Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Office on Violence Against Women Announces New Funding Opportunity for Sexual Assault Justice Initiative to Improve Sexual Assault Prosecutions



The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) today announced the release of a new $2.8 million funding opportunity as part of OVW’s Sexual Assault Justice Initiative (SAJI).  Launched in April 2015, the SAJI is an opportunity to improve how the justice system in general, and prosecution in particular, handles sexual assault cases.  This funding announcement will support approximately eight pilot sites to receive up to $400,000 to implement performance measures that reflect promising practices for prosecuting sexual assault and promote justice for victims.

“Very few victims report their assaults to law enforcement,” said Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women.  “But among victims who do report, the reality is that many will likely see their cases dropped during the investigation or prosecution stage.  We know that sexual assault cases can be difficult to prosecute and we see the Sexual Assault Justice Initiative as an opportunity for prosecutors to learn about, and implement, effective practices for sexual assault prosecution.  The goal is to look beyond convictions to see what prosecutors can do to hold offenders accountable and provide victims with the justice they deserve.”

The demonstration initiative is designed to strengthen the justice system’s response to sexual violence and enhance collaborations among sexual assault victim services providers, law enforcement agencies, and sexual assault medical forensic services providers.  With funding from the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program, the Rural Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Grant Program and the Tribal Governments Grant Program, SAJI sites will be able to use the funds to strengthen services in their communities that support sexual assault victims.

Each pilot site will receive technical assistance from AEquitas: The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women to implement the performance measures and enhance their approach to prosecuting sexual assault. Sites will also participate in the evaluation of the initiative.

Applications for the SAJI demonstration initiative are due on Oct. 13, 2015.  The solicitation is available at www.justice.gov/ovw/open-solicitations and www.grants.gov.  For information on the Office on Violence Against Women and its grant programs, visit www.justice.gov/ovw.

About the Office on Violence Against Women

Created in 1995, the Office on Violence Against Women provides federal leadership in developing the Nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and subsequent legislation.  OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  To learn more, visit www.justice.gov/ovw.

Eight Indicted in Fraud Case That Alleges $50 Million in Bogus Claims for Student Substance Abuse Counseling



Six Linked to Long Beach Treatment Program Taken into Custody Today

Eight people have been indicted for allegedly participating in a scheme that submitted more than $50 million in fraudulent bills to a California state program for alcohol and drug treatment services for high school and middle school students that, in many instances, were not provided or were provided to students who did not have substance abuse problems.

Six of the defendants who worked at the Long Beach-based Atlantic Health Services, formerly known as Atlantic Recovery Services (ARS), were arrested this morning by federal authorities.

The indictment, which charges the defendants with health care fraud and aggravated identity theft, alleges that ARS received more than $46 million from California’s Drug Medi-Cal program after ARS submitted false and fraudulent claims for group and individual substance abuse counseling services.

“The defendants named in the indictment are accused of exploiting a program that was set up to help a particularly vulnerable population – young people who are confronting drug and alcohol abuse,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker for the Central District of California.  “According to the indictment, ARS and its employees engaged in a long-running fraud scheme to steal tens of millions of dollars from a program with limited resources that was designed to help underprivileged youth in recovery.  In the process, the defendants and ARS branded many innocent young people as substance abusers and addicts in order to boost enrollment numbers and billings.”

The defendants named in the indictment are:

    Lori Renee Miller, 54, of Lakewood, California, the program manager at ARS who supervised substance abuse recovery managers and counselors;
    
    Nguyet Galaz, 41, of Montclair, California, who oversaw services provided at approximately 11 schools in Los Angeles County;
    
    Angela Frances Micklo, 56, of Palmdale, California, who managed counselors at approximately nine schools in Los Angeles County, including several in the Antelope Valley;
    
    Maribel Navarro, 48, of Pico Rivera, California, who managed counselors at approximately ten schools in Los Angeles County;
    
    Carrenda Jeffery, 64, of the Mid-City District of Los Angeles, who managed counselors at approximately three schools;
    
    LaLonnie Egans, 57, of Bellflower, California, who managed counselors at three schools;
    
    Tina Lynn St. Julian, 51, of Compton, California, who worked as a counselor at two schools; and
    
    Shyrie Womack, 33, Egans’ daughter, also of Bellflower, who worked as a counselor at three schools.

Galaz and Micklo are expected to self-surrender in the coming weeks.  The six other defendants were taken into custody without incident this morning and are scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in U.S. District Court.

Today’s arrests are the result of a 40-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on August 26 and unsealed this morning.

The eight defendants are all former employees of ARS, which received contracts to provide substance abuse treatment services through the Drug Medi-Cal program to students in schools in Los Angeles County.  The schools included various sites operated by Soledad Enrichment Action and public schools in Montebello, California, Bell Gardens,
Californina, Lakewood, and the Antelope Valley.

ARS allegedly submitted bogus claims for payment to the Drug Medi-Cal program for a decade, according to the indictment.  ARS shut down in April 2013, when California suspended payments to the company.

According to the indictment, the claims submitted to the Drug Medi-Cal program were false and fraudulent for a number of reasons, including:

    ARS billed for services provided to students who did not have substance abuse disorders or addictions and therefore did not qualify to receive Drug Medi-Cal services;
    
    ARS billed for counseling sessions that were not conducted at all;
    
    ARS billed for counseling services that were not conducted in accordance with Drug Medi-Cal regulations regarding length, number of students, content and setting;
    
    ARS personnel falsified documents, including treatment plans, group counseling sign-in sheets, progress notes and update logs (which listed the dates and times of counseling sessions); and
    
    ARS personnel forged student signatures on documents.

“For counselors and supervisors to risk stigmatizing students as substance abusers, as alleged in this case, just to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense is outrageous,” said Special Agent in Charge Christian Schrank for the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “This decade-long conspiracy to defraud Medi-Cal while disregarding the true health care needs of children will not be tolerated.”

Previously, 11 other defendants pleaded guilty to health care fraud charges stemming from the ARS scheme.  Those defendants are former ARS managers Cathy Fernandez, 53, of Downey, California; Erin Hoover, 37, of Long Beach, California; Elizabeth Black, 51, of Long Beach; Helsa Casillas, 44, of El Sereno, California; and Sandra Lopez, 41, of Huntington Park, California; and former ARS counselors Tamara Diaz, 45 of East Los Angeles, California; Margarita Lopez, 40, of Paramount, California; Irma Talavera, 27, of Paramount; Laura Vasquez, 52, of Pico Rivera; Cindy Leticia Ortiz, 29, of Norwalk, California; and Arthur Dominguez, 63, of Glendale, California.

Another defendant, Dr. Leland Whitson, 75, of Redondo Beach, California, the former Medical/Clinical Director of ARS, previously pleaded guilty to making a false statement affecting a health care program.

The dozen defendants who have already pleaded guilty are pending sentencing by U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.

Each of the eight defendants named in the indictment unsealed today potentially faces decades in federal prison if convicted.  For example, if convicted, Miller faces a statutory maximum sentence of 324 years in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime.  Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

The cases against the 20 defendants are the result of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; and IRS - Criminal Investigation.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Russian Nuclear Energy Official Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Conspiracy Involving Violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act



U.S. Conspirators Paid Over $2 Million to Influence Russian Nuclear Energy Official and to Secure Business with State-Owned Russian Nuclear Energy Company

A Russian official residing in Maryland pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with his role in arranging over $2 million in corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland, Deputy Inspector General John R. Hartman of the U.S. Department of Energy-Office of Inspector General (DOE-OIG) and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office made the announcement.

Vadim Mikerin, 56, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the District of Maryland.  Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Chuang on Dec. 8, 2015.

According to court documents, Mikerin was the president of TENAM Corporation and a director of the Pan American Department of JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX).  TENAM, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is a wholly-owned subsidiary and the official representative of TENEX in the United States.  TENEX, based in Moscow, acts as the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide.  TENEX is a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation.

In connection with the scheme, Daren Condrey, 50, of Glenwood, Maryland, pleaded guilty on June 17, 2015, to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and conspiring to commit wire fraud, and will be sentenced on Nov. 2, 2015.  Boris Rubizhevsky, 64, of Closter, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on June 15, 2015, to conspiracy to commit money laundering and will be sentenced on Oct. 19, 2015.

According to court documents, between 2004 and October 2014, Mikerin conspired with Condrey, Rubizhevsky and others to transmit funds from Maryland and elsewhere in the United States to offshore shell company bank accounts located in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland.  Mikerin admitted the funds were transmitted with the intent to promote a corrupt payment scheme that violated the FCPA.  Specifically, he admitted that the corrupt payments were made by conspirators to influence Mikerin and to secure improper business advantages for U.S. companies that did business with TENEX.  Mikerin further admitted that he and others used consulting agreements and code words such as “lucky figure,” “LF,” “cake” and “remuneration” to disguise the corrupt payments.

According to court documents, over the course of the scheme, Mikerin conspired with Condrey, Rubizhevsky and others to transfer approximately $2,126,622 from the United States to offshore shell company bank accounts.  As part of his plea agreement, Mikerin has agreed to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in that amount.

The case was investigated by DOE-OIG and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christopher Cestaro, Ephraim Wernick and Derek Ettinger of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David I. Salem and Michael T. Packard of the District of Maryland.