Friday, August 07, 2020

Attorney General Barr Chairs Meeting of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry

 Attorney General William P. Barr this morning chaired a principals meeting of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry, which President Trump created by Executive Order in 2018.  The Council brings together a dozen federal agencies to develop and implement policies aimed at preventing crime, including innovative re-entry programs designed to reduce recidivism and help former inmates transition productively back to society.  The Council is co-chaired by the Attorney General, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the Senior Advisor to the President in charge of the White House Office of American Innovation.  The Executive Director of the Council is Pastor John “Tony” Lowden, a member of the Department of Justice designated by the Attorney General to coordinate the day-to-day functions of the Council.

This morning’s Council meeting at the White House was attended by Secretary Ben Carson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Sonny Perdue of the Department of Agriculture, Secretary Robert Wilkie of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Betsy DeVos of the Department of Education, Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich of the Department of the Treasury, Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella of the Department of Labor, Director James Carroll of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and high-level representatives from the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, and the Office of Management and Budget.  Attorney General Barr and Deputy Assistant to the President Ja’ron Smith delivered opening remarks, the Council Members reported on their initiatives, and Pastor Lowden discussed next steps for the Council. 

The Council also announced the launch of a new website,, which will serve as a one-stop shop for federal re-entry initiatives.  The website will enable inmates, family members, employers, and other members of the community to learn about the resources available for prisoners to facilitate a transition to productive, law-abiding members of society.

Attorney General Barr’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

* * *

Thank you for that introduction, Tony [Lowden], and thank you for your leadership as Executive Director of the Council.  As you all know, President Trump created this Council by Executive Order in March 2018, and I am pleased to serve as one of its Co-Chairs.  The Executive Order explained that addressing crime requires not only active law enforcement – which the Department of Justice and its partners continue to provide – but also efforts to prevent crime and recidivism in the first place, including by preparing inmates for a productive re-entry into society.  That same philosophy is reflected in the landmark First Step Act, which the President signed in 2018 and which the Department of Justice has made a top priority to implement.

I appreciate the dedicated work by the members of this Council from across the government.  I look forward to hearing more about your accomplishments and ideas for continued progress.  To start things off, I want to share a few statistics illustrating the Department of Justice’s work.   Five years ago, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) housed about 205,000 inmates.  When President Trump took office in 2017, the number was about 185,000.  Today, the number is about 158,000 – a drop of nearly 25 percent in five years and 15 percent since the President took office. 

As Attorney General, I can assure you this reduction did not occur because the Department of Justice has hesitated to prosecute serious federal crimes or to advocate for significant prison sentences in appropriate cases.  Rather, the drop has occurred because the Department – in implementing the First Step Act and the President’s direction in establishing this Council – has made it a priority to release prisoners who do not pose a significant threat of recidivism, and who are prepared to re-enter society peacefully and productively.  Of particular note, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BOP has released more than 7,300 inmates – including many older inmates and others in high-risk health categories who do not present a serious threat of crime – to home confinement.

Just as important as those releases, the Department of Justice has undertaken a number of measures to prepare inmates still incarcerated for more productive releases in the future.  BOP now has more than 70 evidence-based programs and productive activities aimed at preparing inmates to rebuild their lives.  More than 57,000 inmates have participated in drug-treatment programs; more than 21,000 have gained work experience through UNICOR; more than 15,000 have received technical or vocational training; and more than 4,000 have earned a GED.

We have also launched or expanded innovative programs aimed at helping inmates develop and use new skills.  Among others, BOP has programs allowing inmates to train service dogs; programs specially designed for the needs of women inmates and veterans; reading programs for inmates with disabilities such as dyslexia and those who speak English as a second language; and the Ready to Work initiative, which helps connect inmates preparing for release with local employers who have a hiring need.

A number of these programs have benefited from collaboration with other agencies, including members of this Council such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor.  I am grateful for your joint efforts on this important priority.  And I look forward to continuing to work together to meet the goal the President outlined two years ago:  “preventing crime and … ensuring that that the correctional facilities in the United States prepare inmates to successfully re-enter communities as productive, law-abiding members of society.” 

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Randolph County woman sentenced for drug charge

ELKINS, WEST VIRGINIA – Julie Ann Cutright, of Elkins, West Virginia, was sentenced today to five years of probation for running a drug house, United States Attorney Bill Powell announced.

Cutright, age 34, pled guilty to one count of “Maintaining a Drug-Involved Premises” in May 2019. Cutright admitted to maintaining a home at 113 Riverview Drive in Elkins that was used for distributing methamphetamine, also known as “ice” from October 2017 to November 2017.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen D. Warner prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, The Mountain Region Drug & Violent Crime Task Force, the Greater Harrison Drug &Violent Crime Task Force, a HIDTA-funded initiative, the West Virginia State Police, Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, the Buckhannon Police Department, and the Weston Police Department investigated. 

The investigation was funded by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF). OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and is the keystone of the Department of Justice’s drug reduction strategy.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations, transnational criminal organizations, and money laundering organizations that present a significant threat to the public safety, economic, or national security of the United States.

U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Kleeh presided.

Armstrong County Man Sentenced to Prison for Conspiring to Distribute Marijuana

PITTSBURGH – An Armstrong County resident has been sentenced in federal court to 37 months’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, and fined $3,000.00 on his conviction of conspiring to distribute marijuana, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge William S. Stickman, IV imposed the sentence on Stephen Lerch, 28, of Apollo, Pennsylvania.

According to information presented to the court, Lerch had been receiving packages of marijuana and THC vaping cartridges at various locations situated in and around the Apollo area from a source based in Colorado. The conspiracy ended on October 2, 2018, when task force officers and agents from the DEA executed a search warrant at Lerch’s residence. During the search, the DEA recovered marijuana, two firearms, a money counter, and $25,161.00 in cash. Investigators also learned that Lerch maintained accounts at S & T Bank and TD Ameritrade. The funds contained in those accounts were subsequently seized pursuant to search warrants.

Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Stickman denied Lerch’s request for a sentence of home confinement, noting the serious nature of the offense. The Court also ordered that Lerch forfeit a total of $102,290.70 and a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek to the United States.

Assistant United States Attorney Michael Leo Ivory prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the West Metro Drug Task Force-Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson County, Colorado, for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Lerch.

Leader of meth trafficking ring operating in Houston sentenced to 30 years in prison

HOUSTON – A 37-year-old Mexican citizen has been ordered to federal prison following his involvement in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a large amount of meth within the Houston area, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Custodio Carrasco-Garcia aka Ariel was illegally residing in Houston. He pleaded guilty Feb. 21.

Today, U.S. District Judge David Hittner handed Carrasco-Garcia a 360-month term of imprisonment. Not a U.S. citizen, Carrasco-Garcia is expected to face removal proceedings following the sentence.

At the hearing, the court heard information that he ran a local drug trafficking organization with providers in Mexico and participated in running a stash house. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hittner noted Carrasco-Garcia’s two previous drug convictions and that he was on parole when he committed this offense. The court found him accountable for 30,000 kilograms of narcotics including meth and cocaine and was head of the drug trafficking cell in the Houston area, further noting the extensive involvement of others and use of a stash house.

In March 2018, authorities conducted an undercover operation to purchase meth from a suspected narcotics distributor - later identified as Carrasco-Garcia. On April 6, 2018, law enforcement observed Carrasco-Garcia as he conducted a drug transaction involving a kilogram of crystal meth. He received $53,000 in exchange for the drugs. Carrasco-Garcia delivered another kilogram of meth May 18, 2018.

On May 7, 2019, authorities conducted an undercover operation during which Carrasco-Garcia sold 155.9 kilograms of crystal meth. They arrested him shortly after the operation, at which time he again was in possession of illegal substances.

Carrasco-Garcia has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Houston Police Department and Harris County Sherriff's Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Celia Moyer prosecuted the case.

Avalos Sentenced To 108 Months In Federal Prison After Pleading Guilty To Kidnapping Juvenile

Kidnapping Part of Attempt to Collect Drug Debt From His Mother

SALT LAKE CITY – An associate of drug traffickers, who assisted two others in kidnapping a 17-year-old boy from his mother’s Utah business in August 2018 while trying to collect a heroin-related drug debt, will spend 108 months in federal prison.

Nadia Carolina Avalos, 34, of Phoenix, was sentenced Tuesday morning by U.S. District Judge David Sam. Avalos will serve 36 months of supervised release when she finishes her prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system.

Two other defendants in the case have also pleaded guilty to kidnapping.  Issa Jassim Al-Sadoon, 28, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in March and was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison and 36 months of supervised release on July 8, 2020.  Juan Carlos Moreno Trinidad, 43, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in July.  Sentencing for Moreno Trinidad is Oct. 13, 2020. His plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 144 months in federal prison, subject to Court approval.

“Organized crime is active in Utah. As the United States Attorney for Utah, I have made it a top priority to confront and dismantle criminal organizations. This case is a glaring example of why we must keep law enforcement pressure on drug traffickers who are drawn to our neighborhoods by an unhealthy demand for illicit drugs. A fugitive leader in a narcotics trafficking organization, operating from south of the border, directed a ransom kidnapping in an otherwise safe Utah neighborhood. As Utahns, this is something we simply cannot tolerate,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today.

“As we learned in court, Ms. Avalos’s problems with the law stem from illicit drugs, which often lends itself to criminal behavior and violence,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the Salt Lake City FBI.  “Cases like this underscore the larger issues associated with the drug trade, which is why the FBI and our partner task forces are committed to investigating activity that afflicts our communities.”

“Because of the cooperation between the FBI, Salt Lake Police Department, West Valley Police Department and the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, a 17-year-old victim of kidnapping was safely recovered and returned to his family. Members of a drug trafficking organization, responsible for this violent act, were apprehended due to the hard work and effort of each detective, officer, and agent involved in this case. We are thankful that victim is safe and that we had a part in this outcome. We will continue our efforts to pursue other drug traffickers operating in Utah,” Lt. Jeff Bailey, Director of the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, said today.

As a part of her plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Avalos admitted that she came with others to Utah in August 2018 to collect a drug debt owed to Oscar Rene Chacon Lopez, aka Gio, another defendant in the case, from a woman in West Valley City.  According to a complaint filed in the case, the defendants conducted surveillance on a business in West Valley City, operated by the woman.  After they were not successful in collecting the money from the woman, Chacon, calling from Mexico, directed them to kidnap the woman’s 17-year-old son. 

According to documents filed in court, the victim was kidnapped at gunpoint by Moreno Trinidad and Al-Sadoon. Avalos, assisted by Al-Sadoon and Moreno Trinidad, kept the 17-year-old son at a hotel room in Murray while Chacon attempted to collect the drug debt from his mother.

The victim called his mother and told her he had been taken by individuals who wanted money from her.  She also received a short video of the inside of her truck demonstrating the kidnappers had also stolen her truck.  In the following hours, Chacon sent numerous typed text messages and recorded voice messages. He threatened her son and other children at her home with physical violence. Chacon made it clear he directed the kidnappers in Utah and that her son would be released only after he was paid at least $10,000, according to a complaint filed in the case.           

FBI agents, Utah County Major Crime Task Force detectives, and West Valley City police officers were able to locate the juvenile victim later that evening at a Salt Lake County hotel room and return the juvenile unharmed to his home. 

Another defendant in the case, Jeanette Mejia, 27, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty to a Felony Information in March 2020 charging her with conspiracy to distribute heroin.  She faces a sentence of between 12 and 36 months when she is sentenced Oct. 13, 2020.

Chacon, 29, a citizen of Honduras, remains a fugitive.              

This case is a part of an investigation the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force and the FBI in Salt Lake City started in early 2018 targeting a drug trafficking organization distributing primarily heroin.  The investigation revealed that Chacon managed and directed the activities of multiple co-conspirators in Utah, Arizona, and Minnesota.  In addition to this case, four other criminal cases were filed in Utah as a result of the investigation.  Several kilograms of heroin and several cash seizures have been made in connection with these prosecutions. The West Valley City and Salt Lake City police departments have assisted with the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City and a Deputy Utah County Attorney, designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, are prosecuting the case.

Eight Defendants Arrested In Early Morning Drug Roundup, Charged In Transnational Drug Trafficking Ring

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that six defendants have been charged by complaint and two other defendants indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a transnational drug trafficking ring that stretched from Mexico to Buffalo.

Charged by complaint with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute, and distributing, controlled substances are:

• Ronnie Charleston;
• Robert Claiborne;
• Antoine Gilbert;
• Tonie Wiley;
• Aaron Spain Jr.; and
• Eric Hale, A/K/A Cuz E.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Charged by indictment with narcotics conspiracy and possessing with intent to distribute crack cocaine and cocaine are:

• Saan Thompson, A/K/A Duke; and
• Louis Gilbert.

Thompson and Gilbert face a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and $5,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that according to the criminal complaint and the indictment, the defendants are accused of being part of a drug trafficking ring that stretched from Mexico to Buffalo. The organization is accused of moving bulk quantities of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl into the Western New York area. It is believed the organization’s Buffalo-based operation is headed by David    Burgin and David Washington, who were previously arrested on drug conspiracy charges in February 2020. Burgin and Washington used a network of distributors to sell narcotics in the Western New York area, as well as several out of state sources of supply for cocaine and heroin. David Washington supplied Saan Thompson with narcotics in Buffalo. Thompson then sold the narcotics to the other defendants for re-distribution. The investigation included multiple intercepted communications between the defendants. 

During the execution of four search warrants this morning at four locations, investigators seized a kilogram of suspected cocaine; 40 grams of suspected crack cocaine packaged for distribution; multiple pounds of marijuana; a loaded handgun; 1500 rounds of assorted ammunition; pistol magazines; and approximately $27,000 in cash.  

“This case is a tremendous example of the determination of our law enforcement partners to continue to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Investigators did not stop when the leaders of this dangerous drug trafficking organization were previously apprehended and taken off the streets. Investigative efforts continued leading to the charging of eight additional defendants in this case.”   

“Today’s arrests and seizures represent a critical disruption to an international drug trafficking ring,” said Kevin Kelly, Special Agent-in-Charge of Homeland Security Investigation Buffalo. “I would like to thank the law enforcement personnel at all levels of government whose hard work and collaboration led to today’s results. HSI and our partners will continue efforts to increase community safety through the dismantlement of this drug trafficking organization.”

Defendants Saan Thompson and Louis Gilbert were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. and detained. Defendants Aaron Spain and Ronnie Charleston made an initial appearance also before Judge Schroeder and were also detained. Defendants Robert Claiborne, Antoine Gilbert, Tonie Wiley, and Eric Hale, made initial appearances and were released on conditions.

The criminal complaint and indictment are the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force,  under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard; the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Byron Lockwood; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division; the New York State Police, under the direction of Major James Hall; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office.   

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Burn Down African American Church

NORFOLK, Va. – A North Carolina man pleaded guilty today to making a telephonic threat to burn down an African American church in Virginia Beach.

According to court documents, John Malcolm Bareswill, 63, called a Virginia Beach church with a predominantly African American congregation, made racially derogatory remarks, and threatened to set the church on fire. The threatening call was placed on June 7, 2020, several days after one of the church’s leaders took part in a public prayer vigil and peaceful demonstration for George Floyd.

Bareswill pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging a telephonic threat to use fire to kill, injure, or intimidate any individual, or unlawfully to damage or destroy a building. He faces a maximum penalty of ten years in prison when sentenced on Nov. 12. 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.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Martin Culbreth, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; Anthony F. Zucaro, Jr., Interim Chief of Virginia Beach Police; and David Hutcheson, Chief of the Virginia Beach Fire Department, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bosse is prosecuting the case. Trial Attorney Kathryn Gilbert of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division provided significant assistance on the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:20-cr-61.

Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Enticement, Child Pornography Charges

A Virginia man who used an online chat website to engage in sexually explicit conversations with a 12-year-old minor female and later induced the victim to engage in sexually explicit behavior over video chat, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia to a pair of federal charges, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen for the Western District of Virginia.

Roger Allen Bellini, 30, pleaded guilty today to one count of coercion and enticement and one count of possession of child pornography.  He will be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2021.

According to court documents, Bellini admitted to using an online chat website to communicate with minor females.  The defendant admitted the communications were sexual in nature.  Specifically, Bellini admitted to communicating with a minor via video chat, beginning when she was 12 years old.  He used screen capture software to record his computer screen while he engaged in video chats with the minor.  In these video chats, Bellini induced the minor to expose herself and perform sexually explicit acts. 

The investigation of the case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  Trial Attorney Leslie Fisher of the Criminal Division’s Child and Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Swartz prosecuted the case for the United States.

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

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at  

Plains Main Admits Child Pornography Crimes

MISSOULA – A Plains man accused of making and transporting child pornography videos pleaded guilty to charges today, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

David Paul Farrar, 58, pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child and transportation of child pornography. Farrar faces a minimum mandatory 15 years to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a minimum mandatory five years to life of supervised release on the sexual exploitation count and a minimum mandatory five years to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least five years to life of supervised release on the transportation of child pornography count.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Sentencing has been set for November 20, 2020 in Missoula.  Farrar is s detained pending further proceedings.

In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said that while Farrar was away in Idaho in June 2019, he allowed a friend to stay at his home in Plains. The friend viewed electronic storage cards found in Farrar's house and saw that they contained sexually explicit photographs of a female child. The friend reported her findings to law enforcement.

An agent with Homeland Security Investigations obtained a search warrant for Farrar's residence and seized multiple computers and electronic storage devices. An analysis of the items seized determined they contained video files of the victim and were created sometime in 2013 or 2014. The videos were created using a cell phone or digital camera and contained lewd and lascivious images of the victim. Agents determined Farrar created the videos because the viewer can see his hand and hear his voice. Farrar also admitted to agents that he created the videos of the victim.

Agents also found a video of two other minor girls that contain lewd and lascivious images. The investigation determined that Farrar electronically transferred that video to a file on one of his computers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by HSI.

This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children.

Pasadena Man Indicted by Grand Jury in Cyberstalking Case Alleging Online and Mailed Threats to Injure, Rape and Kill 10 Victims

         LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury this afternoon returned a 26-count indictment that charges a Pasadena man with making a series of detailed threats to harm, rape and kill 10 victims he met in various social and business settings.

         Samuel Trelawney Hughes, 31, who is a citizen of the United Kingdom, was charged with seven counts of stalking, nine counts of making online threats, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and seven counts of witness tampering.

         The indictment alleges that Hughes – sometimes using his real name, and other times using aliases or social media accounts designed to conceal his true identity – sent his victims communications in which he expressed hope they would die or in which he made specific threats to harm them. For example, in October 2019, after one victim reported prior threats from Hughes to law enforcement authorities, Hughes allegedly sent the victim an email stating in part: “someone I can guarantee will come out and first bash you head in, rape you slash your throat and burn your car and house.” Hughes allegedly sent another threat that read in part: “I will rip your f****** throat out and stab you in the eyes and put gasoline over your half mutilated body.”

         Court documents state that Hughes used online aliases and handles that included xavier.herrera666, parsonstheo38, theoparsons4, tony.hawk.exskater, tony.flavelle450,, julius.caesar411, charlotte.massey400, and

         The FBI began investigating Hughes in May 2019 after one victim filed a complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center ( “After being contacted by both the FBI and state law enforcement officers on multiple occasions regarding the threatening communications, Hughes continued to send electronic communications and letters threatening to injure, rape, or kill at least three of the victims who had reported his threats to the police,” according to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case. “In his communications to some victims, Hughes threatened that contacting the police would lead to the injury or death of the victim or the victims’ loved ones.”

         As a result of separate investigations, Hughes was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Pasadena Police Department on two occasions in June, which resulted in charges being filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the Pasadena City Attorney’s Office. Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Hughes on July 10, and he was taken into custody from state authorities on July 24. Hughes has been in federal custody since that time.

         The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

         The stalking counts and the charges stemming from the alleged threats all carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The witness tampering counts each carry a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison.

         Hughes is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment in United States District Court on August 13.

         The FBI is investigating this case. Anyone who thinks they may have received threats from Hughes is encouraged to call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.

         This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Restrepo of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.

Man faces federal charges after allegedly trying to smuggle meth inside shoes

LAREDO, Texas – A federal grand jury has returned a two-count indictment against a 20-year-old Haltom City man for conspiring with others to import approximately 438.99 grams of meth from Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Cesar Augusto Berlanga Jr. is charged with importing meth into the United States and one count of conspiracy. Originally charged by criminal complaint, he has remained in custody pending further criminal proceedings. He is expected to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge on the indictment in the near future.  

On July 9, Berlanga applied for admission as a pedestrian into the United States from Mexico at the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge in Laredo, according to the charges. During primary inspection, an officer allegedly noticed Berlanga’s shoes appeared to be larger than normal. The charges allege that while being escorted for further inspection, Berlanga ran towards the streets of Laredo. Authorities quickly apprehended him approximately two blocks away after a brief foot chase, according to the allegations.

An inspection of Berlanga’s shoes allegedly revealed two plastic bags containing a substance that field tested positive for meth. The drugs weighed approximately 438.99 grams and have an estimated street value of $3073, according to the charges.

If convicted, Berlanga face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison and a possible $10 million maximum fine.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with assistance from Customs and Border Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Yoona Lim is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Zapata man admits attempt to smuggle marijuana

LAREDO, Texas – A 48-year-old man has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute 183 kilograms of marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Roberto Villarreal admitted that on March 15 he drove to a ranch near Falcon Lake intending to pick up 18 bundles of marijuana. He initially grabbed the 183 kilograms, but saw authorities and returned the drugs to the ranch with a plan to get them later.

Law enforcement conducted a traffic stop, at which time he admitted what he had done. He then led authorities to the ranch where he had planned to pick up the marijuana. There, they discovered a boot print matching Villarreal’s shoes.

Villarreal has been and will remain in in custody pending his sentencing, which is set for Dec. 1 before U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo. At that time, Villarreal faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation with the assistance of Border Patrol and the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Harrison is prosecuting the case.

Georgia Man Caught with Drugs Who Absconded from the Territory Sentenced for Illegally Bringing Marijuana Through the Cyril E. King Airport

St. Thomas, USVI – Keenan Powell-Ryder, 24, was sentenced today following his guilty plea for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced.

District Court Judge Robert A. Molloy, sentenced Powell-Ryder to 21 months incarceration, followed by two years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay $100 as a special assessment.

According to court documents, on April 19, 2016, Powell-Ryder travelled on a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to St. Thomas with secreted bundles of marijuana in his checked luggage. After the flight landed at the Cyril E. King Airport, a Customs and Border Protection canine alerted to a bag belonging to Powell-Ryder. Officers opened the bag and discovered approximately 15 kilograms of marijuana wrapped in cellophane plastic. Powell-Ryder ultimately admitted to transporting the marijuana.

The Court released Powell-Ryder pending a November 3, 2016 sentencing hearing. Powell-Ryder absconded, and the Court issued a warrant for his arrest. The United States Marshals Service located Powell-Ryder in Detroit, Michigan in December of 2019, and returned him to the Virgin Islands for sentencing.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Everard E. Potter.

Pittsburgh Man Sentenced for Participating in South Side Gang’s Drug Activity

PITTSBURGH, PA - A former resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in federal court to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release, on his conviction of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge William S. Stickman, IV imposed sentence on Deandre Gordon, 24.

According to information presented to the Court, in 2017, the Greater Pittsburgh Safe Streets Task Force initiated an investigation primarily targeting the Darccide/Smash 44, or DS44, neighborhood gang, and drug-trafficking activity in and around the South Side area of Pittsburgh. As part of this large-scale narcotics and firearms investigation, in February of 2019, the United States received authorization to conduct a federal wire investigation, which continued through June of 2019.

Intercepted communications revealed that Deandre Gordon purchased distribution-level quantities of heroin and fentanyl from his co-conspirator, Jarrell Dawson, and re-sold the drugs to other customers. The court was further informed that the defendant accepted responsibility for the distribution of 33 grams of heroin and fentanyl and that he would forfeit $3,286 in United States currency, two firearms and ammunition seized in conjunction with his arrest on June 20, 2019 under the terms of his plea agreement.

Assistant United States Attorney Christy C. Wiegand and Brendan McKenna prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the multi-agency investigation of this case, which also included the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Allegheny County Adult Probation, Allegheny County Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Narcotics, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and the Wilkinsburg Police Department. Other assisting agencies include the Green Tree Police Department, New York City Police Department, Mount Oliver Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Yonkers Police Department, United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

This case is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program, known as OCDETF. OCDETF was established in 1982 to support comprehensive investigations and prosecutions of major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. It is the keystone of the drug reduction strategy of the Department of Justice. By combining the resources and expertise of federal agencies and their state and local law enforcement partners, OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the most serious drug trafficking, money laundering, and transnational criminal organizations.

Florida Man Charged with Child Sex Offenses in New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Florida man was arrested today and charged with seeking sex with a minor and inducing her to send him sexual explicit images, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

Andrew Drechsel, 31, of Saint Cloud, Florida, is charged by complaint with manufacture of child pornography, enticement of a minor to travel for illicit sexual conduct, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and use of interstate commerce to entice a minor. He made his initial appearance today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, prior to his transfer to the District of New Jersey.

According to the complaint:

Drechsel sought to have sex with a minor girl and traveled to New Jersey with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with that minor. He also enticed and coerced a minor to travel to Connecticut to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaged in online sexual communications with a minor and induced her to manufacture sexually explicit images of herself and send them to Drechsel. 

The count of use of interstate commerce to entice carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; the count of enticement to travel for illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; the count of travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; and the count of manufacture of child pornography carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison. All of the counts also carry a maximum fine of $250,000 per count.

This case was investigated by agents with the FBI South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Driscoll in Philadelphia; with assistance from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Jill S. Mayer; the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Scott A. Coffina; the Cherry Hill Police Department under the direction of Chief William P. Monaghan; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, under the direction of U.S. Attorney John H. Durham; agents of the FBI New Haven Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge David Sundberg; the Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, state’s attorney’s offices; the Windsor, Connecticut, Police Department under the direction of Chief Donald Melanson; and the Hamden, Connecticut, Police Department under the direction of Chief John F. Cappiello; and agents of the FBI Tampa, Orlando Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael F. McPherson.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alisa Shver of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

If you have information regarding the pending prosecution, or you believe you or someone you know may have been victimized by the defendant, the FBI requests that you contact them at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it at  Identified victims may be eligible for certain services and rights under federal and/or state law.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

North Dakota Man Sentenced for Domestic Assault by an Habitual Offender

United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Fort Yates, North Dakota, man convicted of Domestic Assault by an Habitual Offender was sentenced on July 27, 2020, by U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann.

Vincent Carry Moccasin, Jr., age 53, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

Carry Moccasin was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 16, 2019.  He pled guilty on April 16, 2020.

The conviction stemmed from an incident on August 3, 2019, in McLaughlin, when Carry Moccasin assaulted his fiancĂ©.  At the time of the assault, Carry Moccasin had a final conviction on at least two separate prior occasions of assaulting a spouse or intimate partner.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Standing Rock Agency.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirsten Jasper prosecuted the case.

Carry Moccasin was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Corning Man Going To Prison For More Than 12 Years For Possession Of Child Pornography

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Robert W. Wood, 50, of Corning, NY, who was convicted of possession of child pornography and violation of supervised release, was sentenced to serve 154 months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who handled the case, stated that in 2011, the defendant was convicted of possession of child pornography and sentenced to 24 months in prison and 15 years supervised release. While on supervised release, members of the U.S. Probation Department made an unannounced visit to Wood’s residence and found an unauthorized smart phone in his possession. A search of the phone revealed that the defendant was in possession of over 2,300 images and over 20 videos of child pornography, some of which depicted the sexual abuse of infants and toddlers.

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia, and the U.S. Probation Department, under the direction of Chief Probation Officer Anthony SanGiacomo.

Minneapolis Man Charged With Armed Robbery Spree Of Twin Cities Businesses

United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced a criminal complaint charging DERRICK LEE SPILLMAN, 39, with four counts of Hobbs Act robbery and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. SPILLMAN will make his initial appearance today before Magistrate Judge Jon T. Huseby in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint and law enforcement affidavit, on July 30, 2020, between 6:56 a.m. and 3:53 p.m., SPILLMAN used force, violence, and fear of injury to commit four armed robberies of businesses located throughout the Twin Cities, including two Holiday gas stations, a Speedway store, and a Subway store. At all four robbery locations SPILLMAN brandished a firearm to compel employees to relinquish cash belonging to the business. After reviewing surveillance video footage from all four businesses, investigators were able to identify SPILLMAN based on distinctive tattoos.

The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, allows federal prosecutors to prosecute individuals who commit armed robberies of businesses engaged in interstate commerce.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, the Minneapolis Police Department, the Fridley Police Department, the Brooklyn Center Police Department, the New Hope Police Department, and the St. Paul Police Department. This case was brought as part of the Twin Cities Violent Crime Task Force, a multi-agency effort that brings together additional federal and state resources to assist local law enforcement to investigate, arrest, and prosecute individuals responsible for gun violence in the Twin Cities. For more information about the Twin Cities Violent Crime Task Force, please visit

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin A. Wesley is prosecuting the case.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Defendant Information:


Minneapolis, Minn.


  • Hobbs Act robbery, 4 counts
  • Using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, 1 count

Judge Sentences Pittsburgh Cocaine Dealer and Money Launderer to Prison for 12 Years

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 12 years' imprisonment and five years of supervised release on his conviction of violating federal narcotics laws and money laundering conspiracy, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

United States District Judge Marilyn J. Horan imposed the sentence on Garfield Campbell, also known as "Sean Grant", age 45. 

According to information presented to the court, Campbell participated in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance from in and April 2017, and continuing thereafter to in and around April 2019, in the Western District of Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Campbell also pled guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering, from in and April 2017, and continuing thereafter to in and around April 2019. Specifically, Campbell was part of a conspiracy in which individuals, many of whom were born in Jamaica, mailed kilograms of cocaine from California to individuals in the Western District of Pennsylvania, including Campbell, who then arranged for its further distribution. The conspiracy also involved Campbell and others mailing packages containing currency back to the California cocaine suppliers, also through the mail. Federal agents obtained Court authorization and intercepted the communications of members of the conspiracy, including Campbell, and they also executed numerous search warrants. As part of his guilty plea, Campbell acknowledged that he was responsible for between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine.

Assistant United States Attorneys Brendan T. Conway and Marnie Sheehan-Balcon prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Brady commended the federally administered Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Campbell. The task force is headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration and is comprised of members drawn from the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Lawrence County Drug Task Force, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Borough of Baldwin Police Department, McKees Rocks Police Department, Munhall Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and the Pennsylvania State Police. In this case, the Lawrence County Drug Task Force and the New Castle Police Department also participated in the investigation.

OCDETF was established in 1982 to support comprehensive investigations and prosecutions of major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. It is the keystone of the drug reduction strategy of the Department of Justice. By combining the resources and expertise of federal agencies and their state and local law enforcement partners, OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the most serious drug trafficking, money laundering, and transnational criminal organizations.

Nashville Woman Is Second To Face Federal Arson Charges In Connection With Metro Courthouse Fire

Fire Set During May 30th Protest

NASHVILLE, Tenn.August 4, 2020 - A criminal complaint unsealed today charged Shelby Ligons, 22, of Nashville Tennessee, with malicious destruction of property using fire or explosives, announced U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.

Wesley Somers, 25, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was previously charged on June 3, 2020, and his case is pending in U.S. District Court. 

The criminal complaint alleges that on the afternoon of May 30, 2020, protesters gathered in downtown Nashville following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Later in the evening, a number of persons gathered in front of the Nashville City Hall, also known as the Metro Courthouse.  Using various tools, including crowbars and other objects, they began smashing the windows of the premises and spraying graffiti on the Courthouse facade. One or more fires were also set inside of the Courthouse at this time.

Numerous video clips and photographs of the destruction at City Hall were posted on social media websites, on the websites for news outlets, and on other Internet sites. Ligons is depicted in video clips and photographs from that afternoon and evening wearing blue jeans, a black-colored shirt, a medical mask, and a white-colored bandana on her head. In those video clips and photographs, Ligons is depicted holding a white-colored poster board with the words “F--k The Police” and “We Will Not Be Silent” written on it.  In several video clips, Ligons is depicted setting fire to the poster and placing it inside a window located on the exterior structure of City Hall.

Ligons was arrested this morning by FBI agents and will make an initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge later this afternoon.

If convicted, Ligons faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the FBI; the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department; and the Nashville Fire Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schrader and Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.                   

Department of Justice Awards Over $35 Million to Provide Housing to Victims of Human Trafficking

Today, Attorney General William P. Barr and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump announced that the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has awarded $35,104,338 in grant funding to provide safe, stable housing and appropriate services to victims of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a barbaric criminal enterprise that subjects its victims to unspeakable cruelty and deprives them of the most basic of human needs, none more essential than a safe place to live,” said Attorney General Barr.  “Throughout this Administration, the Department of Justice has fought aggressively to bring human traffickers to justice and to deliver critical aid to trafficking survivors.  These new resources, announced today, expand on our efforts to offer those who have suffered the shelter and support they need to begin a new and better life.”

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, combating human trafficking in the U.S. and abroad is critical work.  DOJ’s grant recipients are on the frontlines of this fight, ensuring that survivors across our country are afforded safe and stable housing and empowered with the support and resources they need to rebuild their lives,” said Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump.  “I am incredibly honored to join Attorney General Barr to highlight these organizations and their tireless and vital work.”

The grants will go to 73 organizations to provide six to 24 months of transitional or short-term housing assistance for trafficking victims, including rental, utilities or related expenses, such as security deposits and relocation costs.  The grants will also provide funding for support needed to help victims locate permanent housing, secure employment, as well as occupational training and counseling.

“Human traffickers dangle the threat of homelessness over those they have entrapped, playing a ruthless game of psychological manipulation that victims are never in a position to win,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan.  “These grants will empower survivors on their path to independence and a life of self-sufficiency and hope.”

OVC works to enhance the nation’s capacity to assist crime victims and to provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies and practices in ways that will promote justice and healing for all victims.  OVC strives to uphold the intent of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent authorizations to ensure that all trafficking victims receive support in accessing the services they need.

OVC provides grant funding and training and technical assistance in an effort to develop, expand and strengthen programs for victims of human trafficking.  In 2018, OVC hosted listening sessions and roundtable discussions with stakeholders in the field and launched the Human Trafficking Capacity Building Center.  From July 2018 through June 2019, 118 OVC human trafficking grantees reported serving 8,375 total clients including confirmed trafficking victims and individuals showing strong indicators of trafficking victimization.

Human trafficking offenses are among the most difficult crimes to identify, and the scope of human trafficking victimization may be much greater than the limited data reflect.  A new report issued by the Department’s National Institute of Justice found that the number of human trafficking cases captured in police reports may represent only a fraction of all such cases.  Expanding housing and other services to trafficking victims remains a top Justice Department priority.

For a complete list of individual award amounts and jurisdictions that will receive funding, please visit:

The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at

Gaps in Reporting Human Trafficking Incidents Result in Significant Undercounting

         WASHINGTON – The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice today released an article focusing on recent NIJ-supported research that shows that current labor and sex trafficking data may undercount human trafficking crimes and victims in the United States. Available data derive from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which is based exclusively on human trafficking incidents reported by law enforcement agencies. Cases not reported to or identified by law enforcement, often because victims are reluctant to come forward, are not captured in the UCR figures.


        The article details the findings of a study that examined how accurately the reporting of human trafficking crimes reflects the true incidence of crime in a community. The article further explores the causes for lack of data, specifically those regarding victim and crime incidence reporting, and potential solutions.


         “Human trafficking does untold harm to countless victims, yet we still do not fully grasp how widely and extensively it reaches into our society,” said NIJ Director David Muhlhausen. “This report sheds light on a stubborn and glaring deficiency of knowledge and will help lead us to a better understanding of a major public safety and human rights issue.”


          Research shows that no single method will accurately estimate both sex and labor trafficking. In his January 31 Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Exploitation in the United States, President Trump directed the  Attorney General and other cabinet heads to work toward improving the measurement of human trafficking prevalence. Through its research funding, NIJ is making substantial investments in understanding the prevalence of human trafficking, funding several targeted studies.


          Last year, NIJ awarded more than $2 million to five research organizations under the Research and Evaluation on Trafficking in Persons Program, which funds research and evaluation projects that help federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice agencies and victim service providers respond to the challenges posed by human trafficking in their jurisdictions.      



Gaps in Reporting Human Trafficking Incidents Result in Significant Undercounting




National Institute of Justice