Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Chinle Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sexually Abusing Two Young Girls

PHOENIX, Ariz. – On March 16, Jarett James, 34, of Chinle, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan to life imprisonment after being convicted of sexually abusing two girls between the ages of 10 and 12. The crimes took place on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in 2011 and 2012.

On October 18, 2019, a jury found James guilty of one count of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child, two counts of Abusive Sexual Contact of a Child, and one count of Sexual Abuse of a Minor.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation in this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Van Buskirk, District of Arizona, Phoenix, handled the prosecution.

CASE NUMBER:         CR-18-08249-PCT-SPL
RELEASE NUMBER:    2020-037_James

Texas Man Charged with Engaging in Nationwide Warranty Fraud Scheme Targeting Cisco Systems, Amazon.com, and Others and Stealing More Than $3M in Merchandise

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Vaughn Simon, 27, of Pearland, TX, was charged today by Information with 22 counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, two counts of filing a false tax return, and one count of tax evasion.

The Information alleges that the defendant perpetrated a scheme to defraud Cisco Systems Inc. (“Cisco”), the Neat Company (“Neat”), iRobot Corporation (“iRobot”), APC by Schneider Electric (“APC”), Amazon.com (“Amazon”), and other companies by engaging in a sophisticated warranty fraud scheme. The charges state that the defendant and his co-schemers obtained serial numbers to products sold or manufactured by Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC. They allegedly proceeded to register false domain names, obtain false email addresses, and submit false warranty claims, pretending to own products sold or manufactured by these companies that they claimed were not working. The Information alleges that the defendant provided customer service representatives with descriptions of the non-existent defects that he knew they could not solve by troubleshooting and would require replacement with new products. Cisco, Neat, iRobot, and APC then shipped the replacement products to the defendant and his co-schemers, which they promptly sold via eBay, on Amazon, or through computer resellers.

The Information further alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers defrauded Amazon by using false identities, domain names, email addresses, and mailing addresses to order products that they falsely claimed never arrived or arrived broken, thereby inducing Amazon to repeatedly send replacement products. The defendant and his co-schemers then allegedly sold the products obtained in this manner via eBay.

All told, the Information alleges that the defendant and his co-schemers attempted to obtain more than $5,000,000 worth of products from the victim companies, and successfully obtained more than $3,000,000 worth of Cisco products, as well as products worth thousands of dollars from other victim companies.

The charges also allege that the defendant filed false tax returns for tax years 2014 and 2016 in which he underreported his income by approximately $95,000  and $212,000, respectively, and evaded the payment of any income tax on the income he earned from his fraud for tax year 2015 by, among other things, failing to file a return, storing his fraud proceeds in bank accounts and PayPal accounts in the names of co-schemers, storing cash at his residence, paying his personal living expenses with cash, and using false email addresses, false domain names, prepaid gift cards, and false identities to conceal his involvement in the fraud scheme.

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of 821 years’ incarceration, a five-year period of supervised release, and a fine of $8,250,000.

“As alleged, Simon committed a sophisticated warranty fraud scheme in order to steal millions of dollars of merchandise,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Consumer warranties are designed to make honest consumers whole, not to provide a means for fraudsters to line their pockets. We will work tirelessly to investigate and punish this kind of disregard for the law.”

“Companies offer warranties in an effort to do right by their customers,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “Taking advantage of those programs to score millions of dollars’ worth of free merchandise is nothing more than fraud. Anyone engaged in a scheme like this should know that the FBI will be more than happy to step in, shut it down, and hold you accountable.”

“Mr. Simon’s failure to report all of his income is unlawful,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez. “The American people can rest assured that IRS-CI works vigorously to enforce our nation’s tax laws; ensuring that everyone is playing by the rules and paying the taxes they owe.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.

An Indictment, Information, or Criminal Complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

South Georgia Prosecutor Takes Oath as Special AUSA in Effort to Fight Crime

Swearing-in conducted remotely by phone due to COVID-19 restrictions

VALDOSTA, Ga. – A member of the Valdosta Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Task Force, Alapaha Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Rebekah Ditto, was sworn in as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in an effort to strengthen the task force’s ability to prosecute violent crime with even greater success, said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. The swearing-in occurred on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and was conducted remotely by phone due to social distancing restrictions in place since the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Ms. Ditto is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Vermont Law School. Since 2013, she has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Atkinson, Berrien, Clinch, Cook and Lanier counties. Ms. Ditto currently serves as the Chief Assistant District Attorney for the Alapaha Judicial Circuit.

PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. 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. PSN is a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia, with the criminal division establishing PSN task forces in areas with the highest violent crime rates across the District. PSN Task Forces are operating in Valdosta, Albany, Columbus and Macon, comprised of members of law enforcement, as well as federal and state prosecutors.

“Under PSN, we work with our law enforcement partners to prosecute the most violent individuals in our communities in the most appropriate court system, whether it be state or federal, with the single objective to remove dangerous criminals from the street for as long as possible,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “Ms. Ditto serving as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney amplifies this effort in the South Georgia community, allowing even more efficient and effective prosecutions of the most violent defendants. I want to thank Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dick Perryman for his continued partnership as we collectively work to make South Georgia safer.”

Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

North Carolina Nail Salon Owner Charged with Forced Labor of an Employee

Defendant Thuy Tien Luong, 36, was charged on March 3, 2020, in an indictment with one count of forced labor, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for Civil Rights and U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina.

According to the allegations set forth in the indictment, between late 2017 and June 26, 2018, the defendant forced the victim, whom she employed as a nail technician, to provide labor and services at her salon by means of force and threats of force to the victim. The indictment further alleges that the defendant obtained the victim’s services through means of serious harm and threats of serious harm, means of abuse and threatened abuse of law and legal process, and by means of a scheme, plan and pattern to cause the victim to believe that if she did not perform such labor and services, she would suffer serious harm.

“Human trafficking is our generation’s form of physical and psychological captivity. It is modern day slavery. These vile acts involve fundamental violations of our rights and the perpetrators must be stopped,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

“Forced labor deprives victims their basic human rights and strips away their dignity. Labor trafficking schemes are deplorable and do not have place in modern society. My office remains committed to combatting all forms of human trafficking and holding perpetrators accountable for their criminal actions,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.

“Traffickers treat human beings as commodities. They use force, fraud or coercion to prey on people’s vulnerabilities,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez. “HSI special agents will continue to focus their efforts on eradicating this heinous crime; no one should be subject to human trafficking.”

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. If convicted of forced labor, the defendant faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, as well a mandatory restitution.

The case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations with assistance from the Davidson Police Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimlani M. Ford for the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Maryam Zhuravitsky for the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.