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Criminal Investigations

Press Releases tagged with "Criminal Investigations"

  • United States Border Patrol Agent Sentenced to Prison for Theft of Firearm Parts and Unlawful Possession of Machinegun

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    DOJ

    For Immediate Release

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     TUCSON, Ariz. – Yesterday, Jesus Manuel Franco, a  former United States Border Patrol Agent, 39, of Vail, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson, to 18 months’ imprisonment for theft of firearm parts and equipment valued at approximately $100,000 and for the unlawful possession and transfer of  two machinegun conversion devices.  Franco had been previously found guilty of these offenses after a jury trial.                 

         The evidence at trial demonstrated that in 2014, Franco accepted a temporary assignment to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Armory in Harper’s Ferry, W. Va.   During a two-month period, Franco unlawfully transferred 47 boxes of firearm parts and equipment from the Armory to the Wilcox, Ariz. CBP Station without authorization and for personal use.  One of the boxes transferred by Franco contained two machine gun conversion devices that qualified under federal law as machineguns.  Franco also charged the government for shipping costs.

         The investigation in this case was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. The prosecution was handled by Jane L. Westby and Sarah B. Houston, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson.

     

    CASE NUMBER:            CR-16-00268-TUC-CKJ

    RELEASE NUMBER:    2018-19_Franco

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    For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/

  • “Compound King” and Two Others Indicted in Multi-Million Dollar Conspiracy

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    DOJ

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    Fugitive Sought

    HOUSTON – A man and woman from Houston are set to appear in federal court on charges related to health care fraud and money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Law enforcement are searching for a third individual also indicted in the case.

    George Phillip Tompkins, 73, and Marene Kathryn Tompkins, 66, were taken into custody Thursday. They are expected in court for an arraignment and counsel determination hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena H. Palermo at 10:00 a.m. today.

    Authorities are still seeking a third defendant - Anoop Kumar Chaturvedi, 46, a legal permanent resident from India in connection with the charges. A warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the U.S. Postal Service – Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) at 1-888-877-7644.

    The three are charged in a 17- count indictment that was returned Jan. 24, 2018, and unsealed Feb. 16, with violating the anti-kickback statute, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

    The Tompkins owned Piney Point Pharmacy on Fondren Road in Houston. The indictment alleges they conspired with Chaturvedi and others to induce the referral of compound gel and cream prescriptions to the pharmacy for dispensing and billing under health benefit programs, including the Federal Employees Compensation Act program (FECA).

    Beginning around September 2009 and continuing through approximately September 2016, the indictment alleges the trio engaged in health care fraud and wire fraud as well as illegal kickbacks. The pharmacy allegedly billed the Department of Labor (DOL) - who administered the FECA program - at least $23,392,281 for compound gel and cream medications dispensed pursuant to illegitimate prescriptions and the result of kickback payments. The DOL paid approximately $11,663,704 on the fraudulent claims. The indictment lists several dates when compound gels and creams were dispensed to hundreds of patients, ordered by the same physician. Chaturvedi allegedly distributed a standardized prescription order form and directed the number of mediation refills to be ordered. 

    The indictment describes compounding as a practice of compounding and creating medications tailored to individual patient needs. George Tompkins was the pharmacist in charge and allegedly referred to himself as the “Compound King.” Marene Tompkins was identified as the pharmacy Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, while Chaturvedi owned several other businesses in the Houston area, according to the charges.

    “The indictment obtained today should send a clear message to healthcare providers that the government is vigilant and vigorously protecting federal benefits programs from corruption,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Cave of USPS-OIG , Southern Area Field Office. “The USPS-OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate these types of cases in order to protect the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and USPS from further fraud and abuse.”   

    If convicted of the money laundering conspiracy, they face up to 20 years in federal prison. Each also faces up to 10 years in prison for convictions of either conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud and wire fraud as well as a maximum of five years for conspiracy to pay kickbacks. 

    USPS-OIG, DOL-OIG, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Department of Veterans Affairs – OIG and Department of Homeland Security – OIG conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger is prosecuting the case.

  • Former Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Sentenced To Prison For Accepting Bribes To Dismiss Indictment Against Colombian Narcotics

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    CRM
    (202) 514-2007
    TTY (866) 544-5309

    For Immediate Release

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    WASHINGTON – A former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Special Agent was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for orchestrating, through multiple misrepresentations to numerous government agencies, the dismissal of a drug trafficking indictment filed against a fugitive narcotics kingpin, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. 

                According to admissions in his plea agreement, Christopher V. Ciccione II, 52, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, accepted cash and other things of value and used his official position to cause a drug trafficking indictment against Colombian national Jose Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos to be dismissed.  Piedrahita and Colombian national Juan Carlos Velasco Cano met with Ciccione in Bogota, Colombia in December 2010, where they provided him with approximately $20,000 in cash, dinner, drinks and prostitutes.  In exchange, Ciccione disclosed the identities of confidential sources cooperating against Velasco three times,  made numerous misrepresentations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI management, and altered law enforcement records to represent to decision makers that Piedrahita was a “former” suspect of a closed investigation, rather than a “current” subject; that Piedrahita was “never positively identified” during that investigation; and that his case should be dismissed because no one could obtain probable cause to “supersede another indictment.”  Ciccone also falsified the concurrence of several other federal agents and attempted to parole Piedrahita into the United States.   

    “Christopher Ciccione abused his law enforcement authority for personal profit,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “His actions not only comprised an ongoing investigation and nearly allowed a dangerous drug kingpin to escape justice, but they also betrayed the public trust placed in him to carry out his sworn duties with integrity.  Today’s sentence demonstrates the hard work of our federal law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice—no matter who they are.”  

                Ciccione was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. of the Southern District of Florida.  Velasco was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Jan. 17.  Piedrahita is currently incarcerated in the Republic of Colombia.   

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Piedrahita as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act on May 3, 2016.  

    ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI investigated the case.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and Office of the Judicial Attaché in Colombia and the Drug Enforcement Administration provided valuable assistance to the investigation.  The Colombian Attorney General’s Office also provided invaluable support. Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Jennifer A. Clarke of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.

     

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    18-157

    DHS Agency
  • Former Supervisory United States Border Patrol Agent Found Guilty of Multiple Firearm Offenses

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    Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michael G. Wheat (619) 546-8437, Alessandra P. Serano (619) 546-8104, Jennifer E. McCollough (619) 546-8773

    For Immediate Release

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    Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michael G. Wheat (619) 546-8437, Alessandra P. Serano (619) 546-8104, Jennifer E. McCollough  (619) 546-8773

    NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 2, 2018

    SAN DIEGO – Martin Rene Duran, a former supervisory United States Border Patrol Agent, was convicted by a federal jury today of seven counts of illegal transportation of firearms and one count of possession of a short-barreled rifle following a three-day trial.

    According to evidence presented at trial, Duran purchased seven firearms in Arizona in 2011, 2013 and 2014.  Duran made these purchases using an Arizona driver’s license with an address where he never lived and claimed Arizona residency even though he resided in California.  At the time of the execution of a federal search warrant in October 2015, Duran was in possession of multiple firearms that were illegal in California and one short-barreled rifle. 

    Duran is scheduled to appear before Senior U.S. District Judge Marilyn L. Huff on April 30, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. for sentencing.

    “Federal law enforcement officers are not above the law,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “All citizens are required to abide by the laws of the United States.”

    “This decision affirms the efforts the Department of Homeland Security makes to hold its personnel to the highest standard and shows it will not tolerate malfeasance which tarnishes the hard work performed by employees on a daily basis,” said Jeffrey Gilgallon, Special Agent in Charge, ICE Office of Professional Responsibility.

    “Bringing a case against another federal agent is never pleasant, but we hold public safety and a commitment to justice above all,” said Bill McMullan, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division.  “It is ATF’s mission to quell firearm trafficking and when we see those engaged in illegal firearms activity we act on it.”

    DEFENDANT                                                           Case Number 15cr2817-H                                       

    Martin Rene Duran                 Age: 48                       Chula Vista, CA

    SUMMARY OF CHARGES

    Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(a)(3) – Illegal Transportation of Firearms: Maximum Penalties: 5 years’ incarceration, a fine of $250,000, three years of supervised release.

    Title 26, United States Code, Sections 5861 and 5871 – Possession of Unregistered Firearm: Maximum Penalties: 10 years’ incarceration, a fine of $250,000, three years of supervised release.

    AGENCIES

    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility

    Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection - Office of Professional Responsibility

  • Former Boston Police Sergeant Detective Sentenced for Making False Statements and Unlawfully Entering Secure Airport Area

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    BOSTON – A former Boston Police Sergeant Detective was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for repeatedly making false statements so that he could fly armed on personal trips and enable a friend to fly with him without being screened by security personnel at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

    Bruce E. Smith, 53, of Randolph, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to one year of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $7,500. In September 2017, Smith agreed to plead guilty to three counts of making false statements to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security and one count of unlawfully entering a secure airport area with intent to evade security requirements. Smith also agreed to resign from the Boston Police Department.

    Beginning in 1989, Smith was employed by the Boston Police Department and most recently served as a Sergeant Detective assigned to District E-13, Jamaica Plain, as a district detective supervisor. Between May 2011 and April 2017, Smith flew armed on approximately 28 separate trips departing from Logan Airport even though he was not on official business, which is a violation of federal law. On each of those trips, he falsely claimed that he had obtained supervisor approval for his travel. On at least two of the trips, Smith also escorted or attempted to escort a friend through Logan Airport without security screening. Smith falsely claimed that his friend was a “dignitary” under Smith’s official police escort. When questioned by TSA security personnel as to what type of dignitary his friend was, Smith falsely replied, “I am not at liberty to divulge that information.” In fact, Smith’s friend, who has a criminal record, is not a dignitary, but a mobile clinic operator.

    United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; and Mark Tasky, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, Washington Field Office, made the announcement today. The investigation was conducted jointly by BPD’s Anti-Corruption Division and DHS-OIG. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary R. Hafer of Lelling’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted the case.

  • Former CBP Officer Sentenced to Prison for Alien Smuggling

    For Immediate Release

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    McALLEN, Texas – A 55-year-old man who formerly resided in Weslaco has been ordered to prison following his conviction of one count of conspiracy to transport aliens within the United States, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer Sabas Salinas pleaded guilty Nov. 1, 2017. 

    Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed Salinas a 24-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, Judge Alvarez noted that Salinas was entrusted with authority from the people - the citizens of the community. She noted that one of his specific job responsibilities was to ensure that individuals who were not authorized to come into the U.S. were prevented from doing so, and he did the exact opposite. Additionally, in spite of his good background, and regardless of whether he was getting paid for his actions, she found his participation in the offense to be corrupt.    

    Salinas had admitted that while on duty at the Progreso Port of Entry, he was going to allow Juana Sifuentes-Villagomez, 48, a lawful permanent resident of Donna, to transport an illegal alien into the U.S. 

    On Aug. 14, 2017, Sifuentes-Villagomez arrived at the Progreso Port of Entry with Asiano Uresti-Segundo, 46, of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Salinas was attempting to conduct the initial inspection and planned to allow them entry in to the U.S., knowing Uresti-Segundo was an illegal alien and not permitted to do so. However, other CBP officers discovered Uresti-Segundo was a citizen of Mexico who had been previously deported and did not have permission to re-enter the country. Both Sifuentes-Villagomez and Uresti-Segundo were arrested that day.  

    The investigation led to the discovery that Uresti-Segundo was going to pay Sifuentes-Villagomez for smuggling him illegally into the U.S. through a port of entry and transporting him to Donna. 

    Salinas was later arrested for his part in the conspiracy on Sept. 14, 2017.   

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

    Sifuentes-Villagomez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport aliens within the United States and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28, 2018. Uresti-Segundo entered a guilty plea to unlawfully attempting to enter the U.S. after being previously removed and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11, 2018. They also remain in custody pending those hearings.  

    The Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and CBP – Office of Field Operations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Requénez prosecuted the case.

    DHS Agency
  • Former Treasurer of Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department Pleads Guilty for Embezzlement

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    SDWVNews  

    For Immediate Release

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    HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Hurricane woman pleaded guilty today for embezzling over $75,000 from the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department, announced United States Attorney Carol Casto. Kathy Sue Gwinn, 52, entered her guilty plea to theft from a program receiving federal funds. 

    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 admitted that she 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. She further admitted that 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. She admitted that she 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. As part of her plea agreement, Gwinn has agreed to pay this amount in restitution.

    During the period Gwinn embezzled funds, the Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Department received grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 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.

    Gwinn faces up to 10 years in federal prison when she is sentenced on April 9, 2018.

    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 conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Meredith George Thomas is in charge of the prosecution. The plea hearing was held before United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers.

  • Former Federal Agent Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes to Dismiss Indictment Against Colombian Narcotics Kingpin

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    Public Affairs (202) 254-4100

    For Immediate Release

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    A former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Special Agent pleaded guilty today to accepting bribes in exchange for securing the dismissal of a drug trafficking indictment filed against a Colombian cocaine trafficker, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

    According to admissions in his plea agreement, Christopher V. Ciccione II, 52, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, accepted cash and other things of value and used his official position to cause a drug trafficking indictment against Colombian national Jose Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos to be dismissed and to obtain official authorization for Piedrahita and his family to enter the United States.  Piedrahita and Colombian national Juan Carlos Velasco Cano, 49, gave Ciccione approximately $20,000 in cash, as well as dinner, drinks and prostitution during an extended hotel stay in Bogota, Colombia, in exchange for official acts that resulted in the dismissal of the indictment against Piedrahita.  Velasco, who previously pleaded guilty, served as the intermediary between Ciccione and Piedrahita. 

    Ciccione admitted that in furtherance of this scheme to obstruct justice, he misled the U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI management and altered law enforcement records to represent to decision makers that Piedrahita was a “former” suspect of a closed investigation, rather than a “current” subject, who was “never positively identified” and that his case should be dismissed— all while maintaining contact with Piedrahita.  Ciccone also falsified the concurrence of several other federal agents and attempted to parole Piedrahita into the United States.  

    Ciccione will be sentenced on Feb. 9, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. of the Southern District of Florida.  Piedrahita is currently incarcerated in the Republic of Colombia. 

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Piedrahita as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act on May 3, 2016.  

    ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI investigated the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the Office of the Judicial Attaché in Colombia and the Drug Enforcement Administration provided valuable assistance to the investigation.  The Colombian Attorney General’s Office also provided invaluable support.  Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Jennifer A. Clarke of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.

  • Last Defendant in the United States Pleads Guilty in Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

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    Public Affairs (202) 254-4100

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    All 24 Defendants in the United States Have Pleaded Guilty; 61 Charged in Total

    An Illinois man pleaded guilty today to money laundering conspiracy, joining six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by a network of India-based call centers responsible for defrauding U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Acting Deputy Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) made the announcement.

    Miteshkumar Patel, 42, most recently residing in Willowbrook, Illinois; Sunny Joshi, 47, of Sugar Land, Texas; Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, 39, of Montgomery, Alabama; and Rajesh Bhatt, 53, of Sugar Land, each pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Raman Patel, 82, of Gilbert, Arizona; Praful Patel, 50, of Fort Myers, Florida; and Jerry Norris, 47, of Oakland, California, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses.  The pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas between Sept. 22 and Nov. 13, except for Raman Patel’s plea, which was entered before U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Burns in the District of Arizona on Nov. 6.  Six of the men have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2016 and will remain detained until their pending sentencing dates.

    According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States.  Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.  Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money.  Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the United States to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.

    Based on admissions in Miteshkumar Patel’s plea, beginning in or around 2013, Miteshkumar Patel managed a crew of a half dozen domestic runners involved in the criminal scheme, liquidating as much as approximately $25 million in victim funds for conspirators from India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL.  Patel communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various domestic and India-based co-defendants via email, text messaging and WhatsApp messaging.  Miteshkumar Patel and his runners purchased reloadable GPR cards that were registered using the misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) of unsuspecting victims that were later used to receive victims’ funds, and used those reloadable cards containing victims’ funds to purchase money orders and then deposit those money orders into bank accounts, as directed, while keeping a portion of the scam proceeds as profit.  Miteshkumar Patel also trained the runners he managed on how to conduct the liquidation scheme, provided them with vehicles to conduct their activities in Illinois and throughout the country, and directed a co-defendant to open bank accounts and limited liability companies for use in the conspiracy.  Miteshkumar Patel further admitted to using a gas station he owned in Racine, Wisconsin to liquidate victim funds, and possessing and using equipment at his Illinois apartment to make fraudulent identification documents used by co-defendant runners in his crew to receive wire transfers directly from scam victims and make bank deposits in furtherance of the conspiracy.

    According to admissions in Raman Patel’s guilty plea, from in or around 2014, Patel served as a domestic runner in and around south-central Arizona, liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions of a co-defendant.  Patel also served as a driver for two co-defendants in furtherance of their GPR liquidation and related activities and sent bank deposit receipts related to the processing of victim payments and fraud proceeds to an India-based co-defendant via email and document scan services offered at various retail stores.

    Based on admissions in Joshi and Bhatt’s guilty pleas, beginning in or around 2012, Joshi and Bhatt worked together as runners in the Houston, Texas area along with a co-defendant.  They admitted to extensively communicating via email and text with, and operating at the direction of, India-based conspirators from organizational co-defendant CALL MANTRA call center to liquidate up to approximately $9.5 million in victim funds, including by purchasing GPR cards and using those cards, funded by co-conspirators with scam victim funds, to purchase money orders and deposit them in third party bank accounts, while keeping a percentage of the scam proceeds for themselves as profit.  Joshi has also agreed to plead guilty to one count of naturalization fraud pursuant to a federal indictment obtained against him in the Eastern District of Louisiana, based on fraudulently obtaining his U.S. citizenship.

    Jagdishkumar Chaudhari admitted in his plea that between April 2014 and June 2015, he worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago area and elsewhere throughout the country, at the direction of Miteshkumar Patel and others.  In exchange for monthly cash payments, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari admitted to driving to hundreds of retail stores to purchase GPR cards to be loaded with victim funds by co-conspirators in India, purchasing money orders with GPR cards that had been funded with victim proceeds, depositing money orders purchased using victim scam proceeds at various banks, and retrieving wire transfers sent by victims of the scheme.  Jagdishkumar Chaudhari is an Indian national with no legal status in the United States, and has agreed to deportation after he serves his sentence as a condition of his guilty plea.

    In his plea, Praful Patel admitted that between in or around June 2013 and December 2015, he was a domestic runner who liquidated funds in and around Fort Myers, Florida for conspirators from India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL.  Praful Patel communicated extensively via WhatsApp texts with his conspirators.  For a percentage commission on transactions he conducted, Praful Patel admitted to purchasing reloadable GPR cards that were registered using the misappropriated PII of unsuspecting victims that were later used to receive victims’ funds, using those reloadable GPR cards containing victims’ funds to purchase money orders and depositing those money orders into bank accounts as directed, and using fake identity documents to receive wire transfers from victims.

    According to Norris’ guilty plea, beginning in or around January 2013 continuing through December 2014, he was a runner who worked with conspirators associated with India-based call center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL, and was responsible for the liquidation of victim scam funds in and around California.  Norris admitted he communicated extensively via WhatsApp and email with India-based co-defendants including Sagar “Shaggy” Thakar, purchased GPR cards used in the scheme, sent lead lists to conspirators in India that were then used by callers located in the call centers to target potential victims in the telefraud scheme, received scam proceeds via wire transfers using fictitious names, and laundered scam proceeds from GPR cards via ATM withdrawals.

    To date, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris, 49 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016.  Including the pleas announced today, a total of 24 defendants have pleaded guilty thus far in relation to this investigation.  Defendants Bharatkumar Patel, Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Harsh Patel, Nilam Parikh, Hardik Patel, Rajubhai Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilipkumar A. Patel, Fahad Ali, Bhavesh Patel, Asmitaben Patel, Montu Barot, Nilesh Pandya, Dipakkumar Patel, Nisarg Patel, Rajesh Kumar, and Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel previously pleaded guilty on various dates between April and September 2017.

    Miteshkumar Patel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2018.

    The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

    ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the investigation of this case.  Also providing significant support were: the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; Ft. Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection and Elder Abuse Unit; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Alabama, Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey.  The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.

    Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), Trial Attorney Amanda Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting this case.  HRSP’s Ann Marie Ursini and Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Kennedy of the Eastern District of Louisiana prosecuted the naturalization fraud case against Joshi.

    A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims and the public.  Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.

    Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.

  • Middle District Of Florida, Along With Three Other U.S. Attorney Offices In Districts Affected By Hurricane Irma, Establishes Task Force To Combat Disaster Fraud And Urge The Public To Be Vigilant In Reporting Suspected Fraud

    For Immediate Release

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    Tampa, FL - The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, along with U.S. Attorney Offices in the District of Puerto Rico, Southern District of Florida, and Northern District of Florida announced the formation of task forces comprised of local, state and federal agencies in our respective areas to combat Hurricane Irma related illegal activity. The NCDF and U.S. Attorneys in these districts urge residents and businesses to immediately report suspected fraudulent activity relating to recovery and cleanup operations, fake charities claiming to be providing relief for victims, individuals submitting false claims for disaster relief and any other disaster fraud related activity.

    The U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region. Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or manmade disaster. More than 30 federal, state, and local agencies participate in the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which allows the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.

    While compassion, assistance, and solidarity are generally prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous individuals and organizations also use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the NCDF has already received more than 400 complaints. Examples of illegal activity being reported to the NCDF and law enforcement include:

    • Impersonation of federal law enforcement officials;
    • Identity theft;
    • Fraudulent submission of claims to insurance companies and the federal government;
    • Fraudulent activity related to solicitations for donations and charitable giving;
    • Fraudulent activity related to individuals and organizations promising high investment returns from profits from recovery and cleanup efforts;
    • Price gouging;
    • Theft, looting, and other violent crime

    “Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions,” said Acting Executive Director Corey R. Amundson of the National Center for Disaster Fraud. “Once the NCDF receives a complaint, it routes the complaints to the appropriate federal, state, or local law enforcement agency in the appropriate jurisdiction. In the process, we are able to de-conflict and identify trends, national schemes, and offenders operating in multi-jurisdictions. The Justice Department will aggressively pursue those who commit disaster fraud.”

    “We will aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks to defraud or exploit the federal assistance programs established to help individuals, families, or businesses that have lost so much as a result of Hurricane Irma,” said Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the Middle District of Florida. “Our Office will continue to protect the rights of our honest citizens affected by this disaster and ensure that they receive the necessary public and charitable assistance they deserve. If you suspect any fraud, we urge you to call the NCDF Hotline. Our efforts to combat fraud associated with Hurricane Irma will supplement the outstanding and ongoing efforts by the State of Florida and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.”

    “Our efforts are directed at enforcing a zero tolerance policy,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico. “In the midst of the distress and losses caused by Hurricane Irma and the attending need for recovery and rebuilding, there can be no place for fraud and abuse.”

    “As our South Florida community recovers from Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and our law enforcement partners stand ready to investigate and prosecute in federal court anyone who seeks to re-victimize, defraud or exploit the individuals and businesses in need,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida. “Our united enforcement front will work hard to combat criminal activity, including fraud schemes associated with the hurricane’s devastation. Our mission is to ensure that federal, state and local programs, as well as reputable public and charitable assistance initiatives reach those struck by the impact of our recent natural disaster and are not fraudulently diverted to the criminals’ pockets.”

    “We do not tolerate fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova for the Northern District of Florida. “Individuals, families, and businesses have suffered, and will continue to suffer, tremendous losses. Emergency funds are needed to help them get back on their feet. Dozens of agencies, investigators, and prosecutors are ready to respond to credible allegations of fraud and abuse. If you are aware of fraud, we urge you to call the National Disaster Fraud Hotline.”

    Members of the public who suspect fraud, waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, 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).

    Members of the public are reminded to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of disaster victims. Solicitations can originate from e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings and telephone calls, and similar methods. Learn more about the NCDF at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud. Tips for the public on how to avoid being victimized of fraud are at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/tips-avoiding-fraudulent-charitable-contribution-schemes.

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