Last Updated Friday, November 26, 2021, at 3:15 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. 

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 26, 2021

Though this was a short week, certain types of cases were still quite commonplace, like threats made against government employees who don’t do what one citizen expects them to do. In one example, a man from Lakewood, California was arrested Nov. 22, on a federal criminal complaint filed the same day. According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Antoun owns Federal Student Loan Consulting LLC, a company he runs out of his residence in Lakewood. 

In early 2020, Antoun attempted to obtain a COVID-19 Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). These loans provide borrower-friendly capital to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  On May 3, 2020, after he failed to be approved for a loan or advance from the SBA, Antoun allegedly sent an email to an SBA-monitored email account and wrote, in part, “IT GOES INTO MY BANK ACCOUNT TONIGHT OR I START BOMBING EVERY LOCATION OWNED BY THE SBA.” An SBA loan officer in Texas received the email and contacted law enforcement.

The complaint was brought after Christopher Joseph Antoun, 29, allegedly threatened to bomb offices of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and to assault employees of the agency the next year, based on his claimed inability to get emergency business loans meant for businesses who have been affected by the COVID-19 virus. Antoun is charged with one count of making threats via interstate communication. 

He also made his initial appearance Nov. 22 in the U.S. District court in Los Angeles, where he was ordered held without bond, at least until his arraignment, which has been scheduled for Dec. 10.

Interfering with Mail Delivery

Earlier that same weekend, on Nov. 19, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans, announced that Christopher Washington, 28, of Houma, Louisiana, had been charged in a single-count indictment with delay of U.S. Mail matter by a postal employee. 

According to the indictment, in June 2021, Washington allegedly delayed the delivery of certain pieces of U.S. Mail, which were intended to be delivered via the U.S. Postal Service. If he is convicted in a court of law, Washington faces up to five years in prison, a fine as high as $250,000, and/or the greater of twice the gross gain to defendant or loss to the victim, whichever is greater, and as many as three years supervised release following his imprisonment, as well as a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.

Courts are Fighting Bank Fraud

Also on November 22, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, Richard B. Myrus, announced the unsealing of two superseding indictments in federal court in Providence that charged eleven people, including three bank employees, for their participation in schemes intended to defraud local banks.  

They did so when they created and deposited checks, then withdrew bank funds before the financial institutions discovered that the fraudulent activity had occurred. The counterfeit checks contained personal account information belonging to individuals, small businesses, an insurance company, and even a law office. 
According to the indictments, four of the defendants allegedly participated in one scheme that defrauded banks for approximately one year beginning in April 2020, whereas seven others allegedly participated in an unrelated scheme that defrauded banks for approximately 14 months beginning in January 2020. 

As part of yet another scheme, several defendants obtained the debit card information of victims who agreed to be compensated for allowing counterfeit checks to be deposited into their bank accounts. Once the checks were deposited, those defendants quickly withdrew the funds from the accounts. 

The indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy deposited more than $165,000 in counterfeit checks and withdrew more than $89,000 in cash, overall.

Catching Firearms Violations

Again, this week was a very busy one for those who choose to violate those relatively few laws restricting the ownership and use of guns. One example popped up in New Orleans, where the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans, announced on Nov. 22, 2021, that Stephone Bridges, 32, of that city, had been charged on Nov. 19 in a single-count indictment for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Bridges was originally charged with possessing a Glock semi-automatic pistol on or about August 15, 2021. If he is convicted in a court of law, Bridges faces up to ten years in prison, followed by up to three years of supervised release after completion ofVT his prison sentence, a fine as high as $250,000, and a mandatory special assessment fee of $100.00.

That same day, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont announced that Grace Ross, 46, of Williston, VT had been charged by a Burlington-based federal grand jury with unlawful possession of a firearm. This occurred after Ross was previously convicted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. The government is also asking for the forfeiture of her seized Taurus 9mm pistol.

According to the court record in this case, Ross was cited by police after she cut off another vehicle on the road and nearly caused a crash. At the time, Ross was driving in front of the other vehicle and pulled a handgun and pointed it at the other driver. Before long, the Burlington Police Department (BPD) pulled Ross’ vehicle over and seized the gun. Ross pleaded not guilty to the original charge of aggravated assault. A subsequent BPD investigation and the federal ATF led to the current federal indictment. Now, the case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella.

The very next day, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota, Dennis R. Holmes announced that a man from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Omot Musa Karlo, 20, had been indicted November 9, 2021, by a federal grand jury for the charge of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. 

Karlo appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy on November 22, 2021. If he is convicted of the charge in a court of law, Karlo faces as much as 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  The judge may also order Karlo to pay restitution.

According to the indictment, it is alleged that, on or about August 31, 2021, Karlo, who had already been convicted of a felony previously, knowingly possessed a Glock 19mm Luger caliber, semi-automatic pistol, which is against the law for a convicted felon.

A Firearms Violation Related to a Murder

Demarcus Sahiquan Glenn, 23, a Roanoke man who was at one time charged but later acquitted in state court of a May 2019 murder that took place in the city, has been arrested on a federal criminal complaint on federal firearms charges related to the same incident. 

In the original May 2019 trial, Glenn was charged by state authorities with murder, attempted robbery and use of a firearm in commission of each of those crimes. At his trial, Glenn testified that he arrived at the location to engage in a drug transaction during which the victim pulled a gun on him. 

Glenn testified he pulled his own gun from his pocket and shot and killed the victim, who was 16 at the time. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, Christopher R. Kavanaugh, “It is a federal crime to use, carry, brandish, or discharge a firearm during and in furtherance of a drug transaction.  

My office is committed to playing a role with its federal, state, and local partners in addressing the gun violence in Roanoke. If you shoot and kill another person in the Western District of Virginia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is going to follow the facts and the law and seek federal charges when appropriate.”

Case Involving Immigration and Hunan Trafficking

On Nov. 22, 2021, an indictment was unsealed by the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, David H. Estes. These indictments resulted from an investigation into human trafficking that named a total of two dozen defendants who allegedly participated in human smuggling and labor trafficking activities that illegally imported workers from Mexico and South America into South Georgia. 

This newly unsealed indictment details a wide range of felony charges that were discovered during a multi-agency investigation over a number of years. The resulting 53-page indictment documents dozens of victims of modern-day slavery and dozens of illegal acts that brought these people into the U.S. in the first place. Many were transported under incredibly inhumane conditions. 

At various points in the operation, the participants were involved in mail fraud, human labor trafficking, money laundering and perhaps hundreds of other crimes. Victims were forced to dig onions with their bare hands. Then, they were paid 20 cents for each bucket onions, and were subsequently threatened with guns and violence, to keep them compliant. 

A Case Involving Immigration Issues

Also this week, on Nov. 22, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Duane A. Evans, announced that on Nov. 18, Mario Renne Reyes-Cardona, 51, was charged in and now faces a single count indictment for illegal reentry of a removed alien. 

According to the indictment, Reyes-Cardona allegedly reentered the United States after he was previously deported in December 2013.  If he is convicted of the charge in a court of law, Reyes-Cardona faces up to two years in a federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, up to one year of supervised release, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee. 

Drug Trafficking and Firearms Charges

Also this past week, a federal grand jury in Baltimore returned an indictment against Elias Nick Costianes, Jr., 43, of Nottingham, Maryland, on two counts of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; in this case, testosterone and cocaine. In addition, the indictment charges Costianes with possession of firearms and ammunition by an unlawful user of a controlled substance. 

According to the indictment and other supporting court documents stemming from their investigation of his allegedly criminal activity, on February 12, 2021, the FBI executed search warrants at Costianes’s residence, on his vehicle, and on his cellphone.  Through those activities, law enforcement recovered a 9mm pistol, a M&P 15 semi-automatic rifle, a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle, and a 12-gauge shotgun, as well as 9mm, .22 caliber, .223 caliber, and shotgun ammunition from the residence.  

They also allegedly recovered three vials of testosterone enanthate and one vial of testosterone cypionate, both controlled substances. The electronic evidence from Costianes’ phone, included photographs and text message conversations showing that Costianes used and conspired to traffic cocaine and testosterone by acquiring controlled substances from his suppliers to distribute to friends and associates.