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Monday, September 29, 2014

Department of Justice Launches National Violence Reduction Network

Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs today launched the Violence Reduction Network (VRN), a national comprehensive approach to reduce violent crime in communities around the country.  The Justice Department’s ability to provide intensive training and cutting-edge technical assistance will give local officials and law enforcement executives in each of the partner communities the support they need to advance anti-violence strategies.

“This new ‘all-hands’ approach to curbing endemic violence is founded on the recognition that our efforts are most effective when all criminal justice leaders stand united,” said Attorney General Holder.  “It’s predicated on the notion that – although violent crime is in some ways a fundamentally local problem – it is not one that any community can meet in isolation.”

The Violence Reduction Network will help localities access a broad spectrum of Justice Department resources – empowering the federal government to strengthen partnerships and collaboratively tackle persistent challenges caused by violent crime.  The partnering cities announced today are Camden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Oakland/Richland, California; and Wilmington, Delaware.

The VRN summit’s agenda is dedicated to collaborative working sessions analyzing each city’s violence challenges and discussing the variety of department resources available to address the issues.  Following the summit, the department will work with police chiefs and city leaders, along with leading criminal justice researchers and practitioners, to develop effective approaches to accomplishing each city’s violence reduction strategies.

“Through our partnerships with local leaders and practitioners and the wide range of resources we have available to address America’s public safety challenges, the Department of Justice is putting its full support behind violence reduction efforts in these five cities,” said Assistant Attorney General Mason.  “I am eager to begin working with each of the sites and to help define a way forward to safer, healthier communities.” 

Even with reports of national violent crime decreasing, in too many communities, crime rates have remained unacceptably high, particularly in areas where social ills like poverty, unemployment, and a lack of opportunity lead to tragic circumstances in which systemic violence can easily take root.
The launch of VRN is a result of the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to address violence in communities across the country.  Nearly a year ago, President Obama convened a meeting at the White House with 18 mayors to discuss strategies for reducing youth violence.  Following that meeting, Attorney General Holder sat down with mayors and police chiefs to talk about how the federal government can better support local efforts.

Representatives from VRN partner federal agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the United States Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys, the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office of Justice Programs.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jury Imposes Death Sentence on a Las Vegas Man for Kidnapping and Murdering a 12-Year-Old Girl

A federal jury in the Western District of Louisiana today returned a verdict imposing the death penalty on a Las Vegas man for the brutal kidnapping and murder of a 12-year-old girl.  This case represents the first time the death penalty has been imposed in federal court in the Western District of Louisiana.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley and Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Anderson of the FBI’s New Orleans Division made the announcement.

Thomas Sanders, 57, was convicted on Sept. 8, 2014, of one count of kidnapping resulting in death and one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death, for the kidnap and murder of Lexis Roberts in the fall of 2010.

“This is a heartbreaking case,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “A young girl witnessed the murder of her mother, was held captive for days, and had her life cut tragically short by a senseless, brutal murder.  We hope today’s verdict will help Lexis’s family as they continue to struggle with the loss of their loved ones.”

“These types of cases are never easy, but today we remember the victims, their families and their loved ones,” said U.S. Attorney Finley.  “The nature of the crime and the level of violence involved are something that we never get used to no matter how long we have done this.  The severity of the sentence imposed against Sanders underscores the senseless brutality of his acts against an innocent 12-year-old girl.  Lexis Roberts was needlessly taken from a family that loved her, and she was denied the most fundamental right of life, and they were denied the joy of knowing what that life could have been.  Still, we do not lose sight of the fact that this trial and sentencing also represent the right of due process that was extended to Sanders, and a jury of his peers has rendered justice. 
Nothing, no trial or sentence, can ever bring Lexis or her mother back, but we hope that the verdict brings some measure of closure to Lexis’s family.  The prosecutors and the law enforcement agencies that assisted in this case are to be commended for their hard work.  The importance of their collective efforts cannot be overstated.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims who have endured unimaginable grief while awaiting the just verdict and sentence for such horrific crimes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Anderson.

Evidence admitted during trial established that Sanders met Suellen Roberts, 31, in the summer of 2010 when Roberts rented a storage unit at a warehouse in Las Vegas where Sanders worked.  Roberts and Sanders began dating, and approximately two months later Roberts agreed that she and her 12-year-old daughter, Lexis, would go on a trip with Sanders over the Labor Day weekend to a wildlife park near the Grand Canyon.  As they were returning to Nevada after three days of traveling, Sanders pulled off Interstate 40 in a remote location in the Arizona desert and shot Suellen Roberts in the head and forced Lexis Roberts into the car, keeping her captive.

Sanders drove several days across the country before he murdered Lexis Roberts in a wooded area in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.  Evidence at trial established that Sanders shot Lexis Roberts four times, cut her throat and left her body in the woods, where a hunter found her body on Oct. 8, 2010.  A nationwide manhunt ensued, and Sanders was arrested on Nov. 14, 2010, at a truck stop in Gulfport, Mississippi, by FBI agents and a Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy.

At trial, the jury heard a recorded confession in which Sanders admitted killing the mother and daughter.  

This case was investigated by the FBI’s New Orleans Division, Central Louisiana Safe Streets Task Force, Catahoula Parish Sheriff’s Office, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Yavapai County Arizona Sheriff’s Office, Coconino County Arizona Sheriff’s Office, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.  Trial Attorney Julie Mosley of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Flanagan and Brandon B. Brown prosecuted the case.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Columbia Man Sentenced for Straw Purchasing Firearms



Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that Marquel Davon Foster, age 23, of Columbia, South Carolina was sentenced today in federal court after earlier pleading guilty to making a false statement in the acquisition of firearms from a federal firearms licensee, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(2). Senior United States District Judge Margaret B. Seymour sentenced Foster to 18 months imprisonment, followed by three (3) years of supervised release.

Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that in January 2013, during the execution of a drug search warrant in Bridgeton, NJ, officers recovered a Masterpiece Arms .45 caliber pistol with a high capacity magazine. A trace of the firearm revealed that it was purchased by Foster in Columbia, SC in on February 6, 2012. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) determined that Foster had purchased a total of six (6) firearms, comprised of two (2) firearms on February 6, 2012, two (2) firearms on February 8, 2012, and two (2) additional firearms on March 7, 2012. When agents approached Foster, he claimed that the Masterpiece Arms .45 caliber pistol with a high capacity magazine had been stolen a year earlier, but that he had the other five (5) firearms in his possession. When agents asked to see those five (5) firearms, Foster admitted that he did not have them and that he had purchased them for an individual from New Jersey that he met at the gun store in exchange for money. Foster stated that the individual, who he knew only by a nickname, gave him money, and asked Foster to purchase the firearms for him since he was unable to legally purchase them because he was a felon. Foster admitted to making a false statement on the forms to purchase the firearms and to purchasing a total of six (6) firearms for this individual in approximately a one-month period. The six (6) firearms were a Hi-Point .380 caliber pistol, a Masterpiece Arms .45 caliber pistol, a European American Arms, Corp. .357 caliber revolver, a Ruger 9mm pistol, a Taurus .40 caliber pistol, and a Masterpiece Arms 9mm pistol. Only one (1) of those firearms has been recovered as of this date.

The case was investigated by ATF and was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state and local Project CeaseFire initiative, which aggressively prosecutes firearm cases. Assistant United States Attorney Stacey D. Haynes of the Columbia office handled the case.

30 Individuals Indicted for Trafficking Drugs



SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On September 18, 2014, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned an indictment against 30 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Today DEA and ATF agents and officers of the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), executed the arrest warrants.

The object of the conspiracy was to distribute controlled substances at the Las Mesetas Public Housing Project located within the Municipality of Arecibo, Puerto Rico since 2008. This organization would purchase wholesale quantities of heroin, cocaine, and marihuana in order to distribute the same in street quantity amounts at their drug distribution points in Las Mesetas. These drug points would have fixed prices for types of drugs in order to maintain the parity of the sales. The leader and drug point owner would have other members of the organization administrating the daily activities of the drug distribution point.

Some of the cocaine purchased at wholesale quantities would be converted into crack cocaine, “cooked”, for subsequent sale and distribution at the drug points. The organization would use residences located within Las Mesetas and other locations outside the housing project to conceal drugs, drug paraphernalia, firearms and ammunitions. Some of the defendants would routinely possess, carry, brandish, and use firearms to protect themselves and further their drug trafficking organization.

The main leader of the drug trafficking organization, Jorge Sanchez-Sostre aka “Georgie” had control of the drug distribution points located within Las Mesetas through three co-defendants also acting as drug point owners. These drug point owners were Yadira Casanova-Avila, Jonathan Beltran-Perez aka “Puruco”, and Christian Sanchez-Sostre. The leaders of the organization had the final approving authority as to the disciplinary actions to be imposed upon residents of Las Mesetas and members of the conspiracy.

“Today’s arrests demonstrate our commitment to dismantle drug trafficking organizations which, through their illicit business, are affecting the quality of life of the law abiding citizens in our public housing projects.” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “ We will continue our hard work to maintain the peace in our neighborhoods.”

“ATF's FRONTLINE strategy in protecting Americans and our communities from violent crime is our number one priority. Today's Las Mesetas case, is just another example of ATF's efforts of working hand in hand with our DEA and PRPD law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Hugo Barrera, Miami Field Division. “We will work together to eradicate violent gun and drug related crime and dismantle Drug Trafficking Organizations such as this one.”

“DEA will continue to work hand in hand with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Puerto Rico Police Department, U.S. Marshal Service, Puerto Rico National Guard, Puerto Rico Housing Department, Special Investigations Bureau, Ports of Authority and the Department of Corrections, in effort to disrupt and dismantle all the violent drug trafficking organizations that utilizes firearms to intimidate and operate there drug points out of the Public Housing Projects and other communities for financial gain. These Drug Trafficking Organizations will not be allowed to continue nor expand their operations”. Said Vito Salvatore Guarino, Special Agent In Charge of the DEA Caribbean Division.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Victor Acevedo and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Erbe are in charge of the prosecution of the case. If convicted, the defendants face a sentence of not less than twenty (20) years of imprisonment and up to life under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 and 860 and a minimum sentence of not less than five (5) years of imprisonment and up to life under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

$5,000 Reward Offered for the Location and Arrest of Fugitive Matthew Dion



Wanted for Double Homicide of his parents, Arson & Possession of Child Pornography

Concord, NH – A $5000.00 reward is being offered by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force for information leading to the location and arrest of fugitive, Matthew Thomas Dion. Dion is wanted by the Manchester, New Hampshire Police Department on outstanding arrest warrants for 2 counts of 2nd Degree Murder, Arson and Possession of Child Pornography, all of which are relating to the arson fire and homicides of Dion’s parents in March, 2014.

Matthew Dion, age 38 was last known to reside in Manchester, NH and his whereabouts have been unknown since March 24th, the day an arson fire destroyed the family home on Mooresville Road. Tragically, after the fire was extinguished, the deceased parents of Matthew Dion were discovered murdered inside the residence. During the extensive crime scene investigation conducted by the Manchester Police Department, enough evidence was collected to charge Matthew Dion with the homicides of both of his parents, the arson fire, which was set after the homicides and possession of child pornography.

2013 Hyundai ElantraInformation recently developed indicates that Dion is possibly in Florida. Dion was last seen in St. Petersburg, Florida on September 5th, when he allegedly stole a silver 2013 Hyundai Elantra, with FL tag G673WH . Dion has a history of changing license plates to avoid detection and is possibly living in this car. Dion should be considered to be ARMED & DANGEROUS at this time! It is also possible that Dion has changed his physical appearance in an effort to conceal his identity (photos below and here).

Dion could be anywhere, but he has extensive history in the Southeastern United States, specifically the Atlanta, Georgia area and Florida. It is important to remind the public not to attempt to apprehend Dion, but to report any information to the U.S. Marshals Service or their local police To speak with the case agents, Deputy U.S. Marshal Greg Murano or Task Force Officer Daniel Doherty, please call the U.S. Marshals in NH at (603) 225-1632, or call 1-877-WANTED-2, or submit a WEB-TIP, or Send a Text message that begins with NHTIP followed by any information to TIP411.