Last Updated Friday, September 24, 2021, at 4:17 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, September 24, 2021
I. South Dakota Men Indicted Separately on Charges Including Receipt, Distribution of Child Pornography
On September 18, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney or the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes, announced that a Sioux Falls man named Dylan St. Claire, 30, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on September 9, 2021, for Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography. At the same time, Holmes announced that a Watertown, South Dakota, man, Justin Derick Kohrt, 38, had also been indicted on Sept. 9 by a federal grand jury the same day for Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography.
St. Claire appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on September 14, 2021, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment. Kohrt appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on Sept. 16, 2021, when he pled not guilty to the Indictment. The St. Claire Indictment alleges that between on or about March 10, 2021, and July 21, 2021, St. Claire knowingly received, and attempted to receive, child pornography that had been mailed, shipped, and transported in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer.
The Indictment alleges that between on or about March 2, 2021, and June 3, 2021, Kohrt knowingly received, and attempted to receive, child pornography that had been mailed, shipped, and transported in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce by any means, including by computer.
II. Louisiana Labor Owner and Florida Woman Charged with Scheme to Pay and Receive Health Care Kickbacks
As part of the recent National Enforcement Action, on September 19, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, Ellison C. Travis, announced new charges against two people for health care-related crimes in Baton Rouge. The first thing he announced was that, on Sept. 9, a federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment charging Terry Steven Wilks, Jr., 39, of Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.
Travis also announced that Leslie Amanda McHugh, 36, of Riverview, Florida, had also been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive kickbacks, offering and paying kickbacks, and soliciting and receiving kickbacks. The charges stemmed from an enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force (MFSF), which is part of a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud through enhanced interagency cooperation.
Its purpose is to focus on the worse offenders in fraud, in the highest intensity regions, using data analysis techniques to identify abnormal billing levels in health care fraud “hot spots,” i.e., cities with unusually high levels of billing and other fraud. At this time, the U.S. Department of Justice currently maintains 15 strike forces operations in 24 federal districts and has charged more than 4,600 defendants who have collectively billed federal health care programs and private insurers for approximately $23 billion.
In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
III. Minnesota Man Arrested, Charged with Impersonating a Federal Agent
On September 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, W. Anders Folk, announced that a federal criminal complaint has been filed against a Dodge County man for impersonating a federal law enforcement officer. According accompanying court documents, on August 17, 2021, the FBI received a tip that Reyel Devon Simmons, 52, of Dodge Center, was impersonating a federal agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Further investigation revealed that Simmons used the false name “Rey Reeves,” and routinely held himself out as a federal agent on social media. Simmons, who had nearly 10,000 followers on TikTok, used a profile photo that showed him wearing law enforcement gear and made several posts displaying law enforcement equipment, badges, and firearms, and referring explicitly and implicitly to himself as a federal agent.
According to court documents, Simmons is not, and has never been, employed by the United States Department of Homeland Security.
IV. Six Members of Jersey City Gang Charged with Stabbing Someone in Jersey City
On September 20, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig announced that six members of a prominent Jersey City gang have been charged with the August 3, 2020, stabbing of an individual on a busy Jersey City street.
Sheldon Mays, a/k/a “Thottie,” 21, Jermaine Jennings, a/k/a “Maine” and “Drill,” 20, Divine Abraham, aka “Dee,” 21, Jamil Bowens, 20, and Jaylen Boone, 21, all of Jersey City, made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge André M. Espinosa on Sept. 20, where they were ordered detained. Yahsier Brown, 19, of Jersey City, New Jersey, had already made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court and was already being detained.
Each defendant is charged via complaint with one count of assault with a dangerous weapon in support of racketeering activity. The count of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering activity means they each face up to 20 years in prison, if they are convicted.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Mays, Jennings, Abraham, Bowens, Boone, and Brown are allegedly members of a street gang known to operate around the Curries Woods Housing Complex in Jersey City.
In retaliation for a prior assault of Mays by Individual-1 and other members of a rival gang, and in furtherance of an ongoing feud amongst the two gangs, the defendants sought out Individual-1, assaulted him, and stabbed him in broad daylight on a busy street in Jersey City. Individual-1 suffered life-threatening injuries.
V. Los Angeles Man Charged with Enticement Of Minor Girl Who Ran Away In San Francisco
Kingjohn Baylon Asuncion appeared in a Northern California court on September 20, 2021, to face a federal criminal complaint charging him with coercion and enticement of a minor. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.
According to the complaint, it is alleged that Baylon, 23, of Los Angeles, enticed a 13-year-old girl from Northern California to produce and send him child pornography on Instagram during the timeframe of December 25 through December 29, 2019. The complaint further alleges that on January 3, 2020, the minor female, who is from Northern California, ran away from her family, who were in San Francisco visiting the UCSF Medical Center, to meet up with Baylon. Two days later, the minor girl was found with Baylon at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
VI. Political Operatives Indicted for Alleged Scheme Involving Illegal Campaign Contribution to 2016 Presidential Campaign
On September 20, 2021, an indictment was unsealed in the District of Columbia charging a Kentucky man and a Florida man both with conspiracy to solicit and cause an illegal campaign contribution by a foreign national, effect a conduit contribution and cause false records to be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and related substantive offenses.
According to court documents, Jesse R. Benton, 43, of Louisville, Kentucky, who previously worked as a campaign manager for two U.S. Senate campaigns and one campaign for president, and Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, of Bonita Springs, Florida, who previously served as an advisor to multiple presidential campaigns, conspired together to solicit a political contribution from a Russian foreign national (Foreign National 1).
According to the indictment, Wead allegedly conveyed to Foreign National 1 that he could meet Political Candidate 1, a candidate for president during the 2016 election cycle, in exchange for a payment. Shortly after Foreign National 1 committed to transfer the funds, Benton reached out to individuals at Political Committee B, the national party committee for Political Candidate 1’s political party.
He then arranged for Foreign National 1 to attend a political fundraising event and get a photograph with Political Candidate 1, in exchange for a political contribution to Political Committee C, a joint fundraising committee comprised of the campaign committee for Political Candidate 1, Political Committee B, and related state committees.
Foreign National 1 ultimately wired $100,000 to Company A, a political consulting firm owned by Benton. To disguise the true purpose of the transfer of funds, Wead and Benton created a fake invoice for “consulting services” and invented a cover story.
VII. Kansas Man Arrested for Assault on a Federal Officer During Jan. 6 Capitol Breach
A Kansas man was arrested September 20, 2021, for crimes related to the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress that was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the presidential election. Michael Eckerman, 37, of Wichita, is charged with federal offenses that include assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; and disorderly conduct in the Capitol building. Eckerman made his initial court appearance Sept. 20 in U.S. Magistrate Court for the District of Kansas.
According to court documents related to this case, Eckerman allegedly pushed his way to the front of a crowd outside the crypt of the U.S. Capitol building and yelled at officers. He pushed one officer back several feet, thus causing him to fall down a small set of stairs and allowing rioters to move farther inside the Capitol.
He then made it to Statuary Hall on the second floor and pushed his way through another set of officers, whom he yelled at for several minutes before making his way through a line of Capitol Police officers. Eckerman then went through the House of Representatives side of the Capitol and entered the Rayburn reception room before exiting the Capitol through the upper house doors.
VIII. Federal Grand Jury Indicts Nine on Drug Trafficking Charges
On September 21, 2021, a federal grand jury in Indianapolis returned indictments charging nine people with various charges, including several counts of distribution of controlled substances, money laundering, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Those charged in this indictment include: Martin Herrera-Diaz Jr., 29, of Indianapolis; Sandra Herrera, 22, of Indianapolis; Jerzon Herrera, 28, of Indianapolis; Antonio Partida-Chavez, 29, of Mexico; Andy Partida-Chavez, 25, of Indianapolis; Brandon Vidal, 27, of Indianapolis; Miriam Rodriguez Arguello, 32, of Indianapolis; Eric Martinez, 25, of Indianapolis; and Arnoldo Gonzalez Chavez, 23, of Indianapolis.
According to the indictment, toward the end of 2020, the FBI and the IRS-CI embarked on an investigation on possible drug dealing and money laundering activities being conducted in Indianapolis. As part of the investigation, agents discovered that individuals from California and Mexico were sending meth, cocaine, and fentanyl to an individual in Indianapolis.
The person in Indianapolis, along with others would then sell the drugs in the Indianapolis area and send money back to California. Over $780,000 was exchanged during this investigation. During the arrests, search warrants were also executed at various locations. In total, 15 handguns, 3 rifles, 2 shotguns, $42,000, 274 grams of cocaine and 150 pounds of marijuana were seized. Four vehicles were also seized.
IX. Two Indicted on Drug Trafficking Charges
On September 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler. announced that, the day before, Walter Pruitt, 34, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Michael Cox, age 38, of Brooklyn, New York had been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug trafficking charges.
According to the indictment, it has been alleged that on August 5, 2021, in Lackawanna County, Pruitt and Cox conspired to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute. The case was investigated jointly by the FBI and the Scranton Police Department, and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Jenny P. Roberts, is prosecuting the case, which is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to make neighborhoods safer.
X. Tulsa Man Charged for Nightclub Shooting
On September 23, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, Clint Johnson, announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging a 21-year-old Tulsa man with a nightclub shooting that happened on Aug. 21, 2021. Jaden Perez was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm in Indian Country, as well as for carrying, using, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
According to the indictment, Perez punched a security guard at closing time near an exit door of the Midnight Rodeo nightclub in Tulsa. Perez was forced outside by the security guard, and a physical altercation ensued. After the fight was broken up, Perez and his friends were escorted to their silver Honda. Eventually, the men moved the car to another area of the parking lot as the crowd dispersed and security walked away.
Perez then exited the car, ran across the parking lot and allegedly began shooting back toward security guards and the remaining crowd. Surveillance footage shows Perez with his arm extended and muzzle flashes coming from him. A security officer returned fire. Perez was hit and ran east on 46th Street until picked up by his friends in the silver car.