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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Member of Aryan Brotherhood Sentenced to 450 Months in Prison in Connection with Hate Crime Involving Church Arson and Attempted Murder of Disabled African-American in Texas

WASHINGTON – Steven Scott Cantrell, 26, of Crane, Texas, was sentenced today for hate crime charges stemming from a series of racially-motivated arsons in December 2010, including the arson of a historic African-American church as part of an effort to murder a disabled African-American man, the Justice Department announced today.

Cantrell was sentenced to 450 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell in Midland, Texas, after pleading guilty to damaging religious property and interfering with housing rights in violation of federal hate crime laws.  Cantrell was also ordered to pay $550,780 in restitution to the victims.

 Cantrell admitted that on Dec. 28, 2010, he set fire to Faith in Christ Church, a predominantly African-American church, as part of an effort to murder a disabled African-American man who he saw passing by the church in his wheelchair.  Cantrell admitted that he started the fire intending to kill the disabled African-American man whom he believed lived at a shelter within the church.  The man was not hurt.  Cantrell ransacked the church, wrote a series of threatening and racist messages in large letters across the wall of the church next to the pastor’s office, and “tagged” the church with references to the Aryan Brotherhood.

 The arson of Faith in Christ Church was part of a series of racially-motivated arsons that Cantrell perpetrated that day in his attempt to gain status with the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.  In addition to the church, Cantrell admitted that he set fire to the house of another man in the community because he believed that man to be Jewish and because he sought to injure, intimidate or interfere with that man’s right to rent or occupy that house.  Cantrell also admitted to setting fire to Craig’s Gym in violation of federal arson laws.  At his plea hearing, Cantrell acknowledged that he set fire to Craig’s Gym because he believed the owners served Mexican-Americans and African-American patrons and because the gym was owned by a Caucasian man married to a woman of Mexican descent.  Cantrell added that he felt “disrespected” by a Caucasian man marrying a woman of Mexican descent because he believed “the white race needed to be kept pure.”

 “Today’s sentence reflects the vile nature of this defendant’s actions.   Every person, regardless of race, national origin, religion or disability, should have the opportunity to live without fear of threat or harm,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The department will continue to vigorously prosecute those that commit heinous acts like this one.”

 “When hatred and bigotry are expressed through acts of violence and destruction, this office will use every resource available to ensure that those responsible are found, prosecuted and punished,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Robert Pitman.  “There is simply no room in a civilized society for the kind of conduct Cantrell engaged in.”

 “Today’s sentencing represents the FBI’s commitment to prosecuting individuals responsible for committing these types of crimes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan of the El Paso, Texas, office.  “The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate federal violations of this nature and prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.  Through the cooperative efforts of the state, local and federal agencies, FBI Midland successfully completed its investigation.”

This case was jointly investigated by the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Crane Police Department; and the Texas Department of Insurance.  The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Victor Boutros from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Klassen for the Western District of Texas, with the cooperation of the district attorney for the 109th Judicial District of the state of Texas.

Highly sophisticated cross-border drug tunnel discovered near San Diego

Investigators seize nearly $65 million worth of marijuana, arrest 6 suspects

SAN DIEGO — Agencies with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force Wednesday announced the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of more than 32 tons of marijuana following the discovery of the most elaborate smuggling tunnel uncovered along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

Investigators say the passageway, found Tuesday as a result of a six-month investigation by the multi-agency Task Force, connects a warehouse in San Diego's Otay Mesa industrial park with one in neighboring Tijuana, Mexico. The 612-yard long passageway is equipped with electric rail cars, lighting, reinforced walls and wooden floors.

On the Mexican side, the tunnel's entrance is accessed through a hydraulically-controlled steel door and an elevator concealed beneath the warehouse floor. At the bottom of the tunnel shaft is a large storage room where agents recovered approximately three tons of marijuana. Another ton of marijuana was piled in bundles near the tunnel's entrance. Meanwhile, investigators searched the Otay Mesa building that housed the tunnel's U.S. entry point, where they found another 20 tons of marijuana wrapped in plastic and stacked neatly on pallets.

The enforcement actions leading to the tunnel's discovery began unfolding Monday evening when investigators observed a tractor trailer truck leaving the Otay Mesa warehouse. After parking overnight in the Miramar area, a man picked up the rig early Tuesday and headed toward Los Angeles. Canines at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol checkpoint in San Clemente alerted on the tractor trailer for the presence of drugs. Agents, aware of the ongoing investigation, waived the truck through the checkpoint and the driver proceeded to the City of Industry, Calif. There, he pulled into the parking lot of a warehouse located at 14837 Proctor Ave. and, together with three other individuals, began unloading the trailer's contents.

At that point, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) moved in, taking custody of four suspects and seizing close to 11 tons of marijuana packed inside the truck's trailer. All told, Tuesday's enforcement actions resulted in the interdiction of more than 32 tons of marijuana with an estimated street value of nearly $65 million.

Zuni Pueblo Man Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison for Aggravated Child Sexual Abuse Conviction

ALBUQUERQUE—U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that, yesterday in Albuquerque federal court, Epfriem Louis, 20, a member of Zuni Pueblo, was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment to be followed by a five years’ supervised release for sexually abusing a minor. Louis will be required to register as a sex offender when he completes his prison sentence.

Louis initially was charged with sexually abusing a child who had not attained 12 years of age in a criminal complaint filed on July 19, 2010. According to the complaint, Louis committed the offense between October 2009 and April 2010 within the boundaries of the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Louis pleaded guilty to an information charging him with aggravated sexual abuse on August 4, 2011. In his plea agreement, Louis admitted that, from October 1, 2009 through April 30, 2010, he sexually abused a female Navajo child. Louis was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after entering his guilty plea, and has been detained since that time.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Navajo Nation Division of Social Services, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly A. Brawley.

18th Street Gang Members Sentenced to Prison for Participating in a Racketeering Conspiracy Related to Gang Activities

One of the Gang Members Admitted to Involvement in a Murder

GREENBELT, MD—U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Omar Rafael Villegas-Martinez, a/k/a “Lunar,” age 36, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, yesterday to 23 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise in connection with his membership in the 18th Street gang, including a murder. Today, Judge Titus sentenced co-defendant and fellow gang member Hector Antonio Amaya Flores, a/k/a “NenĂ©,” age 35, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to nine years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for the racketeering conspiracy and for being an illegal alien in possession of firearm and ammunition.

The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Chait of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-Baltimore Field Division; Chief Mark P. Sroka of the Gaithersburg Police Department; Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Cathy Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department; Chief Larry Brownlee of the Maryland National Capital Park Police-Prince George’s County Division; Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks.

“The mission of the ATF Regional Area Gang Enforcement (RAGE) Task Force is to conduct complex long term, multi-defendant criminal investigations of violent street gangs while relying on the partnerships of our federal, state and local counterparts,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Chait. “These sentences highlight our dedication to the complete investigation, prosecution and dismantling of the most violent street gangs throughout the State of Maryland.”

According to their plea agreements, Flores and Martinez, natives of El Salvador, were members of the 18th Street gang, which originated in the Los Angeles, California area and operates in Central America and across the United States, including Maryland. The gang is divided into subsets called cliques, including the Shatto Park Locos, Hollywood Locos and Hoover Locos. 18th Street members operate according to various rules, which the gang enforces by meting out punishment for their violation, including physically beating the violating gang member or for serious transgressions, ordering and carrying out the murder of a violating gang member; known as a “green light.” 18th Street gang members sometimes wear tattoos and clothing bearing the number 18, to signify their membership in the gang.

According to their plea agreements, on the evening of May 5, 2007, Martinez and other 18th Street gang members and associates, including Mario Molina-Valladares, were gathered at a member’s residence in Hyattsville, Maryland. Late that night, Martinez and Molina-Valladares got into a car driven by fellow gang member Jose Edy Molina Marquez, along with other 18th Street gang members and Jose Felix Carcamo, who was at the residence as well. There was a struggle in the vehicle between Carcamo and the gang members, including Martinez and Molina-Valladares. During the struggle, Carcamo disabled the automobile by kicking the gear shifter located between the two front seats. The struggle continued and either Martinez, Molina-Valladares, or other occupants of the vehicle shot Carcamo twice in the head, causing his death. Martinez and Molina-Valladares either personally killed Carcamo, or they aided and abetted the commission of this crime.

After Carcamo was killed, Martinez and Molina-Valladares have admitted that they and the other gang members ran back to the Hyattsville residence where they had been before, leaving the automobile and Carcamo’s body on a nearby overpass. Martinez and other gang members devised a plan to mislead police by telling them that Carcamo was killed as part of a carjacking. Martinez and Molina-Valladares directed Marquez and another person to go back to the scene of the murder and lie to police about the murder of Jose Carcamo. Shortly thereafter, in order to protect the gang members responsible for the shooting, Marquez approached law enforcement officers at the scene of the shooting and provided false information, orally and in writing, that individuals other than gang members were responsible for the shooting. Martinez also lied to homicide detectives about the murder in a written statement, made with the intention of deceiving the investigators and impeding the investigation of the murder of Jose Carcamo.

Flores, who is in the United States illegally, admitted that he was an organizer and leader within the 18th Street gang in the Maryland/D.C. metropolitan area in 2007, and conducted gang affairs at residences he owned in Riverdale Park and Upper Marlboro, Maryland. On October 15, 2007, Prince George’s County Police officers executed a search warrant at Flores’ home and recovered a 7.62 x 38mm caliber Russian Nagant revolver and a box containing sixteen .32 caliber cartridges in a plastic bag beneath the bathroom sink. Four of these cartridge cases, which were found on top of a drawing relating to the 18th Street gang, had been fired from the Russian Nagant revolver.

Mario Molina-Valladares, a/k/a “Tiger,” age 33, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing. Jose Edy Molina Marquez, age 33, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was previously sentenced to 94 months in prison for conspiracy to obstruct a criminal investigation and proceeding, in connection with the investigation of Carcamo’s murder.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the members of ATF-led Regional Area Gang Enforcement (RAGE) Task Force, including the Gaithersburg Police Department, the Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the Maryland National Capital Park Police-Prince George’s County Division, as well as the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI and the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County State’s Attorneys’ offices for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney William Moomau and Jonathan Lenzner, who prosecuted the case.

Former Gang Member Sentenced to 92 Months for Unlawful Possession of Firearm

BOISE—Ruben Nungaray, 30, of Boise, Idaho, was sentenced yesterday to 92 months in prison for unlawful possession of a firearm, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill also ordered Nungaray to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and forfeit a .375 single-shot rifle found in his possession. Nungaray pled guilty to the charge on July 20, 2011.

According to court proceedings, Nungaray is a former member of the “Brown Magic Clica” (BMC) street gang, a gang law enforcement considers significantly more violent than other gangs operating in the Treasure Valley. According to evidence presented at the sentencing hearing, on January 5, 2010, Nungaray sold four handguns to an undercover police officer in Boise. Nungaray admitted that approximately three weeks later, on January 26, he was found in possession of a rifle, which law enforcement officers discovered as the result of a probation and parole visit to Nungaray’s residence. Because Nungaray had previously been convicted in 2004 of aggravated assault in Payette County, Idaho, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year, he was prohibited from possessing firearms.

The case was investigated by the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crime Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Meridian Police Department.

The case was brought as part of Idaho’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, which seeks to reduce gun violence in Idaho. Nungaray was prosecuted by the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney hired by the Treasure Valley Partnership and the State of Idaho to address gang crimes.

The Treasure Valley Partnership is comprised of a group of elected officials in southeast Idaho dedicated to regional coordination, cooperation, and collaboration on creating coherent regional growth. For more information, visit treasurevalleypartners.org.

Sixteen Indicted in Heroin Trafficking Ring

ST. LOUIS—Early this morning, the FBI St. Louis Division’s Safe Streets Gang Task Force (SSGTF) arrested the following 10 members of a violent drug trafficking organization (DTO). The simultaneous arrests took place in nine separate locations in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County. Each subject faces various federal charges of narcotics conspiracy, firearms violations, and money laundering.

■29-year-old Donald White aka “Lil Don” of St. Charles
■32-year-old Cortez White aka “Tez” of Florissant
■31-year-old Darnell Lathan aka “Lil Red” of Florissant
■31-year-old Charles Peoples of St. St. Louis
■23-year-old Samantha Street aka “Sam” of St. Louis County
■33-year-old Reginald Davis of unincorporated St. Louis County
■35-year-old Stephany Fowler aka “Ann” of St. Louis
■36-year-old Clarissa McCary aka “Red” of Florissant
■28-year-old Bridgett Corbett of O’Fallon
■26-year-old Philip Pratt of Pagedale

Today’s take-down, which dismantled the DTO, was a culmination of a two-and-a-half year investigation which started with a tip to the FBI in April 2009.

The DTO had a hierarchy that included leaders, drug runners, and subjects who redistributed the heroin in St. Charles County and Madison County, Illinois. Special Agent in Charge Dennis L. Baker of the FBI St. Louis Division said, “Today’s take-down should make an impact on the rising problem of heroin overdoses and the violent crimes associated with drug trafficking organizations.”

Four other members of this ring were previously arrested. The FBI is still looking for two fugitives. If you have any information, please call the FBI St. Louis Division at (314) 589-2500.

■52-year-old Orbia Carthen aka “Pops” of unincorporated St. Louis County
■29-year-old Kevin Mulvill of Alton, Illinois

Members of the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force who helped investigate and make arrests were from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, Florissant Police Department, and Normandy Police Department. The Drug Enforcement Agency also assisted in the investigation. In addition, St. Louis County Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and St. Charles County Sheriff’s Office assisted with today’s arrests.

Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Brandishing Firearm During Bank Robbery

WICHITA, KS—A Wichita man has pleaded guilty in connection with an armed bank robbery in 2010, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

David L. Hollis, III, 29, Wichita, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of brandishing a firearm during a Dec. 1, 2010, robbery at Equity Bank in Wichita. In his plea, he admitted he was one of three men who entered the bank with their faces covered and wearing hooded sweatshirts. Two of the men were brandishing firearms. They collected money from tellers’ drawers and the bank’s vault before fleeing in stolen cars.

The robbers drove to an apartment complex at 5400 E. 21st, where they stopped their car and fled on foot. Officers followed Hollis into Building 12, where they arrested him. They recovered items of clothing Hollis had hidden in a fire extinguisher box. Investigators matched Hollis to DNA found on a Bersa handgun in one of the getaway cars. There was dye from an exploded security dye pack on his shirt.

Sentencing is set for Feb. 15. Prosecutors will ask for a sentenced of 84 months in federal prison.

Co-defendants include:

■Shelan D. Peters, who was sentenced to 97 months. Peters was shot during the chase after the bank robbery.
■Raymond L. Rogers, who is on trial this week in U.S. District Court in Wichita.

Grissom commended the Wichita Police Department, the FBI, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Smith, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch for their work on the case.

Fugitive N.J. Man Arrested in Death of 2-Year-Old Daughter

Arthur E. Morgan III was arrested Tuesday in San Diego, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. He wanted for his alleged involvement in the death of his 2-year-old daughter. On November 22, 2011, the body of a 2-year-old child, still strapped in her car seat, was found partially submerged in a stream in Shark River Park in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Morgan was supposed to return the child to her mother on November 21 following a custody visit. When Morgan failed to return the child, he was charged in the Ocean County Superior Court with endangering the welfare of a child and interference with child custody, and a state warrant was issued for his arrest. Once the child’s body was discovered, Morgan was charged with homicide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nogales Agents Discover Second Illicit Tunnel

Tucson, Ariz. –The Tucson Sector Border Patrol, a component of the Joint Field Command-Arizona, discovered another illicit tunnel yesterday in Nogales, just six days after their earlier find of a smaller tunnel in the same town.

The latest tunnel is 319 feet long and extends 219 feet into the United States and 100 feet into Mexico. It is approximately 20 feet below the surface and measures three feet wide by two feet tall. This tunnel is more sophisticated than other recently discovered tunnels. It appears to have been chiseled through solid rock and was equipped with various digging tools, saws, electricity, lighting, water pumps, plywood shoring and 4x4 support beams. (Photos available)

While securing the tunnel, Nogales Border Patrol agents also found 26 bundles of marijuana weighing more than 430 pounds and worth approximately $215,000. The narcotics were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations is the lead investigative agency. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will handle the tunnel remediation.

By increasing the likelihood of being detected by Border Patrol agents and the penalties associated with illicit activity, transnational criminal organizations have become desperate as demonstrated by their continued attempts to move their operations underground.

The Tucson Sector works closely with strategic partners such as ICE HSI, DEA, and Mexican authorities to monitor activity associated with existing and new tunnel infrastructure, making it increasingly difficult for smugglers to operate with impunity and transport their contraband throughout the United States.

Customs and Border Protection appreciates assistance from the community. Citizens can report suspicious activity by calling the Border Patrol at (1-877) 872-7435 and remain anonymous.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Mission Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Second-Degree Murder and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Mission, South Dakota, woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury for second-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Brandi Lynn Snow Fly, age 29, was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 8, 2011. She appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on November 23, 2011, and pled not guilty to the indictment. The maximum penalty upon conviction is life in custody, a $250,000 fine, or both.

The charges are merely accusations, and Snow Fly is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services. Assistant United States Attorney Tim Maher is prosecuting the case. Snow Fly was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal. A trial date has not yet been set.

MS-13 Gang Leader in San Francisco Convicted of Racketeering Charges

Co-Defendant Pleaded Guilty to Racketeering Charges During Trial

WASHINGTON – A federal jury today convicted Danilo Velasquez, aka “Triste,” a local leader of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, in federal court in San Francisco of racketeering conspiracy and related charges, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag for the Northern District of California and Clark Settles, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Francisco.   His co-defendant and fellow MS-13 member, Luis Herrera, aka “Killer,” pleaded guilty to related charges, including using a firearm that caused the murder of an individual.

After a four-week trial, the federal jury convicted Velasquez of all charges, including conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and using and discharging a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.  The evidence presented during trial showed that the defendants were part of the violent, transnational gang known as MS-13, which claimed part of the Mission District of San Francisco as its territory and operated in the Bay Area since the 1990s.  Since its inception, MS-13 members have warred with rival gang members and sought to extort payments from other criminals in the gang’s territory.  After the federal government indicted a large number of local MS-13 members on Oct. 22, 2008, Velasquez assumed leadership on the streets and encouraged the remaining members of the gang to engage in violence in order to demonstrate their continued presence in San Francisco despite its loss in numbers due to the federal indictment.

“In a hail of gunfire, Mr. Velasquez and his co-conspirators killed and wounded four unarmed individuals – all in the name of MS-13,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.   “Senseless acts of violence like those committed by Mr. Velasquez and his fellow gang members are too common across the United States.   Through sustained enforcement, we have taken leaders of MS-13 in San Francisco and elsewhere off the streets, and we will continue our efforts to make all our communities safe from violent gangs.”

“This conviction marks the beginning of the end for one San Francisco gang leader who thought he was above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Haag.  “Today, the jury has sent a strong message that senseless acts of violence like those committed by Mr. Velasquez in the name of MS-13 will not be tolerated.  Life is too valuable to let someone steal it from another.  Those who try will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The gang members targeted in this Homeland Security Investigations-led probe were the worst of the worst, blithely using violence, intimidation and fear to maintain control over their turf,” said Special Agent in Charge Settles for ICE-HSI in San Francisco.  “As this jury’s verdict makes clear, we will not allow ruthless thugs to rule our streets.  We are joining forces with local law enforcement to bring these criminals to justice and take back our Bay Area neighborhoods.”

The evidence presented at trial also showed how the defendants, with others, conspired to commit a variety of crimes to further the goals of the gang, including attacking and killing rival gang members and others who defied or challenged MS-13 , including four murders that occurred in 2008.  The prosecution also presented evidence of three separate shootings committed by Herrera, Velasquez and other MS-13 gang members that took place within just two months, after the October 2008 indictment.  One of the shootings resulted in the death of Moises Frias, a college student, in February 2009.

Evidence at trial established that on Feb. 19, 2009, Velasquez and Herrera, accompanied by MS-13 member Jaime Balam, a fugitive, went out looking to kill rival gang members in the San Francisco Bay area.  Herrera drove Velasquez and Balam in a stolen vehicle, and Velasquez and Balam both carried semi-automatic guns.  The evidence at trial showed that in the Excelsior District of San Francisco, Herrera and Velasquez spotted a car of young Latino professionals, including three college students, a student and a business professional.  None of the individuals were gang members themselves.

Witnesses testified that Herrera, Velasquez and Balam followed the victims’ car into Daly City, boxed the car in at a red light, whereby Velasquez and Balam flanked the victims’ car carrying semi-automatic handguns.  Velasquez then fired multiple shots at close range at three of the passengers, who survived largely because Velasquez’s semi-automatic gun jammed multiple times.  Balam allegedly fired his weapon at the remaining passenger until he ran out of bullets.  The victim suffered nine gunshot wounds, including to the head, and was killed.  The survivors of the shooting testified at trial that the victim begged for the shooting to stop immediately before he died. 

A few days before the shooting, Velasquez and Herrera shot and wounded two individuals in rival gang territory on Feb. 13, 2009.  After the Feb. 19, 2009, murder, the evidence showed Velasquez ordered another shooting in which Herrera took part, resulting in the wounding of several victims in rival territory on March 2, 2009.  The victims of all the two non-fatal shootings who testified during the trial stated that they were not gang members, but were approached by individuals who exclaimed “La Mara” before shooting them.

Herrera pleaded guilty to seven racketeering related counts, including use of a firearm causing the death of Frias.  As part of his plea, Herrera admitted that he was part of the MS-13 hunting party that followed the victims’ car on Feb. 19, 2009, and murdered Frias.  The evidence presented at trial before Herrera pleaded guilty showed that he was a member of MS-13 for only two to three months before being arrested.  He became a member after his brother, Guillermo Herrera, aka “Sparky,” another MS-13 member, was indicted.  Guillermo Herrera was recently convicted of all charges, including murder in aid of racketeering, after a five-month trial that included six other co-defendants.  He faces a mandatory life sentence and will be sentenced on Dec. 7, 2011.  As part of his guilty plea, Luis Herrera will receive a 35-year prison sentence when he is sentenced on Jan. 24, 2012.

Velasquez faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.   Sentencing for Velasquez is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2012, before U.S. District Court Judge William H. Alsup.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Scoble and David Hall of the Organized Crime Strike Force of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and Trial Attorney Theryn G. Gibbons of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.  The case was investigated by Daly City Police Department, led by Detective Gregg Oglesby, and ICE Homeland Security Investigations, led by Special Agents Alicia MacDonald and Brick Eubank .

FBI and Local Police Hunt Serial Bank Robber

NEWARK—The FBI and local New Jersey police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a serial bank robber who has struck three times in the last three months.

On September 11, 2011 at approximately 2:21 p.m., the TD Bank located at 560 North Street in Westfield, NJ was robbed by a man described as a light skinned Hispanic male with a medium build, 5’9” - 6’ tall, and a “5 o’clock shadow” beard. He wore a ball cap. The man quietly entered the bank and handed the teller a note demanding money, but never threatened the use of a weapon and no weapon was displayed. No one was injured. The man fled the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash. No escape vehicle was noted.

On October 19, 2011 at approximately 4:30 p.m., the TD Bank located at 37 St. George Ave in Roselle was robbed by a man fitting the same description as the September robbery with the same modus operandi. The man fled the bank with an undisclosed sum of cash. No escape vehicle was seen.

On November 19, 2011 at approximately 2:30 p.m., the TD bank, located at 1071 Saint George Avenue in Rahway, NJ was robbed. Once again, the robber fit the description of the two other previously mentioned robberies and had the same modus operandi.

Anyone with information regarding the identification of this man or these robberies is urged to contact the FBI at 973-792-3000. Citizens should not attempt to apprehend this or any other fugitive. In an emergency, call 911. The FBI offers rewards leading to the capture of bank robbers.

Leader of Violent City Drug Gang Convicted of All Charges

PHILADELPHIA—Alexander Rivera, a/k/a “Reds,” 29, and his wife, Ileana Vidal, a/k/a “Diana,” 25, both of Philadelphia, were convicted late yesterday of all charges against them stemming from a drug conspiracy involving the Alexander Rivera Narcotics Distribution Organization (“ARDO”), announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. Between February 2006 and September 2010, Alexander Rivera, a/k/a “Reds,” ran the ARDO, and controlled drug distribution in and around the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Lawrence Street in North Philadelphia, as well as other areas in Philadelphia, obtaining cocaine, crack, heroin, and PCP that his co-defendants would then sell on the street. Rivera, his wife, and 15 others were charged with distributing 280 grams or more of cocaine base (“crack”), 500 grams or more of cocaine, heroin, and phencyclidine (“PCP”). The 15 co-defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the operation. Rivera and his wife were tried in U.S. District Court.

Rivera and several co-defendants engaged in violence to protect and maintain the ARDO’s drug territory, which included vacant properties and residences in North Philadelphia used for stashing drugs and distribution to customers. The superseding indictment alleges that on September 26, 2006, while engaged in a shootout with a rival drug dealer, Rivera shot an innocent bystander; on August 14, 2007, co-defendant Daniel Cortez, along with two others known to the grand jury, kidnapped and tortured a person who owed Rivera drug money; and on December 24, 2009, Rivera and co-defendant Cesar Burgos hired a person known to the grand jury to shoot a rival drug dealer.

Rivera was convicted of conspiracy, and other counts charging him with distribution or possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base (“crack”), and heroin, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Vidal was convicted of conspiracy, the sole count against her.

Rivera faces a mandatory term of life in prison and will be formally sentenced on February 29, 2012 by U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez; Vidal faces a mandatory term of 10 years in prison and will be sentenced March 2, 2012.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Philadelphia Division, Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force, and the Philadelphia Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Axelrod and Randy Hsia.

Mission Man Pleads Not Guilty to Second-Degree Murder and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon

United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Mission, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for second-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Jason James DeSersa, age 18, was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 8, 2011. He appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on November 22, 2011, and pled not guilty to the indictment. The maximum penalty upon conviction is life in custody, a $250,000 fine, or both.

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

The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services. Assistant United States Attorney Tim Maher is prosecuting the case.

DeSersa was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal. A trial date has not yet been set.

The Total Warrior: Tactical Training and Winning Mindset Camp

With the current rise in law enforcement officers killed or seriously injured in the line of duty, our team wanted to put together a training camp that brings all walks of life together under one roof to honor the men and women in our law enforcement community in a unique way. As a current police officer and global trainer, I wanted to give back to the Law Enforcement community in a different way other than just a lecture session. Society needs to be part of the "awareness" of what is happening to our law enforcement community and by being part of our efforts in supporting our men and women in law enforcement through the Memorial Fund. Our camp will provide better fitness, health and wellness, winning mindset training and coaching as well as officer survival, confrontation winning methods, self defense conditioning and providing team building concepts. Our camp will have two separate tracks providing training for Law Enforcement officers while our other tracks will provide fitness and self defense training for civilians and corporate entities looking to obtain better health and wellness training while also supporting our efforts.

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http://support.nleomf.org/site/TR?pg=fund&fr_id=1080&pxfid=1850

Newark FBI Seeks Man Wanted in Death of 2-Year-Old Daughter

Arthur E. Morgan III is wanted for his alleged involvement in the death of his 2-year-old daughter. On November 22, 2011, the body of a 2-year-old child, still strapped in her car seat, was found partially submerged in a stream in Shark River Park in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Morgan was supposed to return the child to her mother on November 21 following a custody visit. When Morgan failed to return the child, he was charged in the Ocean County Superior Court with endangering the welfare of a child and interference with child custody, and a state warrant was issued for his arrest. Once the child’s body was discovered, Morgan was charged with homicide.

Morgan has a tattoo on his left hand and tattoos on both arms.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crime Alerts: Arthur Eugene Morgan, III

Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution - Homicide

Arthur E. Morgan III, is wanted for his alleged involvement in the death of his two-year-old daughter. On November 22, 2011, the body of a two-year-old child, still strapped in her car seat, was found partially submerged in a stream in Shark River Park in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The stream runs beneath an overpass, suggesting that the child and the car seat were thrown from the overpass.

Morgan was supposed to return the child to her mother on September 21st, following a custody visit. When Morgan failed to return the child, he was charged in the Ocean County Superior Court with endangering the welfare of a child and interference with child custody, and a state warrant was issued for his arrest. Once the child's body was discovered, Morgan was charged with homicide in Monmouth County and federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, and state and federal arrest warrants were issued on November 23, 2011.

Morgan has ties to Texas and California.

Thanksgiving Week Proves to be an Active One for Agents

Edinburg, Texas ─ More than $5.3 million worth of marijuana was confiscated in multiple seizures by U.S. Border Patrol agents throughout the Rio Grande Valley Sector in a 72-hour time period spanning through the Thanksgiving holiday.

One of the largest seizures occurred Tuesday evening as agents from the McAllen Station seized close to 2,100 pounds of marijuana near Penitas, Texas. Agents patrolling the Rio Grande observed a pick-up truck and an SUV traveling north from the river at a high rate of speed. As the smugglers observed the agents approaching, they quickly came to a stop and abandoned their loads. The smugglers fled to Mexico leaving behind more than 170 bundles of marijuana with an estimated value of more than $1.6 million.

In a separate incident, Thanksgiving morning, agents from the Rio Grande City Station seized more than 900 pounds of marijuana near Escobares, Texas. A group of smugglers were loading large bundles into a vehicle when they spotted Border Patrol agents approaching. The smugglers, fearing apprehension, dropped their narcotics load and absconded into the thick brush. The marijuana seized was valued at more than $700,000.

Additional seizures within the past three days pushed the total amount of narcotics seized to more than 10,000 pounds with an estimated street value of more than $8.3 million. The narcotics were turned over to the appropriate agencies for further investigation.

To report suspicious activity, call the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector’s toll-free telephone number at (800) 863-9382.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty in $2.7 Million South Florida Employee Benefit Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services, announce that defendant Carl Dale Fuller, 52, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, pled guilty to a charge of mail fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud National Employer Services (NES), located in Avon Park, Florida.

Fuller entered his plea of guilty to count one of an indictment charging the defendant with devising a scheme and artifice to defraud NES out of more than $2.7 million over a three-year period. The indictment charged that Fuller, posing as David Walters, defrauded NES. NES is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), providing cost-effective services for businesses that outsource employee benefits, payroll, workers compensation and other human resource functions. NES is required to obtain and maintain workers compensation coverage for all employees under Florida Statute 440.10(g).

According to the indictment, from around March 2005 through August 2008, Fuller pretended to be David Walters and claimed to be an insurance agent and the owner of Southeast Services, Inc. Fuller fraudulently represented that he had obtained insurance coverage for NES and began collecting payments from NES for his services. In this way, Fuller caused checks to be sent from NES in Avon Park, Florida, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to an account which Fuller controlled.

Sentencing has been scheduled for February 10, 2012 before U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham. At sentencing, Fuller faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a mandatory order for restitution in the amount of at least $2.7 million.

Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the FBI and Florida’s Department of Financial Services. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen L. Cohen and Emalyn H. Webber.

Web Domains Selling Counterfeit Goods Seized in Cyber Monday Crackdown

Seizure orders have been executed against 150 domain names of commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works as part of Operation In Our Sites. The seized domains are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to the sites will now find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.

During the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of a host of products, including professional sports jerseys, golf equipment, DVD sets, footwear, handbags and sunglasses, representing a variety of trademarks from online retailers who were suspected of selling counterfeit products. In most cases, the goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries.

The operation was conducted by the Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), and the FBI Washington Field Office.

Manville Man Sentenced to 97 Months in Prison for Possessing Child Pornography

NEWARK, NJ—A former Somerset County, New Jersey vehicle maintenance department mechanic was sentenced today to 97 months in prison for possession of child pornography, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

James Artfitch, 54, of Manville, pleaded guilty in July 2010 before U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler to one count of an Indictment charging him with possession of child pornography. Judge Chesler also imposed today’s sentence.

According to documents filed and statements made in court:

Artfitch sent images of child pornography and other obscene material, including images of himself naked, via e-mail to an undercover agent posing as a 15-year-old girl. During these e-mail exchanges, Artfitch engaged in communications encouraging his correspondent to send images of herself to him. In March 2008, defendant Artfitch was confronted by law enforcement regarding this conduct and surrendered his computer. Analysis of the contents of this computer identified more than 600 images of child pornography, including images of a pre-pubescent child being sexually penetrated with a plastic object. This child pornography included images of victims who have been identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Between March 2008 and his arrest in April 2009, Artfitch obtained a new computer and resumed collecting child pornography.

Following his arrest in April 2009, Artfitch was indicted for distribution and possession of child pornography. After pleading guilty, Artfitch attempted to withdraw his guilty plea. During an evidentiary hearing, the court found that Artfitch lied under oath while attempting to exonerate himself and declined to allow Artfitch to withdraw his guilty plea.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Chesler sentenced Artfitch to five years of supervised release. Artfitch is also required to register as a sex offender.

U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Cook of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Howard Brownstein Esq., Union City, N.J.

CBP Port Director Aids Truck-Rollover Accident Victim

Sweetgrass, Mont.— U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director, Larry Overcast, was on his way home after work about 5:00 p.m. on November 22 when he spotted on overturned tractor-trailer lying on its side in the north-bound lanes of Interstate 15, about 3 miles south of the port of Sweetgrass.

The driver of the truck was still in the cab and emergency response personnel had not arrived, so Overcast stopped to assist the driver. Overcast was able to speak to the driver through the windshield. The driver said he wasn’t hurt, just shaken up. The truck was lying on the driver’s side, so Overcast helped the driver exit the cab of the truck through the window on the passenger side. Overcast telephoned the Customs Area Security Center at the port of Sweetgrass and asked a CBP officer to call for the assistance of local emergency responders.

Strong winds were blowing in the area, with gusts estimated to be between 60 and 80 m.p.h. at the time of the accident. The tractor-trailer, which was not hauling any cargo, was south-bound on I-15 when it was hit by a gust that pushed the vehicle into the median and then onto its side in the north-bound passing lane.

Overcast departed after the scene was secured with the arrival of the local fire department and a Toole County Sheriff’s deputy.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

MS-13 Leader Indicted for Sex Trafficking Juveniles

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Rances Ulices Amaya, a/k/a “Blue” or “Murder,” 23, of Springfield, Va., was indicted today accused of participating in an underground prostitution business involving underage females.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.

“Sex trafficking is an unconscionable crime that results in a lifetime of trauma for the young victims,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Mr. Amaya is the fifth gang member charged in this ongoing investigation by the FBI and the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, and we are committed to eradicating juvenile sex trafficking from our communities.”

Amaya was indicted today on charges of conspiracy and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison for each sex trafficking count and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiracy.

According to court documents, Amaya is a leader of the Guanacos Lokotes Salvatrucha (GLS) clique of MS-13. In June 2009 and throughout the fall of that year, Amaya is accused of conspiring with others to recruit multiple juvenile females to work as a prostitutes and transporting them throughout Northern Virginia for appointments that Amaya had arranged with clients. He is accused of providing the juveniles with alcohol and narcotics to facilitate the prostitution scheme, along with remaining with the juveniles during prostitution appointments to ensure the clients did not violate the rules he had set for the sexual encounter.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with the assistance of Fairfax County Police Department and the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Terwilliger is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.

Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at VAED.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tucson Sector Border Patrol Seizes Ton of Marijuana and Stolen Vehicle

Tucson, Ariz. –Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tucson Sector, a component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Joint Field Command-Arizona, seized 2,150 pounds of marijuana yesterday with the assistance of air assets and sophisticated surveillance technology.

Casa Grande Station agents, using a mobile surveillance system last night, identified suspected narcotics smuggling and responded to the area with the assistance of air assets assigned to Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine. Agents seized 10 bundles of marijuana weighing 514 pounds and arrested six individuals, all of whom admitted to being in the United States illegally. The narcotics and subjects were transported to the station for processing. The narcotics, valued at $257,250, will be turned over to Drug Enforcement Administration. The subjects face charges for narcotics smuggling.

Agents from the Ajo Station were patrolling in the West Desert yesterday when they came upon an unattended SUV concealed with a camouflage tarp and loaded with 111 bundles of marijuana. Record checks revealed the 2004 Chevrolet Suburban had been reported stolen out of Phoenix. The vehicle was turned over to the Tohono O’odham Police Department. The narcotics, weighing in at 1,636 pounds and valued at $818,000, will be turned over to DEA.

Drug and human smuggling are federal crimes with stiff penalties. As a result, smugglers often choose to abandon their loads or use stolen vehicles rather than risk apprehension and incarceration. Through technology and cooperation with law enforcement partners, the Border Patrol continues to deny criminal organizations the freedom to engage in illegal activity.

CBP appreciates assistance from the community. Citizens can report suspicious activity by calling the Border Patrol at 1-877-872-7435 and remain anonymous.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Silver Spring Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing Child Pornography

Possessed Over 866,000 Images and 8,100 Movies Portraying the Sexual Abuse of Children Also Admitted Sexually Molesting Three Boys

GREENBELT, MD—Gary Callis, age 42, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing child pornography.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

“As this case demonstrates, people who distribute child pornography often are involved in sexual abuse of children in reality and not just fantasy,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to the plea agreement, in November and December, 2009, two separate FBI undercover operations in San Diego and Richmond, respectively, used file sharing programs to download images from a user, later determined to be Callis, which depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The Richmond undercover agent also engaged Callis in a chat, during which Callis stated he looked forward to trading images and that he “had some boy relations” with boys aged six to 14 and was presently looking for 14 to 20 year old boys. Callis specifically described to the undercover agent his molestation of a boy from the time the child was six years old until he was 12 years old.

On February 26, 2010, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Callis’ residence in Silver Spring, and seized three external hard drives, two laptop computer, a computer tower and a memory card. A subsequent forensic examination of the digital media revealed that Callis possessed over 866,000 images and 8,100 movies portraying the sexual abuse of children. Agents found that the collection was highly organized, divided into folder titles with a number or letter, then further subdivided by a child’s name or a description of the contents. Callis’ computers also revealed that his primary means of trading child pornography was through the file sharing program where the FBI undercover officers discovered Callis.

Callis was present during the search of his residence and admitted to investigators that in 2000 he had sexually molested a teenaged neighbor who was visiting his house and in 2003 had begun molesting the son of his girlfriend, who was seven years old at the time.

As part of his plea agreement, Callis must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Callis faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of life in prison followed by up to lifetime of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Callis will also pay approximately $24,000 in restitution to one of the victims of his sexual abuse for treatment and counseling expenses.

As part of the plea agreement, Callis and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Callis will be sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for November 30, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. Callis has also agreed to plead guilty in a related case in Montgomery County Circuit Court, and agreed that the Circuit Court shall impose a sentence of 17 years in prison in that case, to run concurrent with Callis’ federal sentence. Callis remains detained.

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 Projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, Montgomery County Police Department and Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in this investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney LisaMarie Freitas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf, who are prosecuting the case.

FBI Denver Cyber Squad Advises Citizens to be Aware of a New Phishing Campaign

With the holiday shopping season upon us, the FBI Denver Cyber Squad would like to advise citizens of a new spear phishing campaign involving personal and business bank accounts, financial institutions, money mules, and jewelry stores. The campaign involves a variant of the “Zeus” malware called “Gameover.” The spam campaign is pretending to be legitimate e-mails from the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), advising the user there was problem with the ACH transaction at their bank and it was not processed. Once they click on the link they are infected with the Zeus or Gameover malware, which is able to key log as well as steal their online banking credentials, defeating several forms of two factor authentication.

After the accounts are compromised, the perpetrators conduct a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the financial institution. The belief is the DDoS is used to deflect attention from the wire transfers as well to make them unable to reverse the transactions (if found). A portion of the wire transfers (not all) are being transmitted directly to high-end jewelry stores, wherein the money mule comes to the actual store to pick up his $100K in jewels (or whatever dollar amount was wired).

Investigation has shown the perpetrators contact the high-end jeweler requesting to purchase precious stones and high-end watches. The perpetrators advise they will wire the money to the jeweler’s account and someone will come to pick up the merchandise. The next day, a money mule arrives at the store, the jeweler confirms the money has been transferred or is listed as “pending” and releases the merchandise to the mule. Later on, the transaction is reversed or cancelled (if the financial institution caught the fraud in time) and the jeweler is out whatever jewels the money mule was able to obtain.

The FBI in Denver is asking all consumers to be cautious of opening communications from senders that would not normally send you e-mail or are not from the normal sender e-mail address.