Last Updated Monday, July 20, 2020, at 11:58 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, 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.