Tuesday, July 31, 2018

British Man Sentenced to Ten Years for Traveling to Tennessee for Sex with a Minor and Attempting to Entice a Minor to Have Sex

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On July 26, 2018, Roy Anthony Williams, of the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom, was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas A. Varlan, Chief U.S. District Judge, to serve 120 months in federal prison for traveling from the United Kingdom to Tennessee for the purpose of having sex with a minor and attempting to persuade and entice the minor to have sex with him.  Following his release from prison, Williams will be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 10 years and required to register with the sex offender registry in any state in which he resides, works, or attends school.  Williams will also be subject to deportation from the United States following his release from prison.

In March 2018, Williams pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his travel from the United Kingdom to Lenoir City, Tennessee, for the purpose of having sex with a 13-year-old girl and then communicating with the girl via text messages in order to arrange for the girl to meet him at a local motel to have sex.  The girl’s mother discovered the text messages from Williams on her daughter’s phone and reported the contact to the Lenoir City Police Department.  A search of his cellular telephone and computer resulted in the discovery of evidence confirming that Williams had been grooming the girl online for several months, via various social media platforms, to have sex with her.

“Sexual predators like Williams use the Internet and social media to find children, particularly teenagers, to groom and entice for illicit sexual activity.  Parents should be vigilant to protect their children from would-be child molesters who are prowling the Internet for young victims,” said J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  “Our office will continue to work with investigative agencies to build cases and prosecute the offenders of these heinous crimes,” added U.S. Attorney Overbey.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Lenoir City Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris represented the United States in court proceedings.

Jordanian National Arrested in New York to Face Charges for a Conspiracy to Bring Aliens Into the United States

WASHINGTON – A Jordanian national residing in Monterrey, Mexico was arrested Saturday on arrival at JFK International Airport to face a criminal complaint issued in the Western District of Texas for his role in a scheme to smuggle special interest aliens from Mexico into the United States.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John F. Bash of the Western District of Texas and Special Agent in Charge Shane M. Folden of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Antonio made the announcement.

On May 29, an arrest warrant was issued pursuant to a criminal complaint, which alleges that in the later half of 2017, Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi, 31, conspired with others to smuggle six Yemeni nationals across the Texas border and into the United States in exchange for a fee. 

Aldairi was presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go in the Eastern District of New York for his initial appearance.  At the hearing, Judge Go ordered that Aldairi be held pending transfer to the Western District of Texas for further criminal proceedings.

“Aldairi allegedly smuggled six Yemeni citizens across the Mexican border and into the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “Alien smuggling puts our national security at risk, and the Criminal Division is dedicated to enforcing our immigration laws and disrupting the flow of illegal aliens into the United States.”

“The arrest of Aldairi showcases HSI’s unique ability to coordinate investigative efforts across international boundaries with multiple countries and different agencies throughout the U.S. Government,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Folden.  “Attacking the leader/organizers of illicit international pathways for aliens from certain countries of interest will always be a priority of HSI.”

This case is being investigated by HSI Eagle Pass, with assistance from HSI New York, HSI Jordan and the U.S. Embassy of Jordan.  The investigation is being conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI.  The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns.  ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources.  ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney James Hepburn of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Watters of the Western District of Texas.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Sentenced To 7 Years In Prison

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that former New York State Assembly Speaker SHELDON SILVER was sentenced this afternoon to seven years in prison after having been found guilty a second time by a federal jury of using his official position to obtain nearly $4 million in bribes in exchange for his official acts and obtaining another $1 million through laundering the proceeds of his crimes. SILVER had previously been found guilty of the same offenses by a jury in November 2015, but the conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States.

SILVER was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni, who also presided over the two-week jury trial.  

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “When he assumed his powerful position at the top of New York State government, Sheldon Silver took an oath to do the work of the people.  Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets.  Sheldon Silver has been given a lengthy sentence of seven years in federal prison.  We hope today’s fittingly stiff sentence sends a clear message: brokering official favors for your personal benefit is illegal and will result in prison time.  I thank the career prosecutors of this Office for their perseverance in this important case for the people of New York.”

According to the evidence introduced at trial, court filings, and statements made in Manhattan federal court:

For more than two decades, SHELDON SILVER served as Speaker of the New York State Assembly, a position that gave him significant power over the operation of state government.  SILVER used this immense power – including, in particular, his power over the real estate industry and his control over certain health care funding – to unlawfully and corruptly enrich himself.  Among other things, SILVER unlawfully solicited and obtained client referrals worth millions of dollars in exchange for his official acts, and attempted to disguise this money as legitimate outside income earned from his work as a private lawyer.  In particular, SILVER claimed, on financial disclosure forms required to be filed with New York State and in public statements, that the millions of dollars he received in outside income while also serving as Speaker of the Assembly came from a Manhattan-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., where SILVER claimed to work representing individual clients in personal injury actions.  These claims were materially false and misleading – and made to cover up unlawful payments SILVER received due to his official power and influence as an elected legislator and the Speaker of the Assembly.

The schemes provided SILVER with two different streams of unlawful income: (i) approximately $700,000 in kickbacks SILVER received by steering two real estate developers with business before the state legislature to a law firm with which he was associated, and (ii) more than $3 million in asbestos client referral fees SILVER received by, among other official acts, awarding $500,000 in state grants to a university research center of a physician who referred patients made ill by asbestos to Weitz & Luxenberg.

Unlawful Income From a Real Estate Law Firm

SILVER, a lawyer, entered into a corrupt relationship with Jay Arthur Goldberg, P.C., later known as Goldberg & Iryami, P.C., which specialized in making applications to New York City to reduce taxes assessed on properties.  Beginning in at least approximately 2000, SILVER approached a prominent developer of residential properties in Manhattan, Glenwood Management Corp. (“Glenwood”), and later approached another developer, The Witkoff Group LLC (“Witkoff”), and asked them to hire Goldberg & Iryami.  The developers – both of whom lobbied SILVER and others on real estate issues because their businesses depended heavily on favorable state legislation – agreed to use Goldberg & Iryami as SILVER had requested.  Over the years, Witkoff and Glenwood paid millions of dollars in legal fees to Goldberg & Iryami.  SILVER received a cut from the legal fees amounting to nearly $700,000.  SILVER had no public affiliation with Goldberg & Iryami and performed no legal work to earn those fees, which were payments for SILVER having arranged the business through his official power and influence.

While continuing to receive the fees and in furtherance of the scheme, SILVER took official action beneficial to Glenwood and Witkoff.  For example, while SILVER was publicly associated with advocating for tenants, a proposal that benefitted Glenwood was in substantial part enacted in real estate legislation in 2011 with SILVER’s support.  SILVER also approved more than $1 billion dollars in state financing for Glenwood.

Unlawful Income From Asbestos Client Referrals

SILVER also entered into a corrupt arrangement with Dr. Robert Taub, who was a leading physician specializing in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases, through which SILVER issued state grants and otherwise used his official position to provide favors to Dr. Taub and his family so that Dr. Taub would refer and continue to refer his patients to SILVER at Weitz & Luxenberg, a firm with which SILVER was affiliated as counsel.  Specifically, SILVER arranged for New York State to fund two grants – each for $250,000, and paid out of a then-secret and un-itemized pool of funds controlled entirely by SILVER – for a research center Dr. Taub had established.  SILVER used his official position to provide Dr. Taub with other benefits as well, including helping to direct $25,000 in state funds to a not-for-profit organization for which one of Dr. Taub’s family members served on the board, and asking the CEO of a second not-for-profit to hire a second family member of Dr. Taub.

From approximately 2005 until his arrest, SILVER received more than $3 million from legal fees Weitz & Luxenberg received from patients Dr. Taub had referred to SILVER at the firm while SILVER was agreeing to and taking official actions to benefit Dr. Taub.  SILVER did no legal work whatsoever on these asbestos cases, his sole role having been to use his official position and access to state funds to induce Dr. Taub to provide him with these lucrative referrals.

Silver’s Efforts to Cover Up the Schemes

SILVER took various efforts to disguise his unlawful outside income and prevent the detection of his criminal schemes.  For years, SILVER listed on his official public disclosure forms that his outside income consisted of “limited practice of law in the principal subject area of personal injury claims on behalf of individual clients,” which was false and misleading.  Beginning in 2010, SILVER’s disclosures changed to state that the source of his legal income was a “Law Practice” that “includ[ed]” being of counsel to Weitz & Luxenberg.  SILVER never disclosed his relationship with Goldberg & Iryami or any work beyond what he claimed was a “personal injury” practice.

SILVER also repeatedly made false and misleading statements about his outside work and income in his public statements, including the following:

    SILVER claimed he performed legal work consisting of spending several hours each week evaluating legal matters brought to him by potential clients and then referring cases that appeared to have merit to lawyers at Weitz & Luxenberg.  In fact, SILVER did no such work on the asbestos cases and obtained those referrals to Weitz & Luxenberg based on his corrupt arrangement with Dr. Taub.
    SILVER claimed his law practice involved the representation of “plain, ordinary simple people.”  In fact, SILVER steered legal work to Goldberg & Iryami for some of the largest real estate developers in the state, for which favorable state legislation was critical to their business interests.
    SILVER claimed through his spokesperson that SILVER principally found clients by virtue of his having been a “lawyer for more than 40 years,” in a manner that was “not unlike any other attorney in this state, anywhere.”  In fact, SILVER received money from referring his lucrative asbestos and real estate developer clients solely by virtue of his official position.
    SILVER stated through his spokesperson that “[n]one of his clients have any business before the state.”  In fact, SILVER’s outside income included millions of dollars of fees obtained through Glenwood and Witkoff, both of which had significant business before the state, and Dr. Taub, to whose benefit SILVER provided state funding and other benefits related to SILVER’s official position.

In addition, SILVER attempted to thwart the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, by filing legal motions on behalf of the Assembly and taking other action to block the Moreland Commission’s investigation into legislators’ outside income.

Finally, SILVER laundered part of crime proceeds through private investment vehicles, not available to the public, which yielded him another $1 million in ill-gotten gains.

*                      *                      *

In addition to the prison sentence, SILVER, 74, of New York, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.

SILVER was found guilty by a unanimous jury on May 11, 2018, of two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under color of official right, and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions. 

U.S. Attorney Berman praised the work of the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which jointly conducted this investigation. 

This case was prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Damian Williams are in charge of the prosecution.