Last Updated Friday, July 31, 2020, at 2:43 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.
Call us now for a free and completely confidential attorney phone consultation at (844) 604-5190.
FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2020
I. Nearly Two Dozen Arrested, Facing Federal Charges After Weekend Protest at Oregon Federal Courthouse
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, Billy J. Williams, announced on July 27, 2020, that 22 people have been arrested and now face federal charges for their roles in weekend protests at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland. According to court documents, since May 26, 2020, protests in downtown Portland have been followed by nightly criminal activity including assaults on law enforcement officers, destruction of property, looting, arson, and vandalism.
The Hatfield Federal Courthouse has been a nightly target of vandalism during evening protests and riots, sustaining extensive damage. U.S. Marshals Service deputies and officers from the Federal Protective Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection working to protect the courthouse have been subjected to nightly threats and assaults from demonstrators while performing their duties.
Six people have been charged for alleged criminal conduct during a protest beginning July 23, 2020 and continuing into the early morning hours of July 24, 2020. Carly Anne Ballard, 34, and David Michael Bouchard, 36, are charged with assaulting federal officers; and Josslynn Kreutz, 28, Dakota Eastman, 30, Ezra Meyers, 18, and Mark Rolycanov, 28, are charged with failing to obey lawful orders.
II. California Woman Charged with Wire Fraud For Soliciting Donations In Bogus Cancer Treatment Scheme
On July 27, 2020, a criminal complaint was filed today charging Amanda C. Riley with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to solicit donations from individuals to help pay for cancer treatments she never needed nor received, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Kareem Carter.
According to the complaint, between October 2012 and February 2016, Riley, a resident of Gilroy, Calif., claimed to have Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. The complaint alleges Riley falsely claimed at various times and to various individuals that she was receiving cancer treatment at hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente, City of Hope National Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Columbia University Hospital, and UCSF Medical Center.
Riley chronicled her purported illness on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, and used her purported illness as a basis to solicit donations she claimed would help pay for her medical expenses. The complaint alleges that, in reality, Riley did not have Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had not been diagnosed with or treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma or any other type of cancer.
III. Florida Man who Used COVID-Relief Funds to Purchase Sports Car Charged in Miami Federal Court
On July 27, 2020, a Florida man was arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and using the funds, in part, to purchase a sports car for himself. Authorities seized a $318,000 sports car and $3.4 million from bank accounts at the time of arrest.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement. David T. Hines, 29, of Miami, Florida, was charged via a criminal complaint that was unsealed the same day, during his initial appearance before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan in the Southern District of Florida. Hines was charged with one count of bank fraud, one count of making false statements to a financial institution and one count of engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds.
The complaint alleges that Hines applied for approximately $13.5 million in PPP loans from an insured financial institution on behalf of different companies. The complaint alleges that Hines submitted fraudulent loan applications that made numerous false and misleading statements about the companies’ respective payroll expenses. The financial institution approved and funded approximately $3.9 million in loans.
The complaint further alleges that Hines purchased a 2020 Lamborghini Huracan sports car for approximately $318,000, which he registered jointly in his name and the name of one of his companies. In the days and weeks following the disbursement of PPP funds, the complaint alleges that Hines did not make payroll payments that he claimed on his loan applications. He did, however, make purchases at luxury retailers and resorts in Miami Beach.
IV. New Orleans Federal Grand Jury Indicts Man for Gun and Drug Offenses
On July 27, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Peter G. Strasser, announced that Jamal Smith, 31, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was charged in a six-count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury for violations of the Federal Gun Control Act and the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Smith is charged with possession with intent to distribute a quantity of marijuana, as well as possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
If convicted, Smith faces at least 5 years and up to ten years in prison per count, fines of at least $250,000 per count, and up to three years of supervised release and a special assessment fee of $100.
This case is part of Project Guardian, which draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
V. Vermont Woman Charged with Lying to Purchase Firearm for Convicted Felon
The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Ferdinand Cruz, aka “Feldi,” 39, and Bridgette Lawlor, 33, both of Bellows Falls, Vermont, were arrested several days before July 27, 2020. The federal grand jury accused Lawlor of unlawfully purchasing a Ruger .380 pistol for Cruz, whom she knew to be prohibited from possessing firearms.
Cruz was accused of unlawfully possessing two handguns, including the Ruger. Cruz was arrested on July 22, 2020. At a detention hearing on Friday, The Honorable John M. Conroy, United States Magistrate Judge, ordered that Cruz be detained pending trial. Lawlor appeared before Magistrate Judge Conroy on July 23, 2020 and was released on conditions. According to court records, Cruz’s possession of firearms was uncovered during an investigation by the Dover, Vermont Police Department of Cruz’s alleged sexual abuse of a child.
Dover officers encountered Cruz with the Ruger .380 pistol, prior to learning he was a prohibited person. After Cruz’s arrest for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, Cruz gave permission for officers to recover the Ruger .380 pistol from his residence.
While doing so, officers discovered a Taurus 9mm pistol stored with the Ruger. Records associated with the purchase of the Ruger. 380 pistol revealed it had been purchased by Lawlor. During an interview, Lawlor admitted she purchased the firearm for Cruz despite knowing he was a felon. If convicted, Cruz and Lawlor face up to ten years in prison.
VI. California Man Charged with Making Interstate Threat to Bomb Charlottesville Public School Buildings
On July 29, 2020, Lucas Isaiah Newton-Grant, a California man who previously lived in the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, was arrested in California and charged with threatening to bomb Charlottesville City School buildings. The announcement of the charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Thomas T. Cullen, along with David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.
Newton-Grant, 27, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., was arrested July 28, 2020 and charged via federal criminal complaint with one count of communicating interstate threats. Newton-Grant appeared before a magistrate judge in California late yesterday evening. He will now be transported to the Western District of Virginia for additional court proceedings.
According to court documents, on July 7, 2020, as Charlottesville City Schools were discussing re-opening plans for the fall, Newton-Grant, using the Facebook screenname, “Lucas Newton-Grant” threatened to become the next “serial bomber” and wanting to “blow those building up.” After being warned by someone online about making threatening comments, Newton-Grant responded, “I want them to come after me. They’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.” He further posted that “people will (expletive) die.”
VII. Oregon Man Charged in May 29, 2020 Arson at Justice Center
On July 28, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams announced t that Edward Thomas Schinzing, 32, has been charged by criminal complaint with using fire to maliciously damage or destroy the Justice Center in downtown Portland, Oregon on May 29, 2020. Multnomah County and the City of Portland own the Justice Center building located at 1120 SW 3rd Avenue in Portland.
The facility houses the Multnomah County Detention Center jail and the Portland Police Bureau headquarters. According to court documents, Schinzing was marching with a group of protestors when he arrived at the front of the Justice Center shortly before 11:00 p.m. on May 29, 2020. A few minutes later, several people broke windows near the northwest corner of the Justice Center where the Corrections Records Office is located.
They subsequently entered the secured office through the broken windows. Three civilian Multnomah County employees were working inside the Corrections Records Office at the time and fled for safety as the windows were broken.
Based on a preliminary review of publicly available videos from YouTube, Twitter, surveillance cameras, and still photos posted online, about 30 individuals entered the Justice Center through the broken windows. The individuals spray-painted portions of the office; damaged computer and other office equipment, furniture, and interior windows; and started fires.
VIII. Massachusetts Man Charged with Unemployment Insurance Scam
On July 28, 2020, a Melrose, Massachusetts man was arrested and charged in connection with his role in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme. Alan Neal Scott, 68, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of mail fraud. Following an initial appearance today, Scott was detained pending a probable cause and detention hearing set for July 30, 2020.
According to charging documents, Scott allegedly submitted numerous fraudulent unemployment insurance claims with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA). Scott submitted these claims using his own identity as well as the identities of various individuals – including individuals who were not eligible for unemployment benefits as they were incarcerated at the time of the claims and could not have been employed as reported.
The fraudulent claims all reported prior employment at a non-operational Massachusetts-based business also associated with Scott. The complaint alleges that as a result of these fraudulent claims, the DUA sent unemployment benefits funds to several addresses connected to Scott and that the funds were deposited into accounts controlled by Scott.
If convicted, Scott faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of not more than $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. He also faces forfeiture and restitution.
IX. Former Real Estate Attorney and Wife Indicted on Mortgage Fraud and Tax Charges
A former Massachusetts attorney and his wife were indicted July 28, 2020 in federal court in Boston in connection with various mortgage fraud schemes. Barry Wayne Plunkett Jr., 60, and Nancy Plunkett, 55, both of Hyannis Port, were each indicted on five counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Barry Wayne Plunkett Jr. was also charged with one count of tax evasion.
According to the indictment, until he was disbarred in October 2017, Barry Wayne Plunkett Jr. owned and operated the Plunkett Law Firm where his wife, Nancy Plunkett, was his office assistant and paralegal. The indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in several bank fraud schemes. In one scheme, from September 2012 to July 2016, the defendants defrauded six mortgage lenders and 14 homeowners for whom the Plunkett Law Firm handled the closings for new mortgage loans to refinance residential properties.
The defendants informed the mortgage lenders that pre-existing mortgages were paid off from the new loan proceeds when, in fact, the Plunketts intentionally failed to pay off the prior liens and instead converted more than $900,000 in payoff funds for their own purposes.
X. Two Men Indicted for Conspiracy, Bank Fraud, And Aggravated Identity Theft
On July 30, 2020, Lawrence Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida announced that a federal grand jury had returned an indictment on July 7, 2020, charging two men with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 13 counts of bank fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft. The indictment charges Isaleb Anofils, 31, of Vero Beach, and Donyell Garland, 32, of Tallahassee with conspiracy to defraud federally insured financial institutions between January 1, 2018, and April 9, 2018.
More specifically, the indictment alleges that the two men used a combination of cell phone apps and various internet websites to obtain personally identifiable information on nine individuals. Anofils and Garland then allegedly used that information to make fraudulent cash withdrawals from ATMs at their victims’ financial institutions.
In total, it is alleged that Anofils and Garland fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain approximately $151,000 in funds to which they were not entitled. If convicted, both men face up to 30 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud counts, and an additional two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft count.
FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2020
I. Virginia Man Charged with Cyberstalking Tulsa Mayor
A Virginia man who sent harassing and intimidating emails directed toward Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and his family made an initial appearance in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. Adam Maxwell Donn, 40, of Norfolk, Virginia, was charged by Criminal Complaint with cyberstalking.
According to court documents, Bynum and his family received 44 emails and 14 phone calls from June 11 through June 22, 2020, which were meant to harass, annoy, threaten and intimate Bynum and his family. Court documents also allege that Donn threatened to publish the Bynum family’s home address and personal information to the internet, including the cell phone numbers and social media accounts of their children.
The defendant allegedly said this with the hope that people would encroach upon the Bynum residence with the intent to cause Mayor Bynum harm and emotional distress. Another email was sent on June 19, 2020, when Donn allegedly stated he hoped Bynum’s family contracted COVID-19 and hoped the family suffered.
Donn further stated he would possibly show up to Bynum’s next bible study, and on another occasion, asked the mayor’s wife if she would be home later so the he could meet her at her house.
Lastly, a voicemail received by the mayor’s wife from the defendant allegedly stated the street she lived on and asked if she still lived there “before his guys made a delivery.”
II. Santa Clara Man Charged With Running Bogus Artificial Intelligence Investment Fraud Scheme
A criminal complaint was unsealed on July 20, 2020 in federal court alleging that Shaukat Shamim fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in venture capital funding for an artificial intelligence company by making false and misleading statements about the company’s technology and its revenue, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge John L. Bennett.
Shamim is charged in the complaint with one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. In particular, Shamim is alleged to have provided investors with a fake bank statement in August of 2019 showing that Youplus had over $600,000 in revenue from 35 different client companies, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Netflix, when the true bank statement showed only one client, providing $65,000 in revenue.
The complaint also alleges that Shamim used investor funds on personal expenses, including purchases at luxury clothing, eyewear, and duty-free stores. Shamim also allegedly claimed that Youplus had developed proprietary artificial intelligence software that could interpret video reviews posted by customers of particular products, enabling the companies behind those products to analyze how their brands were trending online.
Shamim allegedly pitched Youplus’s software as the “world’s first Video Opinion Search engine,” telling investors that “similar to how Google is indexing the textual web by looking inside and indexing keywords, Youplus is using computer vision, audio, and text analysis to look inside videos” to understand market trends.
According to the complaint, though, Youplus had not developed AI that could perform these functions. Instead, a review of the software and the company suggested that Youplus was paying workers through its corporate offices in India to watch videos and record their impressions. In other words, the market analysis Youplus was producing was the result of human intelligence, rather than AI software.
III. Previously Convicted Sex Offender from New Mexico Faces More Federal Charges
Anthony Gilbert Thompson, 31, of Roswell, New Mexico, appeared in federal court in Albuquerque on July 13 for an initial appearance on a criminal complaint charging him with failure to register as a sex offender.
Thompson is currently in custody pending trial after a detention hearing on July 15. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison. According to the criminal complaint, Thompson was previously convicted in 2009 of possession of child pornography and again in 2012 for the same offense.
Thompson was allegedly finishing his second term of imprisonment in a residential reentry center in Las Vegas, Nevada, when he escaped the facility on Feb 6. He was later found and arrested in Roswell, New Mexico, by deputies of the U.S. Marshals on June 18.
Thompson allegedly had not notified authorities in Nevada or in New Mexico that he would be residing or working in New Mexico, in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
IV. DHS Employee Charged with Fraud
On July 17, 2020, a 46-year-old Laredo man was charged with using the personal information of deceased individuals in online loan scam. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney fr the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick.
David Allen Parker made his initial appearance that same day, when the indictment was unsealed, and he will remain in custody pending a hearing set for July 24, 2020. According to the indictment, Parker is alleged to have devised a scheme to defraud online lending institutions from approximately 2018 through July 2019.
Parker allegedly applied for lines of credit in excess of $33,000 using stolen personal identifying information belonging to deceased individuals. Parker submitted the loan applications containing misappropriated personal identifying information through the internet to lending institutions in New York, according to the charges.
If convicted of the charges of wire fraud, Parker faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
V. Visiting Stanford Researcher Charged with Visa Fraud
A researcher at Stanford University, Song Chen, was charged in a criminal complaint on July 20, 2020, with visa fraud in connection with a scheme to lie about her status as an active member of the People’s Republic of China’s military forces.
The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John L. Bennett. Song made her initial federal court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim this morning to face the charge.
According to charging documents describing the crime appear in an affidavit supporting the complaint filed on July 17, 2020. According to the affidavit, Song, 38, a Chinese national, entered the United States on December 23, 2018, using a J-1 non-immigrant visa.
Song obtained the J-1 visa, a document “for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs,” with an application she submitted in November 2018. In that application, Song stated that she had served in the Chinese military only from September 1, 2000, through June 30, 2011. She further stated that her employer was “Xi Diaoyutai Hospital” located at “No. 30 Fucheng Road, Beijing, 100142.”
Song described herself in her visa application as a neurologist who was coming to the U.S. to conduct research at Stanford University related to brain disease. According to the affidavit, these are all allegedly lies, and that Song was a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese military, when she entered and while she was in the United States, and that the hospital she listed on her visa as her employer was a cover for her true employer, the PLA.
VI. Federal Corrections Officer Indicted for Accepting Bribes
On July 14, 2020, Wesley Hughes, 28, of Greenwood, Mississippi, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury and charged with accepting bribes. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst, along with several prominent law enforcement officials.
According to the indictment, Hughes, who was employed as a Federal Corrections Officer, accepted money from an individual in return for providing contraband to a federal inmate at the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Complex.
Hughes had his initial court appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Linda R. Anderson in Jackson on July 20, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. If convicted, Hughes faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
VII. Pennsylvania Man Charged with Sextortion and Production of and Transferring of Child Pornography
A Blair County resident has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of interstate transmission of an extortion communication, production and attempted production and receipt and attempted receipt of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor, and transfer of obscene material to a minor.
The announcement of the indictment was made on July 20, 2020 by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady announced today. According to the indictment, in August of 2019, and on November 22, 2019, November 28, 2019, and February 5 through 7, 2020, Kolonis knowingly transmitted threatening communications to seven minor females with the intent to extort them.
On November 22, 2019, November 28, 2019, and February 5 through 7, 2020, in addition to communicating threats with the intent to extort, Kolonis attempted to produce and produced live video depictions of the sexual exploitation of three of the minor females located in Ohio and in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
He also attempted to receive and received material depicting their sexual exploitation and transferred and attempted to transfer obscene material to them. If convicted, Kolonis faces at least 15 years and up to life in prison, a fine of $4,000,000, or both.
VIII. California-Based Company, Its President and an Employee Indicted in Alleged Scheme to Violate the Export Control Reform Act
The president of a California-based electronics distribution company, his company and an employee were indicted on July 20, 2020 by a federal grand jury in Providence, Rhode Island, on charges they participated in a conspiracy to conceal information from the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of a scheme to illegally export chemicals manufactured and/or distributed by a Rhode Island-based company to a technology company in China that is on a U.S. government list of businesses not permitted to receive products manufactured in the United States.
According to an indictment unsealed July 20, 2020, in U.S. District Court in Providence, it is alleged in the indictment that Broad Tech System Inc., located in Ontario, California, the company’s CEO, CFO, and President Tao Jiang, a/k/a “Jason Jiang” and Bohr Winn-Shih, an equipment engineer for Broad Tech Systems, conspired to order the chemicals HiPR 6517 Photoresist (Photoresist) and HPRD 441 Developer (Developer) from a Rhode Island-based manufacturer.
They then knowingly submitted false and misleading documentation to the U.S. Government and shipping companies in an effort to ship the product to a company in China, in violation of the Export Control Reform Act. Photoresist and HPRD are essential in the chip manufacturing process.
It is further alleged that the defendants knowingly provided false information in an attempt to ship the chemicals to China Electronics Technology Group Corporation 55th Research Institute, a/k/a Nanjing Electronic Devices Institute, CETC Research Institute 55, NEDI, and NEDTEK, located in Nanjing, China.
The company is a state-owned Chinese entity that mainly engages in the manufacturing of electronic components and the research, development and production of core chips and key components in China’s military strategic early warning systems, air defense systems, airborne fire control systems, manned space systems, and other national large-scale projects.
IX. Two Alleged Criminals – A Hezbollah Associated Narco-Money Launderer and a Computer Hacker – Extradited from Cyprus to the United States
On July 18, 2020, a Lebanese national wanted in Florida who is alleged to have conspired to engage in, and actually engaged, in the laundering of drug proceeds through the use of the black market peso exchange in support of Hezbollah’s global criminal-support network and a Cypriot national who is wanted in the Northern District of Georgia and the District of Arizona for cyber intrusion and extortion, were both extradited yesterday from the Republic of Cyprus to the United States.
Ghassan Diab, 37, a citizen of Lebanon, arrived in Miami yesterday after being extradited from the Republic of Cyprus. Diab is charged in the State of Florida, Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, with two counts of money laundering over $100,000, two counts of conspiracy to launder over $100,000, two counts of unlicensed transmission of currency over $100,000, and two counts of unlawful use of a two-way communications device to further the commission of money laundering, all felonies under Florida law.
Diab was previously identified as an alleged Hezbollah associate and charges were announced by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in October 2016 as a part of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Miami Field Division’s “Operation reconquista,” a joint State/Federal partnership to attack money laundering which resulted in the arrest of two co-defendants.
At that time, Ghassan Diab’s specific whereabouts were unknown. Diab was provisionally arrested in Cyprus for purposes of extradition on March 9, 2019, at the Larnaca International Airport upon his arrival from Beirut, Lebanon, based on a request from the United States in accordance with the U.S.-Cyprus Extradition Treaty. On September 27, 2019, the court in Cyprus found him extraditable to the United States.
Additionally, Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, 21, a resident of Nicosia, Cyprus, arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on July 27, 2020, after being extradited from the Republic of Cyprus, where he was arrested in February 2018. He is the first Cypriot national extradited by Cyprus to the United States since Cyprus amended its Constitution in 2013 to allow for the extradition of Cypriot nationals to a European country or to a third country on the basis of a European arrest warrant or on the basis of a bilateral or multilateral treaty that the Republic of Cyprus has signed, with the understanding that the corresponding country would extradite its citizens as well.
X. German Citizen Charged with Orchestrating Mail Fraud Scheme Defrauding Elderly and Vulnerable Victims of Over $10 Million
On July 23, 2020, a federal grand jury indicted a German man with orchestrating a massive mail fraud scheme targeting elderly and otherwise vulnerable victims with false and fraudulent psychic solicitations, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. Georg Ingenbleek, 54, a citizen of Germany, is charged with two counts of mail fraud, four counts of money laundering, and one count of obstruction of justice.
Ingenbleek was associated with and used a company, Regency Direct Marketing AG, located in Switzerland, for his mass mailing campaigns. According to the indictment, from at least 2011 through 2016, Ingenbleek allegedly created numerous direct mail solicitations supposedly from world-renowned psychics, falsely and fraudulently claiming that the recipients were being contacted because they had been the subject of specific visions by the psychics, including visions that the recipients were going to receive large sums of money and good fortune.
Many of the letters falsely promised that the psychic services or objects being offered were free of charge, when the letters were, in fact, mass-produced using software and information provided by Ingenbleek to a direct mail marketing services company, Company-1, located in Piscataway, New Jersey. Ingenbleek had retained that company to print and mail the solicitations.
Friday, July 17, 2020
I. Texas Man Charged with COVID Relief Fraud
On July 14, 2020, a Houston man was taken into custody on allegations that he fraudulently obtained more than $1.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
The charges and the arrest were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick and Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Joshua Thomas Argires, 29, Houston, is charged in a criminal complaint with making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
According to court and charging documents, Argires allegedly perpetrated a scheme to file two fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $1.1 million in forgivable loans. The Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The complaint alleges Argires submitted two fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured banks.
One application was submitted on behalf of an entity called Texas Barbecue; the other was filed on behalf of a company called Houston Landscaping. Neither Texas Barbecue nor Houston Landscaping has employees or pays wages consistent with the amounts claimed in the PPP loan applications. The complaint further asserts that both of these loans were funded, but that none of the funds were used for payroll or other expenses authorized under the PPP.
II. Washington State Felon Arrested In California For Possessing An Assault Rifle
James David Allen II made an initial appearance on July 13, 2020 in federal court before Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim on a criminal complaint for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The appearance came days after police arrested him on July 8, 2020,. The arrest and charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David L. Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.
According to the complaint, Allen, a resident of Washington State, was found sleeping in a stolen car in Pinole, California on the morning of July 8, 2020. After confirming that the vehicle was stolen, officers arrested Allen and conducted an inventory search of the vehicle.
The complaint alleges that on the front passenger floorboard of the vehicle, officers found a loaded AR-15 style rifle with handwritten numbers and words all over it. The rifle was pointed barrel down with the rear stock leaning against the front edge of the passenger seat, making it immediately accessible to the driver’s hand.
It was equipped with a loaded, high-capacity 30-round magazine. Upon taking possession of the rifle, the arresting officers found a live round chambered and the fire control switch set to “fire.” A second loaded, high-capacity 30-round magazine was taped to this magazine, positioned opposite so that the shooter could drop the first magazine from the rifle and easily flip it over to insert the second.
III. New Jersey Man Charged in Pennsylvania With Conspiring To Distribute Controlled Substances Resulting In Death
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on June 16 that James R. Bell, 28, of Newark, New Jersey, was indicted on July 14, 2020, by a federal grand jury with drug distribution resulting in death.
According to U.S. Attorney David J. Freed, the Indictment alleges that Bell conspired with others to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, fentanyl and heroin, within the Middle District of Pennsylvania, resulting in the death of a person.
The charges stem from a joint investigation involving the Scranton FBI office, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshefski is prosecuting the case.
The case was brought as part of a district-wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and fentanyl. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.
IV. Texas Man Charged With Assaulting Deputy U.S. Marshal With Hammer During Oregon Protests
On July 13, 2020, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced that a Texas man had been charged with assaulting a U.S. Marshals Service deputy with a construction hammer during weekend protests at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in downtown Portland.
Jacob Michael Gaines, 23, a Texas man currently residing in a recreational vehicle in Portland, has been charged by criminal complaint with one count of assaulting a federal officer. Gaines also made his initial appearance in federal court on June 13, 2020, before a U.S. Magistrate Judge and was released pending further proceedings.
According to court documents, at approximately 1:00am on July 11, 2020, Gaines was observed using a hammer to damage a barricaded entrance at the Hatfield, Oregon Federal Courthouse.
At the time, federal law enforcement personnel were staged inside the courthouse to protect the facility and respond to incidents. Law enforcement attempted to exit the courthouse to prevent Gaines from breaching the barricaded entrance.
While they attempted to detain him, Gaines struck a U.S. Marshals Service deputy three times with the hammer. The deputy deflected the blows to prevent serious injury, but in process was struck in the left shoulder, lower neck, and upper back. While being struck, the deputy managed to hold onto Gaines while other officers handcuffed him and placed him under arrest.
V. Oklahoma Man charged for Murder Occurring on Creek Nation Land
An Oklahoma man was charged with murder in the first degree in Indian Country on June 13, 2020, after he allegedly shot and killed a woman in Philpott Park on July 10, 2020. According to a Criminal Complaint, James Michael Landry, 29, of Tulsa, committed the crime on the Creek Nation reservation. The victim was an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma Trent Shores, “The United States Attorney’s Office is pursuing this case consistent with our new responsibilities following the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.”
According to the Criminal Complaint and affidavit, Tulsa police officers and emergency personnel arrived at Philpott Park in response to a 911 call. The caller stated that a man had requested help because his girlfriend was going to die.
At the scene, first responders observed James Michael Landry, 29, standing over a woman lying on the ground. Because Landry was making conflicting statements and acting strange, and he was put in investigative detention.
Upon processing the scene, the medical examiner discovered what appeared to be a shotgun wound to the head. Detectives located a double barrel shotgun hidden under sticks next to a tree near the crime scene.
During an interview with police, Landry allegedly admitted that the shotgun belonged to him and that he had pointed it at the victim on days prior to the crime as well as the day of the crime.
He also allegedly claimed that the victim put the gun in her own mouth on the day of the crime as he held the firearm and they argued. He claimed the gun was fired unintentionally.
VI. Minnesota Man Charged with Illegally Possessing A Firearm
On July 13, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica H. MacDonald announced a criminal complaint charging Zachary Victor Robinson, 27, with one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Robinson was arrested in Chicago, Illinois, on July 10, 2020, on a Minnesota state complaint-warrant for second-degree intentional murder. Robinson is scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court at a later date.
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint and law enforcement affidavit, on December 31, 2019, pursuant to an active arrest warrant, officers with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) were conducting surveillance on ROBINSON.
When MPD officers observed Robinson exit a residence in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, they moved in to make an arrest, ordering Robinson to put his hands in the air. Robinson complied and told the officers that he had a gun on his left side.
After taking Robinson into custody, officers recovered a Taurus, model PT111 Millennium G2, 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Robinson’s side. Because Robinson has prior felony convictions, he is prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition at any time.
VII. Riviera Beach, Florida Men Charged with Stealing 93 Protected Sea Turtle Eggs on Singer Island Beach
Federal prosecutors in West Palm Beach have charged two Florida residents with felony crimes for allegedly poaching protected sea turtle eggs to later sell them. The accused poachers allegedly stole 93 eggs from their nest on Florida’s Singer Island Beach in May of this year.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); and Major Olin Rondeau, South A Regional Commander, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made the announcement.
The criminal complaint charges Carl Lawrence Cobb, 63, and Bruce Wayne Bivins, 63, both of Riviera Beach, Florida, with violating the Lacey Act and with criminal conspiracy.
The Endangered Species Act protects sea turtle eggs. Under the Lacey Act, it is a crime to transport endangered species of fish and wildlife, including sea turtle eggs, if the purpose is to sell them. If convicted, Cobb and Bivins face up to five years in prison on each charge.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Cobb used his green pick-up truck to drive Bivins to the Singer Island Beach on May 24. At about 9:45 p.m., Cobb allegedly dropped Bivins off on the beach and drove away.
The affidavit alleges that Bivins located a sea turtle nest, started digging, removed 93 eggs from that nest, put the eggs in a black bag, and then called Cobb for pick-up.
VIII. Washington, D.C. General Contractor Charged with COVID-19 Relief Fraud
The owner of a residential construction contracting firm based in Washington, D.C., was charged with allegedly submitting fraudulent documents to a bank in connection with applications seeking more than $400,000 in a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin for the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG), and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) made the announcement.
Oludamilare Olugbuyi, 40, of Washington, D.C., was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia with making false statements to a financial institution. According to the complaint, Olugbuyi submitted several fake and fraudulent documents to a financial institution in support of two PPP loan applications seeking more than $400,000 in forgivable loans for a construction firm that he owned. Specifically, Olugbuyi submitted what purported to be several IRS Forms 1099-MISC reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in disbursements made to independent contractors.
IX. Florida Man Arrested For Burning A Building During Civil Disturbance In Tampa
The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Maria Chapa Lopez announces the arrest of Terrance Lee Hester, Jr. 20, of Tampa, based on a criminal complaint for damaging or destroying by fire a building used in interstate commerce.
Hester surrendered to federal authorities in Oswego, New York. After an initial appearance on Friday afternoon in the Northern District of New York, Hester remains in custody. If convicted, Hester faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 5 years, up to 20 years, in federal prison.
According to the complaint, on May 30 and May 31, 2020, a protest near a shopping plaza located at 2301 East Fowler Avenue in Tampa devolved into civil unrest, looting, and destruction of property.
During this disturbance, the Champs Sports store in the shopping plaza was set on fire. The building became fully engulfed in fire, resulting in major damage to the building and the loss of property.
The estimated loss to the building, the Champs Sports store, and other businesses in the plaza is approximately $1.25 million.
Video footage obtained by investigators revealed that Hester was one of the individuals participating in the civil disturbance, and that he tossed a flaming piece of cloth into the Champs store through a broken window.
Fire investigators determined that the fire originated inside the Champs store and that Hester’s act caused or contributed to the cause of the fire.
X. Five Defendants Indicted in Federal Drug Investigation Centered on North Side of Chicago
On July 10, 2020, five individuals were indicted on drug charges as part of a federal investigation into cocaine trafficking on Chicago’s North Side. During the multi-year investigation, law enforcement seized more than 365 grams of suspected crack or powder cocaine, and six grams of fentanyl. Much of the alleged drug trafficking occurred in the West Ridge neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago.
The indictment returned on July 9, 2020 in U.S. District Court in Chicago charges five defendants with conspiracy and other federal drug offenses. Those indicted are: Joshua Moore, a/k/a “Big Moe” and “Big Guy,” 41; John Heard, a/k/a, “Bird,” 30; Earnest Greene, a/k/a “Ernie,” 20; Jose Fontanez, a/k/a “Joey Crack,” 38; and Antonio Maxey, a/k/a “Tone,” 32; all of Chicago. Greene currently remains at large, while the other defendants are either in law enforcement custody or have been released on court-supervised bond.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago office; and David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. According to the indictment and a criminal complaint, Moore purchased wholesale quantities of cocaine and packaged it for distribution on the street, the charges state. He also allegedly “cooked” the powder cocaine into crack cocaine for street sale. Moore either sold narcotics directly to customers or supplied the drugs to his co-defendants to handle the sales, the charges state.
Friday, July 10, 2020
I. Seven Arrested, Facing Federal Charges After Weekend Riots at Oregon Federal Courthouse
On July 7, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams announced that seven people were arrested and face federal charges for their roles in weekend riots at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse in Portland. According to court documents in the case, since May 26, 2020, protests in downtown Portland have regularly been followed by nightly criminal activity, including assaults on law enforcement officers, destruction of property, looting, arson, and vandalism.
Rowan Olsen, 19, of Portland, has been charged with disorderly conduct, creating a hazard on federal property, and failing to obey a lawful order; Shant Singh Ahuja, 28, of Oceanside, California, is charged with destruction of federal property; and Andrew Steven Faulkner, 24, of Beaverton, Oregon; Gretchen Margaret Blank, 29, of Seattle, Washington; Christopher Fellini, 31, of Portland; Cody Porter, 28, of Portland; and Taimane Jame Teo, 24, of Eugene, Oregon, are charged with assaulting federal officers. All seven defendants made their first appearances in federal court on July 6, 2020 and were released pending trial.
II. New Jersey Man Charged with Stealing and Altering U.S. Treasury Check
A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man has been charged with bank fraud, theft, and identity theft U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today. Bernard Lopez, 40, of Sayreville, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of bank fraud, one count of theft of government funds, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Lopez was arrested on July 6, 2020, where he appeared by teleconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren F. Louis in the Southern District of Florida and is expected to appear by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre sometime this week.
According to the statements and documents filed in this case, on Oct. 5, 2019, Lopez used a victim’s Social Security number and business documents pertaining to a sham business he had created to open a fraudulent bank account in that business’ name. Lopez then fraudulently obtained a U.S. Treasury check, which was fraudulently altered to be made payable to the sham business in the amount of $211,887 and deposited it into the account. Lopez would then either withdraw or transfer the stolen proceeds from the fraudulent business bank account before anyone could detect the fraud.
III. Pennsylvania Man Indicted for Receiving and Possessing Images, Videos Showing Sexual Exploitation of Minors
On July 7, a resident of Altoona, Pennsylvania. was indicted by a Johnstown federal grand jury on charges of receipt and possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of minors the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott W. Brady, made the announcement. The two-count Indictment named Matthew Michael Walter, 33, as the sole defendant.
According to the indictment, on or about August 21 and 22, 2019, Walter received images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. It is further alleged that on another occasion, Walter knowingly possessed pictures and videos in individual computer graphic files which were produced using prepubescent minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. All computer graphic files were shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce. If convicted, Walter faces up to 30 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, or both.
IV. Washington D.C. Man Indicted by Federal Grand Jury for Attempting to Burn Down Police Station
Jerritt Jeremy Pace, 39, of Washington, D.C., was indicted today by a federal grand jury, charging him with multiple offenses related to his attempt to burn down a police precinct, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin; Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Ashan M. Benedict; and Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Peter Newsham.
Pace was arrested on May 29, 2020. On June 11, 2020, Pace was charged by Criminal Complaint with receiving an explosive in interstate commerce, using an instrumentality of interstate commerce to threaten the use of explosives, and attempted arson. On June 12, 2020, the Honorable U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather held Pace without bond pending trial.
Today, a federal grand jury returned an Indictment against Pace charging him with three federal arson and explosives offenses. The Criminal Complaint and Indictment stem from an incident on or about May 29, 2020, when Pace announced on social media his intent to burn down a police station.
V. Two in Pennsylvania Charged with Knowingly Selling Stolen Merchandise
Two residents of Windber and Johnstown, Pa., were indicted by a federal grand jury in Johnstown on charges of conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today. The Indictment named Bradley J. Charlton, 37, of Windber, Pa., and John P. Stuart, 38, of Johnstown, Pa.
According to the indictment, from Aug. 1, 2016, to Oct. 3, 2018, the named defendants conspired with one another, and with others, to commit certain offenses against the United States, that is, to unlawfully transport, transmit and transfer in interstate commerce goods, wares and merchandise knowing the same to have been stolen, converted, and taken by fraud.
It was part of the conspiracy that the defendants operated a retail flea market “Value-It” in Richland Township between 2016 and 2018. It was further part of the conspiracy that customers would bring stolen new merchandise to Value-It for purchase by the defendants.
It was further part of the conspiracy that the defendants would purchase the stolen new merchandise, knowing it had been stolen. It was further part of the conspiracy that the stolen merchandise that had been purchased from the customers by Value-It was thereafter sold by Value-It at the store or over the Internet on websites such as eBay. It was further part of the conspiracy that Value-It would receive monetary payments for the stolen merchandise that had been sold over the Internet.
VI. Kazakh Citizen Charged with Computer Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Conspiracy for Hacking Corporate Networks Worldwide
An indictment was unsealed on July 7, 2020, in the Western District of Washington charging a citizen of Kazakhstan, Andrew Turchin, a/k/a “fxmsp,” 37, with various federal crimes related to a prolific, financially motivated cybercrime group that hacked the computer networks of a broad array of corporate entities, educational institutions, and governments throughout the world, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.
The “fxmsp” group established persistent access, or “backdoors,” to victim networks, which they then advertised and sold to other cybercriminals subjecting victims to a variety of cyberattacks and fraud.
According to the five-count indictment and records on file, from at least October 2017 through the date charges were returned by a Grand Jury, in December 2018, TURCHIN and his accomplices perpetrated an ambitious hacking enterprise broadly targeting hundreds of victims across six continents, including more than 30 in the United States.
Widely known in hacking circles by the moniker “fxmsp,” TURCHIN employed a collection of hacking techniques and malicious software (malware) to gain and maintain access to victim networks.
For instance, he often used specially designed code to scan the Internet for open Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports and conduct brute-force attacks to initially compromise victim networks.
Once inside the victim’s system, he moved laterally throughout the network and deployed additional malicious code to locate and steal administrative credentials and establish persistent access. The conspirators often modified antivirus software settings to allow malware to continue to run undetected.
VII. Massachusetts Man Arrested on Federal Drug Charge
A Southbridge, Massachusetts man was arrested and charged on July 7, 2020 in connection with attempting to receive a kilogram of cocaine through the mail. Revel Rivera, 42, was arrested on the afternoon of July 6 and charged by criminal complaint with attempted possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. Rivera made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy on July 7, 2020.
According to the charging documents, law enforcement learned of a mail package suspected to contain illegal drugs destined for Rivera’s residence. After obtaining a warrant, federal agents opened the package and found approximately one kilogram of cocaine hidden inside.
The agents removed the cocaine, resealed the package, and conducted a controlled delivery to Rivera’s residence on High Street in Southbridge. Federal agents arrested Rivera after he took possession of the sealed package and drove away from his residence. If convicted of the charge of attempted possession with intent to distribute Rivera faces at least five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $5 million.
VIII. Seventh Former eBay Employee Charged in Aggressive Cyberstalking Campaign
A seventh former employee of eBay, Inc. has been charged with participating in a cyberstalking campaign targeting a Natick, Massachusetts couple who published a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company. Philip Cooke, 55, of San Jose, Calif., a former police captain in Santa Clara, Calif., and a supervisor of security operations at eBay’s European and Asian offices, was charged by Information with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Cooke will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.
According to charging documents for this case, Cooke conspired with six other former eBay employees (all currently in custody) with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
The charging documents in the previous cases identified Cooke as “Supervisor 1” in previously filed Information charging Gilbert, Popp, Stockwell, and Zea with the same offenses was also unsealed on June 15, 2020.
The charging documents in all cases allege that the victims of the cyberstalking campaign were a Natick couple who are the editor and publisher of an online newsletter that covers ecommerce companies, including eBay. Members of eBay’s executive leadership team followed the newsletter’s posts, often taking issue with its content and the anonymous comments underneath the editor’s stories.
Allegedly, in August 2019, the defendants executed a three-part harassment campaign, including orders made by defendants and anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home. Those items included a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography.
IX. South Dakota Man Indicted on Cocaine, Marijuana, and Firearm Charges
On July 7, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Ron Parsons, announced that a Rapid City, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Marijuana, and Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person. Michael Kearney, age 28, was indicted on March 9, 2020. Kearney appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on July 2, 2020 and pled not guilty to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that beginning on or about the 1st day of January 2017, through the 1st day of March 2018, Kearney knowingly and intentionally, combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed with persons known and unknown, to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.
Further, on July 23, 2017, Kearney, knowing he was an unlawful user of and addicted to a controlled substance, knowingly possessed a firearm. If convicted, Kearney faces up to 20 years in federal prison and/or a $1,000,000 fine, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
X. Two Utahns Charged with Covid-Relief Fraud for Failure To Disclose Applicant Was Under Federal Indictment
A federal complaint unsealed last week charges the owner of a Utah trucking company with submitting a fraudulent loan application to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of $210,000 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Hubert Ivan Ugarte, 52, of Draper, with the assistance of Lisa Bradshaw Rowberry, 49, of Provo, Utah, submitted a loan application to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain the PPP loan, according to the complaint.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, as a way to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $249 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized more than $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
Friday, July 3, 2020
I. Massachusetts Man Charged with Child Pornography Offenses
A Bourne, Massachusetts man was arrested on July 1, 2020 and charged with receipt and possession of child pornography. Bryan C. Mileikis, 33, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Mileikis will make an initial appearance via videoconference in federal court in Boston this afternoon.
According to the charging documents, on June 11, 2019, police executed a search warrant at Mileikis’ home and seized an iPhone belonging to Mileikis. A forensic examination of the phone revealed images and videos depicting child pornography.
If convicted of receipt of child pornography, Mileikis faces a mandatory minimum sentence of between five years and 20 years in prison, a mandatory minimum of five years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. If convicted of possession of child pornography, he faces up to 20 years, plus supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
II. Three Michigan Men Indicted for Distribution of THC Vape Cartridges
A federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland, Ohio has returned a two-count indictment charging Artyom Garber, 33, Paul Queenan, age 64 and John Botsford, age 62, all of Michigan with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).
According to court documents, Garber (formally of Cleveland, Ohio), Queenan and Botsford agreed to deliver 9,800 THC vape cartridges from Ann Arbor, Michigan to a residence in Cleveland, Ohio.
On October 10, 2019, agents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) performed an investigative stop of Queenan and Botsford in Cleveland and seized the cartridges. During an investigation, detectives learned of an additional 700 THC cartridges remaining in a storage unit in Dearborn Heights, Michigan that belonged to Garber and Queenan.
III. Connecticut Man Arrested, Charged, and Detained for Distributing Child Pornography Videos to Online Group
On June 30, 2020, Edward Galpin, 38, of Stratford, Connecticut, was detained pending trial on charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of child pornography, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin, along with Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.
This case was investigated by special agents of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Metropolitan Police Department’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force with assistance from the FBI’s New Haven Field Office. Galpin was arrested after he was charged in a criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia last week.
The complaint alleges that, in October of 2019, Galpin joined an online messaging group devoted to the exchange of child pornography and shared numerous sexually explicit videos of young children with the group.
The complaint also alleges that Galpin also had private conversations with an undercover officer working in the District of Columbia, sending the undercover officer a video of a 17-year old female family friend undressing. Galpin told the undercover officer that he had used a spy camera to make this recording.
IV. South Dakota Man Indicted for Second Degree Murder and Assault With a Dangerous Weapon
On July 2, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Ron Parsons announced that a Mission, South Dakota, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Second Degree Murder and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon.
Nathan Blue Bird, Sr., 37, was indicted on June 11, 2020. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on June 30, 2020 and pled not guilty to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that on May 30, 2020, Blue Bird killed a man by striking him repeatedly with a metal baseball bat. If Bird is convicted, he will face up to life in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, as well as five years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. Restitution may also be ordered.
V. 14 Members Of Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring Charged With Drug Conspiracy And Related Charges
On July 1, 2020, 14 alleged members of a methamphetamine trafficking ring were charged with federal drug conspiracy and related drug and firearms offenses. The charges were announced by Andrew Murray, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
The federal indictment was unsealed in court the same day. Seven of those charged have been arrested by federal, state and local law enforcement, and the remaining seven are currently incarcerated on unrelated charges. The arrests are the result of a multi-agency investigation targeting the trafficking of methamphetamine from Georgia into Western North Carolina.
The 14 defendants charged are:
- Thomas Dewayne Simmons, Jr., 34, of Snellville, Georgia.
- Ruth Marie Duggar, 36, of Claremont, N.C.
- Kimberly Deann Bumgarner, 55, of Claremont, N.C.
- Cynthia Roxanne Shook, 34, of Catawba, N.C.
- Lowell Thomas Messer, 32, of Sherrills Ford, N.C.
- Samantha Jean Taylor, 26, of Newton, N.C.
- Jason Keith Reichard, 38, of Newton, N.C.
- Aaron Douglas Goodson, 29, of Maiden, N.C. (in custody on state charges)
- Priscilla Chapman Lambert, 33, of Hickory, N.C. (in custody on state charges)
- Jonathan Corey Daniel, 31, currently incarcerated in the Georgia Department of Corrections.
- Tiffany Christmas Hirani, 33, currently incarcerated at the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center in Jonesboro, Georgia.
- James Kristoffer Cantley, 38, currently incarcerated at the Robert A. Detention Center in Lovejoy, Georgia.
- Brian Duane Martz, 40, currently incarcerated in the Georgia Department of Corrections.
- Michael James Notheisen, 34, currently incarcerated in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
All 14 defendants are charged with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine, which carries a statutory minimum prison term of ten years and a maximum term of life in prison, and a $10 million fine. Some defendants face additional drug possession and distribution charges and/or related firearms offenses.
According to allegations contained in the criminal indictment, from 2018 through April 2019, the 14 defendants were involved in a drug conspiracy that trafficked and distributed methamphetamine in Catawba, Lincoln, Caldwell, and Alexander Counties and elsewhere in Western North Carolina. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized at least 23 firearms, and more than $250,000 in drug proceeds.
VI. Former Indiana High School Teacher Charged With Receiving Child Pornography
Brian Kunze, 31, of Valparaiso, Indiana, was charged by criminal Complaint with receiving child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II.
According to documents in the case, Kunze, a former Wheeler High School teacher, used his position of authority at the school to coax one of his minor students into taking and sending him sexually explicit photos of herself.
Digital forensic examination of devices seized by federal law enforcement agents from Mr. Kunze’s home also revealed that he knowingly obtained sexually explicit photos of other minor girls who attended the school.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan City Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster.
If convicted, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the Judge after consideration of federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
VII. Three Former Correctional Officers Indicted for Assaulting an Inmate and Attempting to Cover it Up
On July 1, 2020, a federal grand jury in Honolulu, Hawaii, returned a six-count indictment against three former correctional officers — Jason Tagaloa, 29, Craig Pinkney, 36, and Jonathan Taum, 48 — for their roles in assaulting an inmate housed at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center and for attempting to cover up their misconduct.
The indictments were actually entered on June 25, 2020, and they were announced June 30 by U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price for the District of Hawaii, along with Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and FBI Honolulu Special Agent in Charge Eli S. Miranda.
The indictment alleges that, on June 15, 2015, defendants Tagaloa, Pinkney, and Taum, along with a fourth correctional officer designated “Officer A,” physically assaulted an inmate in the jail’s recreation yard.
It is also alleged that Tagaloa later assaulted the same inmate in a holding cell, and that both assaults resulted in bodily injury. The indictment further alleges that the defendants and Officer A conspired to cover up their misconduct by engaging in a variety of obstructive acts, including devising a false cover story to justify their use of force, documenting that false cover story in official reports, and repeating that false cover story when questioned during the ensuing investigation and disciplinary proceedings arising out of the assault.
If convicted, all three face up to 10 years in prison for each of the deprivation-of-rights offenses, 20 years in prison for each of the false report offenses, and 5 years in prison for the conspiracy offense.
VIII. Two Arrested Regarding Grand Jury Indictment Alleging Family-Run Narcotics Ring Trafficking Cocaine, Fentanyl
On June 30, 2020, federal authorities in California arrested two defendants who had been named in a federal grand jury indictment alleging a family-run drug trafficking organization trafficking in kilogram quantities of cocaine, as well as fentanyl pills.
One of the named defendants is already in federal custody, while authorities are continuing to search for the three remaining defendants, including the mother who allegedly oversaw the operation.
The indictment charges six defendants:
- Maria Trinidad Gutierrez Mendoza, a/k/a “Tia,” 54, of Downey, the alleged leader of the narcotics ring, who allegedly possessed 4.3 kilograms (about 9.5 pounds) of cocaine one year ago;
- Maria’s son, Jose Ceja Gutierrez, a/k/a “Feo” and other aliases, 32, of South Gate, who is currently in federal prison on unrelated charges;
- Maria’s daughter, Karina Ceja Gutierrez, 35, of Los Angeles, who allegedly helped her mother obtain cocaine and was arrested today;
- Jose’s girlfriend, Esmerelda Rodriguez, a/k/a “Barbara Moran,” 29, of Huntington Park, who allegedly helped obtain fentanyl pills;
- Primitivo Cisneros Cruz, aka “Primo,” 70, of Los Angeles, an alleged source of narcotics for the drug ring, who allegedly was found with a kilogram of cocaine in May 2019 and was arrested today; and
- Bridgett Coates, a/k/a “Sharol,” “Janet” and “Yane,” 55, of Lawndale, an alleged customer of the organization.
Karina Gutierrez and Cruz were arraigned that afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. If convicted, all six defendants face 10 years to life in prison.
IX. Five Florida Residents Charged In Money Laundering Conspiracy Related to Drug Trafficking Proceeds
On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Maria Chapa Lopez announced the unsealing of a 37-count indictment charging five people with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charged individuals include Hector Rodriguez Mendez, 44, Virginia Garcia Moreta, 33, Leo Pichardo, 60, Cleto Dominguez, 38, and Samuel Rivera, 42, all of Tampa.
According to the indictment, the individuals used the cash proceeds of drug trafficking to purchase cashier’s checks in their individual capacities and through various businesses that they had created. These cashier’s checks were then remitted to various other individual and business accounts to receive, disguise, conceal, and distribute the drug trafficking proceeds.
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison per count. The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States is seeking a money judgment of $21,567,939 and forfeiture of approximately $167,008 seized from a bank account representing the proceeds of the offenses.
X. Seattle Doctor Charged with COVID-19 Relief Fraud
A Seattle doctor was taken into custody on June 30, 2020, based on allegations that he fraudulently sought over $3 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Dr. Eric R. Shibley, 41, of Seattle, Washington, was charged by criminal complaint, unsealed upon his arrest, in the Western District of Washington with one count of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud. He made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson at 2 p.m. PDT today.
The complaint alleges that Shibley submitted several fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured financial institutions, other U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)-approved lenders, and the SBA in the names of businesses with no actual operations or by misrepresenting the business’s eligibility.
In the applications, Shibley allegedly misrepresented the number of employees and payroll expenses in several applications and concealed his own criminal history.
To support the fraudulent applications, the complaint alleges that Shibley submitted fake tax documents and the names of purported employees who did not, in fact, work for the businesses for which Shibley claimed they worked.
The complaint alleges that Shibley fraudulently sought over $3 million in PPP loans.