Criminal Justice News

Friday, April 30, 2010

U.S. Border Patrol Agents Participate for a Good Cause

Nogales, Ariz. – Two Border Patrol agents assigned to the Nogales, Ariz., station participated Wednesday in the 2010 Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics. The agents ran and rode a bike on portions of the torch run.

The Arizona Torch Run raises funds for Special Olympics statewide. The agents assigned to the Nogales Station, along with officers from other agencies, carried a torch representing the “Flame of Hope” from Santa Cruz to the Pima County Line.

One agent ran the 13 miles from downtown Nogales to kilometer post 22 on Interstate 19, where he handed the torch to a group of officers on bicycles. The other Nogales agent rode his bicycle 25 miles, from downtown Nogales to the Cow Palace in Amado, and passed the torch to the Sahuarita Police Department.

“The Border Patrol remains committed to improving the quality of life in our community, not only through reducing crime, but through charitable contributions and civic mindedness as well,” said Alan F. White, Patrol Agent in Charge of the Nogales Station. Agents say they feel a special connection to causes that allow them to help disadvantaged people in the communities in which they serve and reside.

Former Texas State Representative Terri Hodge Sentenced to 12 Months in Federal Prison

April 30, 2010 - DALLAS—Gladys E. Hodge, also known as “Terri Hodge,” was sentenced this afternoon by U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn to 12 months in prison, following her guilty plea on February 3, 2010, to fraud and false statements on an income tax return, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. In sentencing Hodge to the high end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, the Court noted that while Hodge pleaded guilty to a tax offense, the Court did not view this solely as a tax matter. The Court further noted that Hodge was in a position of trust and her actions constituted an abuse of that trust.

Hodge was to go on trial in March 2010 on charges outlined in a 31-count indictment that charged 14 public officials and their associates with various offenses related to a bribery and extortion scheme involving affordable housing developments in the Dallas area. At today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Lynn granted the government’s motion to dismiss the remaining charges against Hodge in that indictment. Hodge must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on June 22, 2010.

As a condition of her plea with the government, Hodge, who was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, District 100, in 1996, and re-elected to the same position in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, agreed to resign her office and never seek or hold future public office. She announced her resignation on the day of her guilty plea and tendered her resignation to the Governor and Speaker of the House on March 8, 2010.

According to the factual resume filed in the case, over the course of her tenure as a state representative, Hodge supported Southwest Housing Development Company, Inc. (SWH) developments which, among others, included affordable housing developments in District 100. Co-defendant Cheryl L. Potashnik, the wife of co-defendant Brian L. Potashnik, a real estate developer and the founder, president and a principal of SWH, served in multiple roles in management and development of SWH, including that of chief operating officer and principal of SHW. Cheryl Potashnik pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with benefits given to Hodge by the Potashniks and SWH. Brian Potashnik also pleaded guilty to bribery of various public officials. A sentencing date has not been set for the Potashniks.

According to the factual resume filed, sometime on or before February 27, 2002, Hodge asked Brian Potashnik for assistance in the form of affordable housing for herself within the geographical boundaries of her political district. She indicated that she had financial problems and could not afford to pay the full rate for housing. Beginning in April 2002, the Potashniks made arrangements to provide Hodge with housing in one of SWH’s market-rate affordable housing development units, which was located at Rosemont at Arlington Park in District 100. Hodge moved into the apartment on April 1, 2002, and renewed her lease, at the same rental rate of $200 per month, in November 2002 and again in March 2003. As reflected in the executed lease agreements, the market rate for this unit was $899 per month, and the difference in rent was paid by the Potashniks.

In addition, the Potashniks paid the utility bills on the apartment from their development funds and provided new carpeting for her house located on Abrams Road in Dallas. The carpeting cost $1,995 and was paid for by the construction arm of SWH, a company named Affordable Housing Construction, Inc.

The total value of the rental subsidies, utilities and carpeting provided to Hodge by the Potashniks from 2002 through 2005 was $32,541. None of this amount was included as income on the corresponding federal income tax returns for the tax years in which it was received by Hodge.

The plea documents further state that Hodge had additional income, in tax years 2001 through 2005, totaling $41,465, comprised, in part, of campaign contributions which she used for her own personal benefit and which she did not include as income on the corresponding federal income tax returns for the tax years in which she received it.

Hodge admits that she filed a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, with the IRS, that she well knew omitted income of $6914 in 2001; $27,062 in 2002; $13,402 in 2003; $19,908 in 2004; and $6720 in 2005. Hodge further admits that as a result, she owes the following in taxes (excluding penalties and interest) to the IRS: $1,937 for 2001; $1,496 for 2002; $1,908 for 2003, $3,887 for 2004, and $1,680 for tax year 2005, for a grand total of $10,908. The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Saldaña, Chad Meacham, Chris Stokes, Steven Fahey and Leigha Simonton prosecuted

Critical Mission Update - Age Progressed Photograph


Photograph age progressed to 19 years

Date of Birth: February 15, 1990
Place of Birth: Nashville, Tennessee
Sex: Female
Hair: Sandy Blonde
Height: 5'1" (at the time of her disappearance)
Eyes: Blue
Weight: 100 pounds (at the time of her disappearance)
Race: White
Tuders has a birthmark on her stomach and a scar on her finger. Both of her ears are pierced.

Tabitha Tuders was last seen early on the morning of April 29, 2003, at her residence in Nashville, Tennessee. She left the house on her way to board the school bus, but never got on the bus and did not arrive at school. She has not been seen nor heard from since this time.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the recovery of Tabitha Tuders and the identification, arrest, and conviction, of the person(s) responsible for her disappearance.

Individuals with information concerning this case should take no action themselves, but instead immediately contact the Nashville Crime Stoppers at (615) 74-CRIME, or the nearest FBI Office or local law enforcement agency. For any possible sighting outside the United States, contact the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate.

Former President of Alavi Foundation Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Three Months in Prison for Obstructing Justice

April 30, 2010 - PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FARSHID JAHEDI, the former president of the Alavi Foundation, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to three months in prison, after previously pleading guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice. The charges arose from JAHEDI's destruction of documents responsive to a federal grand jury subpoena issued in the Southern District of New York, concerning the Alavi Foundation's relationship with Bank Melli Iran—a bank controlled by the Government of Iran—and the ownership of an office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN.

According to the Indictment to which JAHEDI pleaded guilty, other documents filed in this and related cases, and statements made during the guilty plea and sentencing proceedings:

On December 17, 2008, JAHEDI, as president of the Alavi Foundation, was served with a federal grand jury subpoena. In a separate civil forfeiture action, the United States has alleged that the Alavi Foundation—a registered charity in New York which distributes grants from the rent money it receives from 650 Fifth Avenue—has been providing services to the Government of Iran.

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act ("IEEPA") and the Iranian Transaction Regulations ("ITRs"), services cannot be provided from the United States to the Government of Iran unless a valid license has been issued by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC").

The subpoena directed to the Alavi Foundation commanded the production of financial documents concerning the Alavi Foundation, Assa Corporation, Assa Company Limited, and 650 Fifth Avenue Company. The 650 Fifth Avenue Company owns the office tower at 650 Fifth Avenue; the Company's ownership is shared by the Alavi Foundation (60 percent) and Assa Corporation (40 percent). Assa Corporation is in turn owned by Assa Company Limited, an off-shore company controlled by Bank Melli, which in turn is controlled by the Government of Iran.

Neither Assa Corporation nor any of its parent companies had a license to receive and export rent monies from 650 Fifth Avenue to Bank Melli.

The day after the subpoena was served, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") observed JAHEDI discarding torn documents into a public trash can, near his then- residence in Ardsley, New York. The FBI agents witnessed JAHEDI as he parked his car near his residence, walked in the opposite direction of the entrance to his residence toward the trash can, looked around, jettisoned the torn documents into the trash can, and then walked to his residence. Upon reassembling certain of the documents, the FBI determined that the documents referred to Assa Limited, Assa Company, and 650 Fifth Avenue Company, and therefore were responsive to the grand jury subpoena.

JAHEDI was arrested on December 19, 2008. On May 5, 2009, he was charged with the two-count Indictment to which he pleaded guilty on December 30, 2009. At his plea proceeding, JAHEDI admitted that, when he tore up the documents, he knew that the grand jury was investigating financial transactions between Assa Corporation and the Alavi Foundation, and that the documents in question concerned such transactions.

In addition to the prison term, JAHEDI was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine.

In imposing the sentence, Judge SCHEINDLIN stated: "Obstruction of justice affects the integrity of the entire justice system and it has to be forcefully deterred."

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI in New York, the New York City Police Department, and the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.

Assistant United States Attorneys HARRY A. CHERNOFF and JOHN P. CRONAN are in charge of the prosecution.

Philadelphia Man Charged with Threatening to Murder Two Deputy United States Marshals

April 30, 2010 - John Shannon was charged today by Indictment with threatening to murder two Deputy United States Marshals with intent to impede, intimidate, and interfere with C.B., while engaged in the performance of his official duties, announced United States Attorney Michael L. Levy.

Information Regarding the Defendants:
NAME: John Shannon
ADDRESS: Philadelphia, PA

If convicted the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, $500,000 fine, three years supervised release, and a $200 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. LaBar.

Seeking the Public’s Assistance to Locate a Wanted Bank Robber

The FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department are seeking the public’s assistance to locate Daniel Hodgins of the Grey's Ferry section of Philadelphia. Hodgins is wanted in connection with the April 21, 2010 robbery of the PNC Bank branch at 230 S. Broad Street and the April 26, 2010 robbery of the TruMark Federal Credit Union branch at 1811 JFK Boulevard.

Hodgins is a white male, 31 years of age, 5’7” tall, approximately 175 lbs, brown hair and green eyes. In the security camera photographs from Monday’s robbery of the TruMark branch, he had a very closely-cropped hair and was clean-shaven. He is known to frequent areas in South Philadelphia.

The identification of Hodgins as the subject responsible for these two bank robberies resulted from citizen tips following local media coverage of the robberies.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 215-418-4000 or the Philadelphia Police Department. Hodgins is considered armed and dangerous.

Former Chesterfield Town Officials Sentenced

April 30, 2010 - INDIANAPOLIS—Christopher L. Parrish, 45, of Chesterfield, James M. Kimm, 40, Joseph M. Brown, 29, and Willard A. Felts, 63, all of Anderson, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney following their guilty pleas to theft of federal program funds in connection with three schemes resulting in the theft of over $200,000 in money belonging to the Town of Chesterfield. According to Assistant U. S. Attorney James M. Warden, who prosecuted the case for the government, the sentences imposed are as follows:

Parrish was sentenced to 37 months in prison; three years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $202,547 for his involvement in all three schemes;

Kimm was sentenced to 28 months in prison, three years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $164,974 for his involvement in two of the schemes;

Brown was sentenced to 10 months in prison, three years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $115,391 for his involvement in one of the schemes; and

Felts was sentenced to two months in community confinement, five months of home detention, one year of probation, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $37,600 for his involvement in one of the schemes.

As the result of an audit conducted by the Indiana State Board of Accounts, a criminal investigation was initiated by the Indiana State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding allegations of the fraudulent receipt of funds of the Town of Chesterfield, Indiana, by the following individuals:

Christopher L. Parrish, former Clerk-Treasurer; James M. Kimm, former Town Marshal; Joseph M. Brown, former reserve police officer; and Willard A. Felts, Jr., an associate of Parrish.

The Town of Chesterfield is located in Madison County, in the Southern District of Indiana. On various occasions between March 13, 2008, and December 21, 2008, the Town of Chesterfield, Ind. received funds from the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant Program of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The aggregate amount of such funds was nearly $225,000.

The details of the first fraud are that on 29 occasions, 27 made from December 17, 2007 and October 16, 2008, Parrish caused checks to be issued to Kimm for reimbursements for mileage for trips purportedly made by Kimm on behalf of the Town of Chesterfield. Parrish approached Kimm after Kimm had made a legitimate trip for the Town of Chesterfield and the two developed a scheme whereby Kimm would prepare and submit fictitious mileage reimbursement claims for travel that never occurred, or for travel in which Kimm used a Town of Chesterfield vehicle. Parrish and Kimm agreed that military installations would be the fictitious destinations because the Town had authorized Kimm to go to military installations in the past to pick up military surplus items. Kimm would submit the reimbursement requests to Parrish who would process the requests and cause the Town of Chesterfield to issue checks to be made payable to Kimm for the mileage reimbursements. Since Parrish maintained the reimbursement vouchers as clerk-treasurer, no other Town employees were aware of the fraud. Both Parrish and Kimm confessed that all of the reimbursements that had no accompanying receipts were fraudulent. Both Kimm and Parrish admitted that there were occasions when Kimm did not submit any paperwork related to reimbursements, but Parrish would issue checks to Kimm anyway. On other occasions, Kimm would submit fraudulent mileage reimbursement claims to Parrish. On some occasions Parrish would issue a check before Kimm submitted any documentation. Kimm would negotiate the checks, and then he and Parrish would split the money. The aggregate loss to the Town was $49,583 in this scheme.

The details of the second fraud are that on 24 occasions, 21 of them occurring between March 13, 2007 and April 4, 2008, a company known as "Brown's Automotive" invoiced the Town of Chesterfield purportedly for repairs done mainly to the Town's police car fleet. Parrish approached Kimm with the idea of this fraud. Kimm brought his half brother Joseph Brown into the fraud scheme. Together they agreed to have Brown produce fictitious invoices by a company called Brown's Automotive and submit those to the Town of Chesterfield for payment. Predominantly, they used the police car fleet as the vehicles on which work was purportedly done. Brown gave the invoice to Town Marshal Kimm who submitted them to Clerk-Treasurer Parrish for processing. On several occasions, Kimm signed the Town's vouchers attesting to the work done for the Town. On other occasions, no one signed the voucher, but since Parrish maintained the vouchers as clerk-treasurer, no other Town employees were aware of the fraud. Parrish caused the Town of Chesterfield to issue checks to Brown's Automotive. Parrish then either gave the check to Kimm or directly to Brown. Brown would subsequently go to his bank and cash or deposit the checks in an account he had set up in the name of Brown's Automotive. He would then draw out a portion of the funds that he would give to Parrish and Kimm and leave the balance for himself. Parrish, Kimm and Brown all confessed that all invoices submitted under the business name "Brown's Automotive" were fraudulent and they all admitted to splitting the money three ways. The aggregate loss to the Town was $115,391 in this scheme.

The details of the third fraud are that a company known as "J Felts" invoiced the Town of Chesterfield on 12 occasions between April 3, 2007 and November 8, 2008, purportedly for work done for the Town. Felts had originally approached his friend Parrish to request a loan. Parrish then approached Felts with a scheme whereby Parrish told Felts that Parrish would produce invoices for work purportedly done by Felt's fictitious company, J Felts, for the Town of Chesterfield. Parrish then caused the invoices to be processed and checks issued from the Town of Chesterfield's account in the name of J Felts. The invoices purported to reflect repair and maintenance work done by Felts on buildings and equipment of the Town. Parrish took the checks to Felts. Felts subsequently cashed or deposited the checks in his own bank account and subsequently turned over a portion of the money to Parrish and kept the remainder. Felts and Parrish both confessed that all invoices submitted under the name "J Felts" and "Felts and Company" were fictitious. Felts and Parrish both also admitted that Felts had done no work for the Town of Chesterfield and that they had split the money. The aggregate loss to the Town was $37,600 in this scheme.

CEO Guilty

Corporate CEO, Vice President and Accountant Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud Publicly Traded Maryland Company of Over $1.4 Million Corporate Officers Lined Their Pockets By Secretly Controlling Side Business that Overcharged Company

April 30, 2010 - GREENBELT, MD—Richard Vernon Priddy, age 61, of Glenn Dale, Maryland, Charles Loren Sample, age 62, of Annapolis and Joseph Michael Broullire, age 57, of Bethesda, Maryland, pleaded guilty to their roles in a scheme to defraud the company where Priddy and Sample worked of over $1.4 million. Priddy pleaded guilty yesterday and Sample and Broullier pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Priddy and Sample also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in connection with the scheme.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge C. André Martin of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“High-ranking corporate officials hold positions of trust not only in their companies but also in the eyes of the public. That trust is broken when such officials abuse their power and misuse their positions,” stated C. André Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Washington DC Field Office. “No matter what your career or position is in a corporation, all U.S. citizens are obligated to comply with the tax laws.”

According to their plea agreements, from 2002 to 2007, during the period of the conspiracy, Priddy and Sample were employed by TVI Corporation, including as Chief Executive Officer/President and Executive Vice President, respectively. TVI Corporation, which at that time was a publicly traded company, was located in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and supplied products designed to assist first responders in addressing homeland security emergencies, including systems designed to decontaminate first responders exposed to toxic compounds, such as radiological agents. By the fall of 2002, Priddy and Sample learned that certain parts TVI was purchasing to manufacture decontamination systems were available at a significantly lower price from another manufacturer in Seattle, Washington. Priddy and Sample decided to secretly form a separate company, which would purchase the parts from the Seattle company and resell them to TVI. They had their personal accountant, Broullire, a certified public accountant, form the new company and act as its representative. In February 2003, Broullire formed Containment & Transfer Systems, LLC (“CATS”) which purchased the parts from the Seattle company and re-sold them to TVI at approximately double the price that CATS paid to purchase the parts. Between 2003 and 2005, Priddy, Sample and Broullire caused TVI to pay CATS more than $2.5 million for the parts, approximately $1.4 million more than the price CATS paid. Priddy and Sample agreed to receive most of the proceeds. Broullire formed trusts and opened bank accounts in the names of the trusts, into which $400,000 was transferred for the benefit of Priddy and Sample. Broullire was supposed to receive about 15% of the proceeds.

In October, 2005, the use of CATS was discontinued, and another company was formed, called Torrence Emergency Response Products, LLC (“TERPS”), to do business with TVI in the same way.

Between 2003 and 2005, Priddy and Sample received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of parts to their own company. In addition to receiving other payments, Priddy used more than $40,000 in proceeds from the sale of these parts to purchase a yacht. Neither Priddy nor Sample disclosed to TVI’s Board of Directors their roles with respect to CATS and TERPS, including their benefit from those roles.

Priddy and Sample also failed to report to the IRS this income, as well as income from another side business in Europe. In the fall of 2002, Priddy and Broullire formed a foreign corporation to purchase decontamination heaters from a manufacturer based in Verona, Italy, and re-sell them to a manufacturer based in Buckinghamshire, England. Broullire and Priddy traveled to the Island of Jersey, a dependency of the British Crown in the Channel Islands, where they established the foreign corporation. To store the proceeds of the European business, Priddy established a second foreign company called Global Contract Manufacturing Ltd., and opened a foreign bank account in that company’s name. In 2005, Priddy and Sample received approximately $177,000 in income that was transferred from the foreign account to the United States. On their individual income tax returns for 2004 and 2005, Priddy and Sample failed to report this income, in addition to the CATS and TERPS income, and failed to report their interest in the foreign bank account.

In addition to defrauding TVI, for tax years 2004 and 2005, the CATS and TERPs income was not reported on the individual income tax returns filed by Priddy and Sample, nor did they report their financial interest in the foreign bank accounts.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy. Priddy and Sample also face a maximum of three years in prison for filing a false tax return. U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. has scheduled sentencing for Priddy and Sample on July 23, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively, and for Broullire on July 22, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

On March 25, 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a settled injunctive action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland against the defendants related to their schemes to defraud TVI and its shareholders.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Michael R. Pauzé, who is prosecuting the case.

Odessa Man Sentenced to Seven Years in Federal Prison in Cocaine Conspiracy

April 30, 2010 - United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced that 29-year-old Ismael Acosta Juarez, of Odessa, was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison followed by four years of supervised release for his role in a cocaine distribution conspiracy. On January 12, 2010, a federal jury found Juarez guilty of three charges—two cocaine distribution conspiracy counts as well as a substantive count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Evidence presented during trial revealed that from June 2009 to October 2009, Juarez participated in a drug distribution conspiracy in the Midland and Odessa areas. During the execution of a search warrant at the defendant’s residence on October 2, 2009, authorities recovered approximately 378 grams of cocaine, $2,094 in U.S. currency as well as other drug paraphernalia. Other evidence showed that during the time of the conspiracy, Juarez and others were responsible for distributing a total of 746 grams of cocaine throughout the region.

This case was investigated by the Midland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with the Midland County Sheriff’s Office and the Ector County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Parras prosecuted the matter for the United States.

Robert Ray Sayne Receives 77-Month Prison Sentence

April 30, 2010 - GREENEVILLE, TN—Robert Ray Sayne, 33, of Newport, Tennessee , was sentenced in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, at Greeneville, to serve 77 months in prison. The sentence was the result of a guilty plea by Sayne on November 9, 2009, to a federal indictment charging him with making false statements to a United States Probation Officer and to wire fraud. The sentence also resulted from a guilty plea to six violations of terms of supervised release. The Honorable Ronnie Greer, United States District Judge sentenced Sayne to serve 41 months in prison on each of the false statement and wire fraud charges to run concurrently and to serve an additional 36 months in prison on the probation violation charges to run consecutive to the other charges, for a total sentence of 77 months. Sayne has remained in federal custody since his arrest at the James H. Quillen United States Courthouse on January 20, 2009.

Sayne was convicted of bank fraud in 2003, sentenced to serve 51 months in prison and ordered on supervised release for five years after his release from prison in January 2008. Shortly after his release from federal prison, Sayne submitted false documents to his supervising probation officer, provided false information to his probation officer, failed to comply with terms of his release, and engaged in an entirely new wire fraud scheme involving credit cards and debit cards. He stole more than $40,000 from a Florida credit card processor and depleted the equity in his grandmother’s home through a reverse mortgage.

James R. Dedrick, United States Attorney, stated that the integrity of the United States Probation Office and the protection of the credit card system are important to the Department of Justice and the United States Attorneys Office. “The United States Probation Office serves as the eyes and ears of the federal judges. The entire system of supervised release and probation depends upon the candor of individuals who complete that process. We will be vigilant in protecting the integrity of the probation process and in protecting the safety of our credit and debit financial system.”

The United States Probation Office and the FBI participated in the investigation and prosecution of Sayne. Helen Smith, Assistant United States Attorney, represented the United States.

Kirksville Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Pornography Charges

April 30, 2010 - ST. LOUIS, MO—The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that Joseph Ketsenburg pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of child pornography.

According to court documents, between May 2007 and August 2008, Ketsenburg possessed images containing child pornography on his computer.

JOSEPH KETSENBURG, Kirksville, Missouri, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of possession of child pornography this morning before United States District Judge Catherine D. Perry. Sentencing has been set for July 21, 2010.

Each count carries a penalty range of up to 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

This case was investigated by the Kirksville Police Department and the Kirksville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Rob Livergood is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Bank Robbery Arrest

April 30, 2010 - At approximately 10:45 a.m, a man robbed the First Community National Bank in Cuba, Missouri. Due to the quick response by a number of law enforcement agencies, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a suspect fitting the robber’s description was stopped and is being held for questioning. The suspect has not been charged.

The FBI is investigating whether this suspect is connected to the following bank robberies:

03/13/2009 Commerce Bank
1415 North Morley
Moberly, MO

08/10/2009 Excel Bank
917 S. Limit Street
Sedalia, MO

12/18/2009 Town and Country Bank (Rolla North Branch)
1804 North Bishop
Rolla, MO

02/24/2010 BTC Bank
400 W. Old Business 36 Hwy
Chillicothe, MO

04/05/2010 Mid Missouri Bank
118 Hwy 54 West
El Dorado Springs, MO

The FBI in St. Louis and Kansas City recently launched a campaign, to include digital billboards and and, to publicize the serial bank robber responsible for the above five robberies in the last year.

The Department of Justice considers everyone innocent until proven guilty.

Conspirators Sentenced to Prison in Construction Escrow Fraud Scheme

Cooperating Defendants Edgar Beaudreault and Howard Sperling Going to Prison

April 30, 2010 - ATLANTA, GA—EDGAR J. BEAUDREAULT, JR., 61, of Alpharetta, Georgia, and HOWARD A. SPERLING, 45, of San Diego, California, were sentenced today by United States District Judge Clarence Cooper to federal prison on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their part in a scheme to defraud a California corrections facility operator of nearly $13 million.

United State Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “These defendants were part of an elaborate fraud scheme that ironically involved the construction of a prison. They will now experience how business is conducted inside a real prison.”

BEAUDREAULT was sentenced to three years, five months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,417,500. BEAUDREAULT pleaded guilty to the charges on December 17, 2008.

SPERLING was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,417,500. SPERLING pleaded guilty to the charges on February 2, 2009.

Both BEAUDREAULT and SPERLING cooperated with the government, and in February 2010, testified in the trial of co-defendant ROBERT B. SURLES, which resulted in guilty verdicts on 16 counts of conspiracy and wire fraud. SURLES is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Cooper on June 22, 2010.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: From August 2003 through January 2004, BEAUDREAULT, SPERLING and SURLES conspired to defraud “Cornell Corrections of California, Inc.,” a private company that operates corrections facilities for various governmental units. In June 2003, Cornell Corrections contracted to have a corrections facility built in Canon City, Colorado for $13 million. The $13 million purchase price was to be held in an escrow account until the facility was completed.

In August 2003, the defendants induced Cornell Corrections to transfer its $13 million to an account in Atlanta, which they controlled, by falsely representing to Cornell that the account was an escrow account that was administered by a reputable bank. Upon receipt of Cornell Corrections’ $13 million, the defendants wire transferred the majority of Cornell’s $13 million to other accounts, to be used for their own purposes. Under the terms of their contract, the defendants were also to obtain a construction loan on behalf of “Western Comfort, Inc.” the general contractor who began construction of the facility. No loan was secured, making Western Comfort another victim of this scheme.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys Bernita B. Malloy and David E. McClernan prosecuted the case.

College Awards Program


The New York League of Puerto Rican Women, Inc. would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best of health and happiness in the new year, and we are delighted to welcome you to our website.

As we begin a new decade in the 21st century, we renew our commitment to assist Puerto Rican women in their quest to obtain a college degree. The League is the only organization in the state whose focus is the Puerto Rican woman and her ability to provide a better life for herself and her family through higher education.

The League strives to offer at least six College Awards each year to Puerto Rican undergraduate women selected for their academic excellence and service to the community, and we do this by depending solely on the support and generosity of the community, since we do not receive any government grants. In the past we have presented College Awards totaling $18,000. We look forward to upholding this tradition at the League’s College Awards Gala Dinner Dance at the Marina Del Rey in the Bronx, on Thursday, August 19, 2010. Beginning with this year, we would like to increase the number of College Award recipients, and in order to do so, we look to the generosity of our friends, members, supporters, donors and sponsors to accomplish this goal. We also ask that you spread the word throughout the community about our College Awards Program so that all eligible students can apply.

We welcome you to explore our website for information on past College Award recipients, our 2009 Gala Dinner Dance, eligibility criteria for the 2010 College Awards, the 2010 College Award Application Form, Membership Application, and the Sponsorship/Donation Form, all of which can be downloaded.

We encourage you to join our organization, in support of our College Awards Program, as a Member, Sponsor and/or Donor, and to participate in our activities.

We trust that you will continue to be one of our loyal supporters, and please accept our heartfelt thanks for your gracious generosity.

More Information

Off-Label Promotion

Two Johnson & Johnson Subsidiaries to Pay Over $81 Million to Resolve Allegations of Off-Label Promotion of Topamax Epilepsy Drug Approved by FDA Promoted for Psychiatric Uses

WASHINGTON – American pharmaceutical manufacturers Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., both subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to pay more than $81 million to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of the epilepsy drug Topamax, the Justice Department announced today.

According to the agreement reached with the government, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and pay a $6.14 million criminal fine for the misbranding of Topamax in violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Topamax as an anti-epileptic drug, for the treatment of partial onset seizures, but not for any psychiatric use. Once a pharmaceutical is approved by the FDA, a manufacturer may not market or promote it for any use not specified in its new drug application. The unauthorized uses are also known as "unapproved" or "off-label uses."

The government alleged that Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical promoted the sale of Topamax for off-label psychiatric uses through a practice known as the "Doctor-for-a-Day" program. Using this program, Ortho-McNeil hired outside physicians to join sales representatives in their visits to the offices of health care providers and to speak at meetings and dinners about prescribing Topamax for unapproved uses and doses.

In addition to the criminal fine, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals will pay $75.37 million to resolve civil allegations under the False Claims Act that they illegally promoted Topamax and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for a variety of psychiatric uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs. The federal share of the civil settlement is $50,688,483.52, and the state Medicaid share of the civil settlement is $24,681,516.48.

"Working with our federal and state partners, we will take action against pharmaceutical companies that promote their drugs for off-label uses," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "This type of unlawful marketing undermines the FDA’s important role in deciding which drugs are safe and effective for consumers and costs the taxpayers billions of dollars each year."

The civil settlement resolves two lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens with knowledge of fraud to bring civil actions behalf of the United States and share in any recovery. The two cases, both filed in the District of Massachusetts are United States ex rel. Maher, et al. v. Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Civil Action No. 03-11445-WGY, and United States ex rel. Spivack v. Johnson & Johnson and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., Civil Action No. 04-11886-WGY. As part of today’s resolution, the whistleblowers will receive payments totaling more than $9 million from the federal share of the civil recovery.

Also as part of the settlement, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals has agreed to enter into an expansive corporate integrity agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. That agreement provides for procedures and reviews to be put in place to avoid and promptly detect conduct similar to that which gave rise to this matter.

"This resolution underscores the government’s unflagging commitment to combating pharmaceutical fraud in all its forms, and in securing a just and meaningful outcome that deters those who would consider off-label marketing in the future," said Carmen M. Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

"This settlement is about more than financial recoveries, it is also about protecting the integrity of health care programs and the health of beneficiaries," said Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson. "The Corporate Integrity Agreement requires Ortho-McNeil-Janssen-Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to increase transparency and accountability and to make changes designed to avoid illegal drug promotion in the future."

The Justice Department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts prosecuted the criminal case and handled the civil lawsuit, with assistance from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and the offices of various state Attorneys General. The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services negotiated the Corporate Integrity Agreement.

This settlement is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover approximately $2.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 have topped $3 billion.

CBP Seizes Khat at DHL

Cincinnati — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the DHL freight facility in Cincinnati early Wednesday, seized more than 30 pounds of khat concealed in a gaming chair.

The officers made the discovery through an anomaly on an x-ray examination. After taking a closer look at the chair, several bundles of khat were discovered. There are no arrests at this time and the case is still under investigation.

The fresh leaves, twigs and shoots of the khat shrub are chewed and then retained in the cheek and chewed intermittently to release the active drug. The khat shrub grows on in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. Individuals who abuse khat typically experience a state of mild depression following periods of prolonged use. Taken in excess khat causes extreme thirst, hyperactivity, insomnia and loss of appetite. Khat can reduce the user’s motivation and can cause manic behavior with grandiose delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Khat can cause damage to the nervous, respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems. Khat is classified as a Schedule IV drug.

“The interesting part of this seizure is the way the khat was hidden inside the gaming chair,” said Brian Humphrey, the acting director of field operations in Chicago. “Concealment methods vary and can be very difficult to detect, but CBP officers are well trained, experienced and strongly motivated in detecting any type of contraband.”

Orlando Man Sentenced for Role in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

April 29, 2010 - ORLANDO, FL—United States Attorney A. Brian Albritton announces that U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway today sentenced Ramon Cendana (age 48, of Orlando) to more than six years in federal prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme. The court also ordered Cendana to pay in excess of $240,000 in restitution to his victims. Cendana had pleaded guilty on January 27, 2010.

According to court documents, Cendana owned and operated a title company, a mortgage company, and two investment companies. Through those companies, Cendana operated a Ponzi-type scheme soliciting investors (who were often refinancing their own homes to obtain investment proceeds), promising high rates of return on their investments, and then paying early investors with the investments of later investors. The proposed investments, however, never generated any revenue. When investor funds ran low, Cendana used the identification information of his investors to apply fraudulently for loans and lines of credit in the names of those investors. Further, near the end of his scheme, as both investor funds and the proceeds from the fraudulently-obtained loans and lines of credit ran low, Cendana used his mortgage and title companies to create fictitious mortgage closings, directing the customers who trusted him to refinance their homes to wire him funds to facilitate closings that never occurred.

The court sentenced the defendant based upon over $1.7 million in fraud loss.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel C. Irick.

This case is part of the Middle District of Florida’s Mortgage Fraud Surge, a joint effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, the investigative agencies named above, and numerous other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The surge focused intensive investigative and prosecutorial resources on the mortgage fraud crisis that plagues middle Florida and has contributed to the current economic situation nationwide. The surge accelerated mortgage fraud cases to bring perpetrators to justice quickly and provide maximum deterrence. It was the first step in the Middle District of Florida's Mortgage Fraud Initiative, an ongoing effort to prosecute mortgage fraud of all types throughout the district. For more information on the Middle District of Florida’s mortgage fraud prosecutions, please contact Steve Cole, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office.

Ft. Apache Drug Dealer Sentenced to Five Years in Federal Prison

April 30, 2010 - PHOENIX—Leo Nachu, Jr., 31, of Whiteriver, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg to 60 months in prison for possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. This offense occurred on the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona. He pleaded guilty on February 4, 2010.

On November 11, 2008, Nachu, a known gang member in Whiteriver, was engaged in a foot pursuit with law enforcement. He was carrying a backpack as he ran from law enforcement. Nachu threw the backpack and continued to run. A later search of that backpack revealed numerous plastic bags with drugs individually packaged for sale, a firearm with additional rounds of ammunition and a large amount of cash. His fingerprints were later found on some of those bags of drugs as well as the firearm.

The primary investigation in this case was conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Assistance was also provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The prosecution was handled by Dimitra H. Sampson, U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In aftermath of the Fort Hood shootings, Air Force Education and Training command officials emphasize vigilance and readiness to respond to unexpected life-threatening events. They issued tri-fold brochure for training, education and response.

More Information

Madison Man Sentenced to 84 Months for Conspiring to Sell Crack Cocaine

April 29, 2010 - MADISON, WI—Stephen P. Sinnott, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Scorpio Robinson, 22, Madison, Wis., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to 84 months in prison without parole for conspiring to sell crack cocaine. This term of imprisonment will be followed by five years of supervised release. Robinson pleaded guilty to this charge on February 17, 2010.

Between July 10, 2009 and August 4, 2009, an undercover police officer placed several phone calls to Scorpio Robinson to arrange drug transactions. On July 10, July 13, July 17, and July 24, Robinson had Christopher Tibbs deliver crack cocaine to the undercover officer. On July 22 and July 31, Robinson had Alphonso Randall deliver the drugs to the undercover officer. Robinson was on electronic monitoring during this time frame and couldn’t leave his home, which is why he had other people make the deliveries for him.

Robinson's sentence was increased because he possessed two firearms in connections with his drug trafficking and because Judge Crabb found him to be an organizer or leader of the conspiracy.

Tibbs was sentenced yesterday to seven years in prison for his role in this conspiracy, along with being an accessory after a bank robbery. Randall is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30.

The charges against Robinson were the result of an investigation conducted by the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman.

U.S. Marshals Arrest T.B.I. Most Wanted Fugitive

April 29, 2010 - Memphis, TN – Fugitive Deadrick Stokes was arrested tonight by the U.S. Marshals Service Mid-South Fugitive Task Force and Shelby County Sheriff’s Street Crimes Unit. In February of this year, Stokes was convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to life in prison. Last Thursday, Stokes was released from the Shelby County Jail due to a clerical error. Stokes’ fugitive status landed him on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list. Stokes was arrested at the Relax Inn Motel in the Westwood area of Memphis, after a four day fugitive man hunt. Stokes’ father Jake Stokes and brother Bobby Partee were also arrested and charged with Accessory After the Fact and False Statements, their bond has been set at $250,000.00.

The U.S. Marshals Mid-South Fugitive Task Force is a multi-agency task force based in Memphis and Jackson, TN. The Task Force membership is primarily comprised of Deputy U.S. Marshals, Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies, Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies, Jackson Police Officers, West Memphis Police Officers and Tennessee State Probation and Parole. The Primary mission of the Task Force is to arrest violent offenders and sexual predators.

Investiture Ceremony for U.S. Marshal Kelvin Washington

Florence, SC – On April 30 U.S. Marshal Kelvin Washington of the District of South Carolina will celebrate his Investiture Ceremony at the McMillan Federal Building in Florence, S.C., at 1 p.m. Washington will be joined by members of the Judiciary, distinguished guests, and family to celebrate his appointment. He will also express his vision and goals for the District of South Carolina and stress the importance of serving and protecting the federal judiciary while honoring the U.S. Marshals’ commitment to fugitive apprehension. 

Washington was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the United States Marshal for District of South Carolina and was sworn in on March 31, 2010. Washington began his law enforcement career with the City of Florence Police Department in 1990. While there he served as a patrolman, narcotics agent, and an investigator. In 1993, he joined the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office as the Chief Investigator and was later promoted to Chief Deputy. In 1998, Washington was appointed as Interim-Sheriff and in January 1999, and was then elected Sheriff of Williamsburg County. This election victory became South Carolina history. He had become the youngest African American to be elected Sheriff in South Carolina. He was successfully re-elected in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

A native of Hemingway, S.C., Washington is a graduate of Hemingway High School, attended South Carolina State University, and graduated from American Intercontinental University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Troy University. His other education credentials were received from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy; the FBI-sponsored Carolina Command College; the FBI-sponsored Law Enforcement Executive Development School, the University of Arkansas’ Rural Executive Management Institute, and the National Sheriff's Institute.

Washington has always believed in service before self and has made enormous contributions to his community. He is an active member of Kingstree Rotary Club, Palmetto State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, and the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, where he serves as Past President of this association. He has served as a board member for the Williamsburg County Boys and Girls Club and Williamsburg County Vital Aging. Marshal Washington has also served as a part-time professor at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Charleston Southern University in their Criminal Justice Departments.

Jeremy Clark-Erskine Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Court

April 29, 2010 - The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula on April 27, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, JEREMY CLARK-ERSKINE, a 36-year-old resident of Missoula and Indiana, pled guilty to forgery of a signature of a United States judge, false personation of a Social Security number, interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing has been set for July 21, 2010. He is currently detained.

In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan R. Whittaker, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

On August 11, 2009, CLARK-ERSKINE presented himself at the Montana Motor Vehicle Division in Missoula to obtain a Montana driver's license in the name of Angus Jocko Ferguson. On the form, CLARK-ERSKINE falsely represented a social security account number as his own which he knew belonged to another individual.

On September 6, 2009, presenting himself as a Captain in the United States Army, CLARK-ERSKINE, attempted to gain entry onto Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls. At the time, CLARK-ERSKINE was driving a vehicle which had been reported stolen by Enterprise Rent-A-Car out of Chicago, Illinois.

Pursuant to a federal search warrant, law enforcement searched the car and recovered numerous fraudulent documents. Two of the documents included an "Entry" and "Judgment" purporting to be from the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana. The documents bore a false case number and both documents contained the forged signature of the Chief Judge of the Southern District of Indiana. CLARK-ERSKINE had forged the signature on the documents for the purpose of authenticating them to use to obtain a new social security number for "Angus Jocko Ferguson" to replace the original (and now compromised) number issued to him under the name Michael Bruce Lafferty, later changed to Finn J. UiNeill in an attempt to protect his identity.

From September 9, 2009, to January 6, 2010, CLARK-ERSKINE unlawfully transported from one state to another a stolen 2010 Ford Mustang. He rented the vehicle on September 9, 2009, from Hertz Rental Car in Missoula with a rental agreement contract which only covered a one-day rental. He did not return the vehicle on September 10, 2009, but instead drove it from Montana to California. On January 6, 2010, the vehicle was recovered from CLARK-ERSKINE in Culver City, California. The original Montana license plates on the vehicle had been replaced with stolen Washington state licenses plates.

CLARK-ERSKINE faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and at least three years' supervised release. In addition, CLARK-ERSKINE faces an additional mandatory two year imprisonment, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

First MS-13 Member Sentenced to Death

North Carolina MS-13 Gang Member Convicted of Racketeering Charges Related to Murder; First MS-13 Member Sentenced to Death  Defendant Shot and Killed Two Brothers in December 2007 in Guilford County, N.C.

WASHINGTON—A 12-person federal jury in Charlotte, N.C., today voted unanimously to impose the death penalty against Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, aka “Wizard,” 25. Umana was convicted by the same jury on April 19, 2010, for the murders of Ruben Garcia Salinas and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas, on Dec. 8, 2007, in Guilford County, N.C. The jury also found that Umana was responsible for other murders: on July 27, 2005, in Los Angeles, the defendant killed Jose Herrera and Gustavo Porras; and on Sept. 28, 2005, in Los Angeles, the defendant participated and aided and abetted the killing of Andy Abarca. That sentence will be formally imposed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Conrad Jr., at a later date.

The conviction and sentence were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Anne M. Tompkins; Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina, Owen D. Harris; and Rodney Monroe, Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

On April 19, 2010, the jury found Umana guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering; two counts of murder in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13; two counts of murder resulting from the use of a gun in a violent crime; possession of a firearm by an illegal alien; one count of extortion; and two criminal counts associated with witness tampering or intimidation. The jury reached its guilty verdict after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, which began on April 12, 2010.

“Today, a jury of North Carolina citizens imposed the most severe punishment available under the law against a defendant who has inflicted violence and pain on numerous communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “In courtrooms from North Carolina to Texas and Maryland to Tennessee, the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit and our partner U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are targeting the most dangerous gang members and taking these violent offenders off our streets.”

“This outcome, a sentence of death, is appropriate because our citizens, represented by this jury, have spoken to their community, particularly to young people who would engage in unlawful gang-related activity,” said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins. “This investigation and prosecution has had a substantial impact on disrupting gang activity in Charlotte. The actions of this defendant have had a devastating effect on the family of his victims and upon our community. We are grateful to those involved in bringing the case to this conclusion, and believe justice has been done.”

“Gangs have no place in our communities,” said Owen D. Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI. “The jury’s finding today sends a message to those gang members who think they can avoid responsibility for their deeds. We will not stop going after them. The people and agencies that took part in this investigation and prosecution prove perseverance and commitment pay off.”

“The decision today shows how willing this community is to punish gang members for wreaking havoc in our city. My Department and our law enforcement partners won’t stop until we round them all up,” said Rodney Monroe, Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “This should also send a clear message to any gang member who thinks he can escape justice–we’re not going to stop, and we’re going to always seek the toughest penalties.”

According to testimony presented during the trial, Umana, a former resident of Greensboro, N.C., was a member of a Charlotte-based cell of the La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. The gang is composed primarily of immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, from El Salvador, with members operating throughout North Carolina, and elsewhere, inside and outside of the United States.

Witnesses testified at trial that Umana was a veteran member of the MS-13 who had illegally traveled from El Salvador, to Los Angeles, New York, and eventually, to Greensboro. Testimony established that in the fall of 2007 he was asked by MS-13 members in prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, to assist in re-organizing the Charlotte MS-13 members so that they could better control the drug trade, as well as extort and attack rival gang members in North Carolina.

Additional testimony revealed that on Dec. 8, 2007, while in a restaurant in Greensboro, Umana used a gun to shoot Ruben Garcia Salinas fatally in the chest and Manuel Garcia Salinas in the head after they “disrespected” his gang signs by calling them “fake.” Umana fired three more shots as restaurant patrons scurried for cover, with one witness running to protect her infant child. One other individual was injured by the gunfire.

According to evidence introduced during the trial, Umana later escaped to Charlotte with the assistance of other MS-13 members, where he was arrested on Dec.12, 2007, in possession of a loaded Ruger, later determined to be the murder weapon.

The jury found that, based on the evidence presented at trial and during the penalty phase, Umana shot and killed Ruben Garcia Salinas, a mason, and his brother, Manuel Garcia Salinas, a bricklayer, in aid of the racketeering enterprise known as MS-13. According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Umana attempted during his term of pre-trial incarceration to kill witnesses and MS-13 members who had become informants. During the first day of jury selection, during a pat down at the jail prior to removing the defendant to the federal courthouse in Charlotte, U.S. Marshals recovered a knife, which Umana had concealed by attaching it to his penis.

Umana was also found by the jury at the sentencing phase to have been responsible for three other murders in Los Angeles. One of these, a double murder, occurred in July 2005 on Fairfax Avenue. The third murder, and injury of two others, occurred at Lemon Grove Park in September 2005.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro from the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Don Gast, Adam Morris and Kevin Zolot, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, were also members of the government’s trial team.

Evidence presented at trial also showed that the long-term investigation of MS-13 activity in North Carolina was initiated by the FBI’s N.C. “Safe Streets” Gang Task Force. Specifically, a witness came forward through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s “Gang of One” program and explained how the killings were part of the violent operation of a single MS-13 cell operating out of the Charlotte, N.C., area.

The investigation of the wide-sweeping enterprise led to the successful federal prosecution of 26 MS-13 members. In addition to Umana, six defendants were convicted at trial in January 2010, and 18 other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to the racketeering charges related to MS-13 activities in North Carolina. One defendant remains in custody in El Salvador.

The Task Force is composed of the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; and the Gastonia, N.C., Police Department. The FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force played a significant role in coordinating the international aspects of the overall investigation, and additional critical assistance was provided by the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Center. Additional law enforcement investigative support was provided by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Greensboro Police Department and the Durham Police Department. Substantial assistance has been afforded, especially during the trial, by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Western District of North Carolina.


Part 2: Trouble in the 1920s

04/29/10 - The Roaring Twenties were a heady time, full of innovation and exploration—from the novelty of “talking pictures” to the utility of mass-produced Model Ts...from the distinct jazz sounds of Duke Ellington to the calculated social rebellion of the “flappers”...from the pioneering flights of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart to the pioneering prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner.

It was also a lawless decade—an age of highly violent and well-heeled gangsters and racketeers who fueled a growing underworld of crime and corruption. Al Capone and his archrival Bugs Moran had formed powerful, warring criminal enterprises that ruled the streets of Chicago, while the early Mafia was crystallizing in New York and other cities, running various gambling, bootlegging, and other illegal operations.

Contributing to criminal chaos of the 1920s was the sudden rise of the KKK. In the early 1920s, membership in the KKK quickly escalated to six figures under the leadership of “Colonel” William Simmons and advertising guru Edward Young Clarke. By the middle of the decade, the group boasted several million members. The crimes committed in the name of its bigoted beliefs were despicable—hangings, floggings, mutilations, tarring and featherings, kidnappings, brandings by acid, along with a new intimidation tactic, cross-burnings. The Klan had become a clear threat to public safety and order.

Matters were getting so out of hand in the state of Louisiana that Governor John M. Parker petitioned the federal government for help. In a memo dated September 25, 1922, J. Edgar Hoover—then assistant director of the Bureau—informed Director Burns that a reporter had brought a personal letter from Parker to the Department of Justice. “The Governor has been unable to use either the mails, telegraph, or telephone because of interference by the Klan … Conditions have been brought to a head at Mer Rouge, when two white men … were done away with mysteriously,” Hoover wrote. He also said that the governor was seeking assistance because “local authorities are absolutely inactive” and because he feared judges and prosecuting attorneys had been corrupted.

The Department responded, immediately sending four Bureau agents—A. E. Farland, J. D. Rooney, J. P. Huddleston, and W. M. Arkens—to work with the Louisiana attorney general to gather evidence of state and federal crimes. The agents soon found the bodies of the two men and pinpointed members of the vigilante mob that kidnapped and brutally murdered them. They also identified the mob’s leader—Dr. B.M. McKoin, the former mayor of Mer Rouge.

The agents' work put their own lives in danger. On November 13, 1922, an FBI Headquarters memo noted that “confirmation has just been received of the organized attempt of klansmen and their friends to arrest, kidnap, and do away with special agents of the Department who were in Mer Rouge.” To make matters worse, the plot was “stimulated by the United States Attorney at Shreveport,” reportedly an active KKK member. The U.S. attorney had already ordered the investigating agents, detailed from the Houston Division, to leave the area or be arrested because he thought they had no business investigating those matters. “Only their hurried exit saved them,” the memo said. Still, the agents continued their work.

In 1923, McKoin was arrested and charged with the murders of the two men. Despite National Guard security, witnesses were kidnapped by the Klan, and other attempts were made to sabotage the trial. The grand jury refused to return an indictment. Other KKK members, though, ended up paying fines or being sentenced to short jail terms for miscellaneous misdemeanors related to the murders.

Despite the Bureau’s work, the power of the KKK in certain places was too strong to crack. But as revelations of leadership scandals spread and figures like Edward Young Clarke went to jail, the Klan’s membership dropped off precipitously. By the end of the decade, thanks in part to the Bureau, the KKK had faded into the background—at least for a time.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Smuggler Abandons Nearly Half Ton of Marijuana

Weslaco, Texas - U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Weslaco, Texas Station seized more than 900 pounds of marijuana on Monday with the assistance of Alamo Police.

Agents on patrol south of San Juan, Texas observed a tan sport utility vehicle departing the Rio Grande River at a high rate of speed. Once the agents approached the vehicle, they noticed what appeared to be bundles in the cargo area of the vehicle. The agents requested support from Alamo Police and the vehicle was subsequently stopped by the agency. The occupants of the vehicle fled, abandoning the vehicle in an Alamo neighborhood.

An illegal alien was apprehended in the immediate vicinity of the suspect vehicle and transported to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station along with the SUV. A detailed inspection of the vehicle revealed 122 bundles of marijuana with an estimated street value of more than $700,000. Record checks on the apprehended man revealed an extensive criminal history. He was detained pending immigration procedures.

The Drug Enforcement Administration took custody of the narcotics.

CBP Officers Discover Trunk Load of Marijuana

Douglas, Ariz. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped a drug smuggling attempt Monday, seizing nearly 240 pounds of marijuana concealed inside the trunk of a vehicle that was being inspected at the Douglas, Ariz., Port of Entry.

CBP officers screening traffic coming from Mexico selected a Ford sedan driven by a 30-year-old woman from Mexico for inspection. With the assistance of a specially trained K-9 team, the officers found the trunk filled with packages of marijuana weighing nearly 240 pounds. The estimated street value was about $536,000.

Officers seized the vehicle and the marijuana. The woman was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further questioning.

“Operation Vaqueros” Hits Mexican DTO

DTO believed responsible for bringing over 40,000 pounds of marijuana into Arizona; 34 arrested

APR 27 -- TUCSON, Ariz. – Federal, state, and local officials today announced arrests and charges against a Mexican drug trafficking organization believed responsible for moving at least 40,000 pounds of marijuana through southern Arizona, primarily through Cochise County. The organization employed advanced counter-surveillance, ramp trucks to overcome vehicle barriers at the border, and hidden vehicle compartments.

Seven federal wiretaps approved in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, dubbed “Operation Vaqueros” for the “Cowboy” attire worn by members of the drug trafficking organization, were unsealed by order of the U.S. District Court. Twelve people have been indicted on federal conspiracy charges. In the course of the investigation, 26 people were indicted on federal charges, and 13 on state charges.

U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth Kempshall, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent in Charge Matthew Allen, and Attorney General Terry Goddard, were joined by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske at the federal courthouse in Tucson to announce the results of the coordinated investigation alongside numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

“Today’s actions are yet another strike against the powerful drug trafficking organizations whose tentacles stretch across the Mexico border and into the U.S.”, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall “In Arizona and all across our nation’s Southwest Border, DEA and our partners are determined to find them, shut down their operations, and bring them to justice.”

The 36-month investigation “Operation Vaqueros” has yielded 39 state and federal indictments, and 34 arrests, including one employee of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, arrested on January 26, 2010 on state charges she provided confidential information to one of the drug traffickers in exchange for money. That information was derived from a Title III wiretap, one of seven wires approved for “Vaqueros” as federal agents began honing in on the organization. Six of those indicted federally remain at large and are believed to be in Mexico.

Marijuana Growers Convicted of Drug and Firearms Charges

April 28, 2010 - United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that late Friday afternoon a federal jury convicted defendants Jose Alfredo Zepeda, 20, of East Palo Alto, and Clemente Ferrias Arroyo, 63, of Morgan Hill, of conspiring to manufacture at least 1,000 marijuana plants, manufacturing at least 1,000 marijuana plants, and possessing of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Land Management, Lassen County Sheriff’s Department, Lassen County District Attorney’s Office, the Susanville Police Department, North State Marijuana Investigation Team, Nevada Department of Public Safety and Probation, U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, California Highway Patrol, Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Forensic Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The charges stem from the investigation of a large outdoor marijuana garden on United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land by two BLM rangers, two Lassen County Sheriff’s officers, and a Susanville Police Department officer. On June 16, 2009, the law enforcement officers encountered three suspected marijuana growers. Suspect Juan Carlos Herrera-Chavez engaged the officers in a gun battle with an AK-47 rifle, wounded the two Lassen County Sheriff’s officers, and was later killed by the officers’ return gunfire. The two other suspects, Zepeda and Arroyo, were arrested after the gun battle. Fortunately, both Lassen County Sheriff’s officers survived their wounds.

The evidence at trial revealed that Herrera-Chavez, his brother-in-law, Zepeda, and Arroyo started the marijuana garden in May 2009. Herrera-Chavez carried an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, Zepeda carried a SKS semi-automatic rifle, and Arroyo carried a Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic pistol to protect the marijuana growing operation.

Sentencing is scheduled for both defendants on July 20, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. As a result of the convictions on the marijuana charges, each defendant faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, a $ 4,000,000 fine, and five years to life of supervised release. The conviction on the charge of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes carries an additional mandatory consecutive five years to life sentence, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release.

Minneapolis Man Pleads Guilty to Robbing the Same Bank Three Times

April 28, 2010 - A 21-year-old Minneapolis man pleaded guilty today in federal court in St. Paul to robbing the same US Bank, located at 4930 34th Avenue South in Minneapolis, on three separate occasions. Nathan Lamar Stewart appeared before United States District Court Judge Patrick J. Schiltz to enter a plea of guilty on three counts of bank robbery and one count of carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Stewart was indicted, along with three co-defendants, on November 10, 2009.

In his plea agreement, Stewart admitted that he and co-defendants Curtis Devone Williams, age 24, and Michael Deon Hughes, age 23, both of whom are also from Minneapolis, forcibly stole $5,710 from the bank on April 13, 2009. In the takeover-style robbery, during which Stewart was masked, the men used a gun to intimidate others, particularly the tellers, into following their instructions. The plea agreement states that Hughes actually brandished the weapon, although Stewart was fully aware the gun would be used. Stewart also admitted that on May 28, 2009, he was found in possession of that gun, a Ruger 44-caliber Magnum Super Blackhawk revolver.

In entering his plea, Stewart further admitted that on May 8, 2009, he, Williams, and Hughes once more forcibly took money from the bank, this time $4,371. Again Hughes brandished the 44-caliber revolver, and again Stewart admitted knowing the gun would be used during the crime.

Finally, Stewart admitted that on July 28, 2009, the three men, along with D’Arco Kellum, age 22, also of Minneapolis, stole $5,341 from the bank by use of force. During that robbery, Hughes was armed with what appeared to be a rifle.

On December 22, 2009, Kellum pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery. In entering his plea, Kellum admitted the men used a dangerous weapon in the commission of the July 28, 2009, robbery.

Also on December 22, 2009, Williams pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery and one count of carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. Williams admitted to participating in the April 13, 2009, robbery. He also admitted that during that robbery, he knew Hughes was carrying a gun to aid in the crime. That knowledge is the basis for the firearms charge against him.

Hughes pleaded guilty on January 7, 2010, to three counts of bank robbery and one count of carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. In his plea agreement, Hughes admitted stealing $5,710 from the bank on April 13 as well as brandishing a revolver during that robbery. In addition, he admitted stealing $4,371 from the bank on May 8 and $5,341 on July 28. He also admitted being armed with a gun during those robberies.

For their crimes, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each bank robbery count and life in prison on the firearms charge. Judge Schiltz will determine their sentences at a future date, yet to be scheduled.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Minneapolis Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Steinkamp.

Health Care Fraud

Former Pharmacy Technician Charged with Health Care Fraud

April 28, 2010 - BIRMINGHAM—A federal grand jury today indicted a Rainbow City woman for health care fraud totaling more than $359,000 for illegal prescription reimbursements she received while working as a pharmacy technician at a discount department store in East Gadsden, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley announced.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges CHARLOTTE TURLEY, 52, with four counts of health care fraud and seeks to have her forfeit $359,381 to the government.

“Fraud involving health care providers increases the overall costs of health care to everyone,” Vance said. “This office will continue to prosecute anyone who seeks personal enrichment by stealing from health care providers.”

According to the indictment, TURLEY schemed to defraud Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama between June 2005 and July 2008 while she worked at an East Gadsden K-Mart store. As a pharmacy technician, TURLEY entered insurance claim information into the store’s computer system. She is charged with entering false information to reflect she received prescriptions that were never prescribed, and that she received reimbursements from Blue Cross and Blue Shield for the fake prescriptions.

In addition to the forfeiture, the defendant faces maximum sentences of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

The FBI investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lloyd Peeples and Henry Cornelius.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Federal Grand Jury Charges Woman with Bank Fraud and Mortgage Fraud

April 28, 2010 - BIRMINGHAM—A federal grand jury today indicted a Bessemer woman for bank fraud and aiding others to make false statements on a mortgage loan application by creating letters to support fraudulent disability claims, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.

TAMIKO JACQUES DAVIS, 42, is charged in a two-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court.

According to the indictment, the bank fraud and the aiding and abetting false statements to a financial institution were carried out as follows: Between October 2007 and December 2009, DAVIS worked as a clerk of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital and created fraudulent letters which substantiated other people’s claims that they suffered from a physical disability. The letters were used to support fraudulent claims by loan applicants that they were receiving monthly disability payments from the Social Security Administration. The letters directly assisted the loan applicants in obtaining mortgage loans that they would otherwise have been unable to obtain from financial institutions.

The maximum sentence for each count is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The FBI and the inspector general’s offices for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney is prosecuting it.

This prosecution is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency task force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Bossier Businessman Sentenced for Bank Fraud and Bankruptcy Fraud

More than $158,000 in Bankruptcy Assets Concealed

April 28, 2010 - SHREVEPORT, LA—William R. Hayes, 62, of Bossier City, Louisiana, owner of Fire Security Systems, Inc., was sentenced to 30 months in prison for defrauding the First Louisiana Bank, and later committing bankruptcy fraud by submitting false statements regarding his business and the income from his business, Acting United States Attorney William J. Flanagan announced today. Hayes was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $158,454 and was also sentenced to 5 years supervised release following the completion of his prison sentence. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr., in Shreveport.

Hayes was convicted by a federal jury in November 2009 for one count of bank fraud and four counts of bankruptcy fraud. According to court testimony, Hayes filed for voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy on February 17, 2004. As part of his bankruptcy, Hayes submitted a statement of financial affairs which contained material false statements and declarations, despite having signed the statement under penalty of perjury. Hayes reported that he had no interest in any business when in fact he was the founder and owner of Fire Security Systems, Inc., a commercial fire sprinkler company, and had invested at least $100,000 in a successor commercial fire sprinkler company, Royal Supply, Inc. Hayes also failed to disclose income and property transfers made during the relevant period as required.

First Louisiana Bank objected to the bankruptcy discharge when it learned that Hayes had fraudulently used or spent the $158,000 in proceeds from an accounts receivable which he had previously pledged to the bank as collateral for a loan. Hayes’ Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge was eventually denied at the conclusion of the bankruptcy proceedings.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Shreveport Resident Agency, assisted by the United States Bankruptcy Trustee’s Office, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cytheria D. Jernigan.

Florida Couple Charged in Forced Labor and Document Servitude Conspiracies

April 28, 2010 - WASHINGTON – Sophia Manuel and Alfonso Baldonado Jr. have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges arising from a human trafficking scheme to hold Filipino nationals in forced labor in country clubs and hotels in Southeast Florida, the Justice Department announced.

According to the indictment, defendants Manuel, 41, and Baldonado, 46, owners of Quality Staffing Services Corporation of Boca Raton, Fla., conspired to obtain a cheap, compliant and readily available labor pool. The indictment details the defendants conspired to hold the workers in their continued service, for little or no pay, and housed them in substandard conditions without adequate food or drinking water.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used false promises to entice the Filipino nationals to incur debts to pay up-front recruitment fees; and then compelled the workers to remain in the defendants’ service, despite inadequate work or income to pay off the debts, using a scheme of threats to have the workers arrested and deported with no way to repay their debts, confiscation of the workers’ passports and rules and controls restricting the workers’ freedom of movement and communications with outsiders.

Sophia Manuel is also charged with visa fraud and making false statements to the government to procure foreign labor certifications and visas under the H2B guestworker program.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Diplomatic Security; the state of Florida Department of Law Enforcement; and the state of Florida Office of the Attorney General.

This case is being prosecuted by trial attorney Susan French of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaniek Maynard of the Southern District of Florida.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LAPD Chief Daryl Gates Funeral Video

Alleged Tax Fraud Conspirators Indicted

LAREDO, TX—Jacqueline L. Velasquez, and her daughter, Minerva J. Bentley, along with Eloisa Garcia Casso, and Rosa Herrera, have all been arrested on bench warrants arising from a sealed indictment which alleges they aided and assisted one another in the preparation of false and fraudulent income tax returns and conspiracy to defraud the U.S., United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

The sealed indictment, returned Tuesday, April 13, 2010, by a Laredo federal grand jury and unsealed today following their arrests by agents with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), charges the defendants conspired to defraud the United States by filing false tax returns from 2001 through 2005. According to allegations in the indictment, Jacqueline L. Velasquez operated an informal tax return preparation business from her Laredo, Texas residence. Acting under the supervision and direction of Velasquez, who was assisted by Bentley, the defendants allegedly filed tax returns and received refunds on behalf of unknowing victims whose personal identifying information was stolen by Casso, employed at the Laredo Housing Authority, and Herrera, an employee at the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Additional charges include allegations that Velasquez and Casso aided and assisted in the preparation of U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040, which were false and fraudulent in material matters in that they represented that taxpayers were entitled to claim specified amounts which they knew were false. The defendants, according to the indictment, submitted multiple materially false income tax returns and used numerous different bank accounts for the deposit of the fraudulently obtained funds, intending to claim false tax refunds in excess of $175,000 for the tax years 2001, 2002, and 2003.

All four defendants will remain in custody pending their initial federal court appearances tomorrow, April 28, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Saldaña.

If convicted of the conspiracy, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This case was investigated by IRS-CI and the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael C. Elliott.