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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Dominican National Sentenced to Prison for his Involvement in National Conspiracy to Sell Identity Documents to Illegal Aliens


Defendant Admitted Knowing That Illegal Aliens Purchased Identity Documents with the Intent to Commit Criminal Offenses

A Dominican national was sentenced to prison today for his role in a scheme to sell the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents to individuals illegally residing in the United States.  Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico, Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Inspector in Charge Craig Goldberg of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Chicago Division made the announcement.

Reynaldo Rodriguez-Canario, aka Reinaldo Rodriguez, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Reinaldo Canario, Jose Almonte, Jose Martinez, Matatan and Ciego, 47, a citizen of the Dominican Republic residing in Puerto Rico, was sentenced to serve 57 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Aida M. Delgado-Colon of the District of Puerto Rico.  Rodriguez-Canario pleaded guilty on Feb. 16, to conspiracy to possess and transfer identification documents, conspiracy to encourage an alien to reside in the United States for financial gain, and aggravated identity theft.

“Rodriguez-Canario and his co-conspirators sold identity documents to illegal aliens knowing that those documents would be used to commit crimes, including Social Security fraud,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate criminal aliens who undermine the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.  We will aggressively enforce U.S. immigration laws and seek stiff penalties against those who violate them.”

“Identity theft poses a severe threat to public safety by potentially enabling those with criminal intent to travel to or remain in the United States,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Benner. “HSI will continue to utilize its unique authorities, working closely with our law enforcement counterparts, to combat this crime and ensure justice for the victims.”

“The events of today serve as yet another example of the unending dedication of the Postal Inspection Service and its law enforcement partners to halt the devastating effects of identity theft,” said Inspector in Charge Goldberg.  “Those who engage in this type of fraud must learn they cannot escape detection and will be brought to justice. The sentencing of Rodriguez-Canario is a victory for all who suffered financial and emotional distress because of his actions.”

According to admissions in his plea agreement, Rodriguez-Canario obtained identity documents of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, usually consisting of birth certificates, social security cards and driver’s licenses, and shipped them to co-conspirators in the United States.  Further, the plea agreement states that his co-conspirators sold social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rican birth certificates to individuals illegally residing on the mainland United States for prices ranging from $500 to $1,300 per set.  The defendant admitted that the co-conspirators used money transfer services and the U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.  Rodriguez-Canario also admitted that he knew that the customers who purchased the identity documents intended to commit social security fraud and other criminal offenses.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service led the investigation with assistance from HSI San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The HSI Attaché Office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center provided invaluable support, with assistance from ICE and U.S. Postal Inspection Service offices around the country.

Trial Attorneys Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Marianne Shelvey of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section are prosecuting the case.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico is providing assistance in this matter.

Fifth Defendant in the Armed Robbery of a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer Sentenced to 13 Years in Federal Prison


 Armed Robbers Stole 37 Firearms at Gunpoint, Including Assault Rifles

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced David Wise, a/k/a Rambo and Rampage, age 23, of Baltimore, to 13 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for the armed robbery of a federally licensed firearms dealer.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Terrence B. Sheridan of the Baltimore County Police Department.

“David Wise and his co-defendants targeted a gun dealer in order to steal and resell the guns on the street.  Through the coordinated efforts of our law enforcement partners, many of the guns were recovered, and a group of armed robbers has been put behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.

“These five felons terrorized innocent employees, they victimized a law-abiding business owner, and they stole these firearms with purely criminal intentions in mind,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Cekada. “Federal firearms licensees are more than businesses—they are the livelihood of the FFL owner and their employees. Violent acts like this are a threat to public safety and we will do everything in our power to bring offenders like these to justice.”

According to his plea agreement and other court documents, on August 5, 2016, Wise and four co-conspirators robbed a bait, tackle, and gun store in Dundalk, Maryland, that was a federally licensed firearms dealer.  Specifically, Raymond McCullough, the principal planner and orchestrator of the robbery, drove the co-conspirators in a stolen pick-up truck to the store to conduct the robbery.  The group had specifically targeted the store in order to pilfer firearms for subsequent sale and use, and brought firearms to force the victims to submit and zip-ties to bind the victims.  Wise and Lerron Sheppard entered the store, pointed guns at the store owners, and demanded money and guns.  Fearing for their lives, the victims complied.  Wise and Sheppard bound one victim with zip-ties, then ordered the second victim to assist them in getting the cash and firearms.  While Wise stood guard over the victims, Sheppard unlocked the front door of the store (which had automatically locked) so that Smith and Hawkins could enter.  McCullough backed the pick-up truck to the front of the store and waited outside.  Wise, Smith, Hawkins, and Sheppard then proceeded to plunder the store of cash and 37 firearms, including three assault rifles and a silencer.  The men packed the firearms in duffel bags and backpacks and carried them outside to the pick-up truck.  Sheppard then pushed the second victim in a safe and locked her inside.  The men then fled to an apartment in Baltimore, where they divided the cash and firearms among themselves.  Wise received several guns, including one of the assault rifles.

The victims reported that Wise had removed a shotgun from the safe before Sheppard locked the second victim inside.  Wise did not take the shotgun, but left it in the store next to the earbuds he had worn during the robbery.  Investigators were able to obtain a fingerprint from the shotgun which matched Wise’s fingerprint.  A search warrant was subsequently executed at Wise’s residence.  Law enforcement recovered several items stolen in the robbery, including firearms with the sales tags still attached.  Officers also recovered the loaded pistol that Wise pointed at the victims during the robbery.

During the investigation of this robbery, law enforcement recovered many of the firearms taken during the robbery and learned that the defendants had committed additional robberies in the weeks before the robbery of the firearms dealer.  As part of their plea agreements and/or at their sentencing hearings, David Wise, Raymond McCullough, and Lerron Sheppard admitted committing these additional robberies.

Wise is the fifth, and final, defendant to be sentenced to federal prison in this case.

Co-defendants:

Raymond McCullough, a/k/a Troop, age 35, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to an armed commercial robbery and admitted committing another robbery with David Wise.  Sentenced to 20 years in federal prison;

Reginald Smith, a/k/a Young Loc and Loc, age 25, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to an armed commercial robbery.  Sentenced to 115 months in federal prison;

Tavon Hawkins, a/k/a G and Tay, age 36, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to an armed commercial robbery.  Sentenced to 17 years in federal prison; and

Lerron Sheppard, a/k/a D-Loc, age 25, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to an armed commercial robbery and admitted committing another robbery.  Sentenced to 17 years in federal prison.

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

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the ATF, FBI and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Metcalf and Patricia C. McLane, who prosecuted the case.

Cleveland Men Indicted for Committing Armed Carjackings Around Ohio City, Tremont and Shaker Square and Using One of the Vehicles to Steal Firearms from a Gun Store in Streetsboro


Two Cleveland men were indicted in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy with included committing armed carjackings around Ohio City, Tremont and Shaker Square and using one of the vehicles to steal firearms from a gun store in Streetsboro.

Zyshonne Austin and Ja’Quez Lyons, both 18, were indicted on one count of conspiracy, one count of theft from a federal firearms licensee, one count of carjacking and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence.

Austin faces an additional count of possession of a stolen firearm while Lyons faces additional counts of carjacking and using a firearm during a crime of violence.

A third man, James Luke, 18, of Cleveland, was indicted for his role in the Streetsboro gun store robbery.

Austin and Lyons beginning in April used firearms in armed carjackings. A man was getting out of his red Volkswagen Passat on Larchmere Avenue on April 14 when another man approached with a gun and demanded his car, while another man acted as a lookout, according to court documents.

The next day, on April 15, Austin, Lyons and Luke stole 10 firearms from Top Shot Firearms in Streetsboro. The suspects used an object to smash through glass display cases and steal the guns. Blood was found at the scene, according to court documents.

On April 16, Cleveland police officers responded to a call of shots fired near East 123rd Street and recovered the Volkswagen Passat. Inside the car they found price tags from the stolen firearms, some of which had blood on them, a rag with suspected blood on it, a hammer and a receipt from the McDonald’s at 3050 Carnegie Avenue from April 15, among other items.

On April 21, one of the stolen firearms was recovered from Austin after he was arrested following an attempted armed robbery and carjacking in the Ohio City neighborhood. Austin was arrested after he and another suspect fled after crashing the stolen Toyota IA near Kinsman Avenue. Austin had cuts on his hands, according to court documents.

Lyons on May 7 used a firearm to steal a 2016 Lincoln MKC. Following his arrest, a search of Lyons’ phone revealed Austin was one of 13 people listed as contacts and that Lyons had done numerous searches for gun stores, including Top Shot Firearms in Streetsboro, according to court documents.

The phone also included numerous text exchanges between Austin and Lyons discussing robbing the Streetsboro gun store, according to court documents.

DNA tests showed Austin’s blood matched the blood on the price tags of the stolen guns and blood on the hammer recovered in the stolen car. A search of Austin’s phone revealed numerous computer searches around the time of the robbery, including “Top Shot Firearms” and “gun store breakin (sic) Streetsboro,” according to court documents.

Austin also sent images of himself and others with the stolen firearms and in front of the stolen Volkswagen Passat, according to court documents.

This investigation is ongoing.

“These defendants pointed loaded guns at everyday people in our community and stole their cars, then used at least one of those stolen cars to drive to Portage County and hold up a gun store,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Our community is safer with these predators behind bars. This case is also another demonstration of working with local police and prosecutors to target the worst of the worst.”

 “ATF’s core mission is reducing violent gun crime in our communities,” said Trevor Velinor, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Columbus Field Division. “Firearms theft involves violent acts where criminals distribute stolen firearms throughout our communities, which causes a growing wave of violence.  ATF is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to pursue those who steal firearms from licensed firearms dealers.”

“Taking violent, armed and dangerous offenders off of our streets is a service to our communities,” said Chief Calvin D. Williams of the Cleveland Division of Police.  “I am always thankful for the strong law enforcement partnerships we have here in Northeast Ohio.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony said: “These three stole numerous weapons and used those illegally obtained guns to violently terrorize people leaving work and visiting friends in our community.  They had no regard for the safety and hard earned belongings of others and now must face the federal justice system and its consequences."

“This case highlights the partnership between law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, as we have a duty to work together to ensure the safety of the community,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.

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

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Cleveland Division of Police, the FBI, the Streetsboro Police Department, the Twinsburg Police Department and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office’s Crime Strategies Unit. It is being prosecuted by Assistant. U.S. Attorney Kelly L. Galvin.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.