Criminal Justice News

Saturday, June 30, 2012

East St. Louis Man Sentenced for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm


An East St. Louis man, Casey M. Rigsby, 20, was sentenced in United States District Court, East St. Louis, for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Previously Convicted Felon, to the maximum statutory term of 120 months (10 years) in prison, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Rigsby was also ordered to pay a $250 fine, a $100 special assessment, and to serve three years’ supervised release following imprisonment (also the maximum term of supervised release available). There is no parole in the federal system. Rigsby has been in custody since his arrest on July 15, 2011.

“As the Court correctly recognized, this individual is a thoroughly dangerous and violent young man. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this incident. Hopefully, this sentence will not only affirm the effectiveness of the WAVE and our local law enforcement partners, but will serve to deter other young persons from taking up firearms,” said United States Attorney Wigginton. “For those reasons and more, I applaud the wisdom of the Court in passing the sentence that it did in this case,” he noted.

According to court documents, on July 15, 2011, Centreville police officers conducted a traffic stop on the driver of a car for disobeying a stop sign. The registration on the car was for a different vehicle. The driver acknowledged that his driver’s license was suspended and that he had no insurance, and that there was a warrant for his arrest. Officers asked the front seat passenger and the back seat passenger (Rigsby) to step out of the car. Rigsby attempted to use his foot to conceal a firearm under the seat. The officer recovered a Sig-Sauer, Model P220, .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol, which was loaded with seven live rounds in the magazine and one live round in the chamber.

Following his arrest, Rigsby admitted possession of the firearm and said he tried to conceal it because he is prohibited from possessing firearms as a convicted felon. He further stated that the front seat passenger was recently shot, and the front seat passenger and the driver were planning to show him the residence of the shooter. He admitted bringing the loaded firearm with him when he got in the car.

Rigsby has a prior felony conviction for Aggravated Unlawful Use of a Weapon, which occurred on August 3, 2010, in St. Clair County, Illinois.

The investigation of the case was handled by the Centreville Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). At Rigsby’s sentencing hearing today, members the FBI WAVE (Working Against Violent Elements) Task Force testified regarding their dealings with Rigsby. The case agent also testified regarding information Rigsby provided about his criminal activities following his arrest.

The WAVE Task Force focuses its efforts on combating violent crime in East St. Louis, Washington Park, and surrounding communities. WAVE was formed in November, 2009, and is a collaboration of law enforcement officers from the Illinois State Police, the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois (MEGSI), the East St. Louis Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The WAVE Task Force receives financial support through the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, a nationwide federal program which endeavors to address gunrelated violence.

The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kit Morrissey.

“Fake Beard Bandit” Sentenced to 135 Months for Each of Seven Armed Bank Robberies in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas


FORT SMITH, AR—Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that Jason Day, age 39 of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was sentenced to 135 months today for each of seven counts of armed bank robbery, one count of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery, to run concurrent. While dressed as the “Fake Beard Bandit,” Day robbed or attempted to rob nine banks in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. The sentence was handed down in U.S. District Court in Fort Smith, Arkansas before Chief U.S. District Judge P. K. Holmes, III.

Day was arrested within days of his August 23, 2011 robbery of Liberty Bank of Arkansas’ location on Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith. After he was arrested, Day was identified as the individual in the other “Fake Beard Bandit” robbery surveillance photos. Other “Fake Beard Bandit” robberies perpetrated by Day include: First National Bank of Coweta in Oklahoma on May 26, 2011; Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City (Pennsylvania Avenue Branch) on May 26, 2011; Bank of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City (Northwest Expressway Branch) on June 10, 2011; IBC Bank in Oklahoma City on June 29, 2011; Hometown Bank in Joplin, Missouri on July 13, 2011; Bank of Blue Valley in Shawnee, Kansas on July 25, 2011; Bank Midwest in Olathe, Kansas on August 3, 2011, and attempted robbery of River Town Credit Union in Fort Smith, Arkansas on July 22, 2011.

The cases against Day in the Western District of Oklahoma, the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the District of Kansas and the Western District of Missouri were all transferred to the Western District of Arkansas for simultaneous prosecution.

United States Attorney Eldridge commented, “Today, the “Fake Beard Bandit” was held accountable for terrorizing numerous customers and employees of banks across four states. We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who put innocent people in harm’s way in the course of armed robbery.”

Per court records, on August 23, 2011, a white male disguised with a fake beard, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, entered the Liberty Bank of Arkansas on Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The individual, later identified as the defendant, ordered a bank teller to put cash in a bag or he was “going to shoot.” The defendant carried what witnesses described as a black semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at two individuals working at the bank, who complied with the robber’s commands. Before leaving the bank, the defendant told everyone inside to lay on the ground for five minutes. He stated his partner outside the bank was watching and would shoot anyone who stood up.

Detective Story, with the Fort Smith Police Department, determined that the person who robbed the Liberty Bank of Arkansas was likely the “Fake Beard Bandit,” due to the same disguise, grey getaway vehicle and similar mannerisms as that of the individual who attempted to rob the River Town Credit Union in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on July 22, 2011. Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned that the “Fake Beard Bandit” was also a suspect in bank robberies in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. According to investigative reports, the “Fake Beard Bandit” would enter a bank wearing street clothes and would return to the bank later that same day wearing a disguise that included a fake beard. Surveillance videos and reports from “Fake Beard Bandit” bank robberies indicated that the vehicle driven by the robber was a grey Volkswagen Jetta with an Oklahoma license plate.

Day was sentenced to 135 months’ imprisonment for each count of armed bank robbery; bank robbery and attempted bank robbery counts, to run concurrent; and ordered to pay $70,500.00 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. The defendant will also be under supervised release for five years upon his release from prison.

This case was investigated by the Fort Smith Police Department; the Coweta, Oklahoma Police Department; the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Police Department; the Joplin, Missouri Police Department; the Olathe, Kansas Police Department; the Shawnee, Kansas Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. Assistant United States Attorney Kyra Jenner prosecuted the case for the United States.

Las Vegas Top Stories: Man Who Fraudulently Purchased Over 20 Houses in Las Vegas Area Convicted of Federal Mortgage Fraud Charges


LAS VEGAS—A Las Vegas man who recruited straw buyers and used fictitious identities to purchase more than 20 houses in the Las Vegas area in order to obtain millions of dollars of cash from the loan proceeds was convicted by a jury today of conspiracy and fraud charges, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Following a seven-day trial, Tarl Brandon, 46, of Las Vegas, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy and 15 counts of wire fraud. Brandon was convicted in three separate cases, which were joined for trial. Brandon faces up 30 years in prison on two conspiracy counts and 20 years in prison on each of the remaining 16 counts, as well as up to $1 million in fines on two counts and $250,000 in fines on the remaining 16 counts. Sentencing is scheduled for September 12, 2012 before U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson.

Brandon was resident agent and a managing member of KTB Construction Company, an LLC formed in Nevada. Between June 2004 and March 2008, Brandon and his co-conspirators paid persons to act as straw buyers to apply for mortgage loans to purchase real estate in Las Vegas. Brandon and his co-conspirators also created false identities for their straw buyers. In most instances, they had the straw buyers apply for mortgages for more than one house at a time and concealed from the lenders that they were purchasing more than one property. To induce the lenders to fund the loans, Brandon caused the loan applications and supporting documentation to include false and fraudulent information concerning the straw buyers’ income, assets, employment, and intent to occupy the home. Once the financial institutions funded the loans, the escrow companies made disbursements to Brandon’s shell company, KTB Construction, and paid commissions and fees to co-conspirators who worked in the real estate industry as loan officers. After buying the houses, Brandon failed to make payments on the mortgages and allowed most of them to go into foreclosure. Using this scheme, Brandon engaged in more than 20 different fraudulent mortgage transactions, resulting in total losses to the financial institutions of approximately $8 million.

Three co-defendants pleaded guilty, two of whom testified for the government at trial.

The investigation was led by the FBI and other agencies of the Southern Nevada Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Secret Service, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, and Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Pugh and Kathryn Newman.

Former Avila Controller Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud


Stole More than $1.5 Million from Local Housing Corporation

ALBANY, NY—The former controller for Avila, William Sorriento, 53, of Mechanicville, New York, pled guilty today to wire fraud before United States District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino announced United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Special-Agent-in-Charge Clifford C. Holly of the Albany Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sentencing is scheduled for October 18, 2012. Sorriento faces up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain to the Defendant or loss to any victim, whichever is greater. Sorriento will also be required to forfeit any proceeds of the crime, pay restitution to the victim, and pay a $100 special assessment.

From May 2005 through August 2011, William Sorriento worked as the controller for the Teresian House Housing Corporation, doing business as Avila (“Avila”). In June 2009, the Alchester Group LLC assumed management of and day-to-day responsibility for Avila through a consulting agreement and, from that point on, Sorriento reported to the Alchester Group LLC. As part of his duties, Sorriento prepared checks, reconciled monthly bank statements, and created monthly financial reports. Sorriento was not an authorized signatory for checks.

Between September 30, 2010 and May 13, 2011, Sorriento stole $1,582,281 from Avila’s checking account by writing checks to himself and others. After forging any necessary signatures, Sorriento deposited the money into his personal bank account and used the money to gamble and trade options. For example, on February 24, 2011, he wired $95,000 from his Citizens Bank account in Clifton Park, New York to optionsXpress in Chicago, Illinois. Sorriento also created false entries in the ledger to conceal his theft.

The investigation was conducted by the Albany Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States is represented in this prosecution by Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth C. Coombe.

St. Charles County Man Indicted for Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft


ST. LOUIS, MO—Michael Brandon Smith, of O’Fallon, Missouri, was indicted for allegedly pointing a laser at Metro St. Louis Air Support Police helicopter on May 18, 2012.

Smith was indicted by a federal grand jury June 6 on one felony count of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft. The indictment was sealed until the arrest of the defendant earlier today.

If convicted, this charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.

This case was investigated by the O’Fallon Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Howard Marcus is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.