Last Updated Friday, August 28, 2020, at 7:55 AM
Every Friday, The Criminal Lawyer Group publishes a digest of the latest federal prosecutions nationally. Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country.
Unless otherwise disclosed, none of the defendants mentioned in these summaries are clients of our firm.
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FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2020
I. Illinois Man Arrested on Federal Criminal Charge for Allegedly Robbing Delivery Truck
On August 24, 2020, an Illinois man was arrested on a federal criminal charge for allegedly robbing a United Parcel Service (UPS) delivery truck in Oak Park the previous week. Darius D. Young was alleged to be one of three individuals who robbed the UPS truck on the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2020, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The truck driver had parked in the 1100 block of South Highland Avenue to make a delivery when a vehicle pulled up behind it. The driver heard a male voice approach him from behind and state words to the effect of, “Get on the ground, stay down,” the complaint states.
The driver allegedly laid face down in the street behind the truck, looking up long enough to observe what appeared to be the handle of a handgun in the waistband of one of the offenders. Young and the two others then allegedly removed numerous boxes from the UPS truck and drove off.
Young, 24, of Berwyn, is charged with one count of robbery. He is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing on Friday, August 28, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan. The arrest and complaint were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with several prominent law enforcement officials.
II. Two Charged in 23-Count Indictment Alleging Prescription Drug Kickbacks, Health Care Fraud, and Aggravated Identity Theft
On August 26, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that on August 25, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a 23-count indictment against David Guerrero, 41, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Alexander Shister, 51, of Mequon, Wisconsin. The indictment charges Guerrero and Shister with paying and receiving illegal kickbacks relating to the provision of items and services payable by federal health care programs.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that Shister, who owned several pharmacies in the Milwaukee area, paid kickbacks to Guerrero, who worked at two Milwaukee clinics, in exchange for Guerrero routing prescriptions for compounded pain cream medication to Shister’s pharmacies.
Shister’s pharmacies then sought and received reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid for filling these prescriptions. If convicted, the defendants face up to 5 years in prison for each count. The indictment also charges Guerrero with health care fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison.
III. Mexican National Arrested for Being an Alien in Possession of a Firearm During Denver Protests
On August 24, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Jason R. Dunn announced that Aurora resident and Mexican national Felix Missael Alva was charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm. Alva made his initial appearance this afternoon where he was advised of his rights and the charge pending against him. The Denver office of the ATF and the Denver Police Department joined in the announcement.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on May 30, 2020, a Denver Police detective was working in downtown Denver during demonstrations when a white Jeep stopped nearby him. The detective was approximately 10 feet from the Jeep when he saw a male passenger produce a large black semi-automatic handgun, and from the open passenger window, heard him say, “This ain’t no peaceful protest.”
The male pointed to the sky with his left hand and then opened fire into the air while a Denver Police Department helicopter and a news media helicopter that were flying overhead. The detective heard approximately 6 to 10 gunshots. Another Denver detective and an officer allegedly observed the passenger fire his weapon into the air as the Jeep’s driver sped off.
Law enforcement record checks revealed that Alva was not a native or citizen of the United States and that he had previously been deported from the United States in February 2010. It was determined that, on May 30, 2020, Alva was present in the United States illegally and was thus prohibited from possessing weapons.
IV. Private Security Employee Arrested for Falsely Impersonating a Federal Law Enforcement Agent
A private security employee at an Orange County retirement community was arrested today on a criminal complaint alleging he pretended to be a federal agent. Donovan Pham Nguyen, 34, of Riverside, California, is charged with one count of false impersonation of a federal officer or employee, according to a criminal complaint unsealed August 24, 2020. He made his initial appearance the same day in United States District Court in Santa Ana.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Nguyen for years pretended to be a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and used the false title to obtain things of value. Nguyen never worked for HSI, although he previously was a privately contracted security guard at a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facility.
He left that job in 2015 after an internal investigation was launched resulting from allegations that he printed fake HSI identification documents, the affidavit states. In May 2019, while employed for a private security company at a retirement community in Orange County, Nguyen allegedly claimed his false title to agents with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) preparing to execute an arrest warrant.
V. Massachusetts Man Indicted for Unemployment Insurance Scam
A Melrose, Massachusetts man has been indicted in connection with his role in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme. Alan Neal Scott, 68, was indicted on four counts of mail fraud, one count of wire fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft. Scott was arrested and charged by criminal complaint in July 2020.
According to charging documents, over the last six years, Scott submitted numerous fraudulent unemployment insurance claims with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Scott submitted these claims using his own identity as well as the identities of various individuals, including some who were not eligible for unemployment benefits as they were incarcerated at the time of the claims.
The fraudulent claims all reported prior employment at a non-operational Massachusetts-based business associated with Scott. As a result of these fraudulent claims, it is alleged that the DUA sent unemployment benefits funds to several addresses connected to Scott and that the funds were deposited into accounts he controlled.
The indictment also alleges that Scott submitted fraudulent pandemic unemployment insurance claims in the names of others. If convicted, Scott faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.
VI. Kansas Man Indicted for Planting Poppies in Effort to Manufacture Heroin
On August 24, 2020, in a federal indictment, a Kansas man was charged with growing thousands of poppy plants at his home in Clay County, Kansas in an effort to manufacture heroin. The indictment was announced by the U.S.
Attorney for the District of Kansas Stephen McAllister. Matthew Pfeiffer, 43, Morganville, Kan., is charged with one count of attempting to manufacture opium, one count of manufacturing thebaine (a constituent of opium) and one count of using a telephone in furtherance of drug trafficking.
The indictment alleges that the investigation began when the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Riley County Police Department received information that Pfeiffer was growing poppies and planning to manufacture heroin.
On June 4, 2020, law enforcement officers served a search warrant at Pfeiffer’s home in Morganville, where they seized more than 4,000 poppy plants. The poppies were identified as Papaver somniferum, a plant from which opium is derived.
VII. Texas Man Charged with Defrauding Investors in False Lending Scheme
A 67-year-old resident of Houston is set to appear in federal court on allegations of mail fraud, announced the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick. Alan H. Paull made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon on August 24, 2020. The indictment, which was returned on August 12, charges Paull with four counts of mail fraud for his alleged role in a scheme to defraud investors in his lending business Paull & Partners Investments LLC.
From approximately July 2014 through September 2015, Paull allegedly made false representations and concealed material facts from those who had provided funds to his lending enterprise. The charges allege that he failed to repay investors their principal when a property sold as he had represented to them.
Instead, Paull continued to pay monthly interest to those investors, thus leading them to believe the properties had not been sold, according to the charges. If convicted of mail fraud, Paull faces up to 20 years in federal prison as well as a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
VIII. NASA Researcher Arrested for False Statements and Wire Fraud Related to China’s Talents Program
A criminal complaint was unsealed August 24, 2020, charging Zhengdong Cheng, 53, of College Station, Texas, for conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud. Cheng, a Texas A&M University (TAMU) Professor, made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon that same day at in Houston, Texas. Authorities took him into custody on August 23, 2020.
Cheng allegedly led a team conducting research for NASA. According to the criminal complaint, for several years he willfully took steps to obscure his affiliations and collaboration with a Chinese University and at least one Chinese-owned company. The terms of Cheng’s grant prohibited participation, collaboration or coordination with any Chinese-owned company or any Chinese University, according to the charges.
The charges further allege that Cheng and TAMU received funds based on Cheng knowingly providing false information to TAMU and consequently to NASA. In addition to the funds, Cheng personally benefited from his affiliation with TAMU and NASA with increased access to unique NASA resources, such as the International Space Station, according to the complaint.
IX. Idaho Man Charged with Importation and Distribution of Fentanyl
Dakota James Hoffman, 28, of Bellevue, Idaho, was indicted on July 14, 2020, by a federal grand jury sitting in Boise for importation and distribution of fentanyl. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho Bart M. Davis on August 21, 2020. The indictment alleges that on March 15, 2020, Hoffman imported fentanyl into the United States and further distributed it around Idaho.
The charges of importation of fentanyl and distribution of fentanyl are each punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $1,000,000, and up to three years of supervised release. Hoffman was arrested on August 14, 2020, in the Northern District of California.
He initially appeared there and was ordered to appear on September 3, 2020, in the District of Idaho where he will be formally arraigned on the indictment and a trial date will be set. Further proceedings will take place before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Boise.
X. Two Charged with Looting Pharmacies in Chicago
Two men were charged in federal court on August 26, 2020, with looting three pharmacies in Chicago. William Lorenz, 40, of Chicago, and Ivan Bermudez, 42, of Chicago, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit burglary involving a controlled substance.
Bermudez was arrested August 25, 2020, and he made his initial court appearance August 26, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan. Lorenz was arrested Monday and has already made his initial appearance.
The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Bell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the DEA; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
The FBI Chicago Field Office provided valuable assistance. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Erskine and Shy Jackson. According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, Lorenz and Bermudez conspired to burglarize three Walgreens stores on the evening of May 31, 2020:
- 1627 N. Pulaski Rd. in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.
- 3110 W. Armitage Ave. in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.
- 4001 W. Irving Park Rd. in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood.
Each of the stores was closed at the time of the looting incidents due to civil unrest in the city. The complaint accuses Lorenz and Bermudez of entering the stores, proceeding to the pharmacy areas, and attempting to remove drugs from the shelves.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, 2020
I. Member Of Safe Streets rogram And Others Face Federal Charges For Distributing Heroin
On August 18, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Robert K. Hur announced that a federal criminal complaint had been filed against Ronald Alexander, 50, Mark Brinkley, 51, and Thomas Corey Crosby, 51, all three of Baltimore. The complaint charges them with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances.
The criminal coplaint was filed on August 12, 2020 and was unsealed at the initial appearance August 17, 2020. Detention hearings were scheduled for Crosby on Wednesday August 19, 2020 at 11:30 a.m., and Alexander on Friday August 21, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.
In 2001, Alexander pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin. Alexander was sentenced to 240 months of incarceration and released from the Bureau of Prisons in or around May 2018.
Law enforcement had obtained judicial authorization to intercept communications to and from cellular telephones used by Alexander from May through July 23, 2020. During the course of the investigation, the DEA obtained authorization to install and maintain a GPS tracking device on a 2019 Dodge Caravan registered to Alexander.
Interceptions of Alexander’s phone calls revealed that he operated a “drug shop” in the vicinity of Spaulding Avenue and Palmer Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland and that Crosby supplied narcotics to Alexander, who then dispersed them to Brinkley, and others.
II. Suspected International Alien Smuggler Extradited to the United States from Romania
On August 17, 2020, it was announced that Luigi Cristinel Popescu of Cernatesti, Romania, had been extradited to the United States over the previous weekend. He made his first appearance in federal court August 17 to face charges that he is the leader of an international alien smuggling network responsible for smuggling thousands of Romanians into the United States.
Popescu was arrested in Bucharest, Romania by Romanian law enforcement officials on August 14, 2020 at the request of the United States and was extradited to the United States the next day. At the August 17, 2020 hearing, Popescu was arraigned on a Superseding Indictment and ordered detained as a flight risk, by Magistrate Judge Jill Burkhardt, and his next court appearance is scheduled for September 23, 2020, before U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia Bashant for motion hearing and trial setting.
Popescu was initially indicted by a federal grand jury in late 2019. He is charged in a Superseding Indictment with one count of Conspiracy to Bring-in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, five counts of Bringing in Aliens for Financial Gain and Aiding and Abetting.
According to the Superseding Indictment, Popescu was the leader of an international alien smuggling organization for almost seven years and has been responsible for smuggling Romanian Nationals into the United States at both its northern and southern borders.
Homeland Security agents learned from interviews with Romanian Nationals smuggled by Popescu, both those arrested and those who turned themselves into U.S. Border Patrol, that he facilitated the smuggling of aliens from Romania to the U.S. through Europe, Central America, Mexico and Canada, generally charging $10,000 to $25,000 for individuals and families.
III. Feds Charge Washington Couple with Massive Fentanyl Seizure, Charge Them with Drug, Gun Crimes
A Lynnwood, Washington, couple arrested in late July on Snohomish County drug possession charges were charged federally on August 17, 2020, following a lengthy undercover investigation. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Brian T. Moran.
Jose L. Casablanca, 38, and Jesse N. Cruz, 37, are charged by a federal criminal complaint that details a lengthy undercover investigation that began in March 2020. The pair made their initial appearance on the complaint August 17, 2020.
The criminal complaint details how two detectives with the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force (SRDTF) posed as drug and gun buyers to gather information about the pair’s drug trafficking activity. The undercover detectives made purchases of heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl pills from Casablanca and Cruz.
They also purchased a fully automatic firearm, judged an illegal machine gun, and other firearms from the pair. Casablanca is a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms, so the two discussed how Cruz transported the guns to the sale location so that Casablanca would not be caught with a firearm. Cruz and Casablanca confided to the undercover detectives where they had hidden a massive amount of fentanyl in their Lynnwood home.
On the day they were arrested at a regional airport, they met with yet another undercover officer who was posing as someone who could get them access to a pill press to make fentanyl tainted pills from their large stash of the potentially deadly drug.
A court-authorized search warrant at the Lynnwood home resulted in the seizure of large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, multiple firearms, and ammunition, as well as body armor. At the time of their arrest law enforcement searched the Maserati the two used in their drug trafficking activities and found both narcotics and a firearm.
IV. Canadian National Charged with Alien Smuggling Conspiracy and Attempting to Bring Aliens to the United States
Cooperation efforts between United States and Turks and Caicos Islands law enforcement authorities culminated in the August 19, 2020 extradition to the United States of a Canadian national who has been charged with alien smuggling offenses.
Sri Kajamukam Chelliah, aka “Mohan,” 55, is charged in a criminal complaint, unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that same day, with conspiracy to bring aliens to the United States and to encourage and induce aliens to come to, enter, or reside in the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain, and attempting to bring aliens to the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain.
According to the complaint, Chelliah is alleged to have attempted to facilitate the travel of aliens from Sri Lanka through Haiti, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Bahamas to the United States from on or about July 1, 2019 to Oct. 10, 2019. On Oct. 10, 2019, Turks and Caicos Island authorities interdicted a Haitian sloop sailboat carrying Chelliah and 154 aliens, including 28 Sri Lankan nationals. Chelliah was arrested on local immigration charges and later sentenced.
Following the completion of his prison sentence, he was placed in immigration detention in Turks and Caicos. U.S. law enforcement determined Chelliah and others allegedly made arrangements to smuggle numerous Sri Lankan aliens to Canada through the United States for monetary payments.
Chelliah was arrested on July 28, 2020, by Turks and Caicos authorities, based on a provisional arrest request submitted by the United States. He consented to extradition and, on Aug. 15, 2020, the Governor of Turks and Caicos issued an order allowing the extradition to the United States.
V. Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage
Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Criminal Complaint containing the charge was unsealed early in the morning of August 17, 2020, by the Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Alan E. Kohler Jr., and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office Eli S. Miranda. made the announcement.
Ma is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong. According to court documents, Ma began working for the CIA in 1982, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements in which he acknowledged his responsibility and ongoing duty to protect U.S. government secrets during his tenure at CIA. Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China before arriving in Hawaii in 2001.
According to court documents, Ma and his relative (identified as co-conspirator #1) conspired with each other and multiple PRC intelligence officials to communicate classified national defense information over the course of a decade. The court documents further allege that after Ma moved to Hawaii, he sought employment with the FBI in order to once again gain access to classified U.S. government information which he could in turn provide to his PRC handlers. In 2004, the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office hired Ma as a contract linguist tasked with reviewing and translating Chinese language documents.
Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as “SECRET.” Ma took some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent to provide them to his handlers. Ma often returned from China with thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts, such as a new set of golf clubs.
VI. Puerto Rico Legislator Indicted for Theft, Bribery, and Fraud
On August 17, 2020, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against legislator María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, as well as her husband Orlando Montes-Rivera (Montes), their son Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier, and her assistant Frances Acevedo-Ceballos (Acevedo), for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.
The indictment charges Charbonier, Montes, Montes-Charbonier, and Acevedo with conspiracy; theft, bribery, and kickbacks concerning programs receiving federal funds; and honest services wire fraud. Charbonier, Montes, and Montes-Charbonier also face two counts of money laundering. And the indictment also charges Charbonier with obstruction of justice for destroying data on her cell phone.
According to the allegations in the indictment, from early 2017 until July 2020, Charbonier, Montes, Montes-Charbonier, and Acevedo executed a scheme to defraud the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico by engaging in a theft, bribery, and kickback scheme.
In early 2017, Charbonier inflated her assistant Acevedo’s salary from $800 on a bi-weekly, after-tax basis to $2,100; this amount increased to nearly $2,900 by September 2019. Out of every inflated paycheck, it was agreed that Acevedo would keep a portion, and kick back between $1,000 and $1,500 to Charbonier, Montes, and Montes-Charbonier.
VII. Two U.S. Citizens, One Pakistani National Charged with Moving U.S. Currency to Iran
A complaint was unsealed on August 19, 2020, charging two U.S. citizens with federal crimes related to Iran. Muzzamil Zaidi, 35, a U.S. citizen who resides in Qom, Iran, was charged with acting in the United States as an agent of the government of Iran without first notifying the Attorney General.
Zaidi, Asim Naqvi, 35, a U.S. citizen who lives in Houston, Texas, and Ali Chawla, 36, a Pakistani national who lives in Qom, Iran, were all charged with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The complaint alleges that both charges stem from the defendants’ campaign to transport U.S. currency from the United States to Iran on behalf of the Supreme Leader of Iran in 2018 and 2019. Both Zaidi and Naqvi were arrested in Houston on August 18, 2020.
As alleged in the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Zaidi offered his services to the Supreme Leader of Iran in or around July 2015 and said that he could serve the “Islamic Republic in the socio-political or another field.” The complaint alleges that Zaidi traveled to Syria in or around June 2018 and that, while there, flew to an active war zone in an armed Iranian military or intelligence aircraft.
Based on the complaint, in or around July 2019, Islamic Pulse released a video soliciting donations for its purported Yemen campaign that showed money moving from the United States and other Western countries to Yemen through Iran. The complaint alleges that Chawla replied to donors’ concerns about how the campaign was able to get money into Yemen by stating that the matter could not be discussed over email.
The complaint further alleges that Chawla sought U.S. dollars specifically, stated that Islamic Pulse could not accept electronic transfers, and admitted that Islamic Pulse was not a registered charity.
VIII. Missouri Man Faces Federal Firearms Charges in Connection to Robbing an Undercover Officer
Dariyon Martin, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, was charged by a federal complaint on August 14, 2020, with being a felon in possession of a firearm, robbery, and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. According to the criminal complaint, an undercover police detective from the St. Charles City Police Department arranged to buy a Glock 27 firearm from Martin for $400 on August 7, 2020 in the City of St. Louis.
Martin is a previously convicted felon and prohibited from possessing a firearm. After the undercover detective arrived at the agreed-upon buy location, Martin entered the detective’s vehicle and handed the detective a Ruger .40 caliber pistol not the Glock 27 firearm that Martin had previously agreed to sell.
When the detective reached to retrieve the buy money, Martin reached across the detective and grabbed the firearm. Martin began to manipulate the firearm by taking the magazine out and showing the detective it was loaded with ammunition.
Martin then pointed the firearm at the detective and the detective handed Martin the buy money. Martin and the undercover detective then struggled over the firearm, at which time Martin took both the firearm and the money. The undercover detective held both his/her hands up, and Martin exited the vehicle. Martin then left the scene of the robbery.
IX. Cleveland man charged with COVID-19 hoax
On August 19, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman announced that a federal grand jury in Cleveland had returned a four-count indictment charging Walter Ray Poindexter, 32, of Cleveland with perpetrating false information and hoaxes.
According to court documents, on March 14, 2020, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) Police Officers responded to calls of an intoxicated individual aboard a downtown trolley, later identified as Poindexter. The defendant was subsequently arrested and transported to the Cuyahoga County Jail due to an outstanding warrant in Franklin County.
During the processing of the defendant for public intoxication and a parole violation warrant, the defendant allegedly claimed that he had difficulty breathing and that he had the coronavirus. As the GCRTA officers attempted to carry the defendant into the jail, the defendant is accused of purposefully coughing into the police officers’ faces. The defendant is also accused of intentionally coughing in the direction of the Cuyahoga County Jail nurse after repeatedly claiming that he had coronavirus.
The defendant was then transferred to MetroHealth hospital for medical evaluation. Upon arrival in the emergency room, the defendant is alleged to have repeatedly claimed to have coronavirus and once again began coughing and spitting in the direction of the paramedics, police officers and hospital staff. The defendant and paramedic were later administered a COVID-19 pathogen test that came back as negative for the virus.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 14, 2020
I. Arizona Border Patrol Agent Arrested and Charged with Drug Trafficking
On August 9, 2020, Carlos Victor Passapera Pinott, 53, of Buckeye, Arizona, was arrested on multiple counts of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Passapera was charged by complaint and had his initial appearance today before United States Magistrate Judge Leslie A. Bowman of the District of Arizona.
According to the complaint, Passapera is a Border Patrol Agent assigned to the Tucson Sector Ajo Border Patrol Station. On August 9, 2020, at approximately 3:15 AM, Passapera left his residence and drove south to a remote area of the border west of the Lukeville Port of Entry. Passapera then drove to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, where he loaded two duffel bags into another vehicle.
Law enforcement agents stopped the driver of that vehicle after it left the airport and searched the duffel bags. The bags contained multiple packages of substances that field tested positive for the characteristics of cocaine (21 kilograms), heroin (1 kilogram), and fentanyl (1 kilogram). The bags also contained approximately 350,000 pills. A sample from the pills field tested positive for the characteristics of fentanyl.
Law enforcement agents took Passapera into custody later that day while executing a search warrant at his residence. During the search, agents found approximately $329,000 in U.S. currency in Passapera’s residence, and an additional $40,000 in the vehicle Passapera used to transport the illegal narcotics.
II. Federal Grand Jury Indicts Oklahoma City Man for Drug and Firearms Offenses Plus Witness Tampering
On August 4, 2020, Juan Jabari Hollis, 42, of Oklahoma City, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Oklahoma returned a four-count indictment against Hollis. In Count 1, Hollis is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm; in Count 2, with possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute; and in Count 3, with possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.
Finally, Count 4 charges Hollis with witness tampering, specifically that he attempted to influence, delay, and prevent the testimony of another person in criminal proceedings against him.
If convicted on Count 1, Hollis faces up to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. If convicted on Count 2, Hollis could receive up to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Count 3 carries a mandatory five years in prison, to be served consecutive to any other term of imprisonment, and a term of supervised release of up to 5 years.
Finally, if convicted of witness tampering as alleged in Count 4, Hollis could receive a prison term of no more than 20 years and a term of supervised release of no more than 3 years.
III. Nevada Woman Charged With COVID-Relief Fraud
On August 13, 2020, a Nevada woman was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed the day befre with fraudulently seeking over $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The charges were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas A. Trutanich.
According to the criminal complaaint, Karen Chapon, aka Karen Hannafious, 50, of Las Vegas was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of making false statements to a financial institution. The complaint alleges that, in support of her six fraudulent loan applications, Chapon made numerous false and misleading statements about her companies’ respective business operations and payroll expenses, and falsely denied that she had been convicted of a felony in the past five years.
The complaint also alleges that, in further support of the fraudulent loan applications, Chapon submitted fake and altered documents, including fraudulent federal tax filings. For example, Chapon misrepresented to a lender that, in 2019, her company Heavenly Tahoe Properties paid several million dollars in employee wages.
In support of Chapon’s loan application, she submitted a fraudulent IRS filing that appeared to be Heavenly Tahoe Properties’ 2019 Form 940 federal unemployment tax return showing that the company paid nearly $2.5 million in employee wages that year. In reality, the IRS has no record of the company filing any 2019 tax returns, and publicly available records show that the company’s Nevada corporate registration is no longer valid.
IV. Massachusetts Man Charged with Transporting Stolen Electronics Across State Lines
A Worcester, Massachusetts man, Christian Diaz, 31, was arrested August 12, 2020 and charged in connection with transporting stolen laptops. Diaz was indicted on one count of interstate transportation of stolen goods. Diaz will be arraigned in federal court at a later date.
The announcement of the indictment was made by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling, along with Joseph W. Cronin, Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Danial E. Bennett of Lelling’s Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.
According to the indictment, from Aug. 11, 2015 until Sept. 30, 2015, Diaz transported stolen laptops in interstate commerce. If convicted, Diaz faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution.
V. New Jersey Men Indicted for Violent Robbery Spree
On August 10, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito announced that a federal grand jury had indicted two men from Union County, New Jersey for allegedly committing multiple armed robberies from August 2018 through February 2019.
According to the indictment, Jaime Fontanez, 43, and Vincent Chan-Guillen, 30, both of Elizabeth, New Jersey, are charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, multiple counts of Hobbs Act robbery, as well as brandishing and discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Fontanez and Chan-Guillen will be arraigned at a date to be determined. Both men were previously arrested on a criminal complaint for this conduct on Feb. 21, 2019.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from August 2018 through February 2019, Fontanez and Chan-Guillen conspired with each other and others to commit robberies in Bronx and New York counties in New York and Union, Middlesex, and Essex counties in New Jersey.
The conspirators targeted convenience and liquor stores. After entering the business, one of the conspirators pointed a firearm at the store clerk while another conspirator went behind the counter to steal money from the cash register. On one occasion, Chan-Guillen discharged a firearm into the liquor store. That firearm was subsequently discovered in Chan-Guillen’s possession.
VI. Minnesota Man Indicted On Child Pornography Charges
On August 10, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Erica H. MacDonald, announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Benjamin Joseph Roggenbuck, 38, with production, attempted production, distribution, and possession of child pornography. Roggenbuck made his initial appearance the same day before Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Cowan Wright in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was ordered to remain in custody pending further proceedings.
According to the allegations in the indictment, between at least February 12, 2020, and February 20, 2020, Roggenbuck used or attempted to use two prepubescent minor children to produce visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct. The indictment also alleges that Roggenbuck knowingly distributed pornography depicting a prepubescent minor child, and that he knowingly possessed other pornography depicting prepubescent minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
VII. Two Philadelphia Men Indicted for Armed Robbery of Armored Truck and Shootout
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvanis William M. McSwain announced on August 10, 2020, that Jerry Collins, 40, and Tyree Lamont Holmes, 28, both of Philadelphia, PA, were indicted for armed robbery of a Garda armored truck on the 3500 block of Market Street in the University City section of West Philadelphia just over one year ago.
Collins was arrested by the FBI on August 7, 2020; Holmes was arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department on February 18, 2020. Both defendants were indicted for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, robbery which interfered with interstate commerce, and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
Holmes is detained pending trial; the Government has moved to detain Collins, as well, who will appear in federal court for his detention hearing tomorrow, August 11, 2020.
According to the indictment, on August 1, 2019, at approximately 10:00 a.m., Holmes and a second unidentified suspect, both wearing masks and gloves, one armed with a loaded Glock 17 semi-automatic handgun and the other with a loaded assault rifle with an attached drum-style magazine, exited a Chevy Trailblazer that was parked behind a Garda armored truck.
As one of the guards removed three black bags containing a total of $434,000 cash, Holmes and his accomplice approached the guard, pointed their firearms at him and announced a robbery while Collins waited in the driver’s seat of the getaway vehicle, the Trailblazer.
Holmes allegedly grabbed the bags of money and attempted to get back into the vehicle when two guards drew their firearms and began shooting at the fleeing robbers, who fired back. During the shootout, Holmes dropped the bags of money on the ground and fled on foot while the second robber got into the Trailblazer with Collins and fled the scene.
VIII. Former Company CEO and Senior Executives Indicted in Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy
On August 11, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams announced that Robert J. Jesenia, 61, a former resident of West Linn, Oregon and the chief executive officer of Aequitas Management, LLC and several other Aequitas-owned entities, had been indicted along with three other former company executives for their roles in a fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
Jesenik is charged in a 32-count indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Also charged are Nelson Scott Gillis, 67, of Lake Oswego, Oregon; Brian K. Rice, 54, of Portland; and Andrew N. MacRitchie, 56, formerly of Palm Harbor, Florida.
According to court documents, Jesenik, Gillis, MacRitchie, Rice, and others used the Lake Oswego company to solicit investments in a variety of notes and funds, many of which were purportedly backed by trade receivables in education, health care, transportation, and other consumer credit areas.
From June 2014 through February 2016, the former executives solicited investors by misrepresenting the company’s use of investor money, the financial health and strength of Aequitas and its related companies, and the risks associated with its investments and investment strategies.
Collectively, the defendants also failed to disclose other critical facts about the company, including its near-constant liquidity and cash-flow crises, the use of investor money to repay other investors and to defray operating expenses, and the lack of collateral to secure funds.
IX. Oregon Man Accused of Cashing More than 40 Years’ Worth of Deceased Relative’s Social Security Checks
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams announced today that a Klamath Falls, Oregon man is facing federal criminal charges for cashing more than $458,000 worth of social security checks issued in the name of his deceased aunt. George Doumar, 76, has been charged by complaint with theft of public funds and mail theft.
According to court documents, in February 2020, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Office of Anti-Fraud Programs identified a 114-year-old recipient who appeared to be the second-oldest living person in the U.S. receiving Social Security retirement benefits. SSA systems indicated that no updates had been made to the person’s benefit record in more than 30 years, leading SSA staff to believe that the person may be deceased. The matter was referred to the SSA Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG).
SSA records indicated that the benefit recipient was born on August 7, 1905 in New York City and had first applied for retirement benefits in August 1970. The person did not receive any payments until September 1977 after she reached her delayed retirement computation age. SSA records further showed that from 1977 until present day, the benefit recipient received monthly Social Security retirement checks disbursed by the U.S. Treasury and delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
The last known update to the recipient’s SSA benefit record was in July 1989, when the recipient’s address was updated to Frontier Parcel & Fax Service on S. 6th Street in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a commercial mail receiving agency that accepts mail from the Postal Service on behalf of third parties. In March 2020, an investigator with SSA-OIG interviewed two of the benefit recipient’s nieces and found that Doumar, her Aunt’s nephew, was named the sole beneficiary of her life insurance payout.
On June 16, 2020, SSA-OIG investigators obtained a copy of the aunt’s death certificate from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, confirming that she had died on March 7, 1971 in Brooklyn. Investigators determined that Doumar had added his aunt to he and his wife’s shared checking account in 1989.
His aunt’s Social Security checks were often bundled in deposits with other checks made payable to Doumar. Doumar’s account was used to pay for various living expenses including mortgage, car loan, medical, and utility payments.
X. Plastics Company Founder Indicted in $61 Million Tax Evasion Scheme
On August 10, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted a Florida man for evading over $61 million in income taxes from 2016 through 2018. The U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito made the announcement. Alfred Teo, 74, of Boca Raton, Florida, is charged with three counts of tax evasion and six counts of making and subscribing false personal and corporate tax returns in tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018.
The indictment follows a June 17, 2020, complaint charging tax evasion, for which U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel set bond at $20 million. Teo will be arraigned at a date to be determined.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Teo was the majority shareholder of multibillion-dollar plastics manufacturing holding company Alpha Industries Management (Alpha). During the tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018, Alpha transferred funds directly into trading accounts for Teo’s benefit.
Instead of reporting the funds Alpha sent for Teo’s benefit as income on his personal tax returns, a significant portion of Teo’s income from Alpha was recorded as 1099 Income to AAST Holding Corp. (AAST), another Teo-owned entity that was unrelated to his plastics business. Through AAST, Teo engaged in numerous acts to conceal and attempt to conceal the income he received from Alpha in order to evade income taxes.
According to AAST’s corporate tax returns, AAST received 1099 income from Alpha of approximately $27 million, $53 million, and $89 million in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively, for a total of approximately $169 million.
FRIDAY, August 07, 2020
I. Texas Entrepreneur Charged with Spending COVID Relief Funds on Improper Expenses
A Houston man has been taken into custody on allegations he fraudulently obtained more than $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The announcement was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick and Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
According to the complaint that was unsealed upon his arrest, Lee Price III, 29, spent the money on luxury items, real estate and personal entertainment. He was expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam S. Sheldon in Houstonlater that afternoon.
Price is charged with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. The complaint alleges that Price was involved in a scheme to submit fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured banks and other lenders.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Two of the fraudulent applications received funding. Price Enterprises Holdings allegedly received more than $900,000, while a loan application listing 713 Construction was approved for over $700,000.
The loan applications allegedly asserted both entities each had numerous employees and significant payroll expenses. According to the charges, however, neither entity has employees nor pays wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the loan applications. Further, the individual listed as CEO on the 713 Construction loan application died in April 2020, a month before the application was submitted, according to the complaint.
Price allegedly used the loan proceeds not for payroll expenses, but for lavish personal purchases, such as loan money on a Lamborghini Urus, a Rolex watch and real estate transactions. He also allegedly spent thousands at strip clubs and other Houston night clubs. The complaint further alleges Price used a portion of the loan money to buy a 2020 Ford F-350 pickup truck.
II. Minneapolis Man Charged with Armed Robbery Spree of Twin Cities Businesses
On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica H. MacDonald announced a criminal complaint charging Derrick Lee Spillman, 39, with four counts of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Spillman made his initial appearance the same day before Magistrate Judge Jon T. Huseby in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint, on July 30, 2020, between 6:56 a.m. and 3:53 p.m., Spillman used force, violence, and fear of injury to commit four armed robberies of businesses located throughout the Twin Cities, including two Holiday gas stations, a Speedway store, and a Subway store.
At all four robbery locations, Spillman brandished a firearm to compel employees to relinquish cash belonging to the business. After reviewing surveillance video footage from all four businesses, investigators were able to identify Spillman based on distinctive tattoos.
III. Imperial Pacific International and MCC International Saipan Executives Face Federal Indictment
Three executives from Imperial Pacific International (IPI) and MCC International Saipan have been indicted on federal criminal charges, including Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, and international promotional money laundering announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Shawn N. Anderson for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
On Aug. 1, 2019, a federal grand jury returned a 71-count superseding indictment against Liwen Wu, a/k/a Peter Wu, Jianmin Xu, and Yan Shi. The charges were unsealed August 4, 2020. The indictment alleges that these individuals committed criminal acts while holding executive positions with IPI and MCC International Saipan.
The defendants are accused of utilizing criminal labor practices during ongoing construction of the Grand Mariana Casino Hotel and Resort on the island of Saipan. The defendants are further alleged to have transferred over $24 million into the United States to promote their illegal activity.
All three defendants are foreign nationals who currently reside outside of the United States. Upon returning to the United States, the individuals will be arrested, arraigned, and brought to trial in federal court.
IV. Grand Jury Charges Ed Buck with Four Additional Felonies, including that He Enticed Victims to Travel Between States to Engage in Prostitution
On August 4, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Edward Buck with four additional felonies, including one alleging that he enticed victims – including a man who died at his West Hollywood apartment after he administered drugs to him – to travel interstate to engage in prostitution. Buck, 65, was arrested in September 2019 after being charged in U.S. District Court with providing methamphetamine to a man who died after receiving the drug intravenously.
Since that time, federal authorities have continued to investigate Buck for additional crimes. The four additional counts charged August 4, 2020 bring the total number of charges in this case to nine counts – include one count alleging that Buck knowingly enticed 26-year-old Gemmel Moore to travel to the Los Angeles area to engage in prostitution. Buck allegedly provided methamphetamine to Moore, who overdosed on the drug and died on July 27, 2017.
Buck also is charged with another count of enticing another man to travel with the intent of engaging in prostitution. The superseding indictment also charges Buck with one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing methamphetamine, and one count of using his residence for the purpose of distributing narcotics such as methamphetamine, and the sedatives gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and clonazepam. Buck is scheduled to go to trial in this matter on January 19, 2021. His arraignment on the first superseding indictment is expected in the coming weeks.
V. Florida Man Charged with Child Sex Offenses in New Jersey
A Florida man was arrested on August 4, 2020 and charged with seeking sex with a minor and inducing her to send him sexually explicit images. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito. Andrew Drechsel, 31, of Saint Cloud, Florida, is charged by complaint with manufacture of child pornography, enticement of a minor to travel for illicit sexual conduct, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor.
He made his initial appearance August 4, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, prior to his transfer to the District of New Jersey. According to the complaint filed, Drechsel sought to have sex with a minor girl and traveled to New Jersey with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with her.
He also enticed and coerced a minor to travel to Connecticut to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaged in online sexual communications with a minor and induced her to manufacture sexually explicit images of herself and send them to Drechsel. If convicted, Drechsel faces up to life in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
VI. Three Family Members Charged in Child Labor Trafficking Conspiracy in Chicago Suburbs
Three family members have been indicted on a labor trafficking conspiracy charge for allegedly forcing two undocumented West African teenagers to work in the Chicago suburbs. Nawomi Awoga, 71, of Hazel Crest, and her two daughters, Maarina Oke, a/k/a Marina Fandohan, 34, of Country Club Hills, and Assiba Lea Fandohan, 31, of Hazel Crest, are charged with conspiracy to conceal, harbor, and shield from detection two children from the West African country of Benin, according to an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The indictment also charges the defendants with forcing labor through threats of serious harm to a victim or another person. The defendants were arrested August 3, 2020.
Awoga was scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Aug. 5, 2020, at 3:00 p.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim, while Oke and Fandohan were scheduled to appear before Judge Kim for detention hearings on Aug. 6, 2020, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with James M. Gibbons, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and several other law enforcement officials.
VII. FBI Arrests Oklahoma City Bank Robbery Suspect
On August 4, 2020, Kiwanis Yomone Roberts, 23, of Oklahoma City, was arrested and charged with the robbery of the Focus Federal Credit Union (FFCU). The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma Timothy J. Downing. On July 21, 2020, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Oklahoma indicted Roberts for the FFCU robbery.
The indictment alleges that on March 13, 2020, Roberts knowingly took by force, violence, and intimidation money that belonged to the FFCU branch located at 13325 N. MacArthur Blvd in Oklahoma City. The indictment further alleges the deposits of the FFCU were federally insured at the time of the robbery.
On Auguist 3, 2020, U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Mitchell arraigned Roberts on the indictment in Oklahoma City. If convicted, Roberts faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and mandatory restitution.
VIII. Four Individuals Indicted for Smuggling Contraband Into Pennsylvania Prison
On August 4, 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on July 31, 2020, Danny Cruz, 42, of Harrisburg, PA, Aida Rosado, 60, also of Harrisburg, and Lizarah Matthews, 28, of York, PA, were indicted for their role in smuggling cellular telephones and other contraband into Dauphin County Prison (DCP) in late 2015 and early 2016.
At the time, Cruz was an inmate in the prison, while Matthews was a paramour of another inmate in the prison. Separately, Alice Martinez, 41, of Chambersburg, PA, was also indicted by a federal grand jury for her role in a conspiracy to smuggle cellular telephones and other contraband into Dauphin County Prison in 2015, when her brother was an inmate in the prison facing federal charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania David J. Freed, the indictments allege that Cruz and other inmates bribed corrections officers and staff to smuggle cellular telephones into the prison. They arranged for people outside of the prison to get the phones and pay the bribes to DCP staff. Lizarah Matthews was the girlfriend of an inmate. Aida Rosado is the mother of Cruz.
Alice Martinez is the sister of a prison inmate. The bribe payments and smuggling were facilitated by transferring money through Western Union and MoneyGram.
IX. Maryland Man Indicted on Federal Charges for Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity and for Production of Child Pornography
On August 3, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Aaron Crawford, 36, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, for the federal charges of coercion and enticement of a minor and for production of child pornography. The indictment was returned on July 20, 2020, and unsealed on July 31, 2020, at his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Sullivan ordered that Crawford be detained pending trial.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to the indictment and evidence proffered by the government at the defendant’s detention hearing, in November 2019, Crawford recruited a minor female to perform commercial sex acts in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Crawford allegedly directed the victim to send him sexually explicit photographs so that he could use the pictures in Internet advertisements.
If convicted, Crawford faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison for enticement of a minor; and at least 15 years and up to 30 years in federal prison for production of child pornography.
X. California Man Charged with Receipt and Distribution of Material Involving Sexual Exploitation of Minors
On August 4, 2020, Jonathan James Rodriguez, 37, of Sonora, Mexico was arraigned for receipt and distribution of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California McGregor W. Scott.
According to court documents, between January 2014 and January 2020, Rodriguez allegedly used a laptop computer to receive and distribute a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
If convicted, Rodriguez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. The 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 those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.