Last edited on Friday, February 26, 2021, at 4:52 AM.
Welcome to The Blanch Law Firm’s weekly digest of New New York Criminal Cases. Our goal is to keep the public informed as to recent events in federal courts around the country.
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Friday, February 05, 2021
I. Federal Arrest Announced as Part of Dollar General Shooting Investigation
On February 1, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Jason Dunn announced that Johnny Ray McCaslin, age 49, of Arvada has had been charged with being a felon in possession of firearm and ammunition. McCaslin had his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado that afternoon.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, evidence supporting the firearm charge was obtained as part of an investigation into a shooting at a Dollar General store in Arvada on in January 26, 2021. Mr. McCaslin was identified as a suspect in that shooting, which led to a search warrant for his residence.
During that search, investigators located two firearms and ammunition. Mr. McCaslin has previously been convicted of felonies in the State of Colorado and is therefore prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
II. State Lawmaker Indicted for Stem Cell Fraud Scheme, Illegally Distributing Prescription Drugs
An elected Missouri state representative has been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for a Fraud scheme in which she made false claims about a supposed stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in southern Missouri and for illegally providing prescription drugs to clients of those clinics.
Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges, 63, of Nixa, Missouri, was charged in a 20-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following Derges’ self-surrender and initial court appearance. The federal indictment charges Derges with eight counts of wire fraud related to five specific victims (identified by their initials).
These five victims were among those who lost a total of nearly $200,000 in the fraud scheme, which lasted from December 2018 to May 2020. During this time, Derges exclusively obtained amniotic fluid, which she marketed under the name Regenerative Biologics, from the University of Utah. Derges advertised Ozark Valley Medical Clinic as a “Leader in … Regenerative Medicine,” including stem cells, and marketed her “stem cell” practice through seminars, media interviews, and social media.
The federal indictment cites an August 2019 seminar in which Derges told her audience that the amniotic fluid she used in her stem cell practice was a “stem cell shot” and that it contained “mesenchymal stem cells.” In fact, however, the amniotic fluid Derges administered to her patients did not contain stem cells of any kind.
The amniotic fluid she obtained from the University of Utah was a sterile filtered amniotic fluid allograft (a tissue graft comprised of human amniotic membrane and amniotic fluid components derived from placental tissue) that was “acellular,” meaning it did not contain any cells, including stem cells.
The University of Utah sold its amniotic fluid allograft to Derges for approximately $244 per milliliter and $438 for two milliliters. Derges charged her patients $950 to $1,450 per milliliter. In total, Derges’ patients paid her approximately $191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells.
III. Two Indicted on Charges Stemming From $100 Million Home Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
Two women were arrested yesterday and charged in connection with a $100 million home health care fraud scheme. The government also filed a civil action seeking forfeiture of five properties and 40 financial accounts and investments involved in a scheme to launder the ill-gotten gains.
Faith Newton, 52, of Westford, and Winnie Waruru, 41, of Lowell, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud; one count of healthcare fraud – aiding and abetting, and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. In addition, Newton was indicted on one count of money laundering conspiracy and seven counts of money laundering.
In addition, Waruru was indicted on two counts of making false statements and one count of making a false statement in a health care matter. Newton and Waruru were arrested yesterday and will make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston today at 1:30 p.m.
According to the indictment, from January 2013 to January 2017, Newton was part owner and operator of Arbor Homecare Services LLC. Waruru was a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)employed as a home health nurse at Arbor.
It is alleged that Newton and Waruru engaged in a conspiracy to use Arbor to defraud MassHealth and Medicare of at least $100 million by committing health care fraud and paying kickbacks to induce referrals. Newton then allegedly laundered the ill-gotten gains.
IV. Ohio Man Charged with Possession of Explosive Devices and Illegal Firearm
On February 1, 2021, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Bridget M. Brennan, announced that a federal grand jury in Cleveland had returned a three-count indictment charging Oliver Smith, 51, of Youngstown, Ohio, with possession of explosive devices, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of an unregistered silencer.
According to court documents, in October 2020, the Adult Parole Authority (APA) and law enforcement agents learned that the defendant allegedly had in his possession a firearm with an attached silencer at his Youngstown-area residence.
At the time of the incident, the defendant was on Community Control under the supervision of the APA related to a previous conviction of drug possession and was prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a previous conviction of aggravated assault.
V. Real Estate Developer, Three Others Charged in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
A federal grand jury has indicted a real estate developer and three others for allegedly participating in a mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded financial institutions out of at least $3 million.
Andrzej Lajewski, who owned Des Plaines-based Highland Consulting Corp., and Chicago-based Quality Management and Remodeling Inc., schemed with two mortgage professionals and the owner of a remodeling company to fraudulently obtain at least $3 million in mortgage loans by making and causing to be made materially false representations to financial institutions regarding the buyers’ qualifications for the loans, according to an indictment returned Jan. 28, 2021, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
According to the indictment, the false representations made concerned concerning the buyers’ employment history, income, assets, source of down payment, and intention to occupy the properties. Sometimes, Lajewski fraudulently claimed to lenders that the buyers were employed by his companies, even though he knew that was untrue.
That claim was intended to help buyers qualify for the mortgage loans. The alleged fraud scheme lasted from 2010 to 2016 and involved numerous properties on the South Side of Chicago.
The indictment charges multiple counts of financial institution fraud against Lajewski, 53, formerly of Wheeling, the two mortgage professionals – loan originator Agnieszka Siekowski, 46, of Northbrook, and loan processor Aldona Bobrowicz, 45, of Arlington Heights – and the home remodeler, Andrzej Bukowski, 66, formerly of Wheeling.
VI. Ohio Man Indicted on Meth Charge In West Virginia
Devante Crutez Taylor, of Columbus, Ohio, was indicted on February 2, 2021, on a drug charge, the U.S. Attorney for the District of West Virginia Bill Powell announced. Taylor, 28, was indicted on one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. Taylor is accused of having 50 grams or more of methamphetamine in August 2019 in Ohio County.
The government is also seeking the forfeiture of $3,638 in cash found with Taylor that is believed to be proceeds from drug sales. If convicted, Taylor will face at least 10 ten years and up to life incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn M. Adkins is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The Wheeling Police Department investigated.
VII. Former Navy CPO, Naval Reservist Indicted for ID Theft Scheme
On January 28, 2021, a federal grand jury in Fresno indicted Selma couple Marquis Asaad Hooper, 30, and Natasha Renee Chalk, 37, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, Hooper was stationed in Japan as a Chief Petty Officer (CPO) with the Navy’s Seventh Fleet until October 2018. Chalk, his wife, was a naval reservist stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.
Hooper separated from the Navy in October 2018, but shortly before his separation was final, Hooper and Chalk fraudulently obtained access to a database containing the personal information of millions of people. In August 2018, Hooper contacted the company, falsely claiming that the Seventh Fleet needed access to the database to run background checks on Navy personnel.
In reality, Hooper was not acting on behalf of his fleet, and he did not access the database for a legitimate government purpose. Over more than two months, Hooper and Chalk searched for tens of thousands of individuals on the database and sold the information to third parties in exchange for bitcoin.
VIII. Proud Boys Member Charged with Offenses Related to Jan. 6 Riots
On February 3, 2021, a member of the Proud Boys, a nationalist organization, was arrested today and charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, among other charges.
Ethan Nordean, a/k/a Rufio Panman, 30, of Washington state, was charged by criminal complaint in District of Columbia federal court with obstructing or impeding an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, and knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Nordean appeared in federal court in the Western District of Washington later the same day. According to charging documents, Nordean is the self-described “Sergeant of Arms” of the Seattle Chapter of the Proud Boys, a group self-described as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists.”
It is alleged that Nordean was observed marching at the front of a group of known Proud Boys shortly before the riot began. It is further alleged that Nordean was among those who entered the U.S. Capitol building after rioters, including certain persons associated with the Proud Boys, forced entry into the Capitol by means of destruction of Federal property.
It is also alleged that Nordean was near the front of the crowd of rioters, who collectively approached, confronted, and vastly outnumbered Capitol Police.
IX. Four Arrested and Charged with Physical Therapy Clinic Fraud
On February 4, 2021, four people were arrested and charged in Boston, Massachusetts, in connection with a scheme to defraud an insurance provider for physical therapy services that were not provided to patients.
Gyulnara Bayryshova, 55, of Brighton; Anna Barenboym, 45, of Wayland; Slava Pride, 41, of West Roxbury; and Raya Bagardi, 36, of Brighton, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and health care fraud, eight counts of mail fraud and one count of health care fraud.
In addition, Barenboym, Pride, and Bagardi were each charged with three counts of making false statements in connection with a health care benefit program. The defendants will make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston later today.
As alleged in the indictment, Bayryshova was the owner of Brighton Physical Therapy (BPT), a physical therapy clinic on Washington Street in Brighton. Barenboym was a licensed physical therapist, and Pride and Bagardi were licensed physical therapist assistants, all employed by BPT.
It is alleged that, from October 2018 through June 2020, the defendants conspired to cause an insurance company to reimburse them for physical therapy services that were not actually provided and/or were not medically necessary and, in some cases, were provided by individuals not licensed to provide the services.
Specifically, the defendants falsely billed for services purportedly rendered to patients injured in automobile accidents when the services were not actually provided. In addition, some of the services for which the defendants sought reimbursement were not provided by licensed physical therapists.
It is further alleged that BPT paid patients for referrals, referred patients to attorneys to assist with patients’ insurance settlements, and accepted kickbacks from those attorneys in return.
X. Former Nike Marketing Manager Charged in Scheme to Defraud Company
On February 4, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams announced that Errol Amorin Andam, 49, of Beaverton, Oregon, a former marketing manager at Nike, Inc., has been charged by criminal information with wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements on a loan application as part of a scheme to defraud his former employer.
According to the information, from 2001 until his termination in 2018, Andam was employed by Nike at its headquarters in Beaverton. Most recently, Andam worked as a manager in the company’s North American Retail Brand Marketing division, wherein he managed the design, build-out, and operation of “pop-up” retail venues, temporary Nike shops situated near and tailored to sports competitions, and other special events around the U.S.
In the summer of 2016, Andam recruited a childhood friend to establish a company to design and build the pop-up venues as an independent contractor for Nike. Andam used his authority as a manager at Nike to ensure that his friend’s company was consistently awarded the contracts for these jobs.
Though he had no formal role in his friend’s company, Andam assumed control of much of the company’s financial operations, managing financial accounts and issuing invoices to Nike. To conceal his role in the scheme, Andam used an alter ego, “Frank Little,” to invoice Nike and manage the contract company’s account with Square, Inc., a California-based provider of mobile credit-card-processing services.
In 2016, Andam also renewed the lapsed registration of an Oregon-based limited liability corporation (LLC) he owned so that he could use the defunct entity as a shell company to funnel the proceeds diverted from Nike and his friend’s company to accounts under his personal control.
XI. Albany Man Charged with Obstruction of Justice and Violating Release Conditions
On January 29, 2021, Michael P. Fish, 25, of Albany, was charged with obstruction of justice and committing a felony offense while on release for submitting fraudulent character letters to the U.S. District Judge overseeing his federal criminal case.
The announcement of the charges was made by Antoinette T. Bacon, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, along with Thomas F. Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office.
The criminal complaint alleges that Fish, who pled guilty to computer hacking, aggravated identity theft, and child pornography offenses in May 2020, submitted six fraudulent character letters to U.S. District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino.
According to the complaint, Fish doctored letters, including one from a Catholic priest, and created letters purportedly from others, including his mother and grandparents. The fraudulent letters spoke of Fish’s good character and asked Judge D’Agostino to impose a lenient sentence.
If convicted, Fish faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.
XII. Promoter of Foreign Cryptocurrency Companies Charged in $11 Million-Plus Securities Fraud Scheme
A California man was charged in a complaint unsealed on February 1, 2021, for his alleged participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency and securities fraud scheme that used purported digital currency platforms and foreign-based financial accounts.
John DeMarr, 55, of Santa Ana, California, was charged in a complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. DeMarr made his initial appearance that afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge John D. Early of the Central District of California. Judge Early referred the case to the Eastern District of New York for further proceedings.
According to the allegations, DeMarr’s businesses, Start Options, and B2G were both fraudulent. In approximately December 2017, DeMarr and others began offering securities in the form of investment contracts to the U.S. and international investors through the Start Options website. Investments were accepted in Bitcoin, U.S. dollars, or Euros.
To participate, investors had to deposit their funds for a specified contract period, after which they could purportedly withdraw their money at a significant profit. Among other things, DeMarr and others falsely claimed that investor funds would be invested in digital asset mining and trading platforms that would earn them massive profits.
In truth, however, the money was never invested and was instead diverted to accounts controlled by DeMarr and others and used for various personal expenditures, including the purchase of a Porsche, jewelry, and renovations to DeMarr’s home in California.
XIII. Quebec Man Indicted by Grand Jury For Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme Targeting Elderly Victims
On February 1, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Martin Hogan, 52, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and international money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, Hgan faces up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the indictment, Hogan would place telephone calls from Canada to victims in the United States and tell victims that they had won the Canadian lottery. However, before collecting their winnings, victims had to first pay the taxes, brokerage fee, and/or custom, fees due in connection with the winnings.
Victims were instructed by the defendant and others to pay these taxes, brokerage fees, and/or customs fees by wire transferring funds to a bank account in Rochester, NY, controlled by co-defendant Bernard Perkins, or by mailing funds to Perkins or addresses in the United States controlled by co-defendants Anthony Laughing, Jr., Cory LaPlant and others.
After receiving funds from victims, defendants Bernard Perkins, Anthony Laughing, Jr., and Cory LaPlant would keep a small portion of the funds and then pay co-defendants Devlin Laughing and Brenda Garrow to smuggle the remaining funds from the United States to the defendant Hogan in Canada.
As a result of this fraudulent telemarketing scheme, defendant Hogan and his co-defendants caused approximately 37 victims over the age of 55 to mail approximately 200 packages and wire transfer funds totaling approximately $2 million.
XIV. Buffalo Man Arrested, Charged as Felon In Possession Of A Firearm
On February 3, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Kaylen Edwards, 22, of Buffalo, NY, was arrested and charged by complaint with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan E. Leydecker, who is handling the case, stated that on November 7, 2020, Cheektowaga Police Officers responded to Pinehurst Avenue, where a limousine bus party was being let out, following a report of disorderly persons.
According to the complaint, earlier that day, the defendant was identified on social media flashing a black and silver handgun and wearing a distinct black and red jacket inside the limousine bus. A member of law enforcement sent a photo of the social media post to responding officers.
On Pinehurst Avenue, officers observed Edwards getting into the front passenger seat of a vehicle with Georgia license plates and leaving the area. The officers then observed the vehicle in violation of multiple vehicle and traffic infractions and conducted a traffic stop.
The officers observed a marijuana cigar end in the center console area and immediately detected the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from the vehicle. Officers identified Edwards as the passenger. The defendant was detained. During a pat frisk, an officer felt and observed a handgun in Edwards’ side waistband.
The handgun was loaded with a magazine containing seven .45 caliber rounds and one .45 caliber round in the chamber. In November 2017, the defendant was convicted of Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in New York State Court, and as a result of that conviction, he is prohibited from legally possessing a firearm.
XV. Tonawanda Man Arrested On Child Pornography Charge After Hidden Camera Discovered
On February 3, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that Andrew Vallone, 44, of Tonawanda, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with attempting to produce child pornography. If convicted, Vallone faces at least 15 years and up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint, an individual contacted the Town of Tonawanda Police Department after discovering a video depicting a child (Victim) wearing only a pair of underwear on a desktop computer belonging to Vallone.
On January 23, 2021, the Tonawanda Police contacted the FBI, and further investigation determined that Vallone had secreted a camera in a location which that allowed him surreptitiously to film the Victim. The MicroSD card recovered from that hidden camera contained numerous images which depicted the Victim in various states of undress.
Additionally, on January 29, 2021, the New York State Police contacted investigators regarding an email that Vallone sent to a mental health counselor. In the email, the defendant stated that he liked to look at younger girls and “I need help.”
XVI. Indictment Charges Rochester Man With Sex Trafficking, Enticement, And Possession Of Child Pornography
On February 2, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy, Jr., announced that a federal grand jury had returned a superseding indictment charging Peter R. Kiwitt, 62, of Rochester, NY, with sex trafficking of a minor, sex trafficking by coercion, sexual enticement of a minor, and possession of child pornography.
The superseding indictment also alleges that the defendant, as a registered sex offender, faces enhanced penalties in the event he is convicted of certain of the crimes with which he is charged. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, and a $250,000 fine.
According to the superseding indictment and a previously filed complaint, on December 10, 2018, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle being driven by Kiwitt. Also in the vehicle were two females, Adult Victim 1 (AV1) and Minor Victim 1 (MV1).
The three were questioned regarding drug related drug-related activity but were released and eventually followed to a room at a motel in Penfield, NY. Officers went to the room and knocked on the door. Kiwitt indicated that he was dating AV1 but knew her to be a prostitute who belonged to another pimp known to law enforcement.
He denied any involvement in prostitution at that time. Officers did not make any arrests at the time. On January 23, 2019, Rochester Police Department officers responded to a residence in the City of Rochester for the report of a fatal overdose involving MV1. The owner of the apartment found MV1 deceased on his living room floor and called 911. He told officers he met MV1 through AV1 and that the night before, he brought MV1 back to his residence to engage in commercial sex acts with her.
Subsequent cell phone and Facebook searches uncovered conversations between the defendant, AV1, and MV1 regarding prostitution activities. Investigators also uncovered naked photos, some of which depicted child pornography. In June 2017, Kiwitt was convicted in Monroe County, NY, of Possession of a Sexual Performance by a Child, and sentenced to serve 10 ten years’ probation, and designated as a Level 1 Sex Offender. The defendant was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark W. Pedersen and was detained.
XVII. GPB Capital Founder and CEO Among Three Individuals Indicted in Private Equity Investment Fraud
On February 4, 2021, an indictment was unsealed today in Brooklyn federal court charging three people affiliated with GPB Capital Holdings, LLC (GPB) with securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy.
Defendants David Gentile, the founder, owner, and CEO of GPB; Jeffry Schneider, the owner and CEO of Ascendant Capital LLC (Ascendant); and Jeffrey Lash, a former managing partner of GPB, are charged with engaging in a scheme to defraud investors by misrepresenting the source of funds used to make monthly distribution payments to them and the amount of revenue generated by two of GPB’s investment funds, GPB Holdings, LP and GPB Automotive Portfolio, LP.
The defendants were arrested on Feb. 1, and Gentile appeared that afternoon in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, Schneider appeared in federal court in Austin, Texas, and Lash in federal court in Fort Myers, Florida. Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, announced the charges.
As detailed in the indictment and other court documents, GPB, founded by Gentile in or around 2013, was a New York-based investment advisor registered with the SEC. GPB served as the general partner of several investment funds, including GPB Holdings, LP (“Holdings I”), GPB Holdings II, LP (“Holdings II”), GPB Automotive Portfolio, LP (“Automotive Portfolio”), GPB Waste Management, LP (“Waste Management”) and GPB Cold Storage, LP (“Cold Storage”) (collectively, the “GPB Funds”).
The business of GPB Capital was to manage the GPB Funds, which raised and invested capital in a portfolio of private equity investments. Gentile and Schneider worked closely together on the founding, development, operation, and marketing of the GPB Funds. From 2013 through early 2018, Lash was responsible for overseeing the GPB Funds’ investments in car dealerships, which made up a sizable percentage of GPB’s portfolio companies.
Between August 2015 and December 2018, the defendants and others allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud investors and prospective investors in the GPB Funds through material misrepresentations and omissions.
Specifically, Gentile and Schneider, both individually and through employees at Ascendant, represented to investors that the GPB funds would make a monthly distribution payment to investors that would be fully covered by funds from operations, meaning that the companies purchased by the funds would be sufficiently profitable, without drawing from capital raised by investors.
Friday, February 12, 2021
I. Man Arrested for Allegedly Robbing Chicago Bank at Gunpoint
On February 8, 2021, a Chicago man was arrested for allegedly robbing a Chicago bank and holding a customer at gunpoint. Christopher Porter, 49, of Chicago, has been charged with one count of bank robbery for allegedly robbing a Fifth Third Bank branch, 3957 W. 26th St. in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Porter made an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez on February 5, 2021, where he waived his right to a detention hearing and was ordered to remain in federal custody. The arrest and complaint were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., who is United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige A. Nutini.
According to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Porter entered the bank shortly after 5:00 p.m. and demanded that a teller place cash in a bag. Porter then put a customer in a headlock, pointed a gun at the customer’s head, and repeatedly said he would shoot the customer if the teller did not comply with his demand, the complaint states.
The teller put cash in a bag and handed it to Porter, who fled the bank, the complaint states. The FBI arrested Porter later that evening in the parking lot of a Chicago apartment complex about four miles from the bank.
II. Iron Youth Member Charged with Unlawfully Possessing a Machine Gun
In San Antonio, on February 8, 2021, federal authorities filed a criminal complaint against an Iron Youth gang member who illegally possessed a machine gun. The charge was announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff and Christopher Combs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Antonio Division.
Caleb Nathaniel Oliver, 19 oof Smiley, Texas, has been charged with one count of unlawful possession of a machine gun. If convicted, Oliver faces up to 10 years in prison. The criminal complaint alleges that on February 5, 2021, Oliver purchased a fully automatic machine gun from an undercover officer for $1,000.
According to the complaint, Oliver is a member of the group called Iron Youth, a racially motivated violent extremist group that advocates violence in the furtherance of its objectives. Beginning in September 2020, Oliver had several meetings with the undercover officer to discuss the purchase of the machine gun.
Oliver, who was arrested on Friday evening after exchanging money and taking possession of the machine gun, remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing expected later this week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth S. Chestney in San Antonio.
III. Former Phone Company Employee Charged For Role in Sim Swap Scam That Targeted At Least 19 Customers, Including New Orleans Resident
On February 8, 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiansa Louisiana Peter G. Strasser announced that Stephen Daniel DeFiore, 36of Brandon, Florida, was charged in a one-count Bill of Information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1343, for his role in a SIM Swap scam that targeted at least 19 people, including a New Orleans-area physician. DeFiore is the second member of the conspiracy to be charged.
According to the Bill of Information, a SIM Swap scam is a cellular phone account takeover fraud that results in the routing of a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. Once a perpetrator can swap the SIM card, he is able to obtain access to a victim’s various personal accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, as well as any other accounts that use two-factor authentication.
From August 2017 until November 2018, DeFiore had access to the accounts of Phone Company A’s customers, including the ability to switch the subscriber identification module (SIM) card linked to a customer’s phone number to a different phone number. Between October 20, 2018, and November 9, 2018, DeFiore accepted multiple bribes, typically in the amount of approximately $500 per day, to perform SIM swaps of Phone Company A customers identified by a co-conspirator.
For each SIM swap, a co-conspirator sent DeFiore a customer’s phone number, a four-digit PIN, and a SIM card number to which the phone number was to be swapped. In total, DeFiore received approximately $2,325 in a series of twelve payments.
Among the individuals whose accounts DeFiore accessed was Victim A, a New Orleans resident, whose phone number was swapped on November 10, 2018, to a SIM card contained in an Apple iPhone 8 that was in the possession of Richard Li. Li was charged with his role in the offense in June 2020.
IV. Financial Analyst Charged With $1.4 Million SBA Fraud
A former financial analyst has been charged with defrauding the North Texas Business Alliance (NTBA) out of more than $1.4 million in rebate funds, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah. Last week, a federal grand jury charged Tammy Walden Thomas, 60, with nine counts of wire fraud. Ms. Thomas made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez on Monday.
According to the indictment, from March 2016 through October 2019, Ms. Thomas served as a financial analyst for NTBA, a cooperative association of hundreds of North Texas convenience stores and gasoline station owners that negotiated discounts with multinational food and beverage companies on behalf of its members.
As a financial analyst, Ms. Thomas was charged with passing these discounts, as like rebates, on to NTBA members via automatic clearinghouse transfers. However, she allegedly misdirected more than $1.4 million in rebate funds into her own bank accounts, lying to NTBA’s executives and accountants in the process.
V. Killeen Man Indicted for Discharging a Firearm on Fort Hood
In Waco today, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against 28-year-old former U.S. Army soldier Ricardo Manuele Davila-DeJesus for discharging a firearm while on Fort Hood over the weekend, stated U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division. The indictment charges Davila-DeJesus with aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon.
According to court documents, on February 6, 2021, the defendant became intoxicated and got into an argument with several individuals inside the barracks. The argument continued outside when the defendant pulled out a .45 caliber pistol and discharged his firearm in the direction of a soldier who, fearing for his life, had retreated back into the barracks.
Other individuals who were at the scene managed to subdue and disarm the defendant. If convicted, Davila-DeJesus faces up to 10 years in federal prison. He remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on February 11, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey C. Manske in Waco.
VI. Florida Man Charged With Unlawfully Operating Drone In Restricted Airspace Near Super Bowl LV
On February 9, 2021, the U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced the filing of a criminal complaint charging Kevin Jonathan Canty, 33, West Palm Beach, with violating national defense airspace. If convicted, Canty faces up to one year in federal prison.
According to the complaint, on February 6, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a temporary flight restriction (TFR) covering an area extending outward from downtown Tampa. This TFR, along with others, was issued as part of a comprehensive security plan designed to protect and secure the events leading up to, and including, Super Bowl LV.
That day, FBI agents saw an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly referred to as a “drone,” flying near the USF Health CAMLS building—an area within the TFR. FBI agents later located Canty, the operator of the drone, nearby in downtown Tampa. Canty stated that he is an FAA-licensed remote pilot drone operator and that he was aware that a TFR was in place for the Super Bowl.
A review of his drone’s flight path showed that it had traveled through downtown Tampa, which was hosting public events related to the Super Bowl. Furthermore, according to the flight path, Canty had flown his drone over people and moving vehicles.
VII. Pennsylvania Man Indicted For Threatening To Murder Members Of The U.S. Senate
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has announced that Kenelm L. Shirk, age 71, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was indicted on February 3, 2021, by a federal grand jury for threatening to murder members of the United States Senate.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Shirk made threats to murder Democratic members of the United States Senate. On January 21, 2021, Shirk was stopped by the Pennsylvania State Police in his vehicle en route to Washington D.C. A search of Shirk’s vehicle recovered several firearms and a large amount of ammunition.
Shirk was then taken into custody by the Pennsylvania State Police and charged with making terroristic threats. Shirk made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on February 9, 2021, and pled not guilty to the federal charges. He was detained pending a trial that was scheduled for April 5, 2021.
VIII. Dominican National Charged with Identity Theft
A Dominican national was arrested on January 9, 2021, on charges of fraudulently using someone else’s Social Security number. Mariana Rosmely Aguasviva, 38, who previously resided in Lawrence, was indicted on one count of false representation of a Social Security number and one count of aggravated identity theft.
She was detained following an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald L. Cabell, pending a detention hearing scheduled for Feb. 12, 2021. According to the indictment, Aguasviva fraudulently used a Social Security number that was assigned to someone else in an application at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in 2016.
The case is the result of an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a specialized investigative group comprised of local, state, and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring, and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity, and benefit fraud schemes.
If convicted on the charge of false representation of a Social Security number, Aguasviva, faces up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of aggravated identity theft means she faces at least two years in prison to be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed, as well as up to one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
IX. Former Operator of Suburban Chicago Nightclub Charged With Underreporting Corporate Income Taxes
The former operator of a suburban Chicago nightclub has been charged in federal court with assisting in the preparation and submission of false corporate income tax returns for six years.
Alicia Arnold, 51, of Las Vegas, Nevada, willfully assisted in the preparation and submission of false and fraudulent income tax returns for the calendar years 2012 to 2017 for Arnie’s Idle Hour, the nightclub Arnold operated in Harvey, Ill., according to a criminal information filed Feb. 5, 2021, in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Each of the false tax returns substantially underreported the nightclub’s gross receipts and sales, the information states. Arnold, 51, of Las Vegas, Nev., and formerly of Homer Glen, Ill., pleaded not guilty today at her arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert.
A status hearing has been set for March 3, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso. The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Tamera D. Cantu, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office; and Thomas J. Dart, Cook County Sheriff.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grayson Walker and Maureen Merin.
X. Couple Behind “My Buddy Loans” Indicted for Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
Two Liberty County, Texas, people have been indicted for filing hundreds of fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) applications with the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in the Eastern District of Texas. The charge was announced on February 11, 2021, by Acting U.S. Attorney fr for the Eastern District of Texas Nicholas J. Ganjei.
Clifton Pape, 45, and Sally Jung, 58, both of Cleveland, Texas, allegedly operated a COVID relief fraud scheme known as “My Buddy Loans,” that garnered them more than $700,000 in fraud proceeds and resulted in at least $1.3 million in loss to the United States.
Pape and Jung are charged by way of a federal indictment that charges conspiracy to commit telemarketing wire fraud victimizing ten or more persons over the age of fifty-five; and 2, aggravated identity theft and aiding and abetting. According to court documents, Pape and Jung used Square’s credit and debit card processing service to charge third parties the fee.
Pape and Jung completed at least 700 successful charges, obtaining at least $700,000 in fees. Pape and Jung then transferred the proceeds of the fraud scheme into a bank account they controlled. Once, Pape used the fraud proceeds to pay a traffic ticket. On another occasion, Pape and Jung used more than $3600 from the fraud scheme to pay for a stay at a resort in San Antonio, Texas.
A picture from that stay shows Pape and Jung celebrating over sparkling wine. Pursuant to a seizure warrant, agents seized the $505,535.04 in fraud proceeds remaining in the account.
XI. Mexican Drug Traffickers Charged with Conspiring to Import Large Quantities of Narcotics
On February 5, 2021, Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s New York Division, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and Dermot Shea, NYPD Commissioner, announced that Jose Loreto Gastelum-Torres and Fredy Alejandro Gastelum-Vega were charged in a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to import approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills into the United States.
The charge arises from a January 29, 2021, seizure by Mexico’s Secretaría de Marina (the Mexican Navy) of approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills in Sinaloa, Mexico. According to charging documents, on or about January 29, 2021, the Mexican Navy located and began tracking an outboard-powered boat traveling from Las Arenitas, Sinaloa, Mexico, northwest through the Gulf of California.
Approximately several hours later, the Mexican Navy interdicted the vessel in or around Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico, and arrested Gastelum-Torres and Gastelum-Diaz. Mexican Navy officers seized approximately 960 plastic containers from the boat, which contained approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 pills of fentanyl.