Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Mason County Man Sentenced to 135 Months for Methamphetamine Trafficking

 COVINGTON, Ky. - A Maysville, Kentucky man, Harry Elza Gilbert, 60, was sentenced to 135 months in federal prison on Tuesday, by U.S. District Chief Judge Danny C. Reeves, for possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

According to his plea agreement, between August and December 2019, Gilbert possessed approximately 125 grams of methamphetamine that was seized by local law enforcement in both Mason and Lewis Counties.  Gilbert admitted that intended to distribute the drugs. 

Gilbert pled guilty in July 2020.           

Under federal law, Gilbert must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence and will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for five years, after his release from prison.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; James Robert Brown, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Louisville Field Office; Johnny W. Bivens, Lewis County Sheriff and Jared Muse, Chief of the Maysville Police Department, jointly announced the sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Maysville Police Department.  The United States was represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wade Napier.

Coffee County man pleads guilty to methamphetamine distribution

 Federal charge could bring up to 20 years in prison

BRUNSWICK, GA:  A Coffee County man faces up to 20 years in federal prison after admitting to distribution of methamphetamine.

Demetrius Brown, a/k/a “Jersey,” 42, of Douglas, Ga., pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Brunswick before Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to one count of Distribution of a Mixture or Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of Methamphetamine, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Brown’s admission to the charge carries a possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison, followed by at least three years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Our law enforcement partners did outstanding work in uncovering and shutting down Demetrius Brown’s poison pill factory,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “We applaud their work in eradicating the illegal drug trade in our community.”  

Brown previously has been convicted of multiple felonies, including assault on a law enforcement officer and drug distribution on school property – all occurring in New Jersey prior to his relocation to south Georgia.

The investigation of Brown began in 2019 when the Coffee County Drug Unit determined Brown was selling pills purportedly containing ecstasy. Law enforcement conducted two controlled purchases before executing a search warrant at Brown’s home, discovering a pill press, other materials used for manufacturing methamphetamine pills, and four firearms.

“We hope the conviction of Demetrius Brown will serve as a major wake-up call to those attempting to manufacture and distribute illegal drugs in Coffee County,” Sheriff Doyle Wooten stated. “We are actively partnering with state and federal officials and law enforcement agencies to aggressively target the sources of drug distribution in our area, and we will prosecute these cases to the fullest extent the law allows.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Coffee County Drug Unit, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Harper III.

Franklin County Man Sentenced To Five Years’ Imprisonment For Receiving And Distributing Child Pornography

 HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Craig Killmeyer, age 56, of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, was sentenced yesterday to five years’ imprisonment to be followed by ten years of supervised release, by Chief U.S District Court Judge John E. Jones III, for receiving and distributing child pornography.

According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Killmeyer previously admitted to receiving and distributing images of child pornography between December 2017 and December 2018.  Killmeyer used Kik Messenger to send and receive the images.   

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlo D. Marchioli and former Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy prosecuted the case.

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

Former Hershey Man Sentenced To 11 Years’ Imprisonment For Numerous Fraud Offenses

 HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Michael Jay Jackson, age 61, formerly of Hershey, Pennsylvania, was sentenced yesterday to eleven years’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release, by U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo, on bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering charges.  Jackson was also ordered to pay $1,567,275 in restitution.  Jackson was previously sentenced in March 2019.  In May 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated that sentence and remanded for resentencing.

According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Jackson pled guilty in November 2017 to an indictment charging him with twelve counts of wire fraud, five counts of bankruptcy fraud, nine counts of false bankruptcy declarations, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.  Jackson defrauded his creditors, the Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and his wife by filing seven Chapter 13 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions, five of which were under Jackson’s name, and two of which were under his wife’s name without her knowledge or consent.  The petitions contained false information regarding Jackson’s income, assets, and employment, and were filed in order to postpone multiple Sheriff’s sales of his Hershey residence.  Jackson filed the last two petitions under his wife’s name after the Bankruptcy Court barred Jackson from filing any further petitions for two years in May 2015.

Jackson also pled guilty in March 2018, to a two-count criminal information charging him with wire fraud and money laundering.  Jackson perpetrated a loan-fraud scheme involving a bogus business venture between 2007 and 2017 that defrauded 22 victims out of approximately $1.7 million.  Jackson registered a corporation by the name of INTEX Building Materials Group, Inc. (INTEX BMG) with the Pennsylvania Department of State in 2007, listing himself as the sole shareholder and Chief Executive Officer of the company.  Jackson defrauded his victims by convincing them he had the backing of Brookstone Partners, a New York City capital investment company, to lend him millions of dollars to acquire companies that manufactured building products.  Jackson induced his victims into giving him loans to pay for his personal expenses, including his children’s college tuition, while the victims awaited consummation of the deal with Brookstone.  Jackson promised his victims huge returns on what were supposed to be short-term loans.  Jackson also provided copies of what he claimed to be e-mails from Brookstone principals that falsely represented the INTEX BMG deal was real.

In reality, INTEX BMG was a “paper” company that did not hold any significant assets, did not have any paid employees, and never generated any income.  Jackson provided his victims a variety of explanations as to why INTEX BMG did not go “live” in order to lull them into not taking action against him.  Jackson would repeatedly blame the protracted delays upon the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), various state regulators, and the Canadian government.  Many of the victims of Jackson’s loan-fraud scheme were from central Pennsylvania.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlo D. Marchioli and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel prosecuted the case.

Deputy charged with two federal child pornography crimes

 COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Franklin County corrections officer has been charged federally with advertising for and receiving child pornography.

Daniel P. Heintz, 38, of Columbus, turned himself in this morning and will appear in federal court for an initial appearance at 2:15pm.

According to court documents, authorities were alerted to messages sent by Heintz on Kik Messenger in mid-August 2020. In the conversations, Heintz allegedly discusses with an Illinois man their mutual sexual interest for children, and exchanged images of themselves and of pornography, including child pornography. It is alleged Heintz received sexually explicit videos from the man of a girl 13 to 15 years old.

An affidavit details that Heintz allegedly discussed sexually abusing a minor to whom he had access. It is alleged he discussed photographing the minor in the victim’s sleep and also talked about sexual conduct he would commit as well as sexual abuse the Illinois man could commit to the minor victim.

On Feb. 11, law enforcement officials executed search warrants at Heintz’s residence and of his person at his place of employment, the Franklin County Correctional Center on S. Front Street.

A forensic examination of his electronics revealed what is alleged to be several hundred images of prepubescent minors, some as young as toddler age, engaged in explicit sexual conduct and being sexually abused.

Heintz is charged with advertising for and receiving child pornography. Advertising for child pornography is a federal crime punishable by a minimum of 15 and up to 30 years in prison. Receiving child pornography includes a sentencing range of five to 20 years in prison. If convicted, the crimes also carry a mandatory of at least five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and registration as a sex offender.

David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Chris Hoffman, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division; Westerville Police Chief Charles Chandler and other members of the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force announced the charges. Assistant United States Attorneys Heather A. Hill and Emily Czerniejewski are representing the United States in this case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Georgia couple sentenced for importing and distributing male enhancement products and counterfeit goods from China as well as naturalization fraud

 ROME, Ga. - Irfanali Momin and Shiba I. Momin a/k/a Saguftabanu Momin, husband and wife, have been sentenced to prison for naturalization fraud and conspiring to illegally import and distribute misbranded drug products from China and traffic counterfeit goods. The Momins have also been criminally denaturalized as result of their convictions for naturalization fraud.

“The defendants built their business and earned their citizenship through fraud,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “And, by illegally importing and distributing products containing drugs that can only be obtained in the United States with a prescription written by a licensed medical professional, the Momins put profit over public safety.”

“This announcement demonstrates that those who subvert the regulatory functions of the FDA by distributing misbranded drugs containing undeclared prescription drug ingredients and counterfeit tobacco products will be held accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. “We will continue to bring to justice those who place American consumers at risk by selling these illegal and potentially dangerous products.”

“The Momins lived a life of lies in this country from their fraudulent citizenship to their business of selling illegal products to customers whose health was threatened by the use of those products,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Now they will pay for their deception in prison time and loss of their citizenship. The FBI is committed to working with our federal partners to protect our citizens against anyone who would choose to do them harm.”  

“The Momins will now face the consequences of their lies and schemes to illegally gain citizenship and import and sell misbranded pharmaceuticals. Their actions not only placed unsuspecting purchasers at risk, they also threatened the integrity of the US immigration system,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Homeland Security Investigations and its law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue those that seek to profit from these fraudulent and dangerous activities.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: Between August 2014 and November 2018, the Momins ordered and sold male enhancement products from China marketed under various names.  These products contained sildenafil, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Viagra, and/or tadalafil, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Cialis. Both Viagra and Cialis can be obtained in the U.S. only with a prescription from a doctor.

The Momins had in fact received more than a dozen notices from the FDA advising them to not sell these products. The FDA has also warned consumers for more than half-a-decade to not purchase or use such “all natural” sexual products because they could have serious side effects, especially in men who are taking nitrates and suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease.

In order to evade import restrictions, the Momins’ China-based suppliers mislabeled the boxes containing the illegal pills to make it appear that the boxes contained items that can be legally imported into the U.S., such as beauty products, health products, and health supplies. The Momins admitted to selling between $550,000 and $1.5 million in illegal drug products over the course of the conspiracy. They also sold various counterfeit goods from their warehouse in Dalton, Georgia, including counterfeit designer watches, headphones, e-cigarette devices, and tobacco rolling papers.

Earlier, in October 2013, the Momins both applied to become naturalized U.S. citizens. On his application form, Irfanali Momin falsely stated that he had never been married before and did not disclose that he had in fact been married to two women at the same time. During an interview with USCIS in June 2014, Irfanali Momin made the same false declarations. Based upon his false statements, Irfanali Momin became a naturalized U.S. citizen on August 16, 2014. On her application form, Shiba I. Momin a/k/a Saguftabanu Momin, falsely stated that she did not go by any other names when in fact she knew that her actual name was Shiba I. Momin, but she was only passing as Saguftabanu Momin. The investigation had revealed that Shiba I. Momin had originally obtained a Georgia’s driver’s license in her real name only to later obtain a fraudulent license in the name Saguftabanu Momin—the name she used to apply for and fraudulently receive U.S. citizenship on August 1, 2014. If USCIS had been aware of these facts, it would have denied her citizenship

On February 12, 2021, Irfanali Momin, 48, and Shiba I. Momin a/k/a Saguftabanu Momin, 42, both of Dahlonega, Georgia, were each sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones to one year, six months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a special assessment of $200. They were both convicted on September 23, 2020 after pleading guilty to a criminal information. On February 23, 2021, Judge Jones issued orders revoking their U.S. citizenship.         

This case was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex R. Sistla prosecuted the case.

Morris County Pharmacy Employee Charged with $1.9 Million Kickback and Bribery Scheme

 NEWARK, N.J. – A pharmacy employee was charged for conspiring to offer and pay bribes and kickbacks in exchange for having prescriptions steered to the Morris County, New Jersey, pharmacy where he worked, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.

Srinivasa Raju, 49, of Haskell, New Jersey, was arrested today and charged by complaint with conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. He had his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer and was released on $250,000 unsecured bond.

Magdalena Jimenez, 56, of Newark, New Jersey, was previously charged with a parallel bribery and kickback scheme involving the same pharmacy. Those charges remain pending.

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

Raju had various responsibilities at the Morris County pharmacy, including coordinating prescription deliveries and soliciting business. From at least January 2019, Raju worked with other pharmacy personnel to pay kickbacks and bribes to a doctor’s employee in exchange for receiving numerous prescriptions from that doctor’s Jersey City office.

Raju first paid the kickbacks and bribes using gift cards, but soon switched to cash and checks. He typically handed the kickbacks and bribes to coworkers inside the pharmacy and directed them to deliver the payments to the doctor’s employee. To conceal the true nature of some of the illicit payments, Raju had approximately $8,000 worth of checks made out to the employee’s relative, under the guise of paying for IT services. In truth, Raju never met or communicated with the relative, and no actual services were performed.

In November 2020, Raju was recorded inside the pharmacy directing an employee to deliver a kickback and bribe of “200 bucks for Thanksgiving.” Raju asked, “What do you think, I should give $300? What do you think?” Raju then counted out more cash, which he put in a sealed envelope to have hand delivered. In December 2020, he had a $250 cash kickback and bribe, which was stashed inside a Christmas card, hand delivered to the doctor’s employee, inside the doctor’s office.

The conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss derived from the offense, whichever is greater.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, and Special Agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua L. Haber of the Health Care Fraud Unit.

The charges and allegations in the complaints against Raju and Jimenez are merely accusations, and they are both presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Three Mercer County Men Indicted in Pittsburgh for Violating Federal Laws

 PITTSBURGH – Three Mercer County men have been charged in separate indictments with violating federal firearms and/or drug laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The first indictment charges Diquan Crowder, 27, of Farrell, PA, with one count of violating federal firearms laws. According to the indictment, on Nov. 20, 2020, Crowder possessed a Zastava pistol after having been convicted of two drug-trafficking and gun felony crimes.

The second indictment charges Raymond Briskey, 35, of Sharon, PA, with violating federal drug and firearms laws. According to the indictment, on Oct. 21, 2020, Briskey possessed with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, and possessed a firearm after a prior felony conviction and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on that date.

The third indictment, returned on Sept. 22, 2020 and unsealed yesterday, charges Dimetrius Morris, 36, of Farrell, PA, with violating federal drug and gun laws. According to the indictment, on Feb. 20, 2020, Morris possessed with intent to distribute cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine, as well as possessed a firearm after several felony convictions and in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on that date.

Dimetrius Morris is a fugitive from justice. Anyone with information concerning his whereabouts should contact the FBI at 412-432-4000.

"Prosecuting drug dealers and those who illegally possess firearms has been a successful strategy for reducing crime in every western Pennsylvania county," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "District Attorney Peter Acker has been a valued partner in these efforts to remove violent offenders from our neighborhoods and make Mercer County a safer place."

"The Mercer County District Attorney’s Office and state and local law enforcement officials are extremely grateful for the assistance of U.S. Attorney Scott Brady and the Department of Justice in adopting these three cases and indicting these three individuals who were deeply involved in drug trafficking and related drug crimes. Raymond Briskey had been a fugitive from justice for over three years after failing to appear for sentencing for his earlier drug

dealing conviction," said Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker. "We work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI along with our Mercer County Drug Task Force and the PA Attorney General’s Narcotics Agents. That working relationship has been very beneficial to Mercer County and the federal penalties for convictions in these types of cases are far greater than the corresponding state penalties."

For Crowder, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. For Briskey, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of at least five years and up to life in prison and a fine of up to $1,500,000. For Morris, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of at least five years and up to life in prison and a fine of up to $2,500,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant(s).

Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting these cases on behalf of the United States.

The Mercer County Drug Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation leading to the return of the Indictments naming Crowder and Briskey.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Sharon Police Department, the Farrell Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation leading to the return of the Indictment naming Morris.

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

Former Member of New Bedford Latin Kings Sentenced for Drug Conspiracy Charges

 BOSTON – A former member of the New Bedford Chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (“Latin Kings”) was sentenced today on drug conspiracy charges.

Ines Lugo, a/k/a “Queen China,” 42, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to time served (approximately 47 days in prison) and three years of supervised release. The government recommended a sentence of 18 months incarceration. In November 2020, Lugo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine base.

Lugo admitted that she conspired with other Latin Kings members and leaders to possess cocaine base (also known as “crack cocaine”) with the intent to distribute it. Specifically, in August 2019, she conspired with others to obtain cocaine base from members of the Latin Kings in New Bedford for resale. On Aug. 24, 2019, Lugo was captured on video delivering cocaine base to another Latin Kings member in a trap house.

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

In December 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and firearms charges against 62 leaders, members and associates of the Latin Kings. Ines Lugo is the 16th defendant to be sentenced in the case.

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

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

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

Stroud Township Man Charged With Drug Trafficking And Firearms Offenses

 SCRANTON: The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that James Williams III, also known as “Dilly,” age 40, of Stroud Township, Pennsylvania, was indicted on February 23, 2021, by a federal grand jury on drug trafficking and firearms charges.

According to Acting United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that on March 29, 2018 and April 18, 2018, Williams distributed and possessed with intent to distribute cocaine within 1,000 feet of Stroudsburg High School, in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.  The indictment further charges Williams with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams and more of cocaine on May 3, 2018.  The indictment also alleges that Williams, a convicted felon, illegally possessed two firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking and one of the firearms was stolen.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Stroud Regional Police Department, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts is prosecuting the case.

Indictments are only allegations.  All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is life in prison, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of 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.

Pennsylvania man sentenced for role in a drug distribution operation

 WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – Albert Lee Brooks, of New Castle, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today to 33 months of incarceration for his role in a drug trafficking operation, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Brooks, also known as “B,” pled guilty to one count of “Distribution of Cocaine Base within 1000 feet of a Protected Location” in May 2020. Brooks, age 49, admitted to selling “crack” cocaine near Luau Manor in Ohio County in March 2019.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn M. Adkins prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The Ohio Valley Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, investigated. 

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey presided.

Former Pilot Charged Again for Internet Stalking

 In San Antonio today, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against 66-year-old Mark Joseph Uhlenbrock of Chesterfield, Missouri, for internet stalking yet again, announced U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs.

On September 28, 2016, Uhlenbrock was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to an internet stalking charge. Uhlenbrock admitted that from January 2006 to August 2015, he caused substantial emotional distress by posting nude photographs of his victim on the internet without the victim’s consent and despite three Bexar County civil district court lawsuits.

After completing his prison term, court records reflect that in April 2019 a federal judge sentenced Uhlenbrock to six months imprisonment for violating the terms of his supervised release.

Today’s indictment charges Uhlenbrock with one count of internet stalking the same victim again.  The indictment alleges that from May 2020 to September 2020, Uhlenbrock used the internet to cause substantial emotional distress to a person.  The conduct in this indictment occurred while Uhlenbrock was still on supervised release for his first conviction of internet stalking.

Uhlenbrock has remained in federal custody since his arrest in Missouri on December 10, 2020, for allegedly violating conditions of his supervised release.

The FBI in San Antonio investigated this case with assistance from the FBI in St. Louis.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Wannarka is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. 

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

KC Woman Indicted for Two Armed Bank Robberies Following High-Speed Police Chase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City, Missouri, woman who led police officers on a high-speed chase down Grand Avenue was indicted by a federal grand jury today for two armed bank robberies.

Sarah Theresa Watkins, 41, was charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo. Today’s indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Watkins on Feb. 5, 2021.

Today’s indictment charges Watkins with the armed robbery of Central Bank in Claycomo, Mo., on Feb. 1, 2021, and the armed robbery of Capitol Federal Savings in Liberty, Mo., on Feb. 2, 2021.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaints, Watkins entered Central Bank at 11:24 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2021, and approached a teller window. Watkins handed the teller a note that stated "HAND OVER ALL THE MONEY AND I WON'T SHOOT." She allegedly pulled a gun out of her purse and pointed it at the teller. When the teller pulled the money out of the drawers and placed it on the counter, the affidavit says, Watkins took the money and ran out of the bank. The bank reported a loss of $1,819.

Surveillance video footage from an exterior ATM of the bank captured video footage of a white Hyundai, four-door sedan. This vehicle appears to be the same vehicle that was involved in a bank robbery that occurred the next day, on Feb. 2, 2021.

According to the affidavit, Watkins entered Capitol Federal Savings in Liberty at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2021. Watkins took a note out of her bag and placed it on the counter, the affidavit says. The note stated: "HAND ME ALL THE MONEY OR I WILL SHOOT." While the teller was reading the note, Watkins allegedly stated: "All of it, hurry up, all of it!" The teller began opening her cash drawer, the affidavit says, when she heard the noise of a heavy object hitting the counter. The teller saw that Watkins had a black semi-automatic handgun in her hand, resting on the counter and pointed at the teller. When the teller took money out of the drawer and placed
it on the counter, Watkins allegedly took the money, put it in her bag, and left through the main door of the lobby. The bank reported a loss of $971.

Surveillance video cameras captured footage of the white Hyundai four-door sedan (and license plate number) allegedly driven by Watkins when she arrived at the bank, and when she left the bank.

Law enforcement officers located the vehicle on Feb. 4, 2021. Kansas City police officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop in the area of 27th Street and Brooklyn Avenue. Watkins, however, drove around the officers in an attempt to flee. A vehicle pursuit ensued, during which officers attempted to immobilize Watkins’ vehicle on three occasions, but she continued to drive around the officers and flee. The pursuit continued at high rates of speed, up to 70 miles per hour while going northbound on Grand Avenue. During the pursuit, traffic was congested at different points along Grand Avenue. The pursuit ended when Watkins lost control of the vehicle in the area E. 21st Street and Walnut Street. Watkins attempted to flee on foot, but was apprehended by police officers. As she exited the vehicle, the affidavit says, Watkins reached into her waistband, then pointed at officers with her index finger extended forward, and her thumb extended upward, possibly attempting to imitate a handgun.   

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford. It was investigated by the FBI and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.

Iowa City Woman Sentenced to Prison for Methamphetamine Charges

 DAVENPORT, Iowa — On Monday, February 22, 2021, United States District Court Chief Judge John A. Jarvey sentenced Stefani Amber Goodwin, age 38, of Iowa City, to 96 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine announced Acting United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. Following her prison term, Goodwin was ordered to serve five years of supervised release, as well as pay $100 to the Crime Victims’ Fund.

The investigation of Goodwin and her co-defendant, Shaun Michael Farrington, began in late-September 2019 when they were observed driving a vehicle that was identified as being involved in a different methamphetamine trafficking investigation. GPS records showed the vehicle traveling to various locations throughout Southeast Iowa, making numerous stops at known drug trafficking locations. On October 2, 2019, the decision was made to stop the vehicle as officers believed it was beginning another drug run, and Farrington was driving with a suspended license. A positive K-9 alert prompted a search of their vehicle resulting in the uncovering of approximately 350 grams of ice methamphetamine. Goodwin admitted to conspiring with Farrington to sell significant quantities of actual methamphetamine throughout Southeast Iowa.

This matter was investigated by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Coralville Man Sentenced to Prison for Heroin and Firearm Offenses

 DAVENPORT, Iowa — On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, United States District Court Chief Judge John A. Jarvey sentenced Bryant Richard Smith, age 32, of Coralville, to 225 months in prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Heroin as well as 120 months in prison for Felon in Possession of a Firearm, announced Acting United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. Those sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. Following his prison term, Smith was ordered to serve ten years of supervised release well as pay $200 to the Crime Victims’ Fund.

Smith was previously convicted of federal drug-related charges in 2013. He was serving a term of supervised release for the prior offense when he resumed methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin trafficking. Chief Judge Jarvey ordered the term of release revoked and imposed a consecutive 36-month prison sentence for the violation. The total sentence is 261 months in prison.

This investigation began in approximately 2018 after Smith was released from custody for his prior federal conviction. Upon release, Smith manufactured and distributed “ice” methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. By 2019, a co-conspirator began to provide Smith money for investment into the illicit drug business. Smith’s co-conspirators took over part of the drug activities when Smith was arrested with drugs in July of 2019, and his term of supervised release from the 2013 case was revoked. Upon release from custody in October, Smith continued selling drugs. Then, in January of 2020, Smith purchased a Kel Tec Sub 2000, 9-millimeter caliber firearm in Iowa City. As a convicted felon, Smith is prohibited from owning or possessing firearms.

This matter was investigated by the Johnson County Drug Task Force and the case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Lincoln Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy Charge

 BANGOR, Maine:  A Lincoln man pleaded guilty today in federal court to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank announced.

According to court records, between approximately May 2018 and July 2018, Brandon Tolman, 32, was part of a drug distribution operation based out of Florida and operating in northern Maine. A co-conspirator obtained large quantities of methamphetamine from Florida and had it transported to Maine. Tolman sold the drug in the Lincoln area while other members of the conspiracy sold it in Bangor, Howland and Houlton.

Tolman faces up to 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced after the completion of a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigated the case.

DEA Rolls Out Operation Engage

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration launched a comprehensive law enforcement and prevention support initiative aimed at reducing drug use, abuse, and overdose deaths. “Operation Engage” allows participating field divisions to focus on the biggest drug threat in their respective geographic areas. The initiative builds on and replaces DEA’s 360 Strategy, which aimed its resources specifically at opioids, and allows field divisions to customize plans and direct resources to target the drug that presents the greatest threat to public health and safety in their jurisdictions. The following 11 field divisions submitted proposals that were approved for the initial round of funding: Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, Seattle, and St. Louis.

“Working alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as specialists in prevention, treatment, and education, we are raising awareness to make our communities safer,” said DEA Acting Administrator D. Christopher Evans. “We will help empower individuals, families, and communities to do their part to help reduce the demand for drugs and get help for those who need it.”

The goals of Operation Engage are to:

- Identify the drugs that affect individuals and families in the designated areas

- Identify evidence-informed strategies that best fit community needs

- Identify and eliminate local drug threats in every field division

- Support and contribute to local drug use prevention efforts

- Bridge local public safety and public health efforts

- Build on the success of DEA 360 and expand Operation Engage nationwide in 2022

Recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an alarming rise in drug overdose deaths, with synthetic opioids driving record-high fatalities. The vast majority of deaths involve illicitly manufactured fentanyl, including fentanyl analogs. There has also been an increase in availability of methamphetamine, which is linked to violent crime. DEA works every day to target and take down the drug trafficking organizations flooding American communities with these illegal drugs. But confronting this public health crisis requires a strategy to reduce demand in those communities.

The Operation Engage initiative encourages partnerships with healthcare professionals, as well as engagement with community and social service organizations best positioned to provide long-term assistance and support for building drug-free communities.

Hear more about Operation Engage from Acting Administrator Evans in this short video.

For more information, visit the Operation Engage webpage (https://www.dea.gov/operation-engage).

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Beltsville Pimp Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking

 Trafficked Three Victims, Including a 17-year-old Girl

Baltimore, Maryland – Kamal Dorchy, age 46, of Beltsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charge of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Lisa D. Myers of the Howard County Police Department; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department; and Howard County State’s Attorney Rich Gibson.

According to Dorchy’s plea agreement, from September 2016 to July 2017, Dorchy conspired with others to commit sex trafficking.  Dorchy posted prostitution advertisements on Internet websites.  Dorchy also recruited sex workers for his prostitution business through advertisements on Internet websites for massage work or prostitution.

As detailed in his plea agreement, on July 27, 2017 a Howard County Police Department detective met with an adult sex worker (Victim 1) at a hotel in Laurel, Maryland.  Victim 1 advised the detective about Dorchy’s conduct.  The victim also told the detective she went by a name in prostitution ads that Dorchy had given her.

Further, Dorchy agrees that he met a 17-year-old minor at a strip club in July of 2017 and recruited the minor victim to work for him.  Dorchy claims that he was not aware of her true age at the time, and believed she was 18 years of age due to her employment at the strip club.  The minor victim informed law enforcement that she told Dorchy her true age before she was trafficked.  Dorchy arranged prostitution dates for the minor victim by posting ads on Internet websites, including for dates in Maryland.  When Dorchy could not be there for the minor victim’s prostitution dates, he employed his cousin to act as “security.”  The minor victim was 17 years old during the entire time that she was trafficked.

A third sex trafficking victim, an adult female, advised law enforcement that she met Dorchy in 2016 during a job interview for a massage business at a hotel in Baltimore, Maryland,  where she was told that she would be walking clients to appointments.  The victim advised that later, she did prostitution dates at Dorchy’s direction at the massage business.

As part of his plea agreement, Dorchy will be required to register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Dorchy and the government have agreed that, if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Dorchy will be sentenced to between six years and 10 years in federal prison.  U.S. District Judge George L. Russell has scheduled sentencing for May 27, 2021, at 10:00 a.m.

This case was investigated by law enforcement agencies that are members of the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, formed in 2007 to discover and rescue victims of human trafficking while identifying and prosecuting offenders.  Members include federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as victim service providers and local community members.  For more information about the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, please visit http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/.

Report suspected instances of human trafficking to HSI's tip line at 866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or by completing its online tip form.  Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner praised HSI, the Howard County, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County Police Departments, the Baltimore Police Department, and the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ayn B. Ducao, Adam K. Ake, and Jeffrey J. Izant, who are prosecuting the case.

Arkansas Couple Sentenced To A Combined Four Years In Federal Prison For Aggravated Identity Theft And Mail Fraud

 El Dorado, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Patrick Wayne Watson, age 24, now of Conway, Arkansas, and Kennan Dane O’Bier, age 24, now of Nash, Texas, were sentenced in Federal Court for their roles in a Mail Fraud and Identity Theft scheme in Magnolia, Arkansas.  O’Bier was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release and Watson was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release, both on one count of Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft.  They were each ordered to pay $200 in special assessments and to pay restitution in the amount of $42,113.12.  The Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge, presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in El Dorado, Arkansas.

According to court records, between August of 2018 through January 31st of 2019, Watson, who was employed at a local bank, used his position at the bank to review personally identifiable information and banking information of customers.  While doing so, Watson took photographs of the personally identifying information of over one hundred bank customers on his cellular phone.  Watson and O’Bier together then used at least six (6) of those customer’s information to open PayPal, Amazon, and Wayfair accounts in the names of the unsuspecting bank customers.

Over the six months of the scheme, Watson and O’Bier then used those accounts to order thousands of dollars in products from Amazon and Wayfair and had them delivered to multiple addresses, to include their home in Magnolia, Arkansas.  On April 23, 2019, a federal search warrant was obtained by the FBI and executed on their Magnolia home.  Many of the shipped items were found as well as additional evidence of the Mail Fraud and Identity Theft scheme.  Subsequent to this search warrant, a search of Watson’s cell phone resulted in law enforcement discovering the photographs of additional bank customers’ information which were not, to date, used in the scheme.   

Watson and O’Bier were indicted on the scheme in August of 2019.  Watson entered a plea to Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft charges on June 22, 2020.  O’Bier entered his plea to Mail Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft on July 20, 2020.   

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Office, the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office and the Miller County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Wulff prosecuted the case for the United States.

Fairport Man Faces Up To 20 Years In Prison After Pleading Guilty To Multiple Drug Charges

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Adam J. Cole, 32, of Fairport, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa to possessing with intent to distribute MDA, marijuana, and cocaine. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.     

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katelyn M. Hartford, who is handling the case, stated that on November 27, 2019, investigators executed a search warrant at the defendant's residence on Pannell Circle in Fairport. During the search, they recovered approximately 58 pounds of marijuana, 322 pills containing MDA, approximately 23 grams of cocaine, drug paraphernalia, approximately $4,300 in United States currency, which represented proceeds from drug trafficking activities. Investigators also recovered two firearms and ammunition. As part of his drug trafficking activities, Cole used his Pannell Circle residence for the purposes of storing, processing, and distributing controlled substances.

In addition, on November 22, 2019, in the Town of Victor, NY, the defendant sold approximately 116 grams of marijuana to another person in exchange for cash. On November 27, 2019, in the area of High Street in Victor, Cole possessed approximately 223 grams of marijuana in his vehicle.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division; the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Kevin Henderson; and the Canandaigua Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mathew Nielsen.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 18, 2021, at 9:15 a.m. before Judge Siragusa.

Cattaraugus Woman Pleads Guilty To Distribution Of Child Pornography

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Melanie Thompson, 46, of Cattaraugus, NY, pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography before U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey T. Fiut, who is handling the case, stated that between January 9, 2017, and March 6, 2020, the defendant took sexually explicit photographs of Victim 1, a minor, in furtherance of her plan to impersonate Victim 1. Thereafter, defendant, while impersonating Victim 1, engaged in conversations of a sexual nature with two minor male victims (Victims 2 and 3) and one adult. During those conversations, defendant: solicited a sexually explicit picture from Victim 2; sent, via social media, the sexually explicit photograph she had taken of Victim 1 to Victim 3, receiving two sexually explicit images in return from Victim 3; and while impersonating Victim 1 and engaging in sexual conversations with an adult male over social media, sent such male the sexually explicit photographs she had taken of Victim 1.

The plea is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly, and the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Timothy S. Whitcomb.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 17, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Sinatra.

Ohio Man Sentenced for Role in Akron to Huntington Meth Conspiracy

 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that Robert Von Wilson, 24, of Ohio, was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Wilson participated in a conspiracy that saw large quantities of methamphetamine shipped from Akron, Ohio, and sold in Huntington. 

“Wilson had 1.7 kilos of 100% pure meth,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “I commend the FBI and their law enforcement partners for shutting down this meth pipeline coming into Huntington from Akron.”

Wilson previously pled guilty and admitted that he and others involved in the conspiracy utilized a residence at 1235 25th Street in Huntington to store methamphetamine after it was shipped from Akron. Wilson also admitted that he was present at 1235 25th Street on June 6, 2019, when investigators executed a search warrant at the residence. During the search, investigators seized over 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine.  Wilson admitted that he possessed the methamphetamine and intended to distribute it in the Huntington area.  The methamphetamine was later examined by a chemist and determined to be 100% pure.   

This joint investigation was spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Other agencies which participated and assisted in the investigation include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Violent Crime and Drug Task Force West, the Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team (MDENT), the West Virginia State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force, the Beckley/Raleigh County Drug and Violent Crime Unit, the United States Marshals Service, the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department, the Charleston Police Department, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Akron, Ohio Police Department, and the Brecksville, Ohio Police Department.  United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentence.  Assistant United States Attorney Joseph F. Adams handled the prosecution.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-00245.

West Virginia Man Sentenced to Prison for Drug Crime and Violation of Supervised Release

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that Jay James Fields, 38, was sentenced to a total of 57 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and violating his supervised release.  

“Fields was still on supervised release from a previous conviction when he was found with 37 grams of meth and 3.5 grams of heroin in his car,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “He will now be headed back to prison for nearly five more years.”

Fields previously pled guilty and admitted that on June 12, 2020, officers searched his vehicle and found approximately 37 grams of methamphetamine and 3.5 grams of heroin.  He admitted he intended to sell these substances. Fields was on supervised release when he committed the drug offense.  Fields was sentenced to 33 months for the drug offense, and in a separate proceeding, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison for violating his supervised release.  The sentences were ordered to run consecutively to one another for a total of 57 months in prison.

The Logan County Sheriff’s Department conducted the investigation.   Senior United States District Judge David A. Faber imposed the sentences.  Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Taylor handled the prosecution.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:20-cr-00149.

Baltimore Fentanyl Dealer Sentenced to More Than Seven Years in Federal Prison for Distributing More Than 400 Grams of Fentanyl—Enough to Kill 20,000 People

 Defendant Also Possessed Three Firearms Which He Admitted He Used to Facilitate Drug Trafficking

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher today sentenced Joseph Speed, age 28, of Baltimore, Maryland, to seven years in federal prison, followed by four years of supervised release, after Speed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl.  Speed admitted that between 400 grams and 1.2 kilograms of fentanyl were reasonably foreseeable to him and in furtherance of the conspiracy to distribute fentanyl.  As little as 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose. 

This case is part of an initiative implemented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland to combat the growing fentanyl overdose crisis in Maryland.  Under this initiative, every arrest involving distribution of fentanyl made by law enforcement in Baltimore is reviewed jointly by the State’s Attorney’s Office for Baltimore City, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine whether the case will be handled in the state or federal system.  The use of federal resources and statutes, which carry significant terms of imprisonment, will allow the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute those individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety in distributing lethal doses of fentanyl. 

The guilty plea and sentencing were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; Baltimore City Sheriff John W. Anderson; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner stated, “Joseph Speed was an armed narcotics dealer operating in Baltimore.  He sold fentanyl to people in our community and he carried firearms to further his drug business.  Speed will now serve more than seven years in federal prison, where there is no parole—ever.  Armed drug traffickers are on notice that dealing in fentanyl increases their odds of federal prosecution.”   

According to his guilty plea, Speed was part of a drug organization that sold fentanyl in the Baltimore area.  On May 20, 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Speed’s apartment in Baltimore and recovered approximately 458 grams of fentanyl, a 9mm handgun, $666 in cash, and drug paraphernalia, including cutting agents and gel capsules.  Speed admitted that he used these items to facilitate his drug trafficking, including preparing drugs for resale to customers of the drug organization.

On July 23, 2019, law enforcement performed a traffic stop on Speed’s vehicle in Baltimore County.  A subsequent search of Speed and his vehicle recovered another 9mm handgun, numerous fentanyl gel caps, and $5,345 in cash.

Finally, on May 15, 2020, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Speed’s apartment in Pikesville, Maryland, and recovered a third firearm, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, as well as a small amount of suspected fentanyl.  

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the DEA, the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Medinger, who is prosecuting the case.

Two Huntington Men Sentenced to Federal Prison

 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced today that two Huntington men were sentenced to federal prison by United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers.

“Great work by the Huntington Police Department,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “Two more drug dealers are off of city streets.”

Desean Briscoe, 30, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for possession with the intent to distribute heroin and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Briscoe previously pled guilty and admitted that on January 23, 2020, officers executed a search warrant at his residence at 850 Bronson Court in Huntington.  Officers found two firearms.  After he was arrested and taken to the Huntington Police Department, Briscoe told officers he had heroin hidden on his person.  Officers retrieved approximately 16 grams of heroin from Briscoe.  Briscoe was prohibited from possessing firearms due to a 2015 felony conviction out of Wayne County for attempt to deliver a controlled substance.

In a separate case, Matthew Thomas, also known as “Rico Dolla,” and “PJ,” 29, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for distributing heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine base.  Thomas previously pled guilty and admitted that in May and June 2019 he sold heroin on three occasions to a confidential informant in Huntington.  Thomas also admitted that on June 19, 2019, officers with the Huntington Police Department searched his residence and found approximately 30 grams of heroin and 8 grams of cocaine base.  Officers also found a drug press.  Thomas admitted he intended to sell the heroin and cocaine base.

The Huntington Police Department conducted the investigations.  Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Taylor handled the prosecutions.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 3:20-cr-00040 (Briscoe) and 3:20-cr-00137 (Thomas).

Perkinston Man Sentenced to 50 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography

 Gulfport, Miss. – Edward Lee Thomas, 48, of Perkinston, Mississippi, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to serve the statutory maximum of 600 months in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for producing images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Jack Stanton, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans.  Assessments were also imposed on Thomas in the amount of $5,000 under the Justice for Victims of Tracking Act of 2015, and $20,000 under the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2018.

In March, 2020, HSI Gulfport received 95 images and 2 videos of child sexual abuse from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The investigation led agents to a residence in Forrest County, Mississippi, where sexual abuse images of two minors had been taken.  Agents executed a federal search warrant at the residence of Edward Lee Thomas in Perkinston.  The seizure and forensic examination of electronic devices taken from Thomas’ residence revealed over 4,000 images and 700 videos of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

A superseding indictment charging the production and possession of images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct was returned by a federal grand jury on June 10, 2020. Thomas pled guilty to the production count on October 22, 2020.  He faced a penalty of not less than 15 years and not more than 30 years in prison. However, Thomas’s 2004 Mississippi state conviction for sexual battery of a child was determined to be a qualifying prior conviction for an enhanced statutory penalty, and as such he faced a maximum penalty of not less than 25 years nor more than 50 years, and a $250,000 fine.  

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones.           

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

Cincinnati Man Sentenced to 188 Months for Distribution of Fentanyl and Heroin

 COVINGTON, Ky.A Cincinnati man, Thomas Coleman, 48, was sentenced to 188 months in federal prison on Tuesday, by U.S. District Judge David Bunning, after previously admitting to distributing fentanyl and heroin.   

In his guilty plea agreement, Coleman admitted to selling fentanyl and heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, on several occasions in December 2019, at locations in Covington.  Coleman has nine prior convictions for drug trafficking. He was also released from his parole, for a prior prison term, less than eight months before committing the new crimes.

Coleman pled guilty in October 2020.        

Under federal law, Coleman must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence and will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for eight years, after his release from prison. 

Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; James Robert Brown, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Louisville Field Office; and Rob Nader, Chief of the Covington Police Department, jointly announced the sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Covington Police Department.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Bracke.

Hartford Gang Member Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for Selling Fentanyl, Crack

 John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that ELIAS GUZMAN, also known as “Bebo” and “Fat Boy,” 29, of Hartford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 60 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for distributing fentanyl and crack cocaine.

According to court documents and statements made in court, this matter stems from an FBI Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force and Hartford Police Department investigation into drug trafficking and related criminal acts committed by members and associates of the Los Solidos and Latin Kings street gangs in Hartford’s South End.  Between November 2019 and March 2020, investigators made six controlled purchases of crack cocaine and/or fentanyl from Guzman, a member of the Latin Kings.  Most of the drug sales occurred at Guzman’s residence on Benton Street.

Guzman has been detained since his arrest on April 8, 2020.  On October 14, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, fentanyl and cocaine base (“crack”).

Guzman’s criminal history includes four state convictions, the most recent of which was in 2016 and involved his possession of eight firearms, ammunition, gun paraphernalia, and assorted drugs, including crack and heroin/fentanyl.  He was on special parole at the time of his federal arrest in April 2020.

The FBI’s Northern Connecticut Gang Task Force includes members of the Hartford Police Department, East Hartford Police Department, New Britain Police Department, West Hartford Police Department, Connecticut State Police and Connecticut Department of Correction.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian P. Leaming.

Sioux City Man to Federal Prison for Meth

 Thompson had a previous conviction for conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine in 2010.

A man who conspired to distribute methamphetamine was sentenced February 23, 2021, to 11 years in federal prison.

Nicholas Thompson, 30, from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison term after a September 24, 2020, guilty plea to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  Thompson was previously convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa on November 9, 2010.

Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings showed that between January 2019 and January 2020, Thompson and others conspired to distribute at least 5000 grams of methamphetamine mixture.  On two occasions in July and December of 2019, Thompson was stopped by law enforcement and found in possession of about ½ ounce of methamphetamine.  Later in December 2019, Thompson was apprehended pursuant to an arrest warrant and found in possession of more than two ounces of methamphetamine.  Then in January 2020, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle occupied by Thompson.  The driver attempted to flee in the vehicle and ran over stop-sticks deployed by law enforcement.  Thompson exited the vehicle, fell down and was caught with a bag of nearly ten ounces of methamphetamine near him.  Law enforcement also seized a loaded .38 caliber handgun, with the serial number filed off, approximately 60 feet from where the vehicle ultimately stopped.  The bag appeared to have been thrown from the vehicle.  Thompson admitted he had been involved in the distribution of sizable quantities of methamphetamine since he had been released from federal prison and intended to distribute some or all of the methamphetamine to other persons.     

Thompson was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Thompson was sentenced to 132 months’ imprisonment.  He must also serve a 6-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.  Thompson is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn S. Wehde and investigated by Tri-State Drug Task Force based in Sioux City, Iowa, that consists of law enforcement personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Sioux City, Iowa, Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office; South Sioux City, Nebraska, Police Department; Nebraska State Patrol; Iowa National Guard; Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement; United States Marshals Service; South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation; and Woodbury County Attorney’s Office.

Jacksonville Armed Drug Dealer Sentenced To Ten Years In Prison

 Jacksonville, Florida – U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan has sentenced Levi Ta’shae Goodman (33, Jacksonville) to 10 years in federal prison for selling drugs and possessing a firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking. Goodman had pleaded guilty on September 22, 2020.

According to court documents, Goodman sold drugs and guns to undercover detectives with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (“JSO”) on multiple occasions during 2019. In May 2019, Goodman sold methamphetamine. On July 10, 2019, Goodman sold heroin and crack cocaine and stated that he had shot someone two weeks earlier. Two days later, Goodman sold a 9mm pistol and heroin and, the following day, he sold crack cocaine and fentanyl. On July 19, 2019, Goodman sold a loaded .38 caliber revolver, fentanyl, and crack cocaine to JSO detectives. On July 23, 2019, Goodman, who was armed with a Glock pistol, sold methamphetamine to the detectives. Later that month, he sold detectives crack cocaine and while armed with a Glock pistol, Goodman sold methamphetamine and fentanyl, and remarked that he was a known “gun-toter, gun slinger.” On August 1, 2019, Goodman sold a 9mm pistol and an AK-47 style rifle, as well as a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to JSO detectives. The next day, he was arrested while in possession of his Glock pistol.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor.

Somerset County Man Admits Traveling Outside of United States to Engage in Criminal Sexual Conduct

 TRENTON, N.J. – A Somerset County, New Jersey, man today admitted traveling to the Philippines to engage in sex with a minor, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced. 

James A. Diggs, 45, pleaded guilty by videoconference before Chief U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to an information that charged him with traveling outside of the United States to engage in criminal sexual activity.

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

In October 2018, Diggs traveled to the Philippines to meet and engage in sexual activity with Minor Victim-1 in exchange for money and gifts, knowing the victim was a minor.

Foreign travel to engage in criminal sexual activity carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John F. Kennedy International Airport, for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Astorga of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

Drug Trafficker Is Sentenced To More Than Seven Years In Prison

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney sentenced Jose Flores Romero, 29, of Mexico, to 87 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on drug trafficking charges, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, on February 21, 2020, law enforcement in Kansas seized 25 kilograms of cocaine from two individuals operating as drug couriers, who were traveling from California to Charlotte. According to court records, the couriers informed law enforcement that they had made multiple drug deliveries from California to Charlotte. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement identified Romero as one of the intended recipients of the seized cocaine in Charlotte, and determined that Romero was involved in numerous previous drug deliveries, including a drug delivery worth over $800,000.  On July 23, 2020, Romero pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and attempt to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Romero is currently in federal custody.  Upon designation of a federal facility he will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons. The defendant will also be subject to deportation proceedings upon the completion of his federal sentence.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Kansas Highway Patrol for their investigation of this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Taylor G. Stout, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.   

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.  Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

 

Two Men Plead Guilty in Multimillion-Dollar International Robocalls Scheme

 RICHMOND, Va. – Two Indian nationals pleaded guilty today to conspiracy charges relating to their involvement in an overseas-based robocalls scheme that defrauded thousands of victims out of millions of dollars.

“Pradipsinh Parmar crisscrossed the United States to collect nearly $6 million that was stolen from more than 4,000 victims in an international robocalls scam,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “By falsely impersonating representatives of the FBI, DEA, Social Security Administration, and other government agencies, members of this conspiracy preyed on thousands of unsuspecting victims, many of whom were elderly. This Office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat international financial fraud and elder abuse schemes.”

According to court documents, Pradipsinh Parmar, 41, collected money on behalf of the robocall conspiracy that victims had sent either by a parcel delivery carrier or through a wire service. Upon receiving the victims’ money, Parmar deposited these funds into bank accounts as directed by the conspiracy’s leader, Shehzadkhan Pathan, 39, who previously pleaded guilty on January 15.

Pathan operated a call center in Ahmedabad, India, from which automated robocalls were made to victims in the United States. After establishing contact with victims through these automated calls, Pathan and other “closers” at his call center would coerce, cajole, and trick victims to send bulk cash through physical shipments and electronic money transfers.

Pathan and his conspirators used a variety of schemes to convince victims to send money, including impersonating law enforcement officials from the FBI and DEA, and representatives of other government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to threaten victims with severe legal and financial consequences. Conspirators also convinced victims to send money via wire transfer as initial installments for falsely promised loans. A significant number of victims who were tricked or coerced into sending bulk cash were elderly.

As part of his guilty plea, Parmar admitted that over a two-year period from March 2017 to April 2019, he traveled to 30 states and collected at least 4,358 wire transfers sent by victims via Western Union, MoneyGram, and Walmart2Walmart, with losses totaling at least $4,312,585. Additionally, Parmar, working for Pathan and another individual, received and attempted to receive at least 91 packages of bulk cash sent by victims from several states, including Virginia, via FedEx, UPS, or USPS, totaling at least $1,593,591. Parmar also received at least 549 counterfeit identification documents sent to him by Pathan for his use in retrieving these packages and wires sent by victims.

In addition to Parmar’s guilty plea today, Sumer Patel, 37, also pleaded guilty for his role in working for Pathan. As reflected in court documents accompanying his guilty plea, from October 2018 to March 2019, Patel retrieved over 250 individual wire transfers from 230 individual victims on behalf of Pathan. These wires totaled $219,520.98. Patel received these wires in the states of Virginia, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and he deposited the funds as instructed by Pathan. While living in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Patel also received eight packages of cash sent by victims via FedEx. Four of the eight FedEx packages are known to have contained a total of $56,200 in cash.

Parmar and Patel are scheduled to be sentenced on June 18, 2021. Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy count, and Parmar faces an additional mandatory minimum sentence of two years on the aggravated identity theft count. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Hood and Kaitlin G. Cooke are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-160.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Georgetown Man Sentenced to More than 28 Years in Prison for Child Sex Crimes

 URBANA, Ill. – Ian J. Dukes, 38, of Georgetown, Ill., was sentenced today to 342 months (28 ½  years) for his role in child sex crimes involving two minors. Chief U.S. District Judge Sara L. Darrow imposed the sentence which also includes 15 years of supervised release to follow his prison term.

On Aug. 14, 2020, Dukes pled guilty to all counts as charged:  attempted enticement of a minor, under age 18, to engage in sexual activity in July 2019; attempted sexual exploitation of the same minor; enticement of a second minor; sex trafficking of children; and, receiving child pornography of a second minor.

A co-defendant, Julie P. Snyder, 43, of the 400 block of W. University Ave., Urbana, Ill., was also charged, with Dukes, for attempted enticement of a minor. On Nov. 12, 2020, Snyder pled guilty to the charge and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 28, 2021.

Both Dukes and Snyder have remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since their arrests on the charges:  Dukes on Feb. 11, 2020, and Snyder on March 6, 2020.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson represents the government in the prosecution. The charges are the result of investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Division; the  Illinois State Police, and the Urbana Police Department, in coordination with the Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

This case is prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide Department of Justice initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. 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.

Former Vice President of Construction Management Company Sentenced for Corporate Accounting Fraud Scheme

 RICHMOND, Va. – A former corporate executive of a construction management company was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for his role in a corporate accounting scheme that concealed millions of dollars in debt owed by the company.

“Over a five-year period, Patrick Lindsey served an integral role in a large-scale corporate accounting fraud scheme designed to conceal the fact that MGT Construction was more than $20 million in debt,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “That deceit not only maintained the defendant’s job and padded his annual compensation package, but it also proved devastating to the individuals who worked on MGT Construction projects and were left holding the bag after the fraud scheme was uncovered and the company subsequently collapsed. This Office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to combat corporate malfeasance and hold accountable executives who manipulate others for personal gain.”

According to court documents, Patrick Lindsey, 43, of Midlothian, was the Vice President of Preconstruction Services at MGT Construction, a Richmond-based construction company offering preconstruction planning and construction management services. From 2011 through November 2016, MGT Construction engaged in a fraudulent accounting scheme that sought to conceal MGT’s true financial position through job-cost manipulations within the company’s accounting software system.

Lindsey had primary day-to-day management of the accounting scheme, which involved the regular movement of job-cost invoices from nearly finished projects to more recent construction projects. This cost-shifting falsely inflated profit margins and concealed losses, which generated a wholly inaccurate picture of MGT’s profitability. MGT and its parent company submitted the products of these fraudulent accounting manipulations as part of MGT’s application packages to banks and insurance companies for lines of credit and bonding coverage.

During the conspiracy, Lindsey moved or deleted thousands of job cost invoices, concealing the fact that, by the time the scheme was uncovered in November 2016, MGT Construction was over $20 million in debt. When the accounting fraud was exposed, MGT Construction owed millions of dollars in outstanding invoices that it could not pay to dozens of contractors, subcontractors, and vendors who had provided their services or products to MGT Construction. As a result, MGT filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early 2018.

Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Christopher R. Derrickson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office; Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas A. Garnett prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:20-cr-22.

Champaign Man Sentenced to Prison for Counterfeit Check Scheme

 URBANA, Ill. – Chief U.S. District Judge Sara L. Darrow today sentenced a Champaign, Ill., man, Tommie Slayton, 36, of the 2400 block of Clayton Boulevard, to serve 24 months in prison for engaging in a counterfeit check scheme that resulted in an estimated loss of more than $100,000. Slayton was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals and will begin serving his sentence immediately. In addition, Slayton was ordered to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

On Oct. 20, 2020, U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid sentenced Slayton’s co-defendant  Stephanie Lemons, 43, of the 1200 block of South Vine Street, Urbana, Ill. to serve 18 months in prison for her role in engaging in the counterfeit check scheme. Lemons was ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on March 2, 2021, to begin serving her sentence. Following her sentence, Lemons was ordered to serve two years of supervised release.

Slayton pleaded guilty to the charges immediately prior to today’s sentencing. In addition to the conspiracy charge, Slayton was charged with seven counts of bank fraud. On Feb. 6, 2020, Lemons entered pleas of guilty to the conspiracy and 19 counts of fraud as charged in the indictment.

Lemons and Slayton conspired together and with others to engage in a scheme to pass more than 120 counterfeit checks from July through December 2018. As a result of the scheme, counterfeit checks were presented at Walmart Stores in Champaign and Bloomington, Ill., and forged checks at Heartland Bank of Champaign, Ill.

The charges are the result of investigation by the FDIC Office of Inspector General and the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments, in cooperation with the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson in the prosecution.

Arch Family Dentistry Office Managers Charged

 With Healthcare Fraud

HAMMOND- Justyn Arch, age 34, and Trystan Arch, age 31 both of Valparaiso, Indiana were charged with healthcare fraud by way of a single count Grand Jury Indictment which was unsealed today, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Gary T. Bell.

According to documents in this case, Arch Complete Family Dentistry, with offices located in Chesterton, Crown Point, and briefly in Knox, Indiana, was an authorized Indiana Medicaid provider of dental procedures.  In October 2017, Justyn Arch, Vice President of Arch Complete Family Dentistry, also managed the Crown Point office. Trystan Arch managed the Chesterton office.

The Indictment alleges that Justyn and Trystan Arch executed a scheme to defraud Indiana Medicaid by causing false and fictitious entries in patient files.  The false entries showed that Arch dentists performed dental surgery when in fact no surgery had been performed.  The claims totaled more than $350,000 in false and fictitious claims to Indiana Medicaid.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons are presumed innocent until, and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the Judge after a consideration of federal statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This case is a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Indiana Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the assistance of the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Philip C. Benson.  

Leader of cocaine trafficking organization sentenced to two decades in federal prison

 Atlanta man's conspiracy dismantled in Operation Snowplow

BRUNSWICK, GA:  An Atlanta man born and raised in Savannah who led a drug trafficking organization that transported and distributed cocaine and other drugs into the coastal Georgia area has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Omar Griffin, 41, of Atlanta, was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. After completion of his prison term, Griffin also must serve 10 years of supervised release.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“Omar Griffin was a major importer of cocaine and other drugs into the Savannah area, a wholesaler who delivered illegal drugs for widespread distribution in the coastal area,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “We commend the tireless investigation and relentless pursuit by the DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies in Operation Snowplow, who identified, pursued, and captured Griffin and his co-conspirators, shutting down their organization.”

Twelve other defendants in the investigation have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 240 months after all pleading guilty to related charges. Two other defendants are fugitives.  

Operation Snowplow was the largest single seizure of cocaine to date by the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team (CNT). According to court documents and testimony, Griffin, who has several prior Chatham County convictions for drug trafficking, managed an organization that trafficked more than 35 kilograms of cocaine and other drugs from Texas and California destined for the Savannah area, from as early as February 2014 until his capture in March 2020.  Some of the drugs were packaged in children’s toys and DVD players, concealed in cargo vans and truck trailers for shipment to Savannah, and distributed to mid-level dealers operating from several Savannah-area residences.

On March 5, 2018, law enforcement officers intercepted a shipment of 25 kilograms of cocaine that had been driven from Texas to a hotel in Richmond Hill, Ga., concealed inside a cargo trailer. Officers also seized more than $387,000 in cash that had been exchanged for the cocaine. Griffin evaded capture by stealing, and then crashing, a police car.

Following his escape, Griffin fled to Texas where he continued to traffic significant quantities of narcotics.  In January 2020, he attempted to transport approximately four kilograms of cocaine in a commercial flight from Texas to Georgia.  On March 31, 2020, law enforcement arrested Griffin in Houston and seized nearly seven kilograms of cocaine and more than a kilogram of ecstasy (MDMA) in connection with arrest. 

In total in this investigation, investigators seized approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine, more than 30 pounds of marijuana, nearly 2 kilograms of MDMA, approximately $900,000 in cash, nearly two dozen firearms – including semi-automatic rifles – and other narcotics. 

“Drug traffickers who distribute illegal and dangerous drugs are a menace to society,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “The cocaine distributor in this case has been removed from the streets and will now serve well-deserved time in prison. The success of this investigation hinged upon the collaborative efforts between all law enforcement agencies involved. The citizens of the Savannah area can rest better at night knowing that this criminal is headed to federal prison.”

Two defendants indicted in the conspiracy are still being sought: Kia Hickman, 49, of Savannah, and Jamaal Singleton, 42, of Savannah. Individuals with information on their whereabouts can anonymously contact the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team (CNT) at 912-652-3900, or Savannah Crime Stoppers at 912-234-2020.

The case was investigated as an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach, and conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team, Savannah Police Department, Chatham County Police Department, and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office K9 Unit and the Chatham County Aviation Unit, and prosecuted for the United States by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.