Last Updated Friday, November 05, 2021, at 9:24 AM

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.

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FRIDAY, November 05, 2021

Number of Attacks While Travelling Increasing

One of the main features that had cropped up since the Coronavirus pandemic hit has been an increase in the number of incidents in which passengers on planes and other forms of transportation have become unruly to the point of being arrested.

For example, in Denver, on November 1, 2021, Brian Hsu, 20, of Irvine, California, was charged via criminal complaint with interference with a flight crew and assault on a flight attendant. Since the assault occurred within the United States’ special aircraft jurisdiction of United States, this could be serious for Mr. Hsu.

Courts Continue Their Preoccupation with Drug Trafficking

While there have been numerous similar cases in recent years, the criminal courts seem to be continuing their relative obsession with cases involving illegal drugs, especially regarding their distribution and potential interdiction, to stop the spread in communities all over the country.
On the same day that Hsu was hit with a criminal complaint regarding the assault of a flight attendant, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans, announced that a man named Dereck Celestin, Jr., 36, of Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana was indicted by a federal grand jury for two counts, including distribution of meth. 

The indictment was actually returned on Sept. 30, 2021, and was unsealed on Oct. 28. If Celestin is convicted in a court of law, he faces at least five years and up to 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000,000, and at least four years of supervised release following his prison term.
Also, on November 1, 2021, a federal grand jury in Kansas returned an indictment against registered nurse Alec Ramirez, 30, of Overland Park, Kansas, charging him with four counts overall related to his attempts to remove vials of certain drugs from an automated drug dispensing cabinet at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park, before replacing the substances with an alternate liquid and returning the vials to the cabinet.

Many Criminals Attempt to Defraud Taxpayers

This week was also a big week for those who were charged criminally for their efforts to defraud taxpayers. It seems as if a lot of people are being caught trying to use taxpayer money as something of a piggy bank by defrauding government programs meant to make lives better,

In one prominent example, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico recently returned indictments against eight people for their efforts to fraudulently collect unemployment benefits they didn’t deserve. Their fraud victimized both the Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, and the indictment was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, W. Stephen Muldrow, on October 28.

According to the indictments, all eight defendants used false identities of both businesses and individuals to obtain more than $280,000 in unemployment benefits, including standard benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, which were provided as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, which was meant to provide financial victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another similar indictment was returned in the Western District of Arkansas on Nov. 3, charging a Lavaca man with health care fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, the man, Billy Joe Taylor, 42, of Lavaca, who has either owned or managed several diagnostic testing laboratories and allegedly billed the government for COVID-19 tests, urine drug tests, and other clinical tests that were never performed. 

In all, Taylor and his clinics received more than $100 million for all the non-testing they did between February 2017 and May 2021. None of those tests were medically necessary, according to the rules, or they didn’t actually occur. The indictment also alleges that Taylor obtained phony medical and personal information and used that to submit many of the claims.

Corruption of Government Officials is Still a Problem

In yet another similar case, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Bridget M. Brennan, announced on Nov. 2 that Patrick J. Rose, 59, of Mansfield, Ohio, had been charged with one count of influencing a federal official via threat. The charges were announced in a criminal complaint filed in court. 

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, on Oct. 6, Taylor left a voicemail message at the Mansfield VA Outpatient Clinic, in which he threatened to hurt a VA Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in Psychiatry at the after a medical appointment on Oct 4, in which the specialist decided to discontinue Taylor’s prescription for Diazepam. Not only did his voicemail threaten to harm the pharmacy specialist, but he also promised to “eliminate her whole family.” 

In this case, the investigation was conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Cleveland VA Medical Center (VAMC) Police Department. This case will be prosecuted by Special AUSA Jason W. White. 

Tax and Wire Fraud Still Occupy Criminal Court Systems

That was just the worst of the actions taken against the government and taxpayers, to be sure, but it wasn’t the only issue, to be sure. For instance, a man from Gillette, Wyoming, was indicted on Oct. 29 for Tax and Wire Fraud.  David A. Jackson, a/k/a Gerald David Jackson, a/k/a Gerald DD. Roderick-Jackson appeared for an arraignment hearing before the U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kelly H. Rankin on October 27, 2021, and pled not guilty to the charges. His trial has been set for December 31, 2021.

According to the indictment, between October 2017 and April 2019, Jackson was employed as an office manager, and his duties included collecting, accounting for, and paying over trust fund taxes to the IRS on his employer’s behalf.  At the same time, Jac

kson was operating a taxi business in Casper and Gillette. The indictment alleges that Jackson committed wire fraud by engaging in a scheme to defraud his employer by using false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises to siphon his employer’s assets to his own accounts for his own personal use. He also failed to report any of the money to the IRS or pay taxes on it. 

Money Laundering is a Huge Factor in Criminal Courts

Another similar case came to light on Nov. 4, when the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, Jennifer B. Lowery, announced that a fifth defendant had surrendered to authorities as part of a long-term investigation of a   money-laundering conspiracy that had already uncovered the theft of millions of dollars. 

Michael Dean Richards, 33, of Frisco, Texas, made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy on Nov. 4. That came after law enforcement officials had already arrested Branden Denver Richards, 29, and Douglas Paul Michael Davis, 27, both residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, sometime last week, and Vinh Quang Phan, 56, and Diana Le Phan, 44, both of Houston, appeared in federal court earlier this week. 

According to the accusations in the indictment, the Phans operated a money transmitting business that was both unlicensed and also included cash that partly included money raised by the other defendants from the trafficking of controlled substances. Overall, it is estimated that at least $32 million went through the transmittal business.

Sexual Exploitation of Minors Still a Criminal Problem

Of course, the criminal courts also deal with cases that don’t involve the theft of money.  There are also cases involving those who exploit others sexually. That includes a case in South Dakota in which a man in Mobridge, South Dakota, was indicted by a grand jury for Failing to Register as a Sex Offender. The man’s name is Justin Jerome Howard, 38, and he was indicted on October 13, 2021, and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on October 25, 2021, where he pled not guilty to charges contained in the Indictment.

According to the indictment, it is alleged that, between August 17 and August 29, 2021, near Kennel, South Dakota, Howard, who is a convicted sex offender by reason of a conviction under federal law, failed to properly register as a sex offender and update his registration in a timely manner, as required by federal law. If he is convicted in a court of law, Howard faces ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as a supervised release for life, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund. 

Worse than failing to register as a sex offender, however, could be a perpetrator who tries to coerce or solicit sexual contact with a minor child. On Nov. 3, a criminal complaint was filed in Billings, Montana, against Martin Leo Jimenez, 27, accusing him of attempting to arrange a meeting to have sex with a woman and her minor child. It has been alleged that on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 in Billings, Jimenez communicated through social media fora with an undercover law enforcement officer who posed as the mother of an 11-year-old girl. Jimenez expressed a sexual interest in incest and children and asked the undercover police officer who was posing as the mother for a nude picture of himself.