Last Updated Friday, January 08, 2021, at 2:21 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, January 08, 2021

I. Albuquerque woman charged with armed robbery and mail theft

On December 30, 2020, Cecilia Ann Gillespie, 31, of Albuquerque, was charged in federal court with robbery, brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, mail theft, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. A detention hearing was immediately scheduled for Jan. 4.

According to the complaint, on Oct. 13, a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) letter carrier was robbed at gunpoint at an apartment complex in Albuquerque. The suspects took mail keys and several pieces of U.S. Mail. On Nov. 23, another USPS letter carrier was robbed at gunpoint of two trays of mail in mail-in Albuquerque. In both instances, the suspects allegedly fled in a white Dodge Avenger. 

A criminal complaint alleges that the vehicle used in the crimes belongs to Gillespie and that Gillespie was the driver in both armed robberies. On Dec. 11, U.S. Postal Inspectors located the white Dodge Avenger and allegedly observed Gillespie getting into the car. 

On Dec. 11, Postal Inspectors, Homeland Security Investigations, and the New Mexico State Police conducted a search of the residence where the vehicle had been located. Inspectors found stolen mail, including stolen checks, both opened and unopened. Gillespie was one of the occupants on the lease. 

If convicted, Gillespie faces at least seven years and up to 25 years in prison.

II. Convicted Felon Charged with Illegal Possession of Firearm

On December 31, 2020, a Fitchburg man was charged with being a felon in possession of a 10 mm Glock pistol. Joel Polanco, 32, was charged by with a criminal complaint with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Polanco is currently in state custody and will make an initial appearance in federal court at a later date.

On Oct. 24, 2020, Polanco was arrested after police responded to a Fitchburg address following a report of a person who was shot in the leg. A witness reported seeing someone fitting Polanco’s description shoot the victim. Also, there were surveillance videos showing a person fitting Polanco’s description carrying what appeared to be the black fanny-pack and holding an item in his hand that appeared to be a gun. 

According to the charging documents, Polanco shot the victim using a 10 mm Glock pistol that was later recovered from a black fanny-pack in the area of Snow Street. Polanco is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a March 2011 conviction in Worcester federal court of being a felon in possession of ammunition and distribution of cocaine base. 

If convicted, Polanco faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and, a fine of $250,000.

III. Former Office Manager of Suburban Construction Company Charged With Fraud for Allegedly Embezzling More Than $2.3 Million in Company Funds

On January 4, 2021, the former office manager of a southwest Chicago suburban construction company was charged with fraud for allegedly embezzling more than $2.3 million in company funds. Mildred H. Crowley fraudulently opened a corporate credit card and used it to charge the Lemont-based company for personal expenses, according to a criminal information filed Dec. 29, 2020, in U.S. District in Chicago. 

According to the information announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Crowley’s personal expenses included payments related to a private horse farm and horse show, as well as restaurant meals, department store purchases, and travel throughout the United States, the information states.  

Crowley concealed the thefts by falsifying the company’s books and records to misrepresent her unauthorized use of the corporate card, the information states.  The alleged fraud scheme spanned from 2009 to 2020. The information charges Crowley, 72, of Bourbonnais, Ill., with one count of wire fraud. An arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been scheduled.

IV. Florida Man Charged With Possession Of Credit Card Manufacturing Equipment, Producing Counterfeit Credit Cards

On January 4, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District f Illinois Maria Chapa Lopez announced an indictment charging Eugene Stephan Cole, 30, of Tampa, with possession of credit card manufacturing equipment and producing counterfeit credit cards.  The indictment also notifies Cole that the United States intends to forfeit various items of equipment and computer media used by Cole to produce counterfeit credit cards. Cole was arraigned in federal court the same day in Jacksonville, and his trial is set for March 1, 2021.  

According to the indictment, on March 4, 2020, Cole possessed items related to his manufacturing of counterfeit credit cards, including a credit card encoder/recoder recorder, a card embosser, an Apple iPad, and multiple Apple iPhones. If convicted on both counts, Cole faces up to 25 years in federal prison and payment of restitution to the victims that he defrauded.

V. Three Inmates indicted on assault and contraband charges

Three inmates at Federal Correction Institution Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, were indicted on January 5, 2021, on various charges. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia Bill Powell made the announcement.

According to the indictment, Edward Smith, 38, was charged with one count of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon with Intent to do Bodily Harm as a result of Smith’s assault on another inmate in October 2019. Also, Dell Dingle, 44, was indicted on one count of Assault of a Correctional Officer Involving Physical Contact and one count of Possession of a Prohibited Object (Narcotic) as a result of Dingle is accused of attacking a federal correctional officer during the officer’s workday in May 2019. 

Dingle is also accused of having suboxone inside the prison in October 2019. Sebastian M. Moore, 23, was indicted on one count of Assault of a Correctional Officer Involving Physical Contact. Moore is accused of assaulting a federal correctional officer while the officer was on duty in March 2020.  

If convicted, Smith faces up to eight years in prison and up to $250,000  for the assault charge and up to 25 years and up to $250,000 for the drug charge. Moore faces up to eight years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

VI. Two Florida Men Charged with Stealing Campers,  Attempting to Transport Them Across State Lines

Two Florida men were indicted on January 5, 2021, on charges involving the stealing of campers from a business in Elkins, West Virginia; U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced the charges on January 5, 2021. Taylon Batista Garcia, 35, and Yankier Gaston Garcia, 32, are each charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Offense against the United States and one count of Attempted Transportation of Stolen Property in Interstate Commerce. 

Both men are accused of driving heavy-duty pickup trucks into Elkins, West Virginia, and stealing a 2020 Jayco North Point Camper and a 2021 Grand Design Reflection camper from Roy’s RV Supercenter in July 2020. The Garcias are also accused of attempting to transport the stolen campers, each valued at $145,260, across state lines. 

According to the indictment, the theft at Roy’s RV involved four campers being hauled by four different trucks. Two other stolen 2020 Keystone Passport model campers were later recovered the same day just off Interstate 77 in Odd, West Virginia. The identities of the drivers of the other two trucks are still being investigated. 

If convicted, both Garcias each face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy charge, and each face up to 10 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for the stolen property charge.

VII. Couple Charged with Selling Turtles in Violation of the Lacey Act

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that Vincent Felix Rivere, 47, and Megan Lynn Shoemaker, 35, former residents of Springfield, Louisiana, were charged on December 30, 2020, in a bill of information with selling Louisiana box turtles on July 13, 2017.

If convicted, they face a term of at least five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000.00, and a: mandatory special assessment of $100.00.

VIII. Suburban Chicago Businessman Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud

On January 7, 2021, a suburban Chicago businessman was indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining more than $420,000 in small business loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Carlos Smith, 56, of Park Forest, Ill., allegedly engaged in fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), two sources of relief under the CARES Act.  

Smith was charged in an indictment unsealed January 5, 2021, in the Northern District of Illinois with two counts of wire fraud, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, and one count of money laundering.  Arraignment is set for Jan. 14, 2021, at 11:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Manish S. Shah. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. 

According to the indictment, Smith applied for and obtained $270,000 in PPP funds for CLS Financial Services Inc., an Indiana-based company that he owned.  In his loan application, Smith stated that the company had 61 employees and an average monthly payroll of $108,000; even though Smith knew the company had no actual employees and no payroll expenses, the indictment states.  

Smith also fraudulently represented in the application that he was not convicted of a felony criminal offense within the last five years, even though he knew he had been convicted of such an offense, the indictment states.

Smith similarly obtained $151,900 in EIDL loans by stating in the application that his company had two employees and $1.8 million in gross revenue last year, even though he knew the company had no such employees or revenue.

IX. Massachusetts Police Officer, Chinese National Charged with Violations of National Firearms Act

On January 6, 2021, a Tyngsborough police officer and a Chinese national were arrested today and charged with firearms violations. Daniel Whitman, 36, of Pelham, N.H., and Bin Lu, 49, a Chinese national residing in Westford, were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to violate provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) by making, possessing, and failing to register short-barreled rifles, as well as possessing a suppressor without proper registration. 

The defendants will make initial appearances today in federal court in Boston. According to the charging documents, Whitman is currently a full-time police officer with the Tyngsborough Police Department and the owner and principal manager of Hitman Firearms, LLC, a retail gun shop in Tyngsborough. 

Whitman maintains a Type 01 Federal Firearms License (FFL), which allows for buying, selling, transferring, and gunsmithing (i.e., servicing of firearms) but does not permit the manufacturing of any type of firearms. Lu is listed on the FFL as a manager of Hitman Firearms and is also an investor in the store. Lu and Whitman allegedly sought to build a large indoor shooting range, Freedom Alley Shooting Sports (FASS), which would serve regional and international customers, and offer shooting clinics and other services using funding from Chinese investors. 

On several occasions, Lu and Whitman did run firearms training camps, consisting of shooting and tactics trainings, for Chinese tourists. Providing such trainings to foreign nationals requires a license from the U.S. Department of State, which Whitman and Lu never applied for nor received.

X. Wisconsin Psychiatrist and Nurse Indicted for Unlawful Distribution of Controlled Substances

On January 5, 2021, Matthew D. Krueger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that a federal grand jury had indicted John D. Whelan, 74, a psychiatrist, and Tina Montezon, 58, a licensed nurse, both of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for conspiring to distribute controlled substances, including Buprenorphine, Ritalin, Xanax, and Adderall outside the course of a professional medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.

According to the indictment, Whelan and Montezon are also charged with maintaining a drug-involved premises and making false statements to federal agents.  If convicted, Whelan and Montezon face up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, a fine if of up to $1,000,000, and a $100 Special Assessment. 

The indictment alleges that defendants prescribed controlled substances outside the course of professional medical practice from a residence located on Clinton Street in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Defendants gave those prescriptions from the residence on Saturdays in exchange for $200 to $300 per prescription.