Last Updated Friday, April 30, 2021, at 12:23 PM
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.
If you or someone you love has been charged with a federal crime, we are here to help. The attorneys at The Criminal Lawyer Group are some of the nation’s top-ranked attorneys in their field and their experience defending criminal defendants in federal courts is exemplary.
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FRIDAY, April 30, 2021
I. California Man Arrested for ‘Animal Crushing’ for Allegedly Slitting Dog’s Throat, Posting Video
On the morning of April 26, 2021, authorities arrested a Riverside man on a federal charge alleging that he first slit the throat of his young dog, then produced a video of the dying puppy, and posted the video on his Snapchat account. The man who allegedly perpetrated this act, Angel Ramos-Corrales, 19, was arrested without incident by the FBI and the Riverside Police Department. He is made his initial appearance in Riverside U.S. District Court later that afternoon.
Ramos-Corrales had been named in a federal criminal complaint filed on April 23, charging him with “animal crushing,” referring to a federal crime of purposely subjecting domestic animals to serious bodily injury. According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, the Riverside Police Department received a complaint on February 13, 2021. The complaint came soon after Ramos-Corrales allegedly posted a video on Snapchat depicting the small brown dog with a large laceration on its neck.
On In the video, a person believed to be Ramos-Corrales makes a series of statements, including “I’m cold-hearted,” and then callously kicks the still-alive dog, which he had named Canelo.
II. Broward County Resident Charged with Theft of Postal Service Property
A Broward County resident was charged by indictment on April 25, 2021. The indictment includes forty counts of theft of government property, and the charges were returned for a scheme to steal over 37,000 stamps from the United States Postal Service. Based on the allegations contained in the indictment, from on or about September 11, 2019, through on or about September 13, 2019, Jeffery Allan Grant, Jr., 38, of Fort Lauderdale, visited 29 post offices located in Palm Beach and Broward counties and presented forty checks drawn on his personal bank account to purchase a total of 37,100 stamps.
The stamps were the property of value belonging to the United States Postal Service. Grant’s bank account had insufficient funds to cover the checks presented for the transactions. As a result of Grant’s theft of the stamps, the United States Postal Service lost approximately $20,405. Grant had his initial appearance on the indictment later that same day before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in the Southern District of Florida. Grant’s arraignment is scheduled for May 3, 2021. If convicted, Grant faces up to 10 years in prison.
III. Married Couple Indicted for Underreporting Over $1.1 Million
A married couple, Oganes Berberyan, 63, and Valentina Zemlyak, 63, both of Las Vegas, Nevada, made their initial appearances in federal court on April 21, 2021, for their alleged roles in a sleep study fraud scheme and for their attempts to evade tax payments on more than $1.1 million in income. The indictment was announced April 26, by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Christopher Chiou, along with and Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation, Carissa Messick.
According to court documents, Berberyan and Zemlyak allegedly attempted to evade paying taxes owed to the IRS for tax years 2014-2016. From November 2014 to December 2015, co-defendant Armen Magzanyan (a/k/a “Arman Magzanyan” and “Arman Magz,”43, also of Las Vegas, operated GR8SLEEP.com, d/b/a Las Vegas Sleep Lab and claimed to conduct monitored sleep studies. As part of a fraudulent scheme, Las Vegas Sleep Lab billed at least one health insurance company more than $5 million, claiming to have performed hundreds of sleep studies, even though it failed to provide such services to anyone.
Despite that fact, one health insurance company paid more than $1.8 million to Las Vegas Sleep Lab. Meanwhile, Berberyan, Zemlyak, and Magzanyan used the proceeds of their scheme to pay for various personal expenses, including private school tuition, real property purchases, luxury vehicles, as well as personal mortgage payments.
IV. Two Indicted in Hate Crimes Case Alleging Restaurant Attack
On April 26, 2021, a Los Angeles federal grand jury indicted two area men on conspiracy and hate crime offenses following an alleged attack on five victims at a family-owned Turkish restaurant. It has also been alleged that the defendants shouted anti-Turkish slurs, hurled chairs at the victims, and even threatened to kill them. The indictment was unsealed today, after the arrest of Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 23, of Tujunga.
The second defendant in the case, William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, is already currently in state custody. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in this case over the next few weeks. Chalikyan and Stepanyan, both of whom are Armenian-American, are charged with one count of conspiracy and five hate crimes counts.
V. Cincinnati Political Consultant Charged with Embezzling $1.4 Million from Congressional campaign
A political and media consultant located in the Cincinnati area, James R. Schwartz II, 41, was charged on April 27, 2021, with wire fraud and falsification of records related to his embezzlement of more than $1.4 million from a United States Congressional campaign. A bill of information was filed that day against Schwartz. At the same time, a plea document, in this case, was filed the same time, which will be dealt with in a future plea hearing.
According to court documents, from approximately 2011 through 2019, through his companies, Fountain Square Group LLC and Prime Media LLC, Schwartz worked as a consultant on behalf of a Congressional campaign. At the same time, Schwartz also served as the de facto treasurer for the campaign. It is alleged that, from those positions, Schwartz embezzled funds from the Congressional campaign by writing checks from the campaign’s bank accounts to himself and his companies.
The checks were also for far more money than he and his companies had actually earned. He allegedly concealed the embezzled funds by misrepresenting the amounts paid to him and his companies in reports to the Federal Election Commission.
VI. Two Charged in Nevada For Online Sales of Over 4,500 Stolen Goods
On April 27, 2021, two men from the Reno, Nevada area were hit with federal charges for their sales of more than 4,500 stolen items online to buyers all over the United States and in several foreign countries. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Christopher Chiou for the District of Nevada and IRS Special Agent in Charge Ismael Nevarez Jr. Gennaro Paolo Canta, 42, and Jess Legarza, 37, were indicted on one count of conspiracy and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.
Canta also is charged with one count of monetary transactions in the criminally derived property. Both defendants made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb on April 27, when he scheduled a jury trial to begin on June 21, 2021.
Based on the allegations in the indictment, from about June to August 2016, Canta and Legarza regularly purchased merchandise they knew had been stolen from retail stores and then resold them online in nearly all 50 states and foreign countries. Canta then used the proceeds from these sales to buy more stolen merchandise.
In all, Canta and Legarza allegedly sold more than 4,500 stolen items online. If they are convicted, both defendants face up to five years in prison.
VII. Former Temp Agency Owner Charged with Defrauding Lenders, Failing to Pay Employment Taxes for Workers
On April 26, 2021, a federal criminal information was filed, charging Crystal Jones, a/k/a Crystal Powell-Jones, 53, of Laurel, Maryland, for both wire fraud and failure to pay to the IRS employment taxes withheld from employees’ wages. The criminal information was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner, along with IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon of the agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, in its Washington, DC Field Office.
Based on the allegations made in the criminal information, as the owner and managing partner of JAG Professional Resources, a temporary employment agency doing business in Howard County, Maryland, Jones exercised control over all aspects of JAG’s business, including its finances. A relative of Jones was a silent minority partner in JAG. From at least February 2013 through October 2016, Jones obtained factoring services from Victim Lender 1 for JAG.
Factoring is a means by which cash intensive cash-intesive businesses, like JAG, could obtain cash quickly and reliably by leveraging accounts receivable. JAG was cash intensive cash-intensive because they had to pay their temps weekly or biweekly, as prescribed by the employer, even though they often did not receive payment from clients for at least 30 days after services had been rendered.
That could make them cash poor cash-poor for several weeks each month. That said, JAG sold its account receivables to Victim Lender 1 and JAG received cash advances from Victim Lender 1, totaling approximately 90% of JAG’s accounts receivables. Upon receiving payments from JAG’s clients on the outstanding invoices, Victim Lender 1 sent JAG the remaining 10% of the invoice that had been purchased, less fewer fees Victim Lender 1 charged for its factoring services.
VIII. Sabana Seca Resident Indicted for Firearms Trafficking
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow, announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Luis Antonio Visalden Arriaga with unlicensed firearms trafficking. The FBI is leading the investigation.
It is alleged that Arriaga sold a number of semi- and fully automatic weapons for prices ranging from $2,000 to $2,700 each. He also allegedly arranged for the sale of AK-47 rifles and stated that he received shipments of fifteen machine guns at a time. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanette Collazo, who works in the Violent Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney’s office, is in charge of the case prosecution. If convicted, Arriaga faces as much as five years in prison.
IX. Wilkes-Barre Man Indicted for Drug Trafficking, Firearms Offenses
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Michael Jones, Jr, 40, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had been indicted by a federal grand jury the day before offenses related to firearms and drug trafficking offenses. According to the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that between December 2020 and March 14, 2021, Jones conspired with others to traffic at least 280 grams of crack cocaine and 40 grams of fentanyl.
It has also been alleged that, on March 14-15, 2021, Jones also possessed with intent to distribute crack cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. In addition, the indictment alleges that on March 14-15, 2021, Jones possessed a stolen firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking activities, even though he is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a prior felony conviction. The case has been and continues to be investigated by the FBI, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.
X. Albuquerque Investment Broker Indicted for Mail & Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Failure to File Tax Returns
On April 29, 2021, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico announced that Richard Kessler, 49, of Albuquerque, had been arraigned the day before in federal court on a previously returned indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and failure to file tax returns. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury back on March 12.
According to the indictment and other court records, Kessler allegedly stole investment funds from several clients, then failed to file federal income tax returns for tax years 2014 through 2017. Kessler operated as a financial advisor and investment broker under the business name Guardian Group Investments, LLC. From his position, from on or about Feb. 26, 2016, to Aug. 23, 2016, Kessler allegedly induced investors to provide him with what he characterized as investment funds, but which he subsequently diverted to a business savings account for his own benefit and use.
Placing investor funds into such an account is specifically prohibited by both SEC and New Mexico state securities regulations. In addition, Kessler repeatedly moved funds from that account into his personal checking account, which is also a specific violation. In all, Kessler allegedly appropriated over $123,000 this way from at least four victims.
XI. Monroe County Man Indicted For Bank Robbery
On April 28, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania made an announcement that the day before, a grand jury had indicted Terrance Tyson, 44, of East Stroudsburg, for bank robbery. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that on September 24, 2019, Tyson committed a robbery of the NBT Bank located in East Stroudsburg and took approximately $5,226.
The Stroud Area Regional Police Department conducted a full investigation. With the assistance of the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. O’Hara is prosecuting the case. The case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in law enforcement’s efforts to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.