Last Updated Friday, July 23, 2021, at 12:34 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, July 23, 2021

I. Sex Offender Indicted for Failing to Register as Sex Offender After Moving to Vermont

On July 19, 2021, the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Jonathan Ophardt, announced that Curtis Johnston, 38, pled not guilty today to a charge alleging that Johnston traveled in interstate commerce without updating his registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle ordered Johnston detained pending further proceedings. 

Previously, a federal grand jury in Burlington returned an indictment charging Johnston with violating SORNA. According to the indictment and court records, Johnston was convicted in Tennessee of aggravated statutory rape in 2012.  Johnston was accordingly required to register as a sex offender with officials of any state where he resided or to which he relocated.  

Under federal law, when a sex offender moves from one state to another, he has three days to update his registration as a sex offender.  Johnston allegedly relocated to Vermont in or about October 2020 but had not updated his registration to reflect his new residence as of July 2021.

Acting U.S. Attorney Ophardt emphasizes that the charge against Johnston is merely an accusation, and that Johnston is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. If he is convicted, Johnston faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

II. Bond Denied for West Palm Beach Man Charged with Federal Gun and Cocaine Trafficking Crimes

On July 16, 2021, 37- year-old Lazaro Alfredo Ramirez-Alvarado was ordered by a South Florida federal magistrate judge to enter pre-trial detention after finding that he presents a risk of flight and danger to the community if released.  Pursuant to that order, Ramirez-Alvarado will remain in jail without bond, pending his trial on charges of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and possession with intent to sell cocaine. 

Law enforcement arrested Ramirez-Alvarado on July 8, after an attempted sale.  In connection with the arrest, law enforcement seized more than 500 grams of cocaine, two firearms and a suitcase filled with over $870,000 cash.

According to allegations made in the criminal complaint against him, Ramirez-Alvarado sold cocaine to others between March and July 2021. DEA Miami and FBI Miami investigated the case, with assistance from Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam McMichael and Brian Ralston are prosecuting this case.

III. Registered Sex Offender Indicted on Attempted Enticement, Child Pornography Charges

In Rhode Island on July 19, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, Richard B. Myrus, announced the indictment of Nicholas Sannicandro, 31, of North Smithfield, who is a registered sex offender. Sannicandro, who allegedly posed as a 17-year-old during explicit Instagram communications with two young teenage boys living in Florida, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Providence on charges that he allegedly attempted to induce the boys to engage in illicit sexual activity and that he attempted to send the boys obscene materials. 

The grand jury returned the six-count indictment on July 16 charging Nicholas Sannicandro with two counts of attempted inducement of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity, two counts of attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor, one count of possession and access with intent to view child pornography, and offenses by a registered sex offender. 

According to court records, Sannicandro was convicted in 2011 in Massachusetts for possession of child pornography and was required to register as a sex offender. Subsequently, he was convicted twice in 2018 in Massachusetts for disseminating matter harmful to a minor.

IV. Correctional Officer, Two Inmates Among Five Charged in Scheme to Smuggle Contraband Into Wyatt Detention Center

On July 19, 2021. the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, Richard B. Myrus announced that a correctional officer at Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, as well as two detainees, had been charged via federal criminal complaints for their alleged participation in a scheme to smuggle Suboxone into the Central Falls facility.

According to court documents, in early and mid-February, two inmates housed at the Wyatt Detention Center, Emmanuel Nolasco, 34, and Matthew Pizarro, 32, communicated with former detainee Roosevelt Dale, 32, of Providence, and Yahaira Cristina Contreras, 29, also of Providence, to arrange to provide Suboxone strips to correctional officer Kaii Almeida-Falcones, 25, who then smuggled the Suboxone inside the facility. 

Dale had been released from the Wyatt in May 2020, after claiming he was at heightened risk to contract Covid-19. The court documents also allege that, on February 15, members of the Wyatt Detention Center Professional Standards Unit searched Nolasco’s cell and seized approximately 70 loose strips and a “brick” of 100 strips of Suboxone. 

Later that day, Almeida-Falcones was placed on paid leave and told by Wyatt Detention Center administrators not to return to the facility until advised to do so.

V. Four Charged In Multistate Pharmacy Burglary Conspiracy

United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced on July 19, 2021 that four men were indicted by a grand jury on federal charges for conspiring to distribute controlled substances and conspiring to break into pharmacies to steal controlled substances. 

According to the indictment, it is alleged that Keonta Anthony, 22, William Anthony, 24, Dajohn Davis, 22, and Donald Beauchamp, 33, broke into, and attempted to break into, pharmacies on at least 14 occasions in 2020 and 2021 in order to steal controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, and others.  The pharmacies were in Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, Iowa, and Minnesota.  All four defendants are from the Detroit metropolitan area. 

Each defendant is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, which means each faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000, as well as  conspiracy to commit burglary involving controlled substances, which means they face up to another 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

VI. Two Romanian Nationals Charged for Roles in International Online Auction Fraud Scheme

On July 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Bridget M. Brennan, made the announcement that two Romanian nationals were charged in a 12-count indictment related to their roles in an international criminal network, whose members engaged in a wide-ranging online auction fraud scheme that targeted victims in the Northern District of Ohio and elsewhere in the United States. 

According to the indictment, Costel Alecu, 37, of Bucharest, Romania, and Madalin Ghinea, 34, of Alexandria, Romania, are both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Both defendants were arrested by Romanian authorities in March 2021.

According to the indictment, it is alleged that beginning in July 2008 through August 2020, Alecu, Ghinea and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, devised a scheme to entice victims in the United States and elsewhere to purchase items online, including vehicles and other high-value items, that did not exist and to obtain the personal identifying information of their victims.  

As a result, the victims of the scheme suffered a combined loss of approximately $9 million USD.

VII. Hunter Army Airfield Contractor Charged with Lying to Investigators Re Violent Assault

A contractor at Hunter Army Airfield was indicted July 20, 2021 on three felony charges after Army investigators allege he falsely claimed to have been assaulted on post. Eric T. Nakamura, 49, of Beaufort, S.C., is charged with three counts of False Statement Made to a Department or Agency of the United States, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. 

If convicted, Nakamura face up to five years in prison, along with substantial financial penalties and up to five years of supervised release following any prison term.

The indictment alleges that on July 20, 2020, Nakamura falsely claimed to a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) special agent that Nakamura was “stabbed with a knife and robbed by an unknown person in an Army uniform with the name tape ‘Brown’ while in the lab in which he worked at Hunter Army Airfield. 

The indictment alleges that Nakamura repeated the claim in subsequent interviews with CID special agents on Oct. 14, 2020, and again Feb. 1, 2021, despite knowing “he had stabbed himself with a knife, and had not been robbed.”

VIII. Indictment Returned Against Five, Including South Bend Housing Authority Former Executive Director

On July 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, Tina L. Nommay, announced that five people have been charged via an 11-count indictment, including a former executive director of the South Bend Housing Authority and several others. 

The following people were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; 6 counts of bank fraud; and 2 counts of wire fraud: Tonya Robinson, 58; Albert Smith, 44; Tyreisha Robinson, 30; Archie Robinson III, 60; and Ronald Taylor, Jr, 42; all of South Bend. Tonya Robinson, Albert Smith, and Tyreisha Robinson were also charged with one count of federal program theft. Tyreisha Robinson was also charged with theft of government money.

According to court documents in this case, Tonya Robinson was the former Executive Director of the South Bend Housing Authority (HASB) from approximately 2014 to 2019. Albert Smith and Tyreisha Robinson are former employees at the HASB. Archie Robinson and Ronald Taylor are owners of contracting businesses hired by the HASB to do contracting work. 

The HASB provides housing opportunities and services to the South Bend community. In the process of fulfilling its mission, managing more than 800 public housing residential units,  the HASB had an annual contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, from which it receives several hundred thousand dollars annually.

IX. Airline Passengers Charged with Interfering with Flight Crew and Assaulting Passengers

Kelly Pichardo, 31, of Bronx, New York, appeared virtually today in federal court on charges that she interfered with a flight crew member and committed simple assault. Leeza S. Rodriguez, 30, also of Bronx, New York is scheduled to appear next week on the same charges. Pichardo and Rodriguez were previously indicted by a grand jury on three counts related to events that took place in February 2021.

The indictment alleges that on February 24, Pichardo and Rodriguez, while on board an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Los Angeles, interfered with the ability of the flight crew to perform their duties by assaulting a crew member. The indictment also alleges that Pichardo and Rodriguez each assaulted a passenger during the flight. 

Pichardo’s and Rodriguez’s actions compelled the flight crew to conduct an unscheduled landing in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a violation of federal law on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States to interfere with flight crew members in the performance of their duties or to lessen their ability to perform those duties by assault or intimidation. Both defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

X. Two Texans Charged with Smuggling 89 in Trailer

On July 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Jennifer B. Lowery, announced that a Houston-area man and woman will appear in Laredo federal court July 22 on allegations they attempted to smuggle undocumented aliens. Marc Anthony Bane, 45, Porter, and Tara Renee Dillon, 33, Conroe, will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Dos Santos later in the day.

According to the charges, Bane and Dillon arrived at the Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint on Interstate Highway 35 approximately 29 miles north of Laredo in a tractor-trailer, where a service K-9 allegedly detected an odor within the trailer. The charges allege law enforcement then searched the vehicle and found 89 undocumented non-U.S. citizens. 

All 89 individuals were sweating profusely inside the warm trailer even though it was approximately 3 a.m. when authorities found them. Bane allegedly expected to be paid $1,000 for transporting the trailer. If convicted, both Bane and Dillon face up to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.