Last Updated Friday, August 06, 2021, at 5:36 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.
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FRIDAY, August 06, 2021
I. Brazilian National Arrested in Massachusetts on Child Porn Charges
On August 2, 2021, it was announced that a Brazilian national residing in Whitman, Massachusetts, had arrested on Friday, July 30, 2021, on charges of possession and distribution of child porn. Walace Lima, 40, was indicted on one count of possession of child pornography and a second count of distribution of child pornography. Following an initial appearance before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell, Lima was detained pending a detention hearing to occur later that afternoon.
According to the charging document, Lima possessed child pornography on or about Dec. 16, 2020, and distributed child pornography on various dates between Oct. 5 and Nov. 24, 2020. If he is convicted of possession of child pornography in a court of law, Lima will face up to 20 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The charge of distribution of child pornography could bring Lima at least five years and up to 20 years in prison, up to a lifetime of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
II. Felon Indicted Following Roadway Shooting
On August 2, 2021 it was announced that, according to the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Kurt R. Erskine, on April 1, 2021, Rico Laprince Southall targeted a member of his family, as a victim as he drove through the Powder Springs area of Georgia. Southall allegedly pursued the victim’s vehicle through the residential area, fired multiple rounds at her vehicle from a semi-automatic pistol equipped with a high-capacity magazine.
Several rounds entered the passenger compartment of the victim’s vehicle, with at least one round striking an unoccupied infant safety seat. One of the rounds also struck another car in the vicinity. Rico Laprince Southall has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Southall fired shots at the victim, who was also a family member. The Cobb County Police Department responded to the scene and saw Southall leaving the area in his vehicle in which his girlfriend and minor child were passengers.
The responding officers arrested Southall and recovered the semi-automatic pistol he had fired, as well as a second gun, a revolver. The officers noted that Southall had reloaded the semi-automatic weapon during the shooting. Both firearms had been reported stolen.
III. 20 Arrested for Conspiracy to Distribute 1000 Pounds of Marijuana
On August 2, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Jennifer B. Lowery, announced that at least 16 residents of Laredo, Texas are now in custody following the return of two separate but related indictments regarding the distribution of large quantities of marijuana. Most made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song Quiroga in Laredo Aug. 2.
Among those who were taken into custody Aug. 2 were Jose Guadalupe Alaniz and Fernando Garcia, both 39; 21-year-olds Eduardo Javier Vazquez, Carlos Alejo Soliz and Carlos Erik Lopez; Arturo Villarreal and Francisco Arturo Neri, both 22; Edgar Alejandro Mashuca and Gustavo Alberto Duenes-Perez, both 34; Gavino Cadena, 33, Eduardo Gutierrez, 27, Jose Gerardo Gutierrez-Gonzalez, 23, Jesus Hernandez, 20, Jesus Rodriguez, 37, Leonardo Garza, 40, and Juan Lopez, 30. Also arrested were Alberto Castro, 40, Austin, and Mexican nationals Sergio Rodriguez and Jose Hernandez-Vazquez, both 37; and Jonathan Guadalupe Rodriguez-Rivera, 29.
A federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment under seal June 29 charging Cadena, Sergio Rodriguez, Gutierrez, Villarreal and Mashuca. It alleges they conspired to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana Feb. 5-21, 2019.
IV. Providence Man Charged in Schemes to Defraud RI Businesses, MA Foundation
On August 2, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, Richard B. Myrusa, announced that a Rhode Island man, Rachon Waite, 31, known to some as “RJ,” had been charged in federal court based on allegations that he orchestrated schemes to defraud Rhode Island businesses and a Massachusetts foundation of tens of thousands of dollars by depositing fraudulent checks drawn on the entities, but before quickly withdrawing the funds before it was determined by the banks that the checks were bogus.
Waite made an initial appearance in federal court this afternoon, charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with wire fraud, bank fraud, access device (ATM) fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
In this case, the government has alleged that the defendants made social media solicitations seeking persons willing to provide him with their debit cards and personal identifying number (PIN), and/or access to their bank accounts so that he could deposit fraudulent checks as part of the scheme, promising to pay them for the use of this account information.
According to court documents, in early March 2021, a Bristol-based engineering company reported to the Bristol Police Department that a fraudulent check drawn on their business account in the amount of $23,754 had been cashed. An investigation determined that the check had been made out to and was deposited into a Coventry resident’s bank account.
The bank account holder told investigators that he responded to a solicitation posted on social media by a person he came to know as “RJ,” and provided “RJ” with his debit card and PIN. The account holder agreed to let “RJ” use his bank account to deposit checks and withdraw funds, in return receiving a portion of the amount of money withdrawn. On March 19, 2021, the account holder saw that his account was overdrawn by approximately $24,000.
The next day the account was closed by the bank and the remaining funds were kept by the bank, including funds from the account holder’s paycheck. The account holder was unable to contact “RJ” again and his debit card was never returned.
V. PROVIDENCE MAN CHARGED IN SCHEMES TO DEFRAUD RI BUSINESSES, MA FOUNDATION
On August 2, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Arbittier Williams, announced that Kevin Smith, 27, of Philadelphia, had been charged by Indictment with two counts; one for sex trafficking by force and another for sex trafficking a minor. The charges stem from an investigation into his alleged operation of a sex trafficking ring in Philadelphia and the surrounding region—including Bucks and Delaware counties.
According to the Indictment, it is alleged that, for about a week at the end of September 2019, Smith knowingly recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, maintained a minor for the purposes of forcing that minor to engage in commercial sex acts in Philadelphia. It also alleges that Smith operated a sex trafficking enterprise at various times over a period of two years from July 2015 to July 2017, during which he used physical threats to force three different young adult victims to have sex for money.
VI. Las Vegas Couple Indicted For Tax Evasion Scheme
A federal grand jury in Las Vegas, Nevada, returned an indictment today charging a Las Vegas husband and wife with conspiring to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, filing a false tax return, assisting in the filing of false tax returns, and failing to file tax returns and pay federal income taxes. Scott and Debra Lawrence are scheduled to make their initial court appearances on August 11, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Youchah of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
If convicted, the Lawrences each face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States and for each count of tax evasion.
According to allegations in the indictment, from at least 2005 through at least 2020, Scott H. Lawrence, a real estate professional, and Debra R. Lawrence, an owner of an interior design business, conspired to conceal their income and true financial condition from the IRS and to obstruct the IRS’s efforts to collect their unpaid tax liabilities.
As part of the scheme, the Lawrences allegedly submitted to the IRS false documents, including false tax returns and collection information statements, that understated their true income.
VII. Two Montanans Charged with COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
According to Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana, Leif M. Johnson, two Montana men were arraigned on August 3, 2021, on charges related to a scheme to defraud a bank of approximately $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and to use those funds for their personal benefit, including buying property and vehicles.
Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, also known as Trevor Gene McLeod, 48, of Laurel, and Kasey Jones Wilson, 29, of Helena, each pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging them with bank fraud and with engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. If convicted of the most serious crime, the defendants face a maximum 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
According to the charges leveled in this case, the government has alleged in court documents, that from about April 2020 to December 2020, the defendants applied for and received four PPP loans totaling $1,043,000 through Valley Bank of Helena, a Division of Glacier Bank, on behalf of four business entities.
Lanius-McLeod applied for funds as the authorized representative of T. McLeod Holdings LLC, Hilltop Estates LLC, and Renovated Montana Properties LLP. Lanius-McLeod and Wilson applied for funds as the authorized representatives of Step Above Management LLC. In the applications, the defendants made numerous false statements about having paid payroll taxes and having employees.
In promissory notes, the defendants agreed to use the loan funds for payroll costs, costs related to group health care benefits and insurance premiums, rent, utilities, interest on payments on debt and refinancing a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
VIII. Ten Chicago Area Residents Charged in Bank Fraud Schemes Involving Counterfeit Postal Money Orders
On August 4, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, John R. Lausch, Jr., announced that at least 10 Chicago-area residents have been indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly scheming to cash counterfeit U.S. Postal Service money orders.
Charged with bank fraud are Nathan R. Chavis, 29, of Chicago, Ill.; Marvin L. Cole, 29, of Chicago Heights, Ill.; Reginald Russell, 29, of Glenwood, Ill.; Darius D. Goodwin, 26, of Country Club Hills, Ill.; Victor J. Johnsoin, 27, of Oak Forest, Ill.; Lance Brandon Cole, 27, of Richton Park, Ill.; Munang O. Ekoi, 26, of Lisle, Ill.; Sernard D. Gill, Jr., 26, of Matteson, Ill.; Armani M. Spencer-Sprattlin, 32, of Park Forest, Ill.; and Alexander S. Cocroft 28, of Country Club Hills, Ill.. Most of the defendants have made initial appearances in federal court in Chicago.
The defendants allegedly deposited the counterfeit USPS money orders into various bank accounts to which they had access and then quickly withdrew the funds before the banks learned of the fraudulent nature of the deposits, according to indictments returned July 28, 2021, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The defendants had purchased or caused to be purchased the money orders from post offices in amounts less than $10, so that the orders could then be altered to higher amounts – typically between $800 and $1,000 – before the deposits, the charges allege.
IX. Man Charged with Violent Crimes in Sequoia National Park
On August 5, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Phillip A. Talbert, announced that a federal grand jury had returned a four-count indictment against Marvin Joseph Chang, 33, of Monterey Park, charging him with assault with a dangerous weapon, brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, being a felon in possession of ammunition, and vandalism.
Chang is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition due to a prior felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon involving infliction of great bodily injury.
According to the indictment, on Feb. 19, 2021, within Sequoia National Park, Chang assaulted an individual with a firearm and brandished a semi-automatic 9 mm pistol. He also slashed the tire of a car in a parking lot inside the park. Chang subsequently was involved in a high-speed chase outside of the park that allegedly resulted in the shooting of a California Highway Patrol officer.