Last Updated Friday, June 04, 2021, at 2:15 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, June 04, 2021
I. Indiana Man Charged for Violent Conduct During Portland, Oregon Riots
A man from Indianapolis, Indiana, Malik Fard Muhammad, 24, has been charged with three federal felonies after repeatedly and intentionally jeopardizing the lives of police officers, destroying public property, and inciting others to commit violence, all of which occurred during recent riots in Portland, Oregon.
More specifically, a criminal complaint charged Muhammad with possession of unregistered destructive devices. That was in addition to charges of engaging in civil disorder and obstructing law enforcement and using explosives to commit a federal felony.
According to court documents in the case, Muhammad allegedly traveled to Portland with his girlfriend from their home in Indianapolis for the specific purpose of violently engaging in civil disorder during recent area riots. On September 5, 2020, during a large civil disturbance in east Portland, demonstrators threw dangerous objects at police, including bottles, commercial grade fireworks, and Molotov cocktails, and bottles.
At least one demonstrator was seriously burned by a Molotov cocktail thrown in the direction of police. Muhammad allegedly was present at this event and provided baseball bats to members of the crowd.
II. Three Convicted Felons Charged with Illegal Possession of Firearm and Ammunition in Shooting
On June 1, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District f New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig, announced that three Essex County men have been charged with illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition in connection with a May 14, 2021, shooting. Those three men included Gilbert Bermudez, aka “Troub,” 28; Brian Elijah Mitchell, a/k/a “Slash,” 31; and Jaahan Mitchell, 32, all of Newark.
All three have each been charged via criminal complaint with one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. Brian Mitchell made his initial appearance June 1, via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre, where he was ordered detained. Bermudez’s initial appearance is expected to be scheduled later in the week. At the same time, Jaahan Mitchell remains at large.
According to statements and court documents filed in this case, on May 14, 2021, members of the Newark Police Department were dispatched to the Pennington Court housing complex in Newark on a report of shots fired. Officers reviewed surveillance videos from cameras located near the shooting, showing Bermudez and Brian Mitchell, together with another man, shooting at a fourth man, who had shot into the courtyard of the housing complex.
The footage also showed that the third shooter dropped a cellphone as he fled from the scene. When police searched the dropped cellphone and found that it belonged to Jaahan Mitchell.
During a lawful search of Bermudez’s residence, officers recovered a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, loaded with nine rounds of ammunition. Ballistics testing determined that six of the 9mm shell casings found at the crime scene were discharged from that particular firearm.
III. Nine Charged for Roles in Fraud Scams` Victimizing 200
On June 1, 2021, a federal grand jury in Charleston, WV, returned an indictment charging nine for their involvement in illegal schemes alleged to have defrauded at least 200 victims, many of whom are elderly, of at least $2.5 million. The nine defendants are charged with various fraud-related crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and receipt of stolen property.
As of June 1, all nine defendants had been apprehended in operations executed by the United States Secret Service and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in seven states.
The individuals charged in these indictments included: Kenneth Emeni, 29, a citizen of Nigeria, residing in Martinsburg, West Virginia; John Nassy, 27, a citizen of Nigeria, residing in a suburb of Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Ogudu, also known as Kenneth Lee, 28, a citizen of Nigeria, residing in Columbus, Ohio; Oluwagbenga Harrison, 30, a citizen of Nigeria, residing in Stone Mountain, Georgia; Romello Thorpe, 25, a United States citizen, residing in Washington, D.C.; Ouluwabamishe Awolesi, aka Oluwabamise Johnson, 28, a citizen of Nigeria and the United States, residing in Beltsville, Maryland; Augustine Amechi, 24, a citizen of Nigeria, residing in Huntington, West Virginia; Banabas Ganidekam, 24, a citizen of Ghana, residing in Westerville, Ohio; and Abdul Osumanu, 26, a citizen of Ghana, residing in Omaha, Nebraska.
According to the indictments, between 2016 and 2020, the defendants allegedly participated in a series of romance and other online scams designed to coerce vulnerable victims into sending money to various bank accounts controlled by them. The indictments describe romance scams as online schemes that target individuals looking for romantic partners, friendship, and other close personal and business relationships on dating websites and other social media platforms.
The defendants created profiles using fictitious names, locations, and images which allowed them to cultivate relationships with the victims. To carry out the schemes alleged in the indictments, victims were often led to believe that the defendants were U.S. residents working abroad, despite the reality that they were located in the U.S.
In the earliest stages of the romance scams, defendants frequently requested relatively small gifts, like gift cards and cell phones but, as the relationships grew, their requests did the same, asking for ever larger sums of money from their victims.
IV. Seattle Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS
On June 1, 2021, the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington’s Violent Crimes and Terrorism Unit, Todd Greenberg announced that a Seattle man had been arrested on Friday, May 28, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on criminal charges related to his alleged efforts to join ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization, in order to engage in violent acts of terrorism in the Middle East or the United States.
According to court documents, Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams, 20, of Seattle, was arrested as he prepared to board an international flight. The arrest came following a lengthy investigation into his efforts to join ISIS. It has been alleged that Williams was determined to support ISIS either by traveling overseas to join and fight with them, or by conducting an attack here in the United States.
According to FBI investigators, Williams is “self-radicalized, pledged loyalty to ISIS, and became consumed with activities to join the cause overseas.”
V. Two Indicted, Third Person Sought in Schemes to Defraud Rhode Island Banks
On June 1, 2021, it was announced that two men from Providence were indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday, while a third person is being sought for allegedly leading schemes to create and deposit nearly a quarter of a million dollars in counterfeit business and personal checks, and quickly withdrawing the funds before banks determined that the checks were phony, using stolen personal identification and bank account information.
According to information from the indictments, between April 27, 2020, and March 3, 2021, Terrance Richardson, a/k/a Teebobe Juheard, 29, and Richard Koboi, a/k/a Sunnyboy Taylor, 26, executed schemes to deposit and withdraw funds represented by at least eleven counterfeit checks for between $2,824 and $60,322. The two obtained stolen checks and stolen banking information of actual businesses and individuals and used that information to create fraudulent checks.
They then allegedly recruited and paid individuals with actual bank accounts to allow the counterfeit checks to be deposited into their accounts. It is also alleged that Richardson and Koboi made rapid withdrawals of cash, made cash transfers, and made debit card purchases once the counterfeit checks were deposited, but prior to banks discovering the checks were counterfeit.
VI. Massachusetts Investment Advisor Charged With Fraud
On June 2, 2021, it was announced that a Worcester, MA-based investment advisor had been charged in federal court in Boston the previous day with defrauding his clients by stealing their funds and using them for various purposes, including to pay purported returns to other defrauded investors. James Couture, 42, of Sutton, was charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Couture is expected to make an initial appearance in federal court at a later date.
According to charging documents, from approximately 2009 to 2020, Couture misappropriated about $2.8 million from his clients by transferring funds out of his clients’ accounts for investment in fictitious funds and using the money for other purposes, including the purchase of a client list from another investment advisor. Couture also allegedly used client money to pay fake investment returns to other clients he had defrauded.
For example, in or about June 2016, Couture allegedly liquidated one client’s variable annuities to fund withdrawals by another client. It is also alleged that in December 2019 and January 2020, Couture sold one client’s mutual funds and raided a 401(k) plan he managed to fund withdrawals by another client, whose assets Couture purported were held in a mutual fund account, when in fact neither the funds nor the account actually existed.
If he is convicted of the charges, Couture faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,00, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, for each charge.
VII. Rosebud Man Indicted for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
On June 2, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis Holmes, announced that yet another Rosebud man is under indictment by a federal grand jury for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. The latest such indictment, of Anthony Edward Farmer, 37, was returned October 14, 2020. He made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on June 1, 2021, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment.
Previously, Farmer was convicted of Abusive Sexual Contact with a Child in June 2010 and he is now required to register as a sex offender. It is alleged that, between July 5, 2020, and October 14, 2020, Farmer failed to properly register as a sex offender and update his registration.
VIII. Former Hillandale Farms Co. Accountant Indicted in $6.8 Million Embezzlement Scheme
On June 3, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District f Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Kaufman, announced that the owner of several Pittsburgh-area businesses and former accountant for a nationwide supplier of eggs and other farm products to retailers has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and tax fraud.
The six-count Indictment charges Jonathan A. Weston, 57, of Canonsburg, PA with one count of fraud conspiracy, one count of money laundering conspiracy, two counts of willful failure to file tax returns, and two counts of filing false income tax returns. The indictment was returned under seal on May 25 and unsealed June 3 following Weston’s arrest.
According to the Indictment, between October 2005 and January 2019, Weston, who is a former employee of Hillandale Farms Co. of Greensburg, PA, engaged in a scheme with a person known as VP, to embezzle approximately $6.8 million from the company. They allegedly then laundered the stolen money through businesses they both controlled.
They used the money to purchase real estate and collectible cars and made lavish personal expenditures. The indictment also alleges that, in calendar years 2015 and 2018, Weston failed to file tax returns, and in tax years 2016 and 2018 Weston filed false returns.
If Weston is convicted of the charges in the indictment, he faces up to 58 years in prison and a fine of $2,550,000, or both.
IX. Wallingford Man Charged with Trafficking Oxycodone and Cocaine
On June 2, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Leonard C. Boyle, along with Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA for New England, announced that a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment yesterday charging Christopher M Liscio, 38, of Wallingford, CT with oxycodone and cocaine trafficking offenses.
As alleged in court documents related to this case, between February and April 2020, Liscio sold 2,000 30mg oxycodone pills. It is alleged that this narcotics transaction occurred while Liscio was released on bond after being arrested in February 2020 on state charges related to the alleged sexual assault of a minor.
On May 26, 2021, a search of his residence managed to recover 500 grams of cocaine, oxycodone pills and more than $20,000 in cash. He was then arrested on a federal criminal complaint.
X. Four More Arrested in Oath Keeper Conspiracy Case Re Activities Leading to Capitol Breach
On June 3, 2021, three Florida men and one Alabama man were arrested for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election.
In all, the four arrests included Joseph Hackett, 50, of Sarasota, Florida; Jason Dolan, 44, of Wellington, Florida; William Isaacs, 21, of Kissimmee, Florida; and Jonathan Walden, 46, of Birmingham, Alabama. Each one has been charged with federal offenses related to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, including conspiracy, among other charges.
Dolan was arrested on Thursday, May 27, while Isaacs self-surrendered the same day. Hackett was arrested on Friday, May 28. Walden was arrested June 3. In this case, Hackett, Dolan, Isaacs and Walden are simply the latest four of 16 defendants to be arrested in this case.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants agreed to plan and participate in an operation to interfere with the certification of the electoral college vote by coordinating in advance with others to use websites and social media to recruit participants, and then to travel to Washington, D.C., with paramilitary gear and supplies including firearms, tactical vests with plates, helmets and radio equipment.
As early as Jan. 3, Hackett, Dolan and Isaacs joined an encrypted group message via Signal, entitled, “OK FL DC OP Jan 6”.