Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Corona Lawyer Found with Illegal Guns, Silencers, Hand Grenade and Fake FBI Credential

          LOS ANGELES – A California lawyer and former Rialto police officer was indicted today by a federal grand jury after he was found with a fake FBI credential, a hand grenade, silencers and several illegal firearms, including a loaded AR-type semiautomatic rifle.

          Sergio Lopez de Tirado, 43, of Corona, was named today in a five-count indictment that charges him with two counts of possession of unregistered firearms, two counts of possession of firearms without a serial number, and one count of possession of a fraudulently made government seal.

          A Riverside County sheriff’s deputy found Lopez de Tirado on December 21 asleep in the passenger’s side of a pickup truck that was parked with its doors wide open blocking a driveway in Norco. According to a criminal complaint previously filed in this case, Lopez de Tirado appeared intoxicated, had difficulty stepping out of the truck and identified himself as former “Rialto PD.” Lopez de Tirado was found to have multiple loaded firearms, a knife in a sheath on his person, and a hand grenade in a holster under his arm.

          A subsequent search of the truck allegedly produced a fraudulent FBI credential. The search also produced multiple firearms, including an unregistered MK9 9mm semiautomatic rifle and two unregistered firearm silencers, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint. All of the firearms recovered from the vehicle are alleged to have been loaded, including the AR-type rifle with a mounted silencer. Lopez de Tirado was taken into state custody, and was subsequently released after posting bail.

          During the early morning hours of January 30, a California Highway Patrol officer found Lopez de Tirado and a passenger in a pick-up truck parked the wrong way on the right shoulder of Interstate 15 in Corona, the affidavit states. The officer determined that Lopez de Tirado’s driver’s license had been suspended and ordered his truck impounded. A search of the truck produced a loaded and unregistered short barrel AR-type semiautomatic rifle, according to the affidavit.

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

          Lopez de Tirado is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on February 27 in United States District Court.

          Lopez de Tirado, who has been in federal custody since he was arrested pursuant to the criminal complaint on February 1, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for each of the four firearm-related charges and five years on the fraudulent government seal possession charge.

          This case was investigated by the FBI’s Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Substantial assistance was provided by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Rialto Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

          This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reema M. El-Amamy of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

Leader of Violent West Baltimore Gang Sentenced to Life in Prison for Federal Racketeering and Drug Conspiracy Charges, Including Murders and Witness Intimidation

Defendant Personally Participated in Six Murders

A Baltimore, Maryland man was sentenced today to life in prison for conspiring to participate in a violent racketeering enterprise known as Trained To Go (TTG).  The racketeering conspiracy included eight murders, drug trafficking, and witness intimidation.

The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI Baltimore Field Office; Acting Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division;  Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don A. Hibbert of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Baltimore District Office; Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

Montana Barronette, aka Tana, and Tanner, 23, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake for the District of Maryland to serve life in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.  The racketeering conspiracy included eight murders – six committed by Barronette – as well as drug trafficking and witness intimidation.  Barronette and his co-defendants were also convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, marijuana, and cocaine.  A federal jury convicted Barronette and seven co-defendants on Oct. 31, 2018.

“From 2010 to 2017, Montana Barronette was known as the number one trigger puller in Baltimore and the leader of the vicious Trained To Go gang that terrorized the streets of West Baltimore, committing murders – including six by Barronette himself – shootings, armed robberies, drug dealing, and witness intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “Today’s sentence brings Barronette’s murderous career to an end – and brings some measure of justice to his many victims.  I commend our prosecutors, as well as our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, for their tireless pursuit of justice against this violent gang.”

“Montana Barronette was the leader of one of the most violent gangs operating in Baltimore City and personally participated in at least six murders,” said U.S. Attorney Hur. “As a result of today’s sentence justice has been served for his victims and their families.  Federal, state and local law enforcement will continue to work together to remove armed, violent criminals from our neighborhoods and bring them to justice in the federal system, which has no parole—ever.”

“This case represents the epitome of law enforcement agencies working together to target and dismantle violent street gangs that threaten the safety and stability of our neighborhoods,” said FBI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Johnson.  “The citizens of Baltimore City and Maryland have the FBI’s commitment that we will work with our local, state and federal partners to attack these dealers and remove violent criminals from their neighborhoods.”

According to the evidence presented at their 24-day trial, Barronette and his co-defendants are all members of TTG, a criminal organization which operated in the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, whose members engaged in drug distribution and acts of violence including murder, armed robbery, and witness intimidation.  As part of the conspiracy, each defendant agreed that a conspirator would commit at least two acts of racketeering activity for TTG.

The evidence at trial showed that Barronette and co-defendant Terrell Sivells served as the leadership for TTG.  Members and associates of TTG sold heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and worked to defend their exclusive right to control who sold narcotics in TTG territory.  In addition to coordinating the distribution of heroin, Barronette also coordinated with a criminal group known as the “Young Go Getters,” and others to engage in murder-for-hire schemes on behalf of TTG.

Specifically, the evidence proved that between May 20, 2010 and Jan. 9, 2017, Barronette, his co-defendants, and other members of TTG committed acts of violence, including nine murders, shootings, armed robbery, and witness intimidation.  The violent acts were intended to further the gang’s activities, protect the gang’s drug territory, and maintain and increase a member’s position within the organization.  Murders were committed in retaliation for individuals robbing TTG members of drugs and drug proceeds, or while TTG members robbed others of their drugs and drug proceeds, as well as in murder-for-hire schemes.  Further, the defendants engaged in witness intimidation through violence or threats of violence, to prevent individuals from cooperating with law enforcement.

The following defendants, all of Baltimore, were also convicted after trial and face a maximum sentence of life in prison on the racketeering and drug conspiracies:

Terrell Sivells, aka Rell, 27;

John Harrison, aka Binkie, 28;

Taurus Tillman, aka Tash, 29;

Linton Broughton, aka Marty, 25;

Dennis Pulley, aka Denmo, 31;

Brandon Wilson, aka Ali, 24; and

Timothy Floyd, aka Tim Rod, age 28.

Pulley and Wilson each also face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for being felons in possession of a firearm; and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, and up to life in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  Tillman and Sivells also face up to 20 years in prison for distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin.  The defendants remain detained.

Three other TTG members, all of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty.  Brandon Bazemore, aka Man Man, 25, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy, including three murders and an attempted murder, as well as to the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.  Co-defendants Hisaun Chatman, 31, and James Woodfolk, 20, pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy and were each sentenced to five years in prison, to be served concurrent to the state sentence each is currently serving.

Co-defendant Roger Taylor, of Baltimore, is still a fugitive.  Anyone who may have information on the whereabouts of Roger Taylor is asked to contact the FBI Baltimore Field office at (410) 265-8080.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI Baltimore Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force, which includes FBI special agents and task force officers from the Baltimore, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County Police Departments.  FBI Baltimore Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force is responsible for identifying and targeting the most violent gangs in the Baltimore metropolitan area, to address gang violence and the associated homicides in Baltimore.  The vision of the program is to use federal racketeering statutes to disrupt and dismantle significant violent criminal threats and criminal enterprises affecting the safety and well-being of our citizens and our communities.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.              

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation was conducted by the FBI, Baltimore Police Department, ATF, DEA, Anne Arundel County Police Department and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.  The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Hanley formerly of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Gardner and Christopher J. Romano of the District of Maryland.

Judge sentences Browning man to prison for sex abuse of minor

GREAT FALLS—A Browning man who admitted providing a minor methamphetamine in exchange for sexual favors was sentenced on Feb. 14 to 51 months in prison and six years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Richard “Bitsy” Smith, 37, pleaded guilty in November to sexual abuse of a minor and distribution of a controlled substance to a person under 21.

U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided.

Prosecutors said an FBI investigation in 2017 into reports of individuals on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation providing meth to minors in exchange for sexual activity led to Smith and the victim. Search warrants served on Facebook accounts showed Smith and the victim were engaged in a sexual and drug relationship. The victim told investigators that Smith had provided her meth and that they had sex on multiple occasions. Smith admitted to investigators in August 2018 that he had been dealing meth for about two years to support his addiction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Starnes prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI.