isolation Program (the “Program”). 

Funded by New York City and FEMA, the Program provided free hotel rooms for qualifying individuals throughout New York City.  The Program was open to: (1) healthcare workers who needed to isolate because of exposure to COVID-19; (2) patients who had tested positive for COVID-19; (3) individuals who believed, based on their symptoms, that they were infected with COVID-19; and (4) individuals who lived with someone who had COVID-19. 

The defendants wishing to book a hotel room through the Program did so by falsely claiming to be healthcare workers. In other cases, they sold fraudulently obtained hotel rooms to customers who were ineligible for the Program.  In all, the defendants collectively diverted more than 2,700 nights’ worth of hotel rooms through this scheme. The scheme cost both the federal government and New York City paid more than approximately $400,000 for the hotel rooms that were fraudulently diverted as a result of the defendants’ scheme.


V. Two New Jersey Men Arrested Charged with Securities Fraud for Scheme to Defraud Hemp Investors

On October 5, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced the arrests of Vitaly Fargesen and Igor Palatnik, as well as the unsealing of an Indictment charging Fargesen  and Palatnik with securities fraud, wire fraud and related offenses in connection with their fraudulent scheme to defraud investors in CanaFarma Corp. and later CanaFarma Hemp Products Corp., by soliciting funds based upon false and misleading representations, failing to invest investor’s funds as promised, manipulating the public stock price of CanaFarma, and secretly misappropriating millions of dollars of CanaFarma funds.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska.

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment, from in or about March 2019 to in or about March 2020, CanaFarma was a privately held Delaware corporation with offices in New York City.  Beginning on or about March 19, 2020, CanaFarma was listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange and beginning on or about March 23, 2020, CanaFarma was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. CanaFarma marketed itself to its investors as a “fully integrated cannabis company addressing the entire cannabis spectrum from seed to delivery of consumer products.” 

Fargesen and Palatnik, who claimed to be Senior Vice Presidents at CanaFarma, in fact exercised full control of CanaFarma, the men hid their control from the investors by, among things, convincing experienced businessmen to falsely present himself to the market as the CEO of the company.


VI. Man Extradited from The Netherlands on Fraud Charges

On October 7, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, announced the extradition of Napoleon Grier from the Netherlands on alleged wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges.  Grier was taken into custody by Dutch authorities in Amsterdam on August 13, 2019.  After contested extradition proceedings, Grier arrived U.S.  Magistrate Katharine H. Parker.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.

According to the allegations made in the Complaint and the Indictment, from at least in or about April 2012, up to and including at least in or about August 2012, Grier and others devised and participated in a scheme that defrauded victims of at least $2.275 million (the “Advance Fee Scheme”).  Grier and his co-conspirators, who were operating out of offices near Wall Street in New York City, held themselves out to victims as experienced financiers and promised that they could obtain financing for victims’ intended projects. 

Grier and his co-conspirators promised victims that after the victims wired initial deposits into escrow accounts controlled by the co-conspirators, the victims would later receive the full amount of their promised financing, usually within a few months.  Grier and his co-conspirators never provided any of the financing they promised to victims and they never returned any of the more than $2.275 million in advance fees they defrauded the victims into depositing into escrow accounts.


VII. 19 Charged with Defrauding NBA Players’ Health And Welfare Benefit Plan

On October 7, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, Michael J. Driscoll,, announced  the unsealing of an Indictment charging Terrence Williams, Alan Anderson, Anthony Allen, Desiree Allen, Shannon Brown, William Bynum, Ronald Glen Davis, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, a/k/a “Supreme Bey,” Melvin Ely, Jamario Moon, Darius Miles, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Eddie Robinson, Gregory Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Charles Watson, Jr., Antoine Wright, and Anthony Wroten, with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, in connection with a scheme to defraud the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of nearly $4,000,000.  

Terrence Williams is also charged with aggravated identity theft in connection with the same scheme.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni.

The NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan (the “Plan”) is a health care plan providing benefits to eligible active and former players of the NBA. From at least in or about 2017, up to and including at least in or about 2020, the named defendants engaged in a widespread scheme to defraud the Plan by submitting and causing to be submitted fraudulent claims for reimbursement of medical and dental services that were not actually rendered. Over the course of the scheme, the defendants submitted and caused to be submitted to the Plan false claims totaling nearly $4 million.


VIII. Former Taliban Commander Charged with Killing American Troops In 2008

On October 7, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with several prominent law enforcement officials, announced the filing of a 13-count superseding indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah,” a/k/a “Nesar Ahmad Mohammad,” with federal terrorism-related offenses spanning approximately 2007 to 2009 and stemming from Najibullah’s role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan.  Najibullah had previously been charged with crimes related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals.

In addition to those charges, the superseding indictment charges Najibullah with attacks on U.S. troops conducted by Najibullah and the Taliban fighters under his command, including a June 26, 2008, attack on an American military convoy that killed three U.S. Army servicemembers and their Afghan interpreter, as well as an October 27, 2008, attack that resulted in the shooting down of a U.S. military helicopter.  Najibullah is already in federal custody on the initial indictment.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine P. Failla.


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