Weekly Roundup of New York Criminal Cases for January 07, 2022

Last edited on Friday, January 07, 2022, at 02:41 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, January 07, 2022

Italian Foreign National Charged for Fraudulently Obtaining Book Manuscripts

The first case we examine in our countdown is a rather unusual case in which a New York City man named Filippo Bernardini has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft because of his scheme to impersonate individuals involved in the publishing industry to fraudulently obtain hundreds of prepublication manuscripts of forthcoming books. 

The indictment and resultant charges were announced by 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. 

Bernardini was arrested this afternoon when he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport.  He will be presented tomorrow before United States Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger in Manhattan federal court.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon. 

According to the indictment, which was unsealed Jan 6 in Manhattan federal court, beginning in at least August 2016, Bernardini, who was based in London and worked in the publishing industry, began impersonating agents, editors, and others involved in publishing to fraudulently obtain prepublication manuscripts.  

Such manuscripts are valuable, and the unauthorized release of a manuscript can dramatically undermine the economics of publishing, and publishing houses generally work to identify and stop the release of pirated, prepublication, manuscripts.

Holding Defendant to Account for Illegal Firearms

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, along with John B. DeVito, Special Agent-in-Charge of the ATF’s New York Field Division, and Johnathan Carson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Office of Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce New York Field Office, announced that Robert Alcantara, 34, of Providence, RI, had been charged via criminal complaint with conspiring to traffic firearms and with making false statements. He was arrested Jan. 6 and appeared in the District of Rhode Island. 

According to the Complaint, from Sept. 2019 to Nov. 2021, Alcantara and others agreed that Alcantara would purchase the parts for more than 100 “ghost guns,” machined the ghost guns at his house in Providence, Rhode Island, and then use his residence to illegally sell the ghost guns once they were completed and working.  On Nov. 20, 2021, law enforcement recovered parts for 45 ghost guns from Alcantara’s car.  

When he was interviewed by law enforcement, Alcantara claimed, falsely, that he had never sold or transferred ownership of a firearm to anyone else, and that he had never transported a firearm to the Dominican Republic. They subsequently took pictures of and then seized at least 45 ghost guns from his home.

NY Man Arrested for Acting as Agent of Egypt in the U.S.

A New York man was arrested on Jan. 6 on criminal charges related to his alleged acting and conspiring to act as a foreign agent in the United States. Pierre Girgis, 39, of Manhattan, acted in the United States as an agent of the Egyptian government, without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law. 

According to the supporting documents filed in this case, Girgis operated at the direction and control of multiple officials of the Egyptian government to further their interests in the United States. Among other things, at the direction of Egyptian government officials, Girgis allegedly tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 

It is also alleged that Girgis also leveraged his connections with local U.S. law enforcement to collect non-public information at the direction of Egyptian officials, arranged benefits for Egyptian officials who were visiting Manhattan, and coordinated meetings between U.S. and Egyptian law enforcement, including by arranging for Egyptian officials to attend police training sessions.

According to the indictment, on or about May 7, 2018, Girgis discussed his status as an agent of the Egyptian government with at least one Egyptian official using an encrypted messaging application. During the conversation, said Egyptian Official expressed frustration that Girgis had met with personnel from a different Egyptian government agency during a recent trip to Egypt. 

They warned Girgis that “it is not possible to open with all the agencies.”  They also noted that Egyptian Official-1 was “letting you [Girgis] open with us only.” Later in the encrypted messaging exchange, Egyptian Official-1 advised Girgis that other Egyptian government agencies “want sources for themselves, and you [Girgis] have become an important source for them to collect information.”

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