Thursday Justice Files

Thursday Justice Files

NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA COUNTIES AND CITIES RECEIVE MORE THAN $7 MILLION IN JUSTICE GRANTS TO ADDRESS COVID-19 PANDEMIC

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson today announced that counties and cities throughout the Northern District of California have been allocated a total or more than $7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Justice to respond to the public safety challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Justice awarded the grants through the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, which was authorized by recent federal stimulus legislation.

“First responders continue to work hard to keep the public safe at this time,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “They deserve not just our admiration and appreciation, but also our support. We are pleased to announce this funding to assist law enforcement and public safety efforts throughout our district.” (read here)

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HEAD OF CHICAGO NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION CHARGED WITH FRAUDULENTLY POCKETING STATE GRANTS INTENDED FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS

CHICAGO — The head of a Chicago not-for-profit organization fraudulently converted or misappropriated at least $200,000 in State of Illinois grants intended to develop suburban commercial properties and fund a job training program, according to a 15-count federal indictment.

YESSE YEHUDAH operated the not-for-profit organization Fulfilling Our Responsibilities Unto Mankind, also known as FORUM.  From 2013 to 2016, Yehudah, on behalf of FORUM, applied for and received three grants totaling approximately $575,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.  Two of the grants were intended to develop commercial properties in south suburban Dolton, while the third was meant for FORUM to operate a weatherization jobs training program.  The indictment alleges that Yehudah fraudulently converted substantial quantities of the grant funds by making materially false statements and submitting false documents to the DCEO.  The indictment describes several of the alleged false statements, including when Yehudah represented to the DCEO that FORUM had spent almost all of a $100,000 grant on construction work, when, in fact, no actual construction work had begun. (read here)

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FEDERAL PROSECUTORS HEIGHTEN EFFORTS TO COMBAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN HOUSING DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The Department of Justice and federal prosecutors remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting landlords and property managers who sexually harass tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic, warned U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. Anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing should report that conduct to the Department of Justice.

As the pandemic continues to impact the ability of many people to pay rent on time, it has also increased worries over housing insecurity. The Department of Justice is investigating reports of housing providers responding to requests to defer rent payments with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct.

“Sadly, the COVID-19 public health crisis has financially impacted many of our friends and neighbors here in northeastern Oklahoma,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “While so many good Samaritans and landlords in our community have risen to the occasion to support those experiencing financial hardship, others have abused their authority by sexually harassing tenants. That is unacceptable. Rest assured that this U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold bad actors accountable for violating the Fair Housing laws. Victims should contact (844) 380-6178 or email fairhousing@usdoj.gov to report these crimes.” (read here)

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MEXICAN NATIONAL PLEADS GUILTY TO BEING AN ALIEN UNLAWFULLY IN THE UNITED STATES IN POSSESSION OF A FIREARM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ismael Huazo-Jardinez, 34, a Mexican citizen previously residing in Yuba City, pleaded guilty today to a charge of possessing a firearm while being an alien unlawfully in the United States, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, Huazo-Jardinez is suspected of having been the driver in a fatal car accident in Sutter County that killed three people — the parents and one child of a family of four — when the vehicle crashed into their mobile home as they slept on May 4, 2019. Huazo‑Jardinez was arrested at the scene of the accident. Authorities impounded the vehicle, a Chevrolet Avalanche registered to Huazo-Jardinez, and later recovered a handgun from the vehicle’s center console. A database query revealed that the handgun had been reported stolen in Boise, Idaho. (read here)

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PRIOR SEX OFFENDER CHARGED WITH RECEIPT AND POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Jerry Stearns, 48, of Canandaigua, NY, with receipt and possession of child pornography. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, and a maximum penalty of 40 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who handled the case, stated that according to the indictment and a previously filed complaint, the defendant was convicted in May 2004 on state charges of Attempted Criminal Sexual Act 1st Degree, for sexually assaulting a three year-old child and a six year-old child. In May 2005, Stearns was also convicted in Federal Court of possessing child pornography, and sentenced to serve 120 months in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. A special condition of that supervised release required the defendant to provide advanced notification and obtain authorization to use any internet accessible device, as well as submit to monitoring of any such authorized device. (Read here)

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SOUTH FLORIDA U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, FBI, AND HSI OFFER TIPS ON PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM ON-LINE PREDATORS DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Miami, Fl. – Top federal law enforcement officials in South Florida urge parents to stay alert to the increased danger their children face from on-line predators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A parent is a child’s best defense against on-line sex predators,” said Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Now that our children are home and spending more time on the internet due to the health crisis, I encourage parents to engage in open and frank discussions with their children on who, and what, to avoid on-line.”

“With children spending more time on the internet, it is especially important that they do so safely,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami.  “Criminals and predators will try to develop a relationship with a young online victim, then arrange a meet to abuse the child or coerce a child into producing sexually explicit images through manipulations, gifts or threats, a crime called sextortion.  Parents and guardians should set guidelines and monitor their children’s internet use and, of course, immediately report any inappropriate contact between an adult and your child to law enforcement.” (Read here)

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FLORIDA WOMAN SENTENCED FOR ATTEMPTED TRANSPORTATION OF ILLEGAL ALIENS

GREAT FALLS— A Florida woman who admitted driving to Montana last year to try to pick up three illegal aliens from Mexico for transportation back to Florida was sentenced today to three years of probation, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Lucia Marlene Mendez, 34, of Tampa, Fla., pleaded guilty in January to attempted transportation of an illegal alien.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

The prosecution said in court records that at about 4:15 a.m. on Sept. 8, 2019, a Border Patrol agent saw a suspicious black 2018 Dodge Caravan, with a Florida license plate registered to a vehicle rental company, driving in Sweetgrass, about a block from where three illegal aliens from Mexico had been apprehended. (Read here)

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U.S. POSTAL SERVICE CARRIER CHARGED WITH STEALING VETERANS ADMINISTRATION-ISSUED PRESCRIPTIONS FROM MAIL

TRENTON, N.J. – A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) carrier will make his initial appearance today on charges that he stole from the mail prescription drugs issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Christopher F. Donohue, 60, of Leonardo, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with theft of mail containing prescription drugs. Donohue is expected to make his initial appearance by video conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zahid N. Quraishi in Trenton.

According to the complaint and statements made in court:

Donohue was employed as a mail carrier at the USPS Post Office in Belford, New Jersey.  On March 2, 2020, Donohue stole an envelope containing prescription medication that was destined for delivery to a military veteran. This theft was consistent with a series of other mail packages containing prescription medication issued by the VA, which had gone missing from the Belford Post Office without reaching their intended recipients. On May 6, 2020, Donohue attempted to steal another package from the Belford Post Office, which law enforcement had outfitted with a prescription bottle and inert pills as part of the investigation. Donohue was arrested and law enforcement recovered the pill bottle and envelope from him incidental to his arrest. (Read here)

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SPRINGFIELD MAN CHARGED WITH PRODUCING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, SEXUALLY ABUSING THREE TEENS

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield, Missouri, man has been charged in federal court with sexually assaulting three teenagers and recording the abuse on his cell phone.

William Shane Berg, 47, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield on Wednesday, May 6, with one count of producing child pornography.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, law enforcement officers confronted Berg on April 12 regarding allegations that he had been sexually assaulting three teenagers – ages 15, 17, and 19 – for several years. One of the child victims also told investigators that Berg gave him marijuana and acid to facilitate the sexual abuse.

Investigators found images of the sexual abuse on Berg’s cell phone and laptop computer, the affidavit says. (Read here)

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NEW YORK CITY MAN ARRESTED ON FRAUD CHARGES FOR SELLING STOLEN COVID-19 TESTING SERVICES THROUGH HIS WEBSITE, YOUHEALTH, INC., WITHOUT SENDING PROMISED TEST RESULTS

PITTSBURGH – A New York resident was arrested and criminally charged for his role in allegedly advertising and selling stolen COVID-19 testing services for $135 to $200, falsely claiming that he was connected to labs that would test the kits, shipping test kits without any prior medical screening, and providing no results to consumers, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today. Additionally, the United States Secret Service, Pittsburgh Field Office Cyber Fraud Task Force, successfully shut down the websites that advertised and sold these stolen test kits. The Department of Justice, under Attorney General William Barr’s recent direction, prioritizes such detection, investigation, disruption and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Henry Sylvain Gindt II, 34, of Queens (New York), New York, has been charged by criminal complaint with committing mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

“Let this be a message to anyone who wants to scam our fellow citizens during this pandemic: the Department of Justice will take swift action to disrupt your scheme and then we will arrest you,” said U.S. Attorney Brady. “This is why we created our Western Pennsylvania COVID-19 Fraud Task Force. Gindt tried to profit from the pandemic by selling stolen test kits and services without ever delivering the promised results. Instead, we shut him down and now he is facing prison time.” (Read here)

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FAYETTEVILLE MAN SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON ON CHILD PORNOGRAPHY OFFENSES

Fayetteville, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Brion Carey, age 35, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, was sentenced on May 6, 2020, to 180 months in federal prison without the possibly of parole followed by twenty years of supervised release on two Counts of Transportation of Child Pornography and one Count of Access the Internet with the Intent to View Child Pornography. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks, United States District Judge, presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.

According to court records, in November of 2018, Homeland Security Investigations received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an individual in Northwest Arkansas, later identified as Carey, uploaded numerous images of child pornography to a Google based email account. Further investigation revealed a second instance that the same Google email account was utilized to send an email containing child pornography. Carey was arrested in January of 2019. He was later indicted on three child pornography related charges. In December of 2019, a jury found Carey guilty of all charges. (Read here)

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TEXAS MAN ADMITS ROLE IN NEARLY $5 MILLION HEALTH CARE FRAUD SCHEME

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 57-year-old Houston man has entered a guilty plea in Corpus Christi federal court for conspiring to commit health care fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.

Ravinder Syal admitted he engaged in a scheme that resulted in the false billing of $4,878,530.92 for services never provided to patients. From Feb. 1, 2018, until March 1, 2020, he acquired physicians’ practices throughout Texas and assumed control of their billing department. He then brought in a company located in India to bill false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and various insurance providers.

Syal would submit false claims for services that were never performed, for nutritional servicers that were never provided and even for office visits that occurred over holidays when the clinics were actually closed. He would also bill for services that could not even be performed at the clinics he acquired due to lack of equipment. (Read here)

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SALTVILLE MAN WHO LIED ABOUT HIS OWN DEATH PLEADS GUILTY TO SERIES OF FEDERAL CHARGES 

ABINGDON, Va. – A Saltville, Va., man, who lied about his own death in order to hide assets from the federal bankruptcy court and later fraudulently assumed the identity of an attorney from Florida to further the scheme, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to a series of crimes, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

“In an effort to game the bankruptcy system, Mr. Geyer devised a made-for-TV plot that ultimately collapsed under its own weight,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today.  “The audacity of his fraud scheme not only shocks the conscience, but it offends the integrity of our judicial system.”

“Despite its complexity and shameless use of deceit, including against his own wife, Mr. Geyer’s scheme failed to account for the FBI’s and the US Attorney’s office’s commitment to protect both fraud victims and our judicial system.” Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division David W. Archey said today. “Yesterday’s guilty plea is a just and fitting end to Mr. Geyer’s audacious plan.  We are grateful for the USAO’s efforts and assistance in this case.” (Read here)

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DOJ SETTLES FALSE CLAIMS ACT ALLEGATIONS WITH SEATTLE PHYSICIAN, HIS PAIN CLINICS, AND HIS DRUG-TESTING LAB

Agrees to pay $2.85 million to settle allegations his clinics ordered medically unnecessary urine tests at his lab, paid for by government healthcare programs

Seattle – The U.S. Department of Justice and the Washington State Attorney General today settled a False Claims Act investigation involving Seattle Pain Center, Northwest Analytics, and owner/physician Dr. Frank Danger Li, announced First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Dr. Li agreed to pay $2.85 million to state and federal authorities to settle allegations his companies billed government entities for medically unnecessary urine drug tests.  Dr. Li’s seven pain clinics closed in July 2016 when the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission suspended his medical license for improperly monitoring prescriptions of powerful opioids.  Today’s settlement is a civil resolution unrelated to any criminal investigation or any action by state health regulators.

“Prescribing massive quantities of addictive opioids fed a crisis that continues to grip our community,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gorman.  “This billing for unnecessary urine tests is a way Dr. Li and his clinics profited on the pain of others.  It is appropriate that we return these dollars to the government entities that were defrauded.”

“Our investigation helped stop Dr. Li and the providers he supervised from continuing to prescribe dangerous and excessive amounts of opioids,” Ferguson said.  “Now we’re reclaiming more than one million Medicaid dollars for the unnecessary drug tests he ordered for his opioid prescription practice. These recouped dollars will cover medical costs for vulnerable Washingtonians, as it was intended.” (Read here)

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