Last Updated Friday, June 25, 2021, at 10:47 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.
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FRIDAY, June 25, 2021
I. Five Charged for Exporting Defense Items to Russia, Violation of Arms Export Control Act
On June 21, 2021, it was announced that a federal grand jury in Los Angeles unsealed an indictment on June 17, 2021 alleging that five defendants conspired to unlawfully export defense articles to Russia. Specifically, the defendants allegedly exported thermal imaging riflescopes and night-vision goggles without a license, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act.
According to court documents, Elena Shifrin, 59, of Mundelein, Illinois, and Vladimir Pridacha, 55, of Volo, Illinois, were arrested June 17 for their roles in a scheme that has run for at least four years, in which the defendants purchased dozens of thermal imaging devices, most of which cost between $5,000 and $10,000. These items are controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which applies to sellers across the United States.
The other three defendants named in the indictment are: Boris Polosin, 45, of Russia; Vladimir Gohman, 52, of Israel; and Igor Panchernikov, 39, an Israeli national who, during much of the scheme, resided in Corona, California. As outlined in the indictment, the defendants allegedly obtained many of the items using aliases, falsely assuring sellers that they would not export the items from the United States.
The thermal imaging devices were then exported to co-conspirators in Russia using aliases and false addresses to conceal their activities.
II. Massachusetts Man Indicted for Using Stolen Identities to Open Bank Account, Attempting to Purchase Sports Car
On June 21, 2021. it was announced that Brandon Brouillard, 27, of Worcester, MA had been indicted on Thursday, June 17, 2021 for using two victims’ identities to open a bank account and attempting to purchase an $83,000 Chevrolet Camaro. Brouillard was indicted on two counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 25 by U.S. District Court Chief Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley.
According to charging documents in the case, in February 2021, Brouillard used the identity of a New Hampshire resident to open a bank account at Avidia Bank. Brouillard allegedly wired $108,000 to the Avidia Bank account from another individual’s Bank of America account. On April 17, 2021, Brouillard test drove a 2021 Chevrolet Camaro at a dealership in Norwood.
After test-driving the Camaro, Brouillard allegedly agreed to purchase it for $83,000 and paid for the vehicle with a cashier’s check made out to the dealership. It is alleged that Brouillard provided his Massachusetts driver’s license, proof of insurance and signed a sales contract and Massachusetts application for registration and car title in connection with the purchase. Brouillard allegedly picked up the Camaro from the dealership on April 19, 2021.
III. Postal Employee Charged with Stealing More Than $4,000 from Mail
On June 21, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District if Ohio, Bridget M. Brennan announced that an indictment had been unsealed, charging Sa’Shanna Estell, 26, of Cleveland, Ohio, with theft of mail by a postal employee.
According to the indictment, between July and September of 2020, the Defendant, a United States Postal Services mail processing associate, knowingly removed from and stole from the mail a $3,870 cashier’s check, eight gift cards totaling approximately $330, an Apple iPad, a smartwatch, a pair of Reebok shoes, other clothing, two packages of THC edibles and $76 in cash. In all, Estell is estimated to have stolen $4,594.67.
IV. Florida Woman Arrested, Charged For Using Minor To Produce Child Sex Abuse Images, Distributing Via Internet
On June 21, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Karin Hoppmann, announces the arrest of Ashley Renea Hilligoss,37, of Citrus Springs, on a criminal complaint charging her with the production and distribution of images depicting the sexual abuse of a child. If convicted on both counts, Hilligoss faces up to 50 years in prison and a possible life term of supervised release.
According to the complaint, Hilligoss took sexually explicit photographs of a child to whom she had access and sent these photos to another individual over the internet. Federal agents later searched an encrypted online file storage account belonging to that individual and found numerous copies of the photographs.
V. Kansas Man Indicted on Child Porn Charges
On June 21, 2021, it was announced that a federal grand jury had returned an indictment of Truman Gentry, 25, of Augusta, Kansas, on two counts of Production of Child Pornography, one count of Advertising for Production of Child Pornography and one count of Possession of Child Pornography. If he is convicted of thew charges, Gentry faces at least 15 years and up to 30 years in prison for each count.
The investigating agencies include: the United States Attorney’s Office, North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children, Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children, Homeland Security Investigations, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Boone, North Carolina Police Department, Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, and the Augusta Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hart is prosecuting the case.
VI. Oklahoma Man Charged with Sending Emails Threatening President Biden
On June 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District f Oklahoma, Clint Johnson, announced that a Tulsa man had been arrested and charged for sending threatening emails to KOTV Channel 6 directed at President Joseph Biden, unnamed members of the Congress, and their families. John Jacobs Ahrens, 58, was charged in federal court June 21 by Criminal Complaint with making threats against the President.
According to the affidavit, an executive producer from the station contacted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center to report the threatening emails dated between May and June 2021. In his messages, Ahrens demanded money, and if it wasn’t sent, he allegedly wrote that he would kill the President, members of Congress, and their families.
On May 10, 2021, Ahrens allegedly sent a message stating, “Please go to my Facebook page and read what I sent to the men of the United States Congress. They have less than 48 hours to hand over my money or their children will start dying all over the country. I’m going to kill their children using the same law as the Government used to force our families on to the Trail of Tears.”
In a June 17 message, he wrote “You have until Monday morning 8:00 am sharp to hand a check over to the State of Oklahoma, the Muscogee Nation and my family in accordance with a signed agreement as set forth in the Treaty of 1866.”
VII. Clarksville Business Owner Indicted On Tax Fraud
A Clarksville, Tennessee, business owner was indicted on June 21, 2021, by a federal grand jury on four counts of tax fraud. The indictment was announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, Mary Jane Stewart. David Haley, 64, the owner and operator of Haley & Associates Mechanical Contractors, faces four counts of filing false tax returns for tax years 2014-2017.
The indictment alleges that even though Haley’s business compensation was well in excess of $1 million for each of the tax years, he falsely reported that he received zero business income. The indictment also alleges that except for a small payment in 2012, neither Haley nor his business paid federal income taxes for 2008 through 2017.
If convicted, Haley faces up to three years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine on each count.
VIII. California Skydiver Arrested for Running Unauthorized Tandem Instructor Courses
On June 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Phillip A. Talbert announced the unsealing of an indictment following the arrest of an Acampo man the day before. The indictment was originally returned on June 10, when a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Robert Allen Pooley, 46, of Acampo, charging him with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft related to tandem parachuting courses.
According to court documents, in 2010, Pooley allegedly obtained ratings as a “tandem examiner” with the U.S. Parachute Association (USPA) and as a “tandem examiner” with Uninsured United Parachute Technologies LLC (UPT), a manufacturer of tandem parachute systems. He then began conducting training courses for candidates seeking to obtain their USPA Tandem Instructor rating and/or their certification to use UPT tandem parachute systems.
He charged for these courses and conducted them at a skydiving business located in Acampo. In August 2015, USPA and UPT suspended Pooley’s tandem examiner ratings, which meant he could no longer conduct the tandem instructor courses on his own. Nevertheless, he continued running USPA and UPT tandem instructor rating courses without authorization, and he concealed his suspensions from tandem instructor candidates.
IX. Federal Grand Jury Indicts Chicago Couple in Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme
On June 23, 2021, a Chicago married couple were charged in a Chicago federal court for their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded financial institutions out of at least $2.5 million. Marco Lurigio, a/k/a “Demetrio Cardone,” and Sandy Lurigio, a/k/a “Janette Chavez,” allegedly owned several Illinois-based companies, including S&G Technologies Inc., O.C. Management Group Inc., Riverview Financial Inc., and Toro Management, Inc.
According to the indictment, the Lurigios recruited buyers to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans for properties on Chicago’s South Side by making and causing to be made materially false representations in documents submitted to financial institutions.
The false representations included documents and statements regarding, among other things, the buyers’ employment, income, assets, source of down payment, and intention to occupy the property as a primary residence. In some instances, thse Lurigios fraudulently claimed to lenders that the buyers were employed by one of the Lurigios’ companies, even though they knew that was untrue. The alleged fraud scheme continued from 2011 to 2014.
X. Minnesota Man Charged with Assault, Sexual Abuse
On June 23, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, W. Anders Folk, announced that a Red Lake, MN man had been indicted by a federal grand jury on June 23, 2021, on charges related to a sexual assault that occurred on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Tony Lee Lussier, 38, of Red Lake, Minnesota, has been charged with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of sexual abuse of an incapable victim. Lussier made his initial appearance June 23 in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung.
According to court documents, between September 26-27, 2020, , assaulted a victim with a knife. The indictment also alleges that Lussier engaged in a sexual act with the victim who at the time was physically incapable of declining participation in the act. This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Police Department and the FBI Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force.