Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2020, at 1:24 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, NOVEMBER 27, 2020
I. Louisiana Man Indicted for Gun and Drug Offenses
U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced on Friday, November 20, 2020 that Keshawn Patton, 25, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was charged in a three-count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury for violations of the Federal Gun Control Act and the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
Patton is charged in Count 1 with possession with intent to distribute a quantity of a substance containing a detectable amount of amphetamine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(E)(i). In Count 2, Patton is charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. In Count 3, Patton is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
If convicted of Count 1, Patton faces up to 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, up to 3 years of supervised release, and a special assessment fee of $100. For Count 2, Patton faces at least five years up to life imprisonment, which is to run consecutively to all other sentences, a $250,000 fine, up to 5 years of supervised release and a special assessment fee of $100.
If convicted of Count 3, Patton faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, up to 3 years of supervised release, and a special assessment fee of $100.
II. Three Charged with Several Violent Kidnappings in Chicago Suburbs
On November 23, 2020, three men were indicted on federal kidnapping charges for allegedly abducting several victims at gunpoint in the Chicago suburbs. According to a superseding indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago, last year, the defendants allegedly carried out two kidnappings in Naperville and Westchester, and attempted a third in South Holland.
Charged with participating in a kidnapping conspiracy are Sedgwick Williams, 43, of Chicago; Ivan Ayers, 33, of Chicago; and Tai Hon La, 31, of Beach Park. If convicted, the defendants face up to life in federal prison. All three defendants are currently detained in law enforcement custody.
Arraignments occurred on Nov. 24, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth W. Jantz. The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI Chicago Field Office; and Robert Marshall, Chief of the Naperville Police Department.
III. Fifth Person Charged in Health Care Kickback Conspiracy
On November 18, 2020, a fifth individual was indicted for conspiring to commit illegal remunerations in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. The announcement of the charge was made by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas Stephen J. Cox on November 23, 2020.
On Nov. 18, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Steven Churchill, 34, and David Warren, 49, both of Boca Raton, Florida, Samson Solomon, 23, of West Palm Beach, Florida, Daniel Stadtman, 66, of Allen, Texas, and Lydia Henslee, 29, of McKinney, Texas, each with one count of conspiracy to commit illegal remunerations.
According to the superseding indictment, the defendants allegedly conspired to pay and receive kickbacks in exchange for physicians’ orders that were used to submit claims for payment to federal health care programs. The conspirators obtained patient information, including protected health information and personally identifiable information, and used the information to create fictitious physicians’ orders.
The conspirators then sold the physicians’ orders to each other and to other durable medical equipment providers. Within approximately eight months, the defendants collectively obtained more than $2.9 million in proceeds from the criminal scheme.
IV. Three Charged with Firearms Violations for Firearms Purchased for Individuals Unable to Legally Buy Guns
On November 23, 2020, it was announced that three individuals were charged with travel within the United States with intent to deal firearms without a license in a complaint unsealed Nov. 19. The charges allege the defendants were involved in purchasing or attempting to purchase 27 firearms in Utah between Aug. 1, 2020, and Nov. 4, 2020.
Charged in the complaint are Erick Lopez, age 20, Christopher Lopez, 22, and Bryan Rodriguez, 21, all of California. According to the complaint, an ATF special agent was contacted by a federal firearms licensee (FFL) regarding the suspicious attempted purchase of five pistols on Aug. 2, 2020, by a person referred to as Person A in the charging document.
Person A was observed with two Hispanic males in a rental car with California plates. Ultimately, the FFL canceled the purchase, and the sale was not completed. Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 27, 2020, Person A made three separate purchases for a total of 12 pistols from three different FFLs.
According to the complaint, the Person A paid cash for all of the purchases. In late October, ATF learned that one of the firearms, a Glock pistol, had been recovered during a traffic stop in Arizona involving a convicted felon.
Investigators linked the rental car used during the attempted firearms purchase on Aug. 2, 2020, to an individual. Further investigation revealed Christopher and Erick Lopez were associated with the individual.
V. New Jersey Woman Charged with Concealing Terrorist Financing to Syrian Terrorist Organization
On November 25, 2020, a Sussex County, New Jersey woman, was arrested at her home in connection with concealing the fact that she sent money to a Syrian foreign terrorist organization. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito.
Maria Bell, a/k/a “Maria Sue Bell,” 53, of Hopatcong, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of knowingly concealing the provision of material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. She appeared by videoconference the same afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, from February 2017 on, Bell used encrypted applications to communicate with and provide advice to fighters based in Syria who were members of the al-Nusra Front (ANF), also known by other aliases, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), fighting the Assad regime.
Bell communicated with and provided money to one self-identified member of HTS based in Syria, identified in the complaint as “User 1.” Bell sent currency to User 1 via Western Union, using an intermediary to conceal the source of the funds, and also provided him advice on weapons and ammunition.
In communications with HTS fighters, Bell cited her professional experience – including her specialized weapons training while on active duty in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard – to provide guidance concerning operational security issues, firearms purchases, and military knowledge.
She had thousands of encrypted communications with User 1 about operational planning and provided details with regard to concealing payments sent to User 1.
VI. Akron Man Charged with Distributing Fentanyl that Caused Overdose Death
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced on November 25, 2020 that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland returned a four-count indictment charging Quentin D. Watson, 34, of Akron with the distribution of fentanyl that resulted in the overdose death of an Akron woman.
This charge carries a potential sentencing enhancement due to a death resulting from the use of a controlled substance. The grand jury further charged Watson with additional counts of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
According to court documents, on June 24, 2020, the defendant allegedly distributed fentanyl to an Akron woman identified in court documents as M.M., who later died after ingesting a fatal dose. On October 24, 2020, Akron police stopped the defendant in a vehicle. A subsequent search resulted in the seizure of fentanyl, methamphetamine and a 9mm pistol.
VII. Pennsylvania Man Charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Meth
On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady announced that a resident of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, had been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on a charge of violating federal narcotics laws.
The one-count indictment names Tommy Lee Horner, 31, as the sole defendant. According to the indictment, from around December 2019 to around January 2020, Horner allegedly conspired to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance.
If convicted, Horner faces up to 40 years in prison, a fine of $5,000,000, or both.
VIII. Former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Employee and Local Woman Charged in a Bribery Scheme
On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that Sonja Dyson Evans, 58, of Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and Shawanda Dove, 51, of Amite, Louisiana were charged on November 23, 2020, in a bill of information with one count of use of an interstate facility with intent to carry on unlawful activity.
According to the bill of information, at the time of the offense, Evans was employed by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office as a Criminal Records Division Supervisor. From January 2016 through January 2017, both Evans and Dove used cell phones to carry out a bribery scheme in which Evans solicited and accepted bribe money from Dove in exchange for fraudulent bonds used for the release of incarcerated persons.
If convicted, both defendants face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a mandatory special assessment of $100.00.
IX. Illinois Couple Charged with $2M Extortion & Fraud Scheme
An O’Fallon, Illinois couple faces a variety of federal charges as of November 24, 2020. Both Emmitt T. Tiner and Matissia S. Holt have been named in a wide-ranging, 54-count indictment that accuses the pair of an elaborate extortion scheme, defrauding the Illinois Home Services Program, and money laundering.
Tiner is also charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, using a false social security number, and sending threatening communications. The 53-year old Tiner was arraigned on Nov. 23 at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis and pleaded not guilty on all counts. Holt, 41, is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 3, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.
According to the indictment, Tiner devised and engaged in a five-year scheme to defraud people and businesses, particularly owners of small businesses in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and fraudulently obtain as much money as possible from them.
After receiving some money from his victims, Tiner allegedly tried to convince them that he had engaged in some sort of criminal activity on their behalf, such as arranging an illegal drug deal, so that he could acquire the necessary funds to repay them.
Tiner would then attempt to convince the victims that they were accomplices to his crimes and threaten to falsely implicate them to law enforcement if they did not give him more money. The indictment alleges that Tiner also extorted his victims by threatening to kill or injure them and their families.
X. Convicted Violent Felon Indicted on Gun Charge
On November 24, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that Ernest Dunn, 30, of New Orleans, was charged on November 20 in a single count indictment by a Federal Grand Jury for violating the Federal Gun Control Act.
According to court documents, Dunn was previously convicted of armed robbery and purse snatching. Being a convicted felon, Dunn is alleged to be in possession of five firearms including an assault rifle on November 6, 2020.
If convicted of the firearms offense, Dunn faces up to ten years in prison, a fine of $250,000, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment fee.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2020
I. 26 Charged in Federal Investigation That Dismantled Telephone Drug Hotline in Chicago
At least 26 individuals have been charged with various narcotics trafficking or firearms offenses as part of a federal investigation into illegal activities on the West Side of Chicago. As part of the investigation, law enforcement shut down a telephone drug hotline, according to a criminal complaint recently unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Over a three-month period this past summer, law enforcement made two dozen undercover purchases of fentanyl-laced heroin and crack cocaine from the defendants’ drug trafficking operation, according to the complaint. In addition to shutting down the phone line used by the defendants to coordinate sales, law enforcement also seized narcotics, a drug mixer, and multiple firearms during a court-authorized search of a stash house in Chicago, the charges allege.
The complaint unsealed on Nov. 10, 2020, charges 13 defendants with drug conspiracy. Twelve of those defendants were arrested and have begun making initial appearances in federal court. One defendant remains at large, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
II. California Residents Charged in $35M Ponzi Scheme
The creator of investment companies Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla was arrested November 16, 2020, for a $35 million fraud scheme. The announcement of the charges was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California McGregor W. Scott. Matthew Piercey, 44, of Palo Cedro, was arrested Nov. 16, 2020, after a grand jury returned an indictment on Nov. 12, 2020 charging him with wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and witness tampering.
The indictment was unsealed November 16, 2020, following his arrest. When law enforcement agents attempted to arrest Piercey, he led agents on a vehicle chase through residential neighborhoods and then onto the highway before abandoning his vehicle and entering Lake Shasta with an underwater submersible device.
Law enforcement officers arrested him after he emerged from the lake. In addition, Kenneth Winton, 67, of Oroville, was charged separately by criminal information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, from about July 2015 through August 2020, Piercey carried out an investment fraud scheme that raised approximately $35 million in investor funds, altogether.
Piercey used Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla to solicit funds from investors using a variety of false and misleading statements, including about trading algorithms, the success of the companies’ investment strategies, and the liquidity of investments.
III. Maryland Man Indicted for Sexually Exploiting Two Children to Produce Child Pornography
A federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted Brian Anthony Gilbert, 33, of District Heights, Maryland, on federal charges of production, distribution, and possession of child pornography. The indictment was returned on November 2, 2020 and Gilbert made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on November 16, 2020. At hiss initial appearance the same day, U.S. Magistrate Judge
Charles B. Day ordered Gilbert detained pending trial. The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur, along with Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, and other law enforcement officials.
According to the nine-count indictment, between December 28, 2018, and September 10, 2020, Gilbert sexually exploited minor Victim 1, and between January 3, 2019, and September 10, 2020, Gilbert sexually exploited minor Victim 2, in order to produce visual depictions of the children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
On August 26, 2020 and August 29, 2020, Gilbert allegedly distributed visual depictions documenting the sexual abuse of children. Finally, as alleged in the indictment, on September 11, 2020, Gilbert possessed visual depictions of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, including a prepubescent minor and a minor under 12 years of age.
IV. South Dakota Woman Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter
On November 16, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Ron Parsons announced that a St. Francis, South Dakota, woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Involuntary Manslaughter. Diana Swift, 31, had been indicted on November 10, 2020.
She appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on November 13, 2020, where she pled not guilty to the Indictment. If convicted. Swift faces up to eight years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Restitution may also be ordered. The Indictment alleges that on September 14, 2020, in Todd County, South Dakota, Swift killed a woman by operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.
V. Virgin Islands Man Arrested on Charges of Conspiracy and Attempted Possession of Meth, Marijuana with Intent to Distribute
On November 16, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced that Jason Lee Current, 43, of St. Croix, appeared before Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon for an Initial Appearance after his arrest by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents on the charges of Conspiracy to Possess a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute and Attempted Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute.
According to court documents, on November 5, 2020, Custom and Border Protection officers in San Juan, PR, intercepted a mail parcel that contained 120 grams of Methamphetamine and 341 grams of Marijuana. The package was mailed from California and addressed to Current.
On November 10, 2020, the parcel was prepared by law enforcement for a controlled pickup. The controlled substances were replaced with (sham) representative facsimiles, and the parcel was outfitted with a tracking device. That same day, Current picked up the parcel at a postal facility.
Law enforcement surveillance monitored the pick-up, but the defendant eluded the tailing vehicles after detecting the tracking device. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody on November 13, 2020.
VI. Ohio Man Arrested, Indicted for Burglary of Wisconsin Jeweler
On November 17, 2020, Matthew D. Krueger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on November 3, 2020, James Patrick Quinn, 55, of Youngstown, Ohio, was charged by criminal complaint for his involvement in the July 12, 2016, burglary of Treiber & Straub Jewelers in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Quinn was arrested on November 10, 2020, and a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Quinn on November 17, 2020.
According to charging documents, three disguised individuals broke into Treiber & Straub Jewelers in Brookfield, Wisconsin, breached the store’s vault, and took a large quantity of goods and merchandise. The three burglars were captured by surveillance video.
They cut communications lines and disabled exterior lighting and alarms to evade detection and forced their way inside the store. The indictment alleges that Quinn and his co-actors conspired to carry out this burglary, and to transport and sell the stolen proceeds of the theft in interstate commerce.
As part of the conspiracy, Quinn allegedly traveled to Wisconsin on at least two occasions, and returned to Ohio shortly after the burglary. According to the complaint, the value of the jewelry, diamonds, watches, and other valuables taken was estimated at over $7 million.
VII. India-Based VoIP provider and Its Director Indicted for Facilitating Millions of Scam Robocalls to Americans
On November 17, 2020, a first-of-its-kind indictment was unsealed against Indian-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider, E Sampark, and its Director, Gaurav Gupta, who pushed out tens of millions of scam calls to American consumers on behalf of India-based phone scammers.
Pursuant to a consent permanent injunction, a federal court has also ordered a Florida-based server farm to stop providing E Sampark and Gupta with servers used to help perpetuate the fraud scheme. The consent permanent injunction seeks to prevent E Sampark and Gupta from further victimizing U.S. consumers through the use of the servers located in Florida.
According to the Indictment and the Complaint, Defendant Gaurav Gupta allegedly directed and operated E Sampark, d/b/a VG-Tech Serve Private Limited, a Voice Over IP (VoIP) company that allegedly sent calls from criminal India-based call centers to victims in the United States, both directly and through VoIP providers located in the United States.
From May 2015 to June 2020, the defendants passed tens of millions of scam calls from India into the United States, leading to reported victim losses of over $20 million. The callers purported to be legitimate government agencies and businesses and misled victims over the phone.
The callers allegedly used multiple frauds, including Social Security impersonation, IRS impersonation, and loan scams.
VIII. New Hampshire Man Indicted for Distributing Fentanyl Resulting in Fatal Overdose
Christopher Pipken, 39, has been indicted for possession with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine; and distribution of methamphetamine and fentanyl resulting in death. D. Michael Dunavant, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire announced the indictment on November 17, 2020.
According to the indictment, in late August of 2019, the victim was found deceased at a house in Bartlett, apparently the result of an overdose. On November 12, 2020, a federal grand jury charged Pipken with distributing the drugs that led to the death of the victim.
In addition, Pipken was charged with three other separate distributions of heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. If convicted on the drug distribution counts, Pipken faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
If convicted for the distribution count resulting in death, Pipken faces at least 20 years and up to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
IX. Seven Charged in COVID-Relief Fraud Involving 80+ Fraudulent Loan Applications Worth $16 Million
Seven individuals across two states were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their alleged participation in a scheme to obtain approximately $16 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Amir Aqeel, 52, and Pardeep Basra, 51, both of Houston, Texas; Rifat Bajwa, 51, of Richmond, Texas; Mayer Misak, 40, of Cypress, Texas; Mauricio Navia, 41, of Katy, Texas; and Richard Reuth, 57, of Spring, Texas, are expected to make their initial appearances on November 17, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew M. Edison.
All defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. The indictment also charges Aqeel with three counts of money laundering. Also named in the Houston indictment is Siddiq Azeemuddin, 41, of Naperville, Illinois, who also faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Azeemuddin will appear today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Heather K. McShain of the Northern District of Illinois. The indictment alleges all conspired to submit more than 80 fraudulent PPP loan applications by falsifying the number of employees and the average monthly payroll expenses of the applicant businesses.
In support of these fraudulent loan applications, they allegedly conspired to submit, and then submitted, fraudulent bank records and/or fake federal tax forms. Some of the PPP loan applications were allegedly submitted on behalf of companies the defendants controlled.
Other loan applications were submitted on behalf of entities that third parties allegedly owned, according to the indictment. In exchange for these, several of the defendants received large kickbacks, according to the charges.
X. Former Lawyer and Former CPA Charged With Tax Crimes, Defrauding Elderly Investors
On November 18, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez announced the return of a superseding indictment charging Phillip Roy Wasserman, 63, of Sarasota and Kenneth Murray Rossman, 62, of Bradenton, with filing false income tax returns, in addition to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. The superseding indictment also charges Wasserman with tax evasion.
If convicted, Wasserman and Rossman each face up to 20 years on each of the conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud counts, and up to 3 years’ imprisonment on each count of filing a false income tax return. In addition, Wasserman faces a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment for the tax evasion count.
The superseding indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States is seeking a money judgment of at least $6.3 million, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.
According to the superseding indictment, Wasserman, a former lawyer and licensed insurance agent, and Rossman, a Florida certified public accountant and licensed insurance agent, made false and fraudulent misrepresentations and concealed material information in order to convince elderly victim-investors to put their money into Wasserman’s new insurance venture, “FastLife.”
Some victims were persuaded to liquidate traditional investments, and Rossman prepared income tax returns for victim-investors in a manner designed to conceal negative personal tax consequences that resulted from the liquidations from both the victim-investors and the Internal Revenue Service.
Wasserman paid Rossman a percentage of the victim-investors’ money as compensation for his role in the conspiracy. Wasserman also used the victim-investors’ funds to make payments both to earlier victim-investors in the FastLife venture and to victim-investors in his earlier hedge fund and real estate fund ventures.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2020
I. Two Indicted on Federal Firearm Charges for Allegedly Trafficking Handguns from Indiana to Chicago
CHICAGO — Two men have been indicted on federal firearm offenses for allegedly trafficking multiple handguns from Indiana to Chicago. Benjamin Cortez-Gomez, a/k/a “Bennie Blanco,” is charged with one count of dealing firearms without a license and one count of illegally possessing firearms as a convicted felon.
Gustavo Uriel Gomez-Hipolito, a/k/a “Uriel Gomez,” is charged with one count of aiding and abetting Cortez-Gomez in the illegal possession of the firearms. According to an indictment unsealed on November 4, 2020, in U.S. District Court in Chicago accuses Cortez-Gomez of trafficking firearms over a four-month period earlier this year.
The indictment further alleges that Cortez-Gomez illegally possessed seven handguns on July 27, 2020, with Gomez-Hipolito’s assistance. Cortez-Gomez purchased the seven guns in Indiana and transported them to Chicago, according to a criminal complaint filed against Cortez-Gomez earlier in the investigation.
Cortez-Gomez, 28, is currently detained in federal custody. A date for his arraignment has not yet been scheduled. Gomez-Hipolito, 24, pleaded not guilty and has been released on bond while awaiting trial.
II. Four Indicted on Federal Firearms Charges In “Granny’s Guns” Burglary
On November 9, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, Bryan Schroder, announced that four Anchorage men had been indicted on charges related to the June 6, 2019 burglary of Granny’s Guns, a federally licensed firearms dealer located in Anchorage.
According to the recently unsealed indictment, Gian Carlo Clemente Pangilinan a/k/a “G,” 24; Muna Junior Rhode, 21; Kao Chiang Saelee, aka “Robbie,” 38; and Hans Mikaele Wells, aka “Mika,” 24, all of Anchorage, have each been charged with conspiracy, theft of firearms, possession of stolen firearms, and tampering with evidence. Additionally, Rhode and Saelee were also charged with felon in possession of firearms.
The indictment alleges that on June 6, 2019, Pangilinan, Rhode, Saelee, and Wells drove a stolen Chevrolet Trailblazer to Wrightway Auto Carriers. The defendants burglarized Wrightway Auto Carriers and stole several items, including a GMC Sierra.
The defendants then drove both stolen vehicles to Whaley School and abandoned the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Sometime later, the defendants obtained another stolen SUV and crashed it into the front windows of Granny’s Guns, in order to gain access to the business.
Defendants Pangilinan, Rhode, and Wells loaded 22 firearms into the bed of the stolen GMC Sierra, and all four defendants fled the scene, abandoning the stolen SUV. The defendants transferred the stolen guns into a black GMC Denali, and Wells and two others set the stolen GMC Sierra ablaze in an effort to destroy evidence.
III. Nevada Man Indicted in Human Trafficking Case
On November 9, 2020, a Las Vegas resident was officially charged in a 10-count indictment with coercing underage girls via Facebook to work as prostitutes for him. He made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court the same day. The indictment was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas A. Trutanich.
In October 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Denzel Renyal Michael Loyd, 35, of Las Vegas, with four counts of coercion and enticement; three counts of sexual exploitation of a child; one count of transfer of obscene material to minor; one count of sex trafficking of children; and one count of possession of child pornography.
Loyd appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach, who ordered him to be detained in federal custody pending a jury trial. As alleged, from February 5, 2020 to March 9, 2020, Loyd coerced and enticed four underage victims via Facebook to engage in prostitution for him.
The indictment further alleges that Loyd sent obscene material to a victim, and that he possessed child pornography on his cell phone. If convicted, Loyd faces at least 10 and up to 30 years in prison for the coercion and enticement charges and between 15 and 30 years in prison for the child pornography charge.
IV. Three Face Federal Charges For Violent Twin Cities Carjackings
On November 9, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica H. MacDonald announced federal carjacking charges against Delaney Nicholas Harris, 19, Joshoamei DeAngelo Richardson, 19, and James Brock Williams, Jr. 19.
Harris was charged with aiding and abetting carjacking and, in a separate indictment, Richardson and Williams were charged with aiding and abetting carjacking and firearms violations. The defendants made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court on Nov. 9, where they were ordered to remain in detention pending further proceedings.
According to the allegations in the indictment and documents filed with the court, on June 1, 2020, officers with the Minneapolis Police Department responded to a report of a carjacking in the downtown area. A witness told officers that two men, one later identified as Harris, the second a then-unidentified accomplice, approached a man who was exiting his vehicle, and threw him to the ground.
One of the men displayed a gun, threatened to kill the victim, and demanded his car keys. The witness also told officers that Harris had been holding a red plastic cup just prior to the incident. Officers recovered the cup and later found that the fingerprints and DNA on the cup were a match for Harris.
According to the allegations in a separate indictment and documents filed in state court, on August 25, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Richardson and Williams used force and violence, while brandishing a firearm, to steal a 2012 Dodge Charger. Williams allegedly brandished a firearm, demanded the keys, and threatened the driver of the Dodge Charger as he exited his vehicle. Richardson and Williams then fled the scene in the Charger.
V. Georgia Man Faces Federal Charges for Aiming Laser at Commercial Aircraft
An Effingham County, Georgia resident has been indicted on federal charges for aiming a powerful laser at commercial aircraft. Roger Floyd Hendricks, 48, of Rincon, was indicted by a U.S. District Court grand jury on three counts of Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft. The charges were announced by Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
The Federal Aviation Administration contacted the FBI in February for assistance in locating the source of three separate green laser strikes on aircraft inbound to the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. According to the indictment, those strikes included:
- A Nov. 27, 2019 strike on Commutair flight 4935 from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The aircraft, an Embraer ERJ-145, has a capacity of more than 50 passengers and crew and landed safely.
- A Dec. 8, 2019 strike on Delta flight 697 from Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. The aircraft, an Airbus A321, has a capacity of up to nearly 200 passengers and crew and landed safely. And,
- A Jan. 14, 2020 strike on NetJets flight 385 from Chicago Midway International Airport. The aircraft, a Cessna Citation Sovereign, has a capacity of eight passengers plus crew and landed safely.
If convicted, Hendricks faces up to five years in prison and substantial fines, followed by a period of supervised release.
VI. Florida Couple Charged in Scheme to Defraud Verizon Wireless
A couple from Miami, Florida, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges were announced on November 10, 2020 by U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady.
The two-count Indictment was originally returned on September 23, 2020 and named Samuel T. Johnson, 31, and Daphne Debrosse, 30, both of Miami, as defendants. According to the Indictment and information presented to the court, Johnson, Debrosse, and others conspired to defraud Verizon Wireless by fraudulently obtaining new, in-box cellular devices and reselling them on the illicit market.
Through various means, Johnson was able to compromise existing Verizon accounts and charge the various devices to them. Johnson also created fraudulent accounts and charged devices to those as well. Afterwards, Johnson, Debrosse, and other others would retrieve the purloined devices from various Apple Stores and other third-party vendors, located throughout the United States. Johnson, Debrosse, and others would then resell them.
VII. Taiwan Individual and International Business Organizations Charged with Criminal Conspiracy to Violate Iranian Sanctions
On November 10, 2020, Chin Hua Huang, 42, a resident of Taiwan, was charged in the Washington, D.C. District Court for with participating in a criminal conspiracy to violate U.S. export laws and sanctions against Iran. Also charged was Taiwan business organization DES International Co., Ltd. (DES Int’l) and Brunei business organization Soltech Industry Co., Ltd. (Soltech).
Huang, DES Int’l, and Soltech were charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring to defraud the United States and to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSRs).
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges that Huang was a sales agent for DES Int’l and Soltech, both of which procured goods from the United States for the benefit of Iranian government entities and business organizations. DES Int’l and Soltech were affiliated with one another by virtue of common directors, employees, and customers.
Huang used her position as a sales agent to help an Iranian research center obtain U.S. goods without a license from the Department of the Treasury. These goods included a power amplifier designed for use in electromechanical devices, and cybersecurity software.
Huang took steps to conceal the U.S. origin of the goods, including by removing serial number stickers with the phrase “Made in USA” from packages, and by causing the cybersecurity software to be downloaded onto a computer outside of Iran. Huang shared developments regarding this illegal conduct with other employees and directors of DES Int’l and Soltech.
VIII. Two Louisiana Men Indicted for Attempting to Transport Minor From Texas to Louisiana for Sex
On November 12, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick announced that two men will appear in McAllen federal court on various charges related to the kidnapping and transportation of a minor across state lines. A federal grand jury returned an indictment on November 5, 2020 against Brandon Galvez, 22, and Jose Serrano-Ramos, 23, both from Chalmette, Louisiana.
They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis at 9:00 a.m. on Nov. 12. Both have been charged with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Galvez was also indicted on charges of kidnapping and coercion and enticement of a minor.
According to the charges, the investigation began after the mother of a 13-year-old girl reported she had left the family home in McAllen. Later, authorities allegedly encountered Galvez and Serrano-Ramos traveling north with her and noticed signs of possible abuse.
Law enforcement then took the men into custody. Subsequent investigation revealed that Galvez had allegedly groomed the victim and traveled to Texas with the intent to transport her back to Chalmette. The charges allege Galvez paid Serrano-Ramos to transport him and the victim from McAllen to Louisiana.
The charges allege Serrano-Ramos knew the victim had been sexually abused. If convicted, both men face up to life in federal prison.
IX. Federal Inmate Charged in Plot to Hire Hitman to Kill Informant and Prosecutor
On November 12, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina Peter M. McCoy, Jr., announced that a federal grand jury has indicted Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmate Richard Gilbert in connection with a murder-for-hire plot. According to the indictment, Gilbert, who was serving time at a federal prison in Edgefield for trafficking meth in Bowling Green, Kentucky, sought to hire a hitman to kill the federal prosecutor and a key witness from his Kentucky case.
The charges stem from an undercover operation during which Gilbert, from a contraband cell phone in prison, communicated with an undercover task force officer with the FBI who was posing as a hitman.
According to the indictment, following multiple recorded phone calls, Gilbert sent the undercover officer a $2,000 check from his prison canteen account as a down payment for the retaliatory murder-for-hire. Masking the true purpose of this payment, Gilbert attempted to mislead BOP officials by misrepresenting the payment as being for an “investment firm.” Gilbert is charged with murder-for-hire, retaliation against an informant, and money laundering.
According to the indictment, Gilbert drew maps of where he believed the witness from Kentucky lived and provided direction to the undercover officer, posing as the hitman, on how to avoid detection by nearby surveillance cameras.
X. Major COVID-19 Fraud Investigation Nets Charges in Georgia
On November 12, 2020, six individuals were indicted on felony charges and nearly $400,000 seized in the Southern District of Georgia relating to the alleged submission of fraudulent loan applications for pandemic disaster relief funds.
In response to the devastating negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed into law in March 2020.
The CARES Act authorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide and/or guarantee loans specifically designed to keep small businesses afloat during the unprecedented financial challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Charges in the Augusta area announced Nov. 12 allege that the six individuals exploited these programs for their own financial gain and sought relief payments through a series of false and fraudulent representations regarding their businesses’ existence, gross revenue, and number of employees in order to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and/or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
According to the indictments, these individuals made false representations to the SBA and/or financial institutions about small businesses each purportedly owned in the Augusta area.
FRIDAY, November 06, 2020
I. Wisconsin Woman Indicted for Assault with Intent to Commit Murder on Menominee Indian Reservation
On November 2, 2020, Matthew D. Krueger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on October 20, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment against Michelle Pamonicutt, 35, of Keshena, Wisconsin, who allegedly assaulted a man with intent to murder.
The indictment named which is on the Menominee Indian Reservation. The indictment charged Pamonicutt with Assault with Intent to Murder. The charge relates to an incident on October 27, 2019. The Menominee Tribal Police Department and the FBI investigated the case, with assistance from the Wisconsin State Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew J. Maier will prosecute the case.
If convicted, Pamonicutt faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release.
II. Ohio Man Charged with Illegal Possession of a Machine Gun
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman announced on November 2, 2020 that a Cleveland federal grand jury has returned a two-count indictment charging Dazhan McCallister, 20, of Akron with illegal possession of a machinegun and receipt or possession of an unregistered firearm.
According to court documents, on or about July 28, 2020, Akron police responded to complaints of a large group of people blocking traffic in a local park. Law enforcement officers approached the group and noticed the defendant carrying a firearm.
The defendant was allegedly in possession of a Glock, Model 17, 9mm caliber pistol with an installed conversion device designed to allow the weapon to fire automatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The firearm was not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, as required by law.
III. Mississippi Woman Charged with Unemployment Fraud
On November 2, 2020, Judith Ann Middleton, 70, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with multiple violations of federal law involving unemployment insurance benefits fraud. The announcement of the charges was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst and U.S. Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Shawn Wolfe.
In May 2020, it was discovered that unemployment insurance benefits from the State of Washington had been deposited into Middleton’s account. Investigation into these benefits revealed that they were deposited under the names of other individuals.
The unemployment insurance benefits were federally subsidized through the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
IV. Two Nevada Men Indicted For Allegedly Operating Multimillion Dollar Sports Betting Pyramid Scheme
Two Las Vegas residents made their initial court appearances in U.S. District Court on Friday, October 30, 2020, for charges related to a multimillion dollar investment fraud scheme. The charges were announced November 2, 2020 by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas A. Trutanich, along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse.
A federal grand jury returned a 14 count indictment on October 27, 2020, charging John Frank Thomas III, a/k/a “John Frank,” “Johnathan West,” “John Frank Rodgers,” “John Marshall,” and “John Edwards,” 75, and Thomas Joseph Becker, 72, both of Las Vegas, with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 13 counts of wire fraud.
Following their arrests on October 30, Thomas and Becker made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe, who scheduled a jury trial for January 4, 2021.
V. Thirteen Charged With Social Security Fraud
On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez announced that federal charges had been filed against 13 individuals in Operation Dead Ringer. The individuals are charged in 12 separate cases, with stealing more than one million dollars cumulatively in benefits paid by the Social Security Administration on behalf of beneficiaries who were deceased.
If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment on each count. According to the respective indictments, Lauren McKay, 28, and Leah McKay, 31, both of Jacksonville, are charged with theft of government funds. From July 2011 to June 2017, the McKays fraudulently collected approximately $96,055 of their mother’s Social Security benefits following her death on July 12, 2011.
Donna Sharpe Crowther,63, of Jacksonville, is charged with theft of government funds. From January 2009 to May 2019, Crowther fraudulently collected approximately $223,869 of her husband’s Social Security benefits following his death on December 15, 2008.
Robin Elmore, 44, of St. Augustine is charged with theft of government funds. From April 2012 to June 2019, Elmore fraudulently collected approximately $63,492 of her sister’s Social Security benefits following her sister’s death on March 20, 2012. These cases are being investigated by the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from other federal and local law enforcement agencies.
VI. Alleged Armed Robber Arrested In Tennessee
On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez announced the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging Shawn O’Neil Smith, 22, of Zephyrhills with robbery.
According to the complaint, on October 10, 2020, Smith, who was armed with a handgun, robbed the Shell gas station located in Valrico. Smith threatened an employee with the handgun and also discharged the firearm during the robbery.
The joint efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office led to Smith’s identification and he was apprehended in Tennessee. Smith appeared in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee on October 29, 2020, and was ordered detained pending his removal to Tampa. If convicted, Smith faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
VII. New Mexico Man Charged with Bank Robbery
Calvin Whiteside, 27, of Albuquerque, appeared in federal court on October 29, 2020, on two counts of bank robbery. Whiteside will remain in custody pending trial.
According to a criminal complaint, on October 23, 2020, Whiteside allegedly entered and robbed Bank of the West on Menaul Blvd. in Albuquerque. Moments after leaving Bank of the West, Whiteside allegedly entered and robbed First Financial Credit Union on San Mateo Blvd.
Albuquerque Police identified and apprehended Whiteside a short time later. If convicted, Whiteside faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
VIII. Former eBay Executives Indicted for Cyberstalking Campaign
Two former executives with eBay, Inc. executives were indicted today by a federal grand jury in Boston in connection with their roles in a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.
James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, Calif., eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety & Security, and David Harville, 48, of New York City, eBay’s former Director of Global Resiliency, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts each of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through facilities of interstate commerce, two counts (Baugh) and one count (Harville) of witness tampering, and two counts (Baugh) and one count (Harville) of destruction, alteration, and falsification of records in a federal investigation.
Baugh and Harville were previously charged by criminal complaint and arrested on June 15, 2020. Co-conspirators and former eBay employees Philip Cooke, 55, Brian Gilbert, 52, Stephanie Popp, 32, Veronica Zea, 26, and Stephanie Stockwell, 26, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.
According to the charging document, 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.
IX. Massachusetts Man Indicted for Possession of Child Pornography
A Wareham man was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 3, 2020, for possession of child pornography. David St. Jacques, 56, was indicted on one count of possession of child pornography. St. Jacques was charged by criminal complaint and arrested in September 2020, and he has been in custody since.
According to the charging documents, a search of St. Jacques’s residence on Sept. 29, 2020 resulted in seizure of a computer, three phones and one thumb drive. St Jacques had allegedly destroyed at least two other drives and attempted to destroy one of his phones when agents arrived to execute the warrant.
St. Jacques admitted to exchanging child pornography with other individuals on various chatting applications, and child pornography was discovered during the on scene review of devices that were still intact. In March 2009, St. Jacques was convicted in Plymouth County Superior Court of several counts of dissemination and possession of child pornography.
Due to the prior felony conviction, St. Jacques faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to 20 years in prison, five years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
X. Two Florida men charged in Ohio with running “Grandparent Scam
On November 6, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the Nrthern District of Ohio Justin Herdman announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Toledo has returned a nine-count indictment charging John Tyler Pla, 25, and Johnny Lee Palmer, 25, both of Tampa, Florida, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.
According to the indictment, from July 20, 2020, to August 28, 2020, the defendants are accused of conspiring together to orchestrate a “Grandparent scam” on elderly victims in Brecksville, Parma, Gates Mills, Lorain, Mansfield, Fairview Park, Westlake and Mentor.
To conduct their alleged scheme, the defendants are accused of calling elderly victims in these areas claiming to be a relative, such as a granddaughter, a grandson, or an attorney for the relative, and informing the victim that he or she had been arrested and needed money for bail.
The conspirators would then allegedly arrange for a purported courier to pick up the money in person. The defendants would then rent a U-Haul vehicle and travel to the victims’ residence to collect the money in person. In total, the victims suffered a combined loss of $383,932.00.