Last Updated Friday, December 10, 2021, at 6:05 PM

Every Friday, The Criminal Lawyer Group publishes a digest of the latest federal prosecutions nationally.  Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country. 

Unless otherwise disclosed, none of the defendants mentioned in these summaries are clients of our firm.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a federal crime, we are here to help.  The attorneys at The Criminal Lawyer Group are some of the nation’s top-ranked attorneys in their field and their experience defending criminal defendants in federal courts is exemplary.

Call us now for a free and completely confidential attorney phone consultation at (844) 604-5190.

FRIDAY, December 10, 2021

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims

As one example, two Michigan residents have been charged via criminal complaints for their part in a scheme in which the participants fraudulently claimed $3.2 million in phony unemployment benefits. The charges were announced by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Saima Mohsin, along with several prominent law enforcement officials, such as Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Sarah Kull, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Detroit Office of the IRS, and the Director of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency,  Julia Dale.

The Michigan residents in this case are Tauheed Salik Wilder, 39, of Detroit, and Shuqueni Renee Franklin, 30, of Shelby Township, Michigan. Both have been charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering, and both were arrested on Dec. 7.

According to the complaints, Wilder and Franklin are both responsible for filing at least 470 claims for fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits in at least 5 States, including Michigan. Their alleged illegal activity caused actual losses of over $4 million and attempted losses of more than $13 million. 

The complaints also  allege that both Wilder and Franklin filed numerous false claims using their own names and false social security numbers. The two also allegedly used the stolen identities of other individuals to file false claims for unemployment insurance benefits.

A More Traditional Case of Threats

In yet another case brought this week, we have a case in which a man from Lubbock, Texas has been federally charged after he threatened to kill his ex-wife. The charges against Gene Garcia Solis, 48, of Lubbock, were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Chad E. Meacham. Solis made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge D. Gordon Bryant, Jr. on Dec. 6, which is when the case against him was unsealed.

According to court documents in support of the case, a Lubbock Police Officer contacted Solis on Nov. 24, 2021 to check on his welfare. Solis was distraught at the time and allegedly told the officer he planned to kill his ex-wife and anyone who tried to stop him and then commit suicide. Fearing for his ex-wife’s safety, several officers set up surveillance at her residence. 

At around 10:30 p.m. that same same day, Solis allegedly drove by the residence. When officers attempted to stop his car, he fled. A few hours later, law enforcement spotted the defendant in Hale Center, Texas, and once again attempted to stop his car. He attempted to flee, but hit a spike strip and crashed in the parking lot of a Texas National Guard Armory. Solis exited the vehicle, fired several rounds from an AR 15-style rifle, and ran inside the Armory.

Prison Inmates Charged with Hate Crimes, Murder

Also among this week’s new cases is an indictment against a couple inmates at Thomson Penitentiary in Thompson, Illinois, following the beating death of a fellow inmate. The inmates charged were Brandon CC. Simonson, 37, a/k/a “Whitey,: and Kristopher S. Martin, 39, a/k/a “No Luck.” According to the indictment, the charges against both include conspiracy to commit murder, second-degree murder, hate crime, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury. To date,, no arraignments have yet been scheduled.
The four-count indictment was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois,  John R. Lausch, Jr., along with and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincenza L. Tomlinson. 

According to the indictment, Martin and Simonson were members of a white supremacist group called the Valhalla Bound Skinheads.  On March 2, 2020, Martin and Simonson conspired to assault fellow inmate Matthew Phillips because of Phillips’s actual and perceived race and religion, namely Jewish. Both Martin and Simonson continuously struck Phillips in the upper body, face, and head even after Phillips became defenseless.

A Case of Sexual Exploitation of Children

Also included with our Roundup of new criminal cases are a couple that are becoming far too common recently. The first example is a case in which the  Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Karin Hoppmann, announced the return of an indictment charging Michael Ray King, 41, of Jacksonville, with possessing images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children. 

If he is convicted in a court, King faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible lifetime term of supervised release. King was arrested by FBI agents on November 18, 2021.

According to court documents in support of this case, following the filing of a complaint, FBI agents executed a search warrant at King’s residence on November 18, 2021. As a result of  the execution of the search warrant, FBI personnel seized a computer hard disk drive that was connected to a gaming computer. A forensic review of this disk drive revealed that it contained at least 250 images and 50 videos depicting children being sexually abused.

The very next day, in Concord, New Hampshire, a man from Rochester, NY,  Michael A Clemence, 36, pled guilty to possession of child pornography. Clemence is scheduled to be sentenced on March 21, 2022.

According to court documents, in February of 2020, the Homeland Security Investigations office in New Hampshire received information that on April 28, 2019, an individual originating from an IP address at a Rochester residence had accessed a website known for sharing child sexual abuse and exploitation material.  Clemence was soon identified as the subscriber of the target IP address. 

On May 26, 2021, agents conducted a consensual interview with Clemence, where they advised him they were investigating internet activity associated with child exploitation material and that some of the activity occurred in April of 2019 from the IP address associated with his previous address.  

Clemence made no admissions but volunteered that his wife had previously found disturbing material on their home computer and that they subsequently wiped the computer’s hard drive and gave the computer away.  Clemence’s wife later confirmed that in May of 2019, she discovered thousands of images of what appeared to be child exploitation material on Clemence’s laptop computer.

Later in the past week, on Dec. 9, in a Delaware court, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, David C. Weiss, announced that a Delaware-based federal grand jury had returned an indictment on Dec. 7 charging Melvin Janvier, III, 34, of Newark, Delaware, with distributing and possessing child pornography during July 2021, which is when he was arrested and kept in the custody of the state since. . He has, in fact, been in state custody since.

If he is convicted of the current charges, Janvier faces at least 15 years and up to life in prison. According to U.S. Attorney Weiss, “The production, distribution, and collection of child pornography is a heinous shadow industry that targets the most vulnerable among us – our children.  Our office is dedicated to combatting this abhorrent industry and bringing those who lurk in its shadows to justice.”

Child Kidnapping Case Goes to Court

Also this week, on Dec. 7, the Acting U.S. Attorney of the District of Connecticut, Leonard C Boyle, announced that a man in Torrington, Christopher Jesus Constanzo, 19, had been charged via criminal complaint with kidnapping a minor. 

This was actually the second chance for the same charge, since Constanzo was originally charged with this offense in the District of Vermont.  He appeared Dec. 7 via videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin J. Doyle in Vermont and agreed to remain in custody pending his transfer to the District of Connecticut for further prosecution. 

According to court documents, on Dec. 2, 2021, at about 7:27 a.m., Constanzo and a minor victim arrived by car at the U.S. Port of Entry at Highgate Springs, Vermont.  Just prior to their arrival, officials at the St-Armand/Philipsburg Border Crossing in Canada had refused Constanzo and the minor victim entry into Canada.  After U.S. CBP officers separated Constanzo from the minor victim, the victim reported that she met Constanzo the night before at Stillwater Pond State Park in Torrington.  

Constanzo then sexually assaulted the minor victim, forced her into the trunk of the minor victim’s car, restrained her with a shoelace, and then began driving.  At some point during the night, Constanzo removed the minor victim from the trunk and sexually assaulted her again.  As they neared the Canadian border, Constanzo has the minor victim sit in the front passenger seat of the car.  

Constanzo instructed her to “act normal” and “go along with the story.”  Constanzo then told Canadian Border Services Agency officials that the minor victim was his sister and they intended to go into Canada for four days to visit friends.  However, due to their lack of COVID tests, Constanzo and the minor victim were denied entry into Canada.

Commercial Conspiracy & Fraud Addressed

In yet another case cited this week, two employees of mechanical contractors who live and operate in Connecticut and New Hampshire have been charged in separate criminal complaints with conspiracy and fraud offenses stemming from their alleged roles as participants in construction fraud schemes. 

The announcement of the charges came from the Acting  U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Leonard C Boyle. As a result, William Sacco, 48, of Pelham, New Hampshire, was arrested on Nov. 22, and he appeared on Dec. 7 via teleconference  before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas O. Farrish in Hartford, where he was released on a $50,000 bond.

In a separate case, Don Richards, 53, of Milford, Connecticut, was arrested on Oct. 19 on his criminal complaint. Richards was a senior project manager at a Massachusetts-based mechanical contractor.  It has been alleged that, from November 2014 through February 2018, Richards conspired to defraud his employer and project owners by inflating change orders on certain projects he was managing.  

As part of this separate conspiracy, a co-conspirator subcontractor made payments to Richards, some of which were for Richards’ personal benefit, including a set of golf clubs. 

Enforcing the Law Regarding Bank Fraud

On Dec. 7,  the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig, announced that a New York man was indicted in a New Jersey court by a New Jersey-based grand jury based on his role in a scheme that used stolen and fraudulent identities to obtain credit cards, which they then used to make millions of dollars in fraudulent charges that were never repaid.

To date, Mohammad Mushtaq, 56, of Valley Stream, New York, has been charged with one count of conspiring to defraud financial institutions, five counts of bank fraud, one count of access device fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.  

According to documents filed in support of this case, Mushtaq and his conspirators engaged in a scheme to use stolen and altered identities to obtain credit cards from financial institutions and then use those credit cards to make purchases with no intention to repay, leaving the financial institutions to deal with the losses. 

A Case Deals with Hacker and Cyberattacker

Earlier this week, on Dec. 7,  a federal indictment was unsealed in an Alaska court charging a Canadian national with committing cyberattacks. According to court documents filed in this case, Matthew Philbert, 31, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, allegedly conspired to damage and, in fact, did damage a computer belonging to the State of Alaska. All of that occurred back in April 2018.

According to the indictment, Philbert has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity dealing with computers and one count of fraud and related activity in connection with computers. The investigation that led to the indictment serves as a critical part of an ongoing effort by the DOJ to address incidents of cybercrime in which foreign nationals target U.S. citizens.