Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nevada County Man Sentenced to Nearly 30 Years in Prison for Wounding Two Law Enforcement Officers in Gun Battle

Brent Douglas Cole, 61, was sentenced to 29 years and seven months in prison today for an assault on law enforcement officers by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr., announced U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California.

On Feb. 11, 2015, after a three-day trial, a federal jury found Cole guilty of assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon that inflicted bodily injury, assaulting a person assisting a federal officer with a deadly weapon that inflicted bodily injury and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.

According to evidence presented at trial, on June 14, 2014, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ranger stopped Cole while he was driving a vehicle on a closed dirt road on BLM land near the South Yuba River campground.  The ranger gave Cole a warning and allowed him to leave without issuing him a citation.  The ranger continued up the dirt road and discovered a makeshift campsite with two motorcycles – one of which had been reported stolen and the other with expired tags.  The ranger requested the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) help to impound the motorcycles.

While the ranger and a CHP officer were preparing to move the two motorcycles, Cole emerged from the brush surrounding the campsite and announced that he was coming to get his things.  The ranger asked Cole if he was armed and when Cole replied that he was, the ranger reached for his handcuffs.  Cole said he would not allow the ranger to place the handcuffs on him.  Cole then drew a Taurus .44-caliber revolver from the right side of his waist, pointed the weapon at the ranger and fired multiple rounds.  One round struck the Ranger in the left shoulder.  In response to Cole’s actions, the ranger and the CHP officer returned fire.  Cole fired multiple rounds at the CHP officer and one bullet struck the officer in the right leg.  Cole was struck several times by law enforcement.

After expending his ammunition and being shot multiple times, Cole gave up and was arrested. Cole, the BLM ranger and the CHP officer received medical attention and all survived their wounds.

“The defendant has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks remorse and has no respect for the law,” said Judge Burrell in the sentencing.  “…He has a stunning lack of regard for anyone other than himself.”

“The men and women in law enforcement who serve our communities risk their lives every day they report to work,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner.  “The BLM ranger and CHP officer who were shot in this case were doing nothing more than carrying out routine duties.  We are gratified with today’s sentence, we appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office and we will continue to make prosecuting those who put officers at risk a top priority for our office.  More than anything, we are thankful that their injuries were not more severe and that the incident did not result in a loss of life.”

“I thank the Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Attorney and the many jurisdictions at the federal, state and local level who worked together to successfully prosecute this case,” said California State Director Jim Kenna for BLM.  “On behalf of the BLM, thank you to all the brave men and women who risk their lives, backing each other up to protect America’s public lands and the people who visit them.”

“This case is illustrative of the risk law enforcement officers face on a daily basis” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento’s Field Office for the FBI.  “Cole violently assaulted both a Bureau of Land Management officer and the CHP officer who was assisting him in his lawful duties.  Cole will now have decades to consider his willful disregard for the officer’s duty to uphold the law.  The FBI stands ready to investigate such violent crimes against federal officers and thank our law enforcement partners for their collaboration.”

“Every day, our officers go to work not knowing what dangers they may face,” said Commissioner Joe Farrow for CHP.  “This case demonstrated not only the challenges and dangers, but also the cooperation and teamwork among agencies that protect the people of California.  On behalf of the CHP, I would like to express my appreciation to U.S. District Judge Burrell for his deliberations in pronouncing the nearly 30-year sentence.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Land Management, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office.  Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. McCoy and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heiko Coppola prosecuted the case.

Peruvian Man Charged with Leading Conspiracy to Defraud and Extort Spanish-Speaking Consumers through Call Centers

A resident of Lima, Peru, was indicted by a Miami grand jury on fraud and attempted extortion charges for allegedly operating call centers that lied to and threatened Spanish-speaking victims in the United States, convincing them to pay fraudulent settlements.

Cesar Luis Kou Reyna, 40, was charged in a 33-count indictment with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and attempted extortion.

The announcement was made by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Inspector in Charge Ronald J. Verrochio of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Miami Division.

“The Department of Justice is committed to addressing the noted increase in fraud schemes targeting specific communities of U.S. residents,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer.  “As this case and other recent examples show, we will track down those responsible for defrauding American consumers, no matter where the fraudster resides, what language the fraudster uses or which population he or she targets.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s investigations have no borders when it comes to investigating crimes committed in the U.S. or on American victims,” said Inspector in Charge Verrochio.  “Postal inspectors will track down criminals, anywhere in the world, and bring them to justice.”

According to allegations in the indictment, Kou Reyna owned and controlled a corporation, Fonomundo FC, which operated call centers in Peru and payment and fulfilment operations in Miami.  Fonomundo FC and its affiliates in South America used Internet-based telephone calling services to place cold calls to Spanish-speaking residents in the United States.  The callers falsely claimed to be attorneys and sometimes claimed to be government representatives.  Callers claimed that victims had failed to pay for or receive a delivery of products, although the victims had not ordered these products.

According to the indictment, callers claimed that victims would be sued and that the companies would obtain large monetary judgements against them.  Some victims were also threatened with negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment or deportation.  The callers said these threatened consequences could be avoided if the victims immediately paid “settlement fees.”  Many victims made monetary payments based on these threats.

Kou Reyna was originally charged by criminal complaint and was arrested by USPIS on July 31 in Houston.  He has remained incarcerated since his arrest.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer commended USPIS for its investigative efforts and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida for its contributions to the case.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Phil Toomajian and Stephen T. Descano of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

The charges in the indictment are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

$5000 Reward Offered in Hildale, Utah Explosives Theft

SALT LAKE CITY–The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office are requesting the public’s assistance for information on the recent theft of high explosives from an explosives bunker located near Hildale, Utah.

On August 7, 2015, an ATF explosives licensee discovered explosives had been stolen from his lawfully permitted explosives storage bunker located in Hildale, Utah.  Unknown suspect(s) forced entry into the storage bunker and stole (70) pounds of high explosives.

“The theft of explosives is a serious crime, and one that presents a danger to the public,” said Brian Embley, ATF Resident Agent in Charge. “We are asking for the public’s help in our effort to apprehend and convict those responsible.”

ATF and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the recovery of the stolen explosives or the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Theft and possession of stolen explosives is a federal crime that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662). They can also contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 435-656-6644 or (link sends e-mail).  Tipsters may remain anonymous.