Last Updated Friday, April 23, 2021, at 9:34 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, April 23, 2021
I. Jewish Sect Leaders Charged with Child Exploitation Offenses
On April 19, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, along with William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Office, announced new charges against Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner, Yakov Weingarten, Shmiel Weingarten, and Yoil Weingarten for conspiracy to transport a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, in connection with the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl (“Minor-1”) from New York to reunite her with her adult “husband” outside the United States for purposes of continuing their sexual relationship.
The defendants are among other members of Lev Tahor, an extremist Jewish sect. Several other members of the group were previously charged with similar crimes related to the kidnapping of Minor-1 and her younger brother. They were allegedly returning the 14-year-old minor to her adult “husband.”
According to the criminal complaint, beginning in about 2017, Helbrans arranged for his then-12-year-old niece to be “married” to a then-18-year-old Jacob Rosner. The two were “married” the next year when the niece was 13 and Rosner was 19. According to the rules of Lev Tabor, the minor was required to have sex with their “husbands,” to pretend to be older, and to deliver babies at home rather than in a hospital.
II. Massachusetts Man Charged for Child Porn
On April 19, 2021, it was announced that a federal grand jury in Springfield had indicted a Pittsfield man on child pornography charges during the previous week. The man, Benjamin Shacar, 34, was indicted on April 15, 2021, on 10 ten counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Previously, Shacar was charged by with a criminal complaint in March 2021.
According to charging documents, it is alleged that, between August 2020 and March 2021, Shacar allegedly received and possessed child pornography. Law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Shacar’s residence and uncovered a thumb drive containing multiple files depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
During an on-scene interview, Shacar also allegedly admitted that he viewed and downloaded child pornography from the internet. The charge of receipt of child pornography means Shacar faces at ;east least five and a minimum sentence of five years and up to 20 years in prison, while the charge of possession of child pornography means he faces up to 10 years in prison.
III. Three Indicted In ID Theft, Fraudulent Credit Card Scheme
On April 19, 2021, it was announced that a federal indictment returned by a grand jury on April 2, 2021, and unsealed on April 16, 2021, has charged three people with having been in possession of dozens of items, including fraudulent drivers’ licenses and credit cards, equipment to produce credit cards, and stolen personal identifying information obtained and placed into a list.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that Courtney Hilaire, 28, of Providence, RI, Hugh A. Martin, 32, of Pawtucket, RI, and Shawn K. Hilaire, 30, of Avon, MA, were was in possession of these devices and equipment in order to create fraudulent credit cards with the use of stolen credit card numbers and personal identifying information, such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
All three men face charges of with conspiracy to possess fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of device-making equipment, and aggravated identity theft.
Since the issuance of the indictment, further investigation into Courtney Hilaire’s alleged criminal activity has resulted in the return of a 17-count indictment charging Courtney Hilaire with using stolen Social Security numbers and personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for CARES Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA.
IV. Cincinnati Man Charged with Impersonating Federal Employee and Federal Agent
On April 19, 2021, a federal grand jury charged David Lomache, 61, of Cincinnati, with impersonating a federal employee and making fake IDs claiming he was a Special Agent with Homeland Security, as well as an employee of the Defense Logistics Agency, which is the Department of Defense’s combat logistics support agency. Lomache was arrested by federal agents on April 16, and his case was unsealed on April 19. He appeared in court for a detention hearing on April 21.
According to the indictment, Lomache fraudulently obtained a United States Federal Contractor badge so that he could impersonate a civilian contractor technician for the Defense Logistics Agency. In January 2021, he allegedly produced fake identification documents for both the Defense Logistics Agency and for Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”). In all, he faces two counts of fraud in connection with identification documents, which could send him to prison for up to 15 years, plus one count of impersonating a federal officer, which carries up to three years in prison.
V. Rhode Island Man Indicted for CARES Act Fraud
On April 16, 2021, a federal grand jury in Providence returned a 17-count indictment charging Courtney Hilaire, 28, of Providence, who used the moniker “Mr. Vacation,” with using the stolen Social Security numbers and other personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for CARES Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration.
It is alleged in the indictment that beginning in March 2020, Hilaire obtained from the Internet personal identifying information, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of numerous individuals, then accessed commercial public records databases to obtain additional information about the identity of his victims.
In July 2020, using the stolen identities, the indictment alleges that Hilaire filed a at least six applications for unemployment insurance payments from the State of Pennsylvania. On at least seven occasions beginning in August 2020, Hilaire withdrew fraudulently obtained CARES Act unemployment funds from bank accounts he accessed through ATMs all over Rhode Island.
VI. Texas Man Indicted for Armed Pawn Shop Robbery
In Austin, Texas federal court on April 20, 2021, a grand jury charged Joe Quinonez, 32, of Austin, with armed robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act and a federal firearms charge. The indictment and the charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff, along with Fred J. Milanowski, the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division of the ATF. According to the indictment, Quinonez faces one count of violating the Hobbs Act or interfering with commerce by threats of violence.
The indictment alleges that on January 2, 2021, Quinonez entered a Cash America Pawn Shop in Austin and brandished a firearm at two persons in the store while robbing the store of firearms. In addition, the indictment charges Quinonez with discharging a firearm during the robbery. Quinonez was arrested by officers of the Austin Police Department on January 6, 2021, and has remained in police custody. Quinonez has been remanded into federal custody for his initial appearance, which is expected next week.
VII. Florida Tax Preparer Indicted for Tax Fraud
Kasali Opabola, Jr. of Palm Beach County, Florida, appeared before Federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in West Palm Beach on April 15, 2021, in order to face an indictment charging him with two counts of filing a false individual tax return for tax years 2014 and 2015; and one count of failing to file an individual tax return for the tax year 2016. As stated in the indictment, Opabola operated a tax return preparation service in Palm Beach, Florida, called FTP Tax Solutions, LLC.
The charges in the indictment allege that Opabola falsely underreported the total income and gross receipts for FTP Tax Solutions and that Opabola, Jr. knew that the total income and gross receipts were substantially greater than the reported amount. In total, ff after being convicted of the charges in the indictment, Opabola, Jr. faces up to four years in prison.
VIII. Two Texas Men Charged with Dealing Cocaine
On April 20, 2021, two residents of Texas, Felipe Ramos, 41, and Ruben David Apellaniz-Figueroa, 38,rwere were the subjects of a two-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating federal narcotics laws. The announcement of the indictment was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Kaufman.
According to the Indictment, in March 2021, Ramos and Apellaniz-Figueroa possessed and conspired to distribute a mixture and substance containing 500 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. If convicted, both defendants face more than five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000,000.00, and a term of supervised release of at least 4 four years, or a combination thereof.
IX. New Jersey Man Charged with Mortgage Fraud, Using Fraud to Obtain SBA Loan, Aggravated Identity Theft
On April 22, 2021, a Bergen County, New Jersey man, Nathanael Zimmerman, 40, of Wyckoff, New Jersey, was arrested on charges of engaging in mortgage fraud, fraudulently obtaining an SBA loan, and stealing another’s identity information. The complaint was announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Zimmerman is charged via complaint with one count each of wire fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He appeared by videoconference the same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen.
According to the complaint, from August 2013 through January 2014, Zimmerman orchestrated a scheme to engage in mortgage fraud concerning FHA-insured loans. Zimmerman aided individuals in applying for FHA-insured loans and caused fraudulent representations to be made to the lenders, including submitting false bank statements.
Zimmerman received a portion of the loan proceeds. Later, these unqualified individuals defaulted on their loans, causing losses to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development of more than $300,000. In 2020 Zimmerman used his deceased brother’s identity to obtain an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, for which he received more than $150,00.
X. New York Man Facing Federal Indictment in Maryland for Cyberstalking and Aggravated Identity Theft
On April 21, 2021, a federal grand jury in Maryland returned an indictment charging Desmond Babloo Singh, 19, of New York City, for the federal charges of cyberstalking and aggravated identity theft. The Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner announced the indictment, along with James R. Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.
The indictment alleges that Singh had used more than 100 online accounts to intimidate and harass a woman for whom he declared his love, even though he never met her in person. Singh is the younger brother of a former middle-school classmate of the victim, with whom he had interacted on a large number of social media platforms. From in or abut about 2014 until February 14, 2020, he and Victim-1 exchanged communications, but there was never anything romantic between them.
As Victim-1 pointed out during the investigation, the two had never met in person. Despite this, on February 14, 2020, Singh made a social media post in which he professed his love for Victim-1.