Criminal Justice News

Friday, April 29, 2011

Two Yolo County Men Indicted for Child Pornography Offenses

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that a federal grand jury returned indictments today against two Yolo County residents for child pornography offenses.

The grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Steven R. Russell, 62, of Woodland with possession of child pornography. The indictment alleges that Russell possessed child pornography in December 2010. Russell, who was released from prison one year ago after a prior conviction for possession of child pornography, was found to be using the Internet to download pornography despite conditions of release that prohibited him from doing so.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Yolo County District Attorney's Office. United States Attorney Matthew Morris is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Russell faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but due to his prior conviction, he faces a 10-year mandatory-minimum sentence. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The grand jury also returned a two-count indictment charging Alexander N. Norris, 22, of Davis, with child pornography offenses. The indictment alleges that Norris used file-sharing software on the Internet between December 2010 and April 2011 to allow child pornography to be shared and downloaded.

According to court documents, agents learned that an individual had hacked into a neighbor's wireless Internet connection. The computer was traced to Norris, and he was arrested on April 12, 2011 and released on conditions limiting his access to children. He is scheduled to be arraigned on May 2, 2011 before Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. United States Attorney Matthew Morris is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Norris faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These cases were brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC mobilizes federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. 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.

Donna Jones Sentenced to 72 Months for Investment Fraud Ponzi Scheme

NASHVILLE, TN—Donna Jones, 37, of Dickson, Tennessee, former Office Manager of Park Capital Management Group (PCMG) and personal assistant to convicted Brentwood financial advisor Michael J. Park, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Court Judge Aleta Trauger to 72 months in prison, and ordered to pay $8,199,954 in restitution, announced Jerry E. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Joining Martin in the announcement were Martin P. Phanco, Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service; Amy S. Hess, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI's Memphis Division; Darryl Williams, Acting SAC, IRS Criminal Investigation-Nashville Field Office; Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; and Ricky V. Watson, Chief of Police, Brentwood, Tennessee Police Department.

On March 10, 2010, a federal grand jury returned a 17- count indictment charging Jones with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering for her role in the operation of a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than $12,299,690. On January 20, 2011, Jones pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and money laundering, admitting that between September 2001 and June 26, 2008, she, along with co-defendant Michael Park, operated a scheme to defraud investors who deposited funds with PCMG for investment in brokered stocks and other marketable securities.

In sentencing Jones, the Court found that she played an integral role in the execution of the Ponzi scheme and the concealment of the scheme from investors. "Jones jeopardized the hard-earned money of individuals and egregiously abused a position of trust with investors," said U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin. "Jones repeatedly encouraged people to invest by falsely promising security, growth and inflated returns on their money, but instead the investors lost their savings as part of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. The United States Attorney's Office will diligently and aggressively prosecute the perpetrators of such schemes."

"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the U.S. Mails are not utilized as a tool to defraud victims in these type of Ponzi schemes, Inspector in Charge Martin D. Phanco, Atlanta Division."

"The efforts and cooperation among federal and state partners make it possible to bring to justice those who choose to violate trust, fiduciary duty, and the law for personal gain," said SAC of the Memphis Division of the FBI, Amy S. Hess. "The FBI will continue to work with fellow law enforcement agencies to target those who would seek to commit similar fraud schemes."

"As this case demonstrates, IRS Criminal Investigation agents were able to use their expertise to conduct a complex financial investigation, follow the paper trail and unravel violations of federal law," said Darryl Williams, Acting SAC, IRS Criminal Investigation - Nashville Field Office. "This case further demonstrates how effectively IRS Criminal Investigation agents work jointly with our federal and state law enforcement partners in investigating complex financial crimes."

At the sentencing hearing, Park, who is currently serving a 96 month sentence in federal prison for his role in the Ponzi scheme, testified that Jones maintained a spreadsheet on which she kept track of the fictitious PCMG investor accounts. According to Park's testimony, none of the funds listed in PCMG investment accounts were ever invested. Park testified that he and Jones pooled the investor funds and used the funds as their own personal bank account. Park further testified that, if an investor requested a withdrawal from a PCMG investment account, Jones would cover the withdrawn amount by transferring money from funds deposited by other investors and available in the pooled PCMG account. Such withdrawal requests sometimes necessitated that Jones and/or Park solicit additional funds from new or existing investors to cover any shortfall.

In order to conceal the scheme from existing investors, and to encourage future investment in PCMG, Jones fabricated documents designed to deceive investors into believing that their funds were being actively traded and managed, and that PCMG was generating and meeting promised growth expectations. Specifically, Jones created and provided clients with fictitious investment documents, including stock purchase and sale confirmations, quarterly account statements, summaries of investments, IRS Form 1099s, and invoices for account maintenance fees and commissions, which were regularly transmitted to PCMG investors and others using the United States Mail, e-mail and facsimile transmissions, and in-person.

Park also testified that, in order to falsely reinforce the point that funds invested with PCMG were safe, Jones suggested that the seal of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) should be placed on fictitious PCMG stock purchase confirmations and quarterly investment statements that were regularly provided to investors. In fact, PCMG was not a member of the SIPC, and the SIPC provided no protection for PCMG investors. The unauthorized use of the SIPC seal on false PCMG investment documents was intended by Jones to deceive investors into believing that their investments were safe.

As part of her day-to-day operation of PCMG, Jones had unrestricted access to the bank accounts of PCMG. Evidence produced at sentencing showed that Jones used the funds deposited in the PCMG bank accounts to pay her personal expenses, including the purchase of approximately $19,000 in clothes, home renovations costing more than $300,000, and approximately $225,000 in cash withdrawals that were deposited into defendant's personal bank account.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Brentwood Police Department. The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys John K. Webb and Matt Everitt.

Former United Way Employee Indicted for Stealing Over $400,000 in Donations

BALTIMORE, MD—A federal grand jury indicted Dorothy Shields Talbot, age 48, of Baltimore, today for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal at least $400,788 in donations issued to her employer, United Way of Central Maryland.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the two count indictment, the United Way of Central Maryland was a non-profit charitable organization located in Baltimore. United Way received charitable donations and disbursed funds as directed by donors to support charities in the central Maryland area of Baltimore City and the counties of Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard. From September 2001 until December 2010, Talbot worked in United Way’s finance department and was responsible for depositing donations into a corporate operating bank account.

The indictment alleges that in December 2004, Talbot became responsible for closing a checking account that had been used for employee activities. Instead of closing that account, however, Talbot allegedly deposited donor checks issued to United Way into that account, rather than into the corporate operating account. Talbot caused the mailing address for the checking account to be changed from United Way’s office to her home. From December 2004 to December 2010, Talbot allegedly withdrew over $400,000 of the monies deposited into the checking account, which she used for her own personal benefit.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of $400,788 or more.

Talbot faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Talbot’s initial appearance has not been scheduled.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

This law enforcement action is part of 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.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the FBI for its work in the investigation and praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara S. Sale and Sean O’Connell, who are prosecuting the case.

Grocer and 2 employees arrested for food-stamp fraud

Local supermarket used to commit food-stamp fraud

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - The owner of a local dollar supermarket and two of his employees were arrested on Tuesday, after a federal grand jury indicted the three men for food-stamp fraud, and other charges. The arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Inspector General.

Parviz Sheikh Rezaei, 55, owner of Pariz Dollar Supermarket in Brownsville, Texas, was arrested April 26 on the following charges: fraud under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food-stamp fraud, wire fraud; money laundering; money structuring; and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. Gabriel Garza and Juan David Fernandez, employees of Pariz Dollar Supermarket, were also arrested on Tuesday for food stamp fraud. All three defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Felix Recio on April 26 and have been ordered temporarily detained until their arraignment April 29,. at which time the issue of bond will be decided.

"Aggressive prosecution of programmatic fraud is essential to safeguarding the benefits of deserving recipients," said U.S. Attorney Moreno. "Those who enrich themselves by preying on the less fortunate of our society should expect to be prosecuted."

The allegations in the indictment were filed under seal on April 12, and unsealed Wednesday following the appearance of the defendants. According to these court documents, Sheikh Rezaei repeatedly exchanged Lone Star card benefits from participants in the food stamp program for discounted amounts of cash, and then charged the government for the full value of the Lone Star card transaction. All three defendants are accused of conspiring together to defraud SNAP by engaging in similar illicit transactions with federal law enforcement agents working in an undercover capacity.

The SNAP program allocates federal funds to be administered by the states to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In 1995, the Health and Human Services Commission converted to an electronic benefit transfer system in Cameron County as a means to more effectively deliver SNAP benefits to program participants. Instead of paper food stamps, Texas participants were given electronic benefit transfer cards, known as Lone Star cards.

If convicted, fraud under SNAP is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, when, as alleged in this case, the benefits exceed a value of $5,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Cano, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

CBP Announces Delay in Rouses Point Boat Inspection Station Opening

Champlain, N.Y. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection today announced a delay in the opening of the Rouses Point, N.Y. boat inspection station located at the junction point of the Richelieu River in Quebec and the northwest corner of Lake Champlain.

The boat inspection station was scheduled to be opened April 29, but will be delayed until further notice due to high water levels in the inspection station area.

In the interim, boaters can report for CBP inspection at either Gaines Marina or Barcombs Marina. CBP Officers are available to inspect reporting boats from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In the event boaters report for inspection outside of this timeframe, they should contact the Champlain Port of Entry at (518) 298-8346.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

Baltimore Attorney Pleads Guilty to Distributing Child Pornography

Used a File Sharing Program to Distribute Child Pornography Over the Internet

BALTIMORE, MD—David Bart Goldstein, age 55, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to distributing child pornography.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; and Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.

According to Goldstein's plea agreement, on June 25, 2010, an undercover FBI agent in Newark, New Jersey, launched a publicly available file sharing program, and saw that Goldstein was logged in and was sharing approximately 1,476 files. The undercover agent downloaded 22 images and six videos from Goldstein's shared files. All of the downloaded images contained visual depictions of actual minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Further investigation revealed that in May 2010, Goldstein had paid $29.95 for access to the file sharing program.

As part of his plea agreement, Goldstein must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Goldstein faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison, followed by up to lifetime of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander, has scheduled sentencing for July 27, 2011 at 11:00 a.m.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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. Details about Maryland's program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and Bonnie S. Greenberg, who prosecuted the case.

CBP Announces Seasonal Opening of Cape Vincent, N.Y. Port of Entry

Alexandria Bay, N.Y. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection today announced that the Cape Vincent port of entry will open April 29 for the season, through October 31. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

The port works with the Horne’s Ferry Service that provides a ferry service to Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada during the open season of operation. The ferry, which is under contract to the Canadian Ministry of Transportation, transports vehicles, including buses and pedestrian passengers. CBP provides inspection services to the ferry dockside prior to the release of passengers and vehicles.

In compliance with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, implemented June 1, 2009, all travelers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens, need to present an approved travel document to enter the U.S. by land and sea. These documents include a valid Passport, U.S. Passport Card, trusted traveler card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST) or an enhanced driver’s license. Children under the age of 16 can present an original or copy of their birth certificate. ( getyouhome.gov )

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.

District Man Convicted of Receipt of Child Pornography

Arranged to Have Photos Taken and Mailed of Child in Guatemala

WASHINGTON—Byron Sanchez, 29, of Washington, D.C., has pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of receipt of child pornography.

The guilty plea, which took place April 27, 2011, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

Sanchez pled guilty before the Honorable Robert L. Wilkins. Sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2011. The defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years of incarceration, a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of up to $250,000.

According to a proffer of evidence presented during the plea proceedings, in February of 2011, the defendant, a Guatemalan national, instructed an adult female in Guatemala to take sexually explicit photographs of a 12-year-old child. He further instructed the adult to mail the roll of film to him at his home in Washington, D.C.

The adult female photographed the child, and sent the roll of film to the defendant from Guatemala to Washington, D.C. Sanchez dropped off the film at a CVS store in Washington, D.C. to be processed. Store employees at the store called the MPD to report possible images of child pornography, and an investigation led to the defendant’s arrest.

During a search of the defendant’s apartment, police found additional sexually explicit photographs of the same girl when she was 10 years old. Further investigation revealed that the defendant had requested nude images of the adult woman and the child on several occasions.

This case was brought as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative and investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes members of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and MPD.

Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Attorney General Breuer, Assistant Director McJunkin and Chief Lanier commended the work of all who participated in the investigation. They especially acknowledged the efforts of the MPD Detectives and Special Agents of the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force and the Transnational Anti-Gang Unit posted in Central America. Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Julieanne Himelstein, and Anitha Ibrahim, Trial Attorney in the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, who are prosecuting the case.

Two Indicted in Alabama for Filing False Income Tax Returns Using Stolen Identities

WASHINGTON – Alchico Grant and Melinda Clayton were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Alabama on a variety of charges stemming from an identity theft and tax fraud scheme, the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Leura G. Canary and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.   The 21-count indictment charges the two with filing false claims against the United States, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.   

Clayton had previously been arrested on a criminal complaint on April 8, 2011, following the execution of a search warrant at her house that same day.   Grant had been indicted, along with several co-conspirators, in December 2010, for his involvement in an earlier conspiracy to obtain tax refunds using stolen identities.   Grant was on pretrial release when indicted on the new charges.   At a hearing on April 28, 2011, Grant’s pretrial release was revoked and he was ordered detained.

According to the new indictment, Clayton and Grant fraudulently obtained tax refunds using stolen identities.   The two would illegally obtain identity information, file false tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds using the stolen identities and have the proceeds deposited into bank accounts and stored value card accounts they controlled.   Grant would purchase stored value cards that were used to receive proceeds from some of the false returns.       

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.   If convicted, Clayton and Grant both face a maximum of 189 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years.   If convicted, they will also face forfeiture of the proceeds of their crimes and mandatory restitution.     

The case was investigated by Special Agents of the IRS - Criminal Investigation.   Trial attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Morris are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Justice Department's Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.

N.J. high court bans police officers from destroying notes on interviews, crime scene observations

The Star Ledger
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 10:45 PM Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011, 8:43 AM
By MaryAnn Spoto/The Star-LedgerThe Star-Ledger


 TRENTON — The state Supreme Court today prohibited law enforcement officers from destroying the notes they take while interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects, saying defense attorneys should be allowed to view them so they can challenge official police reports.

The decision, by a divided court, addresses the decades-old struggle in New Jersey courtrooms of defense attorneys looking for possible errors, omissions or inconsistencies that could help their clients. When asked for their notes, officers often say it’s their department’s policy to destroy them once the official report is written.

The ruling is the latest of a number of decisions critical of cops’ note-taking procedures. But for the first time, the court imposes sanctions and includes notes about officers’ observations at a crime scene as part of the list of documents that can’t be destroyed.

"We need not take much time to state, once more, that law enforcement officers may not destroy contemporaneous notes of interviews and observations at the scene of a crime after producing their final reports," temporary justice Edwin Stern wrote for the majority. "Logically, because an officer’s notes may be of aid to the defense, the time has come to join other states that require the imposition of ‘an appropriate sanction’ whenever an officer’s written notes are not preserved."

The ruling said trial court judges will be able to instruct jurors that the destruction of notes by a police officer can be a factor in determining whether he or she is telling the truth.

"What you’re talking about is accountability. That’s what the Supreme Court is imposing on policing," said Jon Shane, a professor of criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "It’s saying you can’t have policing in a half-hearted manner. It has to be in a systematic manner."

Previous New Jersey court decisions directed police officers to retain their notes from interviews with witnesses, victims and suspects, but that rule has largely been ignored because defense attorneys had no way to press the issue, Shane said.

The Supreme Court gave the state Attorney General’s Office 30 days to inform local law enforcement officers and county prosecutors about the requirement.

"We got into this case to provide the court with a full context as to the potential abuses and practical difficulties attendant to preserving the rough notes of law enforcement officers," said Peter Aseltine, spokesman for Attorney General Paula Dow. "However, in light of today’s opinion, we will work with the county prosecutors to implement this policy."

Cranford Police Chief Eric Mason, president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said the requirement could be a state mandate that will cost local departments.

"On its face, this type of practice will require additional administrative review internally at a time when police departments are being asked to do more with less with deep cuts in personnel," Mason said.

Shane noted that New York City uses special notebooks that create duplicate copies of notes and require a supervisor’s signature as a protection against tampering.

The ruling grew out of an appeal by a man, identified in court papers as W.B., who was convicted of sexually assaulting his cousin, who later recanted her allegation.

By a 4-3 margin, the Supreme Court upheld W.B.’s conviction.


Justice Employees Celebrate Earth Day with Community Service

By Tracy Russo

Today, the Environment and Natural Resources Division celebrated Earth Day at a community service event at the new Marvin Gaye Community Greening Center in Washington, D.C.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno joined volunteers, community leaders, and the D.C- based Washington Parks and People organization to begin work on the neighborhood-based nursery for plants and an environmental education resource center.

Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Attorney General Cole stated:

“Earth Day is a reminder to all of us at the Department that we serve not only to protect the people of our country, but also its natural resources such as our lands, waters, air and wildlife, and the tremendous work of the Environment Division is essential to that mission.  The Division has contributed its expertise and hard work in a number of key areas, including the government’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil spill, important tribal matters and our overall efforts in advancing environmental justice, and I am grateful for their continued dedication.”

Assistant Attorney General Moreno said:

“I am proud of the meaningful results that we have achieved for the benefit of the American people over the past year.  In our work, we have not forgotten vulnerable communities and have taken concrete steps to make environmental justice a reality.”

This year marks the eighth consecutive Earth Day service celebration at Marvin Gaye Park.  In the last seven years, ENRD has devoted over 5,000 hours of employee time to planting trees, removing trash, laying sod and gardening.

The event also featured brief remarks by Steve Coleman, Director and President of Washington Parks and People and Lisa A. Hayes, Director of Development and Senior Counsel at the American Constitution Society of Law and Policy.  Ms. Hayes is the daughter of Earth Day Network founder Denis Hayes, who coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970.

Firefighter Fatality

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

Name: Michael C. Webb
Rank: Captain
Age: 46
Gender: Male
Status: Volunteer
Years of Service: 25+
Date of Incident: 04/26/2011
Time of Incident: 2130hrs
Date of Death: 04/27/2011

Fire Department: Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department
Address: 50 Rescue ST, Neon, KY 41840
Fire Department Chief: Carter Bevins

Incident Description: Fire Captain Webb passed away from an apparent heart attack at his home shortly after responding to an all-terrain vehicle accident in a mountainous area.
Incident Location: Millstone, KY

Funeral Arrangements: Pending. Carty Funeral Home, 1081 Highway 317, Neon, KY, 41840-9090. Phone: (606) 855-4493
Memorial Fund Contact and Address: In honor of Fire Captain Michael C. Webb, c/o Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, 50 Rescue ST, Neon, KY 41840.
Tribute is being paid to Captain Michael C. Webb at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/fatalities/

To date, 32 firefighter fatalities have been reported to USFA in 2011; 29 from incidents that occurred in 2011 and three from previous years’ 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.

Woodland Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charges

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that Christopher Tomsett, 44, of Woodland, pleaded guilty yesterday to receiving child pornography.

According to court documents, Tomsett came to the attention of law enforcement officials in March of 2010, when agents conducting peer-to-peer file sharing investigations noticed his computer as one that had a large number of child pornography files. A search warrant was executed on Tomsett's house in May 2010, and according to court documents, Tomsett admitted that he had downloaded images of child pornography and had been doing so for approximately one year.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn K. Delaney is prosecuting the case.

Tomsett is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr. on July 11, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. The maximum statutory penalty for receiving child pornography is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and a lifetime period of supervised release. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Former Dawson County Public Official Appears in Court on Federal Tax Evasion and Bankruptcy Fraud Charges

Becky McCord Accused of Embezzling Over $120,000 in Public Funds While Clerk of Court for Dawson County Superior Court

GAINESVILLE, GA—BECKY M. MCCORD, 62, of Dawsonville, Georgia, made an initial appearance in United States Magistrate Court today after being charged in a Criminal Information with federal tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud. McCORD, while working as the Clerk of Court for Dawson County Superior Court, is accused of stealing more than $120,000 of county monies and failing to pay taxes on those additional incomes.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Our citizens expect our courts and the people who work in them to be fair, honest, and to protect the public treasury as well as the community. This trusted court employee allegedly chose to use public funds as her personal piggy bank, and will now face the consequences for her actions.”

IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel said, “The IRS primarily enforces the nation’s tax laws, but also takes particular interest in cases where someone, for their own personal benefit, has taken what belonged to others. No matter what position a person has in government, it is unacceptable to help oneself to other people s money and violate the public trust. If a public official commits a crime, that status will not provide protection from federal prosecution.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta, said, “Ms. McCord's alleged criminal conduct as a public official is disconcerting in that cases such as this strike at the core of the public trust. The FBI remains committed to working with its law enforcement partners to ensure that those individuals who do betray the public trust in such a manner will be promptly investigated and presented for prosecution.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: McCORD served as the Clerk of Court for the Superior Court of Dawson County, Georgia, from 1993 to February 2010. Between 2006 and 2009, McCORD allegedly wrote and signed checks payable to herself from the Dawson County Superior Court’s bank account to which she was not entitled. The total amount of these checks approximated $134,000. McCORD is charged with subsequently cashing those checks at various banks in Dawsonville, and using the funds for personal expenses such as a car loan and mortgage payments.

According to the Criminal Information, McCORD did not report on her 2009 federal tax return the funds she withdrew from the Dawson County Superior Court’s bank account for personal use, nor did she report additional legitimate income that she received from the collection of passport fees. McCORD also allegedly failed to report this income on a bankruptcy petition that she filed jointly with her spouse in December 2007, and amended several times through June 2009.

McCORD was charged in a Criminal Information that was filed today in open court with one count of tax evasion for the 2009 tax year and one count of bankruptcy fraud. If convicted on the charges, she could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. In determining an appropriate sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. Grimberg and Stephanie Gabay-Smith are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

Blue Springs Man Indicted for Money Laundering

KANSAS CITY, MO—Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Blue Springs, Mo., man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for money laundering.

Thomas D. Hutchens, 40, of Blue Springs, was charged in an eight-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. That indictment was unsealed and made public today following Hutchens’ initial court appearance.

Today’s indictment alleges that Hutchens conducted financial transactions with money that his wife had embezzled from her employer. According to the indictment, Hutchens’ wife embezzled $824,394 between September 2004 and October 2008. During that time, the indictment says, they filed joint tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service and their adjusted gross income ranged from $1,886 to $62,731. Also during that time, the indictment says, $522,234 was deposited into Hutchens’ bank account.

Hutchens is charged with eight counts of engaging in monetary transactions with funds that he knew were derived from criminal activity.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the FBI and the Sugar Creek, Mo., Police Department.

Search Warrants and Arrest Warrants Executed on Organized Health Care Fraud Crime Ring

NEW ORLEANS, LA—Eight people were arrested and ten search warrants were executed in furtherance of an extensive investigation into alleged organized crime ring responsible for submitting over $12 million in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims, announced FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields, Office of Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services, Dallas Regional Office, Fred Duhy, Director, Louisiana Department of Justice, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and Buddy Caldwell, Louisiana State Attorney General.

Specifically, Aram Khlgation, age 55; Artem Gasparyan, age 46; Vadim Mysak, age 24; Daria Litvinova, age 24; Anahit Petrosyan, age 32; Dr. Jack Voight, age 79; Dr. Jerry Haskin, 78; and Joann Girod, age 38 - all residents of the Greater New Orleans area, were arrested pursuant to a federal criminal complaint charging health care fraud. Additionally, ten different metropolitan area locations were searched. All defendants remain in custody. Bond has been set as to Khlgation, Voight, Haskin and Girod. The remaining defendants' detention hearings are still pending.

According to the criminal complaint, the year-long investigation has determined that various metro-area clinics, and persons associated with these clinics, have submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid for medical services that were either not rendered or rendered without any underlying medical necessity as required by both Medicare and Medicaid regulations. During the course of the investigation, information was received that the clinics, through the physicians and others associated with the clinics, were submitting false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for diagnostic services that were not rendered or medically necessary. Further according to the complaint, information developed during the course of the investigation indicated that persons associated with the clinics were paying Amarketers@ and Arecruiters@ kickbacks for locating, referring and transporting patients to the clinics for the sole purpose of allowing the clinics to bill Medicare and Medicaid for procedures that either were not rendered or were not medically necessary. The complaint alleges that doctors gave prescriptions for scheduled pain medications for patients in return for undergoing the diagnostic tests and then these prescription medications were often then shared with the Amarketers@ and Arecruiters."

Louisiana State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stated:

"This joint investigation between state and federal agencies sends a loud message that Medicaid fraud will absolutely not be tolerated in Louisiana. The Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) will continue to aggressively pursue the individuals who choose to defraud Louisiana's Medicaid program and steal taxpayers' dollars."

Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein stated:

"Let me be clear. Our No. 1 priority is to ensure our resources are spent wisely on health care services. We are going to go after everyone who cheats our system and steals from taxpayers and those that need care the most: children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Now more than ever, a team effort is vital to success in combating health care fraud statewide and we are committed to working with our partners in this fight."

The public is reminded that a criminal complaint is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation is being conducted by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; and the Louisiana Department of Justice's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrice Harris Sullivan, G. Dall Kammer, and Jordan S. Ginsberg.

Former Executive Director of the Havre De Grace Housing Authority Sentenced for Bribery

BALTIMORE, MD—U.S. District Judge Williams D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced George R. Robinson, age 63, of Bel Air, Maryland, today to three years' probation, six months of which is to be served in a halfway house, for bribery of a public official. Judge Quarles also ordered Robinson to pay a fine of $1,200.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Special Agent in Charge Ken Taylor of the Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General - Office of Investigations.

According to his guilty plea, Robinson was Executive Director of the Havre de Grace Housing Authority (HDGHA) since 2002, and was responsible for its day-to-day operations, including the management of Somerset Manor, a 60 unit public housing project in Havre de Grace. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided rental subsidies which paid for the housing project’s capital expenditures and monthly operating expenses. Robinson was responsible for overseeing the spending of the rental subsidies, including obtaining bids and awarding contracts for improvements to the housing project.

According to the statement of facts, on May 28, 2009, Robinson was recorded by the FBI and HUD-Office of Inspector General (OIG) asking a contractor for a kickback of $1,200 from the $4,000 set aside to replace the kitchen faucets in all of the units at Somerset Manner. Robinson subsequently awarded the project to the contractor. On June 11, 2009, at a meeting that was videotaped, the contractor met Robinson at the housing project and gave Robinson a bank envelope containing $1,200 in cash. While counting the money Robinson made light of the fact that the contractor had shorted him by $100 on a prior occasion. The contractor advised authorities that there were other occasions when Robinson had asked for and received kickbacks as a precondition to allowing the contractor to make improvements at the housing project.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI and HUD-Office of Inspector General for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Martin J. Clarke, who prosecuted the case.

Cape Cod Gambling Group Charged with Illegal Gambling and Obstructing a State Law Enforcement Investigation

BOSTON, MA—An Information was filed charging ADAM HART, WILLIAM NEOFTISTOS and TIMOTHY REARDON with operating an illegal gambling business and conspiring to obstruct a Massachusetts State Police investigation into their activities. All the defendants have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with the government’s investigation.

HART and NEOFOTISTOS are charged in a two count Information with operating an illegal gambling business and obstruction of a state law enforcement investigation. REARDON is charged in the same Information with operating an illegal gambling business.

The Information alleges that HART, 84 of Dennisport, NEOFOTISTOS, 60 of Dennisport and REARDON, 32 of Barnstable operated an illegal gambling business from approximately 2000 through 2009. HART and NEOFOTISTOS allegedly conspired in late December 2006 through May 2007 to obstruct an investigation into their criminal activities by a state law enforcement agency. The Information also alleges forfeiture of more than $750,000.

In addition, HART, NEOFOTISTOS and REARDON have agreed to plead guilty to the charges and cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years on each count to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The defendants have also agreed to the forfeiture alleged in the Information.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Colonel Marian McGovern, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement today. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office conducted the initial investigation and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Fred M. Wyshak, Jr. and Robert A. Fisher of Ortiz’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit.

The details in the Information are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Former Mortgage Broker Sentenced for Mortgage Fraud

DAVENPORT, IA—Today, Mary Lee Reinking of Clinton, IA, a former mortgage broker with Crow Valley Mortgage in Bettendorf, Iowa, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Jarvey to five years' probation, including one-year home confinement, in connection with Reinking's previous guilty plea to one count of wire fraud. Reinking also was ordered to pay $97,343 in restitution.

Reinking and Natalie Long, another broker employed at Crow Valley Mortgage, assisted Darryl Hannken and Robert Herdrich in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders Argent Mortgage and New Century Mortgage in connection with loans to purchase two rental properties in Davenport, Iowa. Reinking and Long, aware that Hanneken and Herdrich would divert some of the loan proceeds to their own pockets without lender knowledge, facilitated the scheme by acting as broker for Herdrich and Hanneken. Reinking and Long also submitted false information concerning the income and financial assets of Herdrich and Hanneken in order to qualify them for the loans.

This fraud was uncovered as part of a broader FBI investigation of fraudulent mortgage practices in connection with the purchases of dozens of rental properties in Davenport between 2004 and 2006. Thus far, two mortgage brokers, a real estate agent, and two property buyers have pleaded guilty to fraud charges resulting from this investigation. Another mortgage broker and an attorney have been charged and are awaiting trial.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office, Southern District of Iowa.

ICE and CBP officials return pre-Columbian artifacts to Panama

WASHINGTON – Today at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters, ICE Director John Morton and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski repatriated 99 pre-Columbian artifacts seized as a result of operations by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and CBP in Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

"Sadly, the theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts is one of the oldest forms of organized cross-border crime," said ICE Director Morton. “While seizing, forfeiting and repatriating cultural artifacts like these is indeed reason for celebration, our long-term goal is to reduce the incentive for further destruction of ancient tombs and temples, where so many of these objects are dug up or chiseled off and pilfered."

"The joint efforts to identify and return such important Panamanian artifacts exemplify the outstanding level of cooperation and partnership between the Panama and the United States to fight different types of international crime and specifically to protect our historical patrimony and culture," said President Martinelli. "We remain committed to working closely with the United States to any necessary undertake measures to preserve our cultural heritage, and it is my sincere hope that efforts such as these will lead to the end the trafficking of illegal antiquities around the world."

"Customs and Border Protection is pleased to have partnered with ICE and the U.S. Attorney to help return these priceless artifacts to their lawful owner," said CBP Assistant Commissioner Winkowski. "Thanks to the dedication of the men and women of CBP, these artifacts will provide the people of Panama a key to their past."

These items, previously imported into the United States, were discovered as part of an investigation that began in 1998, under the U.S. Customs Service, an ICE legacy agency. The ICE attaché office in Panama received a tip from Panamanian investigators that a Panama Canal Commission employee was smuggling pre-Columbian artifacts out of Panama into the United States. Panamanian authorities advised that the individual exported four large shipping containers, manifested as household goods, to Oregon – containers that they believed contained pre-Columbian artifacts. A search of the containers revealed six Panamanian pre-Columbian artifacts, among other items. The artifacts were seized and returned to Panama.

Later that year, Panamanian investigators executed a search warrant at the employee's residence in Panama, during which 148 pre-Columbian artifacts were recovered. The employee was indicted in 2003 in Oregon for smuggling and conspiracy to transport, receive, possess, conceal and store stolen property. The individual pleaded guilty to smuggling and was sentenced to probation.

Two other individuals were also identified as part of the employee's conspiracy. ICE HSI agents intercepted shipments of pre-Columbian artifacts destined for the United States addressed to one of those individuals, a professor at a U.S. university. Both individuals were indicted for conspiracy to transport, receive, possess, conceal and store stolen property though the charges were ultimately dismissed. The professor agreed to turn over 99 Panamanian pre-Columbian artifacts that he illegally imported into the United States from Panama as part of the plea agreement. In 2005, ICE HSI agents in Los Angeles and Portland supervised the authentication, inventory and seizure of the 99 artifacts.

Valued at approximately $100,000, these artifacts represent a very complete sample of most of the pottery styles in pre-Columbian Panama from the period A.D. 1 through 1500. These are unique artifacts, made entirely by hand by Native American Indian potters, without use of a throwing wheel or mass production techniques. During this period in Panama, potters were considered specialists in their craft and presumably at the service of chiefs.

The confiscated materials were likely looted from graves in south-western Veraguas around the shores of the Gulf of Montijo. The repatriated items include three-legged grinding tables known as "metates" used for grinding maize kernels, pottery vessels and figurines, and pedestal plates.
ICE HSI plays a leading role in investigating crimes involving the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property. ICE HSI uses its investigative authority to seize cultural property items if they were illegally imported into the United States. It also investigates the illegal trafficking of artwork, especially works that have been reported lost or stolen. ICE's Office of International Affairs, through its 69 attaché offices in 47 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations, when possible.

ICE HSI agents undergo special training sessions funded by the State Department and held at the Smithsonian museums and research facilities before they begin working cultural property cases. Smithsonian staff provided behind-the-scenes introduction to objects from regions that are at greatest risk of looting and trafficking, as well as practical skills training in handling, photographing, recording and packing objects.

More than 2,300 artifacts have been returned to 18 countries since 2007 including paintings from France, Germany and Austria, an 18th century manuscript from Italy, and a bookmark belonging to Hitler as well as cultural artifacts from Iraq including Babylonian, Sumerian, and neo-Assyrian items.

Agencies involved in the seizure and investigation of the items being repatriated today include ICE HSI and CBP in Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.

CBP is the nation's lead border security agency and is charged with enforcing hundreds of laws at and between our nation's 327 international ports of entry. As part of that mission, CBP enforces bi-lateral agreements and import restrictions on certain foreign cultural property and archaeological materials. CBP works closely with ICE and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to prevent the illegal trade and trafficking of cultural antiquities. CBP partners with ICE to ensure that illegally traded and trafficked antiquities are returned to their rightful owners.