Monday, September 22, 2014

Justice Department Awards $87 Million to Enhance, Support Tribal Justice and Safety

The Department of Justice today announced the awarding of 169 grants to American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, tribal consortia and tribal designees.  The grants will provide more than $87 million to enhance law enforcement practices and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts in nine purpose areas including public safety and community policing; justice systems planning; alcohol and substance abuse; corrections and correctional alternatives; violence against women; juvenile justice; and tribal youth programs.

Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs, Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and Director Ron Davis for the Office of Community Oriented Policing (COPS) made the announcement while attending the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Annual Convention hosted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  ATNI represents 57 northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Northern California, Southeast Alaska, and Western Montana.  This year’s announcement includes awards to 22 of the represented tribes at the convention.  The awards are made through the department’s Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), a single application for tribal-specific grant programs.

“This work covers every area of public safety in Indian country, from supporting children and youth to protecting and serving native women to the hiring of tribal police officers to strengthening tribal criminal and juvenile justice systems,” said Assistant Attorney General Mason.  “The CTAS programs are not only critical to reversing crime in Indian country but are integral strengthening and sustaining healthy communities.”

The safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women is a top priority of OVW, and a clear priority of the entire Department of Justice.  With funding from OVW’s Tribal Governments Program, tribes are able to develop and strengthen the tribal justice system’s response to violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women that meets the specific needs of their tribe.  This funding has played a significant role in increasing programs and services available to tribes, and has both improved and increased the effectiveness of services provided by tribal court systems.  This coordinated approach allows OVW and its sister grant-making components to consider the totality of a tribal community’s overall public safety needs in making award decisions.

“We know from our work across Indian country and elsewhere, that early intervention that interrupts or deters a pattern of escalating violence is the key to avoiding more serious and deadly violence in the future,” said Principal Deputy Director Hanson.  “And it is the key to saving more women’s lives and protecting more children from growing up in a home where violence is the norm.”

COPS funding through CTAS improves public safety and enhances community policing in federally recognized tribal jurisdictions. These funds will allow tribal jurisdictions to expand the implementation of community policing and meet the most serious needs of law enforcement. With this funding, 21 tribal agencies will be able to hire or re-hire career law enforcement officers and village public safety officers.   Funds awarded today may also be used to procure basic equipment and training to assist in the initiation or enhancement of tribal community policing efforts.

“I am pleased that COPS can help tribal jurisdictions hire more officers to help control crime through community policing,” said Director Davis.  “These funds also support tribal jurisdictions by covering the costs of basic equipment and training.  It’s a comprehensive package of support that delivers much needed help to tribal communities.”

The department developed CTAS through its Office of Community Oriented Policing, Office of Justice Programs and Office on Violence against Women, and administered the first round of consolidated grants in September 2010.  Over the past five years, it has awarded over 1,100 grants totaling more than $530 million.

Information about the consolidated solicitation is available at  A fact sheet on CTAS is available at

Today’s announcement is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing initiative to increase engagement, coordination and action on public safety in tribal communities.

Pennsylvania Accountant Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison for Conspiring with Members of Organized Crime Family in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Pennsylvania accountant was sentenced today to 40 months in prison for conspiring to defraud FirstPlus Financial Group Inc. (FirstPlus), a Texas-based financial services company, which had been targeted for extortionate takeover and looting by a group led by Lucchese organized crime family member Nicodemo S. Scarfo.

New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

Howard Drossner, 53, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Kugler imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

According to court documents and evidence introduced at a related trial: Scarfo is a made member of the Lucchese La Cosa Nostra (LCN) organized crime family. In April 2007, Scarfo, Salvatore Pelullo, and others devised a scheme to take over FirstPlus. Scarfo and Pelullo used threats of economic harm to intimidate and remove the prior management and board of directors and replaced those officers with individuals beholden to Scarfo and Pelullo.

Drossner, a certified public accountant, joined the conspiracy in February 2008 when he helped Scarfo and Scarfo’s then-fiancée secure a $500,000 mortgage to purchase a house for $715,000 in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. At the direction of Pelullo, Drossner created false tax returns to help Scarfo’s fiancée qualify for a mortgage. Scarfo used money looted from FirstPlus for the $215,000 down payment on the house. The false tax returns, which exaggerated Scarfo’s fiancée’s income so that she could qualify for the mortgage without naming Scarfo, were used to secure the mortgage.

After the First Plus scheme was shut down by federal law enforcement in May 2008, Scarfo was unable to pay the mortgage and the house ultimately went into foreclosure. It was sold by the bank in 2010.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Kugler sentenced Drossner to three years of supervised release and fined him $125,000. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Drossner was required to notify the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy of his guilty plea and consent to the voluntary suspension of his CPA license.

Four other members of the conspiracy – Scarfo; Pelullo, an associate of the Lucchese and Philadelphia LCN families; William Maxwell, a Texas lawyer; and John Maxwell, who acted as the nominal CEO of FirstPlus after the takeover – were convicted of several offenses, including racketeering conspiracy, in July 2014 after a six-month trial. The indictment in which they were charged also named Nicodemo S. Scarfo’s father, Nicodemo D. Scarfo – the former boss of the Philadelphia LCN family – and Vittorio Amuso – the boss of the Lucchese family – as unindicted co-conspirators. Both are serving lengthy prison sentences.

Three other defendants charged in the indictment – John Parisi, manager of Scarfo’s shell company; Lisa Murray-Scarfo, Scarfo’s then-fiancée and a participant in the mortgage fraud conspiracy; and Cory Leshner, a participant in the looting of FirstPlus – have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Todd Stark, also charged in the indictment, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced for providing ammunition to Scarfo and Pelullo despite knowing that they were convicted felons.

U.S. Attorney Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Caldwell credited special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; special agents of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Cheryl Garcia, New York Region; and the ATF, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George P. Belsky in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. They also thanked the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko in Philadelphia for its assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven D’Aguanno and Howard Wiener of the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Camden Office and Trial Attorney Adam L. Small of the Organized Crime and Gang Section in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in Washington.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Philadelphia Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Deadly Firebombing of Federal Witness's Family

A Philadelphia man was sentenced today to life in prison for his role in the Oct. 9, 2004, retaliatory firebombing that killed six members of a federal witness’s family, including four children.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division made the announcement.  U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick imposed the sentence.

Robert Merritt, 34, was convicted following a jury trial on May 13, 2013, of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and the murders of the family members of a federal witness, Eugene Coleman.

At the direction of convicted drug kingpin Kaboni Savage, Merritt and his cousin, Lamont Lewis, participated in the firebombing of the Coleman family home in retaliation for Coleman’s testimony against Savage.  Evidence introduced at trial showed that Merritt threw a gas can with a lit cloth fuse, and then a second gas can, into the occupied Philadelphia row house in the predawn hours of Oct. 9, 2004.  Six people, including four children ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years, were killed in the ensuing fire.

Co-defendants Kaboni Savage and Kadida Savage were also convicted at the May 2013 trial of the firebombing.  Kaboni Savage was sentenced to death for 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering.  Kidada Savage was sentenced to life in prison.  Lamont Lewis, who pleaded guilty before trial, is awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the Maple Shade, New Jersey, Police Department.  The United States Bureau of Prisons, the United States Marshals Service, and the Philadelphia / Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force also assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Steve Mellin of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David E. Troyer and John M. Gallagher of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

U.S. Marshals Requesting Public's Help in Locating Angelo Deshannon Burdex

Albuquerque, NM – The United States Marshals Service is requesting your assistance in locating Angelo Deshannon Burdex.

Burdex has 4 outstanding violent felony warrants for his arrest: 3 for Aggravated Battery, including 1 for great bodily harm, and 1 for being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm. If the Burdex name sounds familiar that is because US Marshals arrested Angelo Burdex last year in April 2013. Also in August 2013, Burdex was injured and taken to the hospital after a shooting at the Copa Cabana night club in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill, along east Central Avenue. Burdex was with Jabar Lewis when Lewis was shot and killed by Mathew Mora after an altercation.

Burdex has a violent criminal history and is considered armed and dangerous. Marshals have reason to believe Burdex is still in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has ties to Rio Rancho, NM. Burdex is an African-American male, six feet tall, weighing over 250 lbs. and has tattoos all over his upper body, hands, arms, and neck.

If you have any information into the whereabouts of Angelo Deshannon Burdex, please call the United States Marshals Service at (505) 462-2300 or dial 911 in case of emergency.

Final Suspect Involved In Cop Slaying Arrested

3rd Suspect Captured On Murder Charge

San Antonio, TX – Jesse Santibanez, 25, was arrested this afternoon by the United States Marshals Service Lone Star Fugitive Task Force (LSFTF) in San Antonio, TX. An arrest warrant was issued pursuant to an investigation by the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD), where it is alleged that Santibanez committed murder.

On September 11, 2014, members of the LSFTF initiated an investigation in locating and apprehending Santibanez. This afternoon, through collaborative investigative efforts, members of the LSFTF, with critical assistance from SAPD’s Repeat Offenders Program (ROP) determined that Santibanez was hiding out in a house located in the 100 block of Canavan Avenue, on the south side of San Antonio. Task force officers conducted a brief surveillance, approached the house, and made contact with a resident at the house. Task force officers explained there was an active arrest warrant for Santibanez and received consent to search the house. Task force officers entered the house, located Santibanez, identified themselves, and took him into custody without incident. Other agencies that participated in the arrest were members from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Unit, Comal County Sheriff’s Office, and Texas Office of The Attorney General.

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, Santibanez, and 2 accomplices, Alfred Cardona, 36, and Jerry Idrogo, 33, were allegedly involved in shooting and killing an off-duty Balcones Heights Police Officer after luring him from a business. Santibanez was the last of 3 suspects alleged to be involved in this case.

All 3 suspects will be held in custody at the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office pending trial.

Robert R. Almonte, United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas, states, “It is with a joyful heart that I express my sincere gratitude to members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force and the San Antonio Police Department’s Repeat Offenders Program for working so diligently and persistently at finding all the suspects responsible for committing this murder. SAPD’s ROP played an essential role in this investigation and now the soul of this fallen officer can rest a little easier knowing that these killers have been brought to justice.”

Members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force:

    New Braunfels Police Department
    San Antonio Police Department
    San Antonio Independent School District Police Department
    Bexar County Sheriff’s Office
    Comal County Sheriff’s Office
    Bexar County Fire Marshal’s Office
    Bexar County District Attorney’s Office
    Texas Office of The Attorney General
    Texas Department of Public Safety
    Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Office of the Inspector General
    Immigration & Customs Enforcement – Office of Detention & Removal
    U.S. Marshals Service