Last Updated Friday, July 30, 2021, at 3:23 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.
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FRIDAY, July 30, 2021
I. New York Man Charged with Failing to Pay Over Payroll Taxes
On July 26, 2021, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes, announced that a man from Stony Point, New York, Asher Wagh, 45, had been charged in federal district court with ten counts of Failure to Withhold, Properly Account For, and Pay Over withheld payroll taxes.
Wagh appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann on July 21, 2021, where he pled not guilty to the charges. If he is convicted, however, he faces up to five years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release, and a $100 assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.
The charges are related to Wagh’s tenure as a co-owner of Captech International LLC. Between 2015 and 2017, Wagh would collect payroll taxes from employees but willingly failed to pay over those collected taxes to the IRS.
II. Philly Man Arrested on Murder-For-Hire Charges; Southwest Philadelphia Homicide Thwarted
In a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on July 26, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Arbittier Williams, announced that Darnell Jackson, a/k/a “Major Change,” 47, of Philadelphia, had been arrested and charged by Criminal Complaint on federal charges of murder-for-hire and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.
According to publicly filed court documents unsealed July 26, the defendant allegedly orchestrated a murder-for-hire plot which stemmed from an ongoing state drug trafficking investigation.
One week ago on Monday, July 19, 2021, and in the days immediately following, Jackson allegedly communicated with an individual via cell phone calls and text messages to arrange the killing of a different individual (the intended victim), sending a photo of the intended victim and indicating that he was willing to pay $5,000 to someone to commit the murder.
Jackson also allegedly mentioned to the individual that he was interested in locating the close friends of the intended victim so that they could be harmed as well. Once the individual reported to the defendant that he had located the intended victim, they allegedly agreed that the killing would occur on the evening of Wednesday, July 21st. That same evening, the individual called Jackson to report that the intended victim had been killed, which turned out to be false.
However, the defendant allegedly replied that he was on his way to meet the individual to pay him for his services. A few minutes later, Jackson was stopped by law enforcement while driving a vehicle in Southwest Philadelphia, and he was allegedly found in possession of a Glock-style Personally Manufactured Firearm (known as a “ghost gun”) loaded with 16 live rounds of ammunition, and nowhere near the amount of $5,000.
The defendant was immediately arrested and taken into custody pursuant to the Criminal Complaint; he made his initial appearance in federal court on Friday, July 23, and will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Perkin for a detention hearing on August 3.
III. New Jersey Man Charged with Drug, Weapons Offenses
On July 26, 2021, a New Jersey man from Burlington County made his initial appearance after he had been charged with trafficking over three kilograms of methamphetamine and illegally possessing unregistered firearms as a previously convicted felon. The Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig announced the arrest and the charges.
Nicholas Layton, 41, of Mount Holly, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of meth, as well as one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more methamphetamine, three counts of unlawful possession of unregistered firearms and one count of possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Court, in December 2018, Layton and an unnamed conspirator were driving separate vehicles from Arizona back to New Jersey. Both vehicles were the subject of a motor vehicle stop in Crawford County, Arkansas.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the conspirator’s vehicle contained four wrapped bundles of suspected narcotics, later confirmed to be approximately three kilos of meth.
IV. Two Chicago-Area Physicians Indicted on Narcotics, Health Care Fraud Charges
On July 27, 2021, two suburban Chicago physicians were indicted on federal criminal charges for allegedly prescribing opioids to individuals who lacked a legitimate medical need for the drugs. Stanley David Demorest managed Demorest Consultants LLC, a medical practice in Melrose Park, Ill, and Nicholas Recchia was also employed there as a physician.
From 2015 to 2020, Demorest and Recchia agreed to dispense hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and other controlled substances to various individuals who visited Demorest Consultants but received no meaningful physical examination or medical tests, and whom Demorest and Recchia knew had no legitimate medical need for the drugs.
According to an indictment returned July 26 in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Demorest, who in 2015 voluntarily surrendered his DEA Registration Number and lost his ability to lawfully prescribe controlled substances, used Recchia’s name and DEA Registration Number to issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients, the charges. Demorest and Recchia also allegedly caused pharmacies to submit numerous claims to Medicare and Medicaid seeking payment for the improper prescriptions.
The indictment charges Demorest, 65, of Bloomingdale, Ill., and Recchia, 62, of River Grove, Ill., with conspiracy to dispense controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. The pair also face individual counts of health care fraud and unlawful dispensing of controlled substances. Arraignments in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.
V. Area Man Arrested on Federal Arson Charge for Allegedly Setting Fire to Chicago Building
A man was recently arrested on a federal arson charge for an incident in which he allegedly set fire to a building in Chicago last year. On July 27, 2021, John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced an indictment that had been returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago, accusing Jose Valdovinos, 32, of Cicero, Ill., of maliciously damaging and destroying a building at 4000 West 59th Street in Chicago on June 1, 2020.
Valdovinos was arrested July 26, 2021, and he appeared at a detention hearing in federal court on July 28, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel A. Fuentes. If he is cnvicted in a court of lw, Valdovinos will face at least five and up to 20 years in prison.
VI. Missouri Man Indicted for Joplin Bank Robbery
On July 27, 2021, a Kansas City, Missouri, man, Leland Scott Graham, 57, was indicted by a federal grand jury today for robbing Great Southern Bank in Joplin, Mo., last week. According to the indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo, which replaces a criminal complaint that was originally filed against Graham on July 22, 2021.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the original complaint, Graham walked into Great Southern Bank, 1232 S. Range Line Road in Joplin, on July 19, 2021. Graham allegedly proceeded to the teller counter, announced a robbery, and demanded money before lifting his shirt to display what tellers believed was a handgun in his waistband.
The tellers handed over money, the affidavit says, and Graham left the bank. The affidavit says he dropped some of the cash on the bank floor as he was leaving. Surveillance cameras in the bank captured good quality video during the robbery. On the day of the robbery, the Joplin Police Department released surveillance images to the media and requested the public’s assistance to identify the bank robber.
The next day, July 20, 2021, the police received a tip that identified Graham as the robber. Officers located Graham in Kansas City and attempted to stop the vehicle he was driving. Graham did not immediately stop and after a short pursuit, he left the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot. Graham was taken into custody a short time later.
VII. Art Dealer Arrested on Allegations of Embezzled Funds from Miracle Mile Art Gallery’s Bankruptcy Estate
A noted art dealer was arrested July 27, 2021 on federal charges accusing him of embezzling more than $260,000 from the bankruptcy estate of Ace Gallery, a Miracle Mile-based art gallery, while acting as the estate’s trustee and custodian. Douglas J. Chrismas, 77, of the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles, surrendered without incident July 27 to FBI special agents.
A federal grand jury charged Chrismas via indictment March 16, 2021 with three counts of embezzlement against a bankruptcy estate. Chrismas was ordered released on $50,000 bond. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a September 21 trial date has been scheduled in this matter.
According to the indictment returned on March 16 and unsealed July 27, Chrismas was the president and CEO of Art and Architecture Books of the 21st Century, which did business as Ace Gallery and was located on the Miracle Mile in the City of Los Angeles. In February 2013, Ace Gallery filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in Los Angeles and continued to operate as a bankruptcy estate with Chrismas acting as the gallery’s president, trustee, custodian and overseer of its operations.
In this role, Chrismas also had access to the gallery’s property, which he had maintained until April 2016, when an independent bankruptcy trustee was appointed to run the bankruptcy estate and Chrismas was removed as trustee and custodian. In late March and early April of 2016, Chrismas allegedly embezzled approximately $264,595 that belonged to the Ace Gallery bankruptcy estate, including a $50,000 check that Chrismas signed, was drawn against the estate and was paid to a separate corporation that Chrismas owned and controlled.
VIII. Pennsylvania Felon Charged with Illegal Gun Possession
On July 27, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Kaufman, announced the arrest of Keyjuan King, 22, of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, on charges of illegal possession of a firearm. So far, King is the sole named defendant. If he is convicted, King faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
According to the complaint and supporting affidavit, detectives observed King walking hastily through a parking lot and quickly approaching an occupied vehicle in the street. Detectives saw that Mr. King has a firearm visible in the front pocket of his shorts and was clutching the handle of the un-holstered firearm.
Fearing that Mr. King would potentially harm the individuals inside the vehicle, detectives approached him on foot and asked him to show his hands. When Mr. King noticed the detectives, he turned and fled on foot. While Mr. King was fleeing, he removed the firearm from his shorts and ran toward the wood-line behind a building. He rounded the corner behind the building and was out of detectives’ sight for a brief period of time.
Shortly afterwards, detectives were able to place Mr. King in custody. A K9 then searched and found a fully loaded firearm in the hillside, wood-line area in the vicinity of Mr. King when he was not in the detectives’ sight. Mr. King is a convicted felon, so it is a violation of federal law for him to possess a firearm.
IX. West Virginia Residents Indicted on Drug Trafficking Charges
On July 28, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, Randolph J. Bernard, announced that eight people from that state now face multiple drug charges after a federal Grand Jury handed down a drug trafficking indictment on July 21. They all face charges involving a drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and cocaine hydrochloride in Jefferson County and elsewhere from July 2018 to June 2021. Those West Virginians charged include the following:
➣ Antonio Junior Guerrero, also known as “Mula,” 29, of Ranson, West Virginia
➣ Michael Lynch, 57, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
➣ Camren Allen Klimes, also known as “Cam,” 27, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
➣ Christin Blake Hoffman, 35, of Ranson, West Virginia
➣ Crystal Farmer, 42, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
➣ Robert Gordon Farmer, 44, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
➣ James T. Cogle, also known as “Cricket,” 53, of Jefferson County, West Virginia
➣ Shaquan Osullivan Kelly, 24, of Ranson, West Virginia
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Omps-Botteicher will prosecute the case on behalf of the government.