Criminal Justice News

Monday, October 31, 2011

ICE announces results of 'Operation Strike Out'

Massive sports memorabilia bootlegging: just another day on the job for American police officers! Get the latest and best police news as it happens!

WASHINGTON - With the conclusion of Major League Baseball's 2011 World Series, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) have announced the results of "Operation Strike Out." This one-month operation, which commenced at the beginning of the American League and National League Championship Series, has resulted in the seizure of 58 commercial websites that sold and distributed counterfeit sports paraphernalia. HSI special agents have also seized 5,347 items with a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $134,862.

"HSI and the IPR Center have made a major dent in these criminals' plans to profit from fan enthusiasm surrounding a very exciting seven-game World Series - both in U.S. cities and in cyberspace," said ICE Director John Morton. "Counterfeits products represent a triple threat by delivering shoddy and sometimes dangerous goods into commerce, by funding organized criminal activities, and by denying Americans good-paying jobs. Homeland Security Investigations and our partners at the IPR Center will continue to work together to keep all types of counterfeit products off our streets."

Website seizures
The seizure of the 58 domain names is the seventh phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet. In June 2010, the IPR Center began "Operation In Our Sites." Since the launch of this operation in June 2010, the IPR Center has seized a total of 200 domain names and redirected those domain names to a seizure banner.

Previous website seizures include:

•First phase: 10 domain names
•Second phase: 82 domain names
•Third phase: 10 domain names
•Fourth phase: 18 domain names
•Fifth phase: 5 domain names
•Sixth phase: 17 domain names

The 58 domain names seized in this phase of "Operation In Our Sites," were all commercial websites engaged in illegally selling and distributing counterfeit sports paraphernalia. During the course of the operation, federal law enforcement agents made undercover purchases of sport jerseys from online retailers suspected of selling counterfeit goods.

Once the materials were confirmed to be counterfeit or otherwise illegal, ICE HSI special agents obtained seizure orders from federal magistrate judges for the domain names of the websites that sold or distributed the items. In most instances, the counterfeit goods were shipped directly into the United States from suppliers in other countries using international express mail. The 58 websites have all been shut down and now show a banner stating that the domain name of that website has been seized by federal authorities. The seizure banner on the seized sites has received nearly 75 million individual views.

The seized counterfeit items infringed on the copyrights or trademarks owned by: Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and the National Hockey League.

Eighty-six of the 200 domain names seized have now been forfeited to the United States government. Through the forfeiture process, individuals who have an interest in the seized domain names are provided a period of time after the "Notice of Seizure" to file a petition with a federal court and additional time after the "Notice of Forfeiture" to contest the forfeiture. If no petitions or claims are filed, the domain names become property of the U.S. government.

In April 2011, the IPR Center launched a public service announcement (PSA) that appears on each of the 86 forfeited domain names. This video has received nearly 200,000 individual views on ICE's YouTube page, educating the public about the economic impact of trademark counterfeiting and copyright infringement. The PSA helps deter future crimes and raises awareness.

The "Operation In Our Sites" portion of "Operation Strike Out" was spearheaded by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center); as well as HSI offices in Baltimore; Denver; Detroit; El Paso, Texas; Houston; Seattle; St. Paul, Minn.; and in coordination with the following U.S. Attorneys' Offices: Southern District of Texas, District of Colorado, Eastern District of Michigan, Western District of Washington, Western District of Texas, District of Minnesota and District of Maryland.

Last week, "Operation In Our Sites" received recognition by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The IPR Center received an IACP Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigation for its work in targeting counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. The award recognizes quality achievement and innovation in managing and conducting criminal investigations with the goal of sharing information to advance the art and science of criminal investigations.

'Hard goods' seizures
ICE HSI special agents operated in multiple teams to identify stores and vendors selling counterfeit trademarked items. These teams - operating in Dallas; Detroit; Milwaukee, Wis.; and St. Louis - have seized 5,347 items of phony World Series-related memorabilia along with other counterfeit Major League Baseball and sports related items to date totaling $134,862. Ball caps, t-shirts, jackets, tickets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated. Three individuals were also arrested on federal and state counterfeiting violations.

The breakdown of seized items include:

•Dallas: 270 items with an MSRP of $6,934
•Detroit: 913 items with an MSRP of $16,120
•Milwaukee: 106 items with an MSRP of $3,180
•St. Louis: 4,058 items with an MSRP of $108,628

IPR Center
The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

Porsche 930 Turbo Stolen 23 Years Ago Recovered By CBP in Los Angeles

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The Vehicle Was Found Inside of a Container Bound to the Netherlands

Los Angeles — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers assigned to the Outbound Enforcement Team (OET) at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport seized a 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo which was reported stolen in Las Vegas, Nevada nearly 23 years ago.

CBP officers discovered the vehicle after targeting and examining a container scheduled to be exported to the Netherlands. While querying the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) information in law enforcement databases, CBP officers discovered that the vehicle was reported stolen on November 24, 1988.

CBP officers contacted state authorities who confirmed that the stolen record for the 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo was still active. On October 25, the vehicle was seized and released to those authorities for return to the insurance company who currently owns the title. 

“CBP maintains an aggressive approach in detecting and intercepting shipments containing stolen cargo heading overseas,” said Todd C. Owen, CBP director of field operations in Los Angeles. “This seizure is a prime example of how CBP’s outbound team combines intelligence, expertise and strategic targeting to recover stolen vehicles.”

The seized vehicle’s manifest was undervalued at $12,552 whereas CBP import specialists estimated the value of this collector’s edition without its engine as approximately $27,552. 

From October 2010 to August 2011, CBP/OET at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport seized 51 vehicles and 49 engines heading overseas. Of that total, 24 were stolen, 63 were undeclared, seven were undervalued and six had fraudulent documents. The combined estimated value is $1.8 million.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border law enforcement 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.

Wanted Bank Robber is Arrested After Tip from the Public

BOSTON—Last night, the Tewksbury Police Department announced the arrest of a wanted bank robber who was being sought by Tewksbury and Woburn Police and the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force.

On October 27, 2011, the FBI issued a joint press release seeking the public’s assistance to identify the individual allegedly responsible for robbing the RTN Federal Credit Union on September 16, 2011.

On October 28, 2011, after receiving a tip resulting from a media report about the alleged robber, the agencies conducted a joint investigation that led to the arrest of Kenneth Kelley of Tewksbury Massachusetts. The Tewksbury Police arrested him on state charges relating to the alleged robbery of RTN Federal Credit Union.

The agencies who worked on this case are extremely grateful for those who provided the tip. Cooperation from the public is law enforcement’s best ally to prevent, detect, and deter crime.
The Tewksbury Police issued a press release about the arrest and further inquiries about the charges should be directed to the Tewksbury Police Department.

Belvidere Man Pleads Guilty to Robbery of Harris Bank in Belvidere

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ROCKFORD, IL—A Belvidere man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to bank robbery. The defendant, Carlos Harris, 39, of Belvidere, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard to the robbery of Harris N.A., 401 Southtowne Drive, Belvidere, Illinois, on Mar. 26, 2011.

According to the written plea agreement, the defendant entered Harris bank on Mar. 26th, wearing a tan Carhartt jacket, approached a teller at the counter, and slid a note with both hands to the teller demanding $50s and $20s and stating he had a gun. Harris then placed his right hand in his jacket pocket and moved it to the top of the teller counter, still in his pocket. After the teller removed cash from the drawer and placed it on the counter, Harris grabbed the cash, put it in his pockets and left the bank.

Harris has been in federal custody since his arrest later that same day. Sentencing has been set for February 23, 2012, at 9:00 a.m.

Bank robbery carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and full restitution. The court must impose a reasonable sentence guided by the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The guilty plea was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Belvidere Police Department assisted in the investigation and arrest of Harris.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

Hardin County Man Sentenced for Child Pornography Violations

BEAUMONT, TX—A 29-year-old Lumberton, Texas man has been sentenced to federal prison for child pornography violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Christopher Lee Alsup pleaded guilty on June 27, 2011, to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison on Oct. 26, 2011, by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.

According to information presented in court, on Sep. 24, 2009, a federal search warrant was executed at Alsup’s residence and law enforcement officers seized computer hardware and software. A forensic examination of the seized items was conducted and found to contain over 60 video files and over 846 images of child pornography. Some of the images depicted prepubescent minors under the age of 12 engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and some of the images are considered sadistic or masochistic. Alsup was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 3, 2010, and charged with child pornography violations.

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 projectsafechildhood.gov.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall L. Fluke.

Twelve Indicted for Alleged Drug Trafficking in Odessa Area

Twelve Indicted for Alleged Drug Trafficking in Odessa Area

United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Joseph D. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration - El Paso Division, announced that 12 individuals have been indicted, 10 of whom are now in custody, on cocaine trafficking charges.

Those individuals arrested by federal, state, and local authorities yesterday include:

·         Herman Chavez, age 23, of Odessa, Texas;
·         Manuel Muro, age 28, of Odessa;
·         Saul Melendez, age 20, of Odessa;
·         Gilbert Alvarez, age 25, of Odessa;
·         Guadalupe Venegas, age 40, of Odessa;
·         Alfonso Gomez, age 34, of Odessa; and
·         Manuel Pando, age 31, of Odessa.

Three other defendants in this case, who were already in custody prior to yesterday’s arrests, include: 51-year-old Osvelia Rodriguez, of Pecos, Texas; 30-year-old Daisy Castor, of Odessa; and 38-year-old Jesus Astorga Samaniego, of Odessa.

Two co-defendants—33-year-old Ruby Castor Montoya, of El Paso, Texas; and 53-year-old Arlina Galbaldon Castor, of Odessa—remain fugitives.

Two federal grand jury indictments, returned on Wednesday, charge the defendants with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. To date, law enforcement operations conducted in the Odessa area during this investigation have resulted in the seizure of approximately 2.5 kilograms of cocaine, $214,000 in cash, and a dozen vehicles.

“This year-long investigation, which resulted in the dismantlement of an organization responsible for distributing large amounts of cocaine in Odessa, exemplifies the outstanding cooperation we have among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in West Texas. We will continue to work together to target these organizations by seizing their drugs and illicit proceeds, shutting down their operations, and bringing their members to justice,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division.

The case was investigated by the DEA, Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Police Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Austin M. Berry is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States. An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Alabama Man Sentenced for Bank Robbery and Possession of a Firearm in Beaumont

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BEAUMONT, TX—A 26-year-old Mobile, Alabama man has been sentenced to federal prison bank robbery and firearms violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.

Patrick Orr was convicted on May 19, 2011, of armed bank robbery and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and was sentenced to 308 months in federal prison on Oct. 26, 2011, by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.

According to information presented in court, Orr and other individuals drove from Mobile, Alabama to Beaumont in stolen vehicles. On July 15, 2010, Orr entered the Wells Fargo Bank, formerly known as Wachovia Bank, brandished a firearm and demanded money from bank employees. A customer was injured by bullet fragments during the robbery when Orr fired a warning shot. Orr fled the bank in a stolen Hummer, which was later found abandoned in a wooded area in Beaumont. Orr and the other individuals traveled back to Mobile in a second stolen vehicle. Orr was apprehended with a co-defendant in Mobile on July 18, 2010, driving a third stolen vehicle.

Orr will serve his prison sentence consecutive with a current sentence he is serving in the Southern District of Alabama.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Beaumont Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Englade.

Nogales CBP Officers Seize more than $2 Million in Marijuana

Nogales, Ariz. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the Tucson Field Office, a component of the Customs and Border Protection’s Joint Field Command – Arizona, seized a significant load of marijuana at the Mariposa Port of Entry.

Officers screening travelers and vehicles coming into the country Tuesday selected a 2008 Bobtail truck entering through the passenger vehicle lanes for inspection. On the way to an inspection dock, the truck began showing mechanical problems, requiring officers to search for the cause of the vehicle’s problem before the truck could get to the inspection area. During the examination, officers discovered bundles of marijuana concealed in the truck’s cargo compartment. The narcotics, weighing more than 4,100 pounds and worth almost $2,074,000, were seized along with the vehicle. The driver, a 46-year-old male from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico was arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. ICE HSI special agents also detained a second person (who was not in the vehicle) in connection with the investigation. 

Individuals arrested are charged with a criminal complaint, which raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

CBP's Office of Field Operations is the primary organization within Homeland Security tasked with an anti-terrorism mission at our nation’s ports. OFO officers screen all people, vehicles and goods entering the United States while facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and travel. Their mission also includes carrying out border-related duties, including narcotics interdiction, enforcing immigration and trade laws, and protecting the nation's food supply and agriculture industry from pests and diseases.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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.

Local Defense Attorney and Others Arrested in Connection with Scheme to Obstruct Justice

HOUSTON—Abraham Moses Fisch, 52, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, has been arrested on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and failure to file tax returns, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Stephen L. Morris, special agent in charge of the FBI, and Lucy Cruz, special agent in-charge of Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). Fisch and his wife, Monica Bertman, 60, were arrested just minutes ago and are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy later today.

The indictment was returned under seal Oct. 19, 2011. On Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, the 21-count indictment was partially unsealed as to a third defendant, Lloyd Glen Williams, 67, a former used car financier. Upon the arrest of Fisch and Bertman today, the indictment was unsealed in its entirety.

The indictment alleges that from August 2006 to Oct. 19, 2011, Fisch, Williams, and Bertman conspired to defraud defendants who were facing federal criminal charges in Houston. The indictment states that the fraud was perpetrated in at least five different federal criminal cases including U.S. v. Edilberto Portillo, et al. (H-06-182), U.S. v. Joey Herrera, et al. (H-07-038), U.S. v. Umawa Oke Imo, et al. (H-09-426) and U.S. v. Clifford Ubani and Princewill Njoku, et al. (H-09-421 and H-10-416).

According to the indictment, Williams, although not an attorney, held himself out as someone who could resolve criminal cases through his contacts with government officials. Williams, Fisch, and Bertman worked together to solicit federal criminal defendants as clients under false pretenses. They claimed to the defendants that Williams had the power to cause their criminal charges to be dismissed or their sentence reduced if they would hire Fisch as their attorney, pay a large sum of money to Fisch and Williams and then provide Williams with information about their crimes. Williams claimed he would then pass that information along to contacts in various federal agencies. In return, Williams claimed his contacts would cause the criminal charges against the defendants to be dismissed or their sentences reduced.

According to the indictment, Williams claimed to the defrauded defendants that his alleged contacts were high-level government officials within the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, Williams, Fisch, and Bertman falsely stated to some defendants that government officials were being bribed on behalf of the defendants with the funds the defendants had paid to Williams and Fisch. According to the indictment, however, no government officials received bribes and Williams’ supposed contacts were either retired government officials, were not in contact with Williams or otherwise had no ability or willingness to influence the outcome of a defendant’s case.

Williams and Fisch, the indictment alleges, undermined the functioning of the federal justice system by: (1) misleading defendants about the nature of the cooperation process with the government and interfering with defendants’ cooperation with the government, including failing to pass information from a defendant to the government; (2) interfering with plea negotiations with the government by preventing defendants from timely entering guilty pleas because of the mistaken belief their case was going to be dismissed; (3) interfering with defendants’ relationships with former and subsequent counsel, including communicating with represented defendants unbeknownst to their legitimate counsel, causing defendants to fire former counsel, causing defendants not to communicate fully and truthfully with their attorneys and causing defendants not to assist their attorneys in preparing their defense or in negotiating guilty pleas; and (4) insisting that defendants keep the nature of Williams’ so-called “assistance” secret from the court, the government and other attorneys.

In addition, the indictment charges Williams and Fisch with money laundering based on their deposits of the funds they earned from this scheme, which totaled at least $1,480,000. The United States is seeking forfeiture of that amount as money derived from the criminal activity. The indictment also charges Fisch with failing to timely file tax returns each year during the period that he obtained money from this scheme, specifically 2006 through 2010.

If convicted, Fisch faces a prison term of five years imprisonment for the conspiracy charge, 10 years on each of the four counts of obstruction of justice, 10 years for each of the nine counts of money laundering, 10 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one year for each of the five counts of failure to file tax returns in addition to substantial monetary fines. Bertman faces a maximum five years and 10 years, respectively, if convicted of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice in addition to a $250,000 fine.

Two days subsequent to his arrest, on Oct. 26, 2011, Williams entered a plea of guilty to counts one and 21 of the indictment that alleged knowingly conspiring to corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct, and impede the due administration of justice and willfully making and subscribing to a materially false 2007 Income Tax Return. For these convictions, he faces a maximum possible punishment of five years for the conspiracy charge and three years in prison for filing a false tax return as well as a $250,000 fine.

The investigation that led to this indictment and the arrests and plea was conducted by the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Johnson of the Southern District of Texas.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Earliest Human Occupations in Maine Revealed at Open House

Bridgewater, Maine — Last night, Northeast Archaeology Research Center presented their findings from a Native American encampment and the remains of an early 19th century mill hamlet that were discovered during the modernization project at the Bridgewater, Maine, land port of entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Field Operations Facilities Program Management Office hosted an open house to share the information with the public.

During the two-hour event, attendees learned about the historic findings, and were given an opportunity to discuss the artifacts with representatives of the archaeological team. Some of the artifacts were also available for viewing.

Following federal and state legislative requirements, including the National Historic Preservation Act, CBP coordinated with state regulators and interested parties to conduct archaeological excavations from 2009 to 2011 to research and recover information about the history of the Bridgewater, Maine, area.

Investigations in the project area led to the identification of a Native American site dating to the Early Archaic period, approximately 7,000-6,000 B.C. and three separate areas contained stone tools, flakes from making stone tools and fire-cracked rocks. This site represents one of the earliest human occupations in the Prestile Stream drainage in Maine.

Further excavation in the project area also exposed tens of thousands of historic artifacts that are reflective of the early 19th century life in the hamlet. The wide range of artifacts revealed the domestic and working life at the hamlet, and included cutlery and ceramics.

The majority of the artifacts will be placed in long-term curation at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a small set of artifacts being used for research and educational purposes.

The Bridgewater port of entry was originally constructed in 1975. Since then, there have been limited renovations, and a modernization project for the facility is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is currently underway to meet modern operational, safety and technological requirements. Key elements of the Bridgewater modernization project include inbound and outbound lane systems that support inspection technologies.

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress appropriated $420 million to the Department of Homeland Security for the modernization of CBP-owned land ports of entry. This funding is supporting the replacement and modernization of 35 ports of entry along the Northern and Southern border of the U.S., including the Bridgewater LPOE. Construction of the Bridgewater port began in May 2011 and is expected to be complete in fall 2012.

For more information about the ARRA funded CBP modernization projects, please visit CBP.gov and Recovery.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.

Defendant Who Received Child Pornography Pleads Guilty

Defendant Pleads Guilty to Receiving Numerous Images of Child Pornography

ALBANY—United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Clifford C. Holly, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Albany Division, announced that JASON BURNASH, age 30, of Rensselaer, New York, pled guilty on October 27, 2011 in United States District Court in Albany before District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy to one count of receiving child pornography.

BURNASH admitted that beginning in about January 2010 and continuing until about February 5, 2011, he received numerous electronic still images and one video of child pornography from a variety of child pornography websites and sources. BURNASH further admitted that once he received said images, he saved some of them onto his laptop computer.

Sentencing was scheduled by Judge McAvoy for March 12, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Albany, New York. BURNASH faces a maximum penalty of 20 years of imprisonment, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. BURNASH was released pending his sentencing.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Rensselaer Police Department.

LOCAL CONTACT:
Rick Belliss
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Tel: (518) 431-0247

FBI Executive Discusses Cyber Threat

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FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry discussed the FBI’s response to cyber threats at the recent conference for the Information Systems Security Association in Baltimore, Maryland.

“I believe the cyber threat is an existential one, meaning that a major cyber attack could potentially wipe out whole companies. It could shut down our electric grid or water supply,” said Henry, head of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “It could cause serious damage to parts of our cities, and ultimately even kill people. While it may sound alarmist, the threat is incredibly real, and intrusions into corporate networks, personal computers, and government systems are occurring every single day by the thousands.”

In his speech, Henry described how the FBI is addressing the threats, and working with law enforcement partners around the world.

“I’m pleased to say we’re having success,” he said. “In 2010, we arrested 202 criminals specifically for cyber intrusion—up from 159 in 2009. In addition, our foreign law enforcement partners made dozens and dozens of arrests last year based on intelligence we’ve shared with them. And we obtained a record level of financial judgments for those cases in excess of $100 million.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Website operator indicted for illegally streaming copyrighted sporting events

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Site was seized during third phase of "Operation In Our Sites"

NEW YORK — The operator of a website that allegedly streamed live, copyrighted sporting events on the Internet illegally was indicted on Oct. 22, 2011, for criminal infringement of a copyright.

Bryan McCarthy, 32, of Deer Park, Texas, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one substantive count of criminal infringement of copyright. The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).

"McCarthy will now have to answer for allegedly stealing a product that never belonged to him. He knew and should have known the events being broadcast were copyright-protected," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI in New York. "American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material. We will continue to target those who steal the ideas of legitimate and creative businesses."

According to the indictment, between 2005 and Jan. 31, 2011, McCarthy operated channelsurfing.net and provided links on that website to various live streams of copyright-protected sporting event telecasts without authorization, such as a telecast of a basketball game that was protected by a copyright held by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

On Feb. 1, 2011, HSI agents seized channelsurfing.net, as part of an ongoing ICE HSI investigation into websites that illegally streamed copyrighted sporting telecasts and pay-per-view events. The investigation into McCarthy revealed that he made more than $90,000 in profits from online merchants who paid him to advertise on the website. Since the seizure, the website has been redirected to a seizure banner, which has received more than 1.3 million hits. The seizure banner notifies website visitors that a federal court order has been issued for the domain name and explains that willful copyright is a federal crime.

According to the seizure affidavit, channelsurfing.net was an online portal to pirated telecasts of sporting events of the National Football League, the NBA, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. All of these organizations hold the copyrights to the televised broadcasts of their respective sporting events.

Visitors to channelsurfing.net would simply click on one of a number of links to begin the process of downloading or streaming an illegal broadcast of a sporting event. The website contained links to various live television channels as well.

McCarthy registered the channelsurfing.net domain name in December 2005 and operated the website out of his home in Texas until the time of its seizure. At the time it was seized, channelsurfing.net was one of the most popular websites that streamed illegal content.

If convicted on the charges in the indictment, McCarthy faces a maximum of five years in prison. This case is being handled by the Southern District of New York's Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Frey is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit IPRCenter.gov.

Waco and Temple Bank Robber Sentenced to 100 Years in Federal Prison

United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced that in Waco this afternoon, United States District Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr., sentenced 49-year-old Benjamin Alexander Potts of Dallas, Texas, to 100 years in federal prison and ordered that he pay $518,726.13 restitution for committing two bank robberies in February.

On August 23, 2011, a jury convicted Potts of two counts of bank robbery and two counts of using a firearm during a bank robbery. Based on evidence presented in court, jurors found that on February 2, 2010, Potts, together with co-defendant 49-year-old Ronald Keith Kelley of Dallas, robbed the Independent Bank located on Bosque Boulevard in Waco. Jurors also found that nine days later Potts and Kelly robbed the Bank of America located on South General Bruce Drive in Temple, Texas. Both robberies were carried out at gunpoint.

At sentencing, Judge Smith sentenced Potts to 300 months in federal prison on each of the four counts he was convicted of—all to run consecutively.

Last October, Judge Smith sentenced Kelley to 51 years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with the Waco and Temple Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorney Greg Gloff is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

FBI and San Diego Sheriff’s Department Seek Public’s Assistance to Identify Wells Fargo Bank Robber

The FBI and San Diego Sheriff’s Department are seeking the public’s assistance to identify an unknown male responsible for robbing the Wells Fargo Bank, located inside of the Food 4 Less grocery store, 500 Hacienda Drive, Vista, California.

On Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at approximately 5:52 p.m., an unknown male robbed the Wells Fargo Bank, located inside of the Food 4 Less grocery store, 500 Hacienda Drive, Vista, California. At the time of the robbery, the suspect entered the grocery store and walked towards the bank. The robber waited in line until called by a teller. Upon arriving at the teller station, the robber made a verbal demand for money, demanding specific denominations. The robber placed the money inside of a brown cloth bag. After receiving a sum of money the robber exited the grocery store. No weapon was observed and no injuries reported.

Witnesses describe the robber as follows:

Sex: Male
Race: White
Age: Approximately 30 to 40 years old
Height: Approximately 5’6” tall
Weight: Approximately 140 lbs.
Build: Thin
Hair: Blond or brown
Clothing: Brown polo shirt, brown baseball cap with yellow embroidered writing, denim jeans

Anyone with information concerning this robbery is asked to contact the FBI at telephone number (858) 565-1255 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. You may remain anonymous by calling the FBI or Crime Stoppers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Navajo Man Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Federal Assault Conviction

SANTA FE—U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that this morning, Tony Curtis Jr., 38, was sentenced to a 15-month term of imprisonment to be followed by two years of supervised release for his federal assault conviction. Curtis, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, also is required to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Northern Navajo Medical Center to cover the costs of medical care provided to the victim of his assault.

Curtis was charged with assaulting a 22-year-old Navajo man by hitting him in the head with a sledge hammer on July 30, 2010 on property located within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. The two-count indictment charged Curtis with (1) assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and (2) assault with a dangerous weapon. On April 21, 2011, a federal jury found Curtis guilty of Count 1, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, after a three-day trial, but was unable to reach a verdict on Count 2.

The evidence presented at trial established that, on the evening of July 30, 2010, Curtis bludgeoned the victim in the head using a three-pound, hand-held sledge hammer. The blow hit the victim on the left temple area causing a depressed skull fracture—an injury that required surgical repair. The assault occurred in Ya-Ta-Hey, N.M., a small community located about 10 miles north of Gallup on the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Curtis was remanded into federal custody after the jury returned its guilty verdict.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jack E. Burkhead and Jennifer M. Rozzoni.

Archaeological Discoveries at Bridgewater Port to be Discussed at Open House

Bridgewater, ME — U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Field Operations Facilities Program Management Office plans to host an Open House at the Bridgewater Civic Building, 399 Main Road, Bridgewater, Maine on Tuesday, Oct. 25 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The Northeast Archaeology Research Center will present their findings from a Native American encampment and a 19th century mill hamlet discovered at the CBP Bridgewater, Maine land port of entry (LPOE).

The Bridgewater LPOE was originally constructed in 1975. Since then, there have been limited renovations, and a modernization project for the facility is currently, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is currently underway to meet modern operational, safety and technological requirements. Key elements of the Bridgewater LPOE modernization project include inbound and outbound lane systems that support inspection technologies..

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress appropriated $420 million to the Department of Homeland Security for the modernization of CBP-owned LPOEs. This funding is supporting the replacement and modernization of 35 ports of entry along the Northern and Southern border of the United States, including the Bridgewater LPOE. Construction of the Bridgewater LPOE began in May 2011 and is expected to be complete in fall 2012.

During tomorrow’s Open House, attendees will have an opportunity to discuss the artifacts with representatives of the archaeological team. Interested parties are encouraged to come at any time during the two-hour event to learn about the historic findings, and to present their questions and comments to the team.

For more information about the ARRA funded CBP modernization projects, please visit the attached sites cbp.gov and recovery.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 border 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.

Former Abramoff Colleague Kevin Ring Sentenced to 20 Months in Prison for Conspiracy, Honest Services Fraud, and Payment of Gratuities Related to Illegal Lobbying Scheme

WASHINGTON—Kevin A. Ring, a former lobbyist who worked with Jack A. Abramoff, was sentenced today to 20 months in prison for his role in a scheme to corrupt public officials by providing an illegal stream of things of value, including vacations, employment for a congressman’s wife, meals, drinks, and high-priced tickets to exclusive concerts and sporting events, the Department of Justice announced.

Ring, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in the District of Columbia. Judge Huvelle also sentenced Ring to 30 months of supervised release following his prison term.

On Nov. 15, 2010, a jury convicted former lobbyist Ring of corrupting public officials. The jury found Ring guilty on one count of conspiring to corrupt congressional and executive branch officials by providing things of value to them and their staff members in order to induce or reward those who took official actions benefitting Ring and his clients. In addition, Ring was convicted of one count of paying a gratuity to a public official and three counts of honest services wire fraud for engaging in a scheme to deprive U.S. citizens of their right to the honest services of certain public officials. The jury acquitted Ring on three counts of honest services fraud. A previous federal jury failed to reach a verdict in the case and the court declared a mistrial.

According to evidence presented at trial, as a lobbyist working in Washington, D.C., Ring solicited and obtained business throughout the United States, including with Native American tribal governments operating and interested in operating gambling casinos. Trial testimony established that Ring sought to further his clients’ interests by lobbying public officials in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Evidence at trial established Ring to be the “COO of Team Abramoff,” and at one of his sentencing hearings, the court also found that evidence at trial established that Ring was a supervisor of the conspiracy.

Ring and his co-conspirators identified public officials who would perform official actions that would assist Ring and his clients, and then groomed those public officials by providing things of value with the intent of making those public officials more receptive to requests on behalf of their clients in the future. These things of value included all-expenses-paid travel, meals, drinks, golf outings, tickets to professional sporting events, concerts and other events, and an employment opportunity for the wife of a congressman. According to evidence introduced at trial, these things of value were often billed to Ring’s and Abramoff’s clients. Evidence established that Ring and his co-conspirators engaged in this illegal conduct with current and former congressional staff members, including chiefs of staff, as well as officials at the Department of Justice and the White House.

Evidence at trial demonstrated the nature of Ring’s lobbying efforts and his attempts to corrupt and reward public officials. In one e-mail message, Ring instructed his co-conspirators to “thank your friends on the Hill and in the Administration. In fact, thank them over and over again this week—preferably for long periods of time and at expensive establishments.” On another occasion, Ring described to a co-conspirator lobbyist what he expected of a public official who had attended a sporting event: “Glad he got a chance to relax. Now he can pay us back.” Similarly, Ring e-mailed a co-conspirator public official and stated: “You are going to eat free off our clients. Need to get us some [appropriations] money.” Testimony at trial from Ring’s co-conspirators described Ring joking about corrupting public officials by saying, “Hello quid, where’s the pro quo.”

Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Ring corruptly sought assistance from public officials on numerous client projects, such as appropriations and authorizations, congressional letters to executive branch entities, as well as meetings and other legislative and official actions. Evidence at trial showed that Ring corruptly sought, among other actions, $14 million in congressional transportation appropriations and an additional $7 million from the Department of Justice to build a jail.

Ring remains charged with an additional two counts of obstructing justice. Those charges stem from alleged efforts by Ring to thwart criminal and congressional investigations by preventing the reporting of his criminal conduct to federal authorities. The court severed those two counts and Ring is scheduled to stand trial at a later date. Ring is presumed innocent of these charges until proven guilty in a court of law.

To date, 20 individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial in connection with the investigation into the activities of Abramoff and his associates. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services fraud, and tax evasion. He was sentenced in September 2008 to 48 months in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Nathaniel B. Edmonds of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Deputy Chief Peter Koski of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The investigation of this case is being conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2 additional NinjaVideo top administrators plead guilty to criminal copyright conspiracy

WASHINGTON — A Washington state man and an Oregon man pleaded guilty on Tuesday for their roles in NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download infringing copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs in high-quality formats. This investigation is being conducted by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).

Joshua David Evans, 34, of North Bend, Wash., and Jeremy Lynn Andrew, 33, of Eugene, Ore., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The guilty pleas were announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride, Eastern District of Virginia.

Evans pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement related to his role in the Internet release of "Iron Man 2" before the movie reached U.S. theaters. Andrew pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy.

According to court documents, Evans was referred to as the "Head God" of the uploaders, who were responsible for locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading the infringing content to servers utilized by the NinjaVideo.net website, some of which were located in the Eastern District of Virginia. Evans also regularly supervised other uploaders based in North America, who at times numbered more than 10.

Andrew was referred to as the "Ninja Head of Security," according to court documents. Andrew, one of the administrators of the NinjaVideo.net website, served as a moderator of the NinjaVideo.net forum boards and assisted with issues related to servers used by NinjaVideo.net.

According to the statements of facts filed with both plea agreements, NinjaVideo.net generated a total of $505,000 in income from Internet advertising and visitor donations during the course of the conspiracy. Evans admitted that he personally received $26,660 of these funds, and Andrew admitted that he personally received $5,250 of these funds. Both defendants agreed to pay restitution in these amounts.

Evans, Andrew and three other alleged co-conspirators were indicted on Sept. 9, 2011, on six charges related to their work with NinjaVideo. Evans and Andrew are the third and fourth co-defendants to plead guilty for their roles. Co-defendants Matthew David Howard Smith and Hana Amal Beshara pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, and Sept. 29, 2011, respectively, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement. Smith will be sentenced on Dec. 16, 2011, and Beshara will be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2012. An arrest warrant has been issued for the remaining co-defendant in the indictment, Zoi Mertzanis of Greece.

Evans faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count of conspiracy and copyright infringement, as well as a $250,000 fine, restitution and three years of supervised release following any prison term. Evans' sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2012. Andrew faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy count, as well as a $250,000 fine, restitution and three years of supervised release. Andrew's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2012.

NinjaVideo was seized during the first phase of "Operation In Our Sites," a sustained law enforcement initiative to protect consumers by targeting counterfeiting and piracy over the Internet.

The investigation was conducted by the IPR Center. The IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. This criminal investigation is part of the IPR Center's groundbreaking "Operation In Our Sites," which targets the online sale of counterfeit and pirated commodities. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov.

This case is part of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) to stop the theft of intellectual property. Attorney General Eric Holder created the IP Task Force to combat the growing number of domestic and international intellectual property crimes, protect the health and safety of American consumers, and safeguard the nation's economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. The IP Task Force seeks to strengthen intellectual property rights protection through heightened criminal and civil enforcement, greater coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and increased focus on international enforcement efforts, including reinforcing relationships with key foreign partners and U.S. industry leaders.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay V. Prabhu and Lindsay A. Kelly of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Glenn Alexander of the Criminal Division's Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section.

Supporting the Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Who Keep Our Nation Safe

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Janet Napalitano.

Keeping our nation safe from evolving terrorist threats requires strong partnerships at all levels.  Nowhere are those partnerships more important than with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers who work on the frontlines every day to keep our cities and communities safe.

These courageous men and women, who put their lives on the line to protect others, must have the tools, training, and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

This week at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) General Assembly in Chicago, we each had an opportunity to reiterate our support for police officers and first responders across our country, many of whom are struggling to hire or retain personnel in the face of tough economic challenges.

As part of ongoing work to better understand and overcome current fiscal challenges, this week, the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office released a new report on how the economic downturn has impacted police departments nationwide.

According to the department’s research, we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off.  Already, law enforcement agencies nationwide currently have nearly 30,000 unfilled vacancies.  And an estimated 28,000 more officers and deputies experienced week-long furloughs last year. In 25 years of collecting data, this is the first national decrease in law enforcement positions ever recorded.

There is great demand for existing federal fire fighter hiring funding.  In FY10 alone there were $1.8 billion in applications for $420 million in  SAFER funds.

Especially in these difficult economic times, the tough choices we are all facing should not come at the expense of public safety and national security.  And, fortunately, they don’t have to. The American Jobs Act would provide $5 billion in assistance to states and local communities to create and save thousands of police and first responder jobs across the country.  These funds would not only help to safeguard our national security and bolster public safety – they would strengthen our economy.

Passage of the American Jobs Act also would ensure that many of the critical partnerships we have established with local law enforcement can continue – and improve our ability to share information, to train frontline officers to recognize indicators of terrorism and crime, and to encouraging the public to be vigilant in reporting suspicious activity to appropriate authorities.

These steps provide a strong foundation for law enforcement at all levels to protect communities from terrorism and other threats. They also help us better understand the risks confronting the homeland while protecting the privacy rights and civil liberties of all Americans, and foster a strong relationship with the international community.

When it comes to advancing our public safety efforts, we simply can’t afford to wait. We must take action now to combat the economic conditions that have affected – and, in some communities, devastated – law enforcement agencies nationwide. We urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act so that we can protect the men and women on the frontlines who protect us and contribute to our nation’s safety and security every day.