Last Updated Friday, February 12, 2021, at 6:12 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, February 12, 2021
I. Man Arrested for Allegedly Robbing Chicago Bank at Gunpoint
On February 8, 2021, a Chicago man was arrested for allegedly robbing a Chicago bank and holding a customer at gunpoint. Christopher Porter, 49, of Chicago, has been charged with one count of bank robbery for allegedly robbing a Fifth Third Bank branch, 3957 W. 26th St. in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Porter made an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez on February 5, 2021, where he waived his right to a detention hearing and was ordered to remain in federal custody. The arrest and complaint were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., who is United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige A. Nutini. According to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Porter entered the bank shortly after 5:00 p.m. and demanded that a teller place cash in a bag.
Porter then put a customer in a headlock, pointed a gun at the customer’s head, and repeatedly said he would shoot the customer if the teller did not comply with his demand, the complaint states.
The teller put cash in a bag and handed it to Porter, who fled the bank, the complaint states. The FBI arrested Porter later that evening in the parking lot of a Chicago apartment complex about four miles from the bank.
II. Iron Youth Member Charged with Unlawfully Possessing a Machine Gun
In San Antonio, on February 8, 2021, federal authorities filed a criminal complaint against an Iron Youth gang member who illegally possessed a machine gun. The charge was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff and Christopher Combs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Antonio Division.
Caleb Nathaniel Oliver, 19 oof Smiley, Texas, has been charged with one count of unlawful possession of a machine gun. If convicted, Oliver faces up to 10 years in prison. The criminal complaint alleges that on February 5, 2021, Oliver purchased a fully automatic machine gun from an undercover officer for $1,000.
According to the complaint, Oliver is a member of the group called Iron Youth, a racially motivated violent extremist group that advocates violence in the furtherance of its objectives. Beginning in September 2020, Oliver had several meetings with the undercover officer to discuss the purchase of the machine gun.
Oliver, who was arrested on Friday evening after exchanging money and taking possession of the machine gun, remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing expected later this week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth S. Chestney in San Antonio.
III. Former Phone Company Employee Charged For Role in Sim Swap Scam That Targeted At Least 19 Customers, Including New Orleans Resident
On February 8, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiansa Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that Stephen Daniel DeFiore, 36of Brandon, Florida, was charged in a one-count Bill of Information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1343, for his role in a SIM Swap scam that targeted at least 19 people, including a New Orleans-area physician.
DeFiore is the second member of the conspiracy to be charged. According to the Bill of Information, a SIM Swap scam is a cellular phone account takeover fraud that results in the routing of a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. Once a perpetrator can swap the SIM card, he is able to obtain access to a victim’s various personal accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, as well as any other accounts that use two-factor authentication.
From August 2017 until November 2018, DeFiore had access to the accounts of Phone Company A’s customers, including the ability to switch the subscriber identification module (SIM) card linked to a customer’s phone number to a different phone number. Between October 20, 2018, and November 9, 2018, DeFiore accepted multiple bribes, typically in the amount of approximately $500 per day, to perform SIM swaps of Phone Company A customers identified by a co-conspirator.
For each SIM swap, a co-conspirator sent DeFiore a customer’s phone number, a four-digit PIN, and a SIM card number to which the phone number was to be swapped. In total, DeFiore received approximately $2,325 in a series of twelve payments.
Among the individuals whose accounts DeFiore accessed was Victim A, a New Orleans resident, whose phone number was swapped on November 10, 2018, to a SIM card contained in an Apple iPhone 8 that was in the possession of Richard Li. Li was charged with his role in the offense in June 2020.
IV. Financial Analyst Charged With $1.4 Million SBA Fraud
A former financial analyst has been charged with defrauding the North Texas Business Alliance (NTBA) out of more than $1.4 million in rebate funds, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah. Last week, a federal grand jury charged Tammy Walden Thomas, 60, with nine counts of wire fraud. Ms. Thomas made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez on Monday.
According to the indictment, from March 2016 through October 2019, Ms. Thomas served as a financial analyst for NTBA, a cooperative association of hundreds of North Texas convenience stores and gasoline station owners that negotiated discounts with multinational food and beverage companies on behalf of its members.
As a financial analyst, Ms. Thomas was charged with passing these discounts, as like rebates, on to NTBA members via automatic clearinghouse transfers. However, she allegedly misdirected more than $1.4 million in rebate funds into her own bank accounts, lying to NTBA’s executives and accountants in the process.
V. Killeen Man Indicted for Discharging a Firearm on Fort Hood
In Waco today, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against 28-year-old former U.S. Army soldier Ricardo Manuele Davila-DeJesus for discharging a firearm while on Fort Hood over the weekend, stated U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.
The indictment charges Davila-DeJesus with aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. According to court documents, on February 6, 2021, the defendant became intoxicated and got into an argument with several individuals inside the barracks.
The argument continued outside when the defendant pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and discharged his firearm in the direction of a soldier who, fearing for his life, had retreated back into the barracks. Other individuals who were at the scene managed to subdue and disarm the defendant.
If convicted, Davila-DeJesus faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on February 11, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske in Waco.
VI. Florida Man Charged With Unlawfully Operating Drone In Restricted Airspace Near Super Bowl LV
On February 9, 2021, the U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced the filing of a criminal complaint charging Kevin Jonathan Canty, 33, West Palm Beach, with violating national defense airspace. If convicted, Canty faces up to one year in federal prison.
According to the complaint, on February 6, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a temporary flight restriction (TFR) covering an area extending outward from downtown Tampa. This TFR, along with others, was issued as part of a comprehensive security plan designed to protect and secure the events leading up to, and including, Super Bowl LV.
That day, FBI agents saw an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly referred to as a “drone,” flying near the USF Health CAMLS building—an area within the TFR. FBI agents later located Canty, the operator of the drone, nearby in downtown Tampa. Canty stated that he is an FAA-licensed remote pilot drone operator and that he was aware that a TFR was in place for the Super Bowl.
A review of his drone’s flight path showed that it had traveled through downtown Tampa, which was hosting public events related to the Super Bowl. Furthermore, according to the flight path, Canty had flown his drone over people and moving vehicles.
VII. Pennsylvania Man Indicted For Threatening To Murder Members Of The U.S. Senate
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has announced that Kenelm L. Shirk, age 71, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was indicted on February 3, 2021, by a federal grand jury for threatening to murder members of the United States Senate.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Shirk made threats to murder Democratic members of the United States Senate. On January 21, 2021, Shirk was stopped by the Pennsylvania State Police in his vehicle en route to Washington D.C. A search of Shirk’s vehicle recovered several firearms and a large amount of ammunition.
Shirk was then taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police and charged with making terroristic threats. Shirk made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on February 9, 2021, and pled not guilty to the federal charges. He was detained pending a trial that was scheduled for April 5, 2021.
VIII. Dominican National Charged with Identity Theft
A Dominican national was arrested on January 9, 2021, on charges of fraudulently using someone else’s Social Security number. Mariana Rosmely Aguasviva, 38, who previously resided in Lawrence, was indicted on one count of false representation of a Social Security number and one count of aggravated identity theft.
She was detained following an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell, pending a detention hearing scheduled for Feb. 12, 2021. According to the indictment, Aguasviva fraudulently used a Social Security number that was assigned to someone else in an application at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in 2016.
The case is the result of an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a specialized investigative group comprised of local, state, and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring, and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity, and benefit fraud schemes.
If convicted on the charge of false representation of a Social Security number, Aguasviva, faces up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of aggravated identity theft means she faces at least two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed, as well as up to one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
IX. Former Operator of Suburban Chicago Nightclub Charged With Underreporting Corporate Income Taxes
The former operator of a suburban Chicago nightclub has been charged in federal court with assisting in the preparation and submission of false corporate income tax returns for six years. Alicia Arnold, 51, of Las Vegas, Nevada, willfully assisted in the preparation and submission of false and fraudulent income tax returns for the calendar years 2012 to 2017 for Arnie’s Idle Hour, the nightclub Arnold operated in Harvey, Ill., according to a criminal information filed Feb. 5, 2021, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Each of the false tax returns substantially underreported the nightclub’s gross receipts and sales, the information states. Arnold, 51, of Las Vegas, Nev., and formerly of Homer Glen, Ill., pleaded not guilty today at her arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert. A status hearing has been set for March 3, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso.
The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Tamera D. Cantu, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office; and Thomas J. Dart, Cook County Sheriff.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grayson Walker and Maureen Merin.
X. Couple Behind “My Buddy Loans” Indicted for Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
Two Liberty County, Texas, people have been indicted for filing hundreds of fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications with the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the Eastern District of Texas. The charge was announced on February 11, 2021, by Acting U.S. Attorney fr for the Eastern District of Texas Nicholas J. Ganjei.
Clifton Pape, 45, and Sally Jung, 58, both of Cleveland, Texas, allegedly operated a COVID relief fraud scheme known as “My Buddy Loans,” that garnered them more than $700,000 in fraud proceeds and resulted in at least $1.3 million in loss to the United States.
Pape and Jung are charged by way of a federal indictment that charges conspiracy to commit telemarketing wire fraud victimizing ten or more persons over the age of fifty-five; and 2, aggravated identity theft and aiding and abetting.
According to court documents, Pape and Jung used Square’s credit and debit card processing service to charge third parties the fee. Pape and Jung completed at least 700 successful charges, obtaining at least $700,000 in fees. Pape and Jung then transferred the proceeds of the fraud scheme into a bank account they controlled.
Once, Pape used the fraud proceeds to pay a traffic ticket. On another occasion, Pape and Jung used more than $3600 from the fraud scheme to pay for a stay at a resort in San Antonio, Texas. A picture from that stay shows Pape and Jung celebrating over sparkling wine. Pursuant to a seizure warrant, agents seized the $505,535.04 in fraud proceeds remaining in the account.