Last Updated Friday, October 15, 2021, at 11:36 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.
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, October 15, 2021
Most importantly, please remember that all crimes cited are merely allegations and all defendants are legally considered innocent until they have been proven guilty in a court of law. Also, unless we disclose otherwise, the defendants mentioned in each summary are not clients of this firm.
In one of the more unusual new criminal cases this week, a nuclear engineer from Annapolis, Maryland and his spouse were arrested by the FBI and NCIS on charges related to espionage. The arrests happened on Oct. 9, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, and they made their initial appearance in federal court in Martinsburg, WV on October 12.
According to documentation filed in this case, for nearly a year, Jonathan Toebbe, 42, aided by his wife, Diana, 45, sold what is known as Restricted Data concerning the design of nuclear-powered warships to a person who they believed to be a representative of an unnamed foreign power, even though he was actually an undercover FBI agent. The Toebbes have now been charged with violations of the Atomic Energy Act.
Jonathan Toebbe is currently a Department of the Navy employee who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. Toebbe held an active national security clearance through the U.S. Department of Defense, giving him access to Restricted Data.
According to the affidavit supporting the complaint, on April 1, 2020, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data. The complaint also alleges that, thereafter, Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with another individual whom he believed to be a representative of the same foreign government, but who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
Texas Man Threatens Doctor Advocating for COVID-19 Vaccine
Also this week, on Oct. 12, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron, announced that a federal grand jury had returned an indictment charging Scott Eli Harris, 51, of Aubrey, Texas for the federal charge of transmitting a threat via interstate communication. The indictment and its accompanying charges came out of a threatening message Harris allegedly sent to a Maryland medical doctor, based on the doctor’s public advocacy for the COVID-19 vaccines.
The indictment was originally returned on Sept. 29, and it was unsealed on Oct. 12. On Oct. 13, Harris appeared in a U.S. District Court in Plano, Texas on Oct. 13. If Harris is convicted in court, he faces up to five years in prison.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that Harris sent a threatening message from his cell phone to the doctor, who had been a vocal advocate of the COVID-19 vaccines. The threats included violent statements like, “Never going to take your wonder drug. My 12 gauge promises I won’t .… I can’t wait for the shooting to start.”
Enforcing Federal Firearms Laws
This week also highlighted a bit of a trend regarding enforcement of federal firearms laws. One prime example occurred on Oct. 12, when a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia returned an indictment against seven people for charges ranging from drug trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm.
The indictments resulted from work done during Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is a collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the ATF and the FBI, in an ongoing effort to reduce violent crime by targeting those who illegally possess firearms. The charges each defendant faces were the result of separate indictments by a grand jury while recent actions in U.S. District Court include guilty pleas and criminal sentences.
The cases are being prosecuted for the United States by Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office Assistant U.S. Attorneys, including Henry W. Syms Jr., Patricia G. Rhodes, Tania D. Groover, Joshua S. Bearden, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Darron J. Hubbard.
Florida Man Caught With Illegal Firearm Possession and More
On Oct. 13, a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida returned an indictment charging Wendell Doyle Goney, 51, of Mount Dora, Florida, with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. He was also charged with the destruction of aircraft. If he is convicted in court, Goney faces up to 30 years in prison. In addition to that, the indictment also warns Goney that the United States intends to forfeit a rifle and ammunition allegedly used in the crime.
According to the indictment, on July 11, 2021, deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office responded to a burglary at a 10-acre business property in Mount Dora. When deputies arrived at the specified location, they confronted Goney, who acknowledged that he had just shot down a drone with his .22 caliber rifle because he felt that drones had been “harassing” him.
Goney also admitted to the deputies that he could not lawfully possess a firearm because he has 29 prior felony convictions in Florida, which disqualifies him from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law.
Kentucky Man Charged with Forearm Possession by a Felon
This week, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, Michael A. Bennett, announced on Oct. 13 that a federal grand jury in Bowling Green had just returned an indictment charging Albert Tyler, 60, of Russellville with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. If he is convicted in court, Tyler faces as much as ten years in a federal prison for violating this law.
According to documents filed in this case, on or about July 19, 2021, Tyler possessed two handguns, even though he had previously been convicted of multiple felonies in Logan Circuit Court, which is a direct violation of federal law.
Enforcing the Law for Unlawful Possession of Ammo
Also this week, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Phillip A. Talbert, made the announcement that Raylon Thijay Randle, 24, of Bakersfield, had been charged by a federal grand jury with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Under federal law, those with felony convictions are prohibited from possessing either firearms or ammunition. If he is convicted in court, Randle faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to documents filed in court for this case, on Aug. 19, 2021, law enforcement officers stopped a vehicle in which Randle was a passenger and discovered that he possessed a 9 mm handgun loaded with 31 rounds of ammunition. Randle is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition due to a 2016 conviction of first degree burglary, as well as for a felon in possession of a firearm conviction in 2018.
This week, on October 14, 2021, a federal grand jury in Minneapolis federal court returned a five-count indictment against a Dodge County man, Reyel Devon Simmons, 52, of Dodge Center, MN, for impersonating a federal officer. Unfortunately, the indictment featured several other counts, as a felon in possession of firearms, felon in possession of explosives, possession of unregistered firearms, and possession of an unauthorized badge.
According to the documents supporting the indictment, on August 17, 2021, the FBI received a tip that Simmons was impersonating a federal agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Further investigation showed that Simmons used a false name and routinely held himself out as a federal agent on social media.
With nearly 10,000 followers on TikTok, Simmons used a profile photo that showed him wearing law enforcement gear and made several posts displaying law enforcement equipment, badges, and firearms.
Firearm Trafficking Conspiracy Enforced
That wasn’t the end of their courts’ enforcement of firearms rules this week. On Oct. 13, in the District of Wyoming, the Acting U.S. Attorney for that District, Bob Murray, announced that the U.S. District Court had completed arraignment hearings and set a trial date for five people who had been charged by indictment with conspiracy to make false statements during the purchase of firearms and to unlawfully transport and transfer firearms outside of the state of Wyoming.
The co-conspirators charged in the indictment include Sherwin J. Williams, 26, of Lancaster, California, Tierra Holland, 33 of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Darwin Francisco Thomas, 33, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Dexter Alfred Thomas, 31, of Gardena, California, and Phillip Martin Flores, of Las Vegas, Nevada. The trial is set for January 18, 2022 and is expected to last eight days.
Dealing with the Theft of Taxpayer Funds
Not every case this week was about firearms violations, of course . In fact, a police officer with the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was indicted Oct. 12 for a scheme in which he managed to haul in $18,345 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which were meant for small businesses and individuals who suffered a loss due to the pandemic.
The Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Channing D. Phillips, made the announcement on Oct. 12 that Roberto Adams, 34, had been indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was arrested on Aug. 13, 2021, following the filing of a criminal complaint in the case and remains free on a personal recognizance bond, pending further proceedings. The indictment includes a forfeiture count seeking an $18,345 money judgment.
According to the documents filed in support of the indictment, Adams made false and fraudulent claims last year to take advantage of the CARES Act, a federal law designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering negative economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
One source of relief is the authorization of forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP, which allows qualifying small businesses and others to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of one percent. Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
Another person, this time in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Jaime Jones, 45, of Munhall, was indicted on Oct. 13 by a federal grand jury seated in Pittsburgh, on the charge of wire fraud. The twelve-count Indictment, returned on Sept. 28, 2021 and unsealed today following her arrest, named Jones as the sole defendant. If she is convicted in a court of law, Jones faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
According to Indictment, from May 2020 to September 2020, Jones filed several fraudulent applications on behalf of herself and others for pandemic-relief funding through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. As part of these fraudulent applications, Jones made misrepresentations about whether particular businesses existed, the number of people employed by particular businesses, among other things, in an attempt to maximize the funding they received.