Sunday, December 23, 2018

Philadelphia Man Admits Robbing 2 Pittsburgh-area Banks

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A former resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to charges of bank robbery, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Germaine Kelly, 39, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Cathy Bissoon. Judge Bissoon scheduled sentencing for May 16, 2019.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on July 10, 2015, Kelly robbed the Dollar Bank located in Pleasant Hills, Pa. He presented a demand note for $10,000. The teller gave the defendant $1,115. On July 14, 2015, Kelly robbed the First National Bank in West Mifflin, PA. He presented a demand note for $5,000. The teller gave the defendant $8,370. Each note advised the teller not to place any dye packs or tracking devices with the money. In each note, Kelly also advised the teller to remember teller training and threatened to come back and kill the teller. Fingerprints lifted from the note left at First National Bank matched two of the defendant’s fingerprints. The defendant confessed to robbing both banks.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Judge Bissoon ordered the defendant to remain detained pending sentencing.

Assistant United States Attorney Shanicka L. Kennedy is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Allegheny County Police and the West Mifflin Police Departments conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case through Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Former City Commissioner Heads to Prison for Health Insurance Fraud Scheme

McALLEN, Texas ‐ A former Pharr City Commissioner has been ordered to  prison in connection with a scheme to defraud Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Oscar Elizondo, 48, of Pharr, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud Nov. 29, 2017.

Elizondo was charged with conspiring with the owner of Penitas Family Pharmacy aka Riverside Pharmacy, located in Penitas, to submit more than $1.7 million in fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBS) for expensive pain patches and scar creams.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane imposed a 22-month prison sentence to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Elizondo was also ordered to pay more than $1.4 million in restitution to BCBS, the amount they paid based on the fraudulent claims.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Crane characterized the scheme as “blatant fraud” and a “complete ruse.” Crane further noted that although the fraudulent claims were submitted to BCBS, the scheme also defrauded local school districts, municipalities and small businesses, who had self-funded health insurance programs through BCBS.

Co-defendant Omar Espericueta, 46, of Palmhurst, pleaded guilty Dec. 1, 2017, and is set for sentencing in May 2019.

During an approximately five-month period starting in late 2015, Elizondo and his co-conspirators recruited marketers to target employees of entities throughout the Rio Grande Valley with BCBS insurance. The marketers solicited employees with meals, drinks and promises of “free” prescription pain patches and scar creams in order to obtain their health insurance information. The co-conspirators then used the insurance information, along with fraudulent prescriptions, to submit hundreds of fraudulent and medically unnecessary claims to BCBS. Prescriptions were written for individuals who never saw a doctor and did not want or need pain patches or scar creams. Other individuals were taken to a doctor, but it was a doctor with whom Elizondo and his co-conspirators had made arrangements to sign fraudulent prescriptions in exchange for cash, fake loans and prescription pain killers.

Employees who were targeted in the scheme were falsely told that the prescription medication was “free,” when in reality Penitas Pharmacy planned to use their health insurance information to bill BCBS for several thousand dollars worth of prescriptions for each employee. In many instances, the defendants billed BCBS for prescriptions that were never delivered to employees, including multiple refills that were never requested.

Elizondo was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI, Mission Police Department, Texas Department of Insurance – Fraud Unit and Texas Health and Human Services Commission conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Swartz is prosecuting the case.

False Liens Yield 30-Month Sentence

      PHOENIX – On Dec. 17, 2018, David John Dziedzic, 55, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell to 30 months’ imprisonment for his lead role in criminal activity related to the short sale of distressed mortgages, some of which were federally-insured.   Dziedzic had previously pleaded guilty to one count of communication of unregistered securities, and a separate count involving the failure to notify the Treasury Department of his collection of more than $10,000 in cash from a real estate customer. 

     Dziedzic operated the “Housing Angels” program through his company, Real Core Realty, LLC.  He aggressively marketed a program designed to help homeowners stay in their homes following a short sale, through an undisclosed sale-leaseback program with “angel” investors.   Through this program, he typically received commissions from both the buyer and the seller in a short sale transaction. Dziedzic also recorded false secondary liens on more than 100 short sale properties to induce banks holding primary mortgages to pay off the false secondary mortgages, resulting in more than $100,000 in illegal profits as a result of the scheme.

      As part of the sentence, Dziedzic must give up his real estate license.  He paid $107,280 in restitution for the actual loss caused when 40 banks paid out on the false liens, and he was also ordered to pay a money judgment of $142,000 over time, in order to disgorge additional profits.  As part of the plea agreement, Dziedzic, a Canadian national who naturalized as a U.S. citizen during the investigation, agreed to cooperate in his denaturalization, because he had failed to disclose the existence of the investigation to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the naturalization process.

     Dziedzic’s wife, Heather Hamilton Dziedzic, 43, pleaded guilty to a related misdemeanor charge, and was also sentenced for her role in the offense.  She will also surrender her real estate license.  She received a two-year term of probation and a deferred disposition on a felony securities charge, which may be dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary term.

     The investigation in this case was conducted by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution was handled by Gary M. Restaino and Monica B. Klapper, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.