Last Updated Friday, October 29, 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.
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FRIDAY, October 29, 2021
Drug Interdiction is Still Going Strong
If there is one thing that law enforcement at all levels seems to love, it could very well be the drug war. Even though it has been around for a half-century by now, interdiction efforts continue to roll on, seemingly unabated.
One example comes from the Eastern District of Missouri; over the past week or so, the DEA and several other federal and state law enforcement agencies arrested a total of 17 people in several U.S. states plus Mexico for their roles in an organized nationwide drug trafficking conspiracy operation, in which traffickers sent illegal drugs to users through the mail and other traditional shipping outlets.
Originally returned on October 13, 2021, the indictment accuses Stephen Griffin, 27, and Kenny Thomas, 38, both of St. Louis (Kenny was arrested in Mexico), Raimundo Deleon: 40, who is currently in federal custody in Los Angeles, Troy Mills, 30, of St. Louis, and more than a dozen others, of operating a long term and long-running drug conspiracy in a number of U.S. states and Mexico.
Based on the information contained in the indictment, the law enforcement officials who investigated this conspiracy managed to recover 500 lbs. of crystal meth; 50 lbs. of fentanyl; at least 50 firearms; and more than $400,000 in cash from drug proceeds. Through their investigation, they were able to determine that the drug conspiracy largely involved mailing and shipping the packages of drugs.
The St. Louis Field Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been investigating this for at least the last three years, and what they found has been startling, to say the least.
In Sacramento, an Online Source for Illegal Drugs
The January 6 Capitol Attack is Still Being Investigated
A South Carolina man, George Amos Tenney III, 35, of Anderson, SC, was indicted on Oct. 25 for crimes related to attack on the U.S. Capitol that happened last Jan. 6, in which people wearing Trump gear and carrying implements designed to create fear for the Capitol Police and the FBI, stormed the Capitol in an alleged attempt to interrupt a joint session of Congress, on the day when they were scheduled to count the electoral votes that would decide the presidential election.
In all, Tenney was indicted on three felony charges, including offenses against law enforcement officers, civil disorder, and obstruction of an official proceeding. He was also charged with several other misdemeanor charges. A second man, Darrell Youngers, 32, of Cleveland, Texas, was also charged with four misdemeanor offenses.
Both were arrested together on June 29, 2021, immediately after the filing of the criminal complaint attributed to them. This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and several other law enforcement agencies working with the Department of Justice.
The Scammers Still Get Caught and Tried
A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, returned an indictment on October 22, 2021, against Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey, 43, of Germantown, Tennessee, and a Nashville social club owner, Joshua Smith, 44, of Nashville, TN with violating campaign finance laws as part of an alleged scheme to benefit Kelsey’s 2016 campaign for U.S. Congress.
The indictment alleges that Kelsey, Smith, and several others, conspired to allegedly conceal the funneling of “soft money” in the amount of $91,000 from Kelsey’s Tennessee State Senate Campaign Committee to his authorized national political organization. The purpose of moving the “soft money” from one account to another was to pay for more political advertisements in support of Kelsey for the August 2016 primary election campaign. Unfortunately, the activity also caused Kelsey’s campaign to file false reports of contributions and expenditures to be filed with the FEC.
In a related, albeit non-political, case, in the U.S. District Court in Providence on October 22, 2021, Richard B. Myrus, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, announced that he had just unsealed a federal indictment of three defendants for their role in what has come to be known as a “Grandparent Scam.” So far, through this scheme, they have taken at least nine Rhode Island seniors for thousands of dollars they could hardly afford.
According to the indictment, the three defendants, in this case, are Bryan Valdez-Espinosa, 21, of Union City, NJ., who was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; along with Diego A. Alarcon, 22, of Union City, NJ, and Jason Hatcher, 39, of New York, NY, both of whom were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The specific scheme they perpetrated, according to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), happened from June 9-11, 2021. It involved calling elderly people throughout Rhode Island and claiming to be a grandchild or the grandchild’s attorney, to assert that the grandchild had been arrested and needed money to post bail.
The victims were then instructed to put together the money (in cash, of course) and give it to a “courier” for transfer. In all, 11 elderly people were victimized by the scheme and provided payments of between $6,000 and $99,225. Relatives of a twelfth victim intervened and chased away the courier, who was trying to collect $9,500 in cash.
Sometimes, Prosecutors Deal with an Old-Fashioned Bank Robbery
This goes back almost a month, but according to court documents, sometime in September 2021, Davonte Chaney, 29, of Kansas City, Kansas, allegedly robbed the Truity Credit Union in Lawrence, Kansas. At the time, he was also armed with a semi-automatic firearm.
Finally, on October 25, 2021, a federal grand jury seated in Kansas City returned an indictment charging Chaney with one count of bank robbery and one count of use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. The FBI worked with the Lawrence Police Department to investigate the case, and AUSA Trent Krug was made responsible for prosecuting the case.
The Problem of Child Pornography Seems to Be Spreading
On October 26, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Bruce D. Brandler, announced that a joint investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), along with the Bethlehem Township Police Department, and the Scranton Police Department, had filed an Oct. 22 criminal complaint against Adrean Lorenzano, 22, of Scranton. The complaint charged Lorenzano with the online enticement of a minor and the receipt and possession of visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
According to the details contained in the complaint, which was brought as a part of Project Safe Childhood, it is alleged that Lorenzano used a facility of interstate commerce to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. Additionally, the complaint alleges that Lorenzano received and possessed a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct and visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. When the case gets to court, AUSA James M. Buchanan will prosecute.
On October 27, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Rachael A. Honig, announced that a man from Ocean County, Jared Faircloth, 24, of Cream Ridge, had been arrested on charges that he distributed, received, and possessed images and videos of child sexual abuse that he had downloaded from the internet.
According to court documents, from September 2020 to July 2021, Faircloth received material containing images of child sexual abuse via the BitTorrent Network and proceeded to redistribute them. Because BitTorrent is an online peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network, it is necessary for users to download P2P software, which allows the user to place files into a designated “shared” folder on his or her hard drive, from which other BitTorrent users can share freely.
Investigators used software to access the BitTorrent Network and downloaded video files containing images of child sexual abuse from a device or devices assigned to IP addresses linked to Faircloth. In all, Faircloth was linked to more than 2,800 images and videos linked to him. If Faircloth is convicted in a court of law, he faces at least five years and up to 20 years in prison, as well as a fine equal to at least $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss whichever is greater.
Sometimes, Police Officers Do the Wrong Thing
While it may sometimes seem as if police officers are brutalizing many of those they arrest, but, occasionally, the system is able to hold such an officer to account for their actions.
Case in point; on Oct. 27, Terry Peck, 46, a now-former police officer with the Gary, Indiana Police Department, was indicted by a Hammond, Indiana-based federal grand jury for using excessive force against an arrestee. According to the indictment, Peck has been charged with a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law. If he is convicted in a court of law, Peck faces up to ten years in prison.
The indictment further specifies that on March 19, 2019, Peck assaulted an arrestee, identified only as R.H., by slamming his head into the side of a patrol vehicle. The indictment also alleges that R.H. was injured during the encounter.