Last Updated Friday, January 29, 2021, at 11:05 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, January 29, 2021

I. Bakersfield Man Indicted for Laser Strikes on Sheriff Helicopter

On January 25, 2021, Andrew Nathan Hernandez, 18, of Bakersfield, was arrested for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, McGregor W. Scott, announced the charges. 

According to court documents, on Dec. 26, 2020, Hernandez aimed the beam of a laser pointer at the Kern County Sheriff’s helicopter Air-1. Hernandez was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on Jan. 26. This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bakersfield Police Department. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Escobar is prosecuting the case. If convicted, Hernandez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

II. Three in West Palm Beach Charged with Conspiring to Distribute Crystal Meth

On January 25, 2021, federal prosecutors in West Palm Beach charged three defendants with conspiring to distribute over 30 pounds of crystal meth.  The three defendants are Mexican nationals, and two of them made their initial appearances that same day in federal magistrate court in West Palm Beach. 

The third defendant made his initial appearance on January 22, before a federal magistrate judge in Wisconsin, where he was arrested. The criminal complaint affidavits filed in federal court allege that Armando Arizmendi-Garcia, 24, Bianey Gonzalez-Arizmendi, 28, and Oscar Daniel Martinez-Nunez, 21, conspired to move methamphetamine from Atlanta, Georgia, for distribution in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

The plan was interrupted on January 22, 2021, when Arizmendi-Garcia and Gonzalez-Arizmendi delivered over 30 pounds of crystal methamphetamine to an undercover officer, say the affidavits. Arizmendi-Garcia and Gonzalez-Arizmendi were arrested on January 22 in West Palm Beach. The third man charged, Martinez-Nunez, was arrested the same day close to Madison, Wisconsin. 

According to the charges, Martinez-Nunez was responsible for coordinating the drug delivery. If convicted, each defendant faces between 10 years and life in prison.

III. Stowe, VT Resident Charged Federally in Arson Case

On January 25, 2021, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Jeffrey M. Nolan, 62, was arrested by federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on Friday, January 22, 2021, at his home in Stowe, Vermont.  

He has been charged by a criminal complaint in Stowe federal court with the malicious damage or destruction, by means of fire, of property used in or affecting interstate commerce.  Nolan made his initial appearance in court on the complaint on Monday, January 25, 2021, where the Court ordered Nolan detained pending further proceedings.

According to the STF affidavit stated that, over the course of more than five years, a series of fires occurred in the Town of Stowe that resulted in millions of dollars of damages to structures, displaced several people from their jobs, and endangered the lives of residents, including first responders.  

Local, state, and federal investigators worked together to investigate the individual or individuals responsible for setting the fires and creating an atmosphere of anxiety for the residents of Stowe.  Following a fire at the Stowe Cable Systems building on Thomas Lane on January 7, 2021 — the second fire at that specific building in five months — investigators circulated security footage in the community and received multiple tips about the individual seen setting the fire.  

On January 12, 2021, investigators obtained a state search warrant for Nolan’s residence and interviewed him about his potential involvement in that and other fires.  The detectives interviewing Nolan reported that he admitted to having set the January 7 fire and to having and also having set at least seven other fires dating back to March 2019.  

Nolan was arrested by state law enforcement authorities that day.  He was charged in Vermont Superior Court in Lamoille County with various arson-related felonies on January 13, 2021, and was released by the court.

IV. Convicted Felon Charged With Possessing A Sawed-Off Shotgun

On January 25, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez announced the return of a two-count indictment charging Brandon Barnes, 29, of Lecanto, with possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon and possessing a sawed-off shotgun, which is an unregistered National Firearms Act weapon. 

If convicted, Barnes faces up to 10 years in federal prison for each count. The indictment also notifies Barnes that the federal government intends to force him to forfeit the firearm and ammunition. Barnes is a five-time convicted felon for fraud and illegal drug possession. As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law.

According to court documents, on June 10, 2020, a state search warrant was executed at a Citrus County residence known for illegal drug sales. Barnes was found at the residence with a loaded, sawed-off shotgun on his bed. 

The shotgun had an overall length of less fewer than 26 inches, making it subject to registration in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. The gun had not been registered.

V. Three Indicted For Firearms Trafficking

On January 20, 2021, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Carlos Osorio-Pérez, Luz Damaris Pérez-Velázquez, and Onyx Yerielle Olivera-Rivera in a conspiracy to obtain firearms in Florida and sell them in Puerto Rico, all without a license. 

Members of the conspiracy would mail firearms from Florida to Puerto Rico and send thousands of dollars from Puerto Rico to Florida. The annpuncement announcement of the charges was made on January 26, 2021, by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow. The ATF is in charge of the investigation of the case.

According to the indictment, the conspiracy has been ongoing since June 2019.  In the past three months, Mr. Osorio Pérez purchased over twenty-five AR-15 type pistols in Florida. Three packages sent via Priority Mail on December 14 and 15, 2020, from Florida to Puerto Rico contained eleven firearms. 

Mr. Osorio-Pérez sent messages such as “Puedo dejarte los palos en 950” (I can give you the long guns for $950). Another message read: “Un duro necesita 3 cosas” “Dinero armamento y gente”; “Y somos algo necesario.” (A tough guy needs three things, money, weapons, and people. We are needed).

VI. Two Ohio Men Charged with Intent to Distribute THC Vape Cartridges and Psilocin

Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan announced today that a four-count indictment charging Gage Predojev, 22, and Justin Duma, also 22, both of Akron, with drug trafficking and firearm offenses was unsealed following the arrest of the defendants. Predojev was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances (THC) and one count of felons in possession of a firearm. 

Justin Duma was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances (psilocin) and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

According to the indictment, in September 2019, it is alleged that defendant Predojev drove from Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio, with approximately 10,000 THC vape cartridges in his vehicle. Defendant Predojev allegedly intended to distribute the vape cartridges in the Northern District of Ohio. 

In October 2019, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the Akron-area residence of the defendants and seized various controlled substances, including THC vape cartridges and 400+ grams of psychedelic mushrooms (psilocin); several firearms and ammunition; and $18,432.00 in cash. 

Defendant Predojev is prohibited from owning a firearm due to previous convictions of drug trafficking in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.

VII. Texas Man Charged with Coercing Minor to Engage in Sexual Conduct

Timothy Lee Tyler, 42, a former resident of Conroe, Texas, is set to appear in federal court on charges of sexual exploitation of children as well as distributing, receiving, and possessing child pornography. The charges were announced on January 26, 2021, by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of  Texas, Ryan K. Patrick.  

Tyler appeared on Jan. 26, 2021, at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy. The indictment, which was returned on Jan. 13, alleges that in 2016 Tyler did or attempted to employ, use, persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of it. 

On various dates in September 2020, Tyler also allegedly distributed, received, and possessed material containing child pornography.

VIII. Former Media Producer Indicted on Charges of Extortion and Obstruction of Justice

On January 27, 2021, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment charging a former media producer with extortion and obstruction of justice during a federal investigation in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sixto Jorge Díaz Colón, 52, of San Juan, was charged with three counts of extortion and obstruction of justice related to his involvement in a scheme linked to the disclosure of Telegram chat messages during the summer of 2019 and his subsequent actions during the investigation of the allegations by the FBI.

According to the indictment, Díaz Colón attempted to extort a public official in the Government of Puerto Rico on June 20, 2019.  Díaz Colón attempted to secure a $300,000 payment and other things of value from the official in exchange for the assurance that certain Telegram messages containing damaging information about various public officials in the government would not be disclosed publicly. 

When approached by the FBI on July 26, 2019, Díaz Colón is alleged to have deleted Telegram messages containing information about his involvement in the scheme before surrendering his cellular telephone to the authorities.

IX. Federal Indictment of Chicago Man Charges Carjacking, Robbery and Firearm Offenses

On January 26, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted a Chicago man on carjacking and firearm charges for allegedly violently taking vehicles in Chicago and Cicero and attempting to steal another in Oak Park. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with several law enforcement officials. 

According to the seven-count indictment, Jaheim Henyard, 19, stole a Dodge Charger from an Uber Eats driver in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2020, and a Kia Optima Hybrid LX from a victim in Cicero on Aug. 20, 2020.  Henyard also allegedly attempted to steal a Mercedes GLC 300 by brandishing a firearm at a victim in Oak Park on July 17, 2020 but was unsuccessful. 

The indictment also accuses Henyard and two others – Darius Young and Xavier Tate – of participating in the robbery of a UPS truck in Oak Park on Aug. 21, 2020.  During the robbery, the UPS driver was ordered to lay face down in the street while the offenders removed boxes from the truck and drove off. 

The indictment charges Henyard with two counts of carjacking, two counts of robbery, one count of attempted carjacking, and one count of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.  Young, 25, of Berwyn, and Tate, 23, of Chicago, are charged with robbery.  

Tate also faces a firearm count for allegedly illegally possessing a semiautomatic handgun in Chicago on the same day as the UPS heist. Arraignments in Chicago federal court have not yet been scheduled. 

If convicted, Henyard faces up to 15 years in prison for each carjacking count, although the charge for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence carries at least seven years and up to life in prison, which must be served consecutively, after the underlying carjacking offense.

X. Investment Manager Detained in Indonesia, Returned to Chicago to Face Federal Fraud Charges

On January 28, 2021, a Chicago investment manager who fled the country after being charged in a fraud scheme has been returned to the United States from Indonesia. Then manager, Marcus Beam, was indicted in January 2020 on charges he fraudulently obtained money from women he met online.  The charges and extradition were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, along with several law enforcement officials. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Stern. According to the indictment, Beam falsely claimed to the women and other investors that their funds would be invested in stocks such as Uber and Lyft.  Beam instead spent the money for his own personal benefit, including rent, auto loans, and retail purchases, resulting in a loss to investors of at least $500,000, the indictment alleges.

Beam, 50, of Woodridge, fled the United States after being released on bond in January 2020.  The U.S. Marshals Service located Beam in Bali, Indonesia, and he was detained there in July 2020 on an INTERPOL Red Notice by the Indonesia National Police, National Central Bureau, and INTERPOL.  On Jan. 27, 2021, Beam was deported from Indonesia and returned in custody to Chicago.  

He pleaded not guilty to ten counts of wire fraud and mail fraud during his arraignment Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather K. McShain in Chicago.