Last Updated Friday, March 26, 2021, at 10:22 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, March 26, 2021
I. Federal Employee Charged with Unauthorized Representation of Claims Against the Government
On March 22, 2021, Megan Mariah Patrick, 36, of Terry, Mississippi, was charged in a federal indictment with the unauthorized representation of claims against the government and false statements to a federal agency. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, Darren J. LaMarca, along with several federal law enforcement officials.
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury on March 16, 2021, charges Patrick, a Rural Development Loan Specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture in Jackson, with three counts of unauthorized representation of claims against the United States, and three counts of false statements to a federal agency.
According to the indictment, from August 2017 through March 2019, Patrick acted as an attorney, outside her official duties as Rural Development Loan Specialist, to represent claimants before the Social Security Administration seeking increased federal benefits. In each case where she entered her appearance as an attorney representing the claimant before the Social Security Administrative Law Judge, Patrick filed an official form with the Social Security Administration, stating that she was not disqualified or otherwise prohibited as a federal employee from representing the claimant.
In fact, as Patrick then knew, such a statement was false, because, as an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she was prohibited by law and regulation from representing claimants against the United States in the Social Security Administration.
II. Bank Teller Indicted on Federal Fraud Charges
On March 22, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Duane A. Evans announced the Indictment of Karen Farrell Tigler, 34, of Harvey, Louisiana, who was charged on Friday, March 19, 2021, in a twelve-count federal indictment for Bank Fraud, Making False Statements to Federal Agents, and Making and Subscribing False Tax Returns. If convicted, Tigler faces up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000,000.00 or the greater of twice the gross gain to the defendant or twice the gross loss to any victim of the offense. She also faces a term of supervised release up to 5 years after her release from prison.
According to the indictment, from January 1, 2013, to November 14, 2016, Tigler was employed as a multi-service banker with the Hancock Whitney Bank. Tigler worked at the Whitney branch, also known as the “Morgan State Branch,” located at 430 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA. Client A was in her mid-80s in 2015 and 2016 and was a banking customer of Whitney. From February 9, 2015, to October 28, 2016, approximately 100 counter checks totaling approximately $349,556 were processed and debited, without permission or authorization, from Client A’s account.
Tigler used her position with the bank to embezzle approximately $349,556 from Client A’s account by using 100 counter checks to debit funds from Client A’s account, and to access personal information from other legitimate banking transactions to create the fraudulent counter checks. Tigler forged the signatures of Client A and various others on the counter checks in an effort to conceal her embezzlement scheme. Tigler accessed or utilized legitimate checks drawn on Client A’s account in order to prepare fraudulent counter checks.
III. New Orleans Woman Charged with Social Security Fraud Spanning More Than Three Decades
U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Betty Arrington, a/k/a “Betty Callie Arrington,” a/k/a “Betty Francis C Miller,” a/k/a “Betty Miller”, ,”72, a resident of New Orleans, was charged on March 19, 2021, with theft of government funds.
According to the Indictment, Arrington engaged in a 35-year multifaceted scheme to defraud the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). From 1984 through 2019, Arrington intentionally used a Social Security number (“SSN”) not assigned to her by the Commissioner of the SSA in order to conceal her earnings from employment in the New Orleans area. Arrington’s fraudulent use of a an SSN, in addition to the concealment of program eligibility factors and the intentional submission of false statements to SSA, aided Arrington in fraudulently gaining and maintaining Supplemental Security Income Disability benefits totaling approximately $164,270.90.
Arrington is charged in the Indictment with one count of theft of government funds, and faces up to ten years in prison; ,a fine of $250,000; ,up to three years of supervised release; ,and a $100 mandatory special assessment.
IV. Couple Charged with Firearms Offenses after Standoff in Hotel Reveals Cache of Firearms and Ammunition
On March 22, 2021, a husband and wife were arrested on weapons charges after a standoff at a Hudson County hotel. The announcement of the charges was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Rahim Harris, 42, of Maplewood, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon.
His wife, Haneefha White, 39, of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is charged by with a complaint with aiding and abetting the possession of firearms and ammunition by a convicted felon. They will have their initial appearances by videoconference at a date to be determined.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, on Dec. 21, 2019, Harris was charged by with a complaint with weapons and aggravated assault offenses allegedly committed on that date. On March 14, 2021, law enforcement received information indicating that Harris was in a specific room at a hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey. Law enforcement officers responded to the hotel a few hours later to attempt to locate and arrest Harris, who was identified from a photograph as the person staying in the specific hotel room.
Officers observed Harris’ Harris’s wife entering the room. They attempted to summon White while she was in the hallway, but she entered the room and closed the door. White then called the front desk and asked why police were in the hallway. Law enforcement officers spoke with White on the telephone to persuade her to come out. She indicated there were other individuals in the room and that they were “on edge” and had firearms and hand grenades. Each of the charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
V. Illinois Woman Indicted on Federal Firearm Charge for Allegedly Providing Handgun to Convicted Felon
On March 23, 2021, a woman was indicted on a federal firearm charge for allegedly providing a semi-automatic handgun to a convicted felon whom she knew was not lawfully allowed to possess it. The convicted felon was also charged. Benita Gross allegedly knowingly disposed of the gun in Chicago on June 20, 2020, to Terrance Elkins, knowing that Elkins was previously convicted of a felony and not lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, according to an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Gross, 32, of Springfield, Ill., is charged with one count of disposal of a firearm to a prohibited person. Elkins, 32, of Springfield, Ill., is charged with one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Gross and Elkins made initial court appearances on March 19, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim in Chicago.
Elkins was ordered detained in federal custody, while Gross was ordered released on bond. A status hearing was scheduled for April 6, 2021, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S., along with several federal and state law enforcement officials.
VI. Five Face Federal Charges for Alleged Nationwide Elder Fraud Scam
On March 24, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, John E. Childress, announced federal charges and arrests of five individuals for their roles in a nationwide elder fraud conspiracy. According to the criminal complaint, Darlens Darlene Renard, 31, of North Lauderdale, Florida; Jasaun Pope, 30, of Valley Stream, NY; Princess Elizer Eliezer, 30, of Dallas, Georgia; Jennifer Glemeau, 28, of Marietta, Georgia; and Kareem Brown, 30, of North Baldwin, NY, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to charging documents, since at least April 2020, the defendants participated in a conspiracy to defraud seniors out of thousands of dollars in cash by convincing them that their relatives were in serious trouble and in dire need of money. The defendants would travel to a city, identify unoccupied residences where overnight packages could be sent, and relay those addresses to their co-conspirators.
The co-conspirators would place calls to elderly victims and inform them that their grandchild or other relative had an urgent legal or medical problem and needed money immediately. The caller, who often claimed to be an attorney, police officer, or other another authority figure, told the victim to send an overnight delivery of cash—typically between $5,000 and $15,000—to the address the defendants provided.
The defendants tracked the overnight package of cash to the address, picked it up shortly after delivery, and then took their cut of the proceeds before sharing it with their co-conspirators. To date, investigators have identified numerous victims of the defendants’ scheme, who in total have lost over $350,000. It is alleged that, since April 2020, the defendants traveled to at least ten cities in five different states to perpetrate their scheme.
In mid-August 2020, they came to Indianapolis, Indiana. After the defendants identified addresses, scam calls were made to at least seven victims, each from different states, who ultimately sent money to Indianapolis.
VII. Two Pennsylvania Men Indicted For Fentanyl Trafficking
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Lee Crawford, 59, of Wilkes-Barre, PA, and John Williams, 41, of Kingston, PA, were indicted on March 23, 2021, by a federal grand jury for conspiring to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl in Luzerne County.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Crawford and Williams conspired to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl in the Luzerne County area between July 2020 and February 2021. The indictment also charges Crawford with nine counts of distributing fentanyl and charges Williams with one count of distributing fentanyl.
The case was investigated by the Kingston Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the Luzerne County Drug Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. O’Hara is prosecuting the case.
VIII. Former Texas State Trooper Charged with Sexually Assaulting Two Women While on Duty
Authorities are seeking potential victims following the arrest of a 32-year-old Spring man on federal civil rights violations. The arrest and charges were announced on March 24, 2021, by Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District f Texas Jennifer B. Lowery. The defendant, Lee Ray Boykin Jr., is a former State Trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. The criminal complaint, filed March 24, alleges he deprived two separate victims of their right to bodily integrity.
He is also charged with carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence as well as destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in a federal investigation. Boykin made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam S. Sheldon on March 24, 2021.
The complaint alleges that on Aug. 7, 2020, Boykin conducted a traffic stop near an Express Inn at 9025 North Freeway in Houston. After issuing the driver a written warning, Boykin allegedly ordered the passenger to get into his patrol car. The charges allege he then drove her to a back parking lot at 10700 North Freeway and parked near a dumpster. There, he threatened to take the victim to jail for an out-of-state warrant if she did not perform oral sex on him, according to the complaint.
She allegedly feared for her life and safety and obeyed Boykin’s commands. Following the sex act, Boykin placed his hand on his weapon and ordered her to run, according to the charges. The investigation revealed there had been a second victim, according to the complaint.
IX. Nine New Jersey Residents Charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics
Nine Newark residents were charged for their roles in conspiracies to distribute and possess with intent to distribute narcotics, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today. Robert Covington, aka “Nachie,” 55; Korey Smith, aka “Murda,” 36: Jeffrey Workman, aka “Rah,” 53; Yvonne Jackson, 49; Carlos Stokes, aka “Ab,” 54; Karen Gamble, 50; and Alaa Covington, 21, are charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 40 grams of fentanyl.
Robert Covington, Workman, Williamson, Stokes, and Gamble are also charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Smith is additionally charged, along with Leroy Baxter III, 55, and William Lane, 57, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin. Eight of the defendants are expected to appear this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor. Stokes remains at large.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from August 2020 through March 2021, multiple individuals were involved in selling fentanyl and cocaine in an open-air narcotics market in Bradley Court Housing Complex in Newark. These individuals comprise at least two separate drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs), which have overlapping membership.
DTO-1 involved individuals engaged in the distribution of fentanyl and included Robert Covington, Smith, Williamson, Gamble, Workman, Stokes, and Alla Covington. DTO-2 involved individuals engaged in the distribution of cocaine and included Robert Covington, Williamson, Gamble, Workman, and Stokes.
X. Two Texans Indicted for Transporting Illegal Aliens Resulting in Death
In Del Rio, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging two Austinites for their alleged roles in transporting illegal aliens from Del Rio to Austin, resulting in the death of an illegal alien, announced the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, San Antonio Division.
The four-count indictment returned March 24, 2021, charges 18-year-old Bianca Michelle Trujillo-Lopez and 28-year-old Isidro Rodriguez Jr. with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death; one count of transporting an illegal alien resulting in death; one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury; and one count of transporting an illegal alien resulting in serious bodily injury.
Court records allege that on March 4, 2021, the defendants were traveling on FM 2523 near Del Rio when a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper attempted to stop them for speeding. The driver, Trujillo-Lopez, tried to outrun the trooper, at times reaching speeds topping 120 miles per hour. She ultimately lost control of her vehicle and rolled it multiple times after missing a curve on the road. One illegal alien died after being ejected from the vehicle during the rollover.
Two illegal aliens were transported to San Antonio area hospitals with multiple injuries. Another illegal alien sustained minor injuries. If convicted, the defendants face up to life in federal prison. On March 22, U.S. Magistrate Judge Collis White ordered that Rodriguez remain remains in federal custody pending trial. Trujillo-Lopez remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for March 26 before Judge White in Del Rio.