Criminal Justice News

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Former Area Physician Agrees to $20 Million Settlement with U.S. Covering Civil False Claims Allegations by Whistle-Blower

CHICAGO—A former Chicago area physician, who was sentenced last month to five years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from Medicare and more than 30 other public and private health care insurance programs, has agreed to a $20 million settlement with the United States covering related civil claims, federal officials announced today. Sushil Sheth, a cardiologist who had privileges at three area hospitals, had pleaded guilty to health care fraud for lying thousands of times to Medicare and other insurers in order to receive millions of dollars he did not earn for patients he never treated. Sheth used the fraud proceeds to live a lavish lifestyle, purchasing a suburban mansion, property in Arizona, luxury automobiles, and investing in various venture capital opportunities.

Sheth, 50, of Burr Ridge and whose office was in Flossmoor, is scheduled to begin serving his 60-month prison term next month. He was also ordered to pay restitution totaling approximately $13 million, and he agreed to forfeit property and funds totaling more than $11.3 million that the government seized from him.

In the separate civil case, Sheth has agreed to pay the United States $20 million to settle allegations of fraudulent billing between 2002 and 2007, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. A federal False Claims Act lawsuit filed in 2006 by a fellow physician was unsealed after the United States negotiated the settlement. The agreement calls for the whistle-blower, Dr. Lokesh Chandra, to receive 17.5 percent of any amounts collected from Sheth by the United States or the State of Illinois. United States of America and the State of Illinois, ex rel. Lokesh Chandra v. Sushil A. Sheth, M.D., 06 C 2191 (N.D. Ill.)

According to the civil lawsuit, Dr. Chandra contracted with Sheth to have him cover hospital rounds and patients when Dr. Chandra was out of town or otherwise unavailable. Sheth saw patients for Dr. Chandra and others at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey and Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. Sheth also had privileges at St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers in Hammond. Between 2002 and 2007, Sheth submitted false claims seeking payment from Medicare and Medicaid for services at the highest level of in-patient cardiac care when, in fact, those services were not performed.

The settlement was reached on behalf of Dr. Chandra and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which administers the Federal Employees Health benefits Program; the Railroad Retirement Board Office of Inspector General; TRICARE Management Activity (U.S. Defense Department); and the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services.

The agreement provides that any amounts recovered will be distributed as follows: Medicare—97.776 percent; Medicaid—0.004 percent; OPM—2.106 percent; TRICARE—0.114 percent. It also provides that any amounts paid to the United States as criminal restitution will be credited against the $20 million judgment.

Under the federal False Claims Act, defendants may be liable for triple the amount of actual damages and civil penalties between $5,500 and $11,000 for each violation. Individual whistle-blowers may be eligible to receive between 15 and 25 percent of the amount of any recovery in cases where the government intervenes.

In the criminal case, Sheth admitted using his hospital privileges to obtain information about patients without their knowledge or consent. He then hired individuals to bill Medicare and other insurance providers for medical services that he purportedly rendered to patients whom he knew he never treated. Typically waiting almost a year after the treatment was purportedly provided, Sheth submitted more than 14,800 false claims for reimbursement for providing the highest level of cardiac care—requiring hands-on treatment in an intensive care unit—on multiple days during patients’ hospital stays. Sheth regularly submitted claims seeking payment that, when added together, had him providing more than 24 hours of medical services and treatment in a single day.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General in Chicago; the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General in Chicago; the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Inspector General’s Offices of the Office of Personnel Management and the Railroad Retirement Board.

The government was represented in the civil case by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Wawzenski.

Investigators, Prosecutors Combat Financial Fraud

EUGENE, OR—For the 10th consecutive year, a unique financial crimes conference will be held in Eugene, Oregon. It brings together in the same place at the same time, from multiple jurisdictions, law enforcement investigators and prosecutors, financial institution fraud investigators, and corporate fraud investigators so that they can learn how, through teamwork, to apply the most recent technology to combat financial fraud. Financial fraud results in billions of dollars of losses annually in the United States but law enforcement officers in Oregon are determined to reduce the harm to consumers, and to hold more offenders accountable.

On Tuesday, September 28, through Thursday, September 30, law enforcement investigators, prosecutors, financial institution fraud investigators, corporate fraud investigators, and auditors will gather at the Valley River Inn in Eugene to learn how to better investigate and prosecute financial fraud. The conference will provide investigators and prosecutors who handle financial crimes, and private-sector personnel who assist them in doing so, tools to assist in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of fraud. The conference is open to all city, county, state, and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors; fraud investigators and security officers for financial institutions; internal auditors for public agencies; and private-sector personnel who assist law enforcement in the investigation of financial crimes.

The seminar will address a variety of topics, including: (1) lessons for law enforcement about white collar crime through the eyes of a conman; (2) Medicaid fraud; (3) mortgage fraud; (4) trends in stored value cards and e-money transfers; (5) data breaches; (6) cloud computing; (7) the use of digital evidence in the courtroom; (8) investigating counterfeit and stolen pharmaceutical products; (9) terrorism indicators in white collar crime; and (10) state and federal search and seizure legal updates.

Sean Hoar, an Assistant United States Attorney and founder of the conference, stated that “The 10th annual conference represents a tremendous desire by law enforcement to create a difficult environment for those who attempt to commit fraud. It also symbolizes a continuous need for training in the increasingly sophisticated area of financial fraud. The combined training of investigators and prosecutors fosters a team approach and provides immediate tools to better detect, investigate, and prosecute those who commit financial fraud.”

The 2010 Financial Crimes & Digital Evidence Conference is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Southern Oregon Financial Fraud and Security Team, the Oregon Department of Justice, and the United States Attorney's Office. For further information, please visit www.financialcrimesconference.com.

Former Pleasantville, New Jersey Board of Education Member Sentenced to Prison for Extortion Conspiracy

CAMDEN, NJ—Former Pleasantville, New Jersey Board of Education (PBOE) member David Thomas was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison for funneling $23,700 in bribes to former PBOE members Jayson G. Adams and Maurice “Pete” Callaway, United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced. David Thomas, 34, of Pleasantville, pled guilty on June 17, 2010, before United States District Judge Joseph E. Irenas to an Information charging him with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Judge Irenas also imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: From May to November 2006, Thomas facilitated the payments of bribes from a government cooperating witness (CW) to Adams and Callaway. Specifically, Thomas used a dormant contracting company that he owned to conceal the bribe payments. Thomas accepted several checks from Adams that Adams had been given by the CW, totaling approximately $23,700. Thomas deposited the checks, which were made payable to the company, into the company’s bank account and then provided cash payments of equal value to Adams, who then made cash payments to Callaway. Thomas admitted that he knew the payments were made in order to obtain Adams and Callaway’s official assistance, action and influence in matters pertaining to their positions on the PBOE.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Irenas sentenced Thomas to three years of supervised release.

On September 6, 2007, 11 public officials—including Adams and Callaway—were arrested in connection with this investigation. All of these individuals have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial. Both Adams and Callaway pleaded guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right and were sentenced by United States District Judge Jerome B. Simandle to 30 and 15 months in prison, respectively.

U.S. attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence. He also credited prosecutors and investigators with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Theodore F.L. Housel, for their assistance in the investigation. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Gramiccioni of the United States Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.

Defense counsel: James J. Leonard Jr., Esq, Atlantic City, N.J.

St. Michael Woman Sentenced for Theft from Spirit Lake Casino

FARGO, ND—United States Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on September 28, 2010, Harriet Demarce of St. Michael, North Dakota, pleaded guilty and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson on a charge of theft from an Indian tribal organization.

Demarce, 44, worked at the Spirit Lake Casino as the on-duty hotel manager. As manager, Demarce had access to an over-ride code which she used to cancel out charges she incurred on her personal debit card for hotel and restaurant services at the Spirit Lake Casino. The incidents occurred from July 2009 to January 2010 on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.

Judge Erickson sentenced Demarce to three years’ probation. Demarce was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,560.44, and to pay a $100 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Janice M. Morley prosecuted the case.

Emanuel County Couple Sentenced in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

STATESBORO, GA—BRIAN STEPTOE, 41, and NATASHA STEPTOE, 38, both from Emanuel County, Georgia, were sentenced yesterday in federal district court for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme that occurred in Swainsboro, Georgia.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who engage in financial crimes, especially crimes such as mortgage fraud, that affect the heartland of our country,” stated United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver.

Evidence presented during their guilty pleas revealed that the Steptoes, with the assistance of others, knowingly submitted a false loan application and other documentation to Bank of America with regard to a $400,000 home loan. The investigation revealed that the Steptoes’ scheme was to defraud Bank of America in order to pocket sizeable sums of money for themselves and others. The property went into foreclosure soon after it was sold and remains on the market to this day.

BRIAN STEPTOE was sentenced to fifty-four (54) months, $410,236.59 in restitution to be paid jointly and severally with his co-defendants, and five (5) years of supervised release. NATASHA STEPTOE was sentenced to twenty (20) months, $340,297.54 in restitution to be paid jointly and severally with her co-defendants, and three (3) years of supervised release.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement 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.

U.S. Attorney Tarver recognized the extensive efforts of the FBI in bringing this criminal activity to light, and particularly praised the efforts of Statesboro FBI Special Agent Cornelius Harris, who investigated this case.

Assistant United States Attorneys Natalie Lee and Frederick Kramer prosecuted this case. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.

Hurricane Season 2010: Tropical Storm Nicole (Atlantic Ocean)

Kentucky Man Charged in Federal Court with Child Sexual Exploitation Offense

Earlier today, Craig Andrew Armstrong, 24, of Louisville, Kentucky, appeared before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi on a criminal complaint charging him with traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a person under 18 years of age. If convicted of this offense, Armstrong faces up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and up to a lifetime of supervised release.

United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said officers of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Armstrong, who was in the company of a 12-year-old girl, in a local motel on September 27, 2010. According to the criminal complaint, APD officers went to the motel after the child's mother reported receiving an anonymous call alerting her that the child was in the motel. During a safe house interview, the child said that she met Armstrong in August 2010 through an Internet website and thereafter Armstrong communicated with her by cell phone and texting. The child said she received a text message from Armstrong on September 26, 2010 notifying her that Armstrong was in Albuquerque. She reported that Armstrong took her to the motel where he performed sexual acts on her. The criminal complaint alleges that Armstrong admitted to meeting the child through an Internet website and traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Albuquerque to have a sexual relationship with the child. It also alleges that Armstrong admitted to performing various sex acts on the child multiple times over a day-and-a-half time frame.

The case was investigated by APD, the FBI and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Bernalillo County and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charlyn Rees and was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Former Memphis Police Officer Sentenced for Civil Rights Violations

WASHINGTON – Former Memphis Police Officer Isaac White was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in prison, two years supervised release and a $4,000 fine, announced Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights; Edward L. Stanton, III , U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee; Larry Godwin, Director, Memphis Police Department; and Amy Hess, FBI Special Agent in Charge.

On Nov. 25, 2009, White pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of Pierre Jefferson. White admitted that in May 2008, after handcuffing Jefferson, he rammed Jefferson’s head into the corner of a building, and struck Jefferson in the face several times, causing him to fall to the ground.  White also admitted to kicking Jefferson after he fell to the ground.

“Police officers are entrusted with great power so that they can carry out their critical public safety responsibilities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice does not tolerate excessive force, and when officers abuse their power by abusing people in their custody, the department will aggressively prosecute.”

“The citizens of the Western District of Tennessee are entitled to know that when dealing with a law enforcement officer the officer is there to protect them, not prey upon them,” said U.S. Attorney Stanton.   “Accordingly, this office will pursue these cases vigorously.”

“Again this shows the partnership between the Memphis Police Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office.   Illegal and criminal activity will not be tolerated by the Memphis Police Department,” said Director Godwin.

“The FBI holds as one of its highest priorities the investigation of civil rights violations, and the Memphis Division will pursue those who are entrusted with protecting our citizenry and violate that trust,” said Special Agent Hess.   “The FBI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that justice is served.”

The case is a result of the continued joint efforts by the Memphis Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  The case was investigated by the FBI/MPD Joint Task Force and the Organized Crime Unit. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steve Parker and Brian Coleman, and Civil Rights Criminal Section Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti.

ICE arrests 78 convicted criminal aliens, fugitives and immigration violators throughout Colorado

DENVER - In the largest operation throughout Colorado this year, 78 convicted criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and immigration violators were arrested last week during a three-day targeted enforcement operation by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).

During the operation, which ended Thursday evening, ICE officers located and arrested 64 aliens with prior criminal convictions, including five gang members. Some of the criminal aliens taken into custody had prior convictions for serious or violent crimes, such as homicide, selling illegal drugs, sexual crimes against children, resisting arrest and assault, vehicle theft, and drunken-driving convictions. In addition, 12 of the individuals ICE officers took into custody were immigration fugitives, aliens with outstanding orders of deportation who had failed to leave the country.

Nine of those arrested will be presented to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution for illegally re-entering the United States after they had been previously deported, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Arrests were made in the following Colorado cities: Aurora, Avon, Akron, Denver, Fruita, Sheridan, Glenwood Springs, Longmont, Greeley, Grand Junction, Clifton, Montrose, Northglenn, New Castle, Cortez, Lakewood, Sterling, Kiowa, Westminster, Fredrick, Edwards, Silverthorne, Platteville, Yuma, Thornton, Centennial, and Wamsutter, Wyo.

The following local law enforcement agencies also participated in this operation: U.S. Marshals Service, Denver Sheriff's Department Gang Task Force, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Colorado State Probation and Parole, Colorado State Patrol, Fruita Police Department, Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Summit County Sheriff's Office, Garfield County Sheriff's Office , Carbondale Police Department, New Castle Police Department, Montrose Police Department, Montrose County Sheriff's Office, Delta Police Department, and Delta County Sheriff's Office.

"The fugitive and criminal aliens we targeted and arrested in this operation help make our Colorado communities safer," said John Longshore, field office director for ICE ERO in Denver. "Arresting fugitives and criminal aliens remains an ICE priority."

Three criminal aliens arrested during this operation include:

A native and citizen of Mexico was convicted of 1st Degree Reckless Manslaughter in the District Court, Denver County, Colo. The incident stemmed from a gang-related fight in which he shot the victim in the back; the victim died from the wound. The original charge was 1st Degree Murder and was reduced to 1st Degree Reckless Manslaughter. He was a juvenile at the time, but was convicted as an adult and sentenced to six years in prison. The sentence was suspended as a commitment to five years in the youth offender system.

A known gang member of the "Family Mob-Orange County," and a native and citizen of Mexico, was convicted for Making a Terrorist Threat & Obstruction or Resisting Executive Officers in the Performance of their Duties in Orange County, Calif. He was deported in June 1999, March 2000, and again in August 2001.

A national of Mexico, was arrested at his residence in Aurora, Colo. He was convicted in California for selling heroin and was sentenced to two years incarceration. He was deported in November 1999. In March 2007, he was convicted in the U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, for illegally re-entering the U.S. and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison. He was again deported in May 2009. He is currently detained in ICE custody without bond pending deportation, and will be presented to the U.S. Attorney for prosecution.

The foreign nationals detained during the operation who are not being criminally prosecuted will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.

Of those arrested, 73 were men and five were women; 63 are from Mexico, three are from El Salvador and three are from Honduras. One person was arrested from each of the following nine nations: Bulgaria, Colombia, Indonesia, Liberia, Mauritania, Poland, Senegal, Venezuela and United Kingdom.

Last week's special enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives - aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by the nation's immigration courts. ICE's Fugitive Operations Teams (FOTs) give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and public safety, including members of transnational street gangs and child sex offenders.

The officers who conducted week's operation received substantial assistance from ICE's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) located in Williston, Vt. The FOSC conducted exhaustive database checks on the targeted cases to help ensure the viability of the leads and accuracy of the criminal histories. The FOSC was established in 2006 to improve the integrity of the data available on at large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives nationwide. Since its inception, the FOSC has forwarded more than 550,000 case leads to ICE enforcement personnel in the field.

ICE's Fugitive Operations Program is just one facet of the Department of Homeland Security's broader strategy to heighten the federal government's effectiveness at identifying and removing dangerous criminal aliens from the United States. Other initiatives that figure prominently in this effort are the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities and the agency's partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies under 287(g).

Largely as a result of these initiatives, as of Sept. 7, ICE has removed a total of 176,736 criminal aliens from the United States, which is a record number.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

CGIS: Service, Integrity, Justice

Written by: LT Connie Braesch

Thanks to hit television shows like NCIS, military investigative services have gained fame and public recognition in recent years. But, investigations aren’t new for the Coast Guard.

Originating in 1915 under the Chief Intelligence Officer, Coast Guard Investigations remained relatively unknown to the general public until the enactment of prohibition. From then on it grew in personnel and responsibility becoming Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) in 1996.

Under the authority of Title 14 of the United States Code, CGIS is a federal investigative and protective program established to carry out the Coast Guard’s internal and external criminal investigations; to assist in providing personal security services; to protect the welfare of Coast Guard people; to aid in preserving the internal integrity of the Coast Guard; and to support Coast Guard missions worldwide.

Yesterday, 18 of the Coast Guard’s newest CGIS special agents graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. This graduating class is the largest and one of the last comprised of all Coast Guard agents. Typically, FLETC classes are made up of trainees from the Coast Guard and other agencies, but this one was entirely CGIS.

Depending on their previous level of experience and training, CGIS agents attend a three month basic criminal investigations course before they attend two months of Coast Guard specific training. After receiving their Coast Guard Special Agent Credentials at the ceremony today, the group of about half active duty and half civilian will depart FLETC and report to various duty stations all over the nation.

Today, CGIS has a total of about 90 active duty military and civilian special agents and 150 reserve special agents. Military agents come from any of Coast Guard specialties and ratings and must apply based on an annual solicitation. Civilian agents typically apply to join CGIS from other federal, state or local law enforcement agencies. CGIS reserve agents serve in the Coast Guard Reserve Investigator rating.

“The U.S. Coast Guard’s demand for outstanding investigative services, coupled with the world-class training our new agents received at FLETC and the tremendous diversity of experience and capabilities they bring, will continue to raise the importance and visibility of CGIS within the Coast Guard as they go to their assignments around the country,” said Mr. Bill Tarry, Deputy to the Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and Criminal Investigations.

Congratulations to the newest agents of CGIS!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Police Believe “Local Man” May be Responsible for Tomball Bank Robbery

The Tomball Police Department and FBI Bank Robbery Task Force need your help in identifying a man who robbed the BBVA Compass Bank located at
1111 West Main Street
in Tomball, Texas, earlier today.

The man first entered the bank around and asked to open an account. However, he left after he claimed to have forgotten his identification card. The man re-entered the bank around , wearing a different shirt. This time, the robber held up a demand note to one of the tellers. The teller complied and the man got away with some cash. He was observed on foot near downtown Tomball. No weapon was observed during the robbery. No one was physically hurt. The bank’s surveillance cameras captured a picture of the man during the robbery.

The robber is described as a Hispanic or white male, approximately 5’5” tall, about 160 pounds with a medium build. He wore a red hat, Wrangler brand blue jeans, a khaki shirt, and boots. He also wore thick prescription glasses. Police believe the robber may be from the local area.

Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and arrest of this robber, or any felony suspect. If you have information about this crime, please call the Tomball Police Department at 281-290-1390 or the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 713-222-TIPS (8477).

FBI New York Running Team Participates in the Ninth Annual 'Tunnel to Towers' 5K Run/Walk

On September 26, 2010, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s New York Office Janice K. Fedarcyk joined special agents and professional support staff of the FBI New York Running Team to support the ninth annual "Tunnel to Towers" run. The five-kilometer (3.1 mile) course began on the Brooklyn side of the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, extended north through Battery Park City, and crossed the finish line on West Street right next to Ground Zero, where it is possible to observe the progress of the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Each year, runners and walkers follow the footsteps of hero firefighter Stephen Siller. Dressed in full gear weighing nearly 80 pounds, Siller ran three miles through the tunnel on September 11 after being told he could not drive through. Siller died while rescuing people from the Twin Towers.

The FBI New York Running Team participated alongside more than 25,000 runners and walkers from the New York area and as far away as Honolulu, Hawaii; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and England. Members of law enforcement, firefighters, soldiers (including wounded warriors), and many more came to honor all of those who, like firefighter Siller, died responding to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Many of the men and women who participated on behalf of the FBI’s New York Office did so in remembrance of those they personally lost on that day.

The Tunnel to Towers Run has become a larger event each year in New York. This year, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Comedian Dennis Miller, and Actor John Turturro were among the celebrities who came out to support the event. The participants received lunch from more than 30 food vendors and were also given a free concert after the run by acclaimed country group Montgomery Gentry.

Since its origin in 2002, Tunnel to Towers has raised more than $7 million for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, orphans, military causes, burn victims, building homes for heroes, continued Hurricane Katrina relief, and additional causes in Siller’s memory.

Robber Totes a Gun and "Man-Purse" During Robbery

The FBI Bank Robbery Task Force needs your help in identifying a man who robbed the Chase bank located at 8384 Westheimer in Houston, Texas, on September 18, 2010.

At approximately , the man entered the bank and approached a teller. While handing the teller a threatening demand note, the robber verbally announced that it was a robbery. He then pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at the teller. He handed the teller a dark colored bag described as a “man-purse” and asked the teller to fill it up. The teller complied and provided the robber with some cash. He exited the bank and was seen getting into a beige or gold colored compact Toyota driven by another man. No one was physically hurt. The bank’s surveillance cameras captured some pictures of the man during the robbery.

The robber is described as a black male, late 30s, approximately 5’8”-5’9” tall, about 180-190 pounds with a slim build. Witnesses said he had “sunken cheeks” on both sides of his face. During the robbery, he wore a baseball cap backwards, rhinestone sunglasses, and a button-down work shirt with sweatpants. He also carried what witnesses described as a dark colored “man-purse” and a semi-automatic handgun.

The getaway driver is described as a white male who drove a gold or beige compact Toyota, possible a late 90s model.

Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the charging and arrest of these robbers, or any felony suspect. If you have information about this crime, please call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 713-222-TIPS (8477).

Terry Goddard Announces Indictment of Nogales Mayor on Charges of Bribery, Theft, Fraud, and Money Laundering

PHOENIX—Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced the indictment and arrest of Mayor Octavio Garcia Von Borstel, 29, of Nogales, Arizona, on multiple charges including bribery, theft, fraud, and money laundering.

Garcia Von Borstel, a democrat, was arrested at his office at the Nogales City Hall this morning. Concurrently, search warrants were executed at his home, business and City Hall office.

The mayor’s father, Octavio Suarez Garcia, 59, of Nogales, also was indicted and arrested today. He faces several charges that include fraud, theft and money laundering.

“These charges are serious violations of the law. Because some charges involve the official actions of an elected official, they violate the public trust,” Goddard said. “Both the mayor and his father will be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“Today's arrest of Mayor Van Borstel has been a collaborative effort with the FBI’s Southern Arizona Corruption Task Force and the Arizona Attorney General's Office,” stated Nathan T. Gray, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division. “When a public official allegedly commits criminal acts it erodes the public's trust. The FBI and our law enforcement partners are determined to address public corruption at all levels of government.”

Garcia Von Borstel began serving as the city’s mayor in April 2008.

FBI agents began investigating Garcia Von Borstel five months ago and determined that he was soliciting Nogales businesses to hire him as a business consultant as early as February 2009. At least one business admitted to the FBI that it was paying the mayor to use his official position to obtain business contracts and, specifically, to obtain new City of Nogales contracts, circumventing either open bidding or proper application processes.

Further investigation determined that the mayor also received money from at least one business in exchange for utilizing his official position to protect a contract the business owner had with the city and to assist the business owner in obtaining an additional city contract.

The mayor’s father, Garcia Suarez, was an agent for Western Union authorized to sell Western Union money orders from his money transmitter business, ACE Cash Express, in Nogales. The state alleges that Garcia Suarez fraudulently reported that Western Union money orders worth $3.2 million were sold though there were no cash deposits to back them up. The money orders were then cashed by Garcia Von Borstel and deposited into a bank account he controlled. Of the $3.2 million, the father and son withdrew $565,000 for their personal use before the account was frozen.

This case was investigated by the Phoenix Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney Generals Kim Ortiz and Michael Jette.

For more information, contact Arizona Attorney General’s Office Press Secretary Molly Edwards at (602) 542-8019 or Manny Johnson at the FBI at 602-650-3201.

North Dakota man sentenced to 17 years in prison for child pornography

FARGO, N.D. - A local man was sentenced Thursday to 210 months in federal prison for possessing and distributing child pornography. The sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jonathan Stahl, 26, of Wahpeton, N.D., was sentenced Sept. 23 by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson, District of North Dakota, on one count each of possessing and distributing material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. Judge Erickson sentenced Stahl to 17 years and five months in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Stahl was also ordered to pay a $200 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund.

Stahl pleaded guilty on April 19 to possessing and distributing child pornographic files depicting young boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct to the social networking site Ning.com. Through investigation, ICE HSI learned that the Ning.com account and IP address were assigned to Stahl.

During the execution of a federal search warrant at Stahl's residence, ICE HSI agents seized Stahl's computer. A subsequent forensic examination of the computer revealed 4,441 images and 278 videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In an interview with law enforcement Stahl admitted to viewing child pornography for six years. The defendant indicated that his preference was young boys and admitted to having previously offended against young boys. The charged offenses occurred in 2008 and 2009 in the District of North Dakota.

 "The child pornographic material possessed and distributed by this defendant is profoundly disturbing," said Assistant U. S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl. "It depicts the graphic sexual abuse of boys as young as one year old. The Court's sentence of 210 months' incarceration recognizes this extreme depravity depicted in these images and videos and the unique harm this crime inflicts upon children."

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,800 individuals.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

ICE and 16 law enforcement leaders announce new North Texas Trafficking Task Force

DALLAS - The local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) - and leaders from 16 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies - announced on Tuesday the new North Texas Trafficking Task Force (NTTTF).

The new collocated Task Force is designed to bring together the expertise, training, experience and law enforcement authorities of the partnered agencies to help identify human traffickers, and prosecute them while also protecting and aiding their victims.

In addition to ICE HSI, the following law enforcement agencies are members of this new Task Force: six Texas police departments from Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving, Plano and Garland; the Special Investigations Division of Child Protective Services, the Texas Attorney General's Office; District Attorneys' offices from Dallas and Tarrant counties, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas. In addition, the following non-governmental organizations also work closely with the new Task Force: Mosaic, Safe Haven, Genesis Women's Shelter, and Catholic Charities.

"Our new collocated human trafficking task force allows our many members to collaborate most effectively to carry out our investigations," said John Chakwin, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Dallas. "There's no substitute for this face-to-face interaction while investigating secretive human traffickers, and aiding their traumatized victims." Chakwin oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the State of Oklahoma.

According to the U.S. Department of State, thousands of men, women and children are trafficked to the United States from all areas of the world for sexual and labor exploitation. Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs. Instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor, or other types of forced labor.

Victims often find themselves in a foreign country and cannot speak the language. Traffickers often take away the victims' travel and identity documents, telling them that if they attempt to escape, the victims or their families back home will be harmed, or the victims' families will assume their smuggling debt. The partners in this new North Texas Trafficking Task Force work together to identify and rescue the victims, and investigate and prosecute these traffickers.

In addition to these local law enforcement task forces, ICE is also reaching out directly to the American public and soliciting their help in the agency's latest initiative in combating the crime of human trafficking.

As part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "Blue Campaign" launched in July, ICE has continued its efforts to educate the public about the plight of human trafficking victims. ICE has designed and placed an anti-trafficking message in foreign language newspapers across the United States. These advertisements highlight some of the indicators of human trafficking and encourage the public to report suspected instances of trafficking.

"ICE asks that the public remain alert to potential victims. We recognize how powerful the media and advocates of all kind can be in helping us rescue these individuals," said ICE Director John Morton. "Through the 'Blue Campaign's' focus on prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership, we will work together to bring these human rights abuses to justice."

The cornerstone of the DHS Blue Campaign is to identify potential human trafficking victims, empower them to seek help, provide information and referrals, rescue them from their traffickers and connect them to services and support that are available to them. ICE is making every effort to prevent human trafficking in the United States by prosecuting the traffickers, and rescuing and protecting the victims. The greatest challenge facing law enforcement in the fight against human trafficking is victim identification. Therefore, it is key that the public be educated about trafficking to recognize and report the potential victims that live and work among us.

If anyone knows or suspects someone is being held against their will, ICE strongly urges them to contact the ICE tip line anonymously at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. The public may also call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's toll-free hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

12 indicted as part of Southwest Florida boat theft ring

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Nine individuals residing in Naples, Fla. and three men residing in Miami were charged in a federal indictment following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the Collier County Sheriff's Office (CCSO).

Rene Blanco Nunez, 42; Remberto Blanco Martinez, 33; Jacqueline Galiano Anesto, 43; Heriberto Paez Reyes, 34; Mayque Aguilera Pulido, 30; Angel Alvarez Esquijarosa, 35; Francisco Munoz Cabrera, 29; Douglas Gainza Cespedes, 35 and Darinet Molina-Mata, 32, all of Naples and Reinier Pereda Montesino, 26, and Reynaldo Calatallu Garcia, 37, both of Hialeah, Fla.; and Javier Guevara Fernandez, 36, of Homestead, Fla., were charged in an indictment in the Middle District of Florida with conspiracy to transport stolen vessels in foreign commerce and nine counts of transporting stolen vessels. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison on the conspiracy count and 10 years on each of the remaining nine counts, for a total of 95 years in prison.

All defendants except for Paez Reyes and Pereda Montesino made their initial appearance in federal court in Fort Myers on Monday before Magistrate Judge Sheri Polster Chappell and are scheduled for arraignment on Sept. 29. Paez Reyes and Pereda Montesino remain fugitives.

"Community boat owners should be able to enjoy the Florida waterways without fearing that their worthy possessions are going to be stolen by individuals who are driven by greed and whose mission is to conduct criminal activities at the expense of others," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa. "ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agents and our local, state and federal law enforcement partners dismantled a Naples-based criminal organization and prevented them from conducting additional criminal activities."

The indictment alleges that, between June 2007 and August 2010, the defendants conspired to transport stolen vessels worth a total of at least $1.5 million from Collier, Charlotte, Lee, Manatee, and Pinellas counties, to Mexico.

The investigation of the theft ring began in 2007 in response to a dramatic increase in thefts of luxury vessels from Southwest Florida. Local, state, and federal agencies formed an investigative task force known as "Island Runners" to target individuals suspected to be part of a Naples-based organization responsible for stealing vessels from waterfront homes in Southwest Florida and transporting those vessels to Mexico. During the course of the investigation, the task force not only gathered information leading to this indictment but also successfully disrupted the intended theft of numerous additional vessels.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seeking Information on Two Men Who Robbed a First Tennessee Bank Branch

The Knoxville Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Chief Sterling Owen IV of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying two men who robbed a Knoxville bank today.

At approximately today, two men entered the First Tennessee Bank located at
3900 Western Avenue
in Knoxville, Tennessee and verbally demanded money. Witnesses described Suspect #1 as a white male, approximately 35 to 40 years old, approximately 6’ tall with a medium build, weighing approximately 200 pounds. Suspect #1 was further described as wearing blue jeans, a dark colored, long sleeve button-up shirt over a dark colored t-shirt, a khaki fishing hat and a dust filter mask.

Suspect #2 was described as a white male, approximately 6’ tall, large build, weighing approximately 250 pounds wearing blue jeans, a long sleeve, gray, button-down shirt, a dark colored fishing hat and a dust filter mask After obtaining an undetermined amount of money, the suspects left the scene in a vehicle described as possibly being a white, Chevrolet S-10 pickup. Based on witnesses' descriptions and bank surveillance photos, at least one of the suspects may be involved in additional bank robberies.

A reward is being offered for any information which leads to the arrest of these individuals. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 865-544-0751 or the KPD at 865-215-7212. This matter is being investigated jointly by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force (which consists of personnel from the FBI, KPD, and KCSO) and the KPD Major Crimes Unit.

All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Fugitive Safe Surrender Comes Back Home to Cleveland and Sets New National Record

Fugitive Safe Surrender was brought back home to Cleveland and in a four-day period 7,431 fugitives surrendered and took advantage of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program held September 22nd through 25th at Mt. Zion Church in Oakwood Village, Ohio setting a new national record for surrenders in the program.

Fugitive Safe Surrender was created in Cleveland, Ohio in 2005 by United States Marshal Pete Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio after a Cleveland Police Officer was shot and killed by a fugitive. At that initial site in Cleveland 850 fugitives peacefully surrendered and since then 30,000 wanted individuals have surrendered nationally through the program in 18 cities across our nation in the past five years.

Law enforcement and the judiciary along with over forty partnering organizations joined together to offer those with outstanding warrants the ability to peacefully surrender within the safe environs of Mt. Zion Church. Nearly 500 wanted felons, including individuals wanted on federal and out-of-state- of-Ohio warrants all peacefully surrendered during the four-day program, clearing over 12,000 outstanding warrants. 

Said Fugitive Safe Surrender founder, U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot, “A special ‘thank you’ should go to Pastor Larry L. Macon Sr., pastor of Mt. Zion and the more than 200 volunteers who gave of their time and effort over the four-day program. The number of fugitives who took advantage of Fugitive Safe Surrender and their families who attended with them far exceeded any expectations. The four-day total of surrenders set a new national record for Fugitive Safe Surrender. For every fugitive that peacefully and voluntarily surrendered that is one less dangerous confrontation our law enforcement officers and citizens have to face.” Stated Elliott.

Bob Reid, Cuyahoga County Sheriff, said of the program, “These results will continue to offer long term benefits and savings for many years to come in the case load for Cuyahoga County courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, corrections centers and all participating municipalities and communities as well as offer safety and manpower savings in our responsibilities of pursuing, capturing and processing fugitives.”

ICE nabs Puerto Rican couple for bribery

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Juan De Miguel-Rodríguez, 45, and Maria Geraldine Espinal-Espinal, 41, were arrested on bribery charges Friday in San Juan and Trujillo Alto, respectively, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Office Professional Responsibility (OPR) special agents.

According to the criminal complaint filed Sept. 24, Juan De Miguel-Rodríguez and Maria Geraldine Espinal-Espinal offered and paid $10,000 to an ICE officer in order to reduce any possible fines or to terminate an employment eligibility verification form I-9 (Form I-9) audit conducted by ICE at Casa Mallorca Bakery, Casa Mallorca del Roble, and Casa Mallorkin Sports Bar, all businesses of De Miguel-Rodriguez. If convicted, De Miguel-Rodriguez and Espinal-Espinal face a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000.

The worksite enforcement investigation targeting De Miguel-Rodriguez' businesses began in 2008 after ICE special agents received information that he was knowingly hiring illegal aliens at his Casa Mallorca Bakery business.

ICE HSI and OPR special agents were able to corroborate this information during the course of the investigation and on Nov. 9, 2009, De Miguel-Rodriguez and Espinal-Espinal paid $10,000 to an ICE undercover agent for the purpose of dismissing or significantly reducing the fine of the Form I-9 inspection.

On Nov. 6, 1986, the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act required employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of their employees and created criminal and civil sanctions for employment related violations. The law requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all individuals hired in the United States and designates the employment eligibility verification Form I-9 as the means of documenting this verification. Employers are required by law to maintain for inspection original Forms I-9 for all current employees. In the case of former employees, retention of Forms I-9 are required for a period of at least three years from the date of hire or for one year after the employee is no longer employed, whichever is longer.

The administrative inspection process is initiated by the service of a Notice of Inspection (NOI) upon an employer compelling the production of Forms I-9. When technical or procedural violations are found, an employer is given ten business days to make corrections. An employer may receive a monetary fine for all substantive and uncorrected technical violations. Employers determined to have knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers will be required to cease the unlawful activity, may be fined, and in certain situations may be prosecuted criminally. Additionally, an employer found to have knowingly hired or continued to employ unauthorized workers may be subject to debarment by ICE, meaning that the employer will be prevented from participating in future federal contracts and from receiving other government benefits. Monetary penalties for knowingly hiring and continuing to employ violations range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, with repeat offenders receiving penalties at the higher end.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

Northern California man sentenced to 10 years for attempting to entice minor for sex

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A Redding, Calif., man was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison after an investigation revealed he attempted to use the Internet to entice a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct. The investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Cody Ambord, 26, who pleaded guilty July 9, will also be subject to 10 years of supervised release following the completion of his prison term.  Ambord came under suspicion in 2009 after the parents of a 14-year-old Placer County girl discovered he had been conducting an Internet relationship with their daughter and had convinced her to meet him near her home for sex. The parents intervened and assumed the girl's online identity.

In late February 2009, Ambord traveled to the Sacramento area to meet the girl and one of her girlfriends, another 14-year-old. After he arrived in Sacramento, Ambord was not able to contact the first girl, and turned instead to her girlfriend, contacting her via instant messaging, not aware that the girl's mother had assumed her identity. Ambord asked the "girlfriend" to sneak out and meet him at a midtown motel. The mother contacted police and on March 1, 2009, Ambord was arrested at his midtown Sacramento motel.

Ambord admitted to authorities he had engaged in many online communications with one 14-year-old girl for a long period of time, and that during his online conversations, the two had discussed sex.  He said he had bought a bus ticket to travel to Roseville, Calif., to meet the girl. After he arrived in Sacramento, he was unable to contact the 14-year-old girl, and instead contacted her girlfriend.

The charges are part of ICE's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, which marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet.

As part of Operation Predator, ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423.  This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.  Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice is seeking to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.


For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

-- ICE --

Firefighter Fatality

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has received notice of the following firefighter fatality:

Name: Robert Hall
Rank: Firefighter
Age: 57
Gender: Male
Status: Volunteer
Years of Service: 4
Date of Incident: 09/27/2010
Time of Incident: 1900hrs
Date of Death: 09/27/2010

Fire Department: Lynchburg Area Joint Fire & Ambulance District
Address:
PO Box 585
, 8123 State RTE 135, Lynchburg, OH  45142-0585
Fire Department Chief: David Manning

Incident Description: Upon completion of a firehouse meeting and as he was preparing to perform apparatus checks, Firefighter Hall became ill.  While being transported to the hospital by Advance Life Support personnel, Firefighter Hall went into cardiac arrest. Despite all resuscitative efforts, however, Firefighter Hall passed away from complications as a result of the cardiac arrest.

Incident Location: 8123 State RTE 135, Lynchburg, OH  45142-0585

Funeral Arrangements: Pending

Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Pending

Tribute is being paid to Firefighter Robert Hall at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities/

To date, 64 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2010; 62 from incidents that occurred in 2010 and 2 from previous year incidents.  Year-to-date monthly and annual USFA firefighter fatality reports are posted online @ http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities/statistics/ff_stats.shtm

Monday, September 27, 2010

Former New Jersey State Senator Wayne R. Bryant and Attorney Eric D. Wisler Indicted on Corruption Charges

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Acting United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, MICHAEL B. WARD, the Special Agent-in-Charge for the New Jersey Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), and VICTOR W. LESSOFF, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New Jersey Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division ("IRS-CID"), announced today an Indictment charging former New Jersey State Senator WAYNE R. BRYANT and attorney ERIC D. WISLER with multiple counts of fraud and bribery.

According to the Indictment filed today in Newark federal court:

BRYANT was a State Senator representing New Jersey's 5 District, which included Camden, and served as Chairman of th the Senate's Budget and Appropriations Committee. BRYANT also was a named, equity partner at a law firm in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. WISLER was a named, equity partner at a law firm in Teaneck, New Jersey. Among WISLER's clients was a private equity investment firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a management firm that undertook several "brownfields," redevelopment projects in New Jersey by which contaminated land was to be made suitable for development.

In 2004, WISLER arranged for his firm to enter into a retainer agreement with BRYANT's firm, which called for BRYANT's firm to be paid a retainer fee of $8,000 per month. The payment was purportedly to cover fees for legal work relating to land use, condemnation, and other matters for a development project in the New Jersey Meadowlands. In truth and in fact, however, the payments made under the retainer agreement were actually bribes paid in exchange for official action that BRYANT took in favor of the various redevelopment projects undertaken by WISLER and his clients, including a proposed $1.2 billion redevelopment of Camden's Cramer Hill neighborhood, which sat in BRYANT's legislative district. BRYANT rendered his approval and support for this project despite significant backlash among his constituents regarding the use of eminent domain and relocation of residents in that neighborhood. BRYANT also expressed support for funding from the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Camden's Economic Recovery Board, whose function was to allocate $175 million in funding that Camden received under the 2002 Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act ("MRERA"), which BRYANT sponsored.

BRYANT provided a consistent vote for legislation that was favorable to WISLER's clients, such as a 2004 amendment to the Redevelopment Area Bond Financing Law that facilitated bond financing for the Meadowlands project, appropriations legislation by which the Meadowlands project received more than $200 million in loans from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust ("NJEIT") and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP"), and "fast-track" legislation that required the NJDEP and other state agencies to expedite their review of applications for permits or have those permits deemed granted. BRYANT also sponsored a bill in 2005 for a $112 million loan from NJEIT to be used for the Meadowlands project.

BRYANT's firm was paid approximately $192,000 in fees between August 2004 and August 2006. However, no actual legal work was performed under the retainer agreement. No attorneys at BRYANT's firm performed any services under the retainer agreement, and no attorneys at WISLER's firm interacted with attorneys of BRYANT's firm with respect to the Meadowlands Project.

According to the Indictment, both WISLER and BRYANT took steps to conceal the existence of the retainer agreement. Despite working extensively with colleagues at his law firm on a variety of matters pertaining to the Cramer Hill and Meadowlands developments, WISLER failed to inform any of them about the existence of the retainer agreement. WISLER specifically drafted the retainer agreement to be for work on certain phases of the project for which the invoices were not reviewed by the public agencies that loaned money to the project. BRYANT failed to inform Camden's Chief Operating Officer ("COO") of the retainer agreement, despite his friendship with the COO and regularly interacting with the COO on matters regarding Cramer Hill.

In addition, the Indictment alleges that WISLER and BRYANT caused false invoices to be drafted that fraudulently indicated that BRYANT's firm was performing legal services under the retainer agreement. These invoices formed the basis for false and fraudulent billings to the Raleigh investment firm by which it paid the retainer fees to BRYANT's firm through WISLER's firm.

The Indictment charges BRYANT and WISLER with twenty counts of honest services mail fraud and one count of receiving bribes. It charges BRYANT with extorting payments under color of official right. It also charges WISLER with 17 counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with the false and fraudulent billings to his client. If convicted, BRYANT and WISLER face a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison for each count, except for the receiving bribes charge, for which each faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The Indictment also seeks the forfeiture of the approximately $192,000 in illicit payments made to BRYANT.

This investigation is being supervised by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York due to the recusal of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. PREET BHARARA was named Acting United States Attorney for the case under Title 28, United States Code, Section 515.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Criminal Investigations Division of the IRS in this case. He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor and Public Safety, and the Criminal Investigators assigned to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey for their outstanding work.

This case is being supervised by the Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys JAMES B. NOBILE, BRADLEY A. HARSCH and JENNY R. KRAMER of the Special Prosecutions Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, are in charge of the prosecution.