OPERATION MAD HATTER LEADS TO MULTIPLE ARRESTS IN CENTRAL ARKANSAS
LITTLE ROCK— Fifteen defendants are in custody after a DEA operation led to several arrests this morning as part of a federal drug investigation. Operation Mad Hatter has resulted in the identification of several drug traffickers and the seizure of large quantities of cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and heroin.
Operation Mad Hatter, run by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, is an ongoing DEA Domestic Cartel Initiative investigation. Today’s arrests follow the unsealing of an indictment of 19 individuals who were charged by a federal grand jury on August 7, 2019. Of those, 15 are now in custody, and law enforcement has made contact with the remaining four defendants. In February 2019, DEA made the first arrests related to Operation Mad Hatter, and today’s arrests stem from activity uncovered during the ongoing investigation. Ten defendants had been arrested throughout the investigation, and the remaining five were arrested this morning, completing this phase of the operation.
During the course of Operation Mad Hatter, investigators have seized 17 kilograms of methamphetamine, 4 kilograms of cocaine, 249 grams of crack cocaine, over 1 kilogram of heroin, over 200 diverted prescription pills, over $107,000 in assets, and numerous firearms. read here
MICHIGAN MAN PLEADS GUILTY FOR HIS ROLE IN SCHEME THAT DEFRAUDED VICTIMS OUT OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
BUFFALO, N.Y. — U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Leonard Smith, 54, of Clawson, Michigan, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $769,200 fine.
Thereafter, Smith, Dillon, Lynagh, and other members of the conspiracy, caused 27 victims to invest over $5,000,000 in i2i Capital and/or i2i Settlement Partners. False and fraudulent representations were made to victims regarding the nature of the investment and the associated risks, duration, and rates of return. Smith also misrepresented his compensation regarding the victims’ investments in the companies. The majority of victim funds were utilized by Smith, Dillon, Lynagh, and other members of the conspiracy in a manner that was not authorized by the victims, including for personal use. None of the victims received the promised return on their investments, and none saw the return of their original investment funds as promised by Smith, Dillon, and Lynagh. read here
FORMER MARINE AND TAFT RESIDENT SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS IN PRISON FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY OFFENSE
FRESNO, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd sentenced Hector Hinojosa‑Cisneros, 26, formerly of Taft, today to 12 years in prison for his conviction for receipt and distribution of child pornography, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
In addition, Hinojosa-Cisneros was sentenced to 15 years of supervised release, ordered to pay penalty assessments of $5,100, and $2,500 in restitution to one victim. read here
BUFFALO MAN GOING TO PRISON FOR MORE THAN 21 YEARS FOR SELLING HEROIN AND FENTANYL THAT LED TO THE DEATHS OF TWO PEOPLE
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Aaron J. McDuffie, a/k/a “G”, 24, of Buffalo, NY, who was convicted of distribution of heroin and butyryl fentanyl causing death, and distribution of fentanyl, butyryl fentanyl, and furanyl fentanyl causing death, was sentenced to serve 262 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Misha A. Coulson and Wei Xiang, who handled the case, stated that on June 27, 2015, the defendant met with a repeat drug customer identified as “A.E,” a 24 year-old Cheektowaga man. McDuffie sold A.E. a quantity of powder that the defendant advertised as “fire,” a mixture that contained heroin and butyryl fentanyl. A.E. died as a result of using the drugs McDuffie provided to him. read here
TWO MEN INDICTED ON METHAMPHETAMINE CHARGES; ACCUSED OF FILLING THE STREETS OF JAMESTOWN WITH METH
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Brandon Smith, 32, of Jamestown, NY, and Mark R. Maio, 34, of East Randolph, NY, with narcotics conspiracy, and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana. If convicted, defendants face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a $10,000,000.
Maio is also charged with using and maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine on premises where an individual under 18 was present and resided. read here
NEW YORK MAN SENTENCED FOR CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE GOVERNMENT
Manaen Dean Matthews, age 35, was sentenced on July 25, 2019, to 6 and 1/2 years in federal prison, and was ordered to pay a $300 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund and $523,250.00 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
The conviction stems from Matthews devising a scheme to obtain personal information from individuals living on the Pine Ridge Reservation and elsewhere. In the course of his scheme, Matthews directed several other individuals to obtain personal information from tribal citizens by falsely telling them they would lawfully receive large tax refunds or other government payments. Matthews then used the personal information obtained to knowingly file fraudulent personal income tax returns and falsely reporting earnings from self-employment, when in fact the tribal citizens had not received the income reported on their tax returns and were not due the tax refunds shown on their tax returns. read here
MODESTO MAN INDICTED FOR GROWING MARIJUANA ON PUBLIC LANDS AND DAMAGING PUBLIC LANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
FRESNO, Calif. — On Thursday, Aug. 8, a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment against Jose Garcia-Zamora, 27, of Modesto, charging him with manufacturing marijuana, conspiring to manufacture marijuana, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug‑trafficking crime, and damaging public lands and natural resources, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, officers located a clandestine marijuana grow site on U.S. Forest Service land in Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County with 2,642 live marijuana plants. On July 26, 2019, law enforcement personnel arrested Garcia-Zamora at the grow site. Garcia-Zamora had a .45 caliber pistol on his person. read here
‘HALO BANDIT’ BANK ROBBERS SENTENCED TO COMBINED 35 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON
Dubbed the “Halo Bandits” by the FBI, Marcello Shofner, 37, and Cedric Burns, 41, both pleaded guilty to bank robbery in April.
In plea papers, the pair admitted they entered a Texas Trust Credit Union in Hurst, Texas, pointed replica weapons at three employees, and demanded more than $100,000 in U.S. currency from the vault. Money in hand, they fled the scene in a grey Ford Focus.
Their getaway driver, Antranette Canady, 46, lead authorities on a high-speed pursuit down Interstate 30 and onto a dead end street in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, where all three were apprehended by law enforcement. read here
ODESSA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO FEDERAL CHILD PORNOGRAPHY PRODUCTION CHARGE
In Midland today, 62-year-old David King pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography production charge, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash, F.B.I. Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie, Jr., El Paso Division, and Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis.
Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Griffin, King admitted that from June 1, 2017, to May 1, 2018, he posed minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and produced sexually explicit images of those minors using his cell phone. In June 2019, state authorities executed a search warrant in this case at King’s residence. King was arrested after authorities discovered child pornography on several electronic devices inside the residence. read here
BELGIAN CITIZEN PLEADS GUILTY TO INSIDER TRADING
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian C. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that NICHOLAS ZANEN, 46, of Belgium, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson to a conspiracy charge stemming from his role in an insider trading scheme.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Zanen was employed by Cheniere Energy, Inc. (“Cheniere”), a Houston-based energy company whose common stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol LNG. Zanen was a vice president of trading in the Cheniere’s United Kingdom Branch and was based in London. Cheniere maintained written policies prohibiting the direct or indirect disclosure of confidential information and requiring employees to prevent the disclosure of such confidential information. In his position, Zanen had access to material non-public information concerning Cheniere’s deals, financings, and other business information, and he was in possession of inside information prior to public announcements. read here
FORMER JOPLIN POLICE OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY TO CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Gary McKinney, 43, of Joplin, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to the charge contained in an Oct. 24, 2018, federal indictment. McKinney was an officer with the Joplin Police Department for about seven years until May 20, 2006, after which he worked for a short time as a police officer in Webb City, Mo., and Duquesne, Mo.
The investigation began on Sept. 17, 2018, when a federal agent received a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Facebook reported that a user had uploaded a video file of the sexual assault of a 4-year-old victim. Law enforcement officers contacted the Facebook user, who at that time was conversing with McKinney using the KIK messaging application. read here
GANG MEMBER CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH TWO ATTEMPTED MURDERS AS PART OF RICO CONSPIRACY
NEWARK, N.J. – A member of the New Jersey Grape Street Crips appeared in court today on charges that include two attempted murders charged as part of a RICO conspiracy, as well as narcotics trafficking, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Sean Hills, a/k/a “Half A Brain,” a/k/a “Half,” a/k/a “Rydaman,” 28, of Newark, was charged in a two-count indictment with Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy and distribution of cocaine. Hills made his initial court appearance and was arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court. read here
FORMER MILITARY OFFICIAL HEADS TO PRISON FOR TRAFFICKING COCAINE
McALLEN, Texas – A 47-year-old Mexican national has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of importing cocaine into the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Victor Manuel Valencia Rascon served in the Mexican military as a medical doctor for 23 years. He pleaded guilty June 3, 2019.
Today, U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa ordered Rascon to serve a total of 37 months in federal prison. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the significant quantity of cocaine Rascon imported.
On March 3, 2019, Rascon attempted to enter the United States at the Hidalgo Port of Entry. During inspection, law enforcement discovered a suitcase in his trunk with 25 brick-shaped packages weighing 27.54 kilograms. read here
ILLEGAL ALIEN WITH HISTORY OF DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED CONVICTIONS SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON
United States Attorney Brandon Fremin announced that United States District Court Judge John W. deGravelles sentenced JESUS MORALES-SANCHEZ, age 35, of Mexico, to serve 37 months in federal prison following his conviction for illegal re-entry into the United States by a removed alien. During the sentencing hearing, the Court cited the defendant’s extensive history of alcohol abuse, including an incident where the defendant’s actions resulted in the death of the passenger of his vehicle.
Morales-Sanchez was encountered by law enforcement on February 15, 2019, after serving one year in the Louisiana Department of Corrections for driving while intoxicated – third offense. Prior to his release from custody, an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) confirmed that the defendant was a citizen of Mexico, with no legal status to reside or work in the United States, who had been previously removed from the United States on April 21, 2011. The defendant’s criminal history includes convictions for vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated. read here
FORMER GIRARD, PA MAN SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS IN PRISON FOR PRODUCING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT PHOTOS OF YOUNG CHILDREN
ERIE, Pa. – A former resident of Girard, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 15 years in prison, lifetime supervised release and a $5,300 special assessment on his conviction of violating federal laws relating to the sexual exploitation of children, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
United States District Judge David S. Cercone imposed the sentence on Michael Robert Heinrich, 68.
According to information presented to the court, in January 2017 Heinrich took sexually explicit photos of a minor who was four years of age at the time. On February 14, 2017, Heinrich again took sexually explicit photos of that same four-year-old minor and also took a sexually explicit photo of a three-year-old minor. An examination of Heinrich’s computers and cell phone also revealed the presence of numerous other images depicting prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. read here
ERIE COUNTY MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO POSSESSING COMPUTER IMAGES OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Matthew E. Poese, 47, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Poese possessed computer images depicting prepubescent minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. read here
NEW MEXICO MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN FEDERAL COURT TO MAKING BOMB THREATS TO GEORGETOWN TARGETS
WILMINGTON, Del. – David C. Weiss, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that Stephen S. Landes, 29, of Roswell, New Mexico, pled guilty today to making interstate bomb threats, before the Honorable Richard G. Andrews, United States District Judge for the District of Delaware. In May 2018, Landes made bomb threats to the Walmart and the Georgetown Elementary School, both in Georgetown, Delaware for the purpose of “swatting” a Delaware resident. “Swatting” involves making hoax emergency calls in order to elicit an armed police response (e.g., from a SWAT team) to harass someone believed to be at the location of the purported emergency. Landes’ sentencing is scheduled for November 27, 2019. Landes faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
According to court documents and statements made in open court, on May 9, 2018, at approximately 1:43 p.m., Landes called the Walmart in Georgetown, Delaware from Roswell, New Mexico. Landes asked to speak with a manager. Landes impersonated a certain resident of Georgetown, Delaware and then stated that he had a bomb and a child hostage in the bathroom. Landes demanded twenty thousand ($20,000) dollars and threatened to blow-up the Walmart if he did not receive the money. Law enforcement from Georgetown Police, Delaware State Police and Delaware Natural Resources Police responded to the Walmart and evacuated the store. K9 units searched the Walmart but did not find any bomb. read here
TWENTY-FIVE MEN CHARGED AND SEVENTY-EIGHT GUNS SEIZED IN CRACKDOWN ON GUN CRIMES
DAVENPORT, Iowa – Twenty-five people, all of whom are prohibited possessors of firearms, are facing 58 criminal charges as part of federal drug and gun investigations announced United States Attorney Marc Krickbaum. Seven Indictments and 18 Superseding Indictments by a Federal Grand Jury were filed last week in United States District Court in Davenport, Iowa. Several of the defendants had previously been charged and appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Stephen B. Jackson, Jr.
The investigations occurred in several Iowa counties including: Clinton, Des Moines, Johnson, Scott, and Washington County and involved the seizure of approximately 78 firearms including two sawed-off shotguns. The public is reminded that charges contain only accusations and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. read here
FRIEND OF DAYTON MASS SHOOTER CHARGED WITH ILLEGALLY PURCHASING AND POSSESSING FIREARMS
DAYTON – A friend of Dayton mass shooter Connor Betts has been charged federally with lying on federal firearms forms in order to purchase weapons and with illegally possessing those weapons. The friend also allegedly purchased firearm components and body armor for Betts, which Betts used in the August 4 shooting.
Ethan Kollie, 24, of Kettering, was arrested Friday evening. His case was unsealed today. read here
FOUR MEN SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR ENGAGING IN A CHILD EXPLOITATION ENTERPRISE ON THE TOR NETWORK
Four Men Sentenced to Prison for Engaging in a Child Exploitation Enterprise on the Tor Network
The creator and lead administrator of a highly sophisticated Tor-network-based website dedicated to the sexual abuse of children was sentenced Friday, along with three others, for their roles in this global child exploitation enterprise.
Patrick D. Falte, 29, of Franklin, Tennessee, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, three counts of advertising child pornography, and three counts of distributing child pornography. Benjamin A. Faulkner, 28, of Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to 35 years in prison; Andrew R. Leslie, 24, of Middleburg, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; and Brett A. Bedusek, 35, of Cudahy, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, all for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, by Chief U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw of the Middle District of Tennessee. The judge also sentenced each defendant to a lifetime of supervised release. Falte had previously pleaded guilty to the charges in June 2018, and Faulkner, Leslie and Bedusek had pleaded guilty in November 2018. read here
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER INDICTED FOR ACCEPTING BRIBES TO SMUGGLE CONTRABAND INTO PRISON
DUBLIN, GA: A correctional officer at a federal prison has been charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting bribes in return for smuggling cigarettes to an inmate.
Michael Kerr, 30, of Vidalia, Ga., is charged with 12 counts of Bribery, one count of Providing Contraband into a Prison, and one count of making a false statement to law enforcement, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The charges carry possible punishment of up to 15 years in prison. read here
CONMAN WHO POSED AS BEVERAGE ENTREPRENEUR SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 7 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR RUNNING $7.5 MILLION PONZI SCHEME
LOS ANGELES – A Canadian national was sentenced today to 87 months in federal prison for running a $7.5 million Ponzi scheme in which he defrauded investors by posing as a successful beverage entrepreneur with close ties to well-known business executives and professional sports stars, including NBA star Stephen Curry.
Khemraj Dave Hardat, 50, a former resident of the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles who has been in federal custody since his arrest last November, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who said Hardat was “not a misguided businessman; he was a very skillful fraudster.” read here
THREE MEN INDICTED FOR CYBER STALKING CONSPIRACY THAT RESULTED IN MURDER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three men have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a cyberstalking conspiracy that utilized GPS tracking devices to help carry out the murder of a Kansas City, Missouri, man.
Lester E. Brown, 32, of Kansas City, Missouri, Michael Young, 29, of Independence, Missouri, and Ronell Pearson, 32, currently living in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, area, were charged in a three-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Pearson was arrested today and has an initial court appearance in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minn. Young was arrested on Thursday, Aug. 8, following a high-speed pursuit by law enforcement in which he crashed his vehicle. Brown is currently in federal custody in an unrelated case. read here
HONDURAN NATIONAL CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL REENTRY
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that PEDRO MANOLO ARAGON-HERNANDEZ, age 39, a citizen of Honduras, was charged on Thursday, August 8, 2019 in a one-count bill of information with illegal reentry of a removed alien, in violation of 8 U.S.C. ‘ 1326.
According to the bill of information, PEDRO MANOLO ARAGON-HERNANDEZ reentered the United States in or about 2004, after having been previously removed therefrom on or about December 20, 2001.
If convicted, PEDRO MANOLO ARAGON-HERNANDEZ faces a maximum term of imprisonment of two years, a fine of up to $250,000.00, one year supervised release after imprisonment, and a $100 special assessment. read here
MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY OBTAINS CIVIL INJUNCTION AGAINST NEW YORK CITY ACCOUNTANT BARRING HIM FROM ORGANIZING, PROMOTING, OR SELLING ABUSIVE TAX SHELTERS
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced today that the United States has simultaneously filed and settled a civil injunction lawsuit against MICHAEL N. SCHWARTZ, a certified public accountant in New York City, to permanently enjoin him from organizing, promoting, or selling abusive tax shelters. The tax shelters that SCHWARTZ organized, promoted and sold, exploited foreign currency options contracts and U.S tax rules to generate artificial losses that taxpayers could claim on their tax returns. As part of the settlement, approved on Thursday, August 8, 2019, in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick, SCHWARTZ agreed to be permanently enjoined from organizing, promoting, or selling any illegal tax shelter. read here
ANOTHER LAREDOAN ARRESTED FOR TRANSPORTING ALIENS
LAREDO, Texas – A 25-year-old Laredo resident has been arrested on charges of transporting an undocumented alien after another local violent crash, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Authorities arrested Francisco Javier Quiroga Aug. 9, 2019. He is set to make his initial appearance today at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon.
The criminal complaint alleges that on Aug. 9, law enforcement observed multiple people being loaded into a vehicle near the Rio Grande River in Laredo. They attempted to perform an immigration inspection but the vehicle failed to stop, according to the charges. It crashed and rolled over. Authorities then observed people running out of the vehicle, according to the allegations. read here
PITTSFIELD BUSINESSMAN SENTENCED FOR $4 MILLION CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD A CREDIT UNION
BOSTON – A businessman, who owned and operated five real estate development companies in Pittsfield, was sentenced on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in federal court in Springfield for defrauding a credit union.
Jeffrey Pierce, 51, of Pittsfield, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni to 20 months in prison, $3,821,616 of forfeiture, and restitution of $877,725 to Greylock Federal Credit Union and $2,901,833 to Fidelity Deposit Company of Maryland. In June 2018, Pierce pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive money through transactions of a credit union with intent to defraud the credit union and to make false statements to a federal credit union. read here
FEDERAL JURY CONVICTS NEW BERN MEDICAL DOCTOR FOR UNLAWFULLY DISTRIBUTING OXYCODONE, MONEY LAUNDERING AND TAX EVASION
NEW BERN – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that today in federal court, SANJAY KUMAR, 53 of New Bern, North Carolina, was convicted after a 26-day jury trial before United States District Judge Louise Wood Flanagan. The jury found KUMAR, who was a licensed medical doctor at the time of the offenses, guilty of five (5) counts of Unlawful Distribution of Oxycodone outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, five (5) counts of Money Laundering by Concealment, and three (3) counts of Attempt to Evade and Defeat Tax. read here