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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Montgomery County Man Charged with Distribution of Child Pornography

INDIANAPOLIS—Philip R. Collins, 47, Crawfordsville, Ind., was charged today with both distribution and possession of child pornography, following an investigation by the Indiana State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The charging document alleges that on March 4, 2010, Collins distributed child pornography by means of a computer in interstate commerce, and that he also possessed child pornography. Collins purportedly began communicating online with an undercover law enforcement officer in August, 2009, after two more communications, Collins allegedly distributed 14 images of child pornography to the undercover officer. Law enforcement officers identified Collins, confronted him, and purportedly found additional images of child pornography on a thumb drive connected to his desktop computer.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Brant Cook, who is prosecuting the case for the government, Collins faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the distribution count and a maximum $250,000 fine. Collins faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the possession count and a $250,000 fine. An initial hearing will be scheduled before a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

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 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.

An Information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

New Haven Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Crack Cocaine Distribution Charge

June 30, 2010 - David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that MICAL BETHEA, also known as “Kareem,” 25, formerly of Grand Avenue in New Haven, pleaded guilty yesterday, June 29, before United States District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to one count of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base (“crack cocaine”).

According to court documents and statements made in court, on March 3, 2009, BETHEA met with an undercover law enforcement officer in the vicinity of Lexington Avenue in New Haven. At that meeting, BETHEA sold the undercover officer more than five grams of crack cocaine. As part of his plea, BETHEA also admitted that he again sold crack cocaine to an undercover officer on March 10, 2009.

BETHEA has been detained since his arrest on August 10, 2009.

Judge Bryant has scheduled sentencing for September 20, 2010, at which time BETHEA faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five years, a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years, and a fine of up to $2 million.

This case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Haven Police Department pursuant to the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

Two Charged with Falsifying Tobacco Reports

June 30, 2010 - OXFORD, MS—William C. Martin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Mississippi, and Phillip M. Durham, Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), announce that:

Robert Ammerman, 69, of Falmouth, Kentucky, and Mike Ammerman, 47, of Cynthiana, Kentucky, doing business as Farmers Tobacco in Cynthiana, Kentucky, entered guilty pleas today before United States District Judge Sharion Aycock in Oxford, Mississippi. Each waived indictment and pled guilty to a one-count Information charging him with making and causing to be made false monthly tobacco reports.

Acting United States Attorney William C. Martin stated: “The guilty pleas entered today by Robert and Mike Ammerman are the product of a continued collaborative law enforcement effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the Tupelo Police Department. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to continued cooperation with each of these agencies to curb this and other types of fraudulent activity.”

Each man faces a maximum possible penalty of not more than three years in prison; not more than a $250,000 fine; and not more than one year supervised release.

In connection with their guilty pleas, the Ammermans agreed to forfeit to the United States $8,000,000 in cash, representing the proceeds of their unlawful activity. This forfeiture is one of the single largest cash forfeitures in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Daniel McMullen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi stated: “The guilty pleas entered today reflect the continuing benefits achieved by the hardworking, dedicated officers and agents from local, state, and federal agencies who worked side by side on this investigation. Because of their efforts, this complex, multijurisdictional, multi-million-dollar scheme to evade payment of taxes through the sale and distribution of contraband cigarettes has come to an end.”

Phillip M. Durham, ATF Special Agent in Charge said, “ATF is committed to working with our federal, state and local partners to stop criminal groups that profit from the transportation of contraband cigarettes. In these hard economic times, selling untaxed cigarettes puts our law-abiding merchants at a huge disadvantage. The legal tax revenue collected on tobacco products goes toward improving our schools, our highways and our quality of life. The selling of untaxed cigarettes must be closely watched and dealt with as soon as possible. With federal, state and local entities all working together, we are accomplishing just what we set out to do. This task force looks forward to continuing this investigation, seizing the proceeds of these enterprises and placing the culpable parties behind bars.”

Copies of the Information and Factual Basis for each defendant are attached.

The investigation of these cases is a joint effort by the FBI, ATF, Mississippi State Auditor’s Office, the Mississippi State Tax Commission, the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the Tupelo Police Department. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Chad Lamar, Clay Joyner and Clyde McGee. The forfeitures are being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Sam Wright.

Second Camden Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Deprive Others of Civil Rights

June 30, 2010 - CAMDEN, NJ—A former Camden, New Jersey police officer pleaded guilty today to conspiring with other Camden Police officers to deprive others of their civil rights, United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Jason Stetser, 32, of Waterford Township, N.J., admitted before United States District Judge Robert B. Kugler that from May 2007 to October 2009, while on duty as a uniformed police officer with the Camden Police Department, he engaged in a conspiracy with at least four other Camden Police officers to deprive individuals of their due process rights by charging them with planted evidence; threatening certain individuals with arrest using planted evidence if they did not cooperate with law enforcement; conducting illegal searches without a search warrant or consent; stealing money during illegal searches and arrests; paying for cooperation and information with illegal drugs; failing to report found drugs and stashing them to use as planted evidence; and preparing false police reports or testifying falsely in court to conceal his actions.

Stetser is the second to plead guilty to participating in this conspiracy while serving as a Camden police officer. Kevin Parry entered a guilty plea before Judge Kugler on March 19, 2010, and awaits sentencing. Three other officers who are referenced in court documents have not been identified by name.

U.S. Attorney Fishman stated: “Jason Stetser betrayed those whose rights he violated, the public he was sworn to protect, and all of the honest police officers who risk everything to keep us safe.”

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

Stetser became an officer with the Camden Police Department in June 2003. Since that time, he was teamed with four other officers in a patrol or special operations division identified as Platoon #4. According to Stetser, the conspiracy operated within this platoon.

Stetser admitted that he or other members of the conspiracy added drugs to the amount of drugs seized during an arrest in order to make the arrest appear more significant, planted drug evidence during arrests where no drugs were found, and paid cooperators and informants—who were often prostitutes—with drugs in exchange for information. Stetser further admitted that he and the other officers falsified police reports in an endeavor to conceal their actions.

During his guilty plea, Stetser detailed specific examples of his illegal conduct in support of the conspiracy. On one occasion in August 2008, he and the four other officers conducted an illegal search of a Camden residence, where a person identified in court documents as A.C. was located. Drugs found during this illegal search were used to charge A.C., and Stetser and Parry kept money they found rather than turning it in as evidence. Stetser then falsified a police report to conceal the unlawful search, the subsequent arrest and the theft of money.

On another occasion in September 2008, Stetser and three other officers arrested two persons identified as T.R. and A.F. for suspicion of drug distribution. Stetser and his coconspirators added additional drugs to those found during the arrests that were not directly attributable to those individuals or the events surrounding their arrests.

In January 2009, a person identified as R.M. was charged after Stetser and three other officers illegally searched a house. The police report falsely stated that R.M. fled the scene and discarded drugs during his escape from police when no such events occurred.

Stetser pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive persons in New Jersey of the free exercise and enjoyment of rights, privileges and immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, a crime which carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Judge Kugler scheduled sentencing for October 7, 2010.

In determining the actual sentence, Judge Kugler will consult the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and other factors. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all that time.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s resident agency in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk; investigators and prosecutors of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk; the Camden Police Department, under the direction of Chief John S. Thomson; and deputy attorney generals from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, Division of Criminal Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Paula T. Dow, with developing the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin T. Smith and Matthew J. Skahill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden, along with Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Kase, a Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Chief of the Public Corruption Unit with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office – on special assignment for purposes of this investigation.

Former Owner of Kankakee Payroll Processing Company Pleads Guilty to Fraud

June 30, 2010 - URBANA, IL—The former owner of Premier Data Solutions, Gary A. Gerberding, waived indictment today and pled guilty to defrauding former clients of his payroll processing company. Gerberding appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal. Sentencing is scheduled on Oct. 8, 2010, before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. McCuskey.

During today’s court hearing and in court documents, Gerberding, 58, of Kankakee, Illinois, admitted that from January 2007 to April 2008, he failed to pay payroll taxes due to the Internal Revenue Service and the Illinois Department of Revenue on behalf of clients who had contracted with Premier Data Solutions to process weekly and bi-weekly payrolls. As part of their arrangement, clients provided Premier Data Solutions with the funds necessary to cover both the payroll and payroll taxes. Premier Data Solutions then provided clients with a payroll package consisting of several reports and payroll checks.

Gerberding admitted that he manipulated the payment of clients’ payroll tax liabilities using one client’s payroll tax monies to pay another client’s outstanding payroll tax liabilities. Gerberding further admitted that he provided false check reconciliation journals to clients to cover the fraud. The journals falsely indicated that Premier Data Solutions was remitting payroll taxes to the IRS and the Illinois Department of Revenue, when in fact, it was not. The total estimated amount of loss resulting from Gerberding’s fraudulent scheme is $2,370,142.

The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin S. Bruce.

Each count of wire fraud (two counts) carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000; for each count of failure to pay over tax (three counts) the penalty is up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. According to the plea agreement, the parties have agreed that the amount of restitution owed is $1,670,142.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Child Pornography Charges Filed Against Arabi Man

June 29, 2010 - NEW ORLEANS, LA—JACOB B. JOHANNESSEN, JR., a resident of Arabi, Louisiana, was charged today in a one count bill of information with possession of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Jim Letten.

According to court documents, on approximately April 1, 2009, JOHANNESSEN was found to be in possession of a computer that contained images of child pornography. If convicted, JOHANNESSEN faces a maximum penalty of not more than ten (10) years in prison, followed by up to a lifetime term of supervised release, a $250,000.00 fine, and be required to register as a sex offender.

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 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 http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

U.S. Attorney Letten reiterated that a Bill of Information is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being investigated by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Chester.

Pharmacy Burglar Sentenced to Prison

June 29, 2010 - MARQUETTE, MI—Richard Glenn LaPine, 43, of Cheboygan, Michigan, a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, U.S. Attorney Donald A. Davis announced today. In addition to the prison term, Senior U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar ordered LaPine to serve three years of supervised release following his release from prison, mandatory restitution in the amount of $4,159.58, and to pay a $100 special assessment. LaPine pleaded guilty on March 22, 2010 to a federal indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. The charge stemmed from an incident on September 8, 2009, wherein LaPine broke into the pharmacy in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribal health center at 2864 Ashmun Street, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and took prescription pills containing hydrocodone APAP, clonazepam, propoxyphene, diazepam, and lorazepam. The pharmacy is located on lands held in trust for the Tribe. LaPine admitted to breaking into the pharmacy in order to steal drugs that he later intended to sell.

U.S. Attorney Davis commended the Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Police Department and special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their work in this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff J. Davis.

San Diego Man Sentenced to 24 Months Prison for Mortgage Fraud

June 29, 2010 - United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that Rollo Richard “Rick” Norton II was sentenced today in federal court in San Diego by United States District Judge Marilyn L. Huff to serve 24 months in prison plus three years of supervised release in connection with a felony charge of mail fraud arising from his participation in a scheme to draw equity out of a San Diego condominium complex through a series of sham purchase transactions and refinances. Norton also faces an order of restitution from the Court. The amount of the restitution—which depends, in part, on payments made to Norton’s former clients through certain recent third-party civil settlements—remains to be determined by the Court.

According to court papers, Norton was an investment advisor in Ramona, California. In or about 1999, an entity controlled by Norton purchased an apartment complex located on Crown Point Drive in San Diego, California, with the intention of completing the conversion of the apartments to condominiums for sale. Norton initially financed the acquisition and conversion of the Crown Point condominiums by taking the project subject to existing loans and by raising funds from investors. However, because of unfavorable loan terms, Norton’s mismanagement of the project, insufficient rental income, and other problems, Norton and his entities soon lacked sufficient funds to service the debt on the condominium project, to make promised payments to investors, and to complete the condominium conversion process.

As part of his guilty plea, Norton admitted that, to raise additional funds, he and others devised a fraudulent scheme to obtain loan proceeds from numerous financial institutions. The scheme ran from late 2001 to late 2005. As part of the scheme, Norton induced straw purchasers to let him use their names and credit histories to obtain new mortgage loans on individual condominium units with the understanding that Norton (and not the straw purchasers) would take care of the mortgage and tax payments. Norton then obtained mortgage loans in the straw purchasers’ names without disclosing to the financial institutions the side agreements between Norton and the straw purchasers.

Norton also admitted that he and others intentionally transferred ownership of condominium units into the names of some individuals without even telling them. Norton then used the names and credit histories of these unwitting “purchasers” to take out new loans on the condominiums. To facilitate this scheme, Norton admitted that he signed the names of other persons on grant deeds and other escrow closing documents and then had the signatures notarized by someone in his office or elsewhere. To prevent detection, Norton had the escrow documents, mortgage bills, real estate tax bills and delinquency notices sent to Norton’s office, rather than to the persons to whom he had transferred ownership of the condominium.

United States Attorney Duffy stated, “The first half of this decade unfortunately created far too many opportunities for mortgage and real estate fraud. The investigation and vigorous pursuit of this matter triggered a series of events that ultimately led to the defendant’s accepting responsibility and to the recovery of a significant portion of lost investor funds through private, third-party civil settlements. Today’s events reflect this office’s unwavering commitment to pursue aggressively all types of financial fraud.”

Keith Slotter, Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego FBI Office stated, “The FBI will continue to work with the mortgage industry and our law enforcement partners to protect citizens from becoming victims of mortgage fraud crimes.”

Two other individuals who have entered guilty pleas associated with this fraud—Scott Greer and Todd Johnson—are awaiting sentencing by U.S. District Judge Huff on July 26, 2010.

110-Month Sentence Handed Down in Investment Fraud Scheme

June 29, 2010 - United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that today United States District Court Judge John A. Houston sentenced Richard M. Hersch to serve 110 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release. Judge Houston also ordered Hersch to pay at least $9.2 million in restitution for investors he defrauded in the scheme. Hersch pled guilty on November 16, 2009 to mail fraud and conspiracy to structure financial transactions.

As part of his guilty plea, Hersch admitted that he operated an investment scheme in which he recruited investors by promising returns of two-to-six percent per week on investments into his company, All States ATM, Inc. Hersch told investors that All States ATM had contracts with major horse racing tracks in California and around the country to operate Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) on the “back side” of the racetrack, an area used by employees of the racetrack, horse owners, horse trainers and others, and not accessible to the general public. Hersch also claimed that the contracts his company had with the racetracks allowed him to operate a check-cashing or loan service on the back side of the track for the exclusive use of those with access to that area. Hersch claimed that he had 160 employees and hundreds of ATMs and that his company was in its eighth year of business. The horse racing tracks identified by Hersch reported having no contracts with him or All States ATM to provide financial services of any sort. Based on these false representations, Hersch and others recruited more than 150 investors to invest approximately $25 million in All States ATM.

In addition, Hersch admitted during his guilty plea that he conspired with others to structure 15 transactions, totaling $141,500, for the purpose of evading the currency reporting requirements. Hersch and others withdrew cash from a Wells Fargo Bank Account in amounts between $9,000 and $9,500 because they knew that withdrawals of cash over $10,000 triggered the currency reporting requirements.

United States Attorney Duffy stated, “Today’s sentence demonstrates our commitment to investigating and prosecuting those individuals who prey upon innocent victims in our community through fraudulent investment schemes.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today’s sentencing should remind the public of the financial perils associated with high yield investment fraud scams.

The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate those individuals that engage in fraudulent investment practices that victimize the American public and undermine our economy.”

“Currency report information filed by banks and financial institutions provides a paper trail, or roadmap, for investigations of financial crimes and illegal activities, including tax evasion, embezzlement, and money laundering. Individuals who deliberately break down cash withdrawals into amounts less that $10,000, so as not to trigger a bank's reporting requirement, are committing a financial crime,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge for IRS-Criminal Investigation in the Los Angeles Field Office. “In this investigation, IRS special agents used their financial expertise to uncover Mr. Hersch's intentionally structured cash withdrawals, designed to hide his investment fraud scheme.”

2 Wanted Fugitives Turned Over to U.S. Authorities at Buffalo Border Crossing

June 29, 2010 - Lewiston, NY– U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Field Operations announced the arrest of two United States citizens wanted in North Carolina on a violent assault case.

On June 26, CBP officers received notification from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that 22- year-old Anthony Bell and 23-year-old Elias Martin, both United States citizens from Georgia, were being deported from Canada and returned to the United States. The two subjects, who were accompanied by two female juveniles, advised CBSA that they arrived in Canada by accident, as they wanted to see Niagara Falls, but made a wrong turn. Record checks by CBSA revealed that the two men may have active arrest warrants in the United States and that the two females were listed as missing persons. The group was believed to have participated in a violent assault in Mooresville, NC and fled the area shortly thereafter. CBSA also advised that the vehicle being used by the group was reported stolen and may contain evidence of the crime. All four persons and the vehicle were subsequently removed from Canada by CBSA and returned to the United States via the Lewiston Bridge border crossing in Lewiston , NY.

Upon their removal to the United States, CBP officers performed additional record checks and verified that both Martin and Bell were in fact subjects of felony, no bond warrants issued by the Mooresville, NC Police Department on June 25, 2010. The warrants charge both men with assault serious bodily injury, common law robbery, breaking and/or entering, larceny after break/enter and injury to real property. Both subjects are also wanted for sexual assault- Carnal abuse issued by the Lumpkin Co. Sheriff’s Department in Dahlonega GA.

CBP officers verified the validity of both warrants and confirmed the extradition. Both Bell and Martin were arrested by CBP and turned over to the custody of the New York State Police pending extradition to North Carolina. The two juvenile females, ages 16 and 17 years old, were also turned over to the New York State Police to be reunited with family in Georgia. The stolen vehicle, which was preserved by CBP as a possible crime scene, was transferred to the New York State Police as evidence.

Reward Offer Increased for South Suburban Bank Robber

June 29, 2010 - Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is asking for the public’s help in locating a Richton Park man wanted for the December 22, 2009 armed take-over robbery of the First Midwest Bank, located in Country Club Hills, Illinois. In making this appeal, Mr. Grant announced that a reward of up to $20,000 was now being offered for information leading to his arrest.

COREY FRIERSON, age 25, of 5131 Riverside Drive in the south suburb, has been the subject of a nationwide manhunt, coordinated by the Chicago FBI since February of this year, when he was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count of bank robbery.

According to the complaint, FRIERSON was one of three men who committed the robbery, with FRIERSON identified as the leader of the group. FRIERSON is alleged to have planned the theft and supplied the two Uzi-style assault weapons that were used during the robbery. The other two accomplices have since been identified and arrested, and are both in custody.

Recent investigation by the FBI tracked FRIERSON to Lexington, Mississippi, where he is known to have family and friends. In April, FRIERSON was stopped by a local police officer for a traffic offense. However, during a routine check of his driver’s license, FRIERSON fled his vehicle and disappeared into the nearby woods. At the time, FRIERSON was in possession of a counterfeit Ohio driver’s license under the name of Christopher Redmond. While in Mississippi, FRIERSON is also believed to have made threats to kill police officers.

FRIERSON is described as a black/male, 25 years of age, 6’0” tall, and 200 pounds. He is light-skinned with freckles. FRIERSON has previously worn his hair in dreadlocks, but has since been seen with a shaved head. Given the nature of the charges filed against him and in light of the recent threats to harm police officers, FRIERSON should be considered armed and dangerous.

The search for FRIERSON is being coordinated by the Chicago FBI and Country Club Hills Police Department (CHPD). Anyone recognizing FRIERSON or having any information regarding his current whereabouts is asked to call the Chicago FBI at (312) 421-6700 or the CHPD at (708) 798-3191.

Additional information about this case and other unsolved Chicago area bank robberies, including downloadable photographs, is available online at the Bandit Tracker website, www.bandittrackerchicago.com.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional copies of the below wanted flyer or the criminal complaint filed in this case are available from the Chicago FBI’s press office at (312) 829-1199.

Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Assaulting a Border Patrol Agent with His Vehicle

June 29, 2010 - LAREDO, TX—Rigoberto Torres-Gomez, a citizen of El Salvador who was illegally residing in Houston, has been sentenced to 55 months in the Bureau of Prisons for assault on a federal officer while in the performance of his official duties by means and use of a dangerous weapon, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Torres, 30, was arrested after he assaulted a Border Patrol agent with his vehicle on IH-35 near Laredo, Texas, during an attempt to transport 10 illegal aliens.

On Feb. 15, 2009, at approximately 10 p.m., Border Patrol (BP) agents observed 10 suspected undocumented aliens running out of the brush and into Torres’ Isuzu Rodeo parked along the access road to the highway. A BP agent, who was tracking the group through the brush, approached the vehicle, attempted to apprehend the subjects and began struggling with one of the undocumented aliens which left the agent in front of the vehicle. The agent drew his service weapon and ordered Torres to turn off the vehicle and for the occupants to exit. that point, Torres accelerated and struck the agent with the vehicle. As the vehicle approached him, the agent tried to move in order to avoid being hit and fired his service weapon, wounding Torres. The vehicle came to a stop alongside the access road and Torres was treated by BP agents for his injuries at the scene and was later taken to a local hospital. The agent was also taken to the hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

The two-count superseding indictment charging Torres with transportation of an illegal alien for financial gain and assault on a federal officer was returned Sept. 1, 2009. On Feb. 4, 2010, Torres pleaded guilty to count two of the indictment.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sam Sheldon and Michael C. Elliott.

Work Time Spent at Casinos, on Tennis Court Sends Federal Housing Exec to Prison

June 29, 2010 - KANSAS CITY, KS—A $141,000-a-year executive at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD's) office in Kansas City, Kan., has been sentenced to 12 months and a day in federal prison for taking pay for hours he did not work, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said today.

The sentence also includes two years of supervised release, a $2,000 special assessment, and $46,925 in restitution to HUD.

In March, a jury found Herman S. Ransom, 53, Olathe, Kan., guilty on 10 counts of wire fraud and 10 counts of theft of public funds. During a trial in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., prosecutors presented evidence that federal investigators kept Ransom under surveillance for 32 separate days while he went to casinos and/or played tennis during hours he was paid to work. Investigators compiled and analyzed records from the Overland Park Racquet Club and casinos in Kansas City to determine that between 2001 and 2007, Ransom collected $46,925 in pay for hours he did not work.

As Hub Director of HUD’s office in Kansas City, Kan., Ransom was responsible for supervising approximately 89 employees in Kansas City, Kan., St. Louis, Des Moines, Omaha, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. His duties included overseeing the Office of Multifamily Housing for Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. As a GS-15 level supervisor, Ransom’s working hours were set at 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. He certified on pay reports that he worked 40 hours a week when in fact he knew he had taken personal time off during work hours. The false reports were sent electronically from Kansas City, Kan., to the National Finance Center in New Orleans, La., for processing and payment.

Welch commended the Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tris Hunt for their work on the case.

Monday, June 28, 2010

East St. Louis Man Sentenced to 72 Months for Crack Cocaine and Firearms Charges

June 28, 2010 - A. Courtney Cox, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that on June 25, 2010, ELREESE JOHNSON, age 61, of East St. Louis, Illinois, was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment, four years' supervised release, a $500 fine and a $200 special assessment fee.

JOHNSON pled guilty on March 19, 2010, in United States District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois to a two count indictment charging him with possession with intent to distribute five or more grams of crack cocaine and felon in possession of a firearm.

The investigation was conducted by the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel T. Kapsak.

Seeking Information on Bank Robbery in Robbinsdale

On Friday, June 25, 2010, at approximately 11:50 a.m., the Citizen’s Independent Bank located at 3700 West Broadway Avenue, Robbinsdale, Minnesota, was robbed by a lone individual. The robber entered the bank, approached the victim teller with a black handgun, and verbally ordered her to turn over cash. After the teller complied with the demand, the robber placed the money into a laptop computer-style briefcase, and fled the bank on foot towards West Broadway Avenue.

The robber is described as a black male, 25 – 35 yers old, approximately 6’0” tall, with a medium build, a medium complexion, and short cropped hair. He was wearing an orange hooded sweatshirt with a bandana covering his face.

Ralph S. Boelter, Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Office of the FBI, requests that anyone with information regarding this bank robbery contact the Minneapolis FBI at 612-376-3200, the Robbinsdale Police Department, or Crime Stoppers. A reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of this bank robber.

Ronda Marie Walter Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court

June 28, 2010 - The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings on June 23, 2010, before Senior U.S. District Judge Jack D. Shanstrom, RONDA MARIE WALTER, a 42-year-old resident of Billings, pled guilty to wire fraud. Sentencing has been set for September 22, 2010. She is currently released on special conditions.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan M. Archer, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

In December 2008, Underriner Motors discovered that the company accounts did not reconcile and were off by $123,000. Further investigation revealed that a long-time employee, WALTER, had been misappropriating funds since June 2005. WALTER misappropriated funds by taking cash on hand out of the bank deposits.

When a customer paid the cashier for services, down payments or other expenses at the dealership, the payments were logged into the "daily cashier's log." WALTER would take a portion of the cash deposits at the end of the day and pocket them, although the logs showed the full cash amounts. She would then subtract the amount of cash taken from one of the checks deposited that day - making it look like the deposited check was for less than it actually was. Then when the funds were deposited into the bank, the cash would be less by the amount WALTER took, and the checks would be more by the amount she altered, all with the appearance that the accounts balanced.

On March 20, 2007, for instance, Underriner received $226.11 in cash. This full amount was reflected in the logs. They also received check 17557 from Lithia Dodge comprising a $715.37 payment. WALTER pocketed $200 of the cash and only deposited $26.11 into Underriner's account. In the company logs, she reflected the $715.37 check as $515.37. So when the check was deposited for the full $717.37, it made up the $200 shortfall in cash. This same check was cleared from Lithia Dodge's U.S. Bank account in Helena and the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, Minnesota, thereby comprising an interstate wire transfer.

In all, from June 2005 through December 2008, WALTER misappropriated $198,845.44 in cash. She also made false entries into the books and records to make it appear she was making her lease payments and received a benefit of $7,020 in lease payments, for a total loss of $205,865.44. WALTER has admitted to misappropriating both cash proceeds and manipulating her lease payments.

WALTER faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least 3 years supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Michael James Burns, Jr. Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court

June 28, 2010 - The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula on June 24, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, MICHAEL JAMES BURNS, JR., a 51-year-old resident of San Francisco, California, pled guilty to wire fraud/money laundering. Sentencing has been set for October 8, 2010. He is currently detained.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan M. Archer, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

In the summer of 2008, BURNS initiated BMJ Capital in California to allegedly finance various business projects. In September 2008, BURNS met one of the owners of Strategic Land Company, LLC in San Francisco, California. The owner, hereafter referred to as "T.S.", was a partner and owner of Strategic Land Company, LLC (SLC) based in Lakeside. BURNS entered into negotiations with SLC and represented that he had over $100 million in assets and was interested in funding a real estate development project in Lakeside.

On October 15, 2008, BURNS entered into a signed agreement with "T.S." and SLC, promising to make a $25 million credit line available to complete the final phases of the land development project. SLC agreed to provide a 1% up front commitment fee of $250,000. Under the agreement, this advance fee was fully refundable by October 29, 2008, if the parties had not finalized their financing documents. On October 17, 2008, "T.S." directed Glacier Bank of Kalispell to wire $250,000 to BURNS' BMJ Capital bank account at Wachovia Bank in San Francisco, California.

On October 27, 2008, no credit had been extended and BURNS suggested altering the agreement where he would "buy into" the company.

In November 2008, SLC entered into the revised agreement after meeting with BURNS and his attorney in San Francisco. Under the new agreement, BURNS agreed to wire $33 million into the SLC Glacier Bank account. From November through January 2009, BURNS emailed several excuses as to why the money was never sent. Ultimately BURNS ceased contact with SLC and never provided any financing.

BURNS' attorney had previously vouched for BURNS' $100 million in assets, but later stated the document he relied on appeared as if it had or could be manipulated. One of BURNS' "employees" stated that it became clear that BURNS collected advance fees, but never provided any of the promised financing. A financial analysis of the bank records shows that BMJ Capital collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from individuals and businesses between 2007 and 2008. At the time, BURNS was on parole for a similar offense in Hawaii.

BURNS faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least 3 years supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Business Owners Sentenced for Bankruptcy Fraud

More Than $100,000 in Bankruptcy Assets Hidden and Diverted

June 28, 2010 - ALEXANDRIA, LA—James Kenneth Hudnall, 66, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, and Margaret Perkins Hudnall, 63, of Pineville, Louisiana, were sentenced today for conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud, United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced. James Kenneth Hudnall was sentenced to 24 months, followed by 3 years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. Margaret Hudnall was sentenced to 6 months, followed by 3 years of supervised release.

U. S. District Judge Donald E. Walter also ordered the Hudnalls to pay $52,382.20 in restitution.

After initiating bankruptcy proceedings for themselves and two businesses, Marco Development, LLC and Kenco, LLC, the Hudnalls received $102,382.20 from a business transaction. This money was divided between Mr. and Mrs. Hudnall instead of being deposited into a bankruptcy court established debtor-in-possession account. James Hudnalls’ half of the money was deposited into a non-debtor-in-possession business account controlled by Mr. Hudnall. Margaret Hudnalls’ half of the money was diverted to a business account controlled by a family member. After this was detected, the trustee of Margaret Hudnall’s bankruptcy estate recovered $50,000 from this family member controlled business through litigation. The remainder was not been recovered and the Hudnalls were ordered to pay $52,382.20 in restitution to the bankruptcy court trustees.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alexandria Resident Agency, the United States Trustee’s Office, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert W. Gillespie, Jr.

Sacramento Man Sentenced for Interstate Transportation of a Minor for Sex

June 28, 2010 - SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that Dominick West, 29, of Sacramento, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Edward J. Garcia, to 10 years and one month in prison for interstate transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. West will serve his federal prison sentence concurrently with the 51-year sentence he is currently serving as a result of his conviction in Sacramento Superior Court for the 2007 murder of a young woman leaving a nightclub with her friends.

According to court documents filed in the case, on January 11, 2008, police received a report of a 15-year-old runaway from Montana. The police learned that the girl was being offered as a prostitute on Craigslist, and an undercover police officer made a “date” to meet her. The officer met her in a Sacramento motel room, confirmed that she was in fact the 15-year-old runaway, and took her into custody.

The girl told police that she had run away from her home in Montana at West’s urging when she began talking to him online. West paid for a bus ticket for the girl to come to Sacramento from Montana, and she arrived on December 25, 2007. West met her at the bus station and took her to a female friend’s apartment where he had the woman post an ad on the online service RedBook offering the girl as a prostitute. The girl prostituted for West out of a Sacramento motel for two days.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Innocence Lost Task Force, which includes agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Sacramento Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Carolyn K. Delaney, Jill M. Thomas, and Kyle F. Reardon prosecuted the case.

Man Sentenced in Dog Fighting Case

June 28, 2010 - BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Leon Nelson, also known as Bruno, 41 of Buffalo, New York, who was convicted of a felony count of sponsoring an animal in an animal fighting venture, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William M. Skretny,

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who handled the case, stated that the defendant was convicted of sponsoring and exhibiting an animal in an animal fighting venture for the purposes of sport, wagering, and entertainment on or about June 20, 2009. Specifically the defendant allowed a dog he controlled named "EJ" to enter into a dog fight with another dog named "Batman". The defendant had wagered and lost approximately $4,000 on the fight.

The conviction was the culmination of an investigation on the part of Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of James H. Robertson, Special Agent in Charge.

Technip S.A. Resolves Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Investigation and Agrees to Pay $240 Million Criminal Penalty

June 28, 2010 - Technip S.A., a global engineering, construction and services company based in Paris, has agreed to pay a $240 million criminal penalty to resolve charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts, the Department of Justice announced today. The EPC contracts to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, were valued at more than $6 billion.

The department filed a deferred prosecution agreement and a criminal information against Technip in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The two-count information charges Technip with one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the FCPA. Technip’s American Depository Shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange from 2001 until 2007.

Technip, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), and two other companies were part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. (NLNG) between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities on Bonny Island. The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the largest shareholder of NLNG, owning 49 percent of the company.

According to court documents, Technip authorized the joint venture to hire two agents, Jeffrey Tesler and a Japanese trading company, to pay bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, to assist Technip and the joint venture in obtaining the EPC contracts. At crucial junctures preceding the award of EPC contracts, a senior executive of Technip, KBR’s former CEO, Albert "Jack" Stanley, and others met with successive holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holders to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials. The joint venture paid approximately $132 million to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company during the course of the bribery scheme. According to court documents, Technip intended for these payments to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.

Under the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the department agreed to defer prosecution of Technip for two years. Technip agreed, among other things, to retain an independent compliance monitor for a two-year period to review the design and implementation of Technip’s compliance program and to cooperate with the department in ongoing investigations. If Technip abides by the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the department will dismiss the criminal information when the term of the agreement expires.

In a related criminal case, Stanley pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiring to violate the FCPA for his participation in the bribery scheme. In another related criminal case, KBR’s successor company, Kellogg Brown & Root LLC, pleaded guilty in February 2009 to charges related to the FCPA for its participation in the scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials. Kellogg Brown & Root LLC was ordered to pay a $402 million fine and to retain an independent compliance monitor for a three-year period to review the design and implementation of its compliance program. In another related criminal case, Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, a former salesperson and consultant of a United Kingdom subsidiary of KBR, were indicted in February 2009 on charges related to the FCPA for their alleged participation in the bribery scheme. The United States has requested these defendants’ extradition from the United Kingdom.

Today, Technip also reached a settlement of a related civil complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charging Technip with violating the FCPA’s anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls provisions. As part of that settlement, Technip agreed to pay $98 million in disgorgement of profits relating to those violations.

Including today’s resolutions, a total of $917 million in criminal and civil penalties have been obtained to date as a result of the ongoing Department of Justice and SEC investigations of the scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials in order to win the Bonny Island EPC contracts.

"The resolutions announced today demonstrate once again the department’s commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute international bribery by U.S. and foreign corporations alike," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Criminal Division. "Together with KBR and others, the French company Technip engaged in a sophisticated, decade-long scheme to bribe a wide array of Nigerian government officials in order to win and retain billions of dollars in contracts. The fact that Technip now must pay criminal penalties and civil disgorgement totaling $338 million should make clear that, in the end, bribery of foreign officials will have consequences."

"Today’s criminal penalty is an example of how companies that intentionally bribe foreign government officials for their own gain will be prosecuted. The FBI is committed to pursuing those who disrupt the level playing field to which companies in the U.S. and around the world are entitled," said FBI Assistant Director Kevin L. Perkins. "This case demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to aggressively investigate violations of this law. We will continue to investigate FCPA matters by working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies, both foreign and domestic, to ensure that both corporations and executives who bribe foreign officials in return for lucrative business contracts are punished."

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Acting Assistant Chief William J. Stuckwisch and Deputy Chief Patrick F. Stokes of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with investigative assistance from the FBI-Houston Division. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in gathering evidence abroad and facilitating international cooperation. Significant assistance was provided by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement and by the authorities in France, Italy, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Idabel Man Pleads Guilty to Methamphetamine Distribution Charges

MUSKOGEE, OK—Sheldon J. Sperling, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, announced today that JAKOVAN DISHUN LEWIS, a/k/a, J.K. Lewis, a/k/a “J”, age 28, of Idabel, Oklahoma, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 500 grams or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of Methamphetamine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), 846 and 853 drug forfeiture.

The investigation began in 2004. Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Wallace led the complex inter-district, multi-state prosecution. Agents from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), Drug Enforcement Administration, Choctaw and McCurtain County Sheriff’s Departments, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Lamar County Texas District Attorney’s Drug Task Force, McAlester Police Department, Krebs Police Department, the United States Marshal Service, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Civil Air Patrol participated in the investigation. This investigation targeted the sale of diverted prescription drugs and illicit drugs in Southeast Oklahoma and Northeast Texas. The investigation was coordinated by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) of the Eastern District of Oklahoma. OCDETF is an initiative led in and coordinated by the Office of the United States Attorney.

LEWIS was indicted in August, 2009, along with GREG CLIFFON MURRAY a/k/a “BIRD”, age 37 of Midwest City, Oklahoma. MURRAY pled guilty to the same charges on September 30, 2009.

The Indictment alleged that beginning in approximately 2007, and continuing into March 2009, LEWIS sold large quantities of methamphetamine to Charles Edward King. In order to accomplish the objects of the conspiracy, MURRAY would then acquire large quantities of methamphetamine and other controlled substances from KING for the purpose of distribution to other distributors and users of the controlled substances.

The Honorable Kimberly E. West, Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Muskogee, accepted the defendant’s guilty plea and ordered the completion of a presentence report. Sentencing will be scheduled following its completion. LEWIS will remain in the custody of the United States Marshal Service pending sentencing.

The statutory range of punishment is up to life in prison and/or up to $4,000,000.00 in fines. A preliminary calculation of the sentencing guidelines predicts a term of 121-151 months' imprisonment.

Assistant United States Attorney Rob Wallace represented the United States.

St. Louis Area Priest Sentenced on Federal Child Pornography Charges

ST. LOUIS—The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that James Patrick Grady was sentenced to 80 months in prison, followed by supervised release for life. In addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a $12,500 fine.

According to court documents, James Patrick Grady was employed as the pastor at St. Raphael’s Parish in St. Louis. Grady was provided with a computer by the Arch Diocese, but requested that parish members obtain a laptop computer for his personal usage. The parish purchased him a Toshiba laptop computer.

On July 29, 2009, law enforcement officers and agents were involved in an undercover operation investigating subjects who attempt to purchase children, or their services, for commercial sex in the Eastern District of Missouri. The same day, officers received an e-mail in response to an Internet advertisement that had been placed by law enforcement working in the undercover capacity. The advertisement indicated that young females of an indeterminate age were available. The e-mail was from James Patrick Grady, seeking more information regarding the ad, and was informed that there were two females. In the course of the e-mails, Grady received a digitally morphed photograph of a 16-year-old female. Grady inquired about the cost of the child depicted and was given a price for a half-hour and for one hour. Grady indicated that he wanted a half-hour and was told that the girl was 16 years old. He indicated that was fine and set up a meeting. Upon arriving at the agreed upon location, Grady met an undercover officer, and asked to see the girls. Grady was subsequently arrested by the FBI, St. Louis County Police and the Maryland Heights Police. After his arrest, Grady admitted that he intended to have sex with the girl.

Grady was asked if he had any child pornography on his computer, and he stated that while he never downloaded child pornography, he had looked at it on his computer. The computer was searched by forensic examiners and they found more than 100 images which depicted nude prepubescent females in the 7- to 17-year-old age range engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Grady, 58, St. Louis, pleaded guilty in March to one felony count of possession of child pornography and appeared today for sentencing before United States District Judge Jean C. Hamilton.

Additionally, Grady is charged with a forfeiture count, which, will require the forfeiture of property that was used to facilitate the criminal activity. As part of his plea, Grady agrees to forfeit his Toyota Camry.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Maryland Heights and St. Louis County Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorney Howard J. Marcus handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

St. Louis City Man Pleads Guilty to Extortion Charges

ST. LOUIS—The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that Ethan Mikeal Avalos has pleaded guilty to extortion charges.

According to court documents, from late 2007 to December 2008, Avalos threatened a medical professional (victim) with exposing the fact that the victim had several paid sexual encounters with a woman identified as "Brittany" whom he had contacted through Craigslist. The sexual encounters occurred at the Drury Hotel in Chesterfield, MO. In response to these threats, the victim made a series of cash drop-offs totaling approximately $8000 to an individual at the registration desk of the Drury Hotel in late 2008. Avalos provided the victim with the false information that he was a Marine and was being sent overseas, and did not contact the victim again until sometime in November 2009.

In November 2009, Avalos renewed contact with the victim and once again threatened to expose the sexual encounters if more money was not paid. When the victim did not immediately agree to pay more money, Avalos sent the victim an e-mail in December 2009, which contained the following threatening language: "You are luckier than Tiger you were given the chance to have your big mistake kept away from your wife/media/practice." The e-mail message goes on to state that "my platoon is losing guys everyday," and directs that any future payments would not be made at the Drury.



Later in December 2009, the victim agreed to make one last payment to end the threats. Avalos agreed that in return for a cash payment of $3,500, the threats would end and this would be "our last dealing." Avalos directed that the payment should be made to an individual identified as "Ethan" at the Journeys Kidz retail store in West County Mall. He stated in an e-mail that he was still "on pretty strict duty" and had limited time before he would have to "check in at the barracks." On December 29, 2009, the victim made a cash payment in the amount of $3,500 to "Ethan" at the store as directed. Ethan was the defendant.

Ethan Mikeal Avalos, 27, St. Louis City, pleaded guilty to one felony count of extortion by interstate communications before United States District Judge E. Richard Webber.

He now faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000, when he is sentenced on September 16, 2010.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney James E. Crowe, Jr., is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Defendant Sentenced to Nearly 24 Years for Forcing Minors and Women Into Prostitution

Used the Internet to Advertise Sexual Services

On June 24, 2010, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Jamali Brockett was sentenced to 287 months’ imprisonment on his convictions for sex trafficking young girls and women and interstate transportation of women for the purposes of prostitution. He was also ordered to comply with sex offender registration. Brockett’s victims ranged in age from 14 to 19 years, and included four minors. The sentencing proceeding was held before United States Senior District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, George C. Venizelos, Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.

On November 4, 2008, FBI agents arrested Brockett at a Long Island hotel where he was engaged in the act of prostituting two of his victims, one of whom was a 17-year-old girl. Brockett pleaded guilty to all charges in the indictment on October 16, 2009, and has remained in custody since his arrest.

As detailed in the sentencing letter filed by the government, Brockett used violence, coercion, and intimidation to force his victims to work as prostitutes. Two of the victims, ages 17 and 19, were physically grabbed off of the street by Brockett. To evade detection by law enforcement, Brockett moved his victims every few days between various hotels located in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, and transported some to Washington D.C. and South Carolina for prostitution. Brockett posted sexually explicit ads for each victim under the “erotic services” section on Craigslist, and included his own phone number as the point of contact. Customers were directed to local hotels where Brockett forced his victims to perform sex acts for money and then pocketed all of the proceeds. If his victims attempted to escape, Brockett used violence against the victims and threatened their families. He also had sexual intercourse with his victims, including a 15-year-old girl.

Brockett came to the attention of law enforcement when a 14-year-old girl escaped from a hotel room in Manhattan and reported him to local law enforcement.

In announcing the sentence, Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the FBI and the New York City Police Department, the agencies responsible for conducting the government’s investigation.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Licha M. Nyiendo, Melissa Marrus, and Lan Nguyen.

Statement by U.S. Attorney David Gaouette Regarding the Resentencing of Former Qwest CEO Joesph Nacchio

DENVER—This afternoon, United States District Court Judge Marcia Krieger sentenced former Qwest Chief Executive Officer Joesph Nacchio to serve 70 months in federal prison. Krieger also ordered Nacchio to pay a $19,000,000 fine. Prior to today’s hearing, both the defense and the prosecution stipulated that Nacchio would forfeit $44,632,464.38. This resentencing hearing was conducted after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the matter to the District Court. United States Attorney David Gaouette issued the following statement regarding today’s resentencing hearing:

“First, I would like to thank Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jim Hearty and Kevin Traskos for their outstanding work on this case. This case has been worked on for a number of years and these two gentlemen have devoted a tremendous amount of time and effort not only for the government but also for all those impacted by the criminal acts of Mr. Nacchio. I also want to recognize the hard work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the support of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in Washington. Their work was invaluable and Mr. Nacchio would not have received the sentence he did today without them.

“We are extremely pleased with the sentence announced today by Judge Krieger. As the judge stated in court, these are serious crimes, with serious consequences. We also believe, as the judge mentioned, that the law applies equally to everyone. No one is above the law, and Mr. Nacchio, like the rest of us, must be held accountable for his criminal conduct. This is why the government pursued this case and will defend the sentence imposed by Judge Krieger in the future if necessary.”

THE LINDSEY BAUM CASE

Surveillance Video May Offer a Clue

- Watch surveillance video

June 26 marks one year since 10-year-old Lindsey Baum disappeared from McCleary, Washington while walking home from a friend’s house.

Surveillance video we are making available to the public might help us develop new leads in the case.

The video clips are from a Shell-Mart gas station in McCleary and were recorded at approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 26, 2009—about the time Lindsey went missing.

The footage shows a man, accompanied by a young boy, walking into the gas station and later leaving, and also shows the newer-model white Honda Ridgeline truck the man was driving. Both the man and the boy could be important witnesses regarding the disappearance because they were in the vicinity when Lindsey went missing.

Lindsey Baum

The footage shows a newer-model white Honda Ridgeline truck driven by a man who was accompanied by a young boy. Both the man and the boy could be important witnesses regarding the disappearance because they were in the vicinity when Lindsey went missing.

Please review the video clips. The man and boy may not be from McCleary. They could have simply been passing through on that evening. If you believe you recognize the man or boy or the vehicle shown please contact your nearest FBI office as soon as possible.

The FBI—along with the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department and our other local and state law enforcement partners—continues to work all existing and new leads in this case. But we need your help. If you have any information about the disappearance of Lindsey Baum, please contact your local FBI office.

Man Pleads Guilty to Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy

BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Anthony Lamarand, age 30, of North Tonawanda, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, to a felony charge of conspiring to distribute cocaine. The plea carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a fine of $4,000,000, or both.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. McCabe, who handled the case, stated that Lamarand was involved in a large scale drug-trafficking organization in parts of Niagara and northern Erie Counties between January and July 2009. During this time-frame, Lamarand distributed, on average, one (1) kilogram of powder cocaine every month to multiple customers in the Northtowns. Lamarand also fled the area on July 30, 2009 as federal authorities attempted to execute an arrest warrant in this case. Lamarand was later apprehended near Atlanta, Georgia in August 2009.

The plea was the culmination of an investigation on the part of members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ("FBI") Safe Streets Task Force under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James H. Robertson, as well as the Niagara County Drug Task Force and City of Niagara Falls Police Department.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 13, 2010 at 12:30 p.m. EST, in Buffalo, N.Y., in front of U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Houston Woman Sentenced to Prison for Bank Robbery

June 25, 2010 - HOUSTON—Tuaca Elaine Deason, 25, of Houston, has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for her role in a conspiracy to rob the Wachovia Bank branch located at 5311 Wesleyan, U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. United States District Court Ewing Werlein sentenced Deason today to the prison term which is to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of $228,776.06.

While considering Deason’s acceptance of responsibility for her criminal conduct as well other mitigating factors, Judge Werlein handed down the prison term telling Deason: “As the insider, you submitted your co-employee to the terrible experience of a bank robbery.”

In or about July 2009, Tuaca Elaine Deason and co-defendant Erik Roshan Roy, 38, of Houston, conspired to take by force and intimidation, approximately $280,005 from employees of the Wachovia Bank branch. Deason, using her position as bank teller at Wachovia Bank, agreed to facilitate access to the bank for Roy before business hours. Roy secured the use of a firearm, or what seemed to be a firearm, to be brandished and used in order to intimidate the bank employees and take money from the bank. On or about July 17, 2009, Deason reported to her regular work shift at Wachovia Bank. Later that morning, Roy called Deason on her mobile telephone to verify she was inside the bank. Acting according to plan, Deason went outside of the bank with the pretext that she needed to retrieve some keys from her car. The plan was to allow Roy to enter the bank before it was open for business.

As Deason walked back into the bank, Roy followed her and brandished what seem to be a firearm. Next, Roy shouted “DON’T NOBODY MOVE, NOBODY GETS HURT, LET’S GO.” Once inside the lobby of the bank, Roy physically restrained another bank employee by holding her around the neck and pointed what appeared to be a firearm at her head. Roy then directed both Deason and the employee to the bank’s vault. Once inside the vault room, Roy instructed Deason to remove money from the vault and place it into a bag which Roy produced. Roy then instructed Deason and the bank employee to crawl out of the vault room and to lie on the floor outside of the vault room. While Deason and the employee were lying on the floor, Roy stated, “ALL I NEED IS 15 MINUTES, IF YOU LOOK UP, I WILL KILL YOU.”

Co-defendant Roy was sentenced on June 18, 2010, to 108 months in prison.

The investigation was lead by the FBI and the Houston Police Department bank robbery task force. Special Assistant United States Attorney Justo A. Mendez prosecuted the case.

Eighth Bank Robbery

June 25, 2010 - First Savings Bank, 909 N. Mesa, El Paso, Texas was robbed today at approximately 2:13 p.m., making it the eighth bank robbery this year. A Hispanic male walked into the bank and made a verbal request to the teller demanding money. A black semi-automatic handgun was displayed; no injuries were sustained. The amount of money stolen is unknown at this time.

Subject Description:

Hispanic male, light complexion, mid-20s

Approximately 6’0” tall, medium build

Black and White baseball hat, brown and white long sleeve shirt, orange traffic vest, black and white bandana, blue jeans, white gloves

This case is being worked by the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, which includes the El Paso Police Department and El Paso Sheriff’s Department. If anyone was in the vicinity of this bank and has information about this robbery, please call the FBI at 915-832-5000.

CBP in Atlanta Arrests Individual Wanted for Murder in Las Vegas

Atlanta - U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport arrested an individual wanted for murder, officials announced today.

The arrest occurred yesterday when CBP officers encountered 51-year-old U.S. citizen Richard B. Allen arriving from Caracas, Venezuela. During routine inspection, CBP officers discovered that Allen was wanted on murder charges out of Las Vegas.

After Allen was identified and the warrant confirmed, he was arrested and turned over to Atlanta Police Department.

“While our primary mission is anti-terrorism, we are also committed to securing our homeland through the prevention of criminal elements entering our society,” said Stephen Kremer, area port director in Atlanta.

On a typical day in fiscal year 2009, CBP arrested 107 criminals at ports of entry.

CBP Officers in California Stop Las Vegas Resident with Nearly 50 Pounds of Cocaine in Hidden Compartment

Calexico, Calif. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the border crossing in downtown Calexico, Calif. seized nearly 50 pounds of cocaine Wednesday from a hidden compartment built into a pickup truck trying to cross into the U.S.

At about 8:30 a.m., a CBP officer was roving through the lanes of traffic waiting at the border crossing with his narcotic detector dog when the canine alerted to a maroon 1993 Chevy pickup truck.

CBP officers pulled the vehicle and driver, a 52-year-old male U.S. citizen and resident of Las Vegas, aside for further inspection.

Officers discovered a hidden compartment underneath the pickup truck’s console with 13 packages inside. The packages contained 46 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $366,500.

CBP officers seized the vehicle and narcotics, and turned custody of the driver over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Hartford Man Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison for Role in Drug Ring

David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that LEEQUAN BENFORD, also known as “Big L,” “L,” “L-B,” and “LT,” 22, of Pliny Street, Hartford, was sentenced today by Senior United States District Judge Peter C. Dorsey in New Haven to 24 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for his participation in Hartford-area narcotics trafficking conspiracy. On December 8, 2009, BENFORD pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, cocaine.

This matter stems from “Operation Solid Gold,” a joint law enforcement investigation headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Connecticut Violent Crimes Task Force. The year-long investigation included the use of court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of cocaine and heroin, and physical surveillance. As a result of the investigation, 55 individuals were charged with various offenses related to the distribution of cocaine and heroin in and around Hartford.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between September and November 2008, BENFORD was intercepted regularly on a telephone used by Victor Esteves, also known “Gadget,” negotiating the purchase of gram and eight-ball (3.5 grams) quantities of cocaine, some of which he sold to others.

Esteves also pleaded guilty to charges related to his participation in this narcotics trafficking conspiracy and, on October 16, 2009, he was sentenced to 72 months of imprisonment.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Northern Connecticut Violent Crimes Task Force, the Statewide Cooperative Crime Control Task Force of the Connecticut State Police and the Hartford Police Department, with assistance from the Statewide Organized Crime Investigative Task Force of the Connecticut State Police, Connecticut State Police, Troop H, and the Connecticut Department of Correction. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian P. Leaming and Geoffrey M. Stone.

Virginia Resident Sentenced to 37 Months in Prison for Bribing Foreign Government Officials

June 24, 2010 - John Webster Warwick, a Virginia Beach, Va., resident, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., to 37 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia; Assistant Director in Charge Shawn Henry of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Michael Morehart of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and Special Agent in Charge John P. Torres of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Washington office.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson also sentenced Warwick to two years of supervised release following his prison term. In addition, Warwick forfeited $331,000 in proceeds of the crime.

On Feb. 10, 2010, Warwick, 64, pleaded guilty to a one-count indictment charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC) in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under the FCPA, it is a crime to pay or offer to pay anything of value to a foreign government official in order to obtain or retain business.

According to court documents, Warwick, Charles Jumet and others conspired to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials for awarding contracts to PECC to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterway. In December 1997, the Panamanian government awarded PECC a no-bid 20-year concession. Upon receipt of the concession, Warwick, Jumet and others authorized corrupt payments to be made to the Panamanian government officials. In total, Warwick, Jumet and others caused corrupt payments of more than $200,000 to be paid to the Panamanian government officials.

In a related case, Jumet pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for PECC and making a false statement. On April 19, 2010, Jumet was sentenced to 87 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $15,000.

This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Dry of the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, and the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kitsap Gives Sailors the Choice, "You Decide"

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Dagendesh, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Northwest

June 24, 2010 - BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- More than 100 Sailors from the Pacific Northwest attended a "You Decide" Destructive Decision Seminar held at Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) June 23.

NBK Fire Department, Kitsap County Sheriff's Department and Mothers' Against Drunk Driving (MADD) were among those who took part in making this event possible.

"Regardless of where they're from, what their background is or how long they have been in the Navy, our folks certainly are faced with tough challenges every day," said NBK Command Master Chief Joseph Fahrney. "Some of those challenges result in destructive decisions, but from my perspective, it is important to make sure we continue the pulse on it. About once every quarter we do something like this event to make sure we bring all the experts from the community and within our military into one place to discuss the decisions our Sailors and Marines are making."

The seminar consisted of several briefs, true-life accounts, a slide presentation demonstrating the effects of peoples' choices and a mock crash with a life-like extraction.

"Our goal here is to make sure folks understand what options they have out there," said Fahrney. "And when they don't take those options, what kind of travesties can happen, whether it's domestic violence, blue-on-blue assault, drinking and driving…any of that stuff; it's all destructive, and it all hurts our mission."

When asked what kind of impact this event will have on Sailors, one Sailor and event volunteer said she hopes it wakes people up to the importance of what could happen.

"I think right now with so many Sailors, this is a good thing," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Handling Airman Elizabeth Jurek, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. "This is a right-in-your-face approach to let them know that this could happen to you. I think that young Sailors, especially in my age range, need to see that this does go on…and they need to have it in their face."

Jurek also said she hopes Sailors realize the driver may not always be the one who is hurt, rather they could be responsible for someone else's death.

The loud sirens and visual aids caught one Sailor's attention.

"I think it will put things into perspective because of the visual aids, actually seeing first-hand rather than just hearing about it. I've been in six years and never have I seen anything like it…hopefully it will change people's minds about drinking and driving," said Sonar Technician (Submarine) 2nd Class Matthew Vine, USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735).

Two More DME Operators Indicted in Health Care Fraud Case

June 24, 2010 - HOUSTON—Bassey Essien and Ebong Akpan, of Houston, have been charged by a federal grand jury with conspiracy, multiple counts of health care fraud, and aggravated identity theft for their roles in a scheme to defraud Medicaid through the fraudulent billing for adult urinary incontinence supplies, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced today.

A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment on June 3, 2010, adding Essien, 60, and Akpan 35, as defendants in a previously charged health care fraud scheme allegedly involving the operation of Logic World Medical and Roben Medical, both durable medical equipment (DME) companies located in Houston. According to allegations in the indictment, Essien and Akpan unlawfully received Medicaid beneficiaries’ information, including names, addresses and Medicaid numbers, which they used to file false claims through these DME companies for adult incontinence supplies, including adult diapers, underpads, wipes, and pull-up briefs. The first indictment charged Benjamin Essien, 34, and Rose Essien, 29—Bassey Essien’s son and daughter.

Bassey Essien and Akpang were taken into custody this morning by investigating agents, have appeared before a U.S. Magistrate and been ordered released upon posting a $50,000 bond. In addition to the bond amount the court has ordered, while on pretrial release, each defendant must surrender their Nigerian passports and are prohibited from being involved in any businesses which bills Medicare or Medicaid for services or supplies.

Bassey Essien and Akpan are accused of routinely billing Medicaid for adult urinary incontinence supplies they allegedly did not deliver to the Medicaid beneficiaries, or for delivering supplies in amounts significantly less than the amounts billed to Medicaid or for supplies provided to Medicaid beneficiaries who either did not need or whose physicians had not prescribed the supplies. According to the indictment, Bassey Essien and Akpan continued to bill Medicaid for incontinence supplies even after their delivery staff and/or delivery contractors were told by the beneficiaries they did not need or want the supplies. Moreover, each is accused of billing Medicaid the maximum allowed amount of incontinence supplies each month per beneficiary, for extra large size diaper briefs, which have the highest Medicaid reimbursement rate, without consideration to the actual size needed by a beneficiary and even billing Medicaid for delivering a quantity of adult diapers far in excess of the amount they purchased from wholesale suppliers.

The scheme to defraud is alleged to have begun in April 2004, through Logic World, with the last allegedly false claim having been filed in February 2010 through Roben Medical. During this time period, Essien and Akpan allegedly billed and caused the billing of Medicaid for claims totaling approximately $2,341,293.64 and received payments for those claims totaling approximately $1,455,837.91.

Bassey Essien, Akpan and Rose Essien, all of whom are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law, are pending trial on the charges. All defendants face a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, if convicted of conspiracy or any of the healthcare fraud counts in which they are accused in addition to a mandatory two-year consecutive term of imprisonment for aggravated identity theft. Benjamin Essien, 34, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and aggravated identity theft and is pending sentencing in August 2010.

This case was the result of the investigative efforts of the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit in Houston and the FBI. Special Assistant United States Attorney Justo A. Méndez and Assistant United States Attorney Al Balboni are prosecuting the case.

Two Monroe, Louisiana City Councilmen Indicted for Racketeering and Extortion

Defendants Charged with Taking Bribes in Connection with Matters Before the Council

June 24, 2010 - MONROE, LA—Two members of the Monroe, Louisiana City Council were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of racketeering and extortion for taking bribes from individuals and organizations with business before the council, United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today. Robert E. “Red” Stevens, 58, and Arthur Gilmore, Jr., 52, were named in a two count indictment charging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), and the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951. Both defendants will be scheduled to be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes in Monroe on July 15, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

Today’s indictment is the result of a two year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Louisiana State Police. The indictment alleges that Stevens and Gilmore, both of whom were elected to their positions in 1996, used their offices and positions as elected city councilmen to enrich themselves by accepting cash and other things of value from individuals and organizations having business before the council. In exchange, Stevens and Gilmore are alleged to have taken and promised to take actions favorable to these individuals and organizations. The indictment alleges that these activities occurred from 2006 to the end of 2009.

The RICO count alleges nine specific instances where Stevens and Gilmore are charged with having violated the Louisiana public bribery law by accepting money and other things of value from a local businessman who was cooperating with the investigation. In total, Stevens is alleged to have accepted bribes of $6,300.00, along with other valuable consideration, while Gilmore is alleged to have accepted bribes of $1,437.00, along with other valuable consideration, including a reduced purchase price for land.

If convicted, both men face a maximum sentence on Count 1, RICO, of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. The Hobbs Act is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Monroe Resident Agency, and the Louisiana State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney C. Mignonne Griffing.

Shreveport Businessman Pleads Guilty to Submitting False Documents to Mortgage Company

June 24, 2010 - SHREVEPORT, LA—Randel J. Mason, 57, owner of Mason Construction Company, Inc., and Tammy H. Dixon, 49, both of Shreveport, pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of wire fraud for submitting false documentation to its financing company in order to receive draws on its line of credit, United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today. The guilty pleas were entered Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter in Shreveport.

According to court testimony, Mason Construction obtained financing for new home construction from National City Mortgage, an Ohio-based financing company. While purporting to build new homes on Plum Creek Drive and Pelican Creek Drive in Shreveport, Mason and Dixon submitted false documentation to National City Mortgage regarding the percentage of work completed, and fraudulent inspection certifications claiming that an independent appraiser had verified the work. In fact, Mason and Dixon used an appraiser’s signature without his prior knowledge and consent. Relying upon the fraudulent documentation, National City Mortgage remitted payments to Mason Construction Company’s local bank account.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 28, 2010. Mason and Dixon face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, for each count of wire fraud.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Shreveport Resident Agency, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cytheria D. Jernigan.

Spring Lake Park Bank Robbery

On Wednesday, June 23, 2010, at approximately 5:25 p.m., the Wells Fargo Bank located at 8455 Plaza Boulevard, Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, was robbed by a lone individual. The robber entered the bank, approached the victim teller, and presented a note which demanded cash and threatened a gun. After the teller complied with the demand and turned over an undisclosed amount of money, the robber fled the bank on foot.

The robber is described as an Asian male in his early to mid 20’s, approximately 5’5” – 5’7” tall with a slim build and a thin moustache. He was wearing a white, long sleeved, button-up shirt with green stripes, a dark blue baseball cap with a light blue logo on the side, and large dark aviator-style sunglasses. This individual is believed to be responsible for recent metro area bank robberies, including the TCF at 1988 Suburban Avenue in St Paul on April 23, 2010, the TCF at 2390 White Bear Avenue in Maplewood on May 23, 2010, and the TCF at 5205 Central Avenue Northeast in Fridley on June 8, 2010.

Ralph S. Boelter, Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Office of the FBI, requests that anyone with information regarding this bank robbery contact the Minneapolis FBI at 612-376-3200, the Spring Lake Park Police Department, or Crime Stoppers. A reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of this bank robber.

Monroe Man Convicted by Federal Jury of Counterfeiting

$100s, $20s, and $10s Printed at Home

June 24, 2010 - MONROE, LA—Wilbert C. Ross, 36, of Monroe, Louisiana was convicted today by a federal jury of one count of counterfeiting, United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today.

Trial testimony showed that the FBI Gang Task Force investigation into the passing of several counterfeit bills in Bastrop, Louisiana led authorities to Ross’ apartment, where they seized a color printer and several printed pages of torn counterfeit currency in a trash bag. Ross was the source of several counterfeit bills recovered in the Bastrop area, which he had printed and sold out of his apartment.

Ross is scheduled for sentencing on October 4, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert G. James. Ross faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Sentencing in federal court is determined by the discretion of federal judges and the governing statute.

The case was investigated by the Bastrop Police Department, the Morehouse Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Gang Task Force, and the United States Secret Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Scott Williams.

New York Resident Sentenced in Utah Drug Diversion Case

June 24, 2010 - SALT LAKE CITY—Mohamed Shafeek, age 61, of New York City, has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for his role in a drug diversion scheme that involved individuals and businesses in Utah, New York, New Jersey, and California. He will also forfeit $2.5 million in assets. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson issued the sentence Tuesday afternoon.

Shafeek pleaded guilty to a three-count Felony Information charging him with mail fraud, unauthorized distribution of a drug without a pedigree, and money laundering.

As a part of the plea agreement, Shafeek admitted that from about June 2004 through April 2005, he and corporations he owned established a business relationship with Umit Kagan Ocak and Ayyoob Abbaszadeh, operators of two Salt Lake City businesses, PDRX Marketing and Pharma Discount, LCC. Shafeek’s companies sold diverted drugs to Pharma for distribution and sale. In forming the business relationship, Shafeek advised Ocak that he could not provide pedigrees for any of the drugs sold to Pharma. According to the plea agreement, Ocak said it was not a problem.

Federal law requires each wholesale distributor who is not the manufacturer or authorized distributor of a drug to provide each person to whom a drug is distributed a statement identifying each prior sale, purchase, or trade of such a drug, including the date of the transaction and the names and addresses of all parties to the transaction. The pedigree requirement, if followed, is designed to expose and eliminate unscrupulous wholesale distributors from the drug distribution marketplace, thereby protecting the public from the potential ill effects and dangers stemming from drug diversion.

Shafeek received orders from Pharma/PDRX for various pharmaceutical drugs. Shafeek filled the orders with drugs he obtained from New York suppliers whom he knew were not manufacturers or authorized distributors for the drugs. Pedigrees for the prescription drugs were not provided. Pharma/PDRX then sold and distributed the diverted drugs to pharmacies around the country. The drugs were then sold and dispensed to end-user patients.

As a part of his plea agreement, Shafeek agreed to fully cooperate with the government in its investigation and prosecution of related cases in Utah and New York.

“The United States has one of the best systems in the world for ensuring the integrity of prescription medications. To preserve and maintain this process, those who abuse the market or jeopardize the public’s safety, must be held accountable for their conduct,” Acting U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen said. “Today’s sentence reflects an appropriate balance between a defendant’s cooperation and a fair sentence in an important case.”

“The FDA is committed to aggressively pursuing those who put the public’s health at risk by introducing diverted and stolen pharmaceuticals into the legitimate supply chain” said Patrick J. Holland, Special Agent in Charge, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Kansas City Field Office. “We commend our state and federal counterparts and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligent efforts to protect the public health.”

Shafeek was among six individuals and six businesses in Utah, New York, New Jersey, and California charged in a 10-count indictment returned in 2005 with mail fraud and unauthorized distribution of drugs without pedigrees. Shafeek’s case is the last to be resolved.

“This case is an excellent example of the law enforcement community working together to target those who seek to defraud our nation’s health care system. The FBI Salt Lake City Field Office is grateful to its federal, state, and local partners for their continuing support and dedication to this investigation. Unscrupulous individuals should be on notice—the FBI and its law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue allegations of fraud to safeguard the public and ensure justice is served,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jim McTighe said.

The case investigation was coordinated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations; the FBI, the New York Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the IRS Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Utah, the Utah Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and the Utah Department of Professional Licensing. Other U.S. Attorneys Offices and law enforcement agencies around the country assisted in the investigation of the case.