Justice Files Monday

Justice Files Monday

FORMER NAVY WAREHOUSE MANAGER WHO STOLE $2.5 MILLION WORTH OF GOODS FROM THE U.S. NAVY SENTENCED TO TWO YEARS

SAN DIEGO – Herbert Gutierrez, former warehouse manager at the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command Warehouse in San Diego and 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, was sentenced in federal court today to 24 months in custody for stealing more than $2.5 million worth of goods from the Navy warehouse where he worked.  Gutierrez was also ordered to forfeit $57,656.69 and pay $2,536,293.63 in restitution to the United States Navy.

Sentencing documents reflect that Gutierrez began stealing from the warehouse for his own personal gain a few months after he started working there. For approximately nine months, between July 2018 and April 2019, Gutierrez advertised items from the warehouse for sale online, including through such websites as eBay, and then allowed private individuals into the MSC warehouse yard during work hours and after hours to take the government property, load it onto trucks, and haul it away. (Read Here)

EUFAULA MAN SENTENCED TO 78 MONTHS, $3,000 RESTITUTION FOR POSSESSION OF MATERIAL INVOLVING SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF A MINOR

MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced that Jacob Quinlan Navarrette, age 28, of Eufaula, Oklahoma was sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment, 10 years of supervised release, and pay $3,000.00 in restitution for Possession Of Certain Material Involving The Sexual Exploitation Of A Minor, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2252(a)(4)(B) and 2252(b)(2). Once released from incarceration, the Defendant must register as a sex offender, complete sex offender treatment and comply with conditions of that treatment including polygraphs to determine compliance, the Defendant may not possess any type of pornography, and he must submit to examinations of his computers.  The charges arose from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Indictment alleged that beginning in or about January 2018, and continuing until on or about May 2, 2018, in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the defendant knowingly possessed and accessed with the intent to view, and attempted to possess and access with the intent to view, a visual depiction of a prepubescent minor under the age of twelve engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and said visual depiction was of such sexually explicit conduct and had been transported in interstate commerce by computer. (Read Here)

MEXICAN NATIONAL ARRESTED FOR BEING AN ALIEN IN POSSESSION OF A FIREARM DURING DENVER PROTESTS

DENVER – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn today announced that Aurora resident and Mexican national Felix Missael Alva has been charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm.  Alva made his initial appearance this afternoon where he was advised of his rights and the charge pending against him.  The Denver ATF and the Denver Police Department joined in this announcement.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on May 30, 2020, a Denver Police detective was working in downtown Denver during demonstrations when a white Jeep stopped nearby him.  The detective was approximately 10 feet from the Jeep when he saw a male passenger produce a large black semi-automatic handgun, and from the open passenger window, heard him say, “This ain’t no peaceful protest.”  The male pointed to the sky with his left hand and then opened fire into the air while a Denver Police Department helicopter and a news media helicopter that were flying overhead.  The detective heard approximately 6 to 10 gun shots.  Another Denver detective and an officer were near the Jeep during this shooting and observed the passenger fire his weapon into the air.  The driver of the Jeep then sped off. (Read Here)

CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER SENTENCED IN FEDERAL COURT FOR FAILING TO REGISTER

SHREVEPORT, La. – Christopher D. Watson, 40, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. for failing to register as a convicted sex offender, Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced. Watson was sentenced to 37 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release.

Watson previously pled guilty to the charge on February 3, 2020. According to evidence introduced in court, Watson was convicted of Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree in the State of Oregon in February 2008 and was required to register as a convicted sex offender in the State of Oregon for life. Watson moved to Utah and lived there from 2011 until 2018 and while there was arrested multiple times for failing to register as a sex offender.

In August 2018, Watson moved from Utah to Shreveport, Louisiana. In October 2018, Watson was arrested by law enforcement officers in Bossier City following a complaint. After learning he was a convicted sex offender, officers advised Watson to register as a sex offender in Louisiana. In December 2018 while responding to a complaint, Bossier City Police officers had another encounter with Watson and he was advised a second time to register as a registered sex offender as required by law and was cited to appear in Louisiana state court for failing to register as required. (Read Here)

WEST VIRGINIA MAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR SEX TRAFFICKING, DISTRIBUTING FATAL DOSES OF FENTANYL

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Kendall Demarko Wysinger, a Martinsburg, West Virginia, man who used heroin as a means to control numerous women he trafficked as part of a commercial prostitution ring that operated in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere, was sentenced today to life in prison. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division, and Jesse Fong, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Washington Field Office made the announcement today following Wysinger’s sentencing hearing.

“Sex traffickers enslave and traumatize their victims for financial gain.  This is why the Department of Justice has made these cases a top priority.” First Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar said today. “Today’s sentence shows our office’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting anyone who commits these awful crimes. I am grateful to the FBI, DEA, and the numerous state and local agencies involved with the I-81 Human Trafficking Task Force who worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case.” (Read Here)

PRIVATE SECURITY EMPLOYEE ARRESTED ON CRIMINAL COMPLAINT ALLEGING HE FALSELY IMPERSONATED A FEDERAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT

 SANTA ANA, California – A private security employee at an Orange County retirement community was arrested today on a criminal complaint alleging he pretended to be a federal agent.

         Donovan Pham Nguyen, 34, of Riverside, is charged with one count of false impersonation of a federal officer or employee, according to a criminal complaint unsealed today. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.

          According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Nguyen for years pretended to be a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and used the false title to obtain things of value. Nguyen never worked for HSI, although he previously was a privately contracted security guard at a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facility. He left that job in 2015 after an internal investigation was launched resulting from allegations that he printed fake HSI identification documents, the affidavit states. (Read Here)

MELROSE MAN INDICTED FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE SCAM

BOSTON – A Melrose man has been indicted in connection with his role in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme.

Alan Neal Scott, 68, was indicted on four counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft. Scott was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in July 2020.

According to the charging documents, over the course of the last six years, Scott submitted numerous fraudulent unemployment insurance claims with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Scott submitted these claims using his own identity as well as the identities of various individuals, including some who were not eligible for unemployment benefits as they were incarcerated at the time of the claims and could not have been employed as reported. Moreover, the fraudulent claims all reported prior employment at a non-operational Massachusetts-based business also associated with Scott. As a result of these fraudulent claims, it is alleged that the DUA sent unemployment benefits funds to several addresses connected to Scott and that the funds were deposited into accounts he controlled. The indictment also alleges that Scott submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment insurance claims in the names of others. (Read Here)

INTERNATIONAL SEX TRAFFICKER SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 17 YEARS IN PRISON

Defendant is one of 36 convicted as part of an international Thai sex trafficking organization

United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the sentencing of MICHAEL MORRIS 66, to 208 months in prison for his role in operating a massive international sex trafficking organization that was responsible for coercing hundreds of Thai women to engage in commercial sex acts across the United States. MORRIS was sentenced by Senior Judge Donovan Frank in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Following a six-week trial, on December 12, 2018, a federal jury convicted MORRIS and four other defendants for their roles in operating the sex trafficking enterprise. Thirty-one defendants pleaded guilty prior to the 2018 trial. To date, 29 defendants have been sentenced.

“Sex trafficking continues to be a repugnant local, national, and international crime that preys on vulnerable populations,” said United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald. “This case demonstrates the dedication and relentlessness of law enforcement across multiple jurisdictions to bring those who commit these crimes to justice.” (Read Here)

CHARITY EMPLOYEE TO SERVE 27 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR EMBEZZLING OVER $450,000

INDIANAPOLIS – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today that U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt sentenced Christina Short, 43, of Speedway, Indiana, to 27 months in federal prison for perpetrating a six-year scheme to steal over $450,000 from the charitable foundation where she worked.

“Those who donate to charitable causes should feel secure in knowing their funds will go where they intended,” said Minkler. “And those who choose to steal should likewise know that they will be caught, prosecuted, and held accountable in court.”

Short’s now-former employer was Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA), a national women’s college fraternity headquartered in Carmel, Indiana. ZTA has thousands of student members across approximately 170 colleges throughout the country, as well as approximately 200,000 living alumni members. (Read Here)

WARREN COUNTY MAN SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN PRISON FOR PROCESSING HUNDREDS OF IMAGES OF CHILD RAPE

DAYTON – Garry Weatherbie, 65, of Franklin, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 10 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release for possessing child pornography after being convicted of prior sex offenses.

According to court documents, on Feb. 6, 2019, Weatherbie possessed more than 600 images of child sexual abuse on his tablet.

At the time, Weatherbie was on parole after being released from the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where he served an eight-year sentence for pandering sexual material involving a minor. Weatherbie was previously convicted in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. (Read Here)

DUSA PHARMACEUTICALS TO PAY U.S. $20.75 MILLION TO SETTLE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS RELATING TO PROMOTION OF UNSUPPORTED DRUG ADMINISTRATION PROCESS

WASHINGTON – Massachusetts-based DUSA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DUSA), a subsidiary of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Inc. (Sun Pharma), has agreed to pay the United States $20.75 million to resolve allegations that DUSA caused physicians to submit false claims to Medicare and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program (FEHBP) by knowingly promoting an administration process for the drug Levulan Kerastick that contradicted the product instructions approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was unsupported by sufficient clinical evidence.

“The department is committed to protecting taxpayer-supported health care programs from fraud and abuse,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ethan P. Davis for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will hold drug manufacturers accountable when they knowingly promote ineffective uses of their products that undermine patient care or waste program funds.”

“While this scheme to provide false instructions on the use of its product may have resulted in more sales and bigger profits, it also meant customers endured the frustration of being repeatedly subjected to less effective treatments to try to get their skin lesions to clear,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran for the Western District of Washington. “This investigation seeks to restore money to taxpayers and discourage those who put profits over effective treatment.” (Read Here)

TEXAS PROFESSOR AND NASA RESEARCHER ARRESTED ON CHARGES RELATED TO CHINA’S TALENTS PROGRAM

Texas A&M University professor working on U.S. space projects allegedly hid affiliations with Chinese state-owned academic and commercial institutions

HOUSTON – A criminal complaint has been unsealed charging a 53-year-old College Station man for conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud.

Texas A&M University (TAMU) Professor Zhengdong Cheng is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon today at 2 p.m. in Houston. Authorities took him into custody Sunday, Aug. 23.

Cheng allegedly led a team conducting research for NASA. According to the criminal complaint, for several years he willfully took steps to obscure his affiliations and collaboration with a Chinese University and at least one Chinese-owned company. The terms of Cheng’s grant prohibited participation, collaboration or coordination with China, any Chinese-owned company or any Chinese University, according to the charges. (Read Here)

FOUR DEFENDANTS, INCLUDING TWO ILLEGAL ALIENS, SENTENCED FOR OPERATING DECADE-LONG COCAINE TRAFFICKING NETWORK

ATLANTA – Roberto Garza-Mendez, Shadarrian Grimes, Euklides Gonzalez-Hernandez, and Johnathan Pena have been sentenced for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.  Garza-Mendez and Grimes confessed to having trafficked 200 kilograms of cocaine together during a ten-year span.

“Thanks to the diligent efforts of our law enforcement partners, these defendants’ days of distributing cocaine in the Atlanta community have ended,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Also, by seizing these defendants’ drug-related assets, we hope to send a clear message that drug traffickers will not be permitted to profit from the poison they distribute.”

“The sentencings for these criminals slams the door on a major conspiracy to peddle poison (cocaine) in our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “DEA, its multi-level law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are committed to tracking down and bringing to justice those who pollute our neighborhoods with illegal drugs.” (Read Here)

NIGERIAN NATIONAL PLEADS GUILTY IN ROMANCE FRAUD AND GRANT FRAUD SCHEME

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Nigerian National residing in Indianapolis, Ismaila Fafunmi, pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday, before U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell, to money laundering charges related to a romance fraud and grant fraud scheme.

According to his plea agreement, Fafunmi admitted that, beginning in June 2018, he worked in conjunction with others, who communicated through online chats, about a scheme to defraud U.S. citizens through a romance scheme.  In furtherance of this scheme, Fafunmi and his co-conspirators would set up fake profiles on dating websites profiling American men, often military members.  Fafunmi’s co-conspirators would engage in conversations with victims, typically women older than 50, through the dating website, making the victims believe they were in a romantic relationship with the individual in the fictitious profile.

Fafunmi and his co-conspirators would then convince these unsuspecting women to send money for various reasons.  One victim of the scheme lived in Kentucky, and sent more than $200,000 to a person she believed to be her boyfriend. In another scheme, Fafunmi received funds from another female over 50, who believed she was being awarded a large grant and had to pay fees up front in order to receive her award. (Read Here)

STURGIS MAN SENTENCED FOR ATTEMPTED RECEIPT OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Sturgis, South Dakota, man convicted of Attempted Receipt of Child Pornography was sentenced on August 4, 2020, by Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Court Judge.

Conner Harmon, age 22, was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison, followed by 8 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

The conviction stemmed from an undercover sex trafficking operation conducted during the 2018 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, targeting internet predators.  Harmon was arrested and federally indicted following multiple chats and text messages with a person Harmon believed to be a 14 year-old girl, but who was in fact an undercover agent.  Harmon proceeded to negotiate the time and place he would meet the minor to engage in unlawful sex acts.  When Harmon went to the pre-determined location to meet the minor, he was instead met by law enforcement agents and placed under arrest. (Read Here)

CLEVELAND POSTAL SERVICE MANAGER ACCUSED OF DISTRIBUTION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES AND THEFT OF MAIL

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland has returned a six-count indictment charging Anthony Sharp, age 30, of South Euclid, Ohio, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, money laundering and theft of mail.

“This defendant allegedly stole what he believed to be were drugs shipped through the mail and then sold them for a great profit,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “I am grateful for the work of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their hard work on this investigation and to help keep illegal drugs out of our community.”

U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Cleevely stated: “Postal employees are paid to deliver mail and parcels, not steal and distribute drugs in the community. When a postal employee decides to violate the public’s trust, special agents with the USPS OIG will work with our law enforcement partners to see that they lose their job, their pension, and their freedom. To report postal employees engaged in criminal activity, contact our special agents at www.uspsoig.gov or 888-USPS-OIG.” (Read Here)

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