Friday, January 15, 2021

New Solicitation: Research and Evaluation on Domestic Terrorism Prevention, Fiscal Year 2021

 

With this solicitation, NIJ seeks proposals for rigorous research and evaluation projects targeted toward developing a better understanding of the domestic radicalization phenomenon, and advancing evidence-based strategies for effective intervention and prevention. This includes research efforts that explore the radicalization of Americans to white nationalist extremism, and those exploring emerging militant left-wing movements, to identify and advance evidence-based strategies for effective intervention and prevention.

NIJ seeks proposals in three areas of focus:

  • Research to inform terrorism prevention efforts.
  • Research on the reintegration of offenders into the community.
  • Evaluations of programs and practices to prevent terrorism.

Funded projects will apply an approach that engages researchers and practitioners in an active partnership to develop more effective solutions to specific problems and to produce transportable lessons and strategies that may help other localities with similar problems.

NIJ anticipates awarding up to $8,000,000 under this solicitation.

In FY 2021, applications will be submitted in a new two-step process, each with its own deadline:

  1. Submit an SF-424 and an SF-LLL in Grants.gov.
    Step 1, Grants.gov, Deadline: March 31, 2021, by 11:59 PM ET 
  2. Submit the full application including attachments in JustGrants.
    Step 2, Application JustGrants, Deadline: April 14, 2021, by 11:59 PM ET 

APPLY NOW

Applicants must register with Grants.gov and register with JustGrants prior to submitting an application.

This solicitation is competitive; therefore, NIJ staff cannot have individual conversations with prospective applicants. Any questions concerning the solicitation should be submitted to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service: 1-800-851-3420; TTY at 301-240-6310 (for hearing impaired only); email; fax 301-240-5830; or web chat. See also NIJ.gov's solicitation FAQ page.

The following application elements MUST be included in the application submission for an application to meet the basic minimum requirements to advance to peer review and receive consideration for funding: Program Narrative, Budget Worksheet and Budget Narrative, and resumes/curriculum vitae of key personnel. Make sure to also go over the application checklist provided in the solicitation before submitting.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month Podcast Announced

 RALEIGH, N.C. – The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Robert J. Higdon, Jr., announces a podcast in observance of Human Trafficking Awareness month.  January is designated as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. 

You are invited to listen to a discussion about the successful prosecution of Brandon Jennings for the crime of Human Trafficking by the prosecution team.  (https://www.justice.gov/usao-ednc/pr/raleigh-man-receives-life-imprisonment-human-trafficking) The prosecutor, investigators, and Victim-Witness Coordinator detail the challenges and rewards associated with complex Human Trafficking cases. The podcast was produced by the North Carolina Justice Academy and is located at https://ncdoj.gov/ncja/human-trafficking-podcast/.   

New Video and $5,000 Reward for Information About Person of Interest in August 2020 Kenosha Arson Investigation of the Probation and Parole Building

Person of interest wearing a dark top, white cloth wrapped are their head, carrying a bag, leaning against a vehicle.

 MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seeks the public’s help identifying the individual shown in the newly discovered photograph and video who is a person of interest who could advance the arson investigation of the Probation and Parole Building in Kenosha, Wisconsin located at 1212 60th street. The building was set ablaze the evening of Monday, August 24, 2020.

ATF is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for the positive identification of the person depicted in the attached video and picture who could further the arson investigation. ATF is working collaboratively on the investigation with the Kenosha Police Department, the Kenosha Fire Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The photo and video are also posted on the ATF’s Twitter page, @ATF_Chicago


Video Link: https://youtu.be/ODlYI_5NX7E
ATF is seeking to identify the above male (ID# Probation and Parole) 
Note the large tattoo on the subject’s left forearm.

People with information regarding the identity and/or whereabouts of these individuals are urged to contact ATF at 1-888-ATF-TIPS (283-8477), ATFTips@atf.gov, or submit an anonymous tip through the “ReportIt” app, available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. When reporting, be sure to include as many details as possible and contact information for potential follow up if a reward is sought. 

ATF protects the public from crimes involving firearms, explosives, arson, and the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products; regulates lawful commerce in firearms and explosives; and provides worldwide support to law enforcement, public safety, and industry partners. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov. 

Little Rock Man Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison For Extortion and Production of Child Pornography

 Defendant Used Online Alias to Threaten Women and Minors

      LITTLE ROCK— A Little Rock man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for extortion and production of child pornography. Devion Cumbie, 25, was sentenced today by United States District Judge James M. Moody, Jr. The sentencing is announced by Acting United States Attorney Jonathan D. Ross and FBI Little Rock Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch.

      In June 2020, in the first federal criminal jury trial in the state since the coronavirus pandemic began, a federal jury found Cumbie guilty on all seven counts for which he was indicted: production of child pornography, two counts of attempted production of child pornography, and four counts of extortion.

      Testimony during the trial established that in late 2018, a 16-year-old girl in Colorado sent a Facebook message to “Chink Capone,” the online persona of an actor named Alex Drummond. However, the Facebook page actually belonged to Cumbie, posing as Drummond’s online persona. The two began talking, and Cumbie told the minor he might like to meet her soon but would first need to see some photographs of her in her underwear. Cumbie eventually convinced the minor to send him a partially nude photograph. Cumbie then threatened the minor that he would post the photo to her Facebook page unless she sent him a video of herself naked. The minor told her mother, and they reported the conduct to police.

      Investigation revealed that Cumbie had conducted a similar scheme with numerous other victims, some of whom were minors. Additionally, Cumbie was on pretrial release awaiting trial on federal gun charges while he engaged in the conduct that led to the child pornography and extortion charges. Cumbie was indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2019, and his first trial in February 2020 ended in a hung jury. His second trial resulted in his October 2020 conviction. Cumbie is still awaiting trial on the separate firearms charge.

      In addition to the 300 month prison sentence, Judge Moody sentenced Cumbie to 15 years of supervised release. The statutory penalty for production of child pornography, as well as attempted production of child pornography, is not less than 15 years imprisonment, not more than 30 years imprisonment, and not less than five years of supervised release. The statutory penalty for extortion is not more than two years imprisonment and not more than one year of supervised release. All offenses of conviction include a potential penalty of not more than a $250,000 fine.

      The investigation was conducted by the FBI, and the case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kristin Bryant and Erin O’Leary.

Danville Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charge

 LEXINGTON, Ky.- A Danville, Ky., man, Lenoard Riley, 45, pleaded guilty on Friday, before Chief U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves, to transporting child pornography using the Internet.   

According to Riley’s plea agreement, he admitted that on July 30, 2017, he was in possession of 23 images and two videos of child pornography on his smart phone.  These images depicted children under 12 engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  Riley further admitted that he knew the images he received, possessed, and transported through his computer involved minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.                       

Riley was indicted in March 2020.

Robert M. Duncan, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Steven L. Igyarto, Resident Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations; and Lt. Colonel Phillip Burnett, Acting Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police, announced the guilty plea.

The investigation was conducted by DHS-HIS and KSP-Electronic Crime Branch. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Marye.  

Riley is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, April 23, 2021. He faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. However, any sentence will be imposed by the Court, after its consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal sentencing statutes. 

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 U.S. Attorneys' 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.

Rockford Man Charged With Arson for Allegedly Setting Fire to Retail Business

 ROCKFORD — A Rockford man was arrested Thursday on a federal arson charge for allegedly setting fire to a local retail business. 

SEAN CARDENAS, 20, was indicted on Jan. 12, 2021, by a federal grand jury in Rockford on one count of maliciously damaging and destroying, and attempting to damage and destroy, by means of fire, a building at 6260 E. State St. in Rockford.  The alleged arson occurred on May 30, 2020.  

Cardenas pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger.  Cardenas was ordered to remain in federal custody until a detention hearing on January 19, 2021, at 11:30 a.m.

The indictment and arrest were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Kristen deTineo, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.  The Rockford Police Department and Rockford Fire Department assisted in the investigation.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica S. Maveus.

The arson charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years, in addition to a fine of up to $250,000.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Baltimore Bank Robber Sentenced to More Than 12 Years in Federal Prison

 Also Violated His Supervised Release on a Previous Federal Bank Robbery Conviction

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Douglas Randall Phillips, age 58, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 151 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for federal charges of bank robbery and violation of his federal supervised release from a prior bank robbery conviction.  Judge Messitte also ordered Phillips to pay restitution in the full amount of the victim’s loss.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department. 

According to his plea agreement, on December 13, 2019, Phillips entered a bank located in the 11000 block of York Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland and approached a teller.  Phillips handed the teller a note which read, “This is a robbery, I have a gun and will begin shooting unless you give me all loose 100’s, 50’s + 20’s immediately.”  Phillips obtained more than $700 from the teller and fled the branch on foot.  After this incident, the bank circulated an internal alert amongst its employees, which included an image of Phillips from the bank’s surveillance camera footage from December 13, 2019.

On December 18, 2019, Phillips entered a different branch of the same bank in Baltimore, Maryland to make a withdrawal from his own account.  The bank employees at this branch recognized Phillips from the internal bank alert and called police.  Phillips was arrested and the clothes he was wearing at the time of his arrest were the same clothes worn by the robber in the surveillance footage from the December 13, 2019 robbery.  Prior to the robbery, Phillips had been employed at a company located in Hunt Valley, close to the bank branch that he robbed.

At the time that Phillips committed the December 13, 2019, bank robbery Phillips knew he was on supervised release for a previous federal bank robbery conviction.  Committing the December 13th robbery violated the conditions of his supervised release.                    

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur praised the FBI, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn B. Ducao, who prosecuted the case.

Rosebud Man Indicted on Murder, Firearm, and Evidence Tampering Charges

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Rosebud, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Second Degree Murder, Discharge of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence, and Tampering With Evidence.

Tanyan Wakita Iron, a/k/a Sonny Iron, age 18, was indicted on September 9, 2020.  He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on January 7, 2021, and pled not guilty to the Indictment.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is any term of years up to life in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, five years of supervised release, and $300 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Restitution may also be ordered.

The Indictment alleges that on August 9, 2020, in St. Francis, South Dakota, Iron murdered a woman by shooting her in the head with a handgun.  The Indictment further alleges that Iron attempted to hide the handgun from investigators following the fatal shooting.

The charges are merely accusations and Iron is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case 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.

This case 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.            

The investigation is being conducted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Elmore is prosecuting the case.   

Iron was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.  A trial date has not been set.

Pierre Man Sentenced for Failure to Register as Sex Offender

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Pierre, South Dakota, man convicted of Failure to Register as a Sex Offender was sentenced on January 11, 2021, by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court.

Sandy Mangelson, age 34, was sentenced to time served through April 12, 2021, equal to approximately 13 months in custody, five years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

Mangelson was indicted by a federal grand jury on September 1, 2020.  He pled guilty on November 5, 2020.

Mangelson was convicted of Sexual Contact With a Child Under Sixteen in November 2005 and Gross Sexual Imposition (with a child) in 2007.  As a result of those convictions, he is required to register as a sex offender and to update his registration within three business days of relocation or changing employment.  Between December 5, 2019, and December 10, 2019, Mangelson failed to register and update his registration.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Marshals Service.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Elmore prosecuted the case.

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

Syracuse Man Sentenced for Assaulting U.S. Postal Employee

 SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Daniel J. Trammell, age 58, of Syracuse, was sentenced yesterday to serve 30 months in prison for assaulting a United States Postal Service employee, announced Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon and Joseph Cronin, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Boston Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

As party of his previous guilty plea, Trammell admitted that on April 21, 2020, he assaulted a letter carrier while the carrier was delivering mail. Trammell caused two cuts to the victim’s neck.

In addition to his term of imprisonment, the court also sentenced Trammell to 3 years of supervised release.                 

This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Syracuse Police Department, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Sutcliffe.

Husband and Wife Sentenced for Meth Trafficking Conspiracy

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a man and a woman from Brookings, South Dakota, convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, were sentenced on January 11, 2021 by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier.

Jeremy Dean Riemersma, age 41, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

Jody Marie Riemersma, age 42, was sentenced to 12 months and a day months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

The Riemersmas were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 2, 2019.  They both pled guilty on May 11, 2020. 

The conviction stemmed from incidents beginning on an unknown date, until on or about April 1, 2019, in the District of South Dakota, when the Riemersmas knowingly and intentionally combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together with each other, and others known and unknown, to intentionally distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine.  Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance.

This case was investigated by the Division of Criminal Investigation and various law enforcement agencies in Minnesota.  Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Nash prosecuted the case.

Jeremy and Jody Riemersma were ordered to self-surrender to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service by February 16, 2021.  

Pasco County Man, Whose Victims Included Children And Foreign Nationals, Indicted On Federal Human Trafficking Charges

 Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the return of an indictment charging David Alan Quarles (49, Odessa) with conspiracy; sex trafficking by force, threats, fraud, or coercion; importation of an alien for the purpose of prostitution; transportation of an individual in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution; and using a facility of interstate commerce in aid of prostitution. If convicted on all counts, Quarles faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. The indictment also notifies Quarles that the United States intends to forfeit assets alleged to have facilitated these offenses or that are traceable to proceeds of the offenses.

According to the indictment, Quarles and his conspirators recruited victims, some of whom were children or foreign nationals, to engage in prostitution. Quarles used violent, fraudulent, or otherwise coercive tactics—including physical violence, sexual assault, threats of violence, and misrepresenting the nature of their employment before the victims began working—to recruit victims or keep the victims engaged in prostitution. Quarles and his conspirators allegedly directed these victims to engage in prostitution, posted advertisements featuring these victims, and arranged for the victims to travel across the United States to work. Quarles required his victims to send him the money that they had earned or seek his permission to spend funds on necessities.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Colin McDonell.

Butler County Man Sentenced for Role in Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

 PITTSBURGH - A resident of Portersville, PA, has been sentenced in federal court to time served followed by three years’ supervised release on his convictions of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, conspiracy to distribute heroin, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Senior United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab imposed the sentence on Ray Chrzanowski, age 53.

According to information presented to the court, in 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration initiated a wiretap investigation, primarily targeting the GBK street gang and drug trafficking in and around an area known as the Greenway Projects, located in the West End of the City of Pittsburgh. The wiretap investigation revealed that from in and around November 2017 through in and around June 2018, Ray Chrzanowski conspired to distribute quantities of crack cocaine, heroin, and cocaine.

Prior to imposing sentence, Senior Judge Schwab stated that the sentence was sufficient but not greater than necessary to achieve the goals of sentencing.

Assistant United States Attorneys Tonya Sulia Goodman and Yvonne M. Saadi prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration jointly with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Robinson Township Police Department, Stowe Township Police Department, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Wilkinsburg Borough Police Department, and the McKees Rocks Police Department, for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Chrzanowski.

This prosecution is a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten communities throughout the United States. OCDETF uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Edgerton, Wisconsin Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Enticement of a Child

 Williams drove over six hours to meet a 15-year-old for sex, after establishing an online relationship with her via Snapchat.

A man who enticed a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity was sentenced on January 14, 2021, to 12 years in federal prison.

Sean Matthew Williams, age 25, from Edgerton, Wisconsin, received the prison term after an August 27, 2020, guilty plea to one count of Coercion and Enticement.

In a plea agreement, Williams admitted that between March 1, and May 8, 2020, he persuaded a person under the age of 18 to engage in illegal sexual activity. He further admitted engaging in cell phone conversations with the victim, whom he knew to be 15 years old. During the conversations, he knowingly persuaded the victim to have sex with him or attempted to do so. Williams admitted driving from Edgerton, Wisconsin to northwest Iowa to have sex with the 15-year-old victim. Williams went to the victim’s residence, picked her up, and was driving with her when stopped by local law enforcement for a traffic violation. Alert questioning by the law enforcement officer resulted in the discovery of Williams’ scheme.  A search of the vehicle Williams was driving revealed a box of condoms, zip ties, and a roll of Gorilla brand tape.  

Williams was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Williams was sentenced to 144 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Williams is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

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.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Duax and investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa Crimes Against Children Task Force, the LeMars, Iowa Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Decatur Man to Serve 90 Years in Prison for Child Sex Crimes

 Federal 50-Year Sentence to be Served Consecutive to 40-Year State Sentence

PEORIA, Ill. – U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid today sentenced Gary L. Boyle, 36, of Decatur, Ill., to 50 years in federal prison for sexual exploitation of a child and child pornography. Boyle’s federal sentence will be served consecutive to a state sentence of 40 years ordered in September 2020 in Macon County Court for predatory criminal sexual assault. Boyle, of the 5400 block of West Main St., was remanded to the U.S. Marshals Service.

In court documents and at today’s hearing, the government described Boyle as “a manipulative pedophile who consumes young children for his own sexual pleasure,”  and as an avid collector of violent child pornography. Evidence demonstrates that Boyle’s collection included images of violent sexual acts committed by adults against toddlers and six-to eight-year old children who are nude and bound with rope at their wrists. Boyle participated in online child exploitation groups where he traded child pornography and ultimately live-streamed abuse against an eight-year-old victim.

On Sept. 6, 2020, Boyle pleaded guilty to seven counts of child sexual exploitation and one count of possession of child pornography.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson represented the government in the federal case. The charges are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, the Decatur Police Department, and the Macon County Sheriff’s Office.

The 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 U.S. Attorneys' 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.

Hartford Man Charged with Federal Narcotics and Firearm Offenses

 John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, today announced that CHRISTOPHER ALAMO, 33, of Hartford, was arrested yesterday on federal narcotics distribution and firearm possession charges.

Alamo appeared yesterday via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas O. Farrish and was ordered detained pending a detention hearing that is scheduled for January 19.

As alleged in court documents, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Hartford Task Force identified Alamo as a distributor of heroin and cocaine in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere.  On January 13, 2021, Alamo was arrested after a court-authorized search of his Hartford residence revealed more than 12,000 dose bags of suspected fentanyl, approximately 390 grams of loose fentanyl, approximately one kilogram of cocaine, approximately 300 grams of marijuana, items used to process and package narcotics for street sale, a .40 caliber Glock 22 handgun equipped with a loaded high-capacity magazine, a separate large capacity magazine loaded with 51 rounds of 9mm ammunition, and a bulletproof vest.

It is alleged that Alamo’s criminal history includes felony convictions for narcotics, weapon and larceny offenses.  It is a violation of federal law for a person previously convicted of a felony offense to possess a firearm or ammunition that has moved in interstate or foreign commerce.

The criminal complaint charges Alamo with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and 40 grams or more of fentanyl, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years, possession of firearm by a convicted felon, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, an offense that carries a consecutive term of imprisonment of at least five years.

U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The DEA’s Hartford Task Force includes personnel from the DEA Hartford Resident Office and the Bristol, Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, New Britain, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks and Willimantic Police Departments.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria del Pilar Gonzalez, with the assistance of the Hartford State’s Attorney’s Office.

Baton Rouge Man Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

 United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced today that Todd Mixon, age 50, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud before Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick.    

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, Mixon solicited potential victims to invest in investment groups or ventures, in which he promised to trade their pooled funds in the foreign exchange markets, and at the end of the venture, promised to return to each victim his or her proportionate share of the group’s pooled funds, including profits. 

In order to induce victims to invest with him, Mixon made numerous materially false promises and representations, including that the funds would be used only for trading in the foreign exchange markets through forex trading outlets; Mixon would invest his own funds in the venture; he would take a small percentage of net profits as a commission; and no other funds would be withdrawn until the end of the investment.  To make the investments appear legitimate, Mixon sent victims text messages with screen shots of fake trades and emails with fake account statements from foreign exchange trading platforms, which falsely showed steadily increasing values in the victims’ purported ventures.  Mixon further falsely told victims that their investments were making profits.

In truth, none of the money that Mixon received from victims was ever invested in any market, but was instead either diverted to his personal use or used to pay other victims their “proceeds.”  Ultimately, Mixon convinced at least 47 individuals to invest with him and obtained at least $550,001 in victim funds. 

U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin stated, “Wrongdoers like Mr. Mixon who scam innocent victims for their own personal benefit will be held accountable.  We will continue to vigorously prosecute those who devise and participate in these types of schemes and, more importantly, restore justice to the victims to the best of our ability.   I would like to recognize the outstanding efforts of our prosecutor and the FBI for their exemplary work in this case.”

“Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that individuals like Mr. Mixon who engage in fraudulent foreign trading schemes that impact innocent investors will be held accountable.  Mr. Mixon knowingly deceived dozens of investors out of over $500,000 and chose to use their money for his own selfish greed,” said Bryan Vorndran, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge.  “I would like to thank the efforts put forth by our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Louisiana and the Miami Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for helping the FBI disrupt fraud like this.”

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth White who also serves as Deputy Criminal Chief. 

Former Member of Boston Chapter of Latin Kings Sentenced for Racketeering Conspiracy Charges

 BOSTON – A former member of the Boston-based Morton Street Bricks Chapter of the Massachusetts Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (“Latin Kings”) was sentenced today for racketeering charges.

Oscar Pena, a/k/a “King DO-Block,” 29, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to 32 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In August 2020, Pena pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.

The Latin Kings are a violent criminal enterprise comprised of thousands of members across the United States. The Latin Kings adhere to a national manifesto, employ an internal judiciary and use a sophisticated system of communication to maintain the hierarchy of the organization. As alleged in court documents, the gang uses drug distribution to generate revenue, and engages in violence against witnesses and rival gangs to further its influence and to protect its turf.

Named for the Morton Street housing project in Boston, the MSB Chapter of the Latin Kings included approximately half-a-dozen members. The MSB Chapter, in turn, reported to the Massachusetts State Leadership of the Latin Kings, providing information, structure, funds and other resources to further the Latin Kings goals and directives in the state. In addition to conspiring with members of the Latin Kings to further the goals of the enterprise through the commission of criminal acts, Oscar Pena personally sold a cooperating witness approximately 38 grams of fentanyl.

In December 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and firearms charges against 62 leaders, members and associates of the Latin Kings. Oscar Pena is the 12th defendant to be sentenced in the case.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Commissioner Carol Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross made the announcement. Valuable assistance was also provided by the FBI North Shore Gang Task Force and the Bristol County and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Mallard and Lauren Graber of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

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

Former Mayor of Yona, Guam Sentenced to Prison for Extortion

 Hagatña, Guam – SHAWN N. ANDERSON, United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, announced that defendant Jesse Mendiola Blas, age 58, from Yona, Guam, was sentenced in the United States District Court of Guam to 37 months imprisonment for Extortion Under Color of Official Right, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951.  The Court also ordered three years of supervised release following imprisonment, one hundred hours of community service, a mandatory $100 special assessment fee, and a forfeiture money judgment of $11,700.

Beginning in November 2018, Blas used his position as Mayor of Yona to accept cash bribes from a confidential informant (CI), who posed as a drug trafficker to obtain United States Postal Service cluster box units (CBU).  The CBUs are offered free to residents for the lawful receipt of mail.  Blas agreed to provide a mailbox to the CI to enable drug traffickers to securely receive packages of methamphetamine through the U.S. mail system.  Continual access to the mailbox was conditioned upon sharing proceeds from the drug packages with Blas.  During the scheme, he received $11,700 for the use of a single mailbox.  Blas also offered to sell a second mailbox to the CI for $15,000.  He also offered to change the assigned box each week to avoid interception of the drug packages by law enforcement.  When the CI stopped making payments, Blas asked for $8,000 more and threatened to shut down the mailbox.  Blas was subsequently arrested in September 2019.

U.S. Attorney Anderson stated, “We entrust our elected officials with the responsibility to act in the best interests of the public.  Community safety is among their basic duties.  This case exposed a mayor acting in his own self-interest to the potential detriment of an entire island.  I commend the hard work by our agency partners that brought Mr. Blas to justice.  The sentence imposed by the Court further demonstrates that officials who engage in criminal conduct will be held accountable.”

“Most public officials are honorable and dedicated to serving their communities. Unfortunately, the actions displayed by Mayor Blas undermines the public’s trust in elected officials," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eli S. Miranda. “Citizens expect and deserve their public officials to serve them honestly and in accordance with the law. Failure to do so erodes the public’s faith in government – which is crucial in ensuring public safety.  The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate any corrupt public official who willfully and maliciously abuse their office.”

“As the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the safety of postal employees and the public is our top priority,” said Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  “Anyone who uses the Post Office or its products for unlawful activities should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable. When local and federal law enforcement work together, we can better protect our communities, our families, and our neighborhoods.  Working together we will continue to investigation, arrest and prosecute those individuals responsible for endangering U.S. Postal Service employees and the citizens of Guam.”

 “Public corruption has far reaching effects on the day to day lives of everyone in society,” said John F. Tobon, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “Identifying acts of corruption, the proceeds of these acts and bringing those responsible to justice is a top priority for HSI.  We will continue to work tirelessly in order to root out corruption.” 

This case was a result of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Postal Inspection Service, and Homeland Security Investigations.  The case was prosecuted by Laura C. Sambataro, Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Guam.

Rancho San Pedro Gang Leader Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Role in Heroin, Oxycodone Trafficking Operation

           LOS ANGELES – A Rancho San Pedro street gang member who oversaw the group’s daily operations, arranged sales of oxycodone and heroin, and reported to incarcerated Mexican Mafia members about the gang’s activities, was sentenced today to 120 months in federal prison.

          Robert “Stretch” Messersmith, 34, of San Pedro, was sentenced by United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson. Messersmith pleaded guilty in September 2020 to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

          The Rancho San Pedro street gang operates in the San Pedro area of the City of Los Angeles, according to court documents. It operates under the control of the Mexican Mafia and often engages in violence and intimidation to protect its territory. The gang collects “taxes” from drug transactions, and this money was funneled to three Mexican Mafia members who are currently serving lengthy sentences in state prisons for murder convictions.

          In furtherance of the conspiracy, from August 2017 to May 2018, Messersmith sold dozens of oxycodone pills, discussed and arranged the sale of heroin and methamphetamine, and planned the smuggling of heroin and other narcotics into a prison. During one recorded telephone conversation in May 2018, Messersmith discussed a recent successful narcotics transaction, stating, “That’s a touchdown like Peyton Manning.”

          Messersmith is the lead defendant in a 26-count federal grand jury indictment returned in June 2019 that alleges various narcotics and firearms offenses were committed by 13 Rancho San Pedro members and associates. The indictment’s remaining defendants are scheduled to go to trial on April 27.

          This matter was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Police Department. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives provided substantial assistance.

          This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph D. Axelrad of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

DEA and SAMHSA Announce Winners of Red Ribbon Week Campus Video Public Service Announcement Contest

 North Dakota State College of Science and University of Miami Take Top Prize

 WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration named North Dakota State College of Science, and the University of Miami winners of the 5th Annual Red Ribbon Week Campus Video PSA Contest. The contest, co-sponsored by DEA and SAMHSA, was part of the 2020 Red Ribbon Week activities. Participants produced a 30- to 60-second video public service announcement focusing on the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse among college students.

“As in the past, this year’s contest participants’ devotion to preventing drug misuse at their colleges and universities is a fitting way to honor the sacrifice of Special Agent Kiki Camarena,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “We sincerely appreciate the time and effort each college and university invested to promote this important message, and we congratulate the winners on their outstanding PSAs.” The winning PSA from North Dakota State College of Science, “Challenge the Perceptions We See,” was submitted by Bethany Mauch, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Prevention Specialist. It was the result of a collaboration of student leaders and performing arts students.

“One of the greatest challenges as a prevention professional in higher education is developing communication and education that will resonate with students,” said Mauch. “Communication channels change rapidly, and creating messages that will be relevant to our students can be difficult. Entering this contest adds a competitive component to our education that is both challenging and fun. In addition, if we can create an educational video for our students that can also be used on a national level, that’s a win-win for everyone.”

The University of Miami’s winning PSA, Little Monsters, was submitted by Whitney O’Regan, Assistant Dean of Students & Director of the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education.

“The Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education is always looking for new and innovative ways to reach our community through a variety of multimedia options,” said O’Regan. “Especially given the need to diversify our online presence in the midst of the pandemic, we thought this would be an exciting opportunity to expand our messaging in a different form of media, work collaboratively with students outside of the peer education team, and challenge our students to think outside of the box to promote messaging around drug misuse.”

Judges evaluated and scored each PSA for appropriateness of message, creativity and originality, and production value. The winning PSAs were unveiled at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ 2021 Strategies Conference, held virtually January 12-15. This conference provides student affairs practitioners with knowledge and skills to effectively prevent alcohol and drug misuse among college students.

Both winning schools received a plaque to commemorate their achievement, complementary registration to attend the Strategies Conference, and $3,000 to support their drug misuse prevention efforts. Watch the winning PSAs here: https://www.campusdrugprevention.gov/psacontest. 

Red Ribbon Week, which was created in 1985 following the murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena by drug traffickers in Mexico, has become an annual event demonstrating intolerance for drugs in our nation’s schools, workplaces, and communities. Each year from October 23–31, people in cities and towns across the United States show their commitment to a healthy, drug-free lifestyle by wearing or displaying the Red Ribbon.

For more information on DEA’s Red Ribbon campaign and events, go to www.dea.gov/redribbon

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DEA 2020 Year in Review: Combatting Serious Drug-Related Threats During the Pandemic

 WASHINGTON – With the unprecedented worldwide health emergency brought on by COVID-19, last year was filled with new challenges and increased risks. While much of the world focused on combating the pandemic, DEA continued to implement initiatives to combat violent drug traffickers who were intent on flooding cities and rural areas alike with illicit, deadly drugs.

“In 2020, almost every aspect of our lives was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “Despite this unparalleled disruption, DEA continually worked to identify and address threats to our communities, implementing significant operations to protect neighborhoods from the rise in violence, the scourge of methamphetamine, and the ongoing threat of opioids and fentanyl. DEA has also been on the front lines ensuring patients have access to lifesaving medications, and those suffering from substance use disorder have access to treatment. The people we serve are the reason we serve, and the successes of this past year demonstrate that commitment.”

According to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose between May 2019 and May 2020. The number of overdose deaths accelerated significantly during the pandemic, resulting in the largest monthly increases documented since provisional data calculations began in 2015. DEA is working tirelessly to address this threat head on.

While synthetic opioids, such as illicit fentanyl, continue to be the primary cause of these deaths, there has also been an alarming increase in the number of deaths involving illicit stimulants, particularly methamphetamine. Overdose deaths connected to meth increased almost 35 percent in 2020, exceeding the number of cocaine-related deaths.

Simultaneously, violent crime rates showed a disturbing increase, with murder, aggravated assault, and other violent crimes on the rise. Drug trafficking is a known contributor to violent crimes in America.

In response to these concerning trends, DEA implemented a number of initiatives in 2020 to combat the methamphetamine threat, violent crime associated with drug trafficking, the opioid epidemic, and to maintain an appropriate supply of controlled substances for legitimate prescriptions, including for patients being treated for COVID-19.

Operation Crystal Shield

In February 2020, DEA launched Operation Crystal Shield, a major coordinated enforcement effort targeting methamphetamine transportation hubs throughout the United States to prevent these deadly narcotics from reaching our communities. In October 2020, DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division seized more than 2,200 pounds of meth in the single largest DEA domestic methamphetamine seizure in the last five years. Within days, DEA played a major role in another significant meth seizure in San Diego totaling more than 3,000 pounds. These two seizures – together equaling a staggering 2.6 tons – could provide a single dose of meth to every man, woman, and child in the United States and Mexico. In total, Operation Crystal Shield generated more than 800 investigations resulting in over 2,100 arrests, the seizure of nearly $54.5 million in drug proceeds, more than 300 firearms, and more than 60,000 pounds of methamphetamine.

Project Safeguard

More than 30,000 gangs operate on the streets of America with nearly all involved not only in distributing drugs, but also in committing violent crimes. In August 2020, DEA began Project Safeguard, an initiative specifically designed to combat violent crime associated with drug trafficking. DEA operations targeted dozens of violent street gangs and drug trafficking organizations, leading to the arrests of extremely violent, armed, and dangerous fugitives in major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Boston. DEA seized huge stashes of illicit drugs and over 30,000 rounds of ammunition, pipe bombs, and other explosives. Project Safeguard resulted in more than 750 investigations with nearly 2,230 arrests – including more than 40 dangerous fugitives. Cases under this initiative accounted for the seizure of nearly $33 million in assets, approximately 3,140 firearms, almost 200 kilograms of fentanyl, more than 240 kilograms of heroin, and more than 1,500 kilograms of methamphetamine.

In a short time, Project Safeguard demonstrated remarkable success disrupting the criminal activities of violent drug trafficking organizations by removing key members responsible for wreaking havoc and impacting the safety of communities. With illicit financial gains seized, DEA hindered or halted criminal organizations ability to rebound.

Operation LeGend

DEA played a significant role in the Department of Justice initiative Operation LeGend, a sustained, systematic, and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies worked in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the surge in violent crime. DEA’s enforcement efforts under this operation have focused on targeting violent drug trafficking organizations, gangs, and individual drug traffickers in designated high-crime areas.

Since Operation LeGend began in July 2020, DEA has made 650 arrests and seized $9.24 million in assets, 595 firearms, 17 kilograms of fentanyl, 18 kilograms of heroin, 217 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 84 kilograms of cocaine from the nine Operation LeGend metropolitan areas.

Opioid epidemic

The opioid epidemic continues to be a serious threat to our communities, with synthetic opioid deaths up more than 38 percent as of May 2020 as compared to the previous year. A driving factor for this startling increase is the distribution of clandestinely manufactured fentanyl and its related compounds. Not only is fentanyl much more potent than heroin, in many parts of the United States it is much cheaper on the street. In early 2018, DEA emergency scheduled all fentanyl-related substances into Schedule I to address the imminent hazard to public safety, making it illegal to manufacture, import, distribute, or possess a fentanyl-related substance without appropriate DEA registration and approval. As a result of this action, the amount of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues seized originating from China has plummeted. In 2020, DEA worked with Congress to extend this emergency scheduling action through May 2021 to ensure this progress continues and to allow time to secure permanent scheduling legislation.

DEA announced in August a new e-commerce outreach program aimed at reducing the availability of equipment used to manufacture counterfeit prescription drugs, which are often laced with fentanyl. This DEA-led initiative focuses on educating online retailers about the sale of pill presses and components, and the associated regulations and restrictions involved in the sale and possession of these items.

Another effort to address the epidemic is the Department of Justice’s National Healthcare Fraud and Opioid Take-Down Initiative. DEA’s involvement in this effort, announced in September, resulted in 57 arrests, 19 administrative actions, over $1 million in civil fines, and almost $2 million in civil forfeiture. In addition, DEA’s work on the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force directly led to the arrest of 73 healthcare professionals and other individuals in six states responsible for the unlawful distribution of 40 million medically unnecessary pain pills. Criminal and administrative actions like these send a clear message affirming DEA’s ongoing commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic while ensuring the safety of patients and the integrity of health care benefit programs.

Ensuring an adequate and uninterrupted supply of controlled substances

On the regulatory side, DEA took significant steps to ensure an adequate and uninterrupted supply of controlled substances and aggregate supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset of the public health emergency declaration, a team of policy and regulatory experts assembled to quickly review and address requests to grant temporary exceptions to regulations in order to ensure the stability of the drug supply chain and continuity of care for patients who need access to controlled substances. Appropriate adjustments to the Aggregate Production Quota (APQ) for substances vital for COVID-19 patient care were timed to allow both an adequate supply and reduce the risk of diversion. Additionally, DEA supported temporary exemptions to telemedicine regulations, increased efforts to safeguard the continuity of treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorder, and expanded access to medication assisted treatment. With the support of our public health partners, DEA issued 81 temporary registrations as states sought to identify interim facilities to treat COVID-19 patients in the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. DEA worked closely with its federal partners in the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that these actions would be helpful to the public health authorities who are on the front lines battling the pandemic. The agency continues to monitor and adjust the APQ, which has contributed to decreasing prescription opioid overdose deaths, to ensure Americans continue to have access to these essential medications and controlled substances, while mitigating the potential for diversion.

As we begin 2021, DEA remains dedicated to protecting our communities from the scourge of illicit drugs and helping those affected by the violence of drug trafficking, drug addiction, and illness. DEA is committed to continuing our efforts to disrupt and dismantle violent drug trafficking organizations and implementing initiatives to support safe, healthy communities.