Last Updated Friday, December 31, 2021, at 7:15 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 31, 2021
Attorneys Charged in Fraud Schemes
The first two cases to discuss in this week’s Roundup is one in which a New Hampshire attorney was charged for his role in a fraud scheme that has thus far accumulated several million dollars. On Dec. 27, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, John J. Farley announced that Joseph A. Foistner, 67, of Mont Vernon, had been found guilty of four counts of bank fraud, in addition to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and making misrepresentations during bankruptcy proceedings. The verdict was returned by Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro on Thursday, December 23, 2021, following a two-week bench trial.
According to court documents, Foistner used fraudulent means to apply for over $8 million in loans from five different financial institutions, laundered money, and made material misrepresentations during bankruptcy proceedings between 2015 and 2018. Foistner was a licensed attorney in Massachusetts at the time of the scheme,, although he had no paying clients and his law firm earned no income. However, he obtained millions of dollars in loans from multiple financial institutions, by providing banks with misleading documents indicating that his law firm was actually quite lucrative.
This week seems to be a bad week for attorneys, given that another attorney — this one being Kenneth Wendell Ravenell, 61, of Monkton, MD, a defense attorney working in Baltimore — was convicted in Maryland District Court for conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The conviction was announced by the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Phil Selden, along with IRS Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon and Orville O. Greene, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Baltimore District Office. The Lead U.S. Attorney has recused himself from this case.
The trial evidence proved to the jury that Ravenell received drug proceeds from clients and associates who engaged in drug trafficking, annd that he also used bank accounts of the law firm where he practiced to launder more than a million dollars and used the law firm’s bank accounts to receive drug payments and make payments to attorneys retained to represent other members of the conspiracy and to make various investments on behalf of a drug trafficker client concealing and misrepresenting the source of the funds and promoting the client’s illegal activity.
Disruptive Airline Passenger Faces Federal Charges
On Dec. 28, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, Mark H. Wildasin announced a newly-unsealed criminal complaint charging a woman from Lebanon, Tennessee was charged with interfering with a flight crew following an incident on a Spirit Airlines flight to Nashville back on Nov. 27.
On that day, Amanda Renee Henry, 43, surrendered to FBI agents in Nashville and appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge later that same day. According to the criminal complaint, Henry was a passenger on a flight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Nashville, where she soon became disruptive and appeared to be intoxicated. Nearby passengers asked to be moved to other seats due to Henry’s disruptive behavior. Since Henry was seated next to an emergency exit, flight attendants decided to move Henry to another seat for the safety of everyone on board.
On Dec. 28, in Virginia, a Hampton Roads man pled guilty to defrauding victims in the area out of more than $630,000 and then turning around and evading the assessment of more than $50,000 in income taxes. According to court documents in the case, between 2013 and 2019, Clarence M. Rice Jr., 54, falsely represented to victims that he was going to receive a sizeable inheritance from his father’s death, under the condition that Rice paid off all his existing debts. He tricked victims into giving him large sums of money using the false representations that he needed the funds to obtain his inheritance.
As a result of his fraud scheme, Rice was able to steal more than $350,000 from a 75-year-old retired bricklayer and another $140,000 from an elderly blind man. In all, Rice obtained at least $632,017.44 in fraudulent proceeds from the scheme. As part of the plea deal he agreed to, Rice agreed that all his victims had limited financial means and suffered substantial hardship from his fraud.
Also, since earning income from his fraud scheme, Rice has not filed taxes since 2011. Between 2015 and 2019, he defrauded the IRS by living a cash lifestyle, negotiating checks from victims for U.S. currency instead of depositing them in bank accounts, hiding assets on prepaid cards, and lying to law enforcement about his income and assets. Currently, the tax owed and due from Rice’s failure to pay his personal income tax is just over $52,000.
New Mexico Man Faces Bank Robbery Charge
On Dec. 27, Paul Ramirez, 33, of Albuquerque, appeared in federal court on Dec. 27 on a charge of bank robbery. Ramirez remained in custody until a detention hearing that happened on Dec. 29.
A federal grand jury originally returned an indictment against Ramirez on Dec. 8. According to the indictment, on Nov. 1, Ramirez allegedly entered a Bank of the West location in Albuquerque and presented a demand note to a teller. The teller complied and Ramirez allegedly placed the money in a bag and fled the bank on a motorcycle.
When Albuquerque Police responded to the robbery call, officers spotted Ramirez and followed him, as he allegedly proceeded to an off-road area where he discarded his helmet, his backpack, and some articles of clothing. Officers continued following Ramirez to an apartment and later arrested him after he left again. At the time of the arrest, Ramirez allegedly had the money from the robbery in his possession.
Criminal Courts Hold Alleged Firearms Scofflaws Accountable
On Dec. 29, two defendants pled guilty to charges of making false statements in connection with the illegal purchase of multiple firearms. The announcement of the guilty plea was made by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Charles J. Kovats.
According to documents in support of their guilty pleas, between May 2020 and May 2021, Sarah Jean Elwood, 34, and Jeffrey Paul Jackson, 31, conspired together and with others to buy dozens of firearms from various Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) in the State of Minnesota. As part of the scheme, Elwood and others would purchase the firearms on behalf of others who requested the firearms in advance of the purchases. In making the purchases, Elwood knowingly misrepresented to the dealers that she was the actual purchaser of the firearms, when in fact she and her co-defendants knew she was not.
In another case, this time in Montana, a man from Billings showed a creative side when he first used a construction excavator to break into a business and then using the “opportunity” to steal as many guns as possible from them.
According to the complaint, Erik Stephen Deaner, 46, pled guilty to theft from a federal firearm licensee. The complaint alleged that he stole a cache of firearms from a business after he broke into the premises by using an excavator to tear down a section of the wall and door to get in. The announcement of the guilty plea came from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Leif M. Johnson. At his sentencing, Deaner faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and as much as three years of supervised release.
South Dakota Man Held Accountable for Gun Violation
On Dec. 30, the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis Holmes, made the announcement that a Pierre man, Travis Rolf, 43, had been indicted back on Dec. 14 for the charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person. Rolf appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on Dec. 28, where he pled not guilty to the Indictment.
According to the indictment, it is alleged that on June 4, 2020, Rolf was an unlawful user of a controlled substance (cocaine), and knowingly possessed a firearm. If he is convicted in court, Rolf faces up to ten years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, in addition to three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. A judge may also order restitution.
Prison Official Charged with Bribery Smuggling, Drugs
Patrick Shackelford, who serves as a federal corrections officer at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta (USP Atlanta), along with Mitchell Arms and Patrick Kirkman, who are federal inmates, have been arraigned on federal bribery, smuggling, and drug charges. The charges come from an alleged scheme to smuggle narcotics and other contraband into USP Atlanta between approximately June 2018 and February 2019.
According to charging documents and a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Kurt R. Erskine, from approximately June 2018 through February 2019, Patrick Shackelford, Patrick Kirkman, Mitchell Arms, and others, allegedly conspired to smuggle narcotics, including meth marijuana, along with other prohibited items into USP Atlanta, a medium-security federal prison.
Throughout this time, Shackelford was a federal corrections officer and plumbing supervisor at USP Atlanta. With Shackelford’s knowledge and assistance, inmates working under his direction on the “plumbing crew” (Individual-1 and Individual-2 in the Indictment) were allegedly able to smuggle contraband into USP Atlanta from a visitor’s bathroom through a section of USP Atlanta known as “W-ward.”