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Pittsburgh Man Pleads Guilty to Possessing Pornographic Images and Videos of Children

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:41 PM PDT

PITTSBURGH—A resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Matthew Lawrence Gamret, 28, of 111 Kentmoor Drive in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Gustave Diamond.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on January 16, 2012, Gamret possessed visual depictions, namely, images and videos in computer graphics files, the production of which involved the use of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Judge Diamond scheduled sentencing for January 30, 2013, at noon. The law provides for a total sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Gamret.

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.”


South Jersey Man Pleads Guilty to Concealing Information About Kidnapping from the FBI

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:41 PM PDT

CAMDEN, NJ—A Camden County man today admitted concealing from law enforcement authorities information about a home invasion and kidnapping that led to the death of an Atlantic City woman, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Ronnie Ruffin, 43, of Lindenwold, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez in Camden federal court to in information charging him with one count of misprison of a felony.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Ronnie Ruffin was arrested October 18, 2011. Prior to his arrest, he had learned that on March 26, 2011, Nadirah Ruffin (no relation) was the victim of a home invasion and was kidnapped from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Ronnie Ruffin also learned Nadirah Ruffin was driven to Philadelphia, shot, and killed. Her body was found in the Schuylkill River on April 19, 2011. Ronnie Ruffin admitted that before his arrest that he had learned the home invasion and kidnapping of Nadirah Ruffin were orchestrated to retaliate for an assault on another individual.

After Ronnie Ruffin was arrested, he gave a statement to an FBI special agent and a Atlantic City Police Department detective in which he concealed and failed to immediately make known that he knew the identities of the individuals involved in the home invasion and kidnapping.

The charges to which Ronnie Ruffin pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for January 10, 2013.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; investigators from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor James P. McClain; and detectives from the Atlantic City Police Department, under the direction of Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee, Commander of the Atlantic City Police Department, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason M. Richardson and Matthew T. Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.


Taylor Man Sentenced to 84 Months for Drug Conspiracy and Firearms Offense

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:41 PM PDT

Joshua Kevin Oribello, 22, of Taylor, Michigan, was sentenced yesterday in federal district court in Detroit following a guilty plea to drug and firearms offenses, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Robert Foley, III, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Oribello was sentenced by the Honorable Avern Cohn to 84 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Information presented to the court at the time of the sentencing established that in October 2010, Obribello and others conspired to distribute heroin, cocaine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (commonly known as “ecstasy” or MDMA). Oribello and several of his co-conspirators were members of, or were affiliated with, a criminal gang known as the Insane Spanish Cobras. Oribello and others agreed to transport illegal controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, from Detroit, Michigan to the Alpena, Michigan area and distribute the controlled substances in the Alpena area. One of the co-conspirators, an Insane Spanish Cobras member, instructed defendant Oribello and another person affiliated with the Insane Spanish Cobras to obtain firearms for gang use and to trade controlled substances for firearms. Oribello and others agreed to receive firearms from a person in the Alpena area as payment for cocaine, in lieu of currency.

Oribello and others transported heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy supplied by gang members from Detroit to the Alpena area. Between October 2 and October 25, 2010, Oribello and others sold heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy to other people in the Alpena area. During this time period, Oribello made additional trips to transport heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy from Detroit to the Alpena area and to transport proceeds of illegal drug sales to another Insane Spanish Cobras gang member in Detroit.

In late October 2010, an Insane Spanish Cobras member received six firearms that had been stolen during a burglary in the Alpena area in exchange for cocaine and took them to the residence of another gang member in Hillman, Michigan. On October 25, 2010, as instructed by a Detroit-area Insane Spanish Cobras member, Oribello drove from Detroit to the Alpena/Hillman area, picked-up the gang member and the firearms, and attempted to transport them to Detroit. Shortly after leaving the residence, Oribello and the gang member were intercepted and arrested by law enforcement, including members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Gang Task Force and the Michigan State Police Huron Undercover Narcotics Team.

“Armed drug traffickers pose a danger to the communities where the operate,” McQuade said. “Sentences like this one send a message that the community will not tolerate this kind of conduct.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Foley stated, “”Violence in our communities can often be traced back to the illegal sale of guns and drugs. The FBI and its law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring safety for our citizens and stopping this type of criminal activity.”

The cooperative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Gang Task Force and the Michigan State Police Huron Undercover Narcotics Team were recognized and applauded by U.S. Attorney McQuade. Assistant United States Attorney Mark Chasteen of the office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit prosecuted the case for the United States.


FOREX Trader Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Defrauding 47 Investors of $2.3 Million Over Two Years

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:41 PM PDT

CHICAGO—A former floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange who later conducted spot foreign exchange trading in Florida was sentenced today to three years in federal prison for a fraud scheme in which he concealed trading losses and inflated investment returns that caused 47 investors to lose approximately $2.3 million. The defendant, Mark Adrian, was employed as a consultant at the bankrupt Avidus Trading Inc. in Boca Raton, which conducted foreign exchange (FOREX) trading at its discretion for investors. Adrian was responsible for communicating with an investment group in Chicago that solicited and pooled individuals’ investment funds for Avidus. These investors and others lost savings, retirement, and other funds as a result of the fraud scheme.

Adrian, 54, of Delray Beach, Florida, and formerly of Chicago, was ordered to start serving his 36-month prison term on January 7, 2013. U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo also ordered Adrian to pay $2.3 million in restitution. Adrian pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October 2010.

According to his plea agreement, between July 2006 and October 2008, Avidus’ trading was not profitable and resulted in the $2.3 million loss for investors. Adrian concealed the losses in order for Avidus to retain the investors’ business. He prepared and sent false monthly spreadsheets concealing the losses to the investment group in Chicago, knowing that it would report the false information to other investors. Adrian also hid the losses from other employees at Avidus by creating fake brokerage statements that showed an inflated balance for client funds that were on deposit with the broker.

The sentence plea was announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and William C. Monroe, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission assisted in the investigation. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil Harjani.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has facilitated increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhanced coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressed discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducted outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.


Los Angeles Check-Cashing Business and Man Who Was Supposed to Lead Its Anti-Money Laundering Efforts Plead Guilty to Violating Federal Anti-Money Laundering Laws

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:40 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES—A Los Angeles check-cashing store and its designated anti-money laundering compliance officer pleaded guilty today to federal charges, including violating the Bank Secrecy Act.

G&A Check Cashing, a business located in the Westlake section of Los Angeles, California, and Humberto Sanchez, 53, of El Monte, pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge John F. Walter. G&A pleaded guilty to conspiracy and failing to maintain an effective money-laundering policy. Sanchez pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective money laundering policy.

Under federal anti-money laundering laws, financial institutions, including check-cashing businesses, are required to file a CTR for any transaction involving more than $10,000 in currency. As part of the CTR, the financial institution is required to verify and accurately record the name and address of the individual who conducted the currency transaction, the individual on whose behalf the transaction was conducted, as well as the amount and date of the transaction. CTRs are important law enforcement tools for uncovering criminal activity. Financial institutions are also required to maintain and enforce policies to prevent money laundering.

In June, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles issued two indictments naming a total of five defendants as part of a nationwide crackdown of check-cashers alleged to have violated anti-money laundering laws. One indictment related to G&A, while the second related to AAA Cash Advance, another check-cashing store southwest of downtown Los Angeles. According to the indictments, check-cashing businesses are a common venue for individuals who want to anonymously cash large numbers of checks to facilitate fraud and money laundering schemes. The indictments further allege that the use of check cashers to launder money is particularly prevalent in the area of health care fraud, where fraudulent health care businesses commonly convert the proceeds of their fraud into cash by presenting checks to check cashers who they know will not ask for proof of the payee’s identity and will either not file CTRs or file false CTRs.

Previously in the G&A case, Karen Gasparian, 31, of Canyon Country, who is the manager of G&A, pleaded guilty on September 20 to conspiring to fail to file CTRs and failure to have an effective anti-money laundering program. Over a six-year period, G&A allegedly failed to file CTRs on transactions totaling $24 million.

Judge Walter is scheduled to sentence Gasparian on December 3. G&A and Sanchez are scheduled to be sentenced on December 10.

In the case involving AAA Cash Advance, the business and its manager, Diana Brigitt, 35, of Valley Village, pleaded guilty on September 19 before United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee to violations of anti-money laundering laws. Brigitt pleaded guilty to eight counts of failing to file CTRs and one count of failing maintain and enforce policies to prevent money laundering. AAA also pled guilty to one count of failing to maintain and enforce policies to prevent money laundering.

Judge Gee is scheduled to sentence AAA on October 15 and Brigitt on December 3.

At sentencing, Gasparian faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Sanchez faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Brigitt faces a statutory maximum sentence of 45 years in prison and a fine of $2.25 million. G&A faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years of probation and a fine of up to $1 million. AAA faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years’ probation and a fine of up to $500,000.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Kirman (213-894-4442), and Trial Attorneys Matthew Haslinger and Matthew Klecka from the Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit within the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Department of Justice.

The cases were investigated by special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also provided substantial assistance in the investigation.


Los Angeles Man Sentenced to Over Three Years in Federal Prison in Home Loan Scam that Cost Banks More Than $1 Million

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:40 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES—A 50-year-old resident of Tujunga was sentenced this morning to 37 months in federal prison for his participation in a home equity line of credit (HELOC) scheme that resulted in losses of more than $1 million.

David Han was sentenced by United States District Judge Manuel L. Real, who also ordered the defendant to pay $1,065,000 in restitution.

Han pleaded guilty in May to four counts of bank fraud based on his submission of home equity loan applications to four different banks. The HELOC applications were all submitted under the alias “Young He Kim” and were all to be secured by the same property. Han submitted the HELOC applications in a “shotgun” approach in order to obtain approval and funding before any of the banks recorded liens on the property. In addition to concealing his true identity, Han made false representations on his loan applications about his employer, his employment status, and his income.

Once the loans funded, Han directed the proceeds to be deposited into bank accounts that he had opened under the alias, and then he wrote checks to cash or purchased cashier checks to withdraw the funds. After accessing more than $700,000 in loan proceeds, Han sent checks that prosecutors allege were counterfeit—purportedly to be partial loan re-payments—to the banks, which then made additional funds available to Han. Han accessed over $300,000 of these funds before the banks realized that the checks were counterfeit.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Oceanside Attorney Indicted for Operating $11 Million Loan Modification Scam

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 09:40 PM PDT

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced that Oceanside attorney Dean G. Chandler and telemarketing salesman Shelveen Singh were arraigned today in federal court in San Diego on a 50-count indictment charging them with defrauding thousands of homeowners in an $11 million “loan modification” fraud scheme. According to the indictment, these defendants (and two others previously arraigned) used Chandler’s Oceanside-based law firm, 1st American Law Center (1ALC), to persuade victims to pay thousands of dollars each by deceptively touting 1ALC’s purported success and legal resources and falsely promising that 1ALC would successfully modify their residential mortgage loans.

As alleged in the indictment, the defendants and their co-conspirators used high-pressure sales tactics and outright lies to prey on homeowners located across the country who were struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments and were at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. Among other alleged lies, the conspirators falsely promised to have a team of attorneys pre-screen client applications—claiming that these attorneys only approved 30 percent of those seeking to use 1ALC’s services—and boasted of having a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications. 1st American Law Center’s telemarketers were encouraged (using call “scripts” and other training) to say virtually anything to customers in order to close the deal. The indictment alleges that among other ruses, employees pretended that that they had helped “thousands” of happy homeowners save their homes, that 1ALC had been in business for 20 years, that clients’ fees would be deposited into a client-trust account and remain untouched until the client was satisfied, and that there was a money-back guarantee. Conspirators even persuaded financially strapped homeowners to pay 1ALC’s fees instead of the clients’ monthly mortgage payment.

According to the indictment, lead defendant Dean G. Chandler was the Oceanside attorney at the head of 1st American Law Center. He appeared in television commercials and on the company’s websites as the attorney in charge of the company, soliciting customers throughout the United States. Chandler is charged along with telemarketers Shelveen Singh, Anthony Calandriello, and call center manager Michael Eccles with conspiring to commit the offenses of mail fraud and wire fraud through the operation of 1st American Law Center. Defendant Chandler is also charged with money laundering because he conducted financial transactions with the proceeds of the fraudulent conspiracy.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daphne Hearn commented, “At a time when many homeowners in our nation are bearing extreme financial difficulty, it is most unfortunate that there are those individuals who prey on their vulnerability and egregiously attempt to defraud them. The FBI stands resolute in identifying those who are responsible for these schemes and will work with our law enforcement partners to maintain the integrity of the economic sectors of our country.”

Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office commented, “Mortgage modification scams prey on struggling and trusting homeowners. Today’s court actions are a strong reminder of how serious our courts consider this criminal activity. IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to be a part of the law enforcement partnership that is dedicated to tackling this type of crime.”

Defendants Chandler and Singh have been released on bond and will next appear in federal court before District Judge Roger T. Benitez on November 13, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. to set future dates for a motion hearing and trial. Defendant Calandriello was taken into custody in New York and will appear in San Diego on October 17, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. to set further dates. Defendant Eccles is in custody in San Diego, pending release on bond.

Nine other participants in 1ALC’s telemarketing scheme have already entered guilty pleas in federal court for their roles in the criminal enterprise and the subsequent cover-up. On December 16, 2011, 1ALC’s Director of Marketing Gary Bobel pled guilty to conspiracy and tax charges, and telemarketers Scott Thomas Spencer, Mark Andrew Spencer, and Travis Iverson each pled guilty to conspiracy charges in relation to their conduct at 1st American Law Center. These four defendants are next scheduled to appear before Judge Benitez for sentencing on December 3, 2012.

On August 21, 2012, 1ALC telemarketer Jonathon Hearn pled guilty to conspiracy charges and will also face Judge Benitez for sentencing on December 3, 2012. Telemarketer Roger Jones pled guilty to conspiracy on December 23, 2010, and was sentenced in March 2011 to serve 21 months in custody for his role in defrauding desperate homeowners. On February 9, 2012, Director of Information Technology Steven Gerstzyn pled guilty to making a false statement to federal agents who were investigating the activities at 1ALC. Gerstzyn is scheduled to appear before Judge Benitez for sentencing on October 15, 2012. Finally, Sarah Grimm and Amy Hintz, both former employees of 1ALC, pled guilty on June 28, 2012, to theft of government property and were each fined $1,000 and ordered to serve two years’ probation.

Victims of 1st American Law Center may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Coordinator Polly Montano at (619) 546-8921.

Defendants in Criminal Case No. 12CR4031-BEN

Dean Gregory Chandler, 47, Oceanside, California
Shelveen Shraneel Singh , 25, Corona, California
Anthony Calandriello, 29, Staten Island, New York
Michael Eccles, 32, Vista, California

Summary of Charges

Counts 1-49: All defendants

Count 1: Title 18, United States Code, Section 371-Conspiracy. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Counts 2-12: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341-Mail fraud. Maximum penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Counts 13-49: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343—Wire fraud. Maximum penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Count 50: Defendant Dean Gregory Chandler—Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957-Money laundering. Maximum penalties: 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Other prosecutions related to 1st American Law Center:

Defendants in Criminal Case No. 11CR5725-BEN

Gary Bobel, 59, Oceanside, California

Scott Thomas Spencer, 36, Cardiff, California

Mark Andrew Spencer, 33, Cardiff, California

Travis Iverson, Riverside, California

Summary of Charges

Count 1: All Defendants
Title 18, United States Code, Section 371—Conspiracy. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Count 2: Gary Bobel
Title 26, United States Code, Section 7201—Tax evasion. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, and costs of prosecution.

Defendant in Criminal Case No. 12CR3041-BEN

Jonathan Hearn, 30, Vista, California

Summary of Charges

Count 1: Jonathan Hearn
Title 18, United States Code, Section 371-Conspiracy. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Defendant in Criminal Case No. 10CR5046-BEN

Roger T. Jones, 57, Fallbrook, California

Summary of Charges

Count 1: Roger T. Jones
Title 18, United States Code, Section 371-Conspiracy. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release, mandatory restitution to victims.

Defendant in Criminal Case No. 12CR0282-BEN

Steven Gerstzyn, 29 San Diego, California

Summary of Charges

Count 1: Steven Gerstzyn
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001-False statements. Maximum penalties: five years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, and three years of supervised release.

Defendants in Criminal Case No. 12MJ2190-RBB

Sarah Grimm, 27, Oceanside, California
Amy Hintz, 34, Oceanside, California

Summary of Charges

Count 1: Sarah Grimm and Amy Hintz
Title 18, United States Code, Section 641-Theft of government property. Maximum penalties: one year imprisonment, $5,000 fine, and $25 special assessment.

Participating Agencies

Federal Bureau of Investigation Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation


Chicago Based Stylist Launches First Ever Media Styling Event In Chicago:

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 07:19 PM PDT

Chicago Innovation 2012; Chicago Fashion & Beauty Exhibition Series Presented by Chicago Styling Resource: An Official Fashion Focus Event.

CHICAGO (August 11, 2012) – Chicago Styling Resource is proud to present the launch of The Chicago Media Styling Group’s Fashion/Beauty Networking and Exhibition Series: CHICAGO INNOVATION 2012. This is the first of an 8 part event series launching on October 21, 2012 featuring Ten of Chicago’s most creative and innovative design/ beauty creations. The Exhibition will begin at 3:00 p.m. with special ticketing for admittance to the exclusive reception/mixer from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Event will be held in the Plateau area of the W Hotel -City Center.

“We are very excited to present the first ever media styling event of this kind to the Chicago market.” Said Chicago Styling Resources founder Latasha Binder. “Many times I have been asked on what should be done to launch a career in this area, and now we can help so many designers and fashion industry participants to help create that plan and meet other like-minded people in their industry.”

The exhibition will display the latest fashion and beauty trends in vogue. There will be visual stations of live models or stationary mannequins for everyone’s viewing pleasure. Designers, stylists, makeup artists, and hairstylists will collaborate to show off a collective look, or display on their own.

Networking event: Among those on our invite list are local designers and boutique owners, major department store buyers, creative directors and a host of industry partners (Makeup artists, hairstylists, salon owners, product manufacturers, photographers, models and designers across multiple industries) both well established and newbies, not to mention others that are simply interested in staying current in fashion and beauty. Information on purchasing designs displayed that evening will be available that same evening online at www.facebook.com/chicagostylingresource

General admission tickets are $15. Exclusive admission is $45 and include a special valet parking price($20), beverages and hors d’oeuvres during the reception, and a signature gift bag (est. value $100+) for early exclusive ticket buyers. Chicago Innovation 2012 tickets can be purchased by calling 312-469-0094 or by visiting http://tinyurl.com/chicagoinnovation W Hotel -City Center, 172 west Adams street | Chicago, IL 60603.


Terra Lee Brandy Running Crane Sentenced in U.S. District Court

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Great Falls on October 1, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon, Terra Lee Brandy Running Crane, a 27-year-old resident of Browning and an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, appeared for sentencing. Running Crane was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 57 months
  • Special assessment: $100
  • Supervised release: three years

Running Crane was sentenced after a federal district court trial in which she was found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.

At trial, the following evidence and testimony was presented to the jury.

On November 22, 2011, Running Crane floored her green Tahoe directly into a male individual, identified hereafter as “the victim,” as he stood outside a house in Browning, which is within the exterior boundaries of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. An eyewitness testified that Running Crane was the driver of the vehicle that accelerated into the victim. Running Crane’s boyfriend then hopped in the passenger seat, and they sped off. The victim was left bleeding as he tried to lift himself out of a window at the house that the car ejected him through. Others inside rushed out to help him. He suffered fractures in his ankle, requiring the placement of two skews and a painful skin graft on his back. The Tahoe was later found abandoned in a ditch on the reservation.

Before Running Crane hit and injured the victim, she had been drinking inside with the victim and other individuals. The victim recalled Running Crane’s boyfriend getting tough and aggressive with him. The victim told Running Crane and her boyfriend to leave. The victim, defendant, and her boyfriend all went outside. The victim was chasing off the boyfriend when he was run into by Running Crane driving a green Tahoe. The victim described Running Crane as gunning the car over the sidewalk to strike him.

The victim saw a lot of blood coming from his left arm. His leg was pinned to the wall, and his body went through the window. The vehicle backed up. After being struck, the victim faded in and out of consciousness and stopped breathing at several points. Another individual came to the victim’s aid, kept him awake, and covered him with a blanket. The victim’s injuries included a fractured ankle—requiring surgery, and approximately 34 stitches/staples. He was given potent pain medication. The victim’s injuries also necessitated a skin graft on his back.

The owner of the house and the victim’s sister testified that she looked out a bedroom window and saw a dark green Chevy Tahoe back away from the window. Running Crane was in the driver’s seat. The car was on the curb in front of the residence when Running Crane backed up the Tahoe. Running Crane’s boyfriend was in the passenger seat of the vehicle as it backed away. The victim was on the ground; he tried to get up but could not lift himself. He was bleeding heavily from his left side. Neighbors called 911.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura B. Weiss prosecuted the case for the United States.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the “truth in sentencing” guidelines mandate that Running Crane will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, Running Crane does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for “good behavior.” However, this reduction will not exceed 15 percent of the overall sentence.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services.


Man Charged with Possession of a Firearm by Illegal Alien

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

Jose Miguel Perez, 31, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was charged today by indictment with one count of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. The indictment alleges that on or about August 24, 2012, Perez, an alien, knowingly possessed a Taurus Model PT 111, 9mm semi-automatic handgun loaded with 12 live rounds of ammunition.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years.

The case was investigated by the Philadelphia Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Karen Fox.


Swanton Man Convicted for Bank Robbery

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that Allan Reynolds, 27, of Swanton, Vermont, was convicted of bank robbery following his guilty plea on September 28, 2012. Reynolds entered the guilty plea after three days of trial before a jury in Burlington, Vermont. United States District Judge William K. Sessions, III presided over the trial and Reynolds’ guilty plea. Following the plea, Judge Sessions ordered the defendant detained pending sentencing, which is currently scheduled for February 4, 2013.

According to court records, Reynolds robbed the Swanton branch of the People’s United Bank on the morning of November 28, 2011. Wearing a disguise, he presented a bank teller with a note demanding cash. The teller complied and Reynolds left the bank with approximately $1,700. He escaped the bank on a bicycle, which he rode to his nearby home. Reynolds was arrested on state charges on December 2, 2011, and has been in custody since. A federal grand jury returned a single-count indictment charging him with bank robbery on June 11, 2012.

This is Reynolds’ second conviction for bank robbery in the District of Vermont. On November 20, 2007, Reynolds pled guilty to robbing the TD Bank in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, on August 10, 2007. For that crime, Judge Sessions sentenced Reynolds to a 33-month prison term, followed by a two-year period of federal supervised release. Reynolds was still serving his term of supervised release when he robbed People’s United Bank on November 28, 2011.

Reynolds faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. His actual sentence with be determined in accordance with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which are advisory. Reynolds will also be required to pay restitution to the victim bank.

United States Attorney Tristram J. Coffin commended the hard work of the law enforcement agencies who participated in this investigation, including the Swanton Police Department, the Vermont State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

The prosecutor is Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Doherty, Jr. Reynolds is represented by defense attorney Karen Shingler, whose law office is in Burlington.


Federal Jury Convicts Three More Members of Pueblo Bishops Bloods in L.A.’s First Racketeering Prosecution Targeting a Bloods Gang

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES—Three more members of the Pueblo Bishops Bloods, a long-entrenched criminal street gang that used violence and intimidation in an attempt to control the Pueblo del Rio housing projects in South Los Angeles, have been found guilty of federal racketeering, narcotics, and gun charges.

Yesterday’s convictions come in the first federal criminal RICO action brought against a Bloods street gang in Southern California.

Following a four-week trial in United States District Court, a jury yesterday afternoon convicted the three defendants of being members of a criminal enterprise that engaged in narcotics and firearms trafficking, murder, witness intimidation, and armed robbery as part of the gang’s efforts to terrorize the housing projects.

The three defendants found guilty yesterday of violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act are:

  • Kevin Eleby, also known as “L,” 48, of Los Angeles;
  • Jason Davis, also known as “Lil’ G-Red,” 26, of Los Angeles; and
  • Rashaad Laws, also known as “Big Time,” 35, who resided in Los Angeles and Culver City.

In addition to the RICO charge, Eleby was convicted of being responsible for a gun possession related to a shooting that occurred inside the projects on September 11, 2009. This shooting, committed by several other Pueblo Bishop gang members, targeted the residence of a rival gang member but, at the time of the shooting, only the rival gang member’s mother and 11-year-old brother were inside.

In addition to the RICO charge, Davis was convicted of a possessing a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle in furtherance of the RICO conspiracy. During this offense, Davis led police on a high-speed chase through the projects, almost hitting a child, and ultimately crashing into a minivan as he unsuccessfully sought to elude capture.

In addition to the above charges, Eleby, Davis, and Laws were convicted of conspiracy to distribute significant quantities cocaine and crack cocaine. Eleby was also convicted of possession with intent to sell cocaine. Davis was also convicted of drug trafficking within a public housing project, and near schools and playgrounds.

As a result of their convictions, Eleby and Davis face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, and they could be sentenced to life without parole. Laws faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and he faces a potential life sentence. All three defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge S. James Otero on February 4, 2013.

The jury that returned the guilty verdicts deadlocked on whether Eleby possessed a second firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking.

The federal racketeering case targeting the Pueblo Bishops Blood criminal enterprise is a result of a long-standing partnership between the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, a relationship that is maintained through the FBI’s Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs. This task force is one of dozens of such partnerships throughout the United States, known as Safe Streets Task Forces, funded for the purpose of assisting local police in identifying and addressing violent crime in America.

A total of 46 defendants were charged as a result of the investigation targeting the Pueblo Bishops Bloods (see initial announcement in this case at: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/pr2010/122.html). With yesterday’s guilty verdicts, 42 of those defendants have now been convicted (see, for example: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/046.html). One federal defendant is currently is state custody facing a murder charge, two are fugitives suspected to be in Mexico, and prosecutors dismissed charges against one defendant.

On July 16, 2012, three other Pueblo Bishop Blood defendants were convicted by a separate jury of federal racketeering and drug charges, with one defendant also being convicted for conspiring to murder a man who was killed after being shot in the back by Pueblo Bishops in front of his 2-year-old son (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/094.html).

Out of the 42 defendants now convicted in this case, about half have been sentenced, receiving prison terms as long as 211 months.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.


Supervisory Officials at New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

Two former supervisors at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) pleaded guilty today to bribery charges in connection with a widespread scheme to bribe high-ranking HPD officials in return for lucrative construction contracts. Michael Provenzano, formerly HPD’s director of construction services, and Luis Adorno, formerly an inspections supervisor in HPD’s Department of Architecture and Construction Engineering, each pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Nina Gershon at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East in Brooklyn, New York. As part of their plea agreements, Provenzano and Adorno agreed to forfeit to the government assets totaling $30,000 and $100,000, respectively, as proceeds of their crimes.

The guilty pleas were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Mary Galligan, Acting Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI); Robert Panella, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; and Rose Gill Hearn, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (DOI).

HPD is the largest municipal developer of affordable housing in the United States. As detailed in previously filed complaints against Provenzano and Adorno, Provenzano annually solicited and received $10,000 bribes over the course of several years from a general contractor with extensive HPD work in return for, among other things, providing HPD inspection reports to the contractor. This allowed the contractor to tailor his HPD labor requisitions and certified payrolls to the inspection reports to avoid being penalized for prevailing wage violations. Adorno solicited and received a $100,000 bribe from a general contractor in return for Adorno’s support in advocating for the contractor to be awarded HPD construction contracts.

“The guilty pleas announced today serve to vindicate the public’s interest in holding accountable New York City officials who turned their backs on those they were hired to serve—the neediest New Yorkers. These guilty pleas also mark our determined and continuing pursuit of corruption within the publicly-funded affordable housing sector,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Those who qualify for affordable housing deserve no less.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Galligan stated, “As alleged, these defendants flouted their responsibilities as city employees to profit personally. When public employees favor bribe-payers, inevitably the city and the public stand to lose. The city gets substandard goods or services or pays above market rates for them or the public is otherwise at risk.”

“Today’s guilty pleas illustrate the Office of Inspector General’s efforts to combat fraud and corruption involving taxpayers’ funds. The OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who commit bribery and falsify payroll records in order to circumvent prevailing wage laws to cheat their employees,” stated DOL Special Agent in Charge Panella.

DOI Commissioner Gill Hearn stated, “These two ex-employees lost their city jobs and are now felons who have admitted taking bribes. Their conduct shows the peril and foolishness of corruption. We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement and our colleagues in city government to expose, stop, and prevent corruption and protect the city and its taxpayers from this kind of abuse.”

Provenzano and Adorno each face a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

United States Attorney Lynch thanked the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS); the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for their cooperation in this case.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cristina Posa, Anthony Capozzolo and Claire Kedeshian.

The Defendants:

Michael Provenzano
Massapequa, New York
Age: 49

Luis Adorno
Scarsdale, New York
Age: 48


Statement on Investigation into Shooting of Border Patrol Agents

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

The FBI and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office are conducting a joint investigation into the shooting of Border Patrol agents near Naco, Arizona, on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, in the early morning hours. One agent died from his injuries and another, who sustained non-life threatening wounds, was airlifted to a local hospital. The investigation remains ongoing.


Eighteen People Indicted for Roles in Cocaine Conspiracy That Included Firearms, Body Armor, and More Than $180,000

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

Eighteen people from the Cleveland area were indicted on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent distribute cocaine, law enforcement officials announced today.

“The charges detail a conspiracy that pushed cocaine onto the streets of Cleveland and took the profits back to the suburbs,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Members of this group were found with body armor, numerous firearms, and piles of cash.”

“The indictment and arrest of these 18 individuals should serve notice to others engaged in illicit drug activity that this behavior will not be tolerated,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Office. “As evidenced by the results of this investigation, the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force will work tirelessly to target and eliminate the most significant threats to our communities.”

The conduct detailed in the 42-count indictment took place between April 2011 and the present.

Those indicted are (all cities listed are in Ohio):

  • Nedra Battle, 44, of University Heights
  • Samuel Bradford, 49, of Cleveland
  • Clarzel Buckner, 27, of Warrensville Heights
  • Willliam Byrd, 39, of Cleveland
  • George Clements, 48, of Cleveland
  • Richard Eckford, 48, of Mentor
  • Brandt Holly, 45, of Cleveland
  • Anthony Howard, 40, of Euclid
  • Raymond Jackson, 44, of Cleveland
  • Marcus Lane, 48, of Cleveland
  • Albert Martin IV, 59, of University Heights
  • Raymond McCollum, 45, of Cleveland
  • Michael Philpott, 61, of University Heights
  • Donte Smith, 33, of Cleveland
  • Ricardo Thompson, 51, of Cincinnati
  • Derek Williams, 50, of Aurora
  • Nicholas Willoughby, 23, of Cleveland
  • Larnail Wright, 49, of Cleveland

Derek Williams distributed multiple-ounce quantities of cocaine to George Clements, Michael Philpott, William Byrd, Anthony Howard, Brandt Holly, Clarzel Buckner, Samuel Bradford, Larnail Wright, Donald Dial, and others for redistribution, according to the indictment.

Dial also distributed cocaine to Bradford, Wright, Donte Smith, Marcus Lane, Nedra Battle, Raymond Jackson, Richard Eckford, Albert Martin, IV, Ricardo Thompson, Raymond McCollum, and others, according to the indictment.

Dial sometimes sold drugs from his business, Dawn’s Market and Deli in Cleveland. Other deals took place at or near The Meeting Place Bar and Lounge, according to the indictment.

Dial has been charged separately, according to public records.

Williams used stash houses in Cleveland and East Cleveland to hide the drugs, according to the indictment.

He also had his customers use code, such as street numbers, to indicate the amount of cocaine they wanted to buy in an effort to thwart law enforcement, according to the indictment.

Law enforcement agents searched multiple locations in April 2012. They recovered more than $166,000 in cash and a bullet-resistant vest from Williams’ home in Aurora, Ohio, as well as nearly $10,000 in cash and three firearms from stash houses he used, according to the indictment.

Overall, prosecutors are seeking to forfeit more than $180,000 in cash, body armor, four handguns, and a shotgun, according to the indictment, as well as 13 bottles of champagne seized from Williams’ home.

Williams is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was previously convicted of drug trafficking in 1990, according to the indictment.

Donte Smith is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and body armor. He was previously convicted in 2002 of felonious assault with a firearm specification and attempted felonious assault with a firearm specification, according to the indictment.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Teresa L. Dirksen and Joseph P. Schmitz, following an investigation by the Northern Ohio Law Enforcement Task Force, the FBI, and the Cleveland Division of Police.


Centre County Man Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Violations

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:42 PM PDT

JOHNSTOWN, PA—A resident of Centre County, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of interfering with housing, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Ryan M. Held, a/k/a Ryan M. Foley, 21, of 133 Hemlock Street in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Kim R. Gibson.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that on August 20, 2010, Held, by force and threat of force, willfully intimidated and interfered with two minor victims, one of whom was an African-American male, because of his race and because he was occupying a dwelling; and one of whom was a female who was and had been lawfully allowing such African-American male, a friend, to occupy the dwelling in which she resided. During the afternoon of August 20, Held drove past the female victim’s home in Woodland, Pennsylvania, and saw her socializing with a few friends, one of whom was African-American. Just before midnight, Held returned to the property and placed a cross in the front yard of the female victim, approximately 60 feet from the entry to her home, and set it on fire for the purpose of intimidating and interfering with her and her African-American friend. Held spent a few minutes laying in the woods bordering the property watching the cross burn and waiting to see if anyone emerged from the residence.

“Every citizen has the right to be safe in their own home, free from racial intolerance and intimidation,” said U.S. Attorney Hickton. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminals whose actions are driven by bigotry and hate.”

Judge Gibson scheduled sentencing for February 7, 2013, at 10 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Judge Gibson revoked bond and ordered Held detained pending the sentencing proceeding.

Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn J. Bloch is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government, together with Trial Attorney Roy Conn of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Held.


Homolog of Mammalian Neocortex Found in Bird Brain

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 04:41 PM PDT

October 1, 2012

A seemingly unique part of the human and mammalian brain is the neocortex, a layered structure on the outer surface of the organ where most higher-order processing is thought to occur. But new research at the University of Chicago has found the cells similar to those of the mammalian neocortex in the brains of birds, sitting in a vastly different anatomical structure.

The work, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms a 50-year-old hypothesis about the identity of a mysterious structure in the bird brain that has provoked decades of scientific debate. The research also sheds new light on the evolution of the brain and opens up new animal models for studying the neocortex.

“If you want to study motor neurons or dopamine cells, which are biomedically important, you can study them in mammals, in chick embryos, in zebrafish. But for these neurons of the cerebral cortex, we could only do that in mammals before,” said Clifton Ragsdale, PhD, associate professor of neurobiology at University of Chicago Biological Sciences and senior author of the study. “Now, we can take advantage of these other experimental systems to ask how they are specified, can they regenerate, and other questions.”

Both the mammalian neocortex and a structure in the bird brain called the dorsal ventricular ridge (DVR) originate from an embryonic region called the telencephalon. But the two regions mature into very different shapes, with the neocortex made up of six distinct cortical layers while the DVR contains large clusters of neurons called nuclei.

Because of this divergent anatomy, many scientists proposed that the bird DVR does not correspond to the mammalian cortex, but is analogous to another mammalian brain structure called the amygdala.

“All mammals have a neocortex, and it’s virtually identical across all of them,” said Jennifer Dugas-Ford, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago and first author on the paper. “But when you go to the next closest group, the birds and reptiles, they don’t have anything that looks remotely similar to neocortex.”

But in the 1960s, neuroscientist Harvey Karten studied the neural inputs and outputs of the DVR, finding that they were remarkably similar to the pathways traveling to and from the neocortex in mammals. As a result, he proposed that the DVR performs a similar function to the neocortex despite its dramatically different anatomy.

Dugas-Ford, Ragsdale and co-author Joanna Rowell decided to test Karten’s hypothesis by using recently discovered sets of molecular markers that can identify specific layers of mammalian cortex: the layer 4 “input” neurons or layer 5 “output” neurons. The researchers then looked for whether these marker genes were expressed in the DVR nuclei.

In two different bird species — chicken and zebra finch — the level 4 and 5 markers were expressed by distinct nuclei of the DVR, supporting Karten’s hypothesis that the structure contains cells homologous to those of mammalian neocortex.

“Here was a completely different line of evidence,” Ragsdale said. “There were molecular markers that picked out specific layers of cortex; whereas the original Karten theory was based just on connections, and some people dismissed that. But in two very distant birds, all of the gene expression fits together very nicely with the connections.”

Dugas-Ford called the evidence “really incredible.”

“All of our markers were exactly where they thought they would be in the DVR when you’re comparing them to the neocortex,” she said.

A similar experiment was conducted in a species of turtle, and revealed yet another anatomical possibility for these neocortex-like cells. Instead of a six-layer neocortex or a cluster of nuclei, the turtle brain had layer 4- and 5-like cells distributed along a single layer of the species’ dorsal cortex.

“I think that’s the interesting part, that you can have all these different morphologies built with the same cell types, just in different conformations,” Rowell said. “It’s a neocortex or a big clump of nuclei, and then in reptiles they have an unusual dorsal cortex unlike either of those.”

Future experiments will test the developmental steps that shape these neurons into various structures, and the relative pros and cons of these anatomical differences. The complex language and tool-use of some bird species suggests that the nuclear organization of this pathway is also capable of supporting advanced functions — and even may offer advantages over the mammalian brain.

“If you wanted to have a special nuclear processing center in Broca’s area to carry out language processing, you can’t do that in a mammal,” Ragsdale said. “But in a bird they have these special nuclei that are involved in vocalization. It’s as if you have additional flexibility: You can have shorter circuits, longer circuits, you can have specialized processing centers.”

Beyond the structural differences, the discovery of homologous neocortex cell types will allow scientists to study cortical neurons in bird species such as the chicken, a common model used for examining embryonic development. Such research could help scientists more easily study the neurons lost in paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other neurological conditions.

UCH_032449 (3)


Quincy Man Admits to Running Illegal Gambling Business in Boston’s Chinatown, Using Violence to Collect Debts

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 11:44 AM PDT

BOSTON—As part of an ongoing investigation into extortion and illegal gaming in Boston’s Chinatown, a Quincy man pleaded guilty late Friday to running an illegal gambling business. The investigation included a court-authorized wiretap on the defendant’s phone and a series of consensual video-recordings made inside gambling dens.

Minh Cam Luong, a/k/a “Ming Jai,” 48, pleaded guilty to an 11-count indictment charging him with running an illegal gambling business and using threats of violence and actual violence to collect debts from gamblers and others who borrowed money. United States District Judge Patti B. Saris set sentencing for January 14, 2013.

Luong admitted that he managed the illegal gambling business and that numerous people were victims of his extortionate collections scheme. Luong’s business ran a series of three illegal gambling dens, on Edinboro Street, Harrison Avenue, and Beach Street in Chinatown, from early July 2009 through June 2011. The gambling dens offered high-stakes gambling on Chinese table games. The most lucrative game was “pai gau,” in which the gamblers play against each other, not against the “house.” The “house” collects a five percent commission on every winning hand, and the winnings on each hand could range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

Luong and his company lent large amounts of money to gamblers and others. When debtors did not pay, Luong and his associates threatened to come after them and beat them up. Others, including the operators of other Chinatown gambling dens, were beaten up in order to maintain Luong’s “face” and his ability to collect debts from frightened debtors.

During one of the intercepted conversations, Luong told a criminal associate that he had opened his illegal gambling business in Boston rather than in New York, because Boston was “like the countryside,” but “quite wealthy,” and “these country folks don’t know anything.” Luong said that his Beach Street gambling den had made $100,000 during a three-day period around Chinese New Year 2011 and that normally, the gambling den generated $60,000 or $70,000 per week in profits.

In several other intercepted conversations and voicemail messages, Luong threatened debtors with dire consequences if they did not pay up. Luong told one debtor that the debtor’s whole family would “go to hell” if he did not pay. Luong told the debtor about someone else whom Luong had beaten up the previous night and warned the debtor that the same could happen to him. Luong told another debtor that she should not think that her being a woman would prevent Luong from beating her up if she did not pay.

Luong faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the 10 extortionate collections counts and up to five years in prison on the illegal gambling business count. Luong also faces up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.

To date, nine of the 10 defendants charged in the initial indictment have pleaded guilty to illegal gambling business or extortionate collections conspiracy charges. The case is still pending against Hin Pau, a/k/a “Ah-Bo,” a/ka/ “Bao,” who was charged, along with two additional defendants, in a superseding indictment returned by the grand jury on August 16, 2012.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Boston Field Division; and William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Services-Criminal Investigation in Boston made the announcement. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard L. Hoffman and Timothy E. Moran of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit.


Texas Women Plead Guilty to Armed Bank Robbery

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 11:44 AM PDT

GULFPORT, MS—Evie Mearlene Herrin, 58, and Amelia Darci Crew, 30, of Cleveland, Texas, pled guilty in U.S. District Court today to armed bank robbery, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis, FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen, and Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford.

Herrin is the mother of Crew. Herrin and Crew pled guilty to robbing the Regions Bank on Highway 49 in Gulfport, Mississippi, by force, violence, and intimidatio, and putting in jeopardy the lives of the employees of the bank by the use of a dangerous weapon. The robbery occurred on March 26, 2012.

Herrin and Crew will be sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Walter J. Gex III on January 7, 2013. They each face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“We are pleased with the efforts put forth in the joint investigation between the Gulfport Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is evident that this working relationship is a benefit to the Gulfport Community, as made evident by the successful prosecution by the United States Attorney’s Office,” said Gulfport Police Chief Weatherford.

This case was investigated by the Gulfport Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Morgan.


Former Mayor of Barceloneta Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison

Posted: 02 Oct 2012 11:44 AM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]— San Juan


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