Friday, November 30, 2012

New Jersey Man Sentenced to 54 Months in Prison for Half-Billion Dollar Fraud Scheme with Thousands of Victims Worldwide

A certified public accountant (CPA) and purported outside auditor for Provident Capital Indemnity Ltd. (PCI) was sentenced today in Richmond, Va., to 54 months in prison for his role in an approximately half-billion-dollar fraud scheme that affected more than 3,500 victims throughout the United States and abroad, announced U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Jorge Luis Castillo, 57, a resident of New Jersey, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney in the Eastern District of Virginia.   In addition to his prison term, Castillo was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $43,582,699 in forfeiture.
Castillo pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2011, to one count of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud.  Castillo was a PCI employee prior to becoming PCI’s “outside auditor.”  
“As a licensed accountant, Mr. Castillo used his expertise to create fraudulent financial statements out of whole cloth,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Many elderly investors relied on Mr. Castillo’s credibility as an outside auditor before entrusting their life savings in this fraud scheme.  Accountants and auditors are the gatekeepers of our financial system and are entrusted with the critical role of protecting the public from fraud.  Today’s sentence will hopefully send a strong message to those in the accounting profession that they will be held responsible when they break that trust by facilitating or participating in fraud.”
“Jorge Luis Castillo will spend 54 months in prison for trading on his qualifications as a CPA to facilitate a massive fraud scheme that harmed investors throughout the United States and abroad,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.   “Mr. Castillo’s prison sentence demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to holding accountable any fraudster who preys on innocent, unsuspecting investors.”
According to court records, PCI was an insurance and reinsurance company registered in the Commonwealth of Dominica and doing business in Costa Rica.  PCI sold financial guarantee bonds to companies selling life settlements, or securities backed by life settlements, to investors. PCI marketed these bonds to its clients as a way to alleviate the risk of insured beneficiaries living beyond their life expectancy.  PCI’s clients, in turn, typically explained to their investors that the financial guarantee bonds ensured that the investors would receive their expected return on investment irrespective of whether the insured on the underlying life settlement lived beyond his or her life expectancy.
Castillo admitted that he conspired with Minor Vargas Calvo, 61, the president and majority owner of PCI, to prepare audited financial statements that falsely claimed that PCI had entered into reinsurance contracts with major reinsurance companies.  These claims, which were supported by a letter from Castillo stating that he conducted an audit of PCI’s financial records, were used to assure PCI’s clients that the reinsurance companies were backstopping the majority of the risk that PCI had insured through its financial guarantee bonds.
Castillo further admitted that he never performed an audit of PCI’s financial statements and that, in fact, he personally created the statements he claimed to be independently auditing. He also admitted that he and others at PCI knew that the company never actually entered into reinsurance contracts with any major companies.  Castillo also admitted that he and other conspirators provided the false financial statements and fraudulent independent auditors’ report to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), which D&B relied on in compiling its commercial reports on PCI and issuing its 5A rating of PCI’s financial strength.
From 2004 through 2010, PCI sold at least $485 million of bonds to life settlement investment companies located in various countries, including the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and elsewhere.  PCI’s clients, in turn, sold investment offerings backed by PCI’s bonds to thousands of investors around the world.  Purchasers of PCI’s bonds were allegedly required to make up-front payments of six to 11 percent of the underlying settlement as “premium” payments to PCI before the company would issue the bonds.   Court records state that Castillo received approximately $84,000 from his work as the purported outside auditor of PCI from 2004 through 2010.
Vargas, a citizen and resident of Costa Rica, was convicted on April 30, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.  On Oct. 23, 2012, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison.  PCI pleaded guilty on April 18, 2012, to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, and was sentenced on Sept. 6, 2012, to one year of probation.
This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and FBI, with assistance from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the Texas State Securities Board and the New Jersey Bureau of Securities.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael S. Dry and Jessica Aber Brumberg of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Chief Albert B. Stieglitz Jr. of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) conducted a parallel investigation and in January 2011 filed a parallel civil enforcement action against PCI, Vargas and Castillo. The department thanks the SEC for its assistance in this matter.
The investigation has been coordinated by the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force, an unprecedented partnership between criminal investigators and civil regulators to investigate and prosecute complex financial fraud cases in the nation and in Virginia specifically. The task force is an investigative arm of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, an interagency national task force.
President Obama established the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Member of Latin Kings Street Gang and Two Associates Sentenced in Indiana for Racketeering Conspiracy and Related Crimes

WASHINGTON – A member of the Latin Kings street gang and two associates were sentenced to prison this week in Hammond, Ind., federal court for racketeering conspiracy and other crimes in support of the gang, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David Capp of the Northern District of Indiana.

David Lira, aka “Flaco,” 39, of Chicago, was sentenced today to 180 months in prison after pleading guilty on July 13, 2012, to racketeering conspiracy.   Gang associates Bianca Fernandez, 23, and Serina Arambula, 23, both of Chicago, were sentenced on Nov. 26, 2012, to 36 months and 21 months in prison, respectively.   U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano imposed the sentences.
Fernandez pleaded guilty on Aug. 8, 2012, to conspiring to murder in aid of racketeering.   Arambula pleaded guilty on August 7, 2012, to withholding information on a murder.
According to the third superseding indictment filed in this case, the Latin Kings is a nationwide gang that originated in Chicago and has branched out throughout the United States.   The Latin Kings is a well organized street gang that has specific leadership and is composed of regions that include multiple chapters.   The third superseding indictment charges that the Latin Kings were responsible for more than 20 murders.
Also according to the third superseding indictment, the Latin Kings enforces its rules and promotes discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, assault and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the Latin Kings.   Members are required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, including taking on assignments often referred to as “missions.”
During his guilty plea proceeding, Lira admitted to being a Latin Kings member at an early age. He also acknowledged he was aware that the Latin Kings, specifically some of his co-defendants, distributed more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana over the course of the racketeering conspiracy.
Lira also acknowledged that on Feb. 24, 2007, Jose Zambrano, a regional enforcer for the gang, and other Latin Kings members dropped two firearms off at Lira’s residence in Lansing, Ill.   The next evening, Zambrano and the others returned to retrieve the weapons from Lira before riding to the Soprano’s Bar in Griffith, Ind., where they gunned down and killed two rival gang members.
            Fernandez admitted in court that on Nov. 26, 2006, at the direction of a Latin Kings member, she accompanied two members of the rival Latin Dragons gang to Jackson Park, Ill., near La Rabida Children’s Hospital on the south side of Chicago.   Fernandez also admitted she made arrangements for Latin Kings gang members to meet them at the location, where those gang members shot the Latin Dragons gang members, killing one.   Fernandez admitted that when interviewed by Chicago police, she concealed the true nature of the murder.
            During her guilty plea proceeding, Arambula admitted to accompanying Fernandez and the Latin Dragon members to Jackson Park, and admitted to providing false information to Chicago police regarding the identity of the shooters.  
Twenty-three Latin Kings members and associates have been indicted in this case.   Twenty have pleaded guilty; one was found guilty following a jury trial, one awaits trial, and one remains a fugitive.  
This case was investigated by the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI); the National Gang Intelligence Center; the Chicago Police Department; the Houston Police Department; the Griffith Police Department; the Highland, Ind., Police Department; the Hammond, Ind., Police Department; and the East Chicago Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and David J. Nozick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana.   Andrew Porter of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois provided significant assistance.
The third superseding indictment is not evidence of guilt.   The defendants who have not been convicted are innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Beyond the Badge: Life After the Police Department

Back in the early 1990’s when I was a member of the now-defunct, New York City Housing Police Department, I sat with a group of NYPD officers in a routine Borough Based Training class. These are bi-annual meetings where officers are taught new laws and are brought up to date on departmental policy. In one particular session, a sergeant asked the cops in the room if they had any plans for employment after retiring.

Some of the officers stated that prior to joining the force they were carpenters, plumbers, electricians, or licensed in another skilled trade. However, they were in the minority. Most of the men and women in the room couldn’t see that far into the future to consider what life would be like without a gun on their hip and a shield pinned to their uniform. A general uneasiness filled the classroom. Some fidgeted with the papers on their desk and others sank back in their chairs.

The sergeant’s demeanor became serious. He placed his hands behind his back and pursed his lips. “The good news is that when you retire, there will be plenty of jobs waiting for all of you,” he said. “Employers love hiring ex-cops. But, the skills you bring to the table are hard to qualify in the civilian world. You can drive a truck, work as a guard, and become a bartender or a bus driver, but unless you have another skill like the electricians or carpenters in this room, you better get an education.” The sergeant nodded his head, satisfied that he got through to all of us and began talking about the subject matter at hand.

Police officers don’t want to talk about life after “the job.” Once a cop, always a cop, that’s what we’re told. Television shows, movies, and even books portray officers as die-hard civil servants who live police work as opposed to merely performing their duties. Being a cop denotes a certain attitude, an innate suspicion, a dispassionate appearance, and a jaded view of society as seen from its underside. Police are the community’s protectors, yet they’re the first in line to receive complaints for enforcing the very rules society puts in place. A thick skin is necessary to deal with seeing the human tragedy witnessed on a routine basis and for handling the trauma of losing fellow officers in the line of duty. Cops insulate themselves from others outside their vocation to guard against criticism and to commiserate with their colleagues.

When retirement finally comes, it takes a while to shed the habits of a law enforcement officer. The retiree has no authority. Even in the field of private security, the luster of fighting crime has dimmed. Others call you by your first name and the word “officer” no longer applies to you. Any employment you find does not have the same level of excitement and boredom becomes commonplace. A sense of dissatisfaction dulls the accomplishments at a civilian job, except where earning a paycheck is concerned. There are those who will congratulate you on your years of service, and others who will ask you for a good cop story from your experiences on patrol; but, as the years pass, your connection to police work and the honor of wearing the uniform fades. In spite of joining police fraternities and hanging around with your retired cop buddies, no one calls you in the middle of the night to investigate a suspicious noise.

Working as a bartender, a security guard, a truck driver, or any of the professions the sergeant mentioned in his cautionary monologue long ago in the classroom where I sat and listened with alarm, are fine jobs to have. Financially, a retiree should be able to raise a family with the wages earned while working such a job in conjunction with a police pension, but, looking back, I think the sergeant was projecting his own fears on room full of officers before him. Perhaps the message he wanted to get across is that there is no other job in the world like being a police officer.

Wearing a police shield, carrying a gun, donning the uniform, driving a sector car, and being a hero to those who call nine-one-one in an emergency are all positive, tangible aspects of a fine and noble profession. Losing the privilege of being called “officer,” and the respect one is extended while serving is difficult for most. Becoming a civilian after decades of wielding authority is an adjustment that takes a lot of getting used to. An education for another professional position where one is able to earn a lucrative salary or achieve success on a level an ordinary cop cannot aspire to without that education is a lofty goal; yet, after separating from the department, no matter what a retiree decides to do for a living, the title “retired police officer” is an honor well deserved.

About the Author:
Michael J. Kannengieser is a retired New York City police officer who lives on Long Island with his wife and two children. Michael worked as the Managing Editor for Fiction at The View from Here magazine, a U.K. based literary publication. Currently, he is employed at a performing arts college as an Instructional Technology Administrator. He has been published at The View from Here, and in Newsday, a Long Island newspaper. Michael speaks as a guest lecturer on campus.

Click Here to buy Michael J. Kannengieser's new novel, "The Daddy Rock," at Amazon

Former Puerto Rico Police Officers Charged with Extorting a Commonwealth Defendant for $50,000

WASHINGTON – Two former police officers with the Police of Puerto Rico were charged with allegedly attempting to extort a commonwealth defendant and soliciting bribe payments of $50,000, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced today.

Abimael Arroyo-Cruz, 30, of Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, and Josue Becerril-Ramos, 36, of Carolina, Puerto Rico, were both charged in an indictment returned yesterday in the District of Puerto Rico with one count of conspiracy, one count of federal programs bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of attempted extortion.

According to the indictment, Arroyo and Becerril arrested eight individuals for possession of unregistered firearms and marijuana on Aug. 2, 2012.  The officers then allegedly solicited from one defendant a bribe payment of $50,000 to have his case dismissed.  Beginning on Sept. 11, 2012, both officers allegedly spoke with the commonwealth defendant multiple times over the telephone, discussing payment details and strategies for dismissing the commonwealth defendant’s case.

The indictment alleges that Arroyo and Becerril collected approximately $35,000, of the $50,000 demanded, from the commonwealth defendant in two different payment installments.  Unbeknownst to the officers, however, the individuals who dropped off the payments were cooperating with federal law enforcement.

In exchange for the bribes, the indictment alleges, Arroyo and Becerril devised a plan whereby the officers would misidentify a co-defendant in court, leading to dismissal of the commonwealth defendant’s case.  According to the indictment, when asked under oath at the preliminary hearing to identify the commonwealth defendant, Arroyo instead identified a co-defendant.  The indictment alleges that Arroyo confirmed to the commonwealth defendant following the hearing that he deliberately misidentified the co-defendant as part of the plan to have the commonwealth defendant’s case dismissed.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Henwood of the District of Puerto Rico and Trial Attorneys Menaka Kalaskar and Marquest J. Meeks of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.  The case was investigated by the FBI’s San Juan Field Office.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marshal’s New Tip Capabilities Net 23 Year Fugitive

Detroit, MI – The Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team (DFAT) has made its first arrest using the new TIP411 system that it rolled out a few weeks ago. Shannon Gene Ring, 46 years old, of Monroe, Michigan, was arrested by the Marshals led DFAT earlier today. The arrest came as a direct result of a tip received via the new texting tip service recently. Ring was wanted in Monroe County from 1989 for Failure to Appear for a Probation Violation with the underlying charge being Manufacture and Deliver a Controlled Substance (Marijuana). Ring was arrested in the 400 block of Antoinette in the City of Detroit without incident. He had only been back in Michigan from California for a day when DFAT received the text tip. He was transported to Monroe County Jail and will appear in court within the next few days.

Under the new texting tip system the Task Force is now able to receive anonymous tips from the public via text message. Tipsters are now able to send a tip to the Task Force by texting keyword “DFAT” and your tip to 847411 (tip411).The technology is available from a company called Citizen Observer which specializes in providing this service to law enforcement agencies. Their service guarantees that the tipster and the tipster’s phone number remain anonymous to the law enforcement agency unless the tipster chooses to identify themselves.

The U.S. Marshal led Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team has brought together some of the best federal, state, and local fugitive hunters in the Eastern District of Michigan. Coupled with this new technology, DFAT fugitive hunters will be even more formidable.

U.S. Marshal Robert M Grubbs stated, “This new tool provides the public with yet another method of delivering valuable information to our Task Force to utilize when pursuing these wanted fugitives. We are optimistic that this will lead to many more arrests as our tip phone line has thus far.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Justice Department Launches Investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Use of Force

The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a civil investigation into use of force by the city of Albuquerque Police Department (APD).   The investigation will focus on allegations that APD officers engage in use of excessive force, including use of unreasonable deadly force, in their encounters with civilians.  
Through the investigation the department will seek to determine whether APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law.   The investigation will include a comprehensive review of the police department’s policies, training and systems of accountability.   The investigation will also examine the police department’s engagement with the community and external oversight of officer-involved shootings and other force incidents.  
Prior to the announcement, department officials met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and APD Chief Ray Schultz, who pledged their full cooperation with the investigation.  
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights.   The department has conducted similar investigations into use of force by law enforcement agencies, both large and small, across the country.   
Attorneys and staff from the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will conduct the investigation, assisted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico. Individuals who may have relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via email at or by calling the department’s toll free number at 885-544-5134 which is available in both English and Spanish.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Former Chicago Massage Parlor Operator Sentenced to Life in Prison for Human Trafficking of Four Women

Alex Campbell, 45, of Glenview, Ill., a former northwest suburban massage parlor owner was sentenced today to life in federal prison for various crimes including sex-trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens, confiscating passports to further forced labor and extortion involving four foreign women whom he mentally and physically abused while forcing them to work for him, the Justice Department announced today.   The defendant, who operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mt. Prospect, Ill., used violence and threats of violence to force three women from the Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, little to no subsistence between July 2008 and January 2010.
Campbell, also known as “Dave” and “Daddy” and who called himself “Cowboy,” was also ordered to pay approximately $124,000 restitution by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman.   There is no parole in the federal prison system.  
Campbell was convicted at trial in January of this year of three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work and one count each of sex trafficking by force, and extortion.   He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life on the sex-trafficking count alone, and the judge also imposed maximum prison terms ranging from five to 20 years on each of the remaining counts, to run concurrent with the life sentence.
“Alex Campbell abused women by violently coercing them into labor and commercial sex. By working together with law enforcement and community groups, those women were able to testify about that abuse,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Today’s sentence is a victory not only for the Department and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, but also for those women who so bravely came forward and told the truth about their exploitation.”
“If you treat human beings as property, to be branded, beaten, raped, and sold, the law will punish you to the greatest extent possible,” said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.   “This sentence ensures Alex Campbell’s incapacitation, which will prevent him from victimizing other women.”
“The sentence handed down today sends a clear message to those who think they can callously prey upon vulnerable women to turn a profit,” said Gary J. Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago.   “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who engage in human trafficking are held accountable for their actions.”
Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, whose sheriff’s police initiated the investigation, said, “I am extremely proud of the effort and resolution of all the agencies involved with the successful investigation, conviction and now sentencing of such a violent individual.”
All four victims testified as government witnesses at trial, as well as co-defendant, Danielle John, 25, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. She was sentenced previously to three years’ probation.   In addition to the trial victims, the government presented evidence that investigators learned of approximately 20 women that Campbell victimized.
The trial showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his “Family,” which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support.   He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration, and lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him.   After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them.   At the same time, he acquired the women’s passports and visas.   The women were forced to work long hours every day and do as Campbell instructed them, and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him.
Trial testimony established that Campbell confiscated passports and identity documents from three of the victims, as well as harbored and transported them to ensure their continued labor.   Campbell forced one victim to engage in commercial sex acts with customers at various other massage parlors, but not at the Day and Night Spa, which testimony showed he operated “cleanly” to avoid problems with law enforcement.   He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the “Family” by threatening to send a sexually-explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation, which was coordinated by the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.   The task force, together with the Salvation Army Family and Community Services STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, operate a toll-free hotline, (877) 606-3158, which victims of trafficking or those with information about human trafficking can call for assistance.   The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane MacArthur and Steven Grimes and Special Litigation Counsel John Richmond of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

Mexican National Sentenced to 54 Months in Prison for Trafficking the Identities of Puerto Rican U.S. Citizens

WASHINGTON – A Mexican national was sentenced today to 54 months in prison for trafficking of identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico; Director John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Scott P. Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS); and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber.

Jose Sergio Garcia-Ramirez, 37, formerly of Rockford, Ill., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gustavo A. Gelpí, in the District of Puerto Rico.  Judge Gelpí also ordered that Garcia-Ramirez forfeit $35,900 in proceeds and ordered the removal of Garcia-Ramirez from the United States after the completion of his sentence.

On July 17, 2012, Garcia-Ramirez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce J. McGiverin in the District of Puerto Rico.

Garcia-Ramirez was charged in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on Mar. 22, 2012.  To date, a total of 53 individuals have been charged for their roles in the identity trafficking scheme, and 18 defendants have pleaded guilty.

Court documents allege that individuals located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico (Savarona suppliers), obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents.  Other conspirators located in various cities throughout the United States (identity brokers) allegedly solicited customers and sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set.  The superseding indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls.  The conspirators are charged with using text messages, money transfer services and express, priority or regular U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

Court documents allege that some identity brokers assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation.  Their customers allegedly generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses.   Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.

According to court documents, various identity brokers were operating in Rockford, Ill.; DeKalb, Ill.; Aurora, Ill.; Seymour, Ind.; Columbus, Ind.; Indianapolis; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn, Ga.; Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Mass.; Lawrence, Mass.; Salem, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington, N.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton, Pa.; Philadelphia; Houston; Abingdon, Va.; Albertville, Ala.; and Providence, R.I.

Garcia-Ramirez admitted that he was an identity broker in the conspiracy and operated in Illinois.  Garcia-Ramirez is the fourth defendant to be sentenced in this case.

The charges are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by the ICE-HSI Chicago Office and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with the ICE-HSI San Juan Office.  The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Ill., Police Department; Seymour, Ind., Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance.  The ICE-HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices around the country provided invaluable assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys James S. Yoon, Hope S. Olds, Courtney B. Schaefer and Christina Giffin of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of Acting Deputy Chief Jeannette Gunderson of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.   The U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana, District of Connecticut, District of Massachusetts, District of Nebraska, Middle District of North Carolina, Southern District of Ohio and Western District of Virginia provided substantial assistance.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two Members and One Associate of Violent North Carolina Latin Kings Gang Convicted for Racketeering Conspiracy

A federal jury in Winston-Salem, N.C., has convicted two members of the North Carolina Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) and one associate of the gang for a racketeering conspiracy involving violent crimes and drug distribution for the benefit of the criminal organization.
The convictions, which occurred late Wednesday, were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Ripley Rand for the Middle District of North Carolina; and Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte, N.C. Division of the FBI.
  “Acting on behalf of the Latin Kings, these defendants committed horrific acts of violence in their community, and they face substantial prison sentences as a result,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Gangs wreak havoc on our streets and in our neighborhoods, and we are determined to continue bringing dangerous criminals like the Latin Kings to justice.”

“The result in this case speaks to the value of effective partnerships - effective partnerships between the many law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of this case, and the effective partnership between our office and the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division in the prosecution of the case,” said U.S. Attorney Rand.   “We would like to thank the jury for their time and attention during this lengthy trial - their deliberations and verdict show that they took this case very seriously, and our office will continue to take violent crime in the District very seriously as well.”  
“This verdict is a direct result of the outstanding joint investigative efforts of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Briese.   “The Piedmont-Triad Safe Streets Task Force will continue to investigate and help eradicate violent gangs to keep our communities safe.”
The leader of the North Carolina ALKQN, Jorge Cornell, aka “King J,” 36, of Greensboro, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and violent crime in aid of racketeering activity.   He was also convicted of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence for an April 2008 assault with a dangerous weapon.  
Russell Lloyd Kilfoil, aka “King Peaceful,” 26, of Greensboro, and Ernesto Wilson, aka “Yayo,” 54, of New York, were also convicted of racketeering conspiracy.   Randolph Leif Kilfoil, aka “King Paul,” 27, of Greensboro; Samuel Isaac Velasquez, aka “King Hype,” 23, of Garner, N.C.; and Irvin Vasquez, aka “King Dice,” 23, of Raleigh, N.C. were found not guilty after three days of jury deliberations.
According to evidence presented at trial, the defendants were members and associates of the ALKQN in North Carolina, a violent street gang that originated in Chicago in the 1960s and ultimately migrated to cities throughout the United States, including to Greensboro in 2002.   Evidence at trial showed that from approximately 2005 until December 2011, the Latin Kings gang members met on a regular basis to increase their knowledge base of the gang rules; to discuss criminal activity and how to deal with rival gangs, including by attempted murder; to purchase firearms and circulate firearms for use in criminal activity by Latin Kings members; to engage in violent take-over robberies; and to use juveniles to distribute cocaine.   The proceeds of this criminal activity helped to finance the gang’s illegal activities.   Latin Kings members also attempted to murder members of their own gang when they attempted to leave the gang.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that Cornell conspired with other members of the Latin Kings to commit these racketeering acts, including the April 2008 shooting of a   rival gang member; distribution of cocaine; the commission of no fewer than five Hobbs Act robberies of business located throughout the Greensboro area; plotting to firebomb the residences of former Latin Kings members; attacking former Latin Kings members; and the conspiracy to kill former Latin Kings members in drive-by shootings.
Six other individuals have pleaded guilty in the Middle District of North Carolina to racketeering conspiracy related to their involvement in the Latin Kings gang.   Carlos Coleman, aka “King Spanky,” was acquitted of charges in a motion granted by the court during trial.
U.S. District Judge James A. Beaty Jr. presided over the trial. Each of the defendants convicted today faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on the Racketeering Conspiracy count.   Cornell also faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison on the violent crime in aid of racketeering count, and a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison on the use of a firearm count.   Each count also carries a maximum potential $250,000 fine.
The investigation was a joint operation conducted by the FBI’s Greensboro Field Office; the Greensboro, N.C. Police Department, under the direction of Chief Ken Miller; and the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff B. J. Barnes.   The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Leshia Lee-Dixon of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A.J. Lang for the Middle District of North Carolina.    

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Justice Department Enters into Settlement Agreement to Reform the East Haven, Conn., Police Department

The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement with the town of East Haven, Conn., to resolve the department’s complaint alleging that the East Haven Police Department (EHPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination against individuals on account of race, color or national origin.  The agreement also resolves allegations that EHPD engaged in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force and unconstitutional searches and seizures.   The department and town jointly filed the agreement in federal district court today seeking the court’s approval and continued jurisdiction to enforce its terms.
The agreement is designed to ensure that the policies and practices of EHPD uphold constitutional protections against unlawful discrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures for the town’s 29,000 residents and other individuals who visit the town.   The agreement, which draws from contemporary policing practices from around the country, is also designed to strengthen the community’s trust in EHPD and enable police officers to more effectively protect public safety.   Once the agreement is implemented, the town is required to maintain two years of sustained compliance to ensure that the reforms become part of the agency’s standard procedures and institutional culture.    
On Oct. 22, 2012, the department and the mayor of East Haven signed a letter of intent to enter into the agreement that provided the mayor an opportunity to consult with other town officials on the agreement’s comprehensive reforms.   Following a series of board and council meetings, town officials unanimously endorsed the agreement.   On Nov. 15, 2012, the mayor and police commission chairman executed the agreement.    
“We are pleased that town officials have joined the mayor and the board of police commissioners in supporting the broad reforms embodied in the agreement.” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The agreement reflects a strong commitment to effective and constitutional law enforcement in East Haven for all who live, work and visit the town.”  
“We commend the mayor, board of police commissioners, police chief, police officers and other town officials for taking this important step forward toward reform,” said David B. Fein, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. “This agreement will provide the men and women of EHPD with the necessary support and guidance they need to fulfill their duties in a manner that protects public safety and upholds individuals’ civil rights.”
The agreement provides for comprehensive reforms in seven core areas, and provides for a joint compliance expert who will independently assess EHPD’s implementation of the agreement.  The seven core areas are:
  • Biased-free policing, including measures on mandatory training, collection and analysis of data on police encounters, development of a meaningful language access plan, notification to consulates when foreign nationals are detained, and steps to promote biased-free policing in EHPD’s hiring, promotion and performance assessment processes;
  • Use of force, including the development of current policies on use of force and measures that provide for comprehensive training, consistent force reporting and thorough force reviews and investigations by supervisors and the internal affairs officer;
  • Searches and seizures, including the development of up-to-date policies and measures on applying for search warrants, documenting consent searches, notifying supervisors of felony arrests and other “contempt-of-cop” situations, inspecting detainees for injuries and preserving individuals’ First Amendment rights to observe and record police activity;
  • Policies and training, including measures to ensure that officers  and supervisors have sufficient guidance to carry out their law enforcement responsibilities in a lawful, effective and ethical manner;
  • Civilian complaints, internal investigations and discipline, including measures to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are received and thoroughly investigated and that officers who engage in misconduct are held accountable by a disciplinary system that is fair and consistent;
  • Supervision and management, including steps that provide for close and effective supervision to assist officers in carrying out their duties in a lawful manner and systems that allow supervisors to identify, correct and prevent misconduct; and
  • Community engagement and oversight, including measures to create robust partnerships with all segments of the East Haven community, disseminate public information on reforms and policing activities and solicit feedback on the relationship between EHPD and the community.
In September 2009, the Justice Department opened a pattern or practice investigation into allegations that EHPD officers engaged in discriminatory traffic enforcement, use of excessive force and unconstitutional searches and seizures in violation of the Constitution and federal anti-discrimination laws.  In December 2011, the department completed its investigation and issued a letter finding reasonable cause to believe that EHPD engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination and other misconduct.  The investigation was conducted jointly by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut. 

10th Annual ‘Cops Fighting Cancer’ Motorcade

Honors Patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado 200 Law Enforcement Officers to Deliver Toys This Year

Aurora, Colorado – 200 uniformed law enforcement officers from throughout the State of Colorado will bring smiles to kids at Children’s Hospital Colorado when they arrive in a motorcade with new toys for patients.  The 10th Annual ‘Long Blue Line’ will consist of 100 police cruisers and motorcycles. 

This is the 10th year of the event and the largest to date with law enforcement officers from 30 different local, state and federal agencies participating.  They’ll deliver 1,000 toys to 300 children.  Aurora Police Officer James Seneca, who founded the organization and is a cancer survivor himself, says these kids need to know they are strong and courageous, “Cancer takes such an emotional toll on patients and their families so we try to create an uplifting environment.  If a little support can help a child get through another day then I’m doing my job.”  Cops Fighting Cancer has visited more than 7,000 children at the hospital since the program began 10 years ago.

Some of the law enforcement agencies participating this year include the Aurora Police Department, Denver Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI. 

WHEN:  Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 10:00 A.M.

WHERE:  Children’s Hospital Colorado
               13123 East 16th Ave., Aurora, CO  80045

ROUTE:  Motorcade leaves at 10:00 A.M. from Graebel Companies, 16456 E. Airport Circle, Aurora.
              Travels west on Colfax Blvd and arrives at Children’s Hospital Colorado at 10:15 A.M.

         Officers leaving Graebel
         Officers travelling in motorcade to Children’s Hospital Colorado
         Officers delivering toys to patient rooms
         Interviews with Jim Seneca, founder of Cops Fighting Cancer and a cancer survivor
         Interviews with Children’s Hospital Colorado patients and staff

About Cops Fighting Cancer:  Aurora Police Officer James Seneca founded Cops Fighting Cancer in April 2003.  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization made up of police and civilian volunteers.  It raises money through annual fundraisers and in the last 10 years has donated more than $700,000 to help families with medical costs, mortgage payments, rent, car payments, food, clothing and other basic necessities.  Its ultimate goal is to provide hope to those suffering from cancer.

Ginger Delgado, Kellwood Media
Cell:  303-916-8166