Weekly Roundup of New York Criminal Cases for February 11, 2022

Last edited on Friday, February 11, 2022, at 1:26 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, February 11, 2022

NY Man Facing Charges Related to the Jan. 6 Capitol Breach

A New York man was arrested on civil disorder and other charges on Feb. 8 for his actions during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which was intended to disrupt a joint session of Congress that was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election. 

The man, Eric Gerwatowski, 31, of New Hyde Park, has been charged via criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia with civil disorder, a felony, and related charges. He was arrested in New Hyde Park and made his initial appearance Feb. 8 in the Eastern District of New York.

According to court documents, on Jan. 6, Gerwatowski was at the front of a crowd just outside the Upper House Doors. At the same time, the U.S. Capitol Police Officers were attempting to close these doors to prevent further rioters from getting into the building. Gerwatowski pulled open one of the doors that the Capitol Police had just closed. 

Two officers were standing directly inside and had just tried to secure the entrance, in plain sight to Gerwatowski and others. Once he pulled open the door, Gerwatowski turned to the crowd and yelled, “Let’s go!.” He directed more rioters inside and followed them inside.

Two Face Charges in Theft, Laundering of $4.5 Billion in Cryptocurrency

Two people were arrested Feb. 8 in Manhattan based on their roles in an alleged conspiracy to launder approximately $4.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, a virtual currency exchange.

According to court documents in the case, the two defendants, Lichtenstein and Morgan, are alleged to have conspired to launder the proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin that were stolen from Bitfinex’s platform after a hacker breached their systems and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Those unauthorized transactions sent the stolen bitcoin to a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control. 

Over the last five years, approximately 25,000 of those stolen bitcoins were transferred out of Lichtenstein’s wallet via a complicated money laundering process that ended with some of the stolen funds being deposited into financial accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan. 

The remainder of the stolen funds, comprising more than 94,000 bitcoins, remained in the wallet used to receive and store the illegal proceeds from the hack. After the execution of court-authorized search warrants of online accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan, special agents obtained access to files within an online account controlled by Lichtenstein, including the private keys required to access the digital wallet that directly received the funds stolen from Bitfinex, which allowed special agents to lawfully seize and recover more than 94,000 bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex. 

The recovered bitcoin was valued at over $3.6 billion at the time it was seized.

Five Charged in “Boiler Room Fraud” and Money Laundering Scheme

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, along with Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS’ New York Field Office, and John Condon, Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced  the unsealing of an Indictment charging Robert Lenard Booth 68, of Brooklyn, NY, Michael D’Urso, 54, of Glen Cove, NY, Alyssa D’Urso, 28, of Glen Cove, NY, Jay Garnock, 75, of Glen Cove, and Antonella Chiaramonte , 36, of Glen Cove, NY, with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and operate unlicensed money transmitting businesses. 

All five defendants have also been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and operation of unlicensed money transmitting businesses, in connection with a scheme to defraud victim investors in countries around the world and launder the proceeds of the fraud. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Former Company Administrator Facing Embezzlement, Aggravated Identity Theft Charges

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, along with Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office, announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in White Plains federal court charging Susana Rivera, the former Director of Accounting and Human Resources for a kitchen remodeling firm located in Westchester County and Greenwich, Connecticut, with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with her embezzlement of more than $550,000 from her employer.  Rivera was arrested Feb. 9 and presented in White Plains federal court later the same day. 

According to the Indictment, in Oct. 2019, Rivera was hired as the Director of Accounting and Human Resources at the victim company, a family-owned kitchen design and remodeling business in Mamaroneck, Bedford and Greenwich, Connecticut.  Starting in November 2019, Rivera made hundreds of unauthorized charges in a total amount exceeding $175,000 to the victim company’s credit cards for personal expenses, including jewelry, beauty treatments, laser treatments, travel, pets, cosmetic surgery, clothing and cars, including a partial payment on a  $100,000 Corvette.  

Rivera also caused the victim company’s payroll company to make unauthorized payments in a net amount of more than $370,000 to a fake vendor that Rivera created to receive the money.  She also caused unauthorized transfers from the victim company’s bank account in an amount exceeding $2,900 to pay her personal utility bills.

Gang Leader Faces Murder and Firearms Charges

On Feb. 9, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, alongside Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Ardae Hines, a leader of a street and drug gang known as “Southside” in the City of Newburgh, New York, with the August 2016 murder of Deandric Little.  Hines is currently in federal custody serving a 2019 sentence for racketeering and narcotics conspiracy and was presented in White Plains federal court today. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel.

As alleged in the current indictment, from at least 2014 through June 2017, the Southside Gang was a criminal enterprise centered in and around the intersection of South Street and Chambers Street in an area of Newburgh known as the “Southside.” In order to gain funds for the gang, protect the gang’s territory, and promote the gang’s standing, members of Southside engaged in, among other things, narcotics trafficking, robbery, and acts involving murder.  

To that end, Southside members sold heroin, crack cocaine, and marijuana in the gang’s territory, promoted their gang affiliation on social media sites such as Facebook, possessed firearms, and engaged in shootings as part of their gang membership.  It is also alleged in the Indictment that, on or about Aug. 1, 2016, Ardae Hines argued with Deandric Little in Newburgh, and in the course of that argument, instructed another person (“CC-1”) to shoot and kill Little, which CC-1 did.

As a result, Ardae Hines, 33, has been charged with murder in aid of racketeering, murder in connection with a drug crime, and murder through use of a firearm. If he is convicted, Hines faces as much as life in prison.

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