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.

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, September 24, 2021

To start this week’s roundup, we start with a case in South Dakota, in which the Acting U.S. Attorney or the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes, announced on Sept. 18, that two men from Sioux Falls and Watertown, Dylan St. Claire, 30, and Dylan St. Claire, 30, respectively, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 9, for Receipt and Distribution of Child Pornography. 

St. Claire  appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on Sept. 14, 2021, which is where he pled not guilty to the indictment, whereas Kohrt appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on Sept. 16, and pled not guilty to the Indictment at that time.

According to the St. Claire Indictment, it is alleged that, between on or about March 10 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 Kohrt Indictment alleges that between on or about March 2 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 via computer.

Impersonating a Federal. Agent

The next case in our roundup comes out of Minnesota. On Sept. 20, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, W. Anders Folk, announced that a federal criminal complaint had been filed against a Dodge County man for impersonating a federal law enforcement officer. According to 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.

When the FBI investigated the tip, they discovered 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. 

He also referred to himself as a federal agent, both explicitly and implicitly, in his social media posts. According to court documents, Simmons is not, and has never been, employed by the Department of Homeland Security or any other federal law enforcement agency.

Kansas Man Prosecuted for January 6 Capitol Breach

On Sept. 2o, a man from Kansas was arrested for crimes related to theJan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress as it was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the 2020 presidential election. They were essentially trying to delay or disrupt the final vote count.

The man in question, Michael Eckerman, 37, of Wichita, Kansas, has been 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 in support of 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.

Healthcare Kickbacks Case
On Sept. 19, 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, Louisiana. The charges were brought as part of a recently initiated National Enforcement Action. 

The first thing announced as part of that National Enforcement Action occurred on Sept. 9, and it involved an indictment by a federal grand jury, which  returned a seven-count indictment charging Terry Steven Wilks, Jr., 39, of Greenwell Springs, Louisiana. 
At about the same time, he 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.
All charges came 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.  

The 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 are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Los Angeles Man  Charged with Enticement of Minor Runaway

The next case in our roundup involves Kingjohn Baylon Asuncion, who appeared in a Northern California court on Sept. 20, 2021, to face a federal criminal complaint charging him with coercion and enticement of a minor. These 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 Asuncion, 23, of Los Angeles, enticed a 13 year old girl from Northern California to produce and send him child pornography on Instagram from Dec. 25 to Dec. 29, 2019.  The complaint further alleges that on January 3, 2020, the minor female 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.

Illegal Campaign Contributions Arrive in Criminal Court

This past week, on Sept.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.

New Jersey Gang Members Charged with Stabbing

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 gang in Jersey City have been charged with the August 3, 2020 stabbing of an individual on a busy Jersey City street. Sheldon Mays, 21, Jermaine Jennings, 20, Divine Abraham, 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 hey 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 in this case has been 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 members of a rival gang, the defendants assaulted Individual-1 and stabbed him in broad daylight on a busy street in Jersey City. Individual-1 suffered life-threatening injuries.

Indictments for Drug Trafficking

Two of the cases in this week’s roundup involve what has become a perennial these days; drug trafficking.  On Sept. 21,  a federal grand jury in Indianapolis returned indictments charging nine people with various charges related to drug trfficking, , including several counts of distribution of controlled substances, money laundering, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.

According to the indictment in this case, toward the end of 2020, the FBI and the IRS-CI investigated possible drug dealing and money laundering activities being conducted in Indianapolis. As a result of the investigation, agents discovered that individuals from California and Mexico were sending meth, cocaine, and fentanyl to an individual in Indianapolis. 

The Indianapolis resident, along with others, would then sell the drugs in the Indianapolis area and send the 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.

On Sept. 22, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler. announced that Walter Pruitt, 34, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Michael Cox, 38, of Brooklyn, New York had been indicted by a federal grand jury on drug trafficking charges.

According to the indictment, it is alleged that on Aug. 5, 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.

Criminal Case for Nightclub Shooting

The last case we’ll look at in this week’s roundup, we will  take a look at a case involving a Tulsa nightclub shooting. On Sept. 23, 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,  Jaden Perez, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm as well as for  carrying, using, brandishing, and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. The charges come out of a nightclub shooting that happened on Aug. 21.

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.