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Criminal Investigations

Press Releases tagged with "Criminal Investigations"

  • Two Maryland Men Facing Federal Indictment for Their Roles in a Scheme that Allegedly Stole Government Benefits, Including More Than $8 Million in Federal Emergency Assistance

    For Information Contact

    Marcia Murphy
    (410) 209-4854

    For Immediate Release

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    In July, a Third Man Pleaded Guilty to Participating in the Scheme

    Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging John Irogho, age 38, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and charging Irogho and Odinaka Ekeocha, age 33, of Laurel, Maryland, for conspiracy to commit money laundering, in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal benefits.  The indictment was returned on July 31, 2019, and unsealed today upon the arrests of the defendants.

    The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Mark I. Tasky of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – Office of Inspector General; Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Inspector General; Special Agent in Charge Matthew S. Miller of the U.S. Secret Service – Washington Field Office; and J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

    “While many come forward in the wake of disasters to help selflessly, some use disasters to enrich themselves through theft and fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue criminals who steal funds intended to help actual disaster victims.”

    “This indictment should serve as notice that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is committed to investigating illicit manipulations of IRS online systems, and bringing those involved to face justice,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

    Michael McGill, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, Philadelphia Field Division said, “I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their efforts to bring these individuals to justice. We will continue to protect the integrity of the Social Security system, and pursue those who violate the public trust by committing fraud against Social Security and those who depend on it across the country.”

    During the time period covered by this indictment, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was responsible for providing emergency benefits and compensation for damage to victims who were affected by declared national emergency disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires.  Among other benefits, an individual in an area affected by a national disaster was immediately eligible for “Critical Needs Assistance” (CNA) to purchase life-saving or life sustaining materials.  The assistance was paid to the victim in a manner of his/her choosing, including being deposited onto pre-paid debit cards.

    According to the two-count indictment, from 2016 through 2018 Irogho and several co-conspirators purchased hundreds of Green Dot debit cards, which co-conspirators then registered with Green Dot using the stolen personal information of identity theft victims from around the country.  In 2017, amidst Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the California wildfires, co-conspirators allegedly applied online with FEMA for CNA using the stolen personal information of additional victims of identity theft.  According to the indictment, FEMA paid at least $8 million in amounts of $500 per claim to the Green Dot debit cards purchased by Irogho and his co-conspirators.

    In addition to filing false disaster-assistance claims with FEMA, the indictment alleges that co-conspirators also filed false claims online for Social Security benefits, for IRS tax refunds, and for Department of Labor unemployment and disability benefits using the stolen identities of multiple additional individuals, including name, address, Social Security Number (“SSN”), and other personal identifiers.

    The indictment alleges that FEMA, and the other federal agencies to whom fraudulent applications for benefits were submitted, deposited the falsely claimed benefits directly onto the Green Dot debit cards.  Funds were deposited onto the Green Dot debit cards in the names of multiple stolen identities, and in stolen identities that were different from the identities that had been used to register the cards. After the funds were placed onto the Green Dot debit cards, certain co-conspirators then informed other conspirators, including Irogho, that funds were available on the cards, and provided information to facilitate “cashing out” the funds from the cards.  The indictment also alleges that Irogho enlisted Ekeocha and other conspirators to cash out stolen funds from the Green Dot and other pre-paid debit cards, which Irogho, Ekeocha, and other co-conspirators did in exchange for a commission.  Irogho, Ekeocha, and their co-conspirators cashed out the cards soon after funds were added by depositing the money into bank accounts, and/or through ATM withdrawals or purchases of money orders.

    According to the indictment, Irogho and other co-conspirators took steps to conceal their identities and the conspiracy and scheme to defraud, by enlisting other individuals (including Ekeocha) to make the purchases and withdrawals, utilizing multiple store and bank locations and methods of withdrawal, using multiple bank accounts (including in the names of corporate entities), converting funds into cash rather than placing them into bank accounts, and making money orders payable to other individuals and/or corporate entities which they or their co-conspirators controlled.

    The conspirators allegedly used an encrypted messaging application, e-mail and other means to communicate, and used the stolen federal funds to pay rental and housing expenses, to purchase used vehicles, and for other purposes.

    If convicted, Irogho faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Irogho and Ekeocha each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering.  At their detention hearings today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo ordered that Irogho be detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday, August 5, 2019 at 3:00 p.m.  Judge DiGirolamo ordered that Ekeocha be released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.

    An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

    In a related case, Tare Stanley Okirika, age 30, of Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy on July 19, 2019, admitting that as part of the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain government benefits, he worked with other co-conspirators to cash out Green Dot and other prepaid debit cards.  Okirika admitted that he used the stolen federal funds from the scheme to pay his rent and for other purposes.  U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel has scheduled sentencing for Okirika on October 22, 2019, at 10:00 a.m.

    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.

    United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the DHS OIG, the SSA OIG, the USSS, and TIGTA for their work in this investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth G. Wright, and Kelly O. Hayes, who are prosecuting these cases.

    DHS Agency
    Oversight Area
  • Siskiyou County Man Charged with Major Fraud Against the United States for Taking FEMA Grant Funds

    For Information Contact

    DOJ

    Press Release Number: 
    2:19-cr-084-KJM

    For Immediate Release

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    Grant Administrator Misused over $500,000 Intended for Recruiting and Training New Firefighters

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Samuel Thomas Lanier, 40, of Dunsmuir, was charged today with seven counts of major fraud against the United States, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

    According to court documents, from approximately June 2013 to March 2018, Lanier engaged in a scheme to defraud the United States by submitting, or causing to be submitted, false reimbursement requests to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in connection with federal grants awarded to Siskiyou and Shasta County Fire Chiefs Associations to assist them in recruiting and training new firefighters.

    In June 2013 and June 2014, respectively, the Siskiyou and Shasta County Fire Chiefs Associations were awarded grants as part of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program. Each grant was over $1 million. The purpose of these grants was to assure that communities have adequate protection from fire-related hazards, and to help the recipients attain and maintain 24-hour staffing.

    Lanier, as an owner or executive of two companies located in Dunsmuir, was hired by the Fire Chiefs Associations to administer these grants. In this capacity, Lanier knowingly submitted to FEMA false and fraudulent reimbursement requests, seeking and obtaining reimbursement for goods and services that were not, in fact, actually obtained on behalf of the fire associations. In so doing, Lanier caused a gross loss to the United States of over $500,000.

    This case is the product of an investigation by the Major Frauds & Corruption Unit of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Schuller Hitchcock is prosecuting the case.

    “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG) in partnership with the Department of Justice is committed to identifying and investigating fraud schemes and corrupt activities that pose significant risk and major financial impact to DHS and its components, including FEMA. This fraud scheme siphoned vital funds from a federal program that supports local fire departments to serve their communities,” said James E. Long, Special Agent in Charge, Major Frauds and Corruption Unit, DHS OIG. “Fraud perpetrated against FEMA is detrimental to our nation’s infrastructure and safety, especially from programs that support front line firefighters and first responders.”

    Lanier has agreed to plead guilty to the charges. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

    DHS Agency
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer Indicted on Charges of Theft and False Statements

    For Information Contact

    Trial Attorney Rebecca Moses of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section

    For Immediate Release

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    A federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Texas returned an indictment on Dec. 12 charging a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer with converting federal funds to his own use, with concealing material facts from CBP, and with making false representations to CBP, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced.

    Daniel Lerchbacker, 35, of Conroe, Texas, was charged with three counts of theft for allegedly failing to pay three Canadian entities for expenses that the United States had already provided the funds to cover and for collecting federal funds to which he knew he was not entitled.  Lerchbacker was also charged with two counts of false statements for allegedly submitting to CBP copies of checks as proof of payment, despite knowing that such payments had not, in fact, been made.  Lerchbacker will be arraigned on the charges today at 2 p.m. CST before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christina A. Bryan in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas in Houston.

    According to the indictment, Lerchbacker, while stationed in Canada as a CBP officer between December 2015 and December 2017, allegedly received from the U.S. foreign monetary allowances for the lease of his family’s residence and private school education expenses for his children.  During this time, Lerchbacker received the full amount of federal funds that he requested for these expenses, but Lerchbacker allegedly failed to pay a property management company and two private schools a total of approximately $54,460.99 CAD.  Additionally, Lerchbacker allegedly requested, collected, and retained from the United States approximately $24,230.50 CAD in advance funds for educational expenses for his children while knowing that he was to leave Canada before the end of the school year.

    An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

    The case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rebecca Moses of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.

  • Former West Virginia Cabinet Secretary Sentenced to Federal Prison for Embezzling Fire Department Funds

    For Information Contact

    Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas

    For Immediate Release

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    HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Hurricane man and former West Virginia Cabinet Secretary was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison for embezzling $178,790 from the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department, as well as 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, previously pled guilty in June 2018 to theft from a program receiving federal funds and failure to report and pay over payroll taxes.  As part of Gwinn’s sentence, he was also ordered to pay restitution to the Fire Department, and it’s insurer, in the amount of  $178,790 and to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $68,281.  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.

    “Unimaginable that anyone, much less a former leader in state government, would steal from a Fire Department that is dependent upon funding to provide vital public safety services,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “We will aggressively prosecute and seek restitution for victim organizations in cases like this one.”

    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 a 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 employees’ 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.  Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas handled the prosecution. United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentence.

  • Clay County Woman Pleads Guilty to FEMA Fraud

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    Assistant United States Attorneys Stefan Hasselblad and Meredith George Thomas

    For Immediate Release

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    CHARLESTON, W.Va. –  A Clay County woman pled guilty yesterday to embezzling over $18,000 in federal FEMA disaster benefits.  The case was investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) and the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations.

    Pamela Taylor, 57, admitted that she falsely registered for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster benefits after the June 2016 flood in Clay County, West Virginia.  Taylor claimed that her primary residence was damaged by the flood and that she was staying in a rental unit after the flood.  In fact, her primary residence was undamaged, and she still resided there.  Due to her false statements, she received more than $18,000 in FEMA benefits to which she was not entitled.  In her plea agreement, Taylor agreed to pay restitution of $18,149.04.

    “The flood was a natural disaster. Stealing from FEMA is a manmade disaster,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “The floods of June 2016 were historic and devastating to thousands of West Virginians. Lives were lost.  Too many of our brothers and sisters lost everything.  FEMA dollars are critical but limited.  Stealing critical FEMA dollars is a crime – literally and figuratively.  Taylor’s fraud scheme diverted disaster benefits from our most desperate and vulnerable, those most in need of help.  We take the solemn responsibility of ensuring FEMA dollars are used responsibly and legally.  The public can rest assured that my office takes heinous acts like stealing from disaster relief funds very seriously and will prosecute each and every case brought to us to the maximum extent of the law.”

    “Taking advantage of federal funds intended for disaster relief misappropriates taxpayer dollars, reduces monies available to true victims, and erodes public confidence in relief programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky of  DHS-OIG.  “In July 2016, after the good people of West Virginia were devastated by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides the month prior, the Defendant knowingly submitted a fraudulent application for disaster relief, in order to enrich herself and divert critical funds away from true disaster victims.  The DHS-OIG, operating jointly with our partners in the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, worked tirelessly to bring the Defendant to justice for her crimes.”

    Taylor faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 when she is sentenced on May 30, 2019.  United States District Court Judge the Honorable Irene C. Berger presided over the plea hearing.  Assistant United States Attorneys Stefan Hasselblad and Meredith George Thomas handled the prosecution.

  • Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $5.3 Million Proposed Settlement Of Lawsuit Against New York City For Fraudulently Obtaining FEMA Funds Following Superstorm Sandy

    For Information Contact

    Civil Frauds Unit: Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Jean Hu

    For Immediate Release

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    Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mark Tasky, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (“DHS-OIG”), and Margaret Garnett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced today that the United States filed a civil fraud lawsuit today against the CITY OF NEW YORK (the “City”) alleging that the NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (“NYCDOT”) fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) by falsely claiming that numerous NYCDOT vehicles were damaged during Superstorm Sandy (“Sandy”).  The United States also submitted a proposed settlement of the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for review and approval.  Under the proposed settlement, the City agreed to pay and revert to the United States a total of $5,303,624 and admitted to conduct alleged in the Government’s complaint, including seeking reimbursement from FEMA for vehicles that were not damaged by Sandy.

    Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “FEMA serves a critical role in providing emergency relief to those who are tragically struck by disaster.  When people lie to FEMA about the cause of property damage in order to reap a windfall, it compromises FEMA’s ability to provide financial assistance to legitimate disaster victims in desperate need.  This Office will take decisive enforcement action to protect FEMA and its vital programs from fraud, waste, and abuse.”

    DHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Mark Tasky said:  “Taking advantage of Federal funds intended for disaster relief misappropriates taxpayer dollars, reduces funds available to true victims, and erodes public confidence in relief efforts. Through DHS OIG’s criminal and civil investigative oversight function of DHS programs, and working closely with our partners in the New York City’s Department of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, we ensured that over $5.3 million in disaster relief funds were repaid to the United States, and ultimately the U.S. taxpayer. With so many New York residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy, it is critical to ensure every dollar of appropriated relief funds are properly used and accounted for.”

    DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said:  “Today’s settlement is the successful outcome of a joint investigation with our federal partners, which uncovered falsified submissions by the City to the federal government that allowed the City to wrongly obtain millions of dollars in federal emergency funds.  Our investigation found that a lack of vigilant management and inadequate training of City personnel at the City Department of Transportation led to this wrongdoing in connection with a federal public assistance program.  As New York City’s independent watchdog, DOI is grateful for our effective partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the New York Regional Office of the United States Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General on this investigation.”

    According to the Government’s Complaint, the City participated in FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which allows municipalities to obtain indemnification funds from FEMA to repair or replace property damaged by natural disasters, such as Sandy.  As part of the program, the City was required to certify that the property damage was incurred as a direct result of the disaster.  The City was also required to provide training to employees on program rules and requirements, including the importance of ensuring that costs for which indemnification is sought are directly attributable to a disaster.

    Following Sandy, the NYCDOT created a list of vehicles within the agency’s fleet that had been damaged by the storm and submitted it to FEMA for indemnification pursuant to the Public Assistance program.  The NYCDOT personnel responsible for generating the list of damaged vehicles, to whom the City provided no training on the Public Assistance program, made no effort to inspect the vehicles or otherwise determine whether any reported damage was attributable to Sandy.  In fact, a number of the vehicles included on this list were inoperable long before Sandy.

    In 2014, based on this faulty list, the City submitted a request for indemnification to FEMA seeking to recover the full cost of replacing 132 NYCDOT vehicles.  The City submitted a certification to FEMA as part of the program and a request for indemnification that falsely attested that all costs were incurred as a direct result of Sandy.  Many of the vehicles for which the City sought full replacement costs had been nonoperational or not in use prior to the storm.  As a result of these false certifications, FEMA paid the City millions of dollars to which it was not entitled.

    As part of the proposed settlement, the City will pay the United States a total of $5,303,624.  Specifically, the City will make a cash payment of $4,126,227.34 and relinquish rights to an additional $1,177,396.66 that FEMA had previously approved for disbursement.  During this Office’s investigation, the City withdrew another $3,196,376 in indemnity requests, acknowledging that the costs were ineligible for reimbursement.

    In connection with the proposed settlement, the City also admitted conduct alleged in the Complaint, including:

    - The Deputy Commissioner from NYCDOT who signed the certification lacked personal knowledge about the vehicles sufficient to make a certification about how and when they were damaged and did not personally undertake or direct others to undertake any investigation of the vehicles prior to signing the certification.
     
    - The list of vehicles for which the City was seeking reimbursement included a number of vehicles that were not damaged as a direct result of Sandy to a state beyond repair.  A number of the vehicles that the City included had not been operational prior to Sandy.
     
    - Prior to making the submission and certification to FEMA, neither the City nor NYCDOT undertook a sufficient review to ascertain whether all of the vehicles listed had been operational and in use prior to Sandy; or whether the amounts presented to FEMA for reimbursement accurately represented the losses the City incurred from Sandy.
     
    - In June 2014, a NYCDOT employee notified the Deputy Commissioner that certain of the vehicles for which the City had sought reimbursement from FEMA were not eligible. Yet, it was not until after it became aware of this Office’s investigation that the City took steps to notify FEMA.

    The proposed settlement must be approved by the District Court.

    Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of DHS-OIG and DOI.  This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Jean Hu is in charge of the case.

  • 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

    For Information Contact

    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

    Download PDF (263.31 KB)

    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

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