Last Updated Friday, October 22, 2021, at 3:08 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, October 22, 2021
Prosecuting Those Who Violate Firearms Laws
This past week featured a lot of new cases, with many of them seeming somewhat similar to cases cited in the past. For example, on October 18, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler, announced that a few days earlier, on October 15, 2021, Ahmyr Younger, 19, of Kingston, had been charged via a criminal information with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. More specifically, according to the information, it is alleged that on June 30, 2021, in Luzerne County, Younger possessed a Jimenez Arms 9mm handgun, even though federal law said he was legally prohibited from doing so.
This particular case is being investigated and prosecuted as a component of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which serves as a centerpiece of the DOJ’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.
Just a couple days later, on Oct. 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, W. Anders Folka, announced that a federal criminal complaint had been filed against Jerome Fletcher Horton, 25, because he allegedly purchased multiple firearms, one of which he supposedly used in a recent St. Paul shooting.
The event allegedly happened Oct. 10,, when gunfire erupted inside the Seventh Street Truck Park bar in St. Paul, Minnesota, injuring at least 14 people, and killing Marquisha Wiley, 27.
According to supporting court documents, investigators at the St. Paul Police Department used surveillance video footage to identify the suspect. Horton could be seen leaving the bar while holding a firearm, which is when he got into the back of a vehicle. Investigators later recovered from the vehicle a Mossberg model MC2C 9mm semiautomatic pistol, as well as a number of 9mm discharged cartridge casings inside of the bar, which were consistent with the caliber of the firearm recovered from the vehicle.
A trace of the firearm revealed that it was purchased by Horton on July 31, 2021, from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) in Blaine. When Horton purchased the firearm, he stated for the record that he was the actual buyer of the firearm. After reviewing sales reports submitted by various FFLs in and around the Twin Cities metropolitan area, investigators discovered that Horton had purchased 33 firearms between June 15, 2021 and October 17, 2021.
Enforcing the Law to Prevent Homicide
In another case from this past week, a supposed member of a Jersey City gang,, Shamar Bey, 29, was charged with the June 19, 2020, shooting of a Jersey City resident. The charge and the arrest was announced on October 18, 2021, by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig. Bey is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime.
According to documents filed in support of this case, Bey has been associated with a street gang known to operate around Salem Lafayette Apartments and the surrounding area in Jersey City, NJ. On June 19, 2020, Bey allegedly shot an associate of a rival gang. If Bey is convicted in a court of law, he faces up to 20 years in prison for the count of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering and a mandatory consecutive sentence of 10 years in prison for the count of discharging a firearm during an act of violence. Both counts carry a maximum fine of $250,000.
Enforcing Protective Orders to Prevent the Making of Bombs
Another similar case from Mew Mexico has been brought against Thomas Joseph Miller, 34, of Hanover, New Mexico. Miller appeared in federal court Oct. 15 for a detention hearing, where he was ordered to remain in custody pending trial. Officially, Miller was charged with illegally possessing destructive devices and ammunition.
Based on the criminal complaint in his case, on Sept. 28, Miller allegedly was discovered to possess several “pipe bombs,” which are considered destructive devices, as well as various rounds of ammunition in multiple calibers. Because Miller was subject to a protective order at the time, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition legally.
Court Enforced Money Laundering Rules
Another criminal case that was opened up this past week, on Oct. 18, Alex Nain Saab Moran (Saab), 49, a Colombian citizen, made his initial appearance in federal court in Miami, Florida. The appearance occurred after Moran was extradited from the Republic of Cabo Verde because he was previously charged in an indictment with laundering the proceeds received through violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The money laundering happened as part of a scheme to pay bribes to public officials in order to take advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rate.
According to the indictment, Moran obtained a contract with the Venezuelan government in November 2011 to build low-income housing units. They then proceeded to take advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rate by submitting false and fraudulent import documents for goods and materials that were never imported into Venezuela. They also bribed Venezuelan government officials to approve those documents.
They also wired money related to the scheme to bank accounts in the Southern District of Florida. In all, Moran transferred around $350 million out of Venezuela, through the United States, to overseas accounts they owned or controlled.
Courts Charging People for Ripping Off Taxpayers
Also the same week, on Oct. 21, two people from Upper St. Clair, PA, were indicted on conspiracy and fraud charges by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh. The Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Kaufman, made the announcement. The three-count Indictment, originally returned on Sept. 21, 2021, named J. Reed Pirain, 45, and Renee Vasilko, 48, as the defendants.
According to the Indictment, from in and around February 2018, until in and around March 2019, Pirain and Vasilko knowingly and willfully conspired to defraud the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and falsified statements by bidding on and purchasing property as intended homeowners, only to renovate and the sell the property for profit.
More specifically, the HUD Single Family Property Disposition Program, designed to encourage ownership by families who intend to reside in the homes as owner/occupants by allowing then to bid on the foreclosed properties before the process is opened up to real estate investors. Pirain and Vasilko, in order to jump the line ahead of other real estate investors, falsely certified on bidding forms that Vasilko intended to occupy the home as an owner/occupant, when, in fact, they intended to flip the home for profit.
Criminal Court Brings National Fraud Scheme to Court
Another criminal case brought t federal is the one that was brought on October 19, 2021, when the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, David C. Weiss, announced that a Pennsylvania man had been arrested on charges of fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise from a national chain of home improvement stores. The charges are based on an indictment returned by a grand jury for the District of Delaware for wire fraud and access device fraud.
According to the indictment, Mamadou Bah, 37, conducted more than 1,000 fraudulent transactions at home improvement stores throughout the country between May 2018 and June 2020, using the fake name “Richard Traynham.” Bah would pay for gift cards and merchandise at various home improvement stores utilizing a barcode on his phone that was linked to a fraudulently obtained credit card.
Bah would use that barcode to pay for the merchandise. The victim stores would later receive a “chargeback” from the credit card company indicating that the purchase was fraudulent. All told, Bah caused losses in excess of $650,000. If he is convicted in a court of law, Bah faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and 10 years imprisonment on the access device fraud charge.
Group Charged With Fraud and Money Laundering
In an indictment that was unsealed Oct. 20, a Miami federal grand jury charged eight defendants for their roles in a fraudulent check and money laundering scheme. In all, the indictment charges the eight defendants with 30 total charges, mostly of the bank fraud and money laundering variety.
According to the indictment, the scheme had members of the conspiracy would venture to steal bank accounts and routing numbers belonging to legitimate companies and individuals, and they would then use that information to create fraudulent checks and forge victim signatures onto them. Then, they would deposit the checks into bank accounts under the control of members of the conspiracy.
After the checks cleared, but before the financial institutions discovered the fraud, members of the conspiracy would withdraw money from those accounts for their personal gain. Seven of the eight defendants were arrested Oct. 20.
Using Investment Scheme to Take Down Fraudsters
That very same day, Oct. 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, William T. Stetzer, announced that an indictment had been returned by a federal grand jury in Charlotte. The indictment charged had a Virginia man, Michael Mandel Baldwin, 52, of Alexandria, Virginia, for allegedly orchestrating an investment scheme that defrauded victims of more than $740,000.
According to the indictment, from 2009 to October 2021, was the CEO of the Miracle Mansion, LLC (Miracle Mansion). The indictment alleges that over the course of the scheme, Baldwin made numerous fraudulent representations to victim-investors about the purpose, legitimacy, and success of Miracle Mansion, and solicited investments from a Charlotte-area church and its members, and other individuals and entities located throughout the United States, including Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia.
As part of the fraudulent investment scheme, Baldwin allegedly created and distributed promotional materials to potential investors that described Miracle Mansion as “a one-of-a-kind entertainment complex that [would] reshape the face of family entertainment in the Washington Metropolitan region.”
A Case In PA Accuses NY Mann of Armed Robbery
A more traditional criminal case was brought in Pennsylvania on October 20, 2021, when the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler, announced that Michael Muse, 43, of Brooklyn, New York, had been indicted for armed bank robbery just the day before.
According to , the indictment, on September 16, 2021, Michael Muse, 43, is alleged to have committed an armed robbery of the ESSA Bank in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County. The charge against the defendant resulted from an investigation conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by AUSA Robert J. O’Hara, as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, which has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.