Last Updated Friday, December 24, 2021, at 4:36 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.
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FRIDAY, December 24, 2021
SECURITIES VIOLATIONS ADDRESSED
At the beginning of the week, on Dec. 20, a case was brought against a doctor in Chicago charging him with purchasing shares in a California biotech company while using insider information to make the choice. According to a federal criminal charge filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, the The decision to purchase the shares came before the company made a public announcement of positive results from a clinical trial of an experimental cancer drug.
The doctor, Daniel V.T. Catenacci, is a gastrointestinal medical oncologist, and he was one of the primary field investigators on the trial, which means he had confidential information about the company and its clinical trial results at the time of the stock purchase.
That means, in Nov. 2020, Dr. Catenacci used material, non-public information about the trial results to make more than $134,000 in illegal profits from the purchase and sale. That is according to the criminal information filed Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The Information also alleges that Dr. Catenacci purchased more than 8,000 shares before the company announced positive results from the trial, and then sold those shares shortly after the announcement, the information states.
Sports Related Criminal Activities
This week was unique in one way, in that two cases were initiated that were directly sports-related. For example, on Dec. 20, a New Jersey man was charged in California with using fraud to both obtain and then sell three Tom Brady Super Bowl rings at auction. One of the rings sold for more than $300,000 at auction.
Scott V. Spina Jr., 24, of Roseland, New Jersey, was charged with one count of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in the scheme that allowed him to purchase three Super Bowl rings engraved with the name “Brady” on them and offer them for sale with the false claim that Tom Brady had given the rings to relatives.
According to documents filed in support of the criminal information, the fraudulent conduct that led to the charges allegedly started in 2017 when Spina purchased a Super Bowl LI ring awarded to a Patriots player who subsequently left the team. Spina also allegedly bilked the former player by paying for the ring with at least one bad check, then allegedly sold the ring later for $63,000 to a well-known broker of championship rings.
Spina allegedly used the player ring to receive the types of information that would allow him to purchase Super Bowl rings for family and friends that are slightly smaller than the player rings. When Spina obtained the player ring, he also fraudulently identified himself as [the former player and started ordering three family and friend Super Bowl LI rings with the name ‘Brady’ engraved on each one, which he falsely represented were gifts for the baby of quarterback Tom Brady.
In a plea agreement filed today in United States District Court, Spina agreed to plead guilty to all five felonies.
In the second sports-related case this week, we have a college football player who was arrested and taken into custody on Dec. 20,, based on allegations that he led the way on a scheme that allegedly fraudulently sought to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-related unemployment benefits.
The federal grand jury indictment was originally returned on Dec. 16 and was unsealed Dec. 20 charged Abdul-Malik McClain, 22, who currently plays football and attends school in Jackson, Mississippi, with 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. McClain surrendered to federal law enforcement on the morning of Dec. 20 in Los Angeles and was later arraigned the same day in a Los Angeles U.S. District Court, where he pled not guilty to the charges against him and was ordered released on a $20,000 bond.
According to the indictment, McClain allegedly organized and assisted a group of other football team members in filing fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits, including under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established by Congress in response to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
The claims were filed with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and with the administrator of the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) benefit program – contained false information about the football players’ supposed prior employment, pandemic-related job loss, and job-seeking efforts in California.
In what could be called one of the more unusual firearms cases in the countdown, the owner of a gun store in Osage Beach, Missouri, named Skelton Tactical, has been hit with an indictment for illegally selling firearms to an undercover ATF agent. Put simply, James Antonio Skelton, 74, of Kaiser, Missouri, was charged in the 15-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City, Mo., on Dec. 14, and it was unsealed following Skelton’s arrest the very next day.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that Skelton, a legal federal firearms licensee, allowed numerous straw purchases tobe made by his store. That is, Skelton was allowing some customers to purchase firearms on behalf of other people who were the actual buyer, as a way to avoid background checks and to make applications unnecessary, which means no owner information was recorded on individual sales receipts.
According to federal law, federal firearms licensees are required to certify the purchaser is the actual buyer of the gun. In all cases, they must establish the identity, residence, and age of the actual buyer, and they also must complete a background check before the sale is complete.
The indictment alleges that Skelton collected false records in a firearms transaction. He also allegedly counselled the undercover ATF agent on his case to have another person (also an undercover ATF agent) make a straw purchase of four firearms on his behalf from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15, 2021, including a Romarm/Cugir 7.62 x 39mm rifle, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, a Derva Arms 12-gauge shotgun, and a TISAS .45-caliber pistol.
Making People Pay for Child Exploitation
This week’s roundup also includes a case from South Dakota in which a Rapid City man, Harland Bernard Johnson, 73, was indicted by a federal grand jury for a number if charges, including sexual exploitation of a minor, and receipt of and possession of child pornography. Johnson appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollmann on Dec. 15, where he pled not guilty to the charges.
If he is convicted, however, Johnson could face at least 15 and as much as 30 years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, a lifetime of supervised release following his release from prison, and $100 to go into the Federal Crime Victims Fund. A judge may also decide to order restitution on top of the other penalties.
There was a somewhat similar case brought in South Dakota on Dec. 22, which is when the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes, announced that a McLaughlin, South Dakota, man, Mikal John White Mountain, 38, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. White Mountain appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on Dec. 21, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that White Mountain is a person required to register as a sex offender, and yet he knowingly failed to register and update his registration when residing in Indian country between Sept. 4 and December 14, 2021. Allegedly, in 2020, HSI began investigating Curley for his involvement in an online community of individuals who sent and received child pornography images and videos via a hidden service website that operated on the Tor network.
There was another, similar case this week, in South Dakota.. I was initiated when the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes, announced that Edward Zane Roubideaux, Jr.,31, .of Rosebud, had been indicted by a federal grand jury for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that, between July 3 and August 6, 2021, Roubideaux, a person required to register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, and a sex offender by reason of conviction under Federal Law, failed to properly register as a sex offender and update his registration.
Case Addresses Bribery of Public Official
On Dec. 20, a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment charging a North Carolina man, William F. Snow, 70, of Jamestown, with engaging in a bribery and fraud scheme with a former contracting officer for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Snow has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery, and three counts of honest services mail fraud. Snow will make his initial court appearance on Dec. 28. If convicted, Snow faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, 15 years for bribery, and up to20 years for each count of mail fraud.
According to court documents supporting the indictment, Snow worked for a government contracting firm that previously provided professional staffing services to BBG. Between late 2014 and late 2016, Snow and a BBG contracting officer agreed to hire and pay the contracting officer’s relative for a job involving minimal work and which resulted in payments to the relative of more than $68,000.
In exchange, the BBG contracting officer took official actions that benefitted Snow, the contracting firm, and Rita Starliper, an executive who previously pled guilty for her involvement in the scheme.
Domestic Violence Charges on a Cruise Ship
On Dec. 20, the U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans announced that Geronimo Flores, 29, had been charged several days before with domestic violence by strangulation and suffocation. If he is convicted, Flores faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine as high as $250,000, up t three years of supervised release, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee.
According to court documents in support of the charges, Flores intentionally assaulted and attempted to assault his intimate and dating partner while aboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship on December 2, 2021. The Glory was within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States during a voyage that departed from and returned to the Port of New Orleans in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Flores is specifically accused of assaulting the victim by strangulation and suffocation, as well as striking her in the head with his hand.