Weekly Roundup of New York Criminal Cases for November 19, 2021

Last edited on Friday, November 19, 2021, at 9:42 AM.

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, November 19, 2021

Fighting Fraud Against Taxpayers

The criminal justice system is very diligent when it comes to stopping people who commit fraud against taxpayers. We saw one excellent example here in New York, when a doctor from Long Island Pled guilty to charges involving a COVID-19 Loan Fraud Scam. In all, it is believed that Konstantino Zarkadas, a doctor based in Glen Cove, received more than $3 million in loans using fraudulent information, which he used to buy a yacht and several other luxury items, and to pay personal bills. 

Dr. Zarkadas pleaded guilty on Nov. 12 to disaster relief fraud and wire fraud in a Central Islip federal courthouse. He received the small business loans by using false information to apply for them under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDLP)

The Nov. 12 hearing was held before U.S. District Judge Gary R. Brown.  When he is eventually sentenced, Dr. Zarkadas faces up to 30 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and the forfeiture of up to $3.7 million in loan proceeds.

Stopping Securities Fraud

Another area the criminal courts in New York are diligent with involves securities fraud. That’s a more common crime in New York because that’s where the industry is located. For instance, on Nov. 15, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced that the founder of a tequila brand based in the Hudson Valley, Joseph Cimino, admitted that he fraudulently solicited investments for his company and pled guilty to all charges.

According to court filings in this case, from 2014 to 2018, Cimino raised about $935,000 from 25 or more investors based on false representations. Cimino used various means to attract investors to his company, including making false and inflated claims about how much capital he had raised previously, and he also inflated his company’s revenue figures. For example, in a 2017 investor’s report, Cimino claimed sales of 3,400 cases of tequila, when the actual sales were one-fifth that. 

He also once claimed a loss of 800 cases of tequila that had been destroyed by Hurricane Maria at a Puerto Rican warehouse, when no such loss actually occurred.

Dealing With Money Laundering

Also, this week, criminal courts in New York handled an interesting money laundering case involving Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, 39, a citizen of Panama and Italy, who was extradited from Guatemala to the U.S. on November 15 to face an indictment filed in Brooklyn. The indictment charges him and his brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, 42, a citizen of Panama and Italy, with money laundering offenses in connection with a massive bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A., a global construction conglomerate based in Brazil.

According to the indictment, the scheme that led Linares to the federal criminal court system involved the payment of more than $700 million in bribes to government officials, public servants, political parties, and others in Panama and other countries to get them to do business with Odebrecht. In the indictment, the Linares brothers are alleged to have conspired with others to launder approximately $28 million in bribe payments made by and at the direction of Odebrecht to a then high-ranking government official in Panama.

Fighting Against the Spread of Drugs

This week also featured another case involving the extradition of an accused criminal to the United States. In this case, the alleged criminal (remember, everyone is presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law) was in Colombia.  In this case, Fabian Emilio Zapata Taborda, also known as “Milo” and “Milito,” was arraigned Nov. 15 before U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto at the Brooklynn federal courthouse on an indictment charging him with being the leader of an international cocaine distribution conspiracy.

Taborda is a Colombian citizen, who was arrested in Colombia on a provisional arrest warrant issued from the Eastern District of New York. He was then extradited from Colombia to the United States on November 12, 2021. 

According to the indictment, Taborda was allegedly led one of Colombia’s largest drug trafficking enterprises and helped them distribute metric ton quantities of cocaine to some of the most violent drug trafficking organizations in the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and the United States. The investigation into these crimes saw law enforcement authorities seize over 1.9 metric tons of cocaine attributable to Taborda’s drug trafficking enterprise.

Medicare and Medicaid Fraud

On Nov. 16, several employees with the New York State Administration of Medicaid transportation and a business owner were indicted and charged with submitting fraudulent claims, which is a direct violation of the False Claims Act.  The announcement of the indictment and charges was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, along with several prominent state and federal law enforcement officials. 

The indictment charges Patrick Ndukwe, David Travers, and Michelle Martin with participating in a fraudulent scheme, in which Travers and Martin routed trips improperly for Medicaid-funded transportation to Ndukwe’s company, called Quality Service Medical Transportation. After improperly sending patients to Ndukwe’s company, Quality Service then made fraudulent claims to Medicaid.

Fighting International Cellphone Fraud

Finally, on November 18, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced the arrest of Juan S. Cordero. Cordero is charged with leading a cellphone fraud ring active in both the United States and the Dominican Republic. The fraud involved the fraudulent purchase of iPhones that were paid with compromised AT&T accounts. 

Cordero was arrested by authorities in the Dominican Republic and immediately transported to New York City to face charges. Included in Cordero’s indictment were seven other conspirators, who were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

According to the details in the Indictment, from at least in or around February 2016 up to around June 2020, the defendants participated in a criminal fraud ring, in which participants sought to obtain iPhones by billing the devices to the wireless service accounts of victim account holders without the account holders’ knowledge or consent. To manage that, the Fraud Ring obtained personally identifying information belonging to AT&T customers by purchasing the AT&T account information from the dark web. 

Once they had the information, they would then log into the account to get that customer’s PIN, and then impersonate the account holder. They would also add their own name to the account as an authorized user. In all, the Fraud Ring billed nearly 5,000 iPhones and other electronic devices to AT&T customer accounts. More than $4 million in customer losses resulted, most of which were absorbed by AT&T.

Iranian Disinformation Campaign Aimed at U.S. Politics

On the very same day as the previous case, an indictment was unsealed in the Southern District of New York, charging two Iranian with several counts related to their roles in a cyber-enabled disinformation campaigned designed to intimidate and influence U.S. voters and to undermine their confidence in the results of the 2020 election. 

According to the indictment and supporting documents, Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, a/k/a Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazem, a/k/a Hosein Zamani, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, a/k/a Kiarash Nabavi, 27, both of Iran, obtained voter information from at least one, but perhaps more, state election website and used the information to send threatening email messages to voters, to intimidate and interfere with them. 

As Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division put it, “This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans.”

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