Friday, September 25, 2020

Two Knoxville Residents Charged In Federal Complaint With Conspiracy To Distribute Fentanyl, Heroin, And Methamphetamine

 Knoxville, Tenn. – On September 24, 2020, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a federal complaint charging two individuals, Michael Allen Hill, 45, and Heavyn Breanne Thomas, 23, both from Knoxville, TN, with conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, one kilogram or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance. A trial date has not been set.

If convicted of this drug trafficking conspiracy, the defendants face mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment of 10 years and up to life, at least five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $10,000,000, any applicable forfeiture, and a $100 special assessment.

The investigation was conducted by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit and the Organized Retail Crime Unit, HIDTA’s Drug Related Death Task Force, and the Knox County Regional Forensics Center. On September 23, 2020, during the execution of a search warrant, officers, assisted by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, seized approximately 972 grams of a brown powdery substance of suspected heroin, 603 grams of a white powdery block-like substance suspected to be a heroin-fentanyl mixture, 865 grams of suspected crystal methamphetamine, multiple firearms, drug paraphernalia, and $51,950 in U.S. currency. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent N. Jones will represent the United States.

Today, the United States continues to face an unprecedented drug epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 67,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2018. Many of these deaths are attributed to the increased abuse of potent and dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl. These charges are the result of investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) under the Attorney General-led Synthetic Opioid Surge (SOS)/Special Operations Division (SOD) Project Clean Sweep. This initiative seeks to reduce the supply of synthetic opioids in "hot spot" areas previously identified by the Attorney General of the United States, thereby reducing drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths, and identify wholesale distribution networks and sources of supply operating nationally and internationally.

Members of the public are reminded that the complaint in this case only constitutes a charge against these two individuals and that every person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Okmulgee Man Pleads Guilty To Carrying A Firearm During And In Relation To A Crime Of Violence

 MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced that Jatavier Bradford, age 17, of Okmulgee, Oklahoma entered a guilty plea to Carrying A Firearm During And In Relation To A Crime Of Violence, punishable by not less than 5 years imprisonment, a fine up to $250,000.00, or both. Bradford, who will be 18 next month, entered a plea of guilty after being transferred to adult status in court.   

The Information alleged that on or about July 7, 2020, in the Eastern District of Oklahoma within the territorial boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, the defendant, JATAVIER BRADFORD did carry a firearm, that is, a Taurus Model PT111, 9mm S/N TCY95849, during and in relation to a crime of violence for which he may be prosecuted in a court of the United States, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i).

The charges arose from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Honorable Steven P. Shreder, U.S. Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Muskogee, accepted the plea and ordered the completion of a presentence investigation report.   

Special Assistant United States Attorney David Youll represented the United States at the plea hearing.

Man from Red Valley, Arizona pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in DWI collision

            ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Maroquez Clah, 28, of Red Valley, Arizona, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty September 21 to an indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter.

           Clah was arrested on Feb. 14 on an indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter. During his plea hearing, Clah pleaded guilty to an indictment charging that he killed a victim, referenced in the indictment as John Doe, by driving carelessly, in willful disregard for the safety of others and likely to endanger a person or property, and under the influence of alcohol.  He faces up to eight years in federal prison, followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court.

           Clah remains on release pending sentencing. The court has not yet set a date for the sentencing hearing.

           The FBI and the Navajo Division of Public Safety investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Novaline D. Wilson is prosecuting the case.

Pittsburgh Man Sentenced for Robbing Bank with a BB Gun

 PITTSBURGH, PA – A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to time served in prison, five years supervised release, and 180 days of home detention with electronic monitoring on his conviction of armed bank robbery, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge Marilyn J. Horan imposed the sentence on Lamar Sewell, age 39.

According to information presented to the Court, Sewell robbed the Key Bank, located at 217 N. Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, with what appeared to be a black semi-automatic handgun but was later identified as a BB gun. A total of $1,198.00 was taken from the bank during this bank robbery. The Court was further informed that the money given to Sewell contained a GPS tracking device, which enabled law enforcement to ultimately locate Sewell.

After fleeing from the bank, Sewell was located driving a Honda Civic. Officers in a marked vehicle, activated their lights and sirens but Sewell refused to pull over. Eventually, he reached a dead end street. Sewell exited the vehicle and led law enforcement on a foot chase through Frick Park. Officers observed the mask, wig and BB gun inside of the vehicle.

Sewell was apprehended and taken into police custody. Once in custody, Sewell admitted to robbing the bank and apologized for scaring the victim tellers at the bank and the law enforcement officers and agents who chased him through Frick Park. Sewell explained that voices told him to rob the bank. Post-arrest, the Court was informed that Sewell was diagnosed with schizophrenia approximately 10 years ago and has had mental health issues since he was a teenager, including several commitments.

Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Horan explained that under ordinary circumstances, a substantial term of imprisonment would be warranted. The Court found Sewell’s case to be an exception, based primarily on his mental health status at the time of the offense and pre-sentence rehabilitation. The Court noted that Sewell’s current mental health treatment regimen, which includes a team of mental health professionals and counseling, coupled with his family’s support, has been effective over the last 18 months and is most likely to result in Sewell’s continued stability.

Assistant United States Attorney Rebecca L. Silinski prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Sewell.

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.

Judge Winmill also ordered Harvey to pay $6,000 in restitution to victims in the images he possessed. As a result of his conviction, Harvey will be required to register as a sex offender.

This case was investigated by the Idaho ICAC Task Force with assistance from United States Postal Inspection Service, Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office, Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, Caldwell Police Department, and Parma Police Department.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. As part of Project Safe Childhood, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office partner to marshal federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.

For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

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Iowa Man Sentenced to Over Six Years in Federal Prison for Receiving Child Pornography

 Received Over 1,000 Images and Videos of Child Pornography, Some Containing Depictions of Prepubescent Girls Involved in Sex Acts with Adults and Animals

A man who received child pornography was sentenced today to over six years in federal prison.

Shawn Kuhse, age 37, of Wadena, Iowa, received the sentence after a March 13, 2020 guilty plea to one count of receipt of child pornography.  In a plea agreement, Kuhse admitted that between October 2018 and April 2019 he received child pornography.  Kuhse admitted he used a messaging app on his phone to receive child pornography from other users of the app.

Information disclosed at sentencing showed that Kuhse received over 700 images and 300 videos containing child pornography.  The child pornography contained images of prepubescent girls involved in sex acts with adult men, adult women, and animals.  Kuhse’s sentence was increased because the child pornography he received depicted sadistic, masochistic, or violent conduct.

Kuhse was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Kuhse was sentenced to 78 months’ imprisonment.  Kuhse must also serve a five-year term of supervised release, and he must comply with all sex offender registration and public notification requirements.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Morfitt and was investigated by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.  For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.

Muskogee Man Pleads Guilty To Child Neglect In Indian Country

 MUSKOGEE, OKLAHOMA – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma announced that Brandon Edward Bridges, age 24, of Muskogee, Oklahoma entered a guilty plea to Child Neglect In Indian Country, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1151, 1153 and Title 21, Oklahoma Statutes, Section 843.5(C), punishable by not more than life imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000.00, or both.

The Indictment alleged that on or about December 7, 2019, in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Indian Country, the defendant, Brandon Edward Bridges, an Indian, did willfully and maliciously fail and omit to provide JS1, JS2, JS3, AS, BB1, and BB2, adequate food, clothing, shelter, sanitation and hygiene and appropriate care and supervision and failed to protect JS1, JS2, JS3, AS, BB1, and BB2 from exposure to the use and possession of illegal drugs and illegal activities all while BRANDON EDWARD BRIDGES was responsible for the health, safety and welfare of JS1, JS2, JS3, AS, BB1, and BB2, children under the age of eighteen.

The charges arose from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Honorable Steven P. Shreder, U.S. Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Muskogee, accepted the plea and ordered the completion of a presentence investigation report.   

Assistant United States Attorney Jarrod Leaman represented the United States at the plea hearing. 

Philadelphia man admits to firearms trafficking

 MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Marcellos Carey Edens, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has admitted to an illegal firearms distribution operation, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Edens, also known as “Camo,” 35, pled guilty to one count of “Conspiracy” involving the illegal purchase and transfer of firearms from Berkeley County to Pennsylvania in December 2019. Edens admitted to having others purchase firearms in Berkeley County, West Virginia, and then transport the firearms across state lines to him in Philadelphia.

Edens faces up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The government is also seeking the forfeiture of several firearms and ammunition connected to this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Omps-Botteicher is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, investigated.

These charges are the result of investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.

Martinsburg man admits to firearms trafficking

 MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Justin Arthur Davis, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, has admitted to his part in an illegal firearms distribution operation, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Davis, 37, pled guilty to one count of “Conspiracy” involving the illegal purchase and transfer of firearms from Berkeley County to Pennsylvania in December 2019. Davis admitted to having conspiring to purchase firearms in Berkeley County, West Virginia, and then having those firearms transported the firearms across state lines to Philadelphia.

Davis faces up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The government is also seeking the forfeiture of several firearms and ammunition connected to this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Omps-Botteicher is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives and the Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, investigated.

These charges are the result of investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.

Judge sentences felon to 60 months for possession of a firearm

 ST. LOUIS, MO – United States District Court Judge Henry E. Autrey held a joint plea and sentencing hearing today for Damond Jackson. The 22-year-old defendant, a resident of St. Louis, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 60 months.

According to the plea agreement, on February 3, 2019, officers from the St. Louis County Police Department responded to a vehicular crash at the Exit Ramp of 6299 off Interstate 255. Officers discovered a 1998 Ford Escort that went off the road and into the grass embankment. The driver of the car, defendant Jackson, told officers on scene that his brakes went out and caused him to go off the road. Jackson also told officers he was the only one in the car.  Inside of the vehicle, officers located a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol, with an extended magazine containing approximately 30 rounds of ammunition. While conducting a pat-down of Jackson, officers found an empty, black, mesh firearm holster.  The investigation revealed that the firearm was stolen. Defendant Jackson is a prior convicted felon.  According to the plea, Jackson admits knowing possession of the firearm.          

The St. Louis County Police Department investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Ed Dowd prosecuted the case for the United States Attorney’s Office.

Rochester Man Pleads Guilty To Selling Fentanyl And Crack Cocaine

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Brandon Blackshear, 37, of Rochester, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, acetyl fentanyl, fentanyl, and crack cocaine. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua A. Violanti, who is handling the case, stated that on January 2, 2019, members of the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force made a controlled purchase of crack cocaine from the defendant and co-defendant Tracy Griffin.  Then, on January 22, 2019, members of the task force made a controlled purchase of crack cocaine and heroin from the defendant Blackshear and Griffin.

Tracy Griffin was previously convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under the direction of Jason Thompson, Associate Director of the Office of Justice Services; the Southern Regional Drug Task Force, under the direction of the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb; and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 29, 2020, at 12:30 p.m. before Judge Arcara.

Operation Shutdown Corner Update: Ohio Man Sentenced for Federal Drug Crime

 BECKLEY, W.Va. – An Ohio man was sentenced for his participation in an extensive drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating between California, Ohio, Michigan, and the Southern District of West Virginia, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.   Jason Johnson, 31, of Columbus, was sentenced to 78 months in prison, to be followed by a three year term of supervised release, for conspiring to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.  Johnson was one of 17 defendants charged as a result of a long-term investigation, known as “Operation Shutdown Corner.”

“Through operations like Shutdown Corner, we can curtail meth trafficking in our communities,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “Johnson is one of 17 defendants charged as a result of this investigation which brought an end to a DTO responsible for distributing significant amounts of illicit drugs in our southern counties.”  

Johnson previously admitted that between June 2018 and September 17, 2019, he participated in the DTO by supplying Stephanie McClung, a co-defendant in this matter, and others with distribution amounts of methamphetamine and heroin.  During this time period, Johnson admitted to selling more than 50 grams of a substance containing methamphetamine to McClung knowing it was her plan and purpose to re-distribute those drugs in and around Raleigh County and the Southern  District of West Virginia.  Johnson admitted to meeting with McClung several times a week to supply her with drugs. 

Stuart commended the cooperative investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, the Beckley Police Department, and the West Virginia State Police. 

Assistant United States Attorney Timothy D. Boggess handled the prosecution.  United States District Judge Frank W. Volk imposed the sentence.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:19-cr-00237.

Ellisburg Man Sentenced on Federal Child Pornography Charges

 SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Anildar Valdimir Roblero-Gomez, age 26, a citizen of Mexico who had been living in Ellisburg, New York, was sentenced today to serve 96 months in prison for uploading to Facebook a video depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon, New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett, and Kevin Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Chief United States District Court Judge Glenn T. Suddaby also ordered Roblero-Gomez to serve a 15-year term of supervised release, which will begin after he is released from prison.  As a result of his conviction, Roblero-Gomez will be required to register as a sex offender following his prison sentence. He may also face immigration consequences as the result of his conviction and sentence.[1]    

In his previous plea of guilty, Roblero-Gomez admitted that in September 2018, he used a cellular telephone to upload a video depicting child pornography to the Facebook social media platform, sharing the video with over 100 other Facebook users. 

This case was investigated by the New York State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sahar L. Amandolare.

This case is prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.

 

[1] Deportation, removal, and other matters related to the defendant’s legal status in the United States are civil matters adjudicated in separate proceedings in Immigration Court.

Former Pittsburgh Man Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Attempted Coercion of a Minor for Sex

 PITTSBURGH - A former resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 180 months’ imprisonment followed by 10 years’ supervised release on his conviction of Attempted Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Illegal Sexual Activity, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon imposed the sentence on Joseph Hamilton, age 39.

According to information presented to the court, from March 11, 2019 until on or about April 18, 2019, Hamilton communicated online and via text messaging with an undercover FBI agent, believing the agent to be a minor, to knowingly attempt to persuade, induce, entice and coerce the purported minor to engage in sexual activity with him. Law enforcement arrested Hamilton on April 18, 2019, when Hamilton attempted to meet the purported minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

Assistant United States Attorney Heidi M. Grogan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Hamilton.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals, who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Wichita Man Sentenced to 10 Years For Two Armed Robberies

 WICHITA, KAN. – A Wichita man was sentenced today to 10 years in federal prison for committing two armed robberies at local hotels, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.

Darrell E. Black, 27, Wichita, Kan., pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial robbery. In his plea, he admitted that on May 27, 2017, he robbed the Extended Stay America at 9450 E. Corporate Hills, and on May 29, 2017, he robbed the Days Inn and Suites at 7321 E. Kellogg, both in Wichita.

In both robberies, he held a clerk at gunpoint while demanding money from the hotel cash drawer.

McAllister commended the Wichita Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch for their work on the case.

Cass County Woman Sentenced for Federal Drug Trafficking Violations

 MARSHALL, Texas – A 34-year-old Avinger, Texas, woman has been sentenced for federal drug trafficking crimes in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox today.

Ashley Christine McDaniel pleaded guilty on June 16, 2020, to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison today by U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap.

According to information presented in court, on March 28, 2018, McDaniel delivered approximately 26 grams of methamphetamine during a controlled purchase in Morris County, Texas, for $500 cash.  In all, McDaniel delivered a total of approximately 59 grams of methamphetamine for which she received $1,170.  McDaniel was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 16, 2019 and charged with federal drug trafficking crimes.

This case was investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.

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.

“The targeted trafficking and exploitation of minors is despicable. I am dismayed that our community continues to see child sex trafficking ventures in operation, and I am sickened that there is a customer-base for such a venture to even exist. We must target the supply and demand,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “My office will do everything we can to protect our children from harm and exploitation. We will do so in partnership with agencies like the Tulsa Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations, who are indispensable in these types of investigations.”

Two of the defendants face additional charges. Morgan is further charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity.  Cox is also charged with coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity and possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

The Tulsa Police Department Vice-Human Trafficking Unit, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are the investigative agencies. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Snow is prosecuting the case.

Ponchatoula Man Pleads Guilty To Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material

 NEW ORLEANS –  U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that JASON BOYET, age 42, a resident of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Sarah Vance to a one-count Bill of Information charging him with distribution of images depicting the sexual exploitation of children, including children as young as three (3) years old, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 2252(a)(2).

According to court documents, in about February 2020, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation operating in an undercover capacity (Agent 1) in the State of Texas accessed a chat room within an instant messaging mobile application known to be a haven for purveyors of digital files depicting the sexual victimization of children.  Agent 1 was introduced to an individual, subsequently determined to be BOYET, who distributed to him sexually suggestive and sexually explicit photographs of minors, including a prepubescent female (Victim 1), over whom BOYET claimed to have custody and control. 

On February 12, 2020, special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a federal search warrant at BOYET’s residence.  Based on a voluntarily interview with BOYET and a review of digital evidence seized during the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement authorities confirmed that BOYET took sexually explicit images of Victim 1 at his residence using his Apple iPhone XR on at least three dates between December 19, 2019, and February 11, 2020, some of which he distributed to third parties as described above.  Agents also confirmed that BOYET accessed a link to an online file storage account containing numerous videos depicting the sexual victimization of children and, further, received at least 151 images and 195 videos depicting children as young as approximately one (1) year old engaging in sexually explicit conduct. 

BOYET faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five (5) years and a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years, followed by up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.  He can also be required to register as a sex offender.  Sentencing before Judge Vance has been scheduled for January 20, 2021 at 10:30 am.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorney’s= Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg is in charge of the prosecution.

Boston Woman Pleads Guilty to Role In Multimillion-Dollar Marijuana Enterprise

 BOSTON – A Boston woman pleaded guilty today to her role in a marijuana delivery service that operated in Massachusetts from 2015 to 2018.

Tatiana Fridkes, a/k/a Sonya, 34, of Dorchester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Feb. 1, 2021. 

Fridkes and Deana Martin, 52, of Milton, were indicted in May 2019 in connection with their management of Northern Herb, a marijuana delivery service that operated in Massachusetts from 2015 to 2018. Martin was also charged with one count of possessing more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and three counts of money laundering, and has pleaded not guilty.

According to court documents, Fridkes served as the office manager for Northern Herb.  Fridkes coordinated with Martin on finances, marijuana suppliers, marijuana inventory, deliveries, workers and warehouse operations. Fridkes managed Northern Herb employees when Martin was not present, collected and organized cash from marijuana sales and paid cash wages to Northern Herb employees.

From May 2016 through July 2018, Northern Herb had total revenue exceeding $14 million. Northern Herb did not withhold or pay taxes on its millions of dollars in marijuana sales, did not remit or pay employment taxes in connection with its workforce and did not pay taxes on its profits. Northern Herb was not licensed by Massachusetts or any other governmental entity to sell or distribute marijuana. While Northern Herb purported to provide medical marijuana, it did not require a customer to provide proof of a medical marijuana card and would deliver marijuana to unattended locations (such as a front door or hallway) where unknown third parties might have access to it.

Fridkes faces a sentence of five to 40 years in prison, a minimum of four years and up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $5 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Division; and Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston made the announcement today. The United States Postal Inspection Service also provided valuable assistance with this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Abely of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the indictment and complaint are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Passaic County Man Admits Participating in Heroin Conspiracy

 NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man today admitted conspiring to distribute heroin and to distributing a quantity of fentanyl, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Cequan Wharton, 26, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti to an information charging him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin and knowingly and intentionally distributing fentanyl.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Wharton and his conspirators are members and associates of the 230 Boys street gang, which operates primarily around Rosa Parks Boulevard and Godwin Avenue in Paterson. Through numerous controlled purchases of narcotics, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical surveillance, and the analysis of telephone call detail records, law enforcement determined that from at least September 2018 through Oct. 1, 2019, Wharton and his conspirators conspired to distribute narcotics, including heroin and fentanyl.

Each count of the information carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2021.

This case is being conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents and task force officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Charlie J. Patterson; special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark; officers of the N.J. State Police, under the direction of Col. Patrick J. Callahan; officers of the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Director Jerry Speziale and Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora; detectives of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia Valdes; and the Passaic County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service, the Bergen County Sheriff's Office and the Belleville and Livingston police departments for their assistance with the case.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Francesca Liquori, of the Organized Crime and Gangs Unit.

Jury Finds Little Rock Felon Guilty of Possessing a Firearm

      LITTLE ROCK—After a two-day trial, a federal jury has found Antoine Ladale Perkins, 41, guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury returned their verdict late Tuesday afternoon after trial began on Monday and continued with testimony on Tuesday. United States District Judge Brian S. Miller presided over the trial, and Judge Miller will sentence Perkins, of Little Rock, at a later date. 

     On December 22, 2017, a Little Rock Police Sergeant was driving in the area of Fulton Street in Little Rock, near Perkins’ home, when someone opened fire on the Sergeant’s undercover vehicle. Investigators recovered spent shell casings from Perkins’ yard and front porch, the scene of the shooting. Officers recovered a Norinco rifle from inside Perkins’ home, and Perkins confessed to bringing the firearm to his house. The Arkansas State Crime Lab confirmed that some of the shell casings were fired from the Norinico rifle.

     “This case involved the ambush of an undercover police officer in the line of duty,” said Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “Violent attacks against those who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our citizens will not be tolerated by this office.”

     Because Perkins is a felon, it is illegal for him to possess a firearm. A grand jury indicted Perkins on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in January 2020. He has a prior federal conviction for aiding and abetting the armed assault of a postal employee and using a prohibited weapon during a crime of violence, and he has a state conviction for possession of cocaine with purpose to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia.

     “In our effort to disrupt violent gun crime in our community, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will continue to focus efforts on prohibited individuals, like Antoine Perkins, who unlawfully possess firearms,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn. “ATF will continue to work tirelessly to protect our communities and hold accountable those who threaten our safety.”

     The statutory penalty for being a felon in possession of ammunition is not more than 10 years imprisonment, not more than three years of supervised release, and not more than a $250,000 fine. The investigation was conducted by the Little Rock Police Department, ATF, and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie Mazzanti and Amanda Fields.

Op Wu Block Defendants Sentenced To Prison For Distributing Meth

MACON – Three defendants guilty of distributing methamphetamine in the Northeast Georgia region, arrested during the large-scale “Operation Wu Block” investigation, were sentenced to federal prison Tuesday, said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal sentenced Jennifer Gee, 33, of Athens-Clarke County to 120 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Latasha Bishop, 33, of Athens-Clarke County to 27 months in prison and three years of supervised release; and Angela Fain, 48, of  Franklin County, Georgia to 24 months of prison and three years supervised release. All three defendants previously entered guilty pleas in separate cases to one count possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Criminals caught pushing methamphetamine in our communities are facing the possibility of federal prosecution and federal prison, where there is no parole,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners who make up the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force for working relentlessly to unravel meth distribution enterprises in the Middle District of Georgia.”

“Operation Wu Block” is a multi-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Macon Resident Office, FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, Hart County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections and Northeast Regional Drug Task Force in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia. “Operation Wu Block” resulted in the seizure of more than 58 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than two kilograms of heroin, 31 firearms and $56,000.

“Operation Wu Block” is part of the larger “Operation Crystal Shield,” a national DEA operation first announced on February 20, 2020 during a press conference in Atlanta. The investigation is focused on eight main methamphetamine trafficking transportation hubs across the nation, including Atlanta. Both are on-going operations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Jarrett is prosecuting cases arising from this investigation for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

Michigan Man Who Brought Meth to Erie via Amtrak Sentenced to 10 Years

 ERIE, Pa. - A former resident of Redford, Michigan, has been sentenced in federal court to 120 months in jail on his conviction of violating federal drug laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter imposed the sentence on Sean Kiara Williams, 31.

According to information presented to the court, on or about September 6, 2019, Williams possessed with the intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more of methamphetamine which he had brought from Dearborn, Michigan to Erie on Amtrak.

Assistant United States Attorney Paul S. Sellers prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended Homeland Security Investigations and the Pennsylvania State Police Northwest Strike Force Unit for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Williams.

Four Arrests Bring to Six the Number of McDonough County Defendants Charged with Trafficking Methamphetamine in West Central Illinois

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – The arrest of four defendants last week brings the total to six charged to date in federal court as a result of an ongoing investigation of methamphetamine trafficking in West Central Illinois. Jerel J. Guarin, 42 of Colchester, Ill., and Shawn T. Connelly, 46; Trenton L. Sealock, 25; and, Amanda S. Edwards, 40, all of Bardolph, Ill., were arrested on Sept. 18, 2020, and made their initial appearances via video before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley. Trial for the four is scheduled on Nov. 2, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow in Rock Island.

Connelly, Edwards, and Sealock have been ordered to remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. A detention hearing for Guarin is scheduled on Friday, Sept. 25.

Two additional defendants, Jeanna M. Rechkemmer, 33, of Bushnell, Ill., and Amber M. Phelps, 29, of Macomb, were previously indicted in March 2020. On Aug. 25, 2020, Phelps entered a plea of guilty to the charge and sentencing has been scheduled on Dec. 1, 2020. Rechkemmer is scheduled for an initial appearance on a superseding indictment and change of plea hearing on Sept. 25, 2020.

The indictments allege that the defendants participated in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine in West Central Illinois from January 2019 to February 2020.

The maximum statutory penalty for the offense is 10 years to life in prison.

The charges are the result of an ongoing investigation dubbed “Operation Icy Road,” by the Macomb / McDonough County Drug Unit. The McDonough County Sheriff’s Office, the Macomb Police Department, and the Galesburg Police Department conducted the investigations with the assistance of the West Central Illinois Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and, the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer L. Mathew is prosecuting the cases on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division, in cooperation with the McDonough County State’s Attorney’s Office. 

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; each defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Meth Dealing and Firearm Possession Lands Oklahoma City Woman in Federal Prison for a Quarter of a Century

 OKLAHOMA CITY – CRYSTAL LEANN RODRIGUEZ, 28, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has been sentenced to 300 months in prison for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, as well as possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, announced U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing.

Rodriguez was arrested on May 8, 2019, after law enforcement observed multiple drug transactions at her residence in southwest Oklahoma City.  Law enforcement thereafter executed a court authorized search warrant on Rodriguez’ home.  That search resulted in the seizure of more than 68 pounds of methamphetamine, more than $95,000 in cash, and thirteen firearms.

Three other individuals—Tara Humphries, Cheyenne Delodge, and Aimee Salem—were also arrested in connection with the illicit activity taking place at the residence.  Public records reflect that all four women have pled guilty to both possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, U.S. District Judge Patrick R. Wyrick sentenced Rodriguez to 240 months in federal prison on the drug dealing count, to be followed by 60 months of imprisonment on the firearm count.  Judge Wyrick also imposed five years of supervised release.  In imposing Rodriguez’ sentence, Judge Wyrick noted the nature and circumstances of the offense and Rogriguez’ criminal history.  Public records reflect that Rodriguez’ arrest came approximately two months after her release from state prison, where she was serving sentences for other controlled substances offenses.

Judge Wyrick has previously sentenced Delodge to 210 months of incarceration, Salem to 120 months of incarceration, and Humphries to 352 months of incarceration.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation—Oklahoma City Field Office, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Marshals Service.   Assistant U.S. Attorneys David McCrary and Jason Harley prosecuted the case.

This case is part of the work of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, the Department of Justice’s signature initiatives to address and reduce drug-related criminal activity.

Clark Man Charged with Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Clark, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography.

Anthony Dialo Holmes, age 36, was indicted on August 17, 2020.  He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William D. Gerdes on September 18, 2020, and pled not guilty to the Indictment.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, life of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Restitution may also be ordered.

The Indictment alleges that on between September 1, 2019, and May 22, 2020, Holmes knowingly received and distributed and attempted to receive and distribute, any child pornography that had been mailed, shipped, and transported in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer.  

The charge is merely an accusation and Holmes is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

The investigation is being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, Division of Criminal Investigation, Office of the Attorney General, Watertown Police Department, and the Clark Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Clapper is prosecuting the case.   

Holmes was released on bond pending trial.  A trial date has not been set.

Tyndall Man Sentenced for Firearm Charge and Failure to Register as Sex Offender

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Tyndall, South Dakota, man convicted of Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Failure to Register as a Sex Offender and was sentenced on September 21, 2020, by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court.

Jose Eduardo Rodriguez, age 44, was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison for each charge, followed by 3 years of supervised release for the firearm charge and 5 years of supervised release for the failure to register as a sex offender charge, to run concurrently, forfeiture of the firearm and all ammunition found in his possession, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $200.

Rodriguez was indicted on both charges by a federal grand jury on February 11, 2020.  He pled guilty to both charges on June 30, 2020.

The convictions stem from an incident that occurred on December 26, 2019, during a traffic stop, Rodriguez was found with an unregistered firearm and multiple rounds of ammunition.  Rodriguez, knowingly possessed a firearm made from a rifle, with a barrel of less than sixteen inches in length, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.  Further, Rodriguez was convicted of Fourth Degree Rape in July 1998.  As a result of his conviction, he is required to register as a sex offender.  Between August 18, 2019, and December 26, 2019, the date of the traffic stop, Rodriguez had failed to properly register as a sex offender and update his registration.    

The firearm charge is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of its renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and local communities to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The firearm charge is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.            

These cases were investigated by the Murdo Police Department, the Lyman County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Albertson prosecuted the case.

Rodriguez was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Former Xerox Employee Going To Prison For The Rest Of His Life For Credit Union Robbery And Murder

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Richard Leon Wilbern, 60, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted by a federal jury of the August 12, 2003, armed robbery of the Xerox Federal Credit Union which resulted in the death of Raymond Batzel, was sentenced to serve life in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa.

“After 17 years, and thanks to the tireless and relentless dedication of our federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals, a cold-blooded murderer has finally been held accountable and the family of his victim has finally received some measure of justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Notwithstanding the current widespread effort to demonize our Nation’s law enforcers, both their shortcomings and the virtues are but a reflection of their humanity. Fortunately, their virtues routinely outweigh their shortcomings, and in this case, the compassion and commitment exhibited by our law enforcers helped to deliver our community’s best—and last—hope for justice.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas E. Gregory and Joel L. Violanti, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that on August 12, 2003 at approximately 9:45 a.m., the defendant walked into Xerox Federal Credit Union (XFCU), located on the Xerox Corporation campus at 800 Phillips Road in Webster, NY. Wilbern was wearing a dark blue nylon jacket with the letters “FBI” written in yellow on the back of the jacket, sunglasses and a poorly fitting wig. The defendant was also carrying a large briefcase, a green and gray-colored umbrella and had what appeared to be a United States Marshals badge hanging on a chain around his neck.   

Wilbern went into the cubicle of a female employee and told the employee that he was there to conduct a security assessment and to “stage” a robbery. The defendant subsequently removed two firearms from the briefcase, one described as a handgun, the other a sawed-off shot gun or sawed-off rifle. Wilbern also removed a bag and instructed the employee to fill the bag with money from behind the teller counter. The employee complied with the demands.   

Shortly after, the defendant ordered employees and customers to lay down on the floor. While doing so, Wilbern confronted a customer Raymond Batzel who had just finished a banking transaction with the teller. After a very brief verbal altercation, the defendant shot Batzel in the neck which resulted in his death. As Wilbern shot Batzel, a second customer, Joseph Doud, entered the credit union and attempted to turn and run back outside after witnessing the shooting. The defendant shot and wounded the customer in the back as he fled. After shooting the two customers, Wilbern returned to the teller counter area and, while holding the firearm in the air, told credit union employees to fill the bag with cash.   The defendant then took the money and fled the credit union leaving behind the umbrella. 

In the aftermath of the robbery/homicide at the Xerox Federal Credit Union, the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory attempted to obtain DNA samples from the green and gray umbrella which was left behind by Wilbern. Two sets of swabs were taken from various locations on the umbrella, including the “external wrap around closure and button”, the “lower latch mechanism”, the “metal shaft and upper latch mechanism” and an “internal strap.”  One set of swabs was tested for the presence of DNA while the second set was allowed to dry, packaged and appropriately stored at the lab for future testing. Based upon the technology available at the time, insufficient amounts of DNA were located on the first set of swabs and therefore no conclusions could be drawn.

On November 15, 2011, Webster Police investigators transferred the second set of swabs from the Monroe County Public Safety Building to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York City. OCME had developed the expertise and facilities necessary to perform a DNA testing technique that enables testing to be performed on trace amounts of evidence. This testing technique is referred to as High Sensitivity DNA testing, also referred to as Low Template testing.  

On December 28, 2011, OCME issued a report advising that they were able to recover human DNA from each of submitted swabs from the umbrella, and that two of the submitted swabs contained sufficient levels of human DNA to conduct High Sensitivity PCR DNA testing and comparison. Regarding DNA taken from the “umbrella closure wrap around”, the Medical Examiner concluded that DNA from at least two people was located, but included one major male contributor, referred to as “Male Donor A.” The DNA profile of “Male Donor A”, based on a 15 loci result, is expected to be found in only 1 in 6.80 trillion people. As for the second sample, which was taken from the “umbrella latch mechanism (lower)” of the umbrella, based on a 10 loci result, is expected to be found in in one in 138 million people. The DNA profile was placed in a local and state data base with no positive hits. 

In March 2016, a press conference was held to seek new leads in the investigation. Details of the crime were released as well as photographs of Wilbern committing the robbery. Anyone with information was asked to call a dedicated hotline. 

On March 27, 2016, a concerned citizen contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and indicated that the person who committed the crime was likely a former Xerox employee named Richard Wilbern. The citizen indicated that the defendant worked for Xerox prior to the robbery but had been fired. The citizen also stated that they recognized Wilbern’s face from the photos. 

In July 20016, FBI agents met with Wilbern regarding a complaint he had made to the FBI regarding an alleged real estate scam.  During one of their meetings, agents obtained a DNA sample from Wilbern after he licked and sealed an envelope.  That envelope was sent to OCME, and after comparing the DNA profile from the envelope to the DNA profile previously developed from the umbrella, determined there was a positive match. 

Wilbern was employed by Xerox between September 1996 and February 23, 2001 as which time he was terminated for repeated employment related infractions. In 2001, Wilbern filed a lawsuit against Xerox alleging that the company unlawfully discriminated against him with respect to the terms and conditions of his employment, subjected him to a hostile work environment, failed to hire him for a position for which he applied because of his race, and retaliated against him for complaining about Xerox’s discriminatory treatment.  Wilbern also maintained a checking and savings accounts at the Xerox Federal Credit Union.  Evidence at trial demonstrated that Wilbern was in significant financial distress from roughly 2000 – 2003, including filing for bankruptcy.

The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Stephen Belongia; the Webster Police Department, under the direction of Chief Joseph P. Rieger, the New York State Police, under the direction of Acting Major Barry Chase, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Todd Baxter, the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Acting Chief Mark Simmons, the United States Marshals Service, under the direction of Charles Salina, and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Sandra Doorley.

Suburban Pittsburgh Man Pleads Guilty to Destroying a Pittsburgh Police Vehicle during May 30th Protest

 Self-Identified Left-Wing Anarchist Began by Spray Painting “A” on Marked SUV

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Brian Bartels of suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Pittsburgh to a charge of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today. While others were lawfully protesting over the death of George Floyd, Bartels initiated the damage to a police car outside of PPG Paints Arena, including spray painting the car and smashing its windshield. Others then joined Bartels and the police car was set on fire.

Bartels, 20, of of Allison Park, PA 15101, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.

"On May 30, 2020, Brian Bartels incited the largest and most destructive riot in Pittsburgh history since 1968," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "Armed with his homemade agitator toolkit, this self-identified extreme left-wing anarchist came to the protest in downtown Pittsburgh that day with one goal: to incite violence. Bartels succeeded – he was the first to incite violence during the protest. While protesters yelled for him to stop, Bartels spray painted and then smashed and jumped on the windshield of a Pittsburgh Police cruiser. Others then joined in and the cruiser was set on fire and destroyed."

"Bartels’s actions were the inflection point in the demonstration," U.S. Attorney Brady added. "What was peaceful became lawless. Ultimately, Pittsburgh police cars were burned. Mounted Pittsburgh Police Officers were attacked. Projectiles were thrown at Pittsburgh Police Officers. Reporters were attacked and their camera destroyed. What started as a peaceful demonstration, turned into a violent evening of destruction and looting throughout downtown Pittsburgh."

"The violent actions of this young person were appalling," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. "Mr. Bartels went downtown with the intent to incite panic and violence. His poor decisions put everyone, including those exercising their First Amendment

rights peacefully, in danger. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the city we all call home. Let this guilty plea send a message to others that we will use all of our investigative resources to bring to justice those who choose to participate in criminal activity."

According to information provided to the court, on the afternoon of May 30, 2020, there was amarch/protest in downtown Pittsburgh. The defendant was part of a large crowd of protesters milling around the area of Centre Avenue above the PPG Paints Arena, near an unoccupied Pittsburgh Police SUV. At that time, Bartels removed a can of red spray paint from his backpack and sprayed an "A" on the police vehicle. Bartels then jumped on the hood of the vehicle, sprayed more paint on the vehicle, and stomped on the windshield, breaking it. Several people in the crowd began to cheer him on, and some people joined in hitting and kicking the vehicle. Bartels then jumped off the hood and attempted to break the passenger side window of the vehicle.

When interviewed by investigators, Bartels admitted to his conduct in initiating the attack on the police vehicle, and expressed remorse and regret for it. Bartels was charged federally in a criminal complaint on June 5, 2020. He was then indicted by the federal grand jury on June 9, 2020.

Judge Schwab scheduled sentencing for January 27, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Shaun E. Sweeney is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

U.S. Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for conducting the investigation leading to the charge in this case.

Forsyth Sex Offender Sentenced to 20 Years for Child Pornography

 SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A prior sex offender in Forsyth, Missouri, was sentenced in federal court today for receiving and distributing child pornography.

Timothy Wayne Carnelison Jr., 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to 20 in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Carnelison to spend the rest of his life on supervised release following incarceration. Carnelison will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison and will be subject to federal and state sex offender registration requirements, which may apply throughout his life.

Carnelison, who was sentenced as a prior sex offender, has two prior convictions for statutory sodomy in the first degree and a prior conviction for child molestation.

On Feb. 20, 2020, Carnelison pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography.

The investigation began when Google initiated a CyberTip with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after locating files of suspected child pornography in Carnelison’s Google Photo application. Investigators confirmed the child pornography and, on Sept. 24, 2019, executed a search warrant at Carnelison’s residence. They found images of child pornography on his cell phone.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Southwest Missouri Cybercrime Task Force.


Project Safe Childhood
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

Sparta Man Sentenced to 14 Years for Meth Conspiracy

 SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Sparta, Missouri, man was sentenced in federal court today for leading a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in Christian County, Mo.

Travis W. Robinson, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to 14 years in federal prison without parole.

On March 11, 2020, Robinson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possessing methamphetamine to distribute on premises in which a minor resides.

Robinson came to the attention of law enforcement in August 2016 as a distributor of methamphetamine in the southwest Missouri area. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Robinson’s residence and seized approximately 47.32 grams of methamphetamine, $7,628, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. At the time the warrant was executed, Robinson’s young child was located in the living room of the residence.

In June 2017, a confidential informant told law enforcement that his/her source of methamphetamine had acquired anywhere from one-fourth of an ounce to one-fourth of a pound of methamphetamine from Robinson each week and had been doing so for several years.

Robinson imported methamphetamine to southwest Missouri, which he provided to co-conspirators for them to further distribute. Co-conspirators also assisted with activities related to drug distribution, including the collection of drug debts.

Robinson is the first defendant to be sentenced in this case. Co-defendant Candace L. Medlock, 34, of Nixa, Missouri, has pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy and awaits sentencing.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica R. Sarff and Byron H. Black. It was investigated by the Christian County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dominican National Charged with Fentanyl Trafficking

 BOSTON – A Dominican national was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury in Boston in connection with drug trafficking activities involving fentanyl and cocaine. 

Jose Guerrero, 28, was indicted on two counts of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and oxycodone, three counts of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl. Guerrero was previously charged by criminal complaint and arrested on Aug. 26, 2020. He has been in federal custody since his arrest. 

According to charging documents, Guerrero made five separate sales of fentanyl and oxycodone powder and pills to an undercover law enforcement officer between June and August 2020 in the Saratoga Street area of Lawrence. Shortly after making his fifth sale to the undercover officer, Guerrero was arrested.

The charges of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and oxycodone carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, at least three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million. The charges of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $5 million. The charge of possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, at least five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $10 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New England Field Division made the announcement. Valuable assistance was provided by the Lawrence Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Hassink of Lelling’s Narcotics and Money Laundering Unit is prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Bakersfield, Lancaster, Ventura and Los Angeles Offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian W. Enos is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the production of child pornography charge, Sarnowski faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the distribution of child pornography charge or either of the two receipt of child pornography charges, Sarnowski faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about Internet safety education.

Former Rapides Parrish Corrections Officer Sentenced to 11 Months in Federal Prison for Assaulting Inmate

 The Justice Department announced today that a former correctional officer with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office (RPSO), Detention Center 1, in Alexandria, Louisiana, was sentenced today in federal court for assaulting an inmate detained at the facility.

Dominic Davidson, 27, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Dee Drell to 11 months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Davidson previously pleaded guilty on June 11, 2020, to one misdemeanor count of violating the civil rights of an inmate in his custody.

“Physical, violent, and unjustified abuse by members of our law enforcement community is unlawful,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is dedicated to ensuring that no one in this country is above the law and will continue to prosecute anyone who uses a position of power illegally to violate the civil rights of others.”

 “Correctional officers have a sworn duty to ensure that inmates are protected, rather than abused,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook for the Western District of Louisiana. “The abuse of authority by this law enforcement officer and the violation of the inmate’s civil rights will not be tolerated. We will continue to pursue cases where this type of abuse and indiscretion occurs”

“Along with our partners, the FBI will aggressively investigate allegations wherein correctional officers abuse their position of power and authority over prisoners to deny them their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran. “The law suffers the most when those in a position of trust abuses their power. The FBI is appreciative of its partnerships with the Rapides Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Western District of Louisiana and the trial attorneys from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.” 

According to plea documents and information presented in court, on June 14, 2018, while on duty as a correctional officer, Davidson entered the locked holding cell of pretrial detainee K.F. and began punching K.F. repeatedly in the face and body. Prior to Davidson entering the cell, K.F., who was completely naked and locked securely inside his cell, had been banging on the door in an attempt to get officers’ attention. In response to the banging, Davidson put on a pair of rubber gloves, unlocked and entered K.F.’s cell, pushed K.F. to the ground, and struck K.F. numerous times in the head and body. At no point before, during, or after the assault did K.F. pose a threat to himself or others.

This case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Mudrick of the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorneys Katherine DeVar and Thomas Johnson of the Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

SUPPER Project Promising, But Show Mixed Results

 

This program seeks to help parents become facilitators in preventing children's substance misuse, by encouraging them to have five or more family meals together weekly.

The program is rated Promising. Intervention group parents showed a statistically significant increase in talking with children about alcohol, compared with control group parents, but there were no statistically significant differences in number of family meals per week and talking with children about marijuana and other drugs.

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