Monday, April 19, 2021

Virginia Truck Driver Detained in Rhode Island for Allegedly Transporting a Minor with Intent to Engage in Sexual Activity

 Missing 15-year-old located in the sleeping compartment after driver is detained on outstanding warrant while attempting to enter Naval Station Newport

PROVIDENCE –  A Virginia truck driver detained by Naval Station Newport Police on April 2, 2021, when a routine background check conducted prior to his being allowed to enter the Navy base determined that he was wanted in Texas for felony assault of a child, appeared today in federal court in Providence on a charge of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity.

David Romero Reyes, 50, of Stafford, Virginia, was charged in U.S. District Court in Providence after an FBI and Rhode Island State Police investigation determined that Reyes allegedly had sexual contact in several states with a 15-year-old girl who was discovered in the sleeping compartment of his tractor-trailer by Naval Station Newport Police. The girl was reported missing from her Virginia home in July 2020, when she was 14 years old.

The girl entered the United States as an unaccompanied minor in February 2020.  She was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and placed in a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility.  HHS documents found in the truck indicate that in May 2020 she was removed from a Houston, Texas, HHS-funded facility by Reyes, who, according to HHS documents, identified himself as the girl’s distant relative. An FBI and Rhode Island State Police investigation determined that Reyes is a long-time friend of the girl’s father who lives in El Salvador and a distant cousin of the girl.

According to court documents, the girl resided in the Houston, TX, area with her mother and other relatives for several weeks after leaving the immigration detention center. The young teenager eventually left Texas with Reyes and began living in Virginia with a relative of Reyes. Shortly after moving to Virginia, when it became known by a family member that Reyes and the girl allegedly had a sexual relationship, the family member reported Reyes to law enforcement. Shortly thereafter, in July 2020, the girl left the home on a bicycle and was picked up nearby by Reyes. She was reported missing and had not been seen since. According to court documents, during the week the two travelled together in trucks driven by Reyes. On weekends they stayed at hotels or at an apartment rented by Reyes.

According to court documents, during interviews with law enforcement, Reyes and the now 15-year-old admitted to traveling together and engaging in sexual contact in multiple states. Investigators determined that Reyes, using the name David Romero, traveled in or through Rhode Island on at least six dates between February 1, 2021, and April 2,2021, the date of his arrest.

Reyes, detained in state custody since his arrest, appeared today in federal court in Providence on a criminal complaint charging him with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and was ordered detained, announced Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus, Newport Naval Station Police Chief Lieutenant Ruben Gutierrez, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta, and Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni.

A federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity is punishable by statutory penalties of 10 years to life imprisonment and lifetime federal supervised release.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.

Urbandale Man Sentenced to Twelve Years in Prison for Receipt of Child Pornography

 DES MOINES, IA – On April 16, 2021, United States District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger sentenced Joseph Mikel Cerwick, age 33, of Urbandale, to 144 months in prison for Receipt of Child Pornography announced Acting United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. Cerwick was ordered to serve eight years of supervised release to follow his prison term, pay $9,000 in restitution, and comply with sex offender registry requirements upon his release from prison.

This investigation began in December of 2017 when the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation Task Force received a tip that a video of child pornography had been sent to an individual through the Kik internet application. Following further investigation, the FBI executed a search warrant at Cerwick’s Urbandale apartment in September 2018. Police seized Cerwick’s cellular telephone which was found to contain hundreds of images of child pornography. Cerwick also received and sent a video of child pornography to other persons via the Kik app in November 2017.

This matter was investigated by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa as part of the United States Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Childhood” initiative, which was started in 2006 as a nationwide effort to combine law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, community action, and public awareness in order to reduce the incidence of sexual exploitation of children.

Any persons having knowledge of a child being sexually abused are encouraged to call the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline at 1-800-284-7821.

Two Former Mariners Admit to Facilitating the Bribery of a Coast Guard Employee, Three Others Sentenced for Unlawfully Receiving Mariner Licenses

 NEW ORLEANS, LA – U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced the guilty pleas of two middlemen in a test score-fixing scheme at a United States Coast Guard exam center, bringing the total number of defendants convicted in this case to 21.

Former mariners ALEXIS BELL and MICHEAL WOOTEN pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. BELL and WOOTEN each admitted to acting as an intermediary between co-defendant Beverly McCrary and merchant mariners who were willing to pay for false passing exams scores.  McCrary is accused of participating in the scheme while she was employed by the Coast Guard exam center and continuing after her retirement.

BELL and WOOTEN acknowledged that they would take money from mariners and then pay McCrary for the false scores. BELL and WOOTEN understood that McCrary would keep a portion of that money and use the rest to bribe another exam center employee to enter the scores. BELL admitted that, in addition to assisting eleven other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his own scores fixed on three occasions. WOOTEN admitted that, in addition to assisting nine other mariners in obtaining false scores, he also had his own scores fixed.

All of these false scores resulted in the Coast Guard issuing unearned licenses without the required exams being passed. The exams tested mariners' knowledge and training to safely operate under the authority of licenses, which were legally required to work various positions on vessels.

As alleged in the indictment, which was filed on November 20, 2020, Coast Guard credentialing specialist Dorothy Smith entered the false scores in this scheme. The indictment alleges that Smith accepted bribes and used a network of intermediaries, which included McCrary, BELL, and WOOTEN. Smith and McCrary are scheduled to stand trial on June 28, 2021.

U.S. Attorney Evans reiterated that the indictment's allegations against Smith and McCrary are merely charges and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Honorable Barry W. Ashe presided over BELL’s guilty plea on April 1, 2021 and set a sentencing date of July 8, 2021.  Judge Ashe took WOOTEN’s guilty plea on April 15 and set sentencing for July 22, 2021. The maximum penalty for each defendant is five years' imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special assessment.

On April 15, Judge Ashe also sentenced the first three defendants to plead guilty in this case, ANTHONY BROWN, DAVID GALVAN, and CARDELL HUGHES. Each of the three had pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining a mariner license and received a sentence of one year of probation, along with 100 hours of community service.

This case is being investigated by the Coast Guard Investigative Service.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Chandra Menon is in charge of the prosecution.

Sioux City Man Pleads Guilty to Meth Conspiracy

 Conspired to Distribute Meth Within a School Zone

A man who conspired to distribute methamphetamine pled guilty April 15, 2021, in federal court in Sioux City.

Brett Michael Walking Eagle, 41, from Sioux City, Iowa, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a protected location.

At the plea hearing, Walking Eagle admitted that on or about December 2, 2019, he and an individual cooperating with law enforcement agreed that Walking Eagle would either sell or coordinate the sale of approximately 6 ounces of methamphetamine to the cooperating individual.  In return, Walking Eagle requested roughly a half ounce of the 6 ounces for himself.  Walking Eagle instructed the individual cooperating with law enforcement to travel to the Boys and Girls Home parking lot, in Sioux City, Iowa to meet with another person who would provide the methamphetamine.   

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Walking Eagle remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing.  Walking Eagle faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 80 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000,000 fine, and at least 8 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Patrick T. Greenwood and was investigated by Tri-State Drug Task Force based in Sioux City, Iowa, that consists of law enforcement personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration; Sioux City, Iowa, Police Department; Homeland Security Investigations; Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office; South Sioux City, Nebraska, Police Department; Nebraska State Patrol; Iowa National Guard; Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement; United States Marshals Service; South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation; and Woodbury County Attorney’s Office.

Iowa City Woman Sentenced to Prison for Fraud Charges

 DAVENPORT, Iowa — On Thursday, April 15, 2021, United States District Court Chief Judge John A. Jarvey sentenced Tykeese McCray, age 44, of Iowa City, to three months in prison for Health Care Fraud and False Statements announced Acting United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. McCray was ordered to serve three years of supervised release to follow her prison term and pay restitution in the amount of $118,943.19 and $100 to the Crime Victims’ Fund.

The investigation revealed as early as 2011, McCray fraudulently completed application paperwork for the Section 8 housing assistance program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On the initial application, as well as the annual recertification forms filed every year, McCray purposefully did not list her husband as a household member, nor did she include his income for purposes of determining her eligibility. McCray also falsified benefit forms by indicating she was single when, in fact, she was married. In addition to defrauding HUD, McCray also falsified forms for food assistance benefits (aka SNAP), childcare assistance, and medical insurance through Medicaid. As a result of falsifying records, McCray agreed she received $54,032 in entitled housing assistance, $31,385 in unentitled food assistance, $31,835.73 in unentitled medical assistance, and $1,690.46 in unentitled medical assistance for a total loss amount of $118,943.19.

This matter was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General and the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Turner Falls Man Charged with Child Pornography Offenses

 BOSTON – A Turners Falls man was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Springfield on child pornography charges.

Brian Cooper, 63, was charged on April 15, 2021 with four counts of distribution of child pornography, six counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Cooper will be arraigned in federal court at a later date.

According to the indictment, between April 2018 and October 2019, Cooper distributed, received and possessed child pornography files depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In October 2019, Cooper was arrested on state court charges and has been detained since that time.

For defendants with certain qualifying prior convictions, the charges of distribution and receipt of child pornography provide for a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and up to 40 years in prison. The charge of possession of child pornography provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to 20 years in prison. Each charge also provides for a mandatory minimum of five years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; David E. Sullivan, Northwestern District Attorney; William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex J. Grant of Mendell’s Springfield Branch Office is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Brooklyn Man Charged with Molotov Cocktail Attack on NYPD Officers

 A criminal complaint was filed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Lionel Virgile with attempted arson by allegedly using an improvised incendiary device commonly known as a “Molotov Cocktail” to damage and destroy a New York City Police Department (NYPD) vehicle while police officers were inside the vehicle.  Virgile was arrested on Saturday and made his initial appearance this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy.  The defendant was ordered detained pending trial.

Mark J. Lesko, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, NYPD, announced the arrest and charges.

“As alleged, the defendant deliberately sought to severely injure an NYPD police officer by throwing bleach at his eyes and to ignite an NYPD vehicle with officers inside by hurling a lit Molotov cocktail at it," stated Acting United States Attorney Lesko.  “This Office simply will not tolerate the intentional infliction of physical harm on NYPD officers while they are working to protect our communities.” Mr. Lesko thanked the Kings County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance with the investigation.

“Virgile’s alleged attack on members of the NYPD is yet another reminder of the danger law enforcement officers face on a daily basis—and today’s charges should serve as a reminder to all that this type of behavior will be met with a swift response.  As Virgile has now learned, the federal charge he faces carries the potential for a lengthy federal prison sentence.  The NYPD’s quick response in neutralizing this threat to the public is a testament to its professionalism and dedication to keeping our city safe,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. 

“Attacks on uniformed police officers, as alleged in this federal complaint, are not only crimes against our sworn public servants but are unacceptable assaults on the fabric of society. I commend our NYPD officers and our partners in the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York for working closely to ensure that Lionel Virgile, the accused assailant in this case, faces justice,” stated NYPD Commissioner Shea.

According to the complaint, in the morning of April 17, 2021, NYPD officers in a marked vehicle observed Virgile drive his Lincoln Town Car through a steady red traffic light at the intersection of Clarendon Road and East 45th Street in East Flatbush.  When the officers approached Virgile’s car, he opened the driver side door and threw a cup containing a chemical substance in one of the NYPD officer’s eyes that was later determined to be bleach.  The officer sustained chemical burns on his face and has since been discharged from the hospital.  Virgile fled in the Lincoln Town car and was pursued by officers in another NYPD vehicle.  Approximately 10 minutes later, Virgile pulled over, exited his Lincoln Town Car and threw a lit Molotov cocktail at the NYPD vehicle pursuing him.  The Molotov cocktail struck the windshield of the NYPD vehicle and shattered on the sidewalk.  The Molotov cocktail consisted of a glass beverage bottle containing gasoline and a cloth wick.  The defendant subsequently crashed into a parked car on Snyder Avenue and was apprehended by the NYPD.  Five additional Molotov cocktails and a red jerry can were found in Virgile’s Lincoln Town Car.       

The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Virgile faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Sara K. Winik and Joy Lurinsky are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

LIONEL VIRGILE
Age:  44
Brooklyn, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-MJ-483

Elkhart, Indiana Man Sentenced To 9 Years in Prison possession of stolen mail, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and felon in possession of a firearm,

 SOUTH BEND – Lafiamma Orona, age 33, of Elkhart, Indiana, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty upon his plea of guilty to possession of stolen mail, mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and felon in possession of a firearm, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Bell. 

Orona was sentenced to 108 months of imprisonment followed by 2 years of supervised release.

According to documents filed in this case, during the spring of 2020, Orona stole mail from mailboxes near Elkhart, Indiana.  The mail contained, checks, check books, debit and credit cards, and personal information of victims. Orona then forged checks, fraudulently used victims’ debit and credit cards, and opened new credit card accounts using victims’ stolen personal information. In May 2020, a description of the car stealing mail was broadcast to all local police departments.  On May 6, 2020, the car was located in Bristol, Indiana. Orona was driving the car and possessed fake drivers’ licenses with his own photo and victims’ names, stolen checks and check books, other stolen mail items, a handgun holster and a box of ammunition. On the road nearby, police found a loaded handgun that was thrown out of the car. The following day, police searched a house in Michigan where Orona was residing.  Police found more stolen mail items, stolen checks and check books, a printer with more fake drivers’ licenses, tools for forging checks, notebooks with victims’ personal information, handgun ammunition, and narcotics paraphernalia. In total, Orona had stolen items and checks valued at more than $226,000, stolen mail from approximately 46 victims, and the personal information of approximately 253 people.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department; Bristol Police Department; Cass County Sheriff’s Department (Michigan); and Cassopolis Police Department (Michigan).  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke N. Reilander.

Three Indicted In ID Theft, Fraudulent Credit Card Scheme

 PROVIDENCE – A federal indictment returned by a grand jury on April 2, 2021, and unsealed on April 16, 2021, charges three individuals with having been in possession of dozens of fraudulent drivers’ licenses, fraudulent credit cards, equipment to produce credit cards, and lists of individuals stolen personal identifying information.

It is alleged in the indictment that Courtney Hilaire, 28, of Providence, Hugh A. Martin, 32, of Pawtucket, and Shawn K. Hilaire, 30, of Avon, MA, possessed devices and equipment used to create fraudulent credit cards with the use of stolen credit card numbers and personal identifying information, such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

According to information presented to the court following the arrest of Courtney Hilaire on April 5, 2021, a Warwick Police Department Captain discovered the three men reclined in a vehicle parked in a hotel parking lot in the early morning hours of  July 3, 2020. It was determined that the license plate on the vehicle was allegedly stolen from Norwood, MA.

After removing the individuals from the vehicle, Warwick Police allegedly discovered 33 counterfeit credit cards, numerous fraudulent drivers’ licenses from multiple states, equipment used to read and transfer information onto credit card magnetic strips, listings of  individuals identities and personal identifying information, and approximately $13,000 in crisp, clean $100 and $50 dollar bills.

The indictment charges the three men with conspiracy to possess fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, possession of device-making equipment, and aggravated identity theft.

Since the issuance of the indictment, further investigation into Courtney Hilaire’s alleged criminal activity has resulted in the return of 17-count indictment charging Courtney Hilaire with using stolen Social Security numbers and personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor  and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration.

Courtney Hilaire is currently detained in both state and federal custody at the ACI. Arrest warrants have been issued for Hugh A. Martin and Shawn K. Hilaire.

The indictment of Hugh A. Martin, Courtney Hilaire, and Shawn K. Hilaire is announced by Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus, Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker, Warwick Police Chief Colonel Bradford Connor, and Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland.

The matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Warwick and Pawtucket Police Departments.

TSA seeks input on mobile driver’s licenses to inform REAL ID rulemaking

 WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) published a request for information in the Federal Register seeking information about security standards and technologies concerning mobile driver’s licenses. Responses to the request for information will support future DHS/TSA rulemaking to update the REAL ID Act implementing regulation to accommodate mobile driver’s licenses.  

Mobile driver's licenses are digital representations of physical driver’s licenses, and are typically accessed via an app installed on a smartphone. Conceptually, mobile driver’s licenses are similar to digital representations of physical credit cards that are accessed via apps installed on smartphones. DHS and TSA are interested in mobile driver’s licenses because, compared to physical driver’s licenses, mobile driver’s licenses could provide greater security to TSA and all federal agencies verifying an individual’s identity, stronger privacy protections to individuals, and health and safety benefits to all users by enabling touchless identity verification.

“The TSA workforce comprises teams of security-focused innovators who look for opportunities to improve security and the traveler experience across the nation’s transportation network,” said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. “The mobile driver’s license is one emerging technology example, and TSA is interested in exploring its incorporation into our identity verification processes.”

The Request for Information, solicits comments and input regarding technical approaches, applicable industry standards and best practices to ensure that mobile driver’s licenses can be issued and authenticated with features that ensure security, privacy and identity fraud detection. Comments may be submitted until June 18, 2021.

The REAL ID Act applies to mobile and digital driver’s licenses and identification cards. To enable federal agency acceptance of mobile driver’s licenses for “official purposes,” which the REAL ID Act defines as including access to federal facilities, nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft, the REAL ID Act implementing regulation requires an update to accommodate mobile driver’s licenses. This request for information will inform potential updates to the regulation.

For more information on REAL ID, please visit TSA.gov

Providence Man Indicted for CARES Act Fraud

 PROVIDENCE – A federal grand jury in Providence on Friday returned a 17-count indictment charging a local man, who used the moniker “Mr. Vacation,” with using stolen Social Security numbers and personal identifying information of numerous individuals to apply for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funded unemployment insurance compensation from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor  and for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration.

It is alleged in the indictment that beginning in March 2020, Courtney Hilaire, 28, obtained from the Internet personal identifying information, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth of numerous individuals, then accessed commercial public records data bases to obtain additional information about the identity of his victims. In July 2020, using the stolen identities, Hilaire filed a least six applications for unemployment insurance payments from the State of Pennsylvania. On at least seven occasions beginning in August 2020, Hilaire withdrew fraudulently obtained CARES Act unemployment funds from bank accounts he accessed through ATMs in Rhode Island.

It is also alleged in the indictment that Hilaire, using the moniker “Mr. Vacation,” solicited the assistance of another individual to defraud the Small Business Administration by fraudulently seeking CARES Act Economic Injury Disaster Loans, a program which provides economic relief to small businesses that have experienced a temporary loss of revenue during the pandemic. It is alleged that Hilaire filed at least twenty-eight fraudulent applications with the Small Business Administration for Economic Injury Disaster Loans if he was not entitled to receive.

Hilaire, charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 14 counts of wire fraud, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, is the latest individual charged in federal court in Providence with allegedly running schemes to defraud CARES Act programs. Earlier this month, the United States Attorney’s Office publicly detailed investigations and charges brought against fraudsters who collectively have targeted more than $31 million in CARES Act funding.

To date, the United States Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island has charged 24 individuals with allegedly defrauding state unemployment agencies in Rhode Island and elsewhere and the Small Business Administration, of CARES Act relief funds made available to assist American families and business in need due to the pandemic. Several investigations are ongoing.

The indictment of Courtney Hilaire is announced by Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus, Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker, Warwick Police Chief Colonel Bradford Connor, and Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves.

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

The investigation that resulted in an indictment being brought against Hilaire for CAREs Act fraud was conducted by the Warwick Police Department, Pawtucket Police Department Special Squad, and Homeland Security Investigations.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William F. Ferland.

Friday, April 16, 2021

ATF Offers Reward in Gun Store Burglary

Left Image: Suspect in black hooded jacked wearing red pants. Right image: Black and white security image of a car turning right into parking lot.

 ATF and Billings Police Department seek the Public’s Help in Firearms Theft from Shipton’s Big R

Billings, MT. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), in conjunction with the Billings Police Department are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft of firearms from Shipton’s Big R, a federal firearms licensee (FFL). 

On April 12th, 2021 Shipton’s Big R, located at 216 North 14th St., Billings, Montana was burglarized where 7 firearms were reported stolen to the Billings Police Department.  ATF Industry Operations Investigators responded to the FFL and conducted an inventory to determine the exact number of firearms stolen.

Anyone with information about these crimes should contact ATF at ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477) or the Billings Police Department at (406)657-8200.

Information can also be sent to ATFTips@atf.gov, through ATF’s website at www.atf.gov/contact/atftips. Tips can be submitted anonymously using the Reportit® app, available from both Google Play and the Apple App store, or by visiting www.reportit.com.

ATF is the lead federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction involving firearms and violent crimes, and regulates the firearm industry. More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.

Lifetime Founding Member of the Oath Keepers Pleads Guilty to Breaching Capitol on Jan. 6 to Obstruct Congressional Proceeding

 WASHINGTON – Jon Schaffer, 53, of Columbus, Indiana, today admitted that he breached the Capitol on January 6, 2021, wearing a tactical vest and armed with bear repellent, and pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol to obstruct Congress’ certification of the U.S. presidential election results.

"On this 100th day since the horrific January 6 assault on the United States Capitol, Oath Keepers member Jon Schaffer has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, including for breaching the Capitol while wearing a tactical vest and armed with bear spray, with the intent to interfere with Congress’ certification of the Electoral College results," said Acting Deputy Attorney General John P. Carlin.  "The FBI has made an average of more than four arrests a day, seven days a week since January 6th.  I commend the hundreds of special agents, prosecutors and support staff that have worked tirelessly for the last hundred days to bring those who committed criminal acts to justice."

"The defendant in this case admits forcing his way into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 for the express purpose of stopping or delaying congressional proceedings essential to our democratic process. These actions are disgraceful and unacceptable" said FBI Deputy Director Paul M. Abbate. "The FBI and our partners will continue to utilize all available authorities to aggressively investigate, pursue and hold accountable those who committed acts of violence or otherwise violated the rule of law that day." 

In his plea agreement, Schaffer acknowledged he is a founding lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias.

In his plea agreement, Schaffer also acknowledged that on January 6, 2021 he was in Washington to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, which he believed were fraudulent. Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray, a dangerous weapon and chemical irritant used to ward off bears. When the rally finished, Schaffer joined a large crowd that marched from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress, presided over by Vice President Michael Pence, was in session to certify the electoral college vote results. Shortly after 2:00 p.m., members of the mob forced entry into the Capitol building, disrupting the joint session and causing members of Congress and the Vice President to be evacuated from the House and Senate chambers.

In his plea agreement, Schaffer admitted that after arriving on Capitol grounds, he walked past barriers intended to restrict access to the public and to a set of locked doors on the Capitol’s west side.  At approximately 2:40 PM, Schaffer positioned himself at the front of a crowd that broke open a set of doors being guarded by four U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers wearing riot gear. Schaffer admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, forcing officers to retreat. Schaffer and others advanced toward five or six backpedaling USCP officers while members of the mob swelled inside of the Capitol and overwhelmed the officers. The officers ultimately deployed a chemical irritant to disperse the mob. Schaffer was among the people who were sprayed in the face, after which exited while holding his own bear spray in his hands.

Schaffer pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Combined, he faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. The Honorable Amit P. Mehta accepted Schaffer’s guilty plea.

Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.

The charges contained in the complaint are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Community Reporting Engagement Support and Training Rated Promising

 

This is an enhanced day reporting center designed to reduce the risk of recidivism in probationers with mental illnesses. It provides services such as substance abuse treatment and crisis intervention.

The program is rated Promising. Treatment group probationers had a statistically significantly lower risk of conviction for any offense, compared with control group participants on standard probation. However, there was no statistically significant effect on the risk of conviction for a felony.

LEARN MORE

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Crafty Approach

 

An air-cushioned landing craft prepares to enter the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex in the Pacific Ocean, April 12, 2021.

InfraGard Marks 25 Years

 Protecting the Country’s Critical Infrastructure Through Partnerships

In 1996, a small group of private sector and government officials began working with the FBI's Cleveland Field Office to help identify cyber threats to the country. The FBI passed along what we knew about cyber intrusions and crime trends to our partners to help them secure their facilities and computer networks. And our partners, in turn, shared their information technology expertise and information they had on possible cyber crimes.

The group became known as InfraGard because of its focus on protecting critical infrastructure components—like utility companies, transportation systems, telecommunication networks, water and food suppliers, public health, and financial services.

The original program proved so successful that we replicated it nationally. And just as the cyber threat has evolved over the last 25 years, so has InfraGard.

Today, InfraGard—managed by the FBI’s Office of Private Sector—has grown to more than 75,000 members representing the private sector, government, and academia. InfraGard has expanded its initial focus on cyber crime to include terrorism, intelligence, criminal, and security matters.

So while the threat is more complex today, the mission remains the same. InfraGard helps the FBI protect the country’s critical infrastructure sectors through partnerships.

InfraGard participants share information, intelligence, training, best practices, and more through a member website and through more than 70 regional chapters, each having a relationship with a local FBI field office.

Trial Attorney

 Criminal Division (CRM)

Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section
Attorney
Chantilly, VA
United States
21-CRM-MLARS-033
About the Office: 

The Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) leads the Department's asset forfeiture and anti-money laundering enforcement efforts. This position is assigned to the Special Financial Investigations Unit (SFIU), which investigates money laundering organizations and supports civil and criminal forfeiture cases for the Section and in nationwide partnership with United States Attorney Offices and other Department components. The SFIU is composed of experienced in-house financial investigators, litigators, and senior advisors.

Job Description: 

The incumbent will be co-located with law enforcement in Chantilly, Virginia, and report to Section management in Washington, DC.

The incumbent serves as a national money laundering and asset forfeiture litigation resource to federal prosecutors and law enforcement. The incumbent will partner with prosecutors from the Section and from U.S. Attorney's Offices, as well as headquarters and field elements from the FBI, DEA, HSI, IRS-CI, ATF and other federal law enforcement agencies, to build and execute cutting edge money laundering investigations targeting transnational criminal organizations, terrorist groups, fraud networks, and corrupt government officials. Core duties include:

  • Identifying and developing prosecutions against individuals and corporations involved in the national and international movement of illicit proceeds and funds that facilitate crime;
  • Coordinating a national effort to combat certain criminal organizations prioritized by the Section or the Department;
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with anti-money laundering prosecutors and agents throughout the inter-agency law enforcement community;
  • Advising and conducting training to prosecutors and law enforcement agents regarding money laundering, seizure, and forfeiture best practices; and
  • Occasional civil and criminal litigation in Federal courts.

The incumbent must have good people skills, be detail oriented, and be able to work independently to stay apprised of money laundering and forfeiture caselaw, as well as developments in anti-money laundering and asset tracing techniques.

Qualifications: 

Required Qualifications: Interested applicants must possess a J.D., or equivalent, degree, be duly licensed and authorized to practice as an attorney under the laws of any State, territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia, and be an active member of the bar in good standing.

Grade Specific Qualifications:

  • To qualify at the GS-14 grade level, applicants must have at least two and a half (2.5) years post J.D. legal experience, one of which was specialized experience at, or equivalent to, the GS-13 grade level. Examples of specialized experience include: performing legal analysis and formulating recommendations to senior managers; composing pleadings, briefs, and other court documents involving legal issues in civil or criminal litigation; and conducting civil or criminal litigation.
  • To qualify at the GS-15 grade level, applicants must have at least four (4) years post J.D. legal experience, one of which was specialized experience at, or equivalent to, the GS-14 grade level. Examples of specialized experience include: independently performing legal analysis; composing pleadings, briefs and other court documents involving unique and/or difficult legal issues in civil or criminal litigation; conducting highly complex civil or criminal litigation; and leading paralegals and support staff.


Preferred Qualifications:
The ideal candidate will have a track record of successfully prosecuting sophisticated money laundering offenses and/or complex asset forfeiture litigation. Experience prosecuting Title 21 offenses, litigating CIPA issues, and familiarity with OCDETF, HIDTA and inter-agency coordination is also helpful. Foreign language ability, especially with Arabic, Spanish, French, or Mandarin, is highly desirable.

Salary: 
The salary range for this position is $122,530 – $172,500 per annum, which includes locality pay. See OPM's Web page at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2021/general-schedule/
Travel: 
Attendance at national and international law enforcement conferences, meetings, and seminars is a core function of the incumbent.
Application Process: 

The Application Package must be received by 11:59 PM, Eastern Time, on the closing date of this announcement.

Please submit your application through USAJOBS. The list of required documents can be found in the USAJobs announcement.

  1.  If you do not already have an account, please create a USAjobs account before applying Create an Account. You will be able to upload your resume and supporting documents and complete your profile prior to applying.
  2. Once you have an account, apply to the USAjobs vacancy: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/598503800

Applicants should familiarize themselves and comply with the relevant rules of professional conduct regarding any possible conflicts of interest in connection with their applications. In particular, please notify this Office if you currently represent clients or adjudicate matters in which this Office is involved and/or you have a family member who is representing clients or adjudicating matters in which this Office is involved so that we can evaluate any potential conflict of interest or disqualification issue that may need to be addressed under those circumstances.

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Relocation Expenses: 
Relocation expenses are not authorized.
Number of Positions: 
1
Updated April 15, 2021

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Department Policies

Equal Employment Opportunity:  The U.S. Department of Justice is an Equal Opportunity/Reasonable Accommodation Employer.  Except where otherwise provided by law, there will be no discrimination because of color, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, disability (physical or mental), age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, protected genetic information, pregnancy, status as a parent, or any other nonmerit-based factor.  The Department of Justice welcomes and encourages applications from persons with physical and mental disabilities. The Department is firmly committed to satisfying its affirmative obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to ensure that persons with disabilities have every opportunity to be hired and advanced on the basis of merit within the Department of Justice. For more information, please review our full EEO Statement.

Reasonable Accommodations:  This agency provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the agency.  Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Outreach and Recruitment for Qualified Applicants with Disabilities:  The Department encourages qualified applicants with disabilities, including individuals with targeted/severe disabilities to apply in response to posted vacancy announcements.  Qualified applicants with targeted/severe disabilities may be eligible for direct hire, non-competitive appointment under Schedule A (5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(u)) hiring authority.  Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to contact one of the Department’s Disability Points of Contact (DPOC) to express an interest in being considered for a position. See list of DPOCs.   

Suitability and Citizenship:  It is the policy of the Department to achieve a drug-free workplace and persons selected for employment will be required to pass a drug test which screens for illegal drug use prior to final appointment.  Employment is also contingent upon the completion and satisfactory adjudication of a background investigation. Congress generally prohibits agencies from employing non-citizens within the United States, except for a few narrow exceptions as set forth in the annual Appropriations Act (see, https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/non-citizens/). Pursuant to DOJ component policies, only U.S. citizens are eligible for employment with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Trustee’s Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Unless otherwise indicated in a particular job advertisement, qualifying non-U.S. citizens meeting immigration and appropriations law criteria may apply for employment with other DOJ organizations. However, please be advised that the appointment of non-U.S. citizens is extremely rare; such appointments would be possible only if necessary to accomplish the Department's mission and would be subject to strict security requirements. Applicants who hold dual citizenship in the U.S. and another country will be considered on a case-by-case basis. All DOJ employees are subject to a residency requirement. Candidates must have lived in the United States for at least three of the past five years. The three-year period is cumulative, not necessarily consecutive. Federal or military employees, or dependents of federal or military employees serving overseas, are excepted from this requirement. This is a Department security requirement which is waived only for extreme circumstances and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Veterans:  There is no formal rating system for applying veterans' preference to attorney appointments in the excepted service; however, the Department of Justice considers veterans' preference eligibility as a positive factor in attorney hiring. Applicants eligible for veterans' preference must include that information in their cover letter or resume and attach supporting documentation (e.g., the DD 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty and other supporting documentation) to their submissions. Although the "point" system is not used, per se, applicants eligible to claim 10-point preference must submit Standard Form (SF) 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, and submit the supporting documentation required for the specific type of preference claimed (visit the OPM website, www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SF15.pdf for a copy of SF 15, which lists the types of 10-point preferences and the required supporting document(s). Applicants should note that SF 15 requires supporting documentation associated with service- connected disabilities or receipt of nonservice-connected disability pensions to be dated 1991 or later except in the case of service members submitting official statements or retirement orders from a branch of the Armed Forces showing that his  or her retirement was due to a permanent service-connected disability or that he/she was transferred to the permanent disability retired list (the statement or retirement orders must indicate that the disability is 10% or more).

 

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This and other vacancy announcements can be found under Attorney Vacancies and Volunteer Legal Internships. The Department of Justice cannot control further dissemination and/or posting of information contained in this vacancy announcement. Such posting and/or dissemination is not an endorsement by the Department of the organization or group disseminating and/or posting the informatio

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Man Pleads Guilty to Counterfeit COVID-19 Stimulus Checks Scheme

 ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Reston man pleaded guilty today to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to create counterfeit Economic Impact Payments (also known as COVID-19 stimulus checks), and for attempting to conduct a series of fraudulent financial transactions.

“The defendant illegally obtained the personal identifiers and financial information of more than 150 individuals in EDVA by stealing their mail, which he then used to conduct fraudulent transactions and create counterfeit COVID-19 stimulus checks,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We are firmly committed to holding accountable fraudsters who engage in identity theft and exploit a national economic crisis for personal gain at the expense of hardworking members of our communities.”

According to court documents, Jonathan Drew, 38, stole U.S. mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax County between approximately December 2019 and August 2020. The mail Drew stole included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks, including a COVID-19 stimulus payment and checks Drew used to create counterfeit checks.

According to court documents, Drew used the stolen stimulus check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging from $1,200 to $2,400, and he negotiated his own authentically issued stimulus check twice. Drew also used the personally identifiable information of several individuals without authorization to lease an apartment, open bank accounts, and attempt to conduct fraudulent transactions through counterfeit checks, forged checks, unauthorized use of credit cards, and wire transfers.

Drew is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25. He faces a maximum penalty of 32 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum of two years. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; David M. Rohrer, Fairfax County Interim Chief of Police and Deputy County Executive for Public Safety; and Michael L. Chapman, Loudoun County Sheriff, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the plea.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberta O. Roberts and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg are prosecuting the case.