Criminal Justice News

Friday, August 16, 2019

Middlesex County Man Charged with Securities Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft


NEWARK, N.J. – A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man was indicted today by a federal grand jury for running a multi-year investment fraud scheme that caused millions of dollars of losses, Attorney for the United States Rachael A. Honig announced.

Sandy John Masselli, 57, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, is charged in a superseding indictment with one count of bank fraud, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Masselli was originally indicted on two counts of bank fraud and three counts of wire fraud on September 19, 2018.

According to the documents filed in this case:

From September 2011 through October 2017, Masselli solicited millions of dollars in investments from retail investors by fraudulently touting the prospect of his online gaming company, Carlyle Entertainment Ltd., formerly Carlyle Gaming & Entertainment Ltd. (Carlyle), to conduct a lucrative initial public offering (IPO) of its stock on either the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Masselli induced investors to purchase shares of Carlyle stock by promising them steeply discounted prices in advance of the purported IPO and assuring them that the stock price would increase significantly after the IPO. Masselli further represented that the IPO would occur within weeks of the investors’ stock purchases.

However, as Masselli knew, Carlyle was not prepared to conduct an IPO, given that neither Masselli nor anyone else on behalf of Carlyle ever filed an application with the NASDAQ or the NYSE to list Carlyle stock on either exchange, or filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a registration statement to list Carlyle shares on a national exchange. Masselli further misrepresented to the investors how he would use their investments, for example telling them that he would allocate investment funds toward improving Carlyle’s online platform and paying legal fees in connection with preparing Carlyle for a looming IPO. Contrary to these claims, however, Masselli misappropriated these funds to pay for his and his family’s own personal expenses.

Within days or weeks of receiving investor funds, Masselli deposited the monies into bank accounts he controlled, many of which were opened under names of fictitious corporate entities in an effort to conceal the source of the funds. Masselli typically used the funds to pay for personal expenses, including paying credit card balances and financing or leasing luxury automobiles.

Masselli also opened a credit card account under the assumed identity of another person, without that person’s authorization, made purchases with the account until he had almost reached or exceeded the credit limit, and then purported to send payments from a bank account that he knew did not have sufficient funds to cover the purchases. Before the fraudulent payments were rejected for insufficient funds, the credit card company temporarily credited the fraudulently opened account based on those payments, providing Masselli access to additional credit and allowing him to continue to make purchases. Masselli ultimately failed to pay the balance and the credit card company sustained a loss.

The bank fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The wire fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. The securities fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $5 million fine. The aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison that must run consecutively to the sentence imposed for any other count.

Attorney for the United States Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s superseding indictment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Boden of U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton.

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

Three Chicago Men Charged in Murder-For-Hire Plot


CHICAGO — Three Chicago men have been charged in a murder-for-hire conspiracy that resulted in two fatal shootings in the city’s Lawndale neighborhood.

DESHAWN MORGAN, 37, DARIUS MURPHY, 19, and DEMOND BROWN, 26, are charged with conspiracy to use an interstate facility in the commission of a murder for hire, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  All three defendants are in law enforcement custody.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox scheduled a detention hearing for Brown for Aug. 19, 2019, at 4:30 p.m., and preliminary hearings for Morgan and Murphy for Aug. 20, 2019, at 10:30 a.m.

The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Timothy Jones, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Eddie Johnson, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; Brian McKnight, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and Kimberly M. Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney.  Valuable assistance was provided by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA), and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John D. Mitchell and Grayson S. Walker.

According to the complaint, Morgan has been involved in violence and illegal narcotics trafficking on the West Side of Chicago.  Morgan believed Donald Holmes, Jr., was working with law enforcement as a confidential informant and Morgan sought to have him killed, the complaint states.  In the fall of 2017, Morgan hired Murphy and Brown to murder Holmes in exchange for $5,000 and an assault rifle, the charges allege.

On the night of Jan. 31, 2018, the defendants lured Holmes to the 4700 block of West Arthington Street in Chicago, the complaint states.  Holmes arrived with his girlfriend, Diane Taylor, and the pair was sitting in Holmes’s Jeep Cherokee parked on the street when Murphy entered the vehicle and shot Holmes and Taylor multiple times in the back of their heads, the complaint states.

Although Holmes had previously worked as a cooperating source for law enforcement, he was not working with law enforcement at the time of the murders, the complaint states.

The day after the murders, Brown purchased a used Buick LeSabre for $900 in cash, the complaint states.  Brown then allegedly traveled to Minneapolis, Minn., where he traded the handgun used in the murders for a different firearm.  Law enforcement eventually recovered the gun used in the murders after it was discovered in the possession of a Minnesota resident who was arrested in February 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisc., according to the complaint.

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.

The charge in the complaint carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, while a sentence of death is also possible.  Only the Attorney General of the United States has the authority to seek the death penalty.  If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

District Clergy Member Found Guilty of Multiple Counts of Child Sexual Abuse


           WASHINGTON – Urbano Vazquez, 47 of Washington, D.C., was found guilty by a jury today of committing four counts of child sexual abuse against to two children in his parish from 2015 to 2017, in Northwest Washington, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.

           The guilty verdicts were returned Thursday, August 15, 2019, following a nine-day trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The Honorable Juliet McKenna scheduled sentencing for November 22, 2019.

           The government’s evidence established that between on or about April 1, 2015 and May 31, 2015, Vazquez molested a 13-year-old girl while speaking with her in a parish office. In addition, between June 2016 and August 2017, Vazquez kissed and molested a separate 9-to-10-year-old girl in various places on church grounds, including near the church confessionals, in the church basement, and in the church sacristy. The jury also heard testimony from an additional teenage girl who Vazquez kissed in a church conference room.

           In announcing the verdict, U.S. Attorney Liu commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Forensic Sciences Leica Team. She also acknowledged the efforts of Heather Gordon, an Intelligence Analyst with the FBI Washington Field Office, and those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Supervisory Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling, Victim/Witness Program Specialist Juanita Harris Tracy Owusu, Supervisory Victim/Witness Services Coordinator Katina Adams-Washington, Supervisory Paralegal Specialist Lynda Randolph, Paralegal Tiffany Jones, Appellate Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen Kolb, and  Elizabeth Danello, Deputy Chief Mark O’Brien, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Creighton, and interns Aquila Maliyekkal and Rustin Armknecht. In addition, she appreciated the assistance of Elizabeth Dewar, Assistant Chief Counsel, Department of Homeland Security.  She also acknowledged the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Matt Williams and Sharon Marcus-Kurn, who investigated and prosecuted the case.  Finally, she expressed appreciation for the support of members of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and the Archdiocese of Washington.

           Ms. Liu also notes that on October 22, 2018, the Superior Court Division’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia launched a hotline and e-mail address for survivors to report child sexual abuse by clergy.  She continues to encourage survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse are encouraged to report these incidents to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for potential criminal investigation and prosecution, as a part of the Office’s Superior Court Division intake process.

           Survivors of child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in a house of worship, school, or other location in the District of Columbia can call the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line at 202-252-7008 or send an e-mail to USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov.  Survivors can access further information by visiting the following website: https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/victim-witness-assistance/report-clergy-abuse

           All reports will be reviewed and a team of experienced criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided. The victim advocates, who are part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, are available to offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report. 

           Depending on the nature of the report, some information may be referred to law enforcement or the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

           Individuals in need of police assistance or wishing to report any other criminal activity or sexual assault or abuse should call 911.