Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lower Brule Man Sentenced for Meth Trafficking

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Lower Brule, South Dakota, man convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine was sentenced on November 24, 2020, by Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange, U.S. District Court.

Philip Battese, a/k/a Philip Anthony Battese, Jr., age 39, was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison, followed by four years of supervised release, a $1,000 fine, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100.

Battese was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 9, 2019.  He pled guilty on July 31, 2020.

The conviction stemmed from a conspiracy beginning in at least January 2016, continuing to April 9, 2019, wherein Battese was involved with several others to distribute at least 200 grams of methamphetamine in and around the Lower Brule and Crow Creek Indian Reservations in South Dakota. The individuals who provided Battese with the methamphetamine knew that he intended to engage in further distribution of the methamphetamine.

This case was investigated by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services, Crow Creek Agency and Lower Brule Agency, and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges prosecuted the case.

Battese was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Colorado Man Indicted on Meth Trafficking and Gun Charges

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Boulder, Colorado, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, and Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person.

James Rutledge, age 49, was indicted on November 10, 2020.  He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on November 23, 2020, and pled not guilty to the Indictment.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is a mandatory minimum 10 years, up to life in federal prison and/or a $10,000,000 fine, at least five years, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and $300 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.  Restitution may also be ordered.

The Indictment alleges that beginning at a time unknown, but no later than on or about the March 1, 2020, and continuing to on or about November 10, 2020, Rutledge did knowingly and intentionally, combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with persons known and unknown, to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine in central South Dakota.  Further, on or about August 28, 2020, Rutledge did knowingly and intentionally possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and then being an unlawful user of a controlled substance, did knowingly possess a handgun, which had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce and foreign commerce.

The charges are merely accusations and Rutlege is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Drug trafficking is an inherently violent activity.  Firearms are tools of the trade for drug dealers.  It is common to find drug traffickers armed with guns in order to protect their illegal drug product and cash, and enforce their illegal operations.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of its renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and local communities to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

This case is also part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities. For more information about Project Guardian, please see: https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.

The investigation is being conducted by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges is prosecuting the case.   

Rutledge was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.  A trial date has not been set.

Colorado Man Indicted for Meth Trafficking

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Denver, Colorado, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine.

Timothy Zuk, age 47, was indicted on August 11, 2020.  He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Moreno on November 23, 2020, and pled not guilty to the Indictment.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is a mandatory minimum 10 years, up to life in prison and/or a $10,000,000 fine, at least five years, up to a lifetime of supervised release, and $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund for each Count.  Restitution may also be ordered. 

The Indictment alleges that beginning at a time unknown but no later than on or about January 1, 2019, and continuing to on or about January 1, 2020, Zuk, did knowingly and intentionally, combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with persons known and unknown, to knowingly and intentionally distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.

The charge is merely an accusation and Zuk is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. 

The investigation is being conducted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services and the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan N. Dilges is prosecuting the case.   

Zuk was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.  A trial date has not been set.

Former Credit Union Employee Sentenced For Embezzlement

HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on November 24, 2020, Kaylyn Wolfe, age 32, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to one day of imprisonment and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner, for embezzling from Members 1st Federal Credit Union.  The term of supervised release includes six months of a curfew and electronic monitoring.  Wolfe was also ordered to pay $85,679 in restitution.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Wolfe previously admitted that she committed the offense from September 2016 through September 2017, while employed in the Members 1st credit card services department.  Wolfe acknowledged that she made numerous unauthorized changes to her and her husband’s Members 1st credit card accounts that allowed her to, among other things, obtain significant cash advances.  

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlo D. Marchioli prosecuted the case

Fall River Woman Charged with Sexual Exploitation of Children

 BOSTON – A Fall River woman was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury on child sexual exploitation charges.

Nichole Cyr, 25, was indicted on two counts of sexual exploitation of children. According to the indictment, Cyr produced child pornography involving two minors on various dates between November 2019 and July 2020. Cyr will make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston at a later date. She is currently in state custody.

The charging statute provides for a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the United States Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; David Magdycz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III; Fall River Police Chief John M. Souza; and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti, Lelling’s Project Safe Childhood Coordinator and Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Unit, is prosecuting the case.

The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Manchester Woman Pleads Guilty to Fentanyl Trafficking

             CONCORD – Rosemarie Cote, 45, of Manchester, pleaded guilty in federal court to fentanyl trafficking, United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced today.

            According to court documents and statements made in court, Cote was part of a drug trafficking organization that sold fentanyl and cocaine to customers in Manchester.  In July 2019, a cooperating individual purchased fentanyl from Cote.  The investigation revealed that Cote worked with another drug trafficker and had sold drugs as part of a drug trafficking organization on numerous occasions.   

            Cote is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11, 2021.  

            “Fentanyl trafficking has caused serious damage to Manchester and communities throughout New Hampshire,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “We are committed to working with the FBI and all of our state and local law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute the fentanyl dealers who are jeopardizing public health and safety.  Those who choose to sell this deadly drug will find themselves facing potential federal prison time.”

            “Today, Rosemarie Cote finally accepted responsibility for her role in a drug trafficking organization that ran several drug distribution houses throughout the city of Manchester that profited from those struggling with addiction,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations like this one is a critical part of the FBI’s mission, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stem the flow of illegal narcotics that are making their way into our neighborhoods.”

             This matter was investigated by the FBI NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force which is comprised of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Hampshire State Police, Dover Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, and Nashua Police Department. The Manchester Police Department provided valuable assistance as well.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Georgiana L. MacDonald and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Gingrande. 

             This investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Omaha Man Sentenced for Bank Robbery

 United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Michael G. Hymes, 40, of Omaha, Nebraska, was sentenced today for bank robbery. United States District Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. sentenced Hymes to 12 years’ imprisonment.  He was also ordered to pay $2,950 in restitution for money not recovered. Hymes, who has two prior convictions for bank robbery, will serve a three-year term of supervised release following his release from the Bureau of Prisons. There is no parole in the federal prison system. 

On July 15, 2019, Hymes entered the Creighton Federal Credit Union, dressed as a female wearing a long- haired wig, flip-flops, and carrying a purse.  He verbally demanded money from the teller and claimed he had a bomb, but none was shown.  He was able to leave the bank with $4,017.00.  He got into a car that was tracked and followed into Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Officers found the vehicle approximately a half hour after the robbery and Hymes’s disguise was found in it.  

This case was investigated by the Omaha Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Great Plains Violent Crime Task Force, comprised of FBI agents, Omaha Police Department detectives, Nebraska State Patrol Investigators and Papillion Police Department Detectives.

Baltimore Fentanyl Dealer Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced to More Than 10 Years in Federal Prison

 Manager of a Drug Trafficking Organization Operating in West Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland – On November 24, 2020, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Lovell Patterson, age 40, of Baltimore, to 123 months in federal prison, followed by four years of supervised release, after Patterson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and cocaine, possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, and with violating his supervised release from a previous federal felony drug conviction by committing these crimes. 

The guilty plea and sentence were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office; and Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department.

“Lovell Patterson admitted that he sold fentanyl—an especially deadly drug, of which just two milligrams can kill you,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “But the organization he worked with also had guns to facilitate their drug dealing.  The primary focus of the Baltimore OCDETF Strike Force will continue to be violent DTOs, who bring misery to our streets both through the deadly drugs they import and sell, and through the guns that they wield.”  

According to Patterson’s plea agreement, from at least November 2019 through April 16, 2020, Patterson participated in a drug trafficking organization (DTO) operating in and around the 1800 block of Penrose Avenue in West Baltimore.  The DTO sold fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine on a daily basis in street-level quantities.  During the time of the conspiracy, law enforcement overheard calls between Patterson and other DTO members, conducted surveillance on the DTO, purchased narcotics from DTO members—including Patterson—and executed multiple search warrants at locations used by the DTO to store and process narcotics.

As detailed in the plea agreement, Patterson obtained drugs from suppliers and had a co-conspirator combine drugs with adulterants and package the drugs.  Between February 4 and April 1, 2020, Patterson also personally sold fentanyl, fentanyl/heroin gel caps, and cocaine to an undercover officer.  For example, on March 2, 2020, Patterson sold an undercover officer six grams of fentanyl and 100 gel caps of a heroin-fentanyl mixture for $1,100.  During the conversation Patterson told the undercover officer that he was boss, but let another conspirator run the block.  Patterson and the undercover officer also discussed future purchases of drugs. 

On April 16, 2020, law enforcement executed search warrants at three houses used by the DTO to process narcotics.  During the searches, law enforcement recovered:  a loaded 9mm handgun and a fully loaded revolver; a total of $5,701 in cash; 332 grams of fentanyl; hundreds of gel caps; cutting agents; and drug paraphernalia, including gloves, sifters, and scales.

Patterson admitted that he supervised five or more members of the DTO and that he distributed, or knew the members of the conspiracy distributed or possessed with intent to distribute, at least 400 grams of fentanyl and a quantity of cocaine.

This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location.  This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks.  These prosecutor-led co-located Strike Forces capitalize on the synergy created through the long-term relationships that can be forged by agents, analysts, and prosecutors who remain together over time, and they epitomize the model that has proven most effective in combating organized crime.  The specific mission of the Baltimore OCDETF Strike Force is to reduce violent, drug-related, and gang crime in the Baltimore area and surrounding region.                    

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur praised the DEA and Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lindsey N. McCulley and Clinton J. Fuchs, who prosecuted the case.

Florida Attorney Pleads Guilty To Receiving Child Pornography

 TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – David Wayne Aring, 49, formerly of Tallahassee, pled guilty on Monday, November 23, to a federal charge of receipt of child pornography. Lawrence Keefe, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the guilty plea.

Between March 26, 2017, and December 2, 2019, from his former Tallahassee apartment, Aring used a peer-to-peer file sharing program to download digital images and videos depicting child pornography. A search warrant was executed on Aring’s apartment on January 7, 2020, and investigators located a USB storage device and a desktop computer. Investigators determined the USB device contained thousands of digital files that contained child pornography, including bestiality and bondage involving children under the age of 12 (most notably infants and toddlers).

“We make a priority of punishing crimes against children as among the most heinous kinds of offenses -- and that includes the egregious crime of child pornography,” said U.S. Attorney Keefe. “Those who seek to view and maintain this illegal content facilitate the efforts of those who produce child pornography, which is robbing so many of our children of their innocence and their very childhood.”

Aring’s desktop computer was forensically analyzed and was found to contain thousands of digital images that depicted child pornography. Further, installed on the desktop computer was a peer-to-peer file sharing program that was used to search for terms germane to child pornography, and the file sharing program was found to have been used to download over 17,000 files since May 6, 2018.

This case was jointly investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorneys Justin M. Keen and Meredith Steer are prosecuting the case.

“One of our most important jobs is combatting crimes against our children, and FDLE agents continue to investigate and arrest criminals who want to harm our youth,” said FDLE Tallahassee Special Agent in Charge Mark Perez. “I appreciate our partnership with U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe and thank our agents for their work on this case.”

Aring faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  Further, Aring faces up to life on supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Aring’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 16, 2021, at the United States District Court in Tallahassee, before Judge Allen Winsor.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.

Rapid City Priest Sentenced to 7 Years and 9 Months in Federal Prison for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Transportation of Stolen Money, and Filing a False Tax Return

 United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that Marcin Stanislaw Garbacz, age 42, an ordained priest assigned to the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, South Dakota, was sentenced on November 23, 2020 by Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Judge, on fifty counts of Wire Fraud, nine counts of Money Laundering, one count of Transportation of Stolen Money, and five counts of Making and Subscribing a False Tax Return. Garbacz was convicted in March 2020 following a week-long jury trial at the federal courthouse in Rapid City.

Garbacz was sentenced to 7 years and 9 months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.  Garbacz was ordered to pay a $6,500 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund, and $258,696.19 in restitution to be split equally between three churches - St. Therese the Little Flower, Blessed Sacrament, and Cathedral of our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), and $46,008 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The evidence at trial established Garbacz, while employed as a priest and Chaplin with the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, devised a scheme to steal cash collected from parishioners at various church services by secretly entering the areas in three parish churches where weekly donations were stored.  Garbacz entered the church buildings late in the evening, removing and replacing special, tamper-proof bank bags, and making multiple same-day deposits totaling tens of thousands of dollars of stolen cash donations.  Between 2012 and 2018, Garbacz stole $258,696.19 from St. Therese, Blessed Sacrament, and Cathedral OLPH Catholic Parishes in Rapid City.  Garbacz also filed false tax returns for tax years 2013 through 2017.

Garbacz used the more than $250,000.00 in stolen donations to purchase for himself over a dozen gold-plated chalices, numerous bronze statues, a $10,000 diamond ring, a grand piano, Mont Blanc fountain pens, and other items.

Once he was made aware of the federal investigation, Garbacz drained his bank account of $50,500 and bought a one-way plane ticket to Poland.  Fortunately, he was arrested by federal agents at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in May 2019 just before his flight was to depart. 

“Parishioners put their faith and trust in this man, and in return, he put their money in his pocket, all in the name of selfishness and greed.  Marcin Garbacz not only betrayed the parishioners, he betrayed his fellow priests, so he could carry out his vendetta against the Catholic Church,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons.  “This office will always stand up and help protect victims of financial fraud, and I appreciate the hard work of the IRS, which worked tirelessly to investigate this case and Garbacz’s criminal behavior.”

“While serving as a priest from 2012 through 2018, Mr. Garbacz violated the trust of the members of St. Therese the Little Flower, Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Blessed Sacrament for his own personal gain. Now, as a convicted felon, it is time for Mr. Garbacz to face his community and pay back the money he stole from the three parishes plus pay 5 years of unpaid federal taxes to the IRS,” said Adam Steiner, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation division in the St. Louis Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office remain committed to protect the integrity of the tax system and innocent victims that suffer monetary loss.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Patterson prosecuted and tried the case, and the investigation was led by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Garbacz was immediately remanded to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving his custody sentence.  

Another Greensburg Resident Charged in Meth Distribution Scheme

PITTSBURGH – A resident of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on a charge of violating federal narcotics laws, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The one-count Indictment named Haley Lynne Hoffman, 28, as the sole defendant.

According to the Indictment, from around December 2019 to around January 2020, Hoffman conspired to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

For Hoffman’s offense, the law provides for a maximum total sentence of 40 years imprisonment, a fine of $5,000,000 or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney David Lew is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The United States Postal Inspection Service, Kiskiminetas Township Police Department, and Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Agents Seize $3.5 Million in U.S. Currency and Massive Quantities of Cocaine, Fentanyl, and .50 Caliber Ammunition in Otay Mesa

SAN DIEGO – Three Mexican nationals suspected of trafficking huge quantities of illicit drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel were charged in federal court today in connection with what is believed to be the largest single seizure of cash, narcotics and ammunition in this district.

Jesus Burgos Arias, Juan Alatorre Venegas, and Jose Yee Perez were arrested on November 20, 2020, as a result of a long-term joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, targeting associates of the Sinaloa Cartel.

In addition to the arrests, agents seized approximately $3.5 million in bulk U.S. currency, 685 kilograms of cocaine, 24 kilograms of fentanyl, and approximately 20,000 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition and hundreds of body armor vests at a truck yard in Otay Mesa.

The defendants were charged with a drug trafficking conspiracy in a complaint filed in federal court. They will be transferred from the San Diego Central Jail to federal custody and will be scheduled to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major this week.

“This historic seizure and prosecution is a clear indication of the success of our joint investigative efforts,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “To eradicate this threat to San Diego and our partners in the Republic of Mexico, we will continue to aggressively attack the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug smuggling, money laundering, and arms smuggling operations – depriving them of their illegal merchandise, their profits, and a safe haven.” Brewer praised prosecutor Matthew J. Sutton and the federal and local agents and officers for their excellent work on this case.

“Thanks to the collaborative work with our state and federal law enforcement partners, we are able to announce this blow to the Mexican Cartels operating in San Diego,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery.  “We are further encouraged that we were able to separate them from their dangerous .50 caliber ammunition and over $3 million in drug proceeds that they have gained through selling death here in our community and throughout the US.”

“This seizure is significant not just because of its size, but because it demonstrates the direct correlation between narcotics, illicit money, and guns that drives violence in our communities and destroys lives,” said Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and prosecutors to aggressively pursue the Sinaloa Cartel and other transnational criminal organizations.”

“The Sheriff's Department is committed in working with our justice partners throughout the region to combat the dangerous drugs and violence associated with narcotic trafficking,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “Sheriff's deputies see the destruction and damage that illegal drugs cause every day.  We are proud of what this case has accomplished, and the continued work being done to hold these criminals accountable.”

This case is part of a five-year investigation led by the Southern District of California, that, in total, has resulted in charges against over 125 people and has had a significant impact on the worldwide operations of the Sinaloa Cartel. This investigation has also offered one of the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels. Cartel members and associates were targeted in this massive investigation involving multiple countries, numerous law enforcement agencies around the United States, a number of federal districts and over 250 court-authorized wiretaps in this district alone.

The investigation first began in late 2011 as an investigation of what was at first believed to be a small-scale drug distribution cell in National City and Chula Vista. It became evident that the drugs were being supplied by the Sinaloa Cartel, and the case evolved into a massive multi-national, multi-state probe that resulted in scores of arrests and seizures of 1,397 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2,214 kilograms of cocaine, 17.2 tons of marijuana, 95.84 kilograms of heroin, and $27,892,706 in narcotics proceeds.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The United States is represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant Information

Defendant                                                                                    Criminal Case No: 20-mj-5099-BLM

Defendant Number

Name

Age

Hometown

1

Jesus Burgos Arias

32

Chula Vista, California

2

Juan Alatorre Venegas

44

Tijuana, Mexico

3

Jose Yee Perez

54

Tijuana, Mexico

Summary Of Charges

Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine.

AGENCIES

Drug Enforcement Administration

Homeland Security Investigations

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

San Diego Police Department

Border Crime Suppression Team

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol

United States Marshals Service

Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

Shiprock man pleads guilty to murder in Indian Country

              ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –Tavor Tom, a resident of Shiprock, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, pleaded guilty in federal court today to the second-degree murder of a tribal member. 

             In the plea agreement, Tom admitted to committing this offense on July 1, 2019, in San Juan County on the Navajo Nation.  Tom repeatedly stabbed the victim in her home.  After the murder, Tom stole the victim’s car and fled the scene, eventually crashing into a fence on the side of a highway.  Under the terms of the plea agreement, Tom faces up to life in federal prison.

             The FBI investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph M. Spindle is prosecuting the case.

Owner and Employees of Chicago-Area Child Care Centers Charged With Defrauding Illinois Low-Income Daycare Program Out of $6.1 Million

 CHICAGO — The owner of Chicago-area child care centers and several of her employees fraudulently schemed to pocket more than $6.1 million from a State of Illinois program designed to help low-income families afford child care, according to an indictment returned in federal court.

ALEESHA McDOWELL owned child care providers A&A Kiddy Kollege Inc. in Calumet City, A&A Kiddy Kollege 2 in Calumet Park, and Kreative Kidz Academy Inc., Kreative Kidz Academy II Inc., and Kreative Kidz Academy III Inc. in Chicago.  From 2012 to 2020, McDowell schemed with four directors of her centers and others to defraud the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Child Care Assistance Program by submitting and causing the submission of materially false information, including fraudulent paystubs and income verification letters, regarding a parent’s eligibility to qualify for state subsidy payments, the indictment states.  McDowell and the co-schemers also assisted parents in completing false IDHS applications that fraudulently caused the state to issue subsidy payments to the centers, the indictment alleges.  As a result of the scheme, the defendants caused IDHS to suffer a loss of at least $6.1 million, the indictment states.

The charges accuse McDowell of spending some of the criminally derived money on a 2017 Bentley Bentayga and a house in Mokena, Ill.

McDowell, 41, of Mokena, is charged with 12 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.  Also charged with wire fraud are NICOLE LACEY, 36, of Burnham, Ill., who worked as director at AAKK and AAKK-2 (ten counts); STACY SIMS, 43, of Chicago, director at KKA-2 (two counts); JANELLE JORDAN, 40, of Chicago, director at KKA-3 (three counts); LAUREN COLEY, 40, of Phoenix, Ariz., director at AAKK and KKA (two counts); SHAVON JOHNSON, 47, of Country Club Hills, Ill. (four counts); and SEAN BLUNT, 44, of Matteson, Ill. (two counts).

The indictment was ordered unsealed on Monday.  Most of the defendants have made initial appearances in federal court in Chicago.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; Tamera Cantu, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Anthony Mohatt, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Midwest Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General in Chicago.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Hernandez and Kate McClelland.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

Ceasefire Reduces, Shootings, Gang-involved Shootings, and More

 This is a focused-deterrence group violence reduction strategy (GVRS) designed to reduce or control gun violence in Oakland, Calif.

The program is rated Effective. The intervention was shown to reduce total shootings, gang-involved shootings, suspected gang-involved shootings, and gang shooting victimizations in treatment block groups relative to matched comparison block groups. These differences were all statistically significant.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

St. Paul Man Sentenced To 235 Months In Prison For Methamphetamine Trafficking

 United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the sentencing of LUCAS JAY MADISON, 40, to 235 months in prison for his role in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. MADISON, who pleaded guilty on July 21, 2020, was sentenced yesterday before Judge Eric C. Tostrud in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, MADISON and his co-conspirators engaged in a large-scale methamphetamine trafficking operation. On April 14, 2020, law enforcement stopped MADISON and his co-conspirator near Faribault, Minnesota, as they traveled back from Phoenix, Arizona. Law enforcement conducted a search of the vehicle and recovered approximately 23 pounds of methamphetamine contained within a backpack. The methamphetamine was intended for delivery to MADISON’s co-conspirators in the Twin Cities. On the same day, law enforcement conducted search warrants at MADISON’s car detailing business in Bloomington, Minnesota, and his apartment in St. Paul. As a result of these searches, law enforcement agents recovered approximately 680 grams of methamphetamine, a Hi Point Model 9 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a digital scale, THC cartridges, and multiple cell phones. Afterward, law enforcement searched other conspiracy locations and seized over $100,000 in U.S. currency, two handguns, over 100 grams of methamphetamine, additional digital scales, and drug paraphernalia.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Anoka Hennepin Drug Task Force, the Cannon River Drug & Violent Offender Task Force, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office, the Rice County Sheriff’s Office, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, and the Edina Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorney Allen A. Slaughter prosecuted the case.

Defendant Information:

LUCAS JAY MADISON, 40

St. Paul, Minn.

Convicted:

  • Conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, 1 count

Sentenced:

  • 235 months in prison
  • Five years of supervised release

Harrisburg Man Sentenced To 140 Months’ Imprisonment For Sex Trafficking By Force

 HARRISBURG - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on November 23, 2020, Terrance Hawkins, age 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 140 months’ imprisonment by United States District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo for sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Hawkins was a principal in a sex trafficking operation that exploited over 20 victims, including juveniles. Judge Rambo noted the seriousness of the criminal conduct when imposing his sentence. Four co-defendants in the conspiracy were previously convicted of engaging in the same conspiracy that began in Harrisburg in the fall of 2015 and continued until it was dismantled in August 2016:

  • Miguel Arnold, age 33, of Harrisburg, was the leader of the group and was convicted of conspiracy to commit and sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and marijuana; possession with intent to distribute heroin, and was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. The judge noted Arnold’s leadership and the violence he used in the scheme as reasons for the sentence;
  • Tevin Bynoe, age 27, of Harrisburg, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, and was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment;
  • Joshua Guity-Nunez, age 31, of Harrisburg, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment; and
  • Emonie Murphy, age 23, of Harrisburg, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. 

As a part of their scheme, they rented hotel rooms and posted “escort” advertisements and photographs on www.backpage.com, a website that the FBI has since seized and is no longer operational.  The traffickers would frequently solicit women to engage in prostitution by lying to them about the services that they would be expected to perform.  They would also target victims who were vulnerable by virtue of their age, financial insecurity, or drug addiction.  At least three victims of the conspiracy were minors, one as young as 14 years old.  They would take the majority of the money made during the course of the prostitution business, and distribute drugs to the women, including heroin. They coerced the sex trafficking victims through fraud, physical abuse, deprivation of heroin to addicted victims, and threats of violence.

The FBI coordinated the investigation and was aided by law enforcement agencies in the Harrisburg area.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael A. Consiglio and Christian T. Haugsby prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit  www.usdoj.gov/psc For more information about internet safety education, please visit  www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

Outside Facilitator in Prison Corruption Scheme Sentenced to a Year and a Day in Federal Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy Involving Former Correctional Officers and Inmates at Jessup Correctional Institution

 Arranged to Have Contraband Narcotics Smuggled into Prison in Exchange for Bribe Payments

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Trinesse Butts, age 37, of Parkville, Maryland, to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for a racketeering conspiracy at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI).  The conspiracy included former correctional officers, inmates, and outside “facilitators,” like Butts, who paid bribes to correctional officers to smuggle contraband, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, and cell phones into the prison.  The sentence was imposed on November 23, 2020.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Robert Green, of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

JCI was a maximum-security prison that housed approximately 1,800 male inmates, with approximately 423 Correctional Officers (COs).

According to her plea agreement, from at least 2017 until her arrest earlier this year, Trinesse Butts was romantically involved with a JCI inmate.  While her boyfriend was an inmate, Butts conspired with JCI COs, inmates, and other outside facilitators to smuggle contraband into JCI, including narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, and cell phones, in order to enrich themselves and protect and expand their criminal operation.  According to the plea agreement and other court documents, COs accepted or agreed to accept payments from facilitators and/or inmates or engaged in sexual relations with inmates in exchange for smuggling contraband into JCI.  Inmates acted as both wholesalers and retailers of contraband and in the process made profits that far exceeded the profits that could be made by selling similar drugs on the street.  For example, conspirator inmates could purchase Suboxone strips for approximately $3 each and sell them inside JCI for approximately $50 each, or for a profit of more than 1,000 percent. 

As detailed in her plea agreement, Butts conspired with a JCI CO, her inmate boyfriend, and others to smuggle controlled substances, including Suboxone and K2, into JCI, then distribute the contraband to other inmates.  As part of the conspiracy, Butts made bribe payments to the CO and others.  In addition, Butts managed financial accounts used to collect the profits from the smuggling operation.  For example, Butts’ inmate boyfriend would routinely provide her with his customers’ reloadable prepaid debit card account numbers and instruct Butts to load their payments into accounts that Butts managed.

Three other co-defendants have pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.  Eleven co-defendants are still facing charges. 

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The U.S. Attorney expressed appreciation to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, whose staff initiated the JCI investigation and have been full partners in this investigation. 

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Burden H. Walker and Lauren E. Perry, who are prosecuting the case.

North Attleboro Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Offenses

 BOSTON – A North Attleboro man pleaded guilty today to child pornography offenses.

Nicholas Robillard, 39, pleaded guilty to one count each of distribution and possession of child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2021. Robillard was indicted in October 2019.

Robillard distributed and possessed child pornography on various dates between Oct. 16, 2018 and Feb. 14, 2019.

Based on his prior record, Robillard faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and up to 40 years in prison on the charge of distribution of child pornography, and a minimum of 10 years and up to 20 years in prison on the charge of possession of child pornography. Both offenses provide for a minimum of five years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; David Magdycz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement today. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office provided assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti, Lelling’s Project Safe Childhood Coordinator and Deputy Chief of the Major Crimes Unit, is prosecuting the case.

The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

Prince George’s County Man Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for 2019 Oxon Hill Bank Robbery

 Greenbelt, Maryland -- U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang today sentenced Saleem Abdul Muhammad, age 55, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, to four years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for bank robbery.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

According to Muhammad’s guilty plea and court documents, on July 15, 2019, Muhammad entered a bank in Oxon Hill, Maryland, approached the teller’s window, and stated “Give me my money.”  The victim teller advised Muhammad that he needed to provide his identification and debit card to withdraw money.  Muhammad became agitated and stated, “Give me the money, this is a robbery, I will shoot everyone out here.”  Fearing for her safety, the victim complied and provided Muhammad with $202 in cash with a GPS tracking device hidden inside.  Muhammad fled on foot. The GPS tracker led officers to a fast food restaurant located in the same shopping center as the bank.  The officers apprehended Muhammad and, after a review of surveillance footage showing Muhammad throwing something in the trash, recovered the GPS tracking device from the trash can. The $202 in cash was found on Muhammad’s person.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in these investigations.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Morgan and Burden Walker, who are prosecuting the case.

Mexican National Sentenced For Social Security Fraud, Identity Theft And Involvement In Methamphetamine Trafficking

 Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton has sentenced Jose Martin Sanchez, a/k/a Jorge Sanchez (49, Winter Garden), a Mexican national, to a total of eight years in federal prison for using a telephone to facilitate a drug felony, false representation of a Social Security number (SSN), and aggravated identity theft. After completing his sentence, he is expected to be removed to Mexico.

Sanchez had pleaded guilty to the charges on September 4, 2020. 

According to his plea agreement, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputies encountered Sanchez at about 2:30 a.m. on October 8, 2019, while they were conducting surveillance on a residence that was related to an ongoing methamphetamine trafficking investigation. Drug Enforcement Administration agents later questioned Sanchez about his identity and the events of those early morning hours, and Sanchez admitted that he had agreed, over the telephone, to pick up approximately seven ounces of “crystal” methamphetamine at a gas station and deliver an ounce to the residence in Rockledge. Sanchez also admitted that he had been using his brother’s name for years and said that he was a citizen of Mexico and did not have a SSN. Agents from the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General later confirmed that Sanchez had used his brother’s identity to obtain a Florida drivers license as early as 2008 and used his brother’s valid SSN to renew that license on March 6, 2017. Agents also found that Sanchez had been convicted of drug trafficking in California and Washington, had served prison sentences related to those convictions, and had served a term of supervised release in Florida, all in his brother’s name.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Social Security Administration – Office of Investigations of the Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney E. Jackson Boggs, Jr.

Peabody Man Pleads Guilty to Robbery and Firearm Charges

 BOSTON – A Peabody man pleaded guilty today in connection with over a dozen armed robberies throughout greater Boston.

Luis Cintron, 41, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of interfering with commerce by robbery and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery. He also pleaded guilty to charges of possession of cocaine and cocaine base with intent to distribute. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani scheduled sentencing for March 12, 2021. In March 2018, Cintron was arrested and charged by criminal complaint.

Cintron was involved in the robbery of 15 convenience stores in the greater Boston area between Dec. 28, 2017 and Feb. 15, 2018. During each of the robberies, which occurred in East Boston, Chelsea, Lynn, Winthrop, Peabody, and Everett, two robbers entered the store wearing masks and wielding a firearm. During a Jan. 8, 2018, robbery in Lynn, one of the robbers fired a gun at a clerk who had followed the robbers out of the store.

Each charge of interfering with commerce by robbery provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine base with intent to distribute provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, at least eight years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $8 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes; Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary; Winthrop Police Chief Terence M. Delehanty; Peabody Police Chief Thomas M. Griffin; and Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Richardson of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.

Office Of Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention Awards More Than $221 Million To Support Juvenile Justice

 WASHINGTON – The Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention today announced that it has awarded more than $221 million in grant funding to enhance state and local juvenile justice systems, provide gang prevention and intervention services, support mentoring and reentry services for youth and families, and help states comply with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Grant funding also supports programs for American Indian and Alaska Native youth.

          “The long-term health and safety of America’s communities depend heavily on the support and guidance we give our young people,” said OJP Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “Through mentoring programs, drug and mental health treatment, gang and violence prevention activities, and measures aimed at strengthening our juvenile justice system, the Office of Justice Programs is working hard to instill in our youth a powerful sense of personal responsibility, a goal that is critical in securing the future prosperity and civic integrity of our nation.” 

         OJJDP awarded more than 225 grants to state, local and tribal jurisdictions, research and academic institutions, and other public and private organizations across the United States.

 

         “We serve our young people best when we hold them accountable for their behavior and when we give them the tools to overcome both the setbacks they have already encountered and the challenges that lie before them,” said OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp. “A solid network of services and support, bolstered by an effective juvenile justice system, is key to helping system-involved youth live up to their potential and become productive members of society. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will continue to do its part to put America’s kids on a path to a bright future.” 

 

          Here are some of the ways the more than $221 million in FY2020 funding will enhance state and local juvenile justice systems:

  • $84.9 million will fund mentoring programs and services for youth;
  • $57.9 million will provide assistance to states’ juvenile justice systems and staffs;
  • $33.5 million will fund juvenile and family drug courts and provide services to youth impacted by the opioid crisis;
  • $11.2 million will supplement reentry services for juveniles and parents of minors;
  • $11.1 million will support gang prevention, intervention, and suppression efforts;
  • $7.2 million will support American Indian and Alaska Native youth programs and services;
  • $4.9 million will fund services for justice-involved youth with mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders; and
  • $1.8 million will support juvenile indigent defense.

          For a complete list of individual grant programs, amounts to be awarded, and the jurisdictions that will receive funding, visit here.

 

          Additional information about Fiscal Year 2020 grant awards made by the Office of Justice Programs can be found online at the OJP Awards Data webpage.

Massachusetts Man Charged with Child Pornography Possession

 A Sutton, Massachusetts, man was arrested and charged today with possession of child pornography.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling for the District of Massachusetts, Acting Special Agent in Charge David Magdycz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, and Sutton Police Chief Dennis J. Towle made the announcement.

Oliver Smith, 45, a citizen of Sweden and the United States, was charged by criminal complaint with possession of child pornography.  Following an initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessy, Smith was detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for Dec. 3, 2020.

According to the criminal complaint, on Nov. 15, 2020, after receiving investigative information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Swedish law enforcement authorities, and conducting its own investigation, federal agents executed a search warrant at Smith’s Sutton residence and seized several devices.  A preliminary forensic review of the seized devices revealed images and videos of child pornography.  During an interview with federal agents, Smith admitted that he had downloaded child pornography upon his return to the United States from Sweden.

Jessica Urban of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Noto of the District of Massachusetts' Worcester Branch Office are prosecuting the case. The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, and the Sutton Police Department.

The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

The details contained in the complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Louisiana Woman Indicted in $4.8M Elder Fraud Scheme

 TYLER, Texas -- A 44-year-old Shreveport, Louisiana woman has been indicted for her role in an elder fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox.

Monica Ruiz was named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury, which charged her with wire fraud.

According to the indictment, Ruiz enlisted a variety of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises in a scheme to defraud an elderly victim from Bullard, Texas.  Among the various misrepresentations Ruiz made in order to obtain money from the victim were the following:

                - That Ruiz had been in a coma;

                - That Ruiz had brain surgery;

                - That Ruiz was falsely arrested and imprisoned;

                - That Ruiz had bribed a judge and prosecutor;

                - That Ruiz’s son died in a car accident in Pennsylvania;

                - That Ruiz was in a car accident;

                - That Ruiz had a kidney transplant;

                - That Ruiz’s daughter was committed to a mental institution;

                - That Ruiz was incarcerated; and

                - That Ruiz’s grandmother died.

At times, Ruiz impersonated other people in communications with the victim.  At other times, she created and used false personas in communications with the victim.  Over the course of her scheme, Ruiz obtained more than $4.850 million from the victim.

If convicted, Ruiz faces up to 20 years in federal prison.  A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

In October 2017, President Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law.  The EAPPA’s purpose is to increase the federal government’s focus on preventing elder abuse and exploitation.  Subsequently, the Department of Justice launched the Elder Justice Initiative (EJI).  Through the EJI, the Department has participated in hundreds of criminal and civil enforcement actions involving misconduct that targeted vulnerable seniors.  This past March, the Department announced the largest elder fraud enforcement action in American history, charging more than 400 defendants in a nationwide sweep.  The Department has likewise conducted hundreds of trainings and outreach sessions across the country.  The EJI website contains useful information, including educational resources about prevalent financial scams so you can guard against them.

In August, the Eastern District of Texas announced plans to develop a new initiative, in partnership with law enforcement, to increase enforcement efforts to combat transnational elder fraud schemes and their extensive networks of associates and money mules who launder the stolen funds.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 7 days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service with the assistance of the Tyler Police Department and the Louisiana State Police - Gaming Enforcement Division and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.

Aliquippa Felon Admits to Possessing Cocaine, a Firearm and Ammunition

 PITTSBURGH - A Beaver County resident pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Antoine Cummings, age 37, of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to two counts before Senior United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that in September 2019, the Beaver County Drug Task Force and Aliquippa Police Department searched an apartment in which Cummings was living. During the search, law enforcement officers found and seized around 51 grams of powder cocaine, a loaded Smith and Wesson 40 caliber pistol, ammunition, and over $5,800, all possessed by Cummings. Because Cummings had prior felony convictions, including one for drug trafficking, he was a person not to possess a firearm and ammunition.

Judge Fischer scheduled sentencing for April 22, 2021 at 1:00 pm. For the charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, the law provides for a total sentence of not more than 30 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $2,000,000, or both. For the charge of felon in possession, the law provides for a total sentence of not more than 10 years in prison, a fine of not more than $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the court ordered that Cummings be detained.

Assistant United States Attorney Brian M. Czarnecki is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Beaver County Drug Task Force led the multi-agency investigation of this case. Other agencies involved in the investigation include the Beaver County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, and the Aliquippa Police Department.

Manchester Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Crimes

            CONCORD - Robert Severance, 61, of Manchester, pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to distributing and possessing child pornography, United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced today.

            According to court documents and statements made in court, on July 15, 2019, the Manchester Police Department (“MPD”) received a tip previously submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by the social media website Instagram.  The tip reported that on June 6, 2019 a file uploaded to Instagram was identified as a Child Sexual Abuse Image. MPD investigators later determined that the Instagram account was associated with Severance, who was a registered sex offender in Manchester, New Hampshire.

            MPD investigators spoke with Severance at his residence in Manchester on July 22, 2019. He voluntarily went to the MPD and consented to an interview.  Severance admitted to creating the Instagram account and explained that he portrayed himself as a 15-year-old female in order to talk with other young females.  He stated that he had a laptop at home and admitted to receiving thousands of pictures and/or videos of child pornography via email.

           A search warrant executed at Severance’s home the following day resulted in the seizure of numerous electronic devices and other media items.  Forensic review of all items seized from the defendant revealed thousands of images and over one hundred videos of child pornography.    

           Severance is scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2021.

          “Few missions of law enforcement are more important than protecting our children,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “We are committed to working closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute all of those who are involved in the exploitation of children.  In order to keep Granite State children safe, we will not hesitate to bring federal criminal charges against those who distribute child pornography.”

          “The NH ICAC continues to remain committed in the fight against child sexual exploitation on the internet,” said Lieutenant John Peracchi, Commander of the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (“NH ICAC”),   “The NH ICAC would like to remind parents to remain vigilant, especially during these unprecedented times with COVID-19 where the NH ICAC continues to see a rise in the number of cases reported.”

          “Mr. Severance’s blatant disregard for the wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable citizens, is extremely concerning,” said Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg. “His actions are disturbing and intolerable. Manchester police detectives dedicated a great deal of effort into this investigation and for that they should be commended.  As a result of their efforts this matter has been resolved and should serve as a deterrent to others who choose to engage in such criminal behavior.”

           This matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the NH Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the Manchester Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kasey Weiland.

           In February 2006, the Department of Justice introduced Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Boston Man Charged with Bank Robbery

 Defendant, who is currently on supervised release for two prior bank robberies, removed his GPS monitoring bracelet before robbing another bank

BOSTON – A Boston man made an initial appearance today in federal court in Boston after he was charged with robbing a bank in Boston on Nov. 13, 2020. At the time, the defendant was on supervised release and on electronic monitoring, after being convicted of committing two bank robberies in 2016.

Stephen D. Williams, 56, was charged by criminal complaint with one count of bank robbery. Williams, who is currently on supervised release for two 2016 bank robberies, was arrested on state charges on Nov. 13, 2020. Williams was detained following an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Judith Dein this afternoon.

According to court documents, in March 2018, Williams was sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to robbing two banks in 2016. In July 2020, Williams’s sentence was modified pursuant to a motion for compassionate release, and he was released from prison to home confinement on electronic monitoring.  According to the prosecutor at today’s hearing, Williams allegedly removed his court authorized electronic monitoring bracelet. 

According to charging documents, on Nov. 13, 2020, an individual wearing a grey knit cap, later identified as Williams, entered a branch of the Santander Bank in Boston. Williams passed the teller a note indicating a robbery and that he had a gun. The teller gave Williams $7,000 cash and Williams allegedly stuffed it into the pockets of the blue jacket he was wearing and exited the bank.

It is alleged that Williams was later observed a short distance from the bank counting money, removing his blue jacket and placing it into a black trash bag. A short time later, Williams was observed carrying the black trash bag. While Williams was being questioned by police, he dropped the trash bag and after a brief chase was arrested. Inside the black trash bag, a blue jacket, grey knit cap and a large sum of cash in excess of $7,000 was recovered.  

The charge of bank robbery provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.  

​​United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Boston Police Commissioner William Gross; and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth G. Shine of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.

​​The details contained in charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

13+ Years in Federal Prison for Drug Dealer Who Sold Fatal Dose of Heroin/Fentanyl

 KANSAS CITY, KAN. – A Kansas man was sentenced today to 167 ninths in federal prison for selling heroin mixed with fentanyl to a man who overdosed and died, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.

Ramon Strickland, 44, Kansas City, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of distributing heroin/fentanyl resulting in death.

According to court records, on May 23, 2017, police in Overland Park, Kan., responded to an emergency call from a parent of an overdose victim. A toxicologist determined that the victim died from respiratory distress caused by the effects of heroin and fentanyl in his system. Heroin is now commonly laced with fentanyl to increase the high. Fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than opium.

Investigators determined that Strickland distributed heroin to the victim on the evening of May 22, 2017.

McAllister commended the Overland Park Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Catania for their work on the case.

Judge sentences Warren County man for drug and firearm charges

 ST. LOUIS, MO – United States District Judge Stephen R. Clark sentenced Jeffery Lynn Canter to 70 months in prison today. The 41-year-old Warrenton, Missouri resident pleaded guilty today to possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

On September 5, 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at a residence in the 600 block of Salisbury Street in Montgomery City. Canter was present at the residence when police found an AR-15 pistol with a 100-round magazine in the kitchen. Police also found Canter’s backpack, which contained nine plastic bags of methamphetamine, a 15-round magazine for the AR and a plastic container of 9mm ammunition.  Police also found two baggies containing methamphetamine on the kitchen table, various drug paraphernalia in the kitchen and bedroom and a digital scale in the living room.

Canter admitted the 172 grams of methamphetamine, gun and contents of the backpack were his. Canter also acknowledged he intended to sell the methamphetamine and was a felon prior to September 5, 2019.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery City Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Drug Task Force investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Paul D’Agrosa is handling the case.

La Crosse Man Sentenced to 11 Years for Distributing Methamphetamine

MADISON, WIS. - Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that James Vinson, 33, La Crosse, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty and was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson to 11 years in federal prison for distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.  This prison term will be followed by 6 years of supervised release.  

On December 5, 2019, officers with the West Central Metropolitan Enforcement Group arrested Vinson after he sold 111 grams of pure methamphetamine to a confidential informant in La Crosse.  At the time, Vinson was already on state supervision for a prior methamphetamine trafficking conviction. 

The charge against Vinson was the result of an investigation conducted by the West Central Metropolitan Enforcement Group, La Crosse County Sheriff’s Office, La Crosse and Onalaska Police Departments, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.  The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven P. Anderson. 

Missouri Man Facing Child Pornography And Cyberstalking Charges

BUFFALO, N.Y.- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Andrew Neal, of Hallsville, Missouri, was charged by criminal complaint with production, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, as well as cyberstalking. The charges carry a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of 30 years, and a $250,000 fine.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey T. Fiut, who is handling the case, stated that according to the criminal complaint, in July 2018, Neal initiated a conversation with a minor female victim, living in the Western District of New York, on Instagram and asked her to send him pictures of her feet and face. After the victim complied with the defendant’s request, Neal demanded that she produce and send him sexually explicit images of herself or else he would send the images she previously sent to him to all of her Instagram followers. The victim complied and sent Neal the requested images. Over the next two years, the defendant continued to harass the victim through Instagram and text message, demanding that she take and send him more images or else he would distribute the sexually explicit images she previously provided to him to all of her Instagram contacts. In July 2020, Neal followed through with his threats and sent several images of the victim to four of her Instagram followers. 

Neal made an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and was detained.
 
The criminal complaint is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Leader of International Cocaine Trafficking Organization Sentenced to 15 Years

 GREENVILLE, N.C. – A Mexican national was sentenced today to 180 months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine (Count One); and possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and aiding and abetting (Count Two).

According to court documents and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bernave Millan-Rascon, also known as “Berna,” 40 years old, was one of two leaders of an international cocaine trafficking organization based in Mexico. Millan-Rascon directed the shipment of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine from Mexico into Texas, and then into other parts of the United States, including the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Agents conducted a wiretap investigation and seized 16 kilograms of cocaine, $173,100, and two firearms in Benson, North Carolina and Willow Spring, North Carolina. During the wiretap, agents recorded phone calls in which the Defendant directed the shipment of large amounts of cocaine into North Carolina.  The Defendant was extradited from Colombia, South America for prosecution in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Three co-conspirators have previously been convicted and sentenced: Carlos Miranda Lopez (120 months’ imprisonment); Francisco Javier Rascon-Millan (12 months and 1-day imprisonment); and Malcolm Jamar Hird (120 months’ imprisonment).

Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after Chief United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced Millan-Rascon. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Wilson Police Department, the Raleigh Police Department, the Rocky Mount Police Department, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office assisted in this investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott A. Lemmon prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information are located on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:18-CR-425-BO-1.

Fifteen Members and Associates of Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges

 

A superseding indictment was unsealed today against 15 defendants, including alleged members and associates of the South Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey-based criminal organization La Cosa Nostra (LCN), popularly known as the ‘mafia’ or ‘mob.’  The superseding indictment charges various crimes including racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling, loansharking, extortion, and drug trafficking.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Special Agent in Charge Michael Driscoll of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office made the announcement.

The defendants charged in the seven-count superseding indictment are Steven Mazzone, aka “Stevie,” 56; Domenic Grande, aka “Dom,” “Mr. Hopkins,” “Mr. Brown,” and “Dom14,” 41; Joseph Servidio, aka “Joey Electric,” 60; Salvatore Mazzone, aka “Sonny,” 55; Joseph Malone, 70; Louis Barretta, aka “Louie Sheep,” 56; Victor DeLuca, aka “Big Vic,” 56; Kenneth Arabia, aka “Kenny,” 67; Daniel Castelli, aka “Danny,” “Cozzy,” aka “Butch,” aka “Harry,” age 67; Carl Chianese, age 81; Anthony Gifoli, aka “Tony Meatballs,” 72; John Romeo, 58; Daniel Malatesta, 75; Daniel Bucceroni, 66; and John Michael Payne, 33.

According to court documents, the Philadelphia LCN is one of a number of LCN organized crime families based in various cities throughout the United States.  The purpose of the LCN in Philadelphia and elsewhere is to make money through the commission of various crimes, including illegal gambling, loansharking, drug trafficking, and extortion.

Like other LCN families, the Philadelphia LCN is operated through a defined hierarchical structure, including a Boss, an Underboss (Steven Mazzone), and Captains (Grande), who oversee “crews” consisting of “soldiers” and “associates.”  As detailed in the superseding indictment, soldiers are members of the family who have been formally initiated through a ritual called a “making ceremony,” during which they swear allegiance to LCN above all else, take a vow of secrecy about the organization (the Code of Silence or “Omerta”), and agree to commit violence on behalf of the LCN if necessary.  After this ceremony, these men (who must be of 100 percent Italian ancestry) are then referred to as “made members” of LCN.  Associates are men who engage in criminal activity on behalf of LCN but who have not been formally “made,” either because they are up-and-coming and aspire to full membership, or because they are ineligible to be made because they lack fully Italian ancestry.  Made members and associates who break Omerta are looked upon unfavorably as “rats” and may be targeted for death by other members of the group.

As described in the superseding indictment, the Philadelphia LCN sought to use its reputation and influence to exercise control over criminal rackets like sports bookmaking and loansharking operating in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, particularly Atlantic City.  During a period beginning in August 2015, 10 of the defendants allegedly conspired to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN through both a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts.  The remaining five defendants are charged with allegedly committing a variety of other offenses, including conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to make extortionate extensions of credit, and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in partnership with other members and associates of the Philadelphia LCN.

As alleged in the superseding indictment, on Oct. 15, 2015, defendants Steven Mazzone, Grande, and Salvatore Mazzone participated in a “making ceremony” (as detailed above) in a South Philadelphia residence, during which several new soldiers were inducted into the Philadelphia LCN.  The superseding indictment describes the various acts allegedly committed by the defendants and others as members of the group including the distribution of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and oxycodone pills; the disbursement and collection of tens of thousands of dollars of unlawful bookmaking and other debts ‘owed’ to the group at interest rates as high as 400 percent; and even an alleged conspiracy to kidnap or murder a drug dealer in order to protect the reputation of the Philadelphia LCN after the dealer sold members of the group fake drugs.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and Atlantic City Resident Agency with the assistance of the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Alexander Gottfried of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ortiz of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.