Last Updated Friday, January 07, 2022, at 3:20 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, January 07, 2022
Cases Enforce Child Exploitation Laws
The first few cases we examine in our weekly roundup have to do with child pornography and/or the sexual exploitation of a child. For example, on Jan. 4, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Roger B. Handberg, announced that Tatiana Power, 41, of Weston, Florida, pled guilty in a federal court to a charge of money laundering related to an international enterprise based in the state and specializing in launching and maintaining a series of subscription-based “child-modeling” websites.
According to the court documents supporting this, Tatiana Power had a hand in running the financial side of what they referred to as “the Newstar Enterprise” which was an internet-based company geared at the for-profit sexual exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of “child modeling.” In this vein, they ran a series of websites, which they called the Newstar Websites.
Then, the next day, January 5, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, David C. Weiss, announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Wilmington returned an indictment the day before, charging James Pickett, 24, of Bear, Delaware, with possession of and distribution of child pornography.
According to the indictment, all that happened between August and December of last year and, as a result, Pickett has been in custody since his Dec. 16 arrest. If he is convicted, Pickett faces at least 15 years and up to 40 years 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.” The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Briana Knox is prosecuting the case.
In addition to those case, there was a third featuring an indictment of a former West Virginia resident for failing to follow the law that requires previously convicted sexual felons to maintain a registration on the local sex offender registry. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced that Christopher J. Schragl, 45, a former Brooke County resident, had been indicted on one count of “Failure to Register.”
That is because Schragl is a person required to register as a sex offender, even though he travelled to West Virginia from another state without updating his registration.
Private School Teacher Charged with Child Porn
There was a third case involving sexual exploitation of a child in this week’s roundup. On Jan. 5, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Jennifer Arbittier Williams, announced that Kray Strange, 19, of Carthage, NY, had been arrested the previous day and charged via federal Criminal Complaint with manufacturing and distributing child pornography, as well as with willfully causing and aiding and abetting the manufacture and distribution of child pornography.
Strange’s arrest came after the FBI executed a federal search warrant at his residence. He made his initial appearance in federal court in the Northern District of New York that same day, where it was decided he would be detained pending his removal to Philadelphia to face the charges made in the Complaint. The charges stem from the defendant’s alleged involvement in an online catfishing scheme with former Springside Chestnut Hill Academy teacher Andrew Wolf, which they operated throughout 2020 and 2021.
According to the Complaint, Strange targeted school-age boys on social media platforms while impersonating a teenage girl to entice the boys to produce sexually explicit images and videos of themselves and send them to Strange, who then shared them with Wolf via the internet. Strange’s co-conspirator, Wolf, was arrested in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on October 7, 2021 and remains in federal custody.
As usual, there were also a couple drug trafficking cases among this week’s roundup. On Jan. 3, for example, a man from Pawtucket, RI was ordered detained after he allegedly conspired to take possession of more than a kilo f cocaine that had been shipped from Colombia. The cocaine was found inside an old-model-tube TV. Jomar Cruz-Aponte, 25, is charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess 500 grams or more of cocaine with intent to distribute.
According to the charging documents in this case, for the second time in nine days, on Dec. 22, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted two packages shipped to Rhode Island from Columbia, manifested as containing an “old TV without commercial value.”
The first package, addressed to a Central Falls residence, contained an older, dial-operated television with 300 grams of cocaine packed inside. The second package, to be delivered by UPS to a Pawtucket residence, contain a second TV of the same style that contained an additional 1093 grams of cocaine packed inside.
In another case, this one dated Jan. 4, 13 people were arrested in Central Texas on criminal charges related to alleged fentanyl possession and distribution.
According to documents filed in court in this case, Marcos Garcia, 18, of Somerton, AZ; Oliver Garcia, 20, of Lockhart, TX; Christopher Brook, 23, Jaime Cabrales, 23, Matthew Juan, 19, Adi Martinez Marquez, 19,Michael Bauman, 18, Ernest Ochoa, 18 and Andrew Ruben Ramirez, 23, all of Austin; as well as Ezequiel Azmitia-Jimenez, 19, of Lockhart; and Daemon Lye Garcia, 19, of San Marcos; and Josue Nolasco-Campuzano, 20, of Live Oak, were arrested on charges of distributing fentanyl throughout the Austin area.
Foreign National Charged in Plot to Kill Haitian President
A Colombian national was arrested on Jan.4 on a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida. Mario Antonio Palacios, 43, a Colombian national, has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death, knowing or intending that such material support would be used to prepare for or carry out the conspiracy to kill or kidnap.
According to the complaint, which was unsealed Jan. 4, the charges relate to the July 7, 2021, assassination of the former President of Haiti, Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It is alleged that the defendant and others, including a group of approximately 20 other Colombian citizens and a group of Haitian-American citizens, participated in a plot to kidnap or kill the Haitian President, with one conspirator (“Co-conspirator #1”) traveling to the United States on June 28, 2021, to, among other things, provide other individuals with a written request for assistance to further the plot relating to the Haitian President.
Execs with City’s Promotion Agency Charged with Fraud
On Jan. 4, two criminal informations were filed in the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In those Informations, Aaron McCreight, 46, from Dothan, Alabama, was charged with one count of bank fraud, while Doug Hargrave, 54, from Puyallup, Washington, was charged with one count of bank fraud.
According to the Informations, it is alleged that McCreight, who was then President and CEO of Go Cedar Rapids (GoCR), and Hargrave, who served as the GoCR’s Finance Director, executed a scheme to defraud a Cedar Rapids bank in connection with loans to GoCR that were used to finance Newbo Evolve, a three-day music and cultural event staged by GoCR during August 2018 that featured concerts by the band Maroon 5 and singer Kelly Clarkson.
In addition, the Informations allege that McCreight and Hargrave defrauded the Cedar Rapids bank by making misrepresentations about Newbo Evolve’s ticket sales, projected revenue, projected expenses, and the true amount of loss that McCreight and Hargrave expected Newbo Evolve to generate.
Based on these misrepresentations, McCreight and Hargrave fraudulently induced the Cedar Rapids bank to loan GoCR hundreds of thousands of dollars to be used to finance Newbo Evolve. If they are convicted, McCreight and Hargrave each face up to 30 years in prison, a fine, and a period of supervised release following a prison sentence.
New York Woman Indicted for Fentanyl Trafficking
On Jan. 5, a woman from New York was indicted in Boston in federal court in Boston in connection with trafficking over 400 grams of fentanyl. The woman, Shanese DeJesus, 25, was indicted on one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more fentanyl.
According to the charging document, on or about Oct. 20, of this year, DeJesus distributed fentanyl in Andover. If she is convicted on the charge of distribution and possession with intent to distribute 400 grams or more of fentanyl, DeJesus faces at least 10 years and up to life in prison, and a fine up to $10 million.
New Jersey Man Admits Illegal Gun Possession
On Jan. 4, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Philip R. Sellinger, announced that a man from Essex County, NJ admitted illegally possessing a firearm. The man, Tyson Fletcher, 41, of Newark, pled guilty via videoconference before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to an indictment charging him with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
According to documents filed in this case, on April 17, 2019, Fletcher illegally possessed a firearm loaded with five hollow-point bullets. Fletcher had previously been convicted of multiple felony offenses, including robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon. With his guilty plea, Fletcher faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.