Last Updated Friday, February 26, 2021, at 11:33 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.

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, February 26, 2021

I. South Dakota Man Charged with Assaulting a Federal Officer

On February 22, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Ron Parsons announced that a Fort Thompson, South Dakota, a man has had been indicted by a federal grand jury for Assaulting, Resisting, Opposing, and Impeding a Federal Officer. Warren Dion, 22, was indicted on November 10, 2020.  

He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on February 18, 2021, and pled pleaded not guilty to the Indictment. If convicted, Dion faces up to 20 years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Restitution may also be ordered.

The Indictment alleges that on October 18, 2020, in Fort Thompson, Dion forcefully resisted a federal officer, who was engaged in the performance of his official duties in a manner that involved physical contact.  The indictment further alleges that the officer suffered bodily injury as a result of the incident.

II. Oyster Company, Dozen People Indicted for Illegally Harvesting Raw Oysters

On February 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Bay Fresh Oyster Company, Inc. (BFO), a Cameron Parish company, and 12 individuals with illegal harvesting and selling raw oysters in violation of the Lacey Act.

The indictment alleges that from approximately March 1, 2019, through May 5, 2019, BFO and the 12 named co-defendants listed above (“Defendants”) conspired to harvest raw oysters from Calcasieu Lake in violation of Louisiana law and knowingly made and submitted and caused to be submitted, false records for those harvested oysters that were intended to be transported in interstate commerce.  

According to the indictment, BFO and 12 Defendants knowingly engaged in conduct that involved the sale and purchase of oysters knowing that they had been taken in violation of the laws and regulations of Louisiana. 

The indictment further alleges that oysters were not reported as required; oysters were harvested in amounts in excess of those authorized by state law to be harvested; oysters were harvested during illegal harvesting hours; oysters were not refrigerated within the required time by state law; oysters were harvested by those who failed to possess a valid Calcasieu Lake Harvest Permit or whose permit had been revoked; oysters were falsely reported as being harvested by those with valid permits; and oysters were harvested from areas closed to oyster harvesting.

III. Federal Indictment Charges Suburban Chicago Man with Trafficking Fentanyl, Illegal Possession of Loaded Guns

On February 23, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted a suburban Chicago man for allegedly trafficking fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin and illegally possessing loaded handguns. The 12-count indictment was returned in federal court in Chicago on Feb. 23 and charges charged Dennia German, 34, of Robbins, Ill., with using the firearms in furtherance of his drug-trafficking activities in 2019 and 2020.  

The indictment also accuses German of conspiring with two others – Nicole Schmidt, 34, of Midlothian, Ill., and John P. Siewert, 40, of Orland Park, Ill. – to traffic cocaine and heroin in Robbins last year.  A fourth defendant – Marcus Washington, 23, of Markham, Ill. – is charged in the indictment with trafficking cocaine and illegally possessing a loaded handgun in Robbins in 2019. 

German, Seiwert, and Washington are in law enforcement custody, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Schmidt, and arraignments for German and Washington are set for March 2, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly, while arraignment for Seiwert is set for March 5, 2021, before Judge Kennelly. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and several law enforcement officials.

The charges in the indictment include the following:

 German is charged with two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; four counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver; one count of maintaining a residence for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance; two counts of illegal possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon; and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

➤ Schmidt is charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

➤ Seiwert is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

➤ Washington is charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and one count of illegal possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon.

IV. Massachusetts Man Indicted on Charge of Murder-for-Hire

On February 23, 2021, a Malden, MA man was indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with his attempt to hire a contract killer – who was actually an undercover federal agent – to murder his wife. Massimo Marenghi, 54, was indicted on one count of murder-for-hire. Marenghi was charged by with criminal complaint and arrested in January 2021. After a detention hearing on Feb. 10, 2021, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal ordered Marenghi detained pending trial.

According to charging documents, an individual reported to law enforcement that Marenghi had complained about his wife seeking a restraining order against him. Marenghi allegedly asked the individual for assistance in killing his wife. At the direction of federal agents, the individual introduced Marenghi to an undercover agent who posed as a contract killer. On Jan. 20, 2021, Marenghi met with the undercover agent and allegedly sought help to “eliminate” his problem. Marenghi provided the undercover agent with a photograph of his wife’s residence and explained how to evade detection by cameras while approaching the residence. 

The indictment also alleges that on Jan. 29, 2021, Marenghi again met with the undercover agent and discussed moving forward with the killing of his wife. Marenghi provided $1,500 cash as a deposit for the murder and explained that the sooner the “demolition job” takes place, the sooner he will be able to pay the balance owed. 

He also allegedly provided the undercover agent with a photograph of his wife, the hours of operation of her place of business and a schedule indicating the he would have custody of his children, which he said would be the “best time for the construction work to start.” If convicted on the charge of murder-for-hire, Marenghi faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

V. Six Foreign Nationals, Maryland Bank Employee Face Indictment on Scheme to Defraud Financial Firms

On February 23, 2021, a Maryland federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging six foreign nationals and a bank employee for a bank fraud scheme in which the defendants and their co-conspirators obtained or attempted to obtain more than $700,000.  The defendants, Diape Seck, 27, of Rockville, Maryland; Nicolae Gindac, 52, of Dania Beach, Florida; Mateus Vaduva a/k/a “Romi”, “Romi,” 28; Marius Vaduva, 26; Marian Unguru, 36; Daniel Velcu, 43; and Vali Unguru, age 18, all of Baltimore, are charged with a federal bank fraud and wire fraud conspiracy.  

The superseding indictment was returned on February 17, 2021, and was unsealed in part at Diape Seck’s initial appearance on February 22, 2021. The superseding indictment was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner, and several law enforcement officials. 

According to the superseding indictment and other court documents, from June 2018 to January 2021, conspirators fraudulently opened bank accounts at victim financial institutions.  The conspirators stole checks from the incoming and outgoing mail of churches and other religious institutions, then deposited the stolen checks into the fraudulently opened bank accounts.  

The conspirators then allegedly withdrew the funds and spent the fraudulently obtained proceeds.

VI. Cleveland City Council Member Arrested, Charged with Federal Program Theft

The Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Bridget M. Brennan, announced February 23, 2021, that sitting Cleveland City Council member Kenneth Johnson, 74, was arrested by law enforcement agents, including the Cleveland Division of the FBI, after a federal grand jury handed down a fifteen-count indictment charging Johnson with violations related to federal program theft. Two additional defendants were also charged in the indictment.

The indictment charges Johnson with two counts of conspiracy to commit federal program theft; six counts of federal program theft; five counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns; one count of tampering with a witness, and one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation. Defendant Johnson was elected to serve as a Ward 4 Councilperson for the city of Cleveland. 

Defendant Garnell Jamison, 61, of Cleveland, is also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program theft; two counts of federal program theft; five counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns; one count of tampering with a witness and one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation. Jamison worked for the city of Cleveland as Johnson’s Executive Assistant, a position he held for over two decades.

VII. Federal officer charged with helping undocumented nanny into the country

On February 24, 2021, a 40-year-old CBP officer from Laredo, Rhonda Lee Walker, was charged and set to appear in federal court on charges of conspiring to transport an illegal alien and making false statements. The charge was announced on  Feb. 23 by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Ryan K. Patrick. She appeared later that same day at a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Dos Santos.

According to the criminal complaint, it is alleged that on Jan. 2, 2021, Walker used her official position to assist a foreign national into the country. According to the charges, Walker improperly used another officer’s computer login information to help the Mexican woman to enter the United States through the Laredo Port of Entry.  The woman allegedly had no legal status to reside or work in the United States, but Walker allegedly intended for the woman to illegally enter the country and work for her as a housekeeper and nanny. 

The charges also allege that she had sent money to the woman in Mexico to facilitate her arrival. Walker also allegedly falsely claimed the woman was her aunt and denied ever sending her money. If convicted, Walker faces up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy or knowingly transporting undocumented aliens, and she also faces up to five years for knowingly making a materially false statement.

VII. Ohio Deputy Charged with Federal Child Pornography Crimes

A Franklin County corrections officer was charged on February 24, 2021, with advertising for and receiving child pornography. Daniel P. Heintz, 38, of Columbus, Ohio, turned himself in that morning and appeared in federal court for an initial appearance that afternoon.

According to court documents, authorities were alerted to messages sent by Heintz on Kik Messenger in mid-August 2020, where he allegedly discussed with an Illinois man their mutual sexual interest for children and exchanged images of themselves and of pornography, including child pornography. It is alleged that Heintz received sexually explicit videos from the man of a girl 13 to 15 years old. 

On Feb. 11, law enforcement officials executed search warrants at Heintz’s residence and of his person at his place of employment, the Franklin County Correctional Center on S. Front Street. A forensic examination of his electronics revealed what is alleged to be several hundred images of prepubescent minors, some as young as toddler age, engaged in explicit sexual conduct and being sexually abused.

VIII. Pennsylvania Man Indicted for Distributing Child Porn

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Kenneth Persise, 32, of Nesquehoning, PA had been indicted on February 23, 2021, by a federal grand jury for distribution of child pornography. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that on February 26, 2020, March 4, 2020, and June 14, 2020, in Carbon County, PA, Persise distributed visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenny P. Roberts is prosecuting the case, which 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 individuals who sexually exploit children and to identify and rescue victims.  

If convicted, Persise faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine, and a term of supervised release following imprisonment.

IX. IRS Employee Charged with Tax Fraud

Linda Williams, 52, of Memphis, Tennessee, who is an IRS tax examiner, was indicted on February 25, 2021, for defrauding the IRS by filing false tax returns for various taxpayers in the Memphis area. Williams claimed over $500,000 in false deductions for these citizens. Many of these citizens were unaware of the false deductions discovered on their tax returns. D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney, announced the indictment today.

According to the indictment, from 2015 to 2017, Williams executed a scheme to prepare and file false tax returns for friends and family members. The tax returns contained false deductions to inflate taxpayers’ refunds. Specifically, these deductions were pertaining to medical expenses, charitable contributions, and business expenses.

Williams would then take a portion from the refunds and transfer the funds to her personal bank account. Williams was indicted for filing (10) false tax returns. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. There is no parole in the federal system.