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Wednesday, October 28 2020
Edition: Weekly | Monthly
This week at Justice Files

This week at Justice Files

FEDS CHARGE ARMED FELON THREATENING LOUISVILLE POLICE

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Louisville, Kentucky, man, who allegedly threatened police in a social media video while brandishing weapons has been charged federally, announced U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. The resulting investigation and arrest will help keep police safe, and shows all levels of law enforcement working in coordination to take an armed felon who was threatening officers off of the streets.

“Louisville needs healing and safety for its citizens, not armed felons seeking bids to shoot police,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “Federal law enforcement here will continue to respond as one to swiftly mitigate threats to our city.”

“Threats against law enforcement are unacceptable”, stated Special Agent in Charge R. Shawn Morrow of the Louisville Field Division of ATF.  “When you threaten police and brandish firearms, you can expect the attention of ATF. This morning ATF agents, with the immediate assistance of LMPD, HSI, U.S. Marshal’s, and the FBI,  executed a warrant and arrested an armed felon ensuring he wouldn’t carry out those threats.”

Cortez Lamont Edwards, 29, of Louisville, Kentucky, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. (Read Here)

 

PARMA MAN SENTENCED TO OVER 16 YEARS FOR DISTRIBUTION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

BOISE – Jason Harvey, 45, of Parma, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 200 months in federal prison for distribution of child pornography, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced today. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also sentenced Harvey to a lifetime of supervised release following his prison sentence. Harvey pleaded guilty to the charge on June 24, 2020.

According to court records, the investigation began after Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! reported that child pornography had been uploaded to various online accounts between December 23, 2016 and March 25, 2019. The reports were assigned to the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force for investigation. ICAC obtained search warrants for the online accounts, which revealed the accounts belonged to Harvey. Within the accounts, ICAC located images and videos of child pornography and emails and messages where Harvey discussed trading child pornography with others. ICAC also located several emails and messages where Harvey sent child pornography files to other individuals and received child pornography files in return. A federal magistrate judge issued a search warrant for Harvey’s residence in Parma. During the execution of the search warrant, ICAC detectives interviewed Harvey. Harvey admitted ownership of the online accounts, but denied involvement in child pornography. (Read Here)

ILLEGAL ALIEN FROM MEXICO SENTENCED TO OVER 16 YEARS IN PRISON FOR DRUG CONSPIRACY INVOLVING DRUGS SOLD NEAR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Jackson, Miss. – Edgar Leonel Soto-Leon, 32, an illegal alien from Mexico, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate to serve 195 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute 2.6 pounds of methamphetamine and 2.1 pounds of heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In May, 2019, Soto-Leon and his co-defendant Matthew Williams, reached an agreement to distribute heroin and methamphetamine.  To assist Soto-Leon, Williams made contact with one or more individuals in order to find a buyer for illegal drugs in the possession of Soto-Leon.  Through these contacts by Williams, a buyer was identified.  Williams spoke directly to the buyer and stated that Soto-Leon was in possession of approximately 3 pounds of methamphetamine known as “ICE” and one kilogram of heroin that he was trying to sell.  Williams connected the buyer to Soto-Leon, who began communicating directly with the buyer.  Soto-Leon and the buyer reached an agreement on the price for all of the methamphetamine and heroin. (Read Here)

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY STATEMENT REGARDING ONGOING VIOLENCE IN PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore.— Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, provides the below statement on ongoing violence in Portland:

“This nation’s most successful movement for racial equality and justice was led by a man dedicated to non-violent principles. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in nonviolence, winning his opponents’ friendship and understanding without humiliation, and he held a deep faith in the future. His aspirations for racial justice unquestionably remain unfinished, but his philosophy on how to achieve it remains just as relevant today.

George Floyd’s death has forced law enforcement and the justice system to closely examine our work and has led our society to ask critical questions. For more than 100 consecutive nights, Portland has been the center of large demonstrations and protests. Peaceful protests, public dialogue, and ongoing legislative and policy reviews at every level are essential to identifying solutions and bringing about meaningful and positive changes. Civility and respect are key elements to this process. (Read Here)

GREENBRIER COUNTY MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO BREAKING INTO UNITED STATES POST OFFICE

BECKLEY, W.Va. –  A Greenbrier County man entered a guilty plea to the felony offense of breaking into a United States Post Office, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  Matthew Riffle, 29, of Rupert, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on January 8, 2021.  He also will be required to pay restitution to the United States Post Office.

“Riffle not only broke into a post office- he admitted he broke into two,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “The security of our post offices is critical. In a season of massive amounts of ballots being delivered by mail, this case echoes the worries of many in the country as to post office and postal service security. I commend the tremendous work of the U. S. Postal Inspection Service and the Sheriff’s Departments of Greenbrier and Fayette counties.” (Read Here)

VERMONT MAN ACCUSED OF REPEATEDLY ASSAULTING POLICE OFFICERS DURING CIVIL DISORDER IN PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore.—U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that a White River Junction, Vermont man has been charged with repeatedly charging at police officers while holding a shield as officers were engaged in lawful crowd dispersal during a civil disorder event.

A federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon has returned a one-count indictment charging Charles Randolph Comfort, 24 with Civil Disorder.

According to court documents, during the late evening of June 25, 2020, a group of individuals blocked traffic on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE Emerson near Portland Police Bureau’s (PPB) North Precinct. Dumpsters were taken by members of the crowd from nearby businesses and rolled into the streets and fireworks were thrown over the barricade on NE Emerson Street at the officers stationed there. An unlawful assembly was declared in the early morning hours of June 26, 2020 and PPB made repeated public address announcements telling the group to leave the area. (Read Here)

SIX MEMBERS OF PATERSON-BASED 230 BOYS GANG INDICTED IN 29-COUNT SECOND SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT

NEWARK, N.J. – A federal grand jury has indicted six members of a Paterson street gang on charges of selling heroin and fentanyl, including a charge against one defendant for distributing heroin and fentanyl with death resulting, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Charged in a 29-count second superseding indictment are: Wyzier Peterson, 23, a/k/a “Trap;” Carl Brown, 26, a/k/a “C Dub,” a/k/a “Dub;” Aaryn Abrams, 24, a/k/a “AI;” Najier Boone, 24, a/k/a “Bebe;” Zikeme Brooks, 27, a/k/a “Zeek,” a/k/a “Ace;” and Jimir Ricks, 26, a/k/a “40,” a/k/a “Red.” 26. (Read Here)

GEORGIA ATTORNEY SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 12 YEARS FOR ATTEMPTING TO ENTICE A MINOR TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY AND TRANSMITTING OBSCENE MATERIAL TO A MINOR

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew today sentenced Richard Franklin Jensen, III (34, Atlanta), a licensed attorney in Georgia, to 12 years and 7 months in federal prison for attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, and attempting to transfer obscene material to a minor. The court also ordered Jensen to forfeit the electronic devices he had used in the commission of the offenses.

Jensen had been found guilty by a jury on November 22, 2019. The court made a specific finding that Jensen obstructed justice when he lied under oath during the trial. The court also found that Jensen used his special skills as a trained attorney to fabricate a defense, claiming that he had been exercising his First Amendment rights and conducting research for a book he was writing while falsely implicating his former law professor in his crimes. (Read Here)

ORANGE PARK MAN CHARGED WITH SEX TRAFFICKING A CHILD AFTER TRAVELING TO MEET A CHILD FOR SEX

Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Gregory Thomas Garcia (34, Orange Park) with commercial sex trafficking of a child. If convicted, Garcia faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, and up to life, in federal prison.

According to the complaint, beginning at least by October 2019, Garcia began communicating via text message with a minor victim, who was 16 years old at the time. A special agent with Homeland Security Investigations discovered the text messages between Garcia and the victim while investigating a separate crime. The victim confirmed to the special agent and a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office that she had met with Garcia more than 20 times, and on each occasion Garcia had paid her to allow Garcia to sexually abuse her. (Read Here)

ILLEGAL ALIEN SENTENCED FOR  ASSAULTING A FEDERAL OFFICER

An illegal alien was sentenced yesterday to 18 months’ in federal prison for assaulting a federal officer, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.

Schneider was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Vance Callendar, Homeland Security Investigations, Detroit Division.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider stated, “Our office continues to prosecute dangerous and violent offenders who are in our country illegally.  Our mission is to protect our community from violent criminals, and we will continue to do that by working with our law enforcement partners to keep our borders safe.” (Read Here)

LE MARS MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO COVID-19 RELATED UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD

Chinn falsely underreported his income to receive COVID-19 unemployment funds.

A Le Mars, Iowa man who stole government funds using a COVID-19 unemployment scheme pled guilty today in federal court in Sioux City.

Dennis George Chinn, age 54, from Le Mars, Iowa, was convicted of theft of government funds.

In a plea agreement, Chinn admitted to falsely reporting his income, stating it was $150 per week so he could get an additional $600 weekly payment, and fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 relief funds to which he was not entitled.  In total, Chinn obtained over $13,000 in COVID-19 pandemic CARES Act Iowa unemployment funds. (Read Here)

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CALLS ON SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR TO END “ONE CONGREGANT” RULE FOR PLACES OF WORSHIP TO COMPLY WITH THE CONSTITUTION

The Justice Department today sent a letter to San Francisco mayor explaining that the city’s policy of only allowing a single worshiper in places of worship regardless of their size, while allowing multiple patrons in other indoor settings including gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and daycares, is contrary to the Constitution and the nation’s best tradition of religious freedom.

The letter, sent by Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, David Anderson, explains that San Francisco’s policy of treating secular businesses more favorably than houses of worship is “wholly at odds with this nation’s traditional understanding of religious liberty, and may violate the First Amendment,” and calls on the mayor to take action to treat places of worship equally with other venues where people share enclosed spaces.

“No government in this free country can attack religion by transforming a house of worship arbitrarily into a place for solitary confinement. People of faith go to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places to worship with their fellow believers, and they can do so lawfully because the First Amendment to the United States Constitution makes illegal any effort by government to prohibit the free exercise of religion,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “That we are dealing with a very serious public health crisis does not permit government to discriminate against religious worshipers by imposing a one-person-per-house-of-worship rule while permitting larger numbers of people to gather in tattoo parlors, hair salons, massage studios, and other places. There is no pandemic exception to the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.” (Read Here)

MULTINATIONAL INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING COMPANY TO PAY $22 MILLION TO SETTLE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS OF EVADING CUSTOMS DUTIES

PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark announced that Linde GmbH and its U.S. subsidiary Linde Engineering North America LLC (LENA) (together, “Linde”) have agreed to pay the United States more than $22.2 million to resolve allegations that Linde violated the False Claims Act by knowingly making false statements on customs declarations to avoid paying duties owed on the companies’ imports.

Linde GmbH is a multinational corporation headquartered in Germany that, among other things, imports materials into the United States for use in the construction of natural gas and chemical plants. LENA, based in Houston, conducted portions of Linde’s United States business and managed procurement and logistics for Linde. Between 2011 and 2017, Linde imported more than $500 million in goods into the United States. (Read Here)

RADIOLOGY CENTER PAYS $501,000 TO RESOLVE HEALTHCARE FRAUD ALLEGATIONS

Fort Myers, FL – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Advanced Imaging of Port Charlotte, LLC, a radiology center headquartered in Port Charlotte, Florida, has agreed to pay $501,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare and Tricare, a health care program for uniformed service members, retirees, and their families.

As part of the settlement, the United States contends that Advanced Imaging knowingly submitted claims to Medicare and Tricare by (1) administering dye-contrast scans without direct physician supervision as required by Federal regulations and (2) improperly billing for services performed by doctors who were not properly credentialed by Medicare.  (Read Here)

PHILADELPHIA CITY TREASURER ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH MULTIPLE FRAUDS

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Christian Dunbar, 40, of Philadelphia, PA, the current Philadelphia City Treasurer, was arrested this morning and charged by Criminal Complaint with embezzlement by a bank employee, conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, and fraudulent procurement of citizenship. U.S. Attorney McSwain detailed the charges at a press conference this afternoon in front of the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia.

As the Philadelphia City Treasurer, Dunbar’s responsibilities include: (1) managing the City’s debt obligations, which includes overseeing the issuance of the City’s municipal bonds; (2) managing the City’s bank accounts, including its operating account, capital account, and petty cash accounts in various departments; (3) paying the City’s bills, including making payments to vendors, cutting payroll checks, and making payments to pension plans; and (4) managing the City’s cash reserves. (Read Here)

FORMER TEACHER’S AIDE PLEADS GUILTY TO CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES AFTER ATTEMPTING TO HAVE SEX WITH A MINOR CHILD

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Christian Michael Stutes, 24, of Rochester, NY, pleaded guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. to receipt and distribution of child pornography. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who is handling the case, stated that between April 12 and December 13, 2019, the defendant engaged in sexually explicit conversations via text message with an individual he believed to be the father of a 10-year-old male. The individual was actually an undercover FBI agent. During their conversations, Stutes discussed paying $150 to have sex with the 10-year-old male. On December 13, 2019, the defendant traveled to Brighton, NY, to meet and engage in commercial sex with the 10-year-old boy. Stutes was arrested by law enforcement officers at that time. (Read Here)

OWNER OF THE SURROGACY GROUP PLEADS GUILTY IN FEDERAL COURT IN MARYLAND FOR DEFRAUDING CLIENTS OF FEES PAID TO FIND AND SUPPORT A PREGNANCY SURROGATE

Obtained More than $1.1 Million from More Than 40 Victims Around the World

Baltimore,Maryland – Gregory Ray Blosser, age 38, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty today to a federal wire fraud charge in connection with a scheme to defraud clients of The Surrogacy Group (TSG), which he owned and operated from offices in Annapolis, Maryland and Tampa, Florida.  Blosser was arrested on April 29th in Florida and has been under home confinement since his arrest.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.

“The facts of this case are especially egregious because Gregory Blosser took advantage of individuals who were trying to become parents,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “Criminals like Blosser, who line their pockets through such heartless deceit, will be held accountable.” (Read Here)

CHULA VISTA COUPLE CHARGED WITH DEFRAUDING PREGNANT WOMEN AND A CALIFORNIA MEDI-CAL PROGRAM

SAN DIEGO – Melissa Alvarez Torres and Jose Luis Olmos Hernandez, a Chula Vista couple who operated what they claimed to be a private insurance sales company, made their initial appearances today in federal court on charges that they conspired to defraud hundreds of pregnant women and caused an estimated $1.6 million in losses to Medi-Cal, a government health care program.

According to a complaint unsealed this afternoon, from 2016 through the present Alvarez and Olmos conspired to defraud the Medi-Cal Access Program (“MCAP”), a health care program administered by the California Department of Health Care Services and funded by state and federal government funds. MCAP is a program designed to assist working, middle-income California families without adequate health insurance by covering maternity services and post-natal care for a low cost based on their income. (Read Here)

ADDICTION RECOVERY PHYSICIAN PAYS $530,000 TO RESOLVE FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS OF BILLING FOR PSYCHOTHERAPY RENDERED BY UNLICENSED OR UNSUPERVISED PROVIDERS AND OTHER IMPROPER BILLINGS

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Addiction Recovery physician Dr. Chambless Johnston and his practice, East Tennessee Recovery, have paid $530,000 to resolve several allegations that they violated the False Claims Act.  The allegations include billing for individual and group psychotherapy provided by unlicensed or unsupervised providers; upcoding Evaluation and Management office visits; and providing case management services not covered in the practice’s contract or improperly rendered in a group setting.  The allegations challenged billings submitted to Medicare, and to Medicaid Programs — TennCare and Virginia Medicaid, from 2017 through 2019.

Medicare, TennCare, and Virginia Medicaid only reimburse for services rendered and billed in compliance with their respective program requirements.  The programs require that providers be properly licensed and, in some circumstances, supervised to conduct group and individual psychotherapy for patients.  They reimburse for Evaluation and Management office visits when the services provided are coded at a level commensurate with the complexity of the visit and the severity of the patient’s presenting problems.  TennCare only reimburses for case management services allowed under applicable contracts with managed care organizations and when provided in an individual, not a group, setting.  The United States, the State of Tennessee, and the Commonwealth of Virginia alleged that Dr. Johnston and East Tennessee Recovery failed to comply with these requirements. (Read Here)

ILLEGAL ALIEN SENTENCED TO 60 MONTHS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR ROLE IN $4.7 MILLION MAIL/WIRE/HEALTHCARE FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME

Washington and Nevada Resident Sentenced in Federal Court

Spokane – William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Misael Reyes-Tajimaroa, age 36, of Michoacan, Mexico, was sentenced after having pleaded guilty to one count of healthcare fraud conspiracy, one count of mail and wire fraud conspiracy, eight counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and one count of money laundering. United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice sentenced Reyes-Tajimaroa to a 60-month term of imprisonment, to be followed by a 3- year term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison. Judge Rice also ordered Reyes-Tajimaroa to pay restitution in the amount of $500,000.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Reyes-Tajimaroa, an illegal alien who was residing at various times in Spokane County, Washington, and Clark County, Nevada was an integral member of an extensive healthcare/mail/wire fraud scheme that staged automobile, boating and slip and fall accidents in Spokane, Washington, Liberty Lake, Washington, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Shingle Springs, California, Rescue, California, Las Vegas, Nevada and Henderson, Nevada that defrauded insurance companies out of approximately $4.7 million by filing fraudulent bodily injury claims. Reyes-Tajimaroa played “injured” victim, “getaway” driver or “lookout” in approximately sixteen of the phony accidents and received medical treatment for fictitious or intentionally inflicted injuries to various parts of his body. After one phony accident, Reyes-Tajimaroa was airlifted via helicopter to a hospital by first responders. As part of the staging in another accident, Reyes-Tajimaroa used pliers to break off his teeth. Reyes-Tajimaroa also conspired with others to launder money from the fraudulent insurance claims. (Read Here)

KERN COUNTY MAN CHARGED WITH PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND RECEIPT OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment today against Andrew James Sarnowski, 22, of Rosamond, charging him with separate counts of production of child pornography and distribution of child pornography, and two additional counts of receipt of child pornography, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, Sarnowski produced multiple videos depicting the sexual abuse of a minor less than a year of age and shared them online through an encrypted social media application. Pursuant to a search of his residence, additional electronic devices belonging to Sarnowski were identified and found to contain hundreds of additional child pornography files, including those depicting pre-pubescent boys and girls being sexually abused. (Read Here)

INLAND EMPIRE MAN WHO TEACHES AT SAN BERNARDINO MIDDLE SCHOOL ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES

RIVERSIDE, California – A Fontana man is expected to make his initial court appearance late this afternoon after being charged today with federal child pornography offenses for allegedly uploading explicit images to the internet.

Josue Gamaliel Vidal Quintanilla, 28, who teaches mathematics at Shandin Hills Middle School in San Bernardino, was arrested Wednesday morning by authorities during the execution of a search warrant at his residence.

According to a federal criminal complaint filed today, Vidal was arrested after he admitted using various online platforms to send, receive and possess child pornography. Evidence obtained by agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and officers with the Fontana Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force indicates that Vidal used Kik Messenger and Snapchat for the past year to transmit child pornography. (Read Here)

LETTER TO LUZERNE COUNTY BUREAU OF ELECTIONS

Shelby Watchilla, Director of Elections of Luzerne County Bureau of Elections

Dear Ms. Watchilla:

On Monday, September 21, 2020, at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis, the Office of the United States Attorney along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Scranton Resident Agency, began an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.

Since Monday, FBI personnel have conducted numerous interviews and recovered and reviewed certain physical evidence.  While at this point the inquiry remains active, based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues, I will detail the investigators’ initial findings. (Read Here)

U.S. ATTORNEY MIKE STUART ANNOUNCES RESULTS IN FIGHT AGAINST THE OPIOID CRISIS TWO YEARS AFTER THE LAUNCH OF OPERATION S.O.S.

Cabell County Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths Decline by 52%

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced the launch of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S), a program aimed at reducing the supply of synthetic opioids in 10 high impact areas, including the Southern District of West Virginia, and identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.  Under Operation S.O.S., the United States Attorneys in 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country each designated a county where they would focus on prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity.

“The Justice Department’s commitment to fighting the opioids epidemic is stronger than ever, and we are using every tool in our arsenal to disrupt the supply of these drugs on our streets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “Operation SOS has had a significant positive impact on the communities where it is being employed. The Department will continue to build on these successes and work to stop the drug traffickers who so callously wreck lives.” (Read Here

ALBANY COUNTY MAN ARRESTED CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ENTICEMENT OF A MINOR

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Vernon Schermerhorn III, 51, of Coeymans Hollow, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempted enticement of a minor. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, and a maximum of 30 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle P. Rossi, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, in September 2019, the defendant engaged in conversation on a teen chat website with a person he believed to be a 13 year old girl. The person was actually an undercover FBI Special Agent. As the conversation continued, the chat turned sexual in nature. “Brandon2901,” later identified as Schermerhorn, stated, “i am married but would like see u if u wanted and (expletive).” The Agent responded with, “that wud be cool.” While discussing what they would do together, the Agent said, “I don’t wanna get preggo!!” Schermerhorn responded, “its ok if u even did i got plan b pills or abortion i got a friend thats a doc.” The defendant also stated, “i got allot of cop friends to so we are cool.” Schermerhorn also asked the Agent multiple times to send naked photos. (Read Here)

TWO DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY TO CONSPIRACY  TO USE FORGED PASSPORTS AND IDENTIFICATION CARDS IN WIDESPREAD ENGLISH PROFICIENCY EXAM SCHEME BENEFITING CHINESE NATIONALS SEEKING STUDENT VISAS

WASHINGTON – Yixin Ren, 36, of Brooklyn, NY, and Yishan Lin, 35, of Queens, NY, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly to one count of conspiracy to use false, forged, and counterfeited documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, in connection with a scheme where Chinese nationals fraudulently obtained student visas by hiring people with fake Chinese passports to take an English proficiency test in their names.

The United States requires foreign citizens who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis to study at a college or university to first obtain an F-1 student visa. To obtain a student visa, foreign citizens must first apply to study at a school that has been authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll foreign students. In the United States, many SEVP-certified schools require foreign citizens whose first language is not English to certify proficiency in English by achieving a particular score on the TOEFL or other English proficiency examination. (Read Here)

MORE THAN 300 FACING FEDERAL CHARGES FOR CRIMES COMMITTED DURING NATIONWIDE DEMONSTRATIONS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Justice announced today that more than 300 individuals in 29 states and Washington, D.C., have been charged for crimes committed adjacent to or under the guise of peaceful demonstrations since the end of May.

To date, of the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs), more than 40 USAOs have filed federal charges alleging crimes ranging from attempted murder, assaulting a law enforcement officer, arson, burglary of a federally-licensed firearms dealer, damaging federal property, malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives, felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, unlawful possession of a destructive device, inciting a riot, felony civil disorder, and others.  Violent opportunists have exploited these demonstrations in various ways.

Approximately 80 individuals have been charged with offenses relating to arson and explosives.  Approximately 15 individuals have been charged with damaging federal property. In some instances, these individuals are alleged to have set fires to local businesses as well as city and federal property, which will regrettably incur millions of taxpayer dollars to repair damages to the Portland CourthouseNashville CourthouseMinneapolis Police Third PrecinctSeattle Police East Precinct, and local high school in Minnesota; and, to replace police cruisers in South CarolinaWashingtonRhode Island, GeorgiaUtah, and other states. (Read Here)

NEVADA WOMAN INDICTED FOR HIRING HITMAN ON DARKWEB TO KILL HER EX-HUSBAND

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Kristy Lynn Felkins, 36, of Fallon, Nevada, was indicted today for a murder-for-hire plot, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, Felkins sent 12 bitcoin (valued at approximately $5,000 at the time) to a darkweb hitman website to have her ex-husband murdered. From February to May 2016, Felkins regularly communicated with the administrator of the site to pay and arrange for the murder of her ex-husband. When her ex-husband was traveling to Chico, Felkins gave the administrator the specific location of her ex-husband in an attempt to have him murdered. The website turned out to be a scam, and Felkins was not refunded the bitcoin she sent to the site, which is no longer in operation. (Read Here)

U.S. ACCOUNTANT IN PANAMA PAPERS INVESTIGATION SENTENCED TO PRISON

A U.S. accountant was sentenced in the Southern District of New York to 39 months in prison for wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and other charges, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt and Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York.

Richard Gaffey, aka Dick Gaffey, 76, a U.S. citizen and resident of Medfield, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit tax evasion and to defraud the United States; one count of wire fraud; one count of money laundering conspiracy; four counts of willful failure to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, FinCEN Reports 114; and one count of aggravated identity theft.  In addition to 39 months’ imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman ordered Gaffey to serve three years of supervised release, to pay forfeiture in the amount of a sum of $5,373,609 and restitution in the amount of $3,459,315, and to pay a fine in the amount of $ 25,000.

 

LOCAL PHARMACIST SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR UNLAWFUL DISTRIBUTION OF OXYCODONE

Tampa, Florida – United States District Judge Thomas Barber has sentenced Hong Truong (54, Dunedin) to 30 months in federal prison for the unlawful distribution of oxycodone outside the scope of professional practice. Truong was also ordered to pay a $500,000 criminal fine and a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $766,819, representing the proceeds of her illegal drug distribution.

Truong had pleaded guilty on April 24, 2020.

According to the court documents, Truong was a licensed pharmacist who owned and operated HP Pharmacy in Pinellas Park. Under federal regulations, pharmacists registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration, such as Truong, are responsible for the proper prescribing and dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions. At HP Pharmacy, Truong filled Schedule II controlled substance prescriptions for oxycodone and hydromorphone that were outside the usual course of professional practice and not issued for a legitimate medical purpose. In connection with these prescriptions, Truong ignored and failed to resolve red flags in violation of her responsibility as a pharmacist. For example, in return for filling prescriptions for 30 mg of oxycodone and 8 mg of hydromorphone, Truong charged and only accepted cash in a higher-than-market per-pill price, usually $5 – $6 per pill. Truong ordered a much higher volume of opiates for HP Pharmacy inventory than the average orders for other pharmacies in Florida and across the United States. (Read Here)

TWO MEN CHARGED IN SOUTH FLORIDA FEDERAL COURT WITH KIDNAPPING AND TORTURING CUBAN MIGRANTS

Miami, Fl. – Two men have made their initial appearances in the Southern District of Florida on charges that they participated in an alien smuggling ring that involved   kidnapping and torturing Cuban nationals and extorting victims’ family members for money.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI’s Miami Field Office, and Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Miami Field Office, made the announcement. (Read Here)

FORMER POSTAL EMPLOYEE INDICTED FOR DELAY AND DESTRUCTION OF MAIL

HOUSTON – A 24-year-old Richmond resident has surrendered to federal authorities following the return of an indictment alleging she delayed and/or destroyed U.S. mail, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.

A Houston federal grand jury returned the indictment Sept. 15 against Lovely Eliabe which was unsealed today. She is expected to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Christina Bryan at 2 p.m.

Eliabe was allegedly employed as a rural carrier associate at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). (Read Here)

TWO FORMER POSTAL SERVICE EMPLOYEES INDICTED ON FEDERAL CHARGES

SHREVEPORT, La A federal grand jury returned indictments yesterday charging two former United States Postal Service employees, Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced.

Shinice Jordan, 32, of Shreveport, Louisiana, has been charged with one count of theft of mail matter and one count of delay or destruction of mail. According to the indictment, on July 23, 2019, Jordan, who worked as a Letter Carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, stole a Walmart gift card from a letter which had been entrusted to her to deliver. It is further alleged that on that same date, Jordan delayed the opening of the letter which was intended to be delivered by her as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.

Sedarius Howard, 33, of Shreveport, Louisiana, has been charged with one count of delay or destruction of mail. The indictment alleges that on March 16, 2020, while working as a Letter Carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, Howard destroyed or delayed delivery of mail that was his duty as an employee to deliver. (Read Here)

OP END GAME DEFENDANT SENTENCED FOR SEEKING SEX WITH A MINOR ONLINE

MACON –  A defendant arrested during “Operation End Game,” a multi-agency effort targeting and arresting adult perpetrators in the Athens-area seeking sex with children, was sentenced to prison Wednesday, said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced John Wesley Ambrose, 36, from Watkinsville, Georgia to 46 months in prison, to be followed by ten years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to one count of use of facilities in interstate and foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor. Following his prison term, Ambrose will have to register as a sex offender. There is no parole in the federal system.

“We will prosecute those caught seeking to sexually exploit and abuse children to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “We are fortunate in Georgia to have a strong law enforcement network tracking down online predators and bringing them into custody. I want to thank our partner agencies for their work in Operation End Game.” (Read Here)

LAUREL MAN INDICTED BY FEDERAL GRAND JURY IN MARYLAND FOR RECEIPT, TRANSPORTATION, DISTRIBUTION, AND POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Twice Previously Convicted Sex Offender

Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Barry Thomas Goldsborough, age 52, of Laurel, Maryland, with receipt, transportation, distribution, and possession of child pornography.  The indictment was returned on September 21, 2020, and unsealed yesterday at Goldsborough’s initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.  At that hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day ordered that Goldsborough be detained pending trial

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; and Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department. (Read Here)

HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER CHARGED WITH DEFRAUDING EMPLOYER, INCLUDING THROUGH COVID-19 TESTING SCHEME

BOISE – Douglas Wold, 48, of Meridian, was indicted on September 10, 2020, by a federal grand jury sitting in Boise on eleven counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, and one count of money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis.

According to court records, Wold worked as a Human Resources Manager for Fry Foods, Inc. in Ontario, Oregon. The indictment alleges that beginning in at least May 2020 and continuing through August 2020, Wold caused fraudulent payroll checks to be issued. Wold then deposited these fraudulent payroll checks into bank accounts in his control.

According to the indictment, Wold arranged for COVID-19 testing for Fry Foods’ employees at their Weiser, Idaho facilities in May 2020. Wold issued a fraudulent invoice to Fry Foods in the name of his business, Hala Lallo Health, for $39,995 when, in fact, the testing was provided by another entity and at a materially lower cost. When Fry Foods paid Hala Lallo Health for the testing, Wold deposited the funds into a bank account he controlled. (Read Here)

TRIO CHARGED WITH SEX TRAFFICKING OF A MINOR

Three defendants made initial appearances in federal court Tuesday after being charged with the sex trafficking of children, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.

Dominique Laron Morgan, 25, of Tulsa; Rontaysha Leann Cox, 26, of Wichita, Kansas; and Treveon Marquise Cato, 22, of Tulsa, were charged in an August indictment, which was unsealed yesterday after their initial appearances.

The trio allegedly recruited, enticed, harbored, and advertised a minor to participate in sexual activity, profiting from her exploitation. Advertisements for the teenager were discovered on a website promoting prostitution and soliciting sex acts in exchange for money. (Read Here)

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE BEGINS SECOND DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS RECOVERED THROUGH ASSET FORFEITURE TO COMPENSATE VICTIMS OF WESTERN UNION FRAUD SCHEME, BRINGING TOTAL TO OVER $300 MILLION

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced today that the Western Union Remission Fund began its second distribution of approximately $148 million in funds forfeited to the U.S. government from the Western Union Company (Western Union) to approximately 33,000 victims located in the United States and abroad.  These victims, many of whom were elderly victims of consumer fraud and abuse, will be recovering the full amount of their losses.

This is the second in a series of payment distributions to occur in the Western Union remission.  The first distribution paid approximately $153 million to over 109,000 victims in March of this year.  The Department of Justice anticipates authorizing compensation for many more victims in the coming months.  The department is accepting petitions on an ongoing basis and will be providing potential victims who have not applied for remission the opportunity to apply. (Read Here)

WEST VIRGINIA MAN INDICTED ON CHILD EXPLOITATION CHARGES

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A federal grand jury today indicted a West Virginia man on multiple charges of child exploitation announced, U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer.

A four-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges ANDREW DAVIS, 37, with traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor as well as child pornography and obscene material charges.  Davis is charged with one-count of travelling from West Virginia to Madison County, Alabama with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and one-count of production of child pornography between November 2019 and January 2020.  Davis is also charged with one-count of possessing child pornography in January 2020, and one-count of transferring obscene material to a minor between December 2019 and January 2020.

Each count of production of child pornography and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. (Read Here)

VIOLENT DRUG TRAFFICKER SENTENCED TO 11 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON

Yakima Man Sentenced in Federal Court

Spokane – William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Jesus Valencia-Morfin, age 31, of Yakima, Washington, was sentenced today after having pleaded guilty on February 19, 2020, to Possession with Intent to Distribute 500 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. Senior District Court Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen sentenced Valencia-Morfin to an 11-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a 5-year term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Valencia-Morfin was identified through a long-term joint investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (“ATF”) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) into drug and firearms trafficking in the Grant County, Washington, and surrounding areas. Through the investigation, which included a court-authorized wire-tap, Valencia-Morfin was identified as a drug trafficker who primarily worked as a transporter of multiple kilogram-quantities of methamphetamine to various customers throughout Eastern Washington. (Read Here)

SAN MARINO MAN ACCUSED OF TRUCK ATTACK ON PASADENA PROTESTERS ARRESTED ON CHARGE OF ILLEGALLY OBTAINING AND TRANSPORTING FIREARMS

 LOS ANGELES – A San Gabriel Valley man who allegedly drove his truck into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators on May 31 in Pasadena was arrested today on a federal criminal complaint charging him with conspiring to violate firearms laws.

Benjamin Jong Ren Hung, 28, of San Marino, is charged with one count of conspiracy to transport firearms across state lines and to make a false statement in acquisition of firearms.

At his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court, Hung was ordered detained pending a Monday hearing to determine his bail status. Hung’s arraignment is scheduled for October 15. (Read Here)

FORMER CEO SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLING $7.9 MILLION INTENDED FOR INJURED CHILDREN

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Round Hill man was sentenced today to 70 months in prison for his scheme to embezzle $7,957,750 from the United States government and a private hospital that was intended to settle claims by victims of medical malpractice, many of whom were children.

According to court documents, Joseph E. Gargan, 60, was the Chief Executive Officer of the Pension Company, Inc., an Arlington business that would execute settlement agreements entered into between civil litigants. Specifically, the Pension Company was hired to transfer money from civil defendants to plaintiffs and to purchase annuities on behalf of minor plaintiffs.

The United States government entered into settlement agreements with plaintiffs in six separate matters. Many of these cases involved children who either claimed to be injured as a result of medical malpractice or who suffered the loss of a parent through alleged medical negligence that occurred at a hospital or clinic operated or insured by the federal government. The settlement agreements required the United States to pay the plaintiff a sum of money and to purchase an annuity on behalf of the injured child. From December 2015 to August 2019, the United States transferred a total of $15,925,000 to the Pension Company to purchase the annuities and execute the six settlement agreements. Gargan embezzled $6,925,000 of this money. (Read Here)

CORFU WOMAN EMPLOYED AS MAIL CARRIER CHARGED WITH ACTING AS A MONEY MULE FOR INTERNET SCAMMERS, SENDING THOUSAND OF DOLLARS TO AFRICA

BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Julie Keller, 55, of Corfu, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with mail fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan P. Cantil, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, between 2014 and August 2020, the defendant engaged as a money mule for various internet based scams, accepting and re-directing thousands of dollars to Africa. During that time, she had accounts closed by at least five different national and local banks due to suspicious cash, check, money order, and wire activity. (Read Here)

PLANO MAN CONVICTED OF ENTICING A 12-YEAR OLD GIRL

A Plano man has been convicted at trial of attempting to entice a 12-year-old girl at Sheppard Air Force Base, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.

Following a day-long trial, a federal jury in Wichita Falls found Tzu Fan Chen, 54, guilty of one count of attempted enticement of a child.  The jury deliberated for just six minutes to reach its verdict.

According to evidence presented at trial, on June 16, 2020, an Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent acting in an undercover capacity placed an online advertisement on a popular social media website entitled, “Daughter & I seeking new friends.” (Read Here)

PREVIOUS SEX OFFENDER SENT TO PRISON AGAIN AFTER RECORDING MINOR DURING ORAL SEX

HOUSTON – A 45-year-old Southwest Houston man has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of sexual exploitation of a child otherwise known as production of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick

Reginald Desean Love aka Tru pleaded guilty Jan. 28, admitting he had recorded a video of a minor female performing oral sex on him.

Today, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake ordered Love to serve 300 months in federal prison. In handing down the sentence, the court referred to his history of violence against women as reflected in his criminal record. Following his prison sentence, Love will serve the rest of his life on supervised release during which time the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit the use of the internet. He is expected again to register as a sex offender. (Read Here)

TWO CHARGED WITH ARSON DURING CIVIL UNREST IN MADISON

MADISON, WIS. – United States Attorney Scott C. Blader announced today that two individuals have been charged with attempting to damage and destroy by means of fire two commercial buildings during the civil unrest that occurred in Madison, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020.  Anessa Fierro, 27, and Willie Johnson, 45, both of Madison, are charged in two-count complaints filed in U.S. District Court this week.

The complaints allege that Fierro and Johnson broke glass windows and doors in two commercial buildings, poured liquid from a gasoline container into the buildings, and attempted to ignite the fluid.  The complaint alleges that Fierro and Johnson successfully started a fire at one building and were attempting to ignite the liquid poured into the second building when Madison police officers arrived on scene.  According to the complaint, the second building contained residential apartments, some of which were occupied at the time of the attempted arson.  Fierro and Johnson were identified through video surveillance recovered as part of the investigation. (Read Here)

GILEAD AGREES TO PAY $97 MILLION TO RESOLVE ALLEGATIONS THAT IT PAID KICKBACKS THROUGH A CO-PAY FOUNDATION

To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has collected over $1 billion in settlements stemming from co-pay foundation kickback schemes

BOSTON – Pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Gilead), based in Foster City, Calif., has agreed to pay $97 million to resolve claims that it violated the False Claims Act by illegally using a foundation, Caring Voice Coalition (CVC), as a conduit to pay the Medicare co-pays for its own drug, Letairis.

When a Medicare beneficiary obtains a prescription drug covered by Medicare Part D, the beneficiary may be required to make a partial payment, which may take the form of a co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible (collectively, co-pays). Congress included co-pay requirements in these programs, in part, to encourage market forces to serve as a check on health care costs, including the prices that pharmaceutical manufacturers can demand for their drugs. The Anti-Kickback Statute prohibits pharmaceutical companies from offering or paying, directly or indirectly, any remuneration – which includes money or any other thing of value – to induce Medicare patients to purchase the companies’ drugs. (Read Here)

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