Weekly Roundup of New York Criminal Cases for October 15, 2021

Last edited on Friday, October 15, 2021, at 3:20 PM.

Welcome to The Blanch Law Firm’s weekly digest of New York Criminal Cases as the court enforces laws. 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, October 15, 2021

Making Taxpayer Thieves Accountable

Earlier this week, on Oct. 14, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced the unsealing of a complaint charging four people with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, false statements, and aggravated identity theft. The charges stemmed from an alleged scheme to defraud the SBA, resulting in a loss to taxpayers of more than $7.6 million.

The defendants were arrested Oct. 14, and two of them, Quadri Salahuddin and Anwar Salahuddin, were presented later the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew E. Krause in White Plains federal court.  Jacob Carter was also presented that afternoon in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  Christal Ransom was also presented that same day in the Central District of California.

As alleged in the Complaint, from March through July 2020, the four defendants used the identities of more than 1,000 other individuals to submit more than 1,000 online applications to the SBA, seeking over $10 million through the SBA’s EIDL Program. Based on the fraudulent EIDL Applications, the SBA made advance payments of more than $7.6 million, much of which was kicked back to the defendants.

Money Laundering and Bank Fraud Case

On October 13, 2021, Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging 11 people with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The charges were brought because of their alleged involvement in the laundering of millions of dollars in proceeds derived from business email compromises and romance fraud schemes.

In all, nine defendants were arrested Oct. 13 in the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York. Those nine were presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in the Southern District of New York later the same day. One defendant was arrested in the Southern District of Texas, and was presented later that same day. One additional defendant remains at large. As alleged in the Indictment, all 11 defendants participated in one or both of a money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy, which received funds stolen from victims.

Forged Paintings Case Brings Charges

On October 13, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced that Christian Rosa Weinberger had been indicted for his part in a scheme to defraud art buyers through the sale of forged paintings by the artist Raymond Pettibon. The fraud was reinforced when the Defendant allegedly included the provision of a fake certificates of authenticity with each forgery. 

Weinberger fled the United States earlier this year, shortly after his alleged involvement in selling a fake Pettibon painting had reported in the press, and he remains at large. This case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter.

According to the Indictment, from about 2017 through 2020, Weinberger and others engaged in a scheme to defraud potential art buyers by selling forged Pettibon paintings.  Pettibon is a prominent contemporary artist based primarily in New York City, who has produced a series of paintings depicting ocean waves with surfers accompanied by handwritten text.

Case Involving Iranian Heroin Dealer

Earlier this week, on Oct. 12, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, made the announcement that Malek Mohammad Balouchzehi, 38, a citizen of Iran, had been arrested for conspiracy to import heroin into the U.S. and for distributing heroin into the U.S., as well. Balouchzehi was taken into custody by Kenyan authorities and expelled to the United States from Kenya on Oct. 9. He was then presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn Oct. 13. 

According to the Complaint charging Balouchzehi, he is allegedly an Iran-based drug trafficker who distributes crystal meth and manufactures and distributes large quantities of heroin for importation into the U.S. He also allegedly distributes methamphetamine in Australia. If he is convicted in a U.S. Court, Balouchzehi faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison.

Cathedral Official Faced Child Porn Charges

In a Central Islip federal court on Oct. 13, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, announced that Michael Wustrow, who was once a musical director at St. Agnes Cathedral on Long Island, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denis R. Hurley to 72 months in prison for receiving child pornography. Wustrow will also be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison as part of his sentence.  Wustrow pled guilty to the charge in June 2019.

In June 2016, law enforcement officers who were acting in an undercover capacity engaged in chats with Wustrow via Kik Messenger, an instant messaging service, during which Wustrow allegedly discussed child porn and shared images of child porn with the officer.  Wustrow utilized the Kik username “pervdad516.”  In Sept. 2017, Wustrow was allegedly in possession of multiple images on his iPhone of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

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