Criminal Justice News

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Jury Convicts Vero Beach Attorney of Conspiracy and Making False Statements to a Federally Insured Institution


On June 15, 2018, a federal jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, convicted Vero Beach attorney Eric B. Granitur, 60, of participating in a criminal conspiracy and making false statements to a federally insured institution.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Gavin Gumbinner, Resident Agent in Charge, Fort Pierce, Florida, Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI); and Edwin Bonano, Special Agent in Charge, Tampa, Florida, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) made the announcement.

Granitur was convicted, at trial, of one count of conspiracy to commit the offense of making false statements to a federally insured institution, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; and two counts of making a false statement to a federally insured institution, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1014.  Granitur’s co-conspirators, George Heaton, Deborah Dentry Baggett, and Stephen McKenzie, have already pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

According to the evidence presented at trial, in 2009, Eric Granitur, a member of the Florida Bar, owned and operated Live Oak Title, which conducted two real estate closings for the purchase of five condominiums at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa.  The seller and developer of the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, George Heaton, offered numerous incentives to buyer Stephen McKenzie to purchase the condominiums.  Heaton agreed to pay the “cash-to-close” amount that the buyer McKenzie was expected to bring to closing.  Additionally, Heaton paid for the closing costs and paid McKenzie additional incentives.

Granitur’s title company, Live Oak Title, conducted the closings for the sales of the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa condominium units sold to buyer Stephen McKenzie.  As an escrow agent, Granitur was required to truthfully and accurately prepare and distribute a settlement statement to the financial institutions, known as a “HUD-1,” in preliminary form for review by the financial institution, prior to the closing of escrow.   The closing statement was required to accurately reflect, among other information, the sales price, the closing funds provided by the borrower and all of the seller’s contributions.  As an escrow agent, Granitur was responsible for receiving and holding in trust, in an escrow account, the mortgage loan proceeds from the financial institutions that financed the purchase of the condominium units, and he was responsible for disbursing those loan proceeds only after final approval by the financial institutions.

On two occasions, Granitur knowingly caused a false closing statement to be transmitted to a federally insured financial institution.  The HUD-1 closing statements failed to truthfully disclose seller credits and incentives.  Additionally, the closing statements failed to disclose that the seller was paying the buyer’s “cash-to-close.”  The financial institutions relied upon the closing statement in authorizing the release of funds.

Sentencing will take place before United States District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg, in West Palm Beach.  A sentencing date has not yet been set.

            Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and FHFA-OIG. This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. Capone and Assistant United States Attorney Daniel E. Funk.

Florida Man Charged with Defrauding Local Investor


PEORIA, Ill. – A federal grand jury today indicted Timothy Herman, 57, of Lake Mary, Fla., of defrauding a Peoria area victim of approximately $600,000.

The indictment alleges that Herman falsely represented to the victim that he had investment opportunities that would earn greater returns than could be earned from banks. Beginning in or about 2013, Herman represented that he had been in the garbage business for several years and had been very successful. Herman did not disclose that, in fact, in May 2013, he had notified his home mortgage holder that he had not received a paycheck since May 2012 and had depleted his savings.

The indictment alleges that Herman advised the victim that he would invest funds in a “Rewards Program,” which one of his companies was developing with Republic Services, a waste management company in Arizona. Herman represented that he was going to retire in two years and expected a $17 million payout at that time.

After Herman represented the profitability and safety of the funds, the victim loaned $200,000 to Herman’s company, Delta Direct. Herman allegedly transferred the funds amongst his various business accounts before transferring the funds to his personal account. As part of the scheme, Herman used the victim’s funds to make monthly payments to the victim as provided in the promissory notes. After receiving the monthly payments, the victim loaned more money to Herman over a period of time.

Instead of investing the funds as represented, the indictment alleges that from 2013 to December 2017, Herman used the victim’s funds to make payments to the victim, to make mortgage payments, to pay tax liens, to make marital settlement payments and to otherwise use the victim’s money for his personal use and benefit.  Herman continued his deception and to conceal his fraudulent conduct, made false statements to others, including the victim and federal law enforcement agents.

The charges are the result of investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Darilynn J. Knauss is prosecuting the case.

The U.S. Clerk of the Court will schedule a date for Herman to appear for arraignment in federal court in Peoria.

If convicted, the statutory maximum penalty for each count of mail fraud (four counts) and wire fraud (nine counts) is 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to $250,000; for making a false statement, the maximum penalty is five years in prison.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

28 Members and Associates of “GBK” Neighborhood Street Gang Charged in Drug Trafficking Conspiracies

PITTSBURGH- After a lengthy Title III wiretap investigation into drug trafficking and violence in Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhoods and other communities in the Greater Pittsburgh area, 28 people, all residents of Western Pennsylvania, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating federal narcotics and firearms laws. A federal grand jury has issued two separate, but related, indictments, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady and FBI-Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones announced today.

U.S. Attorney Brady stated, "Reducing violent crime and making our communities safe for law-abiding citizens is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Working with our federal, state and local partners and using every tool at our disposal, we will prosecute gangs like the Greenway Boy Killas, which terrorize our neighborhoods and put innocent people in danger, to the fullest extent of the law."

"The FBI works closely with our law enforcement partners to make sure those bringing violence to our streets are held accountable," said Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones. "We want to make this clear to other gangs operating in our communities. We are coming for you, and the violence won’t be tolerated."

THE INDICTMENTS

The first indictment, unsealed today, containing four counts, named:

• Jewell Hall, 36, of Wilkinsburg, PA;

• Willie Harris, 39, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Marvin Younger, 37, of Pittsburgh, PA, currently incarcerated;

• Joelle Hollis, 30, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Allen Green, 39, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Mardeja Chapple, 24, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Brett Rodgers, 32, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Marshinneah Manning, 26, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Bryan Smith, 24, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Balon Kennedy, 24, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Tyree Davis, 34, of Pittsburgh, PA, currently incarcerated;

• Cecil Howard, 47, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Brianne Dean, 30, of Bridgeville, PA;

• Antoine Dean, Jr., 28, of Washington, PA;

• Antoine Dean, Sr., 53, of Heidelberg, PA; and

• Mary Cerezo, 57, of Lawrence, PA.

According to the indictment, from in and around November 2017, and continuing thereafter to in and around June 2018, in the Western District of Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 280 grams or more of crack cocaine. Also according to the indictment, during that same time frame, Jewel Hall, Willie Harris, Marvin Younger, Joelle Hollis, Allen Green, Brianne Dean, and Mary Cerezo conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of powder cocaine. The indictment also charges Jewel Hall and Marvin Younger with one count each of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, on December 29, 2017, and May 21, 2018, respectively.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not less than 10 years and up to life in prison, a fine of $10,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The second indictment, also unsealed today, containing four counts, named:

• Monta Banks, 27, of McKees Rocks, PA, currently incarcerated

• Lawrence Morrison, 35, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Tamra Moore, 34, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Jaimon Woods, 28, of Pittsburgh, PA, currently incarcerated;

• Robert Moore, 36, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Raymond Chrzanowski, 50, of Zelienople, PA;

• Mark Givens, 28, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Eric Kaminski, 46, of Pittsburgh, PA;

• Charles Jones, 25, of Bellefonte, PA;

• Delrico Clyburn, 26, of Braddock, PA; Rashem Littleberry, 28, of Pittsburgh, PA; and

• Kellie Gossett, 36, of Canonsburg, PA.

According to the indictment, from in and around November 2017, and continuing thereafter to in and around June 2018, Monta Banks, Tamra Moore, Jaimon Woods, Robert Moore, Raymond Chrzanowski, and Eric Kaminski conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. Also according to the indictment, during the same time frame, the same defendants, along with Charles Jones, Mark Givens, Delrico Clyburn, Rashem Littleberry, and Kellie Gossett conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of heroin. Also according to the indictment, during the same time frame, Monta Banks, Lawrence Morrison, Tamra Moore, and Raymond Chrzanowski conspired to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of powder cocaine. The indictment also charges Jaimon Woods with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition on or about December 7, 2017.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence on the drug charges of not less than 5 years and up to 40 years in prison, a fine of $2,000,000, or both. The law provides for a maximum sentence on the firearm charge of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Rachael Dizard and Tonya Sulia Goodman are prosecuting these cases on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration jointly led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Allegheny County Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Robinson Township Police Department, Stowe Township Police Department, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Wilkinsburg Borough Police Department, and the McKees Rocks Police Department. Other assisting agencies include the Moon Township Police Department, Avalon Police Department, Munhall Police Department, Altoona Police Department, Johnstown Police Department, Shaler Township Police Department, Canonsburg Police Department, Cecil Township Police Department, Allegheny County Adult Probation, ICE/Homeland Security Investigations, Pennsylvania State Parole, and the Allegheny County Port Authority Police Department.

The investigation was funded by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF). The OCDETF program supplies critical federal funding and coordination that allows federal and state agencies to work together to successfully identify, investigate, and prosecute major interstate and international drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.