Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Heroin, meth dealer sentenced to 15 years in prison for trafficking, firearms crimes in Billings


BILLINGS—A Colorado man convicted of trafficking heroin and methamphetamine in the community and of possessing a firearm was sentenced today to 15 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Scott Allen Wortman, 48, of Englewood, CO, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and to two counts of possession with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine. A jury convicted Wortman of possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters presided.

In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said the evidence showed that federal agents identified Wortman in 2016 as a Billings area heroin distributor who traveled to Denver to get heroin and was supplying several other local dealers. In early 2018, law enforcement used a confidential informant to make two controlled buys of heroin from Wortman. Agents executed a search warrant at Wortman’s residence and found a small amount of heroin, two firearms, $4,000 in cash, surveillance equipment and drug paraphernalia. In an interview with agents, Wortman said he made regular trips to Denver to get heroin and that he had distributed more than a kilo of the drug. A kilo is 2.2 pounds. When Wortman was arrested, he had a .38-caliber pistol in his pocket, and agents found about 10 ounces of meth in his vehicle.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich and Julie Patten prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI Task Force.

This case is part of Project Guardian, the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws, and Project Safe Neighborhoods, the USDOJ’s initiative to reduce violent crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, violent crime in Montana increased by 36% from 2013 through 2018. Through these initiatives, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

Former USC Admissions Official Agrees to Plead Guilty to Running Fraudulent Scheme to Admit Unqualified International Students


          LOS ANGELES – A former University of Southern California admissions official has agreed to plead guilty to a wire fraud charge in a scheme to obtain USC graduate school admission slots for unqualified international students in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash.

          In a plea agreement filed this afternoon, Hiu Kit David Chong admitted that he caused false college transcripts with inflated grades, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements to be placed in the students’ admissions packets.

          Chong, a 36-year-old Arcadia resident, agreed to plead guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with wire fraud. He will be summoned to appear in United States District Court on a future date.

          Chong, who was an assistant director in USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions from September 2008 to March 2016, represented to Chinese nationals that he could assist them in obtaining admission into a graduate degree program at the university. Chong also furthered his scheme by founding and running the now-defunct Monterey Park-based academic consulting company, So Cal International Group, Inc.

          According to his plea agreement, from February 2015 to December 2018, Chong solicited and received payments – ranging from approximately $8,000 to $12,000 – from unqualified international students or from others who were acting on behalf of the unqualified students.

          Chong purchased phony college transcripts purporting to be from Chinese universities and instructed his supplier to create transcripts to show falsely inflated grade point averages. Chong admitted he submitted and caused the submission of the phony documents in the international students’ USC application packets, including fraudulent letters of recommendation and fabricated personal statements purportedly written by the applicants.

          Chong also offered to research how to arrange for a surrogate test taker to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the results of which USC would consider when making decisions regarding admissions applications, according to court documents. In his plea agreement, Chong admitted that he concealed from the university that the applicants paid him to facilitate their admission.

          Chong admitted to helping three unqualified international students gain admission to USC using fraudulent application materials. Chong was paid a total of $38,000 from international students and people he believed were working with international students, including an undercover law enforcement official. He also received additional payments from other international students as part of the scheme, resulting in his ill-gotten gains of approximately $40,000.

          When Chong enters his guilty plea, he will face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

          The FBI investigated this case.

          This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven M. Arkow of the Major Frauds Section.

Rapid City Man Sentenced for Illegal Possession of Firearm


United States Attorney Ron Parsons announced that a Rapid City, South Dakota, man convicted of Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person was sentenced by Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Judge.

Mason Means, age 21, was sentenced on March 30, 2020, to 2 years in federal prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

The conviction stems from Means, a previously convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms, unlawfully possessing a Glock, model 17, 9mm semi-automatic pistol, which was found after Means led law enforcement on a high-speed vehicle pursuit, following an attempted traffic stop in Rapid City in June 2019.

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 was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Rapid City Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Patterson prosecuted the case.

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