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Criminal Investigations

Press Releases tagged with "Criminal Investigations"

  • Former Captain with Bristol County Sheriff’s Office Sentenced for Smuggling Profits to Portugal

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    Public Affairs (202) 254-4100

    For Immediate Release

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    Defendant helped smuggle money overseas for the “Codfather”

    BOSTON – A former Captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office was sentenced today in connection with helping Carlos Rafael, known as the Codfather in the fishing industry, and the owner of one of the largest commercial fishing businesses in the U.S., smuggle the profits of his illegal overfishing scheme to Portugal.

    Jamie Melo, 46, of North Dartmouth, Mass., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to one year of probation, with the first eight months to be served in home confinement. In June 2018, Melo was convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States and one count of structuring the export of monetary instruments. The jury acquitted Melo of one count of bulk cash smuggling.

    During the trial, evidence showed that while at Logan International Airport Melo asked his friends and travel companions to carry envelopes of cash for Rafael on a flight to the Azores in Portugal. At the time, Melo was an Administrative Captain with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office and was traveling to the Azores with Rafael for a charity event sponsored by the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to the flight, Melo asked three of his travel companions to follow him into the men’s bathroom at Logan Airport before going through the TSA Security Checkpoint. In the bathroom, Melo distributed four envelopes of cash to his companions, taking one for himself. Two days after arriving in Portugal, bank records demonstrate that Rafael deposited $76,000 in U.S. currency into his Portuguese bank account.

    United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Mark Tasky, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Philadelphia Field Office; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Neil Gallagher and Justin O’Connell of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

  • Ambler, Pennsylvania Man Admits Defrauding FEMA Relating To Major Disaster

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    Public Affairs (202) 254-4100

    For Immediate Release

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    CAMDEN, N.J. – An Ambler, Pennsylvania, man today admitted defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of thousands of dollars after Hurricane Sandy, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

    Nicholas Ochs, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to Counts One (disaster benefit fraud) and Four (mail fraud) of the indictment against him.

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

    When a natural disaster or federal emergency occurs in the United States, federal agencies, such as FEMA, provide relief and assistance to affected individuals and entities. FEMA provides financial assistance by, among other things, helping affected individuals repair their property.

    In October 2012, Cape May County suffered severe damage from wind, rain and flooding generated by Hurricane Sandy when it struck New Jersey. On Oct. 30, 2012, then-President Obama signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the State of New Jersey, enabling eligible individuals who were displaced by the storms to seek financial assistance from FEMA.

    At the time of Hurricane Sandy, Ochs’s mother lived in a house in Ocean City, New Jersey. In January 2013, Ochs filed an application with FEMA on her behalf, seeking federal rental assistance and assistance for personal property damage under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program. He claimed the property was damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy and was unfit for occupancy. An inspector working on behalf of FEMA inspected the property and determined that the property was uninhabitable, that repairs were required, and that the homeowner had moved. During the inspection, Ochs, acting with power of attorney, signed the application on behalf of his mother attesting that all the information on the application was true and correct. By signing the application, Ochs also acknowledged that any disaster relief money awarded would be returned if his mother received insurance benefits for the same loss.

    FEMA initially denied Ochs’s claim, citing the fact that the property was covered by insurance. Ochs submitted documents to FEMA indicating that the insurance provider denied his mother’s claim. Based on that, in February 2013, FEMA awarded Ochs’s mother funds for rental assistance and home repair.

    In applying to FEMA for home repair and rental assistance claiming that his mother was displaced by Hurricane Sandy, Ochs submitted fraudulent leases claiming that his mother was renting another property on the same block in Ocean City. Ochs also provided fictitious rental receipts. Ochs failed to disclose that the property his mother was renting was owned by his family and that no rent was ever paid. To support his mother’s continued need for rental assistance, Ochs was required to complete FEMA forms, and he faxed fraudulent lease agreements and rental receipts to FEMA.

    In February 2013 Ochs contacted FEMA and made a false claim for transportation assistance, claiming that his mother’s 1985 Mercedes Benz was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and submitting fraudulent documentation to that effect.

    Between February 2013 and December 2013, FEMA paid Ochs’ mother $17,229 for rental assistance and $4,345 for home repairs, through the issuance of direct deposits into bank accounts that Ochs controlled. Ochs then used the money to pay his personal expenses.

    FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program indemnifies flood insurance providers when a claim is paid out. At the time of the storm, Wells Fargo Bank held the mortgage on Ochs’s mother’s property. After Ochs made a claim to the insurance provider, the insurance provider sent the insurance proceeds to Wells Fargo. To entice Wells Fargo to release the funds, Ochs presented fraudulent invoices and forms from a builder that over inflated the value of the work that the builders performed. Wells Fargo mailed numerous checks totaling $169,518 to the house in Ocean City. Ochs deposited the checks into bank accounts that he controlled and spent the money on personal expenses. The flood insurance claims were indemnified by FEMA.

    The count of disaster benefits fraud to which Ochs pleaded guilty to carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The count of mail fraud to which he pleaded guilty carries a potential penalty of 30 years in prison and $1 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2019.

    U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

    The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Camden.

    Defense counsel: William J. Hughes Jr., Atlantic City, New Jersey

    DHS Agency
  • New York Man Pleads Guilty to Cyberstalking

    For Information Contact

    Joshua Stueve Director of Communications, joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov

    For Immediate Release

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    ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A New York man pleaded guilty today to cyberstalking victims in the Eastern District of Virginia and Washington, D.C. and to frame them for crimes or workplace violations they had not committed.

    According to court documents, over a period of one year, Anthony Caccamo, 27, of Flushing, used identity-masking internet applications to send harassing messages to one of his victims, posing as men with whom the victim had had a consensual sexual relationship. In those messages, Caccamo threatened to hack the victim’s online accounts, leak sensitive personal information, and frame her for crimes she had not committed. On at least one occasion, Caccamo made good on his threat to frame the victim for crimes she had not committed. For example, in June 2017, Caccamo sent a false tip to the Homeland Security Investigations Tipline, alleging that she was involved in narcotics smuggling. Caccamo also created false evidence to convince federal investigators that he, too, was a victim of harassment, and provided false information to federal investigators to make it appear as though a certain DHS employee with a cybersecurity background was responsible for the harassment. Federal investigators ultimately traced the harassing messages to Caccamo’s online accounts and personal devices.

    Caccamo pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on December 14. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

    G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John V. Kelly, Acting Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Fong and Jay V. Prabhu prosecuted the case.

    A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-327.

     

    Topic(s):
    Cyber Crime

    Component(s):
    USAO - Virginia, Eastern

  • Former Federal Agent Sentenced on Bribery and Fraud Charges

    For Information Contact

    Gina Balaya - (313) 226-9758

    For Immediate Release

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    Clifton Divers, 49, former agent with Immigration and Customs of the Department of Homeland Security was sentenced today to 36 months after having pleaded guilty today to charges of  bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. 

    According to court records, Divers was a Special Agent with the Detroit office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations.   Divers admitted to conspiring with attorney Charles Busse to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful function of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by dishonest means.  Divers also admitted to accepting a thing of value in return for acting in violation of his official duties as a law enforcement agent.  The crimes are alleged to have occurred between 2013 and 2015. 

    “No one is above the law, particularly law enforcement officers in whom we place our trust to maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and professionalism.  Citizens have the right to expect nothing less.  This office will ensure that entrusted to uphold these important tenets of our system of justice for their own personal gain will face sure and swift punishment for their misdeeds,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.  “I commend the dedication and commitment of the agencies involved in conducting a comprehensive criminal investigation into corruption activities that targeted the federal immigration system.”

    DHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge John Tiano stated, “Let this sentence stand as an example that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), is relentlessly committed to eliminating corruption within the department.  The DHS OIG will never allow corrupt greed driven individuals to work alongside the proud honest men and women of this department, who risk their lives every day to protect our national security and keep this country safe.”

    ICE Office of Professional Responsibility Special Agent in Charge, Keith Barwick stated, “Clifton Divers committed an egregious breach of the trust placed in DHS employees by the American people. While his actions are atypical of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of DHS employees, this sentence should send a message about the serious consequences facing those who exploit their positions and violate the law. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of Inspector General will continue to aggressively investigate corruption and seek to prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law."

    William J. Hannah, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General’s Chicago Field Office. “The foundation of law enforcement is the integrity of its officers.  Agents who fail to uphold those values, like Clifton Divers, will be held accountable for their actions,” said

    Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater, stated:

    The investigation was conducted by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility.    The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison, and former Assistant United States Attorney, Bruce C. Judge.

    Contact: Gina Balaya - (313) 226-9758
    www.justice.gov/usao/mie/index.html

  • Staten Island Resident Pleads Guilty to Disaster Relief Fraud

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    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    Defendant Fraudulently Obtained More Than $750,000 from Relief Programs Intended for New York City Residents Displaced by Hurricane Sandy

    Earlier today, Nagwa Elsilimy pleaded guilty at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to disaster relief fraud in connection with obtaining more than $750,000 in disaster relief from New York City’s Build It Back program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Today’s proceeding took place before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

    Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD OIG); Mark Tasky, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Washington Field Office (DHS OIG); and Mark G. Peters, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation, announced the guilty plea.

    According to court filings and facts presented during the guilty plea proceeding, in the days and months following Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York and New Jersey on October 29, 2012, Elsilimy obtained and attempted to obtain federal funds appropriated for Sandy disaster relief by submitting material misrepresentations in her applications for relief.  Specifically, Elsilimy misrepresented that a home in Staten Island, which her family had abandoned months before the storm, was her primary residence at the time the hurricane devastated parts of New York and New Jersey.  In fact, she had been residing at a different address since at least March 2012.  Evidence obtained in the investigation established that Elsilimy fraudulently obtained federal and city aid totaling more than $750,000.

    When sentenced, Elsilimy faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $1,500,000.

    The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Losey Macchiaverna is in charge of the prosecution.

    The Defendant:

    NAGWA ELSILIMY
     Age:  60
     Staten Island, NY

    E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-563

  • Denham Springs Woman Indicted for Theft of Disaster Assistance Funds

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    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that LISA ELIZABETH CORONA, 37, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury charging her with submitting false claims to the United States and theft of $30,644 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds in relation to the 2016 flooding that affected numerous local areas, to include Livingston Parish.

    Following the 2016 flooding that affected 12 parishes in south Louisiana, FEMA funds were available to people who had emergency needs for food, shelter, and clothing because of the flood.  In order to qualify for assistance based on home ownership, an individual must have, among other things, resided in the home at the time of the storm.

    According to the indictment, CORONA is alleged to have submitted a false application for FEMA assistance for a Denham Springs residence where she did not reside at the time of the August 2016 flooding.  In her application, she is also alleged to have lied in asserting that, because of the damage to the Denham Springs residence, she had emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

    “Federal disaster assistance funds are designated for the aid of individuals affected by a disaster, and with the intent to return these individuals to the lives they lived before being victimized by disasters,” said U.S. Attorney Fremin.  “The theft of these funds by criminals results in losses not only to the federal government, but also to actual disaster victims.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, together with the National Center for Disaster Fraud and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, will continue diligent efforts to prosecute those who seek to steal disaster assistance funds and impair the Federal Government’s ability to assist true victims of a disaster.”

    Special Agent in Charge David Green, Houston Field Office, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, stated, “Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the OIG will continue our commitment to identify and aggressively investigate all allegations of fraud to protect the integrity of FEMA programs funded by the taxpayer.   Theft of funds from DHS programs intended to help those in need will not be tolerated.”

    Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721.  The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to disaster@leo.gov (link sends e-mail).  Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at http://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.

    This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Pugliese.

    DHS Agency
  • St. Thomas Man Indicted for Disaster Fraud and Wire Fraud Stemming From Theft of FEMA Relief Money

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    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    St. Thomas, USVI – United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands announced today that Teron Stevens, 27, of St. Thomas, was indicted on Friday, June 8, 2018, by a federal grand jury charging him with one count of Disaster Fraud and one count of Wire Fraud, in relation to Hurricane Irma Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief funds.

    According to the indictment, in September of 2017, Stevens applied to FEMA for disaster relief by falsely claiming to be a homeowner of a property damaged by Hurricane Irma. As a result, Stevens received over $27,000 in FEMA assistance to which he was not entitled. If convicted, Stevens faces a maximum sentence of not more than 30 years in prison, and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

    On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the United States Virgin Islands. In response, on September 7, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued a major disaster declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5121 et seq. (the "Stafford Act"), for the Virgin Islands. As a result of this declaration, FEMA was authorized to provide assistance to affected residents of St. Thomas and St. John through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program.

    This case is part of the United States Attorney’s Disaster Fraud Task Force, which was announced in October 2017. Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721. The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to disaster@leo.gov. Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at http://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.

    This case is being investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security-Office of the Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Meredith J. Edwards and Mervin A. Bourne, Jr.

    United States Attorney Shappert reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.

    DHS Agency
  • Former Cabinet Secretary Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Fire Department Funds

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    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    He stole over $178,790 between 2013 and 2016 from Teays Valley Fire Department

    In Separate Embezzlement Scheme Wife Embezzles over $75,000 from the Same Fire Department

    HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Hurricane man and former West Virginia Cabinet Secretary pled guilty today to embezzling $178,790 from the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department, as well as to a related tax crime, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  Clifford Keith Gwinn, 64, formerly the Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, faces up to 15 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release and a $200 special assessment when he is sentenced on September 17, 2018.  He has agreed to pay restitution to the Fire Department in the amount of  $178,790 and to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $68,281.  U.S. Attorney Stuart commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations.

    “Egregious criminal conduct,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “To steal from our first responders, those that save our lives and protect our homes, for personal greed is beyond comprehension.  It’s disappointing to say the least that a former public official serving at the highest levels of West Virginia state government would steal from first responders, the very folks who would run into danger to save him.  It’s tragic.  My team stands ready to aggressively prosecute elected officials who violate the basic public trust of honest service.”

    Gwinn admitted that as Vice President and fiscal officer of the Fire Department, he was in charge of the financial affairs of the Fire Department and exercised significant control over the Fire Department’s finances.  He admitted that his duties included reporting income and expenditures to the Fire Department, preparing and submitting taxes for the Fire Department, and assisting with applications and reimbursements for federal grants, among other duties.   He further admitted that he, without authorization from the Fire Department, opened a Fire Department bank account where only he had signature authority, transferred funds into that account without the knowledge or authorization from the Fire Department, ensured certain health care insurance company reimbursements were deposited into that account, and wrote himself checks and checks to cash out of that account, which he then typically cashed.  He admitted that he further instructed the Fire Department’s Treasurer to write him checks from other Fire Department bank accounts and further misrepresented the amount of bank account balances to the Fire Department officers and board members.  He also admitted that he structured withdrawals out of the Fire Department’s accounts in series of transactions below $10,000, to prevent the banks from filing Currency Transaction Reports.  While he admitted that he systematically deposited cash into Fire Department bank accounts, his overall withdrawals and payments received significantly overwhelmed the amount of any deposits.   He also admitted that he had no authorization to write himself checks or receive and cash checks from the Fire Department, and was not entitled to any compensation.

    During the period from 2013 through 2016 that Gwinn embezzled $178,790 in Fire Department funds, the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. These grants allowed the Fire Department to pay firefighters and to purchase and maintain equipment.

    Furthermore, Gwinn admitted that that while he was Vice President and fiscal officer for the Fire Department, the Fire Department withheld taxes from its employee’s paychecks, including federal income taxes, Medicare, and social security taxes, together known as payroll taxes.  He admitted that he knew that he had the corporate responsibility to collect, truthfully account for, and pay over the Fire Department’s payroll taxes.  Gwinn admitted that from October 31, 2015 through April 30, 2017, while Gwinn was a responsible person for payroll taxes, Fire Department failed to account for and pay over approximately $61,421.31 in payroll taxes.

    Gwinn further admitted that when he filed his personal income tax returns with the IRS, those returns were false because they failed to account for the funds he had embezzled from the Fire Department.

    In a related prosecution, but separate embezzlement scheme, Gwinn’s wife, Kathy Sue Gwinn, 52, was sentenced yesterday for embezzling over $75,000 from the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department.   Kathy Gwinn was ordered to jail for a weekend a month for five months, ten months home confinement, and 3 years supervised release, plus probation.

    Gwinn formerly served as the Treasurer of the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department. As Treasurer, she generated payroll checks for firefighters and signed the payroll checks on a Fire Department bank account. Gwinn volunteered for the Fire Department, and had no authority to write herself checks, nor was she entitled to wages, salary, or compensation for her role as Treasurer. Beginning in October 2014, and continuing through March 2017, she printed and wrote herself unauthorized checks from the Fire Department’s payroll account, noting on the memo line of the checks that the checks were for payroll, overtime, or tax preparation. Gwinn moved money from one fire department bank account into the bank account primarily used for payroll, and when she transferred those funds, she inflated the amount of the transfer to include enough to cover the unauthorized checks she planned to write to herself. Over the course of her scheme, she embezzled $75,356.70.  Gwinn was ordered to pay this amount in restitution.

    During the period Gwinn embezzled funds, the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department received grants from FEMA, an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. These grants allowed the fire department to pay firefighters and to purchase and maintain equipment.

    Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas was in charge of the prosecutions. United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearings.
     

    U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin, who also serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, announced today that LISA ELIZABETH CORONA, 37, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury charging her with submitting false claims to the United States and theft of $30,644 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds in relation to the 2016 flooding that affected numerous local areas, to include Livingston Parish.

    Following the 2016 flooding that affected 12 parishes in south Louisiana, FEMA funds were available to people who had emergency needs for food, shelter, and clothing because of the flood.  In order to qualify for assistance based on home ownership, an individual must have, among other things, resided in the home at the time of the storm.

    According to the indictment, CORONA is alleged to have submitted a false application for FEMA assistance for a Denham Springs residence where she did not reside at the time of the August 2016 flooding.  In her application, she is also alleged to have lied in asserting that, because of the damage to the Denham Springs residence, she had emergency needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

    “Federal disaster assistance funds are designated for the aid of individuals affected by a disaster, and with the intent to return these individuals to the lives they lived before being victimized by disasters,” said U.S. Attorney Fremin.  “The theft of these funds by criminals results in losses not only to the federal government, but also to actual disaster victims.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, together with the National Center for Disaster Fraud and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, will continue diligent efforts to prosecute those who seek to steal disaster assistance funds and impair the Federal Government’s ability to assist true victims of a disaster.”

    Special Agent in Charge David Green, Houston Field Office, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, stated, “Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the OIG will continue our commitment to identify and aggressively investigate all allegations of fraud to protect the integrity of FEMA programs funded by the taxpayer.   Theft of funds from DHS programs intended to help those in need will not be tolerated.”

    Members of the public who suspect fraud involving disaster relief efforts, or believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, should contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721.  The telephone line is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You can also fax information to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or email it to disaster@leo.gov(link sends e-mail).  Learn more about the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at http://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.

    This matter is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Pugliese.

  • Two Customs And Border Protection Officers Indicted, Another Pleads Guilty To Assaults On Fellow Officers At Newark Airport

    For Information Contact

    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    NEWARK, N.J. – Two Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were indicted and another pleaded guilty for their roles in the assaults of two fellow CBP officers at Newark Liberty International Airport, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.

    Parmenio I. Perez, 40, of Hawthorne, New Jersey, and Michael A. Papagni, 32, of Staten Island, New York, were charged by indictment today with two counts of forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with two CBP officers, identified in court documents as “Victim One” and “Victim Two,” while the victims were engaged in their duties as CBP officers. They will be arraigned at a later date.

    Tito Catota, 38, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, pleaded guilty June 4, 2018, before Senior U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to an information charging him with two counts of forcibly assaulting, impeding, intimidating, and interfering with Victim One and Victim Two while they were engaged in their duties as CBP officers. All three defendants were originally arrested and charged by complaint in September 2017.

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

    Catota, Perez, and Papagni were employed as CBP officers at Newark Liberty International Airport and were assigned to the Passenger Enforcement Rover Team (PERT). PERT was a CBP specialized unit that identified and intercepted passengers attempting to bring contraband into the United States or who might be associated with terrorist activities. PERT maintained an office on the second floor of Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.

    Victim One was assigned to PERT in October 2016. Within the first two weeks that Victim One worked in PERT, Papagni allegedly advised Victim One that the PERT office table was known as the “rape table” and threatened the victim that he would get him on it.

    On Jan. 10, 2017, an individual identified in court documents as “CBPO 2” shut off the lights in the PERT office. Papagni, Catota, and another officer identified as “CBPO 3” grabbed Victim One’s arms and legs and threw him on top of the PERT office table. While Papagni, Catota, and CBPO 3 held him down, Perez got on top of Victim One’s mid-section and grinded his body up and down against Victim One’s genitals through the victim’s clothing in a motion simulating a sex act. Victim One unsuccessfully attempted to push Perez off his body. When Perez got off of Victim One, Papagni, Catota, and CBPO 3 released him.

    On Nov. 30, 2016, Victim Two, who was assigned to the Port Director staff, went to the PERT office to speak to CBPO 1. A few minutes later, an officer identified as “CBPO 4” locked one of the doors to the office. Catota, Papagni, and Perez then grabbed Victim Two and threw him on his side on the PERT office table. Perez then allegedly simulated a sex act on Victim 2’s leg. Victim Two struggled to get free until Catota, Papagni, and Perez eventually released him.

    At his plea hearing, Catota admitted that he and other CBP officers referred to the tables in the PERT office as the “rape table.” Catota also admitted helping grab Victim One and Victim Two, throwing them on the tables, and holding them down while they were attacked. In addition, Catota also admitted that he and other CBP officers discussed the assaults on the Whatsapp chat message service. For instance, on Dec. 7, 2016, Catota stated that another CBP officer had “walked out on the rape” when referring to the assault of Victim Two.

     The charges against Perez, Papagni, and Catota each carry a maximum potential penalty of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    The charges and allegations against Perez and Papagni are merely accusations, and they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

    U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, New York Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Professional Responsibility, New York Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Vance Kuhner, with the investigation leading to the indictment and guilty plea.

    The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie Faye Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division, and Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division in Newark.

    Catota: Alan Zegas Esq., Chatham, New Jersey
     Papagni: Chad Seigel Esq., New York
     Perez: Lorraine Gauli-Rufo, Verona, New Jersey

  • CEO Gets More Than 19 Years for $18 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

    For Information Contact

    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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    HOUSTON – The CEO of Team Work Ready (TWR) has received a significant federal sentence for conspiracy, health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick along with Special Agent in Charge Christopher Cave of the U.S. Postal Service - Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG), Special Agent in Charge Steven Grell of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) – OIG, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ramsey Covington of IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI), Special Agent in Charge James Werner of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – OIG and Special Agent in Charge David J. Green of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – OIG.

    A federal jury convicted Jeffrey Eugene Rose Sr., 56, along with his wife - chief financial officer (CFO) Pamela Annette Rose, 56 - and the clinic’s vice president of operations Frankie Lee Sanders, 56, following 14 hours of deliberation on Oct. 17, 2016.

    Today, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr., who presided over the trial, sentenced Rose to 233 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay $14,537548.54 in restitution to the DOL, Office of Worker’s Compensation Program (OWCP) which administered the Federal Employees Compensation Act health care benefit program known as FECA. In arriving at the sentence, Judge Werlein considered the seriousness of the offense and the $18,354,971 in fraudulent claims submitted from Rose’s 10 TWR clinics located in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Memphis and Alabama, including clinics in Houston, San Antonio, and McAllen. Rose will also be required to serve three years supervised release upon completion of the prison term.

    “The sentence imposed today serves as a clear deterrent to those engaging in fraud against federal benefit programs,” said Cave. “USPS-OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue these investigations and exhaust all efforts in uncovering these fraud schemes.”

    Pamela Rose and Sanders were previously sentenced July 21, 2017, to 120 and 300 months, respectively.

    During the trial, the jury heard testimony from 38 witnesses including former patients of TWR clinics, former employees of TWR clinics, various experts and special agents from USPS-OIG and IRS-CI. According to testimony, TWR submitted millions in false and fraudulent claims for physical therapy services.

    “Jeffrey Rose orchestrated a fraudulent scheme to submit more than $18 million in claims for services never provided to injured federal workers to DOL-OWCP using the health care clinics he owned in multiple states,” said Grell. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of department programs and safeguard taxpayer money.”

    “Our system of health care is founded on the trust of the public in its health care professionals and the outstanding services they provide. The health care fraud and money laundering activities committed by Jeffrey Rose and his co-conspirators harms all Americans, as we all have to pay our fair share for government services and protections that we enjoy,” said Covington. “IRS-CI agents along with our law enforcement partners remain committed to ending healthcare fraud conspiracies and seeking justice for those involved in these crimes.”

    Patients testified at trial that they did not receive the one-on-one physical therapy services for which DOL-OWCP paid under FECA. Rather, they stated they exercised independently on treadmills, bicycles, elliptical machines and with the Nintendo Wii game as well as other pieces of exercise equipment. One patient described an electronic massage chair in the San Antonio clinic, while another patient testified that unlicensed staff told him to do exercises on both of his arms, although he only injured his left elbow and to use the electronic massage chair and the treadmill for his injury. Similarly, a patient from Houston testified that she was asked to do some exercises that had nothing to do with her carpal tunnel wrist injury, specifically walking on a treadmill.

    Testimony from former TWR employees revealed that the Houston clinic had as many as 30 – 60 patients a day and that employees did not know what the patients were doing in the main treatment area because they were busy in the back doing massages, electrical stimulation treatments and ultrasound treatments. Patients at the New Orleans clinic were instructed to go back to the therapy room to begin doing exercises by themselves. Employees testified that they did not perform all the one-on-one services documented on patient treatment notes and admitted they frequently completed the patient treatment notes at the end of the day by following a “cheat sheet” and asking each other and the patients what activities had been done. Various individuals described the treatment as “like a gym.”

    Undercover federal agents posed as patients at two of the TWR clinics. The jury watched portions of covertly made recordings that supported the employee and patient testimony about clinic activities. The jury also heard several recordings a TWR employee made demonstrating how  the defendants tried to coerce her into ordering medically unnecessary treatment so the clinics could profit.

    As explained during the trial by DOL-OWCP’s chief fiscal officer, FECA does not pay for professional services performed by unlicensed aides. Under FECA rules, a chiropractor can only be paid when they treat spinal subluxation or when they personally perform physical therapy under the direction of, and as prescribed by, a medical doctor. They also cannot direct unlicensed individuals to perform skilled physical therapy services. Specifically, in relation to this case, TWR falsely and fraudulently submitted claims for skilled one-on-one physical therapy services provided by a licensed chiropractor when, in reality, the services were not provided as described.

    Rose and his wife were also convicted of money laundering after another TWR employee testified about the pair moving $700,000 out of TWR accounts to hide it from the federal government in July 2013, while federal agents executed search warrants at multiple TWR locations.

    Rose has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

    USPS - OIG, DOL - OIG, IRS - CI, Department of Veterans Affairs - OIG, and Department of Homeland Security – OIG conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) Julie Redlinger and Daniel Rodriguez prosecuted the case. AUSA Kristine Rollinson handled the forfeiture matters.

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