Monday, April 23, 2018

Recovering the Space Shuttle Columbia

Fifteen years ago, on February 1, 2003, a sonic boom jarred Special Agent Brent Chambers as he was preparing to mow his lawn outside of Dallas on a chilly Saturday morning.
“I knew it was something bad,” said Chambers, now retired. He jumped in his car, turned on the police radio, and learned the news: NASA’s space shuttle Columbia had broken up as it re-entered the atmosphere. The deep rumble, which started just before 8 a.m. Central time, marked the explosive end of the shuttle and the tragic death of all seven astronauts on board.
As the noise faded, debris started raining down into eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
No one knew immediately why Columbia fell. But the nation couldn’t help but think about the 9/11 terror attacks less than 18 months earlier. “It was a time when people were concerned about terrorism, and it couldn’t be ruled out right away,” said Michael Hillman, another FBI Dallas special agent.
Before NASA could provide any answers, it needed to recover as much of the shuttle as possible. More importantly, the crew needed to be found. The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinated the overall disaster response, and tasked the FBI with finding, identifying, and recovering the crew.
Agents and professional staff also helped secure classified equipment and safely contain and recover hazardous materials. Chambers led an Evidence Response Team, while Hillman led a Hazardous Evidence Response Team.
About 500 FBI employees from Texas and Louisiana eventually worked the recovery effort. They were part of a massive team of professionals and volunteers—more than 25,000 people from 270 organizations helped search 2.3 million acres.
The crew of the space shuttle Columbia’s last mission. (NASA Photo)
The FBI helped recover the remains of all seven crew members of the space shuttle Columbia. (From left) David M. Brown, mission specialist; Rick D. Husband, commander; Laurel Blair Salton Clark, mission specialist; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Michael P. Anderson, payload commander; William C. McCool, pilot; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist representing the Israeli Space Agency. Photo courtesy of NASA

Special Agent Gary Reinecke, a supervisor at the FBI’s Evidence Response Team Unit out of Quantico, Virginia, helped coordinate the Bureau’s recovery efforts. He and several agents with expertise in handling hazardous materials flew down in a Bureau jet, then deployed to a staging area near Lufkin, Texas.
“I had no idea what to expect when I got down there,” said Reinecke, now retired. “It was just swarming with astronauts.”

Searchers spread out across the countryside and sent coordinates to FBI teams if they came across suspected remains.
“After we determined we had found a crew member, we documented the scene like we would a crime scene—we mapped it and took pictures. But in this case, we didn’t keep any evidence. We turned everything over to NASA,” Reinecke said.
A NASA astronaut accompanied each FBI team that responded to reports of victim remains.
“We ended up forging a very close relationship with these astronauts,” Hillman said. “They quickly learned that we had the utmost respect and dedication to getting their friends and colleagues back.”
The remains of all seven astronauts were recovered, despite the obstacles of terrain and the scope of the search. Searchers combed through pine forests, hundreds of thousands of acres of underbrush, and boggy areas. Parts of the shuttle were found in Lake Nacogdoches and the Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Fortunately, the FBI has developed an expertise in responding to disasters of all types. “This is where we work best—during a national emergency. We were all highly trained. Our whole team was very well prepared and very well organized,” Chambers said.

“We ended up forging a very close relationship with these astronauts. They quickly learned that we had the utmost respect and dedication to getting their friends and colleagues back.”

Michael Hillman, special agent, FBI Dallas


ERT During Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery Efforts (FEMA Photo)

FBI personnel from the Dallas office consider the soggy Texas terrain during a search for remains of the space shuttle Columbia crew in 2003. Photo courtesy of FEMA

“We’ve always been good at processing massive scenes,” agreed retired Special Agent Amy Ford, who led an Evidence Response Team from the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office. Many of the team members involved in the search had rotated through one of the crash sites from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The rural location of the search also presented challenges in initially identifying human remains. “This is where people hunt. Searchers were finding bones right and left. Most turned out to be animal bones, but we had to check and verify everything,” Ford said.
In addition to recovering the crew—all within a five-mile area—searchers also recovered about 38 percent of the shuttle, according to NASA: more than 84,000 pieces of the orbiter, weighing about 84,900 pounds.

“Sometimes you would find a piece that was two inches by two inches. A tile. Then sometimes you’d find a piece the size of a Volkswagen Beetle,” Hillman said. To this day, FBI offices still receive calls about potential shuttle debris being found.
FBI employees each spent several weeks or more assisting with the search, often working 12-hour shifts. FBI New York’s Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team helped locate and recover debris under water. The Firearms-Toolmarks Unit at the FBI Laboratory later helped find serial numbers on damaged tiles, which helped NASA determine the cause of the crash—a thermal breach in the left wing that led to structural failure.
“The FBI was a critical part of the Columbia recovery effort,” explained Ronald B. Lee, a NASA engineer and emergency manager at the Johnson Space Center. Lee said the FBI helped rule out sabotage and terrorism early on as possible causes of the disaster, helped locate crew members, and helped catalog recovered debris. “NASA thanks the FBI for its work bringing our crew home, as well as all the men and women who helped NASA during this very difficult time,” Lee added.

FBI news

A Miami, Florida man was sentenced to 97 months in prison  for his role in an approximately $10 million health care fraud scheme involving a now-defunct home health clinic and two sham physical rehabilitation clinics located in Miami.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg of the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Brian Swain of the U.S. Secret Service’s (USSS) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Vladimir Prado Sr., 52, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola of the Southern District of Florida.  Judge Scola also ordered Prado to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and pay $4,001,499 in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants.  Prado pleaded guilty on Feb. 2, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud charged in an October 2017 superseding indictment and to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud charged in a November 2017 indictment.
In connection with the October 2017 charges, Prado admitted that he owned a Miami medical clinic that submitted approximately $5 million in false and fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield, resulting in payments to the clinic totaling approximately $2.6 million. 
In connection with the November 2017 charges, Prado admitted that he was a co-owner of a Miami rehabilitation clinic that submitted approximately $2.6 million in false and fraudulent claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield, resulting in payments to the clinic totaling approximately $1.4 million.  Prado further admitted that he also provided the money to purchase a fraudulent home health agency.  Prado also admitted that from December 2012 through April 2014, he and his co-conspirators submitted to the Medicare program, via interstate wires, approximately $2.2 million in claims for reimbursement, which falsely and fraudulently represented that various home health care benefits were medically necessary, prescribed by a doctor and provided to Medicare beneficiaries.  As a result of these false and fraudulent claims, Medicare made payments to the corporate bank accounts of the home health agency in the approximate amount of $3.9 million, Prado admitted.
The cases were investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and USSS and were brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Clark of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Adam G. Yoffie of the Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operates in nine locations nationwide.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force has charged over 3,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for over $12.5 billion.

Seven individuals have pled guilty to participating in a multi-million dollar international money laundering conspiracy. 
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
On March 7, 2018, Geannis Gonzalez, 31, formerly of Peyton, Colorado, Alfredo Tovar, 36, of Miami Gardens, Robinson Castillo, 32, of Pembroke Pines, and Jamie Vives Castillo, 41, of Pembroke Pines, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.  On March 15, 2018, Quiana Velasco, 35, of Miami, Jose Daniel Estrella, 38, of Hallandale, Pedro Reyes, 38, of Hialeah, pled guilty to the same offense.  Each defendant faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.  Defendants Gonzalez, Tovar, Velasco, Estrella, Reyes, and Castillo will be sentenced on May 25, 2018, by the United States District Judge Ursula Ungaro.  Defendant Vives Castillo will be sentenced on May 30, 2018.
According to stipulated facts filed in court, the defendants admitted to opening bank accounts established in the names of shell corporations to receive the proceeds of various fraudulent schemes, including romance frauds, email hacking schemes, and inheritance and lottery scams, that victimized individuals and corporations across the United States.  The defendants further admitted that, after banks closed the bank accounts that the defendants had opened, often on suspicion that the accounts were being used for fraud or other illegal activity, the defendants would recruit other individuals to act as “money mules,” establishing additional shell corporations in the money mules’ names.  The defendants would then instruct the money mules to open new bank accounts throughout South Florida in the names of the new shell corporations, and telling the mules to falsely represent to the banks that the shell corporations were legitimate businesses engaged in the import, export, or sale of various goods.  Once these bank accounts received money wired from a fraud victim, the defendants would instruct the money mules to wire the money to other accounts overseas.
These stipulated facts further revealed that the defendants received repeated warnings that the funds coming into the shell corporation bank accounts were the proceeds from illegal activity.  The defendants also admitted that these bank accounts received total amounts of illegal proceeds ranging from $3,381,110 to $7,177,442.  The defendants would receive a small percentage of these funds as their commission.  According to the allegations in the indictment in which the defendants were charged, the overall conspiracy, which was led by defendant Roda Taher, laundered approximately $94 million.


Two CEOs and the owner of Zenith Health Services Inc., Monty Health Care Services, Inc., Peaceful Encounters, LLC, National Diagnostic Testing Inc., and Paramount Health Solutions Inc., pled guilty for their roles in a health care fraud scheme.  
Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer; Michael J. Waters, Special Agent in Charge, Amtrak Office of Inspector General (Amtrak-OIG); Isabel Colon, Regional Director, United States Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (DOL-EBSA); and Dennis Russo, Director of Operations, National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), made the announcement.
John Michael Skeffington, 52, of Boca Raton, pled guilty to participating in a health care fraud conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and obstructing a criminal health care investigation, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1518(a) and 2.  Co-defendant Babette Hayes, 58, of Sarasota, pled guilty to obstructing a criminal heath care investigation.  Co-defendant Mona Montanino, 56, of Boca Raton, also pled guilty to obstructing a criminal health care investigation
According to court documents, Skeffington, Hayes and Montanino established five shell companies, disguised as “laboratory marketing companies,” in order to unlawfully refer medically unnecessary and excessive bodily fluid tests for residents and patients of sober homes and substance abuse treatment facilities to various clinical laboratories and rural hospitals.  Hayes and Montanino purported to be the chief executive officers of some of the companies, but it was Skeffington who actually operated and controlled the companies and directed the co-defendants’ actions.  In exchange for patient referrals, the laboratories and hospitals would provide a pre-set percentage of insurance payments (“kickbacks”) to the defendants, which they would then share with the sober homes and substance abuse treatment facilities.
The fraud scheme took advantage of higher insurance reimbursement rates for testing conducted by hospitals.  In some cases, the hospitals would submit claim forms as if the patients submitted samples in person when, in reality, the patients were hundreds of miles away, were never treated at the hospitals, and were unaware that their insurance plans were billed for the services. During the course of the scheme, Skeffington increased his use of rural hospitals for the fraudulent testing, after insurance companies began to scrutinize claims from clinical laboratories for bodily fluid tests.
The kickback amounts, often disguised as payments for sales commissions to Skeffington’s companies, were based on written and unwritten agreements between Skeffington and the laboratories and hospitals. Upon receiving the payments, Skeffington would directly or indirectly provide kickback payments to the sober homes and substance abuse treatment center owners who were accomplices in the scheme.
Once Skeffington, Montanino and Hayes became aware of the FBI investigation into fraudulent medical claims, they created dozens of fake documents meant to obstruct the investigation and disguise the kickbacks as hourly payments for marketing services. They asked, both those from whom they had received kickbacks and those to whom they provided kickbacks, to sign the documents to further conceal their illegal activities. Signed documents and invoices were back-dated to make it appear as though they had been signed and submitted before the kickback payments were made.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Kenneth A. Marra on July 6, 2018 at 1:30 p.m.
These cases are the result of the work of the Greater Palm Beach Health Care Fraud Task Force. The Task Force’s ongoing investigation into substance abuse treatment fraud in the Southern District of Florida has resulted in 18 convictions to date.  Agencies of the Task Force include the FBI, IRS-CI, the Florida Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, Amtrak OIG, DOL-EBSA, and NICB.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of all law enforcement agencies connected with the Task Force, as they continue to combat sober home abuses and health care fraud.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys A. Marie VillafaƱa and Alexandra Chase.

Orlando, Florida – A federal jury has found Viktoriya Johnson (36, Orlando) guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count. Her sentencing hearing is set for August 18, 2018.
Johnson was indicted in May 2017, along with her co-defendant Leone Alfano La Cava (59, Orlando), who pleaded guilty to wire fraud on March 30, 2018.
According to evidence presented at trial, La Cava and Johnson orchestrated an international real estate investment scheme that defrauded at least 80 investors out of over $4 million. La Cava solicited individuals in Italy to purchase real estate in Orange County, Florida that he claimed would generate guaranteed rental income. Johnson and La Cava then used falsified deeds and loan documents to convince investors that they were purchasing property owned by La Cava or Golden Investment, Inc., a real estate investment company incorporated by Johnson in 2010. In reality, those properties either did not exist, were never owned by La Cava, Johnson, or Golden Investment, or had already been sold to another investor. Instead of using the funds to purchase the real estate promised to investors, La Cava and Johnson used portions of the money for their own personal use. Johnson received over $1.3 million in investor funds that she used to purchase four properties and two luxury vehicles for herself.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nathan W. Hill and Chauncey A. Bratt.


When a federal judge in Texas sentenced a 52-year-old Dallas woman to 10 years in prison recently—and ordered her to pay more than $23 million in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid—it marked the end of a massive health care fraud case in which the government was systematically defrauded and the care of vulnerable patients was placed at risk.
Cynthia Stiger was the last of seven defendants to be sentenced in the long-running scheme. The ringleader, Dr. Jacques Roy, received a 35-year sentence in August 2017 and was ordered to repay the government more than $268 million. Roy and his co-conspirators—some of them nurses—perpetrated a home health care fraud that involved thousands of patients over a period of eight years.
“It’s sad when people in the medical community who enjoy a level of trust and responsibility choose to callously take advantage of sick and elderly patients,” said Special Agent Chelsie Drews, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Dallas Division. “But that is exactly what happened here.”
Dr. Roy, Stiger, and others improperly recruited individuals with Medicare coverage to sign up for home health care services. One co-conspirator, nurse Charity Eleda, sought out patients from a homeless shelter, sometimes paying recruiters $50 for each eligible patient they found. Among their many crimes, the fraudsters falsified medical documents to make it appear as though Medicare patients qualified for home health care services that were not medically necessary
In 2004, when Dr. Roy began to exploit the system, home health care was a relatively new concept. Medicare would pay for doctors to visit patients in their home—usually the elderly or infirm—who might not otherwise be able to receive treatment. “The practice quickly became popular,” Drews said, “and Dr. Roy was intent on capitalizing on that.”
Evidence showed that Dr. Roy approved plans of care for 11,000 unique Medicare beneficiaries. “The more patients he had, the more services he could bill for,” Drews said. “When the case went to trial,” she added, “it was the largest single-physician home health care fraud in the country.” Dr. Roy was certifying patients for Medicare home health services from more than 500 home health companies. “Those kinds of numbers were unheard of in the industry,” Drews said.

“It’s sad when people in the medical community who enjoy a level of trust and responsibility choose to callously take advantage of sick and elderly patients.”

Chelsie Drews, special agent, FBI Dallas
After an individual was certified for services, the fraudsters falsified home visit notes to make it appear as though skilled nursing services were being provided and continued to be necessary. Dr. Roy performed unnecessary home visits and then ordered unnecessary medical services for patients. At his instruction, hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims were submitted to Medicare. And in many cases, patients were deprived of care or received inferior care.
It took time for the fraud to be discovered, Drews explained, because Medicare and Medicaid are trust-based systems. “There are so many eligible beneficiaries. In order for patients to get the care they need and then to get their claims processed in a timely manner, the system trusts that providers are submitting a true and accurate billing for their services,” she said. Dr. Roy exploited that process.
The case was investigated jointly by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit as part of the Department of Justice’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Dr. Roy and his co-conspirators were arrested in 2012 on a variety of health care fraud charges.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this case,” Drews said. “The lengthy sentences handed down send a strong message of deterrence to that industry.”

  A Texas businessman solicited investors for his renewable energy company, Wind Plus, Inc.—whose stated business goal was to find and develop land suitable for wind farm construction—he had no problem raising $3.7 million from nearly 100 individuals in 11 states. Unfortunately for the investors, that businessman—David Lyman Spalding—was not exactly environmentally conscious, and he had no intention of following through on his business plan. Instead, he took their money and stuffed the majority of it into his own pockets.
From at least 2003 through April 2011, Spalding worked to convince people to invest with him—sponsoring happy hours, hosting parties at his home, offering bonuses (never paid) to investors already on board who could bring in new investors. He handed out professional-looking brochures and even created a slideshow presentation for prospective investors. He explained that his company obtained land leases and the proper permits for wind farms, conducted meteorological studies to collect wind data, performed environmental studies, and obtained agreements with power companies who would have the wind farms built.
In return for their investments, Spalding offered his clients promissory notes that said he would repay the principal back within two to 12 months, offer 10 percent interest if repayment didn’t happen within that time frame, and offer shares of stock in his company if and when it went public. Unfortunately, those promissory notes weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.
Spalding used most of his investors’ money to fund his extravagant lifestyle—he purchased a new home, luxury vehicle, expensive jewelry, trips for him and his wife to the Caribbean and Europe, spa treatments, dinners at expensive restaurants, designer clothes, etc.
These types of schemes usually run their course when the money runs out. However, even after Wind Plus filed for bankruptcy in 2009, Spalding was able to solicit new investors for a similar renewable energy company called Baseload Energy, LLC, which purportedly focused on geothermal energy and supposedly developed land for natural gas turbines. Like Wind Plus, Baseload Energy was just a means to an end, and that end involved Spalding scamming as many victims as possible.
Of the $3.7 million he received during the life of his scheme, Spalding only paid out a small fraction of that back to investors—and only did that to try to keep clients from demanding their entire investments back or from filing complaints.
But eventually, one of his investors had enough and made a complaint to the FBI’s Dallas Field Office in late 2010. Because of the number of victims, the financial losses, and the interstate nature of Spalding’s activities, the Bureau opened a case.
Investigators conducted numerous interviews of victims and of Spalding’s former employees (who had quit because they weren’t getting paid). But according to the investigating agent, “financial analysis is what really made this case.” She explained that since Wind Plus had no corporate records to review, FBI financial analysts went through Wind Plus bank records. These records showed that Spalding—who had no personal bank account—used company funds almost exclusively for his own benefit.
Spalding was indicted in federal court, and in April 2015—following a seven-day trial—was convicted by a jury. Last month, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $3.3 million in restitution to his victims.

Invest Your Money Wisely: Tips for Consumers
  • Be extremely cautious about unsolicited offers to invest.
  • Don’t believe everything you’re told.
  • Take the time to do your own research on the investment’s potential—and on the person making the offer.
  • Be wary of an investment opportunity that offers unusually high yields.
  • Check with federal and state securities regulators to find out if there have been any complaints against the company or person you’re thinking of doing business with.
  • Request written financial information—such as a prospectus, annual reports, or financial statements—then compare the written information to what you were told.
  • Check with a trusted financial adviser, broker, or attorney about any investments you are considering.

RICHARD D. CARTER of Mundelein charged in a federal criminal complaint

CHICAGO — A north suburban trader has been charged with fraud for allegedly misappropriating at least $750,000 from investors.
RICHARD D. CARTER, 49, of Mundelein, was charged in a federal criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud.  He was arrested Tuesday and made an initial court appearance that day before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez.  Judge Valdez ordered him released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.  The next court date in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been set.
Carter worked as a trader at Blue Guru Trading LLC, a Lincolnshire firm that claimed to specialize in trading futures contracts.  According to the charges, Carter advised existing and potential clients that his firm’s proprietary trading model was profitable, and he furnished account statements and other documentation that purportedly showed significant returns on investments.  In reality, Carter had falsified the documents to conceal the fact that he misappropriated much of the money, according to the complaint.
The complaint was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which earlier this year filed a civil enforcement lawsuit against Carter, provided assistance.
According to the complaint, the fraud scheme began in June 2016 and continued to January of this year.  Carter allegedly told clients their investments would be traded through a clearinghouse called Straits Financial, and he sent some of them Straits Financial account statements showing that Carter’s firm held a balance of more than $6.1 million.  Carter had actually created the statements himself, knowing that Blue Guru held only $9,000 in investor funds, the complaint states.
The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew S. Ebert.

Bank and mortgage fraud

Sergio Roman Barrientos, 64, Poway, California pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud. According to court documents, from about September 2004 through February 2008, Barrientos and co-conspirators Zalathiel Aguila and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, in Vallejo, California. They preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure, convinced them to sign away title in their homes, spent any equity those homeowners had saved, and used straw buyers to defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars in home loans obtained under false pretenses. The equity stripped from the distressed homeowners’ properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Barrientos and his coconspirators. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud. Co-defendant Zalathiel Aguila remains out of custody awaiting trial. Omar Anabo, charged elsewhere, is set for sentencing on April 27. Barrientos is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on April 6, 2018. Barrientos faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott. The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.


Gary DeCicco and Pamela M. Avedisian charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud

Gary DeCicco, 59, Nahant, Massachusetts, and Pamela M. Avedisian, 54, Nahant, Massachusetts, were charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud in connection with the “short sale” of a house in Nahant, Massachusetts. DeCicco was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, four counts of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud, and six counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
DeCicco has been in federal custody since he was charged in March 2017 with attempted extortion in connection with arranging and paying for a local business owner to be assaulted. DeCicco and Avedisian made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston and will be arraigned on Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
The indictment alleges that Avedisian owned a property in Nahant that was subject to a mortgage in excess of $1 million.  In October 2015, DeCicco and Avedisian allegedly conspired to defraud the mortgage holder by proposing the sale of the property for significantly less than the outstanding mortgage, in what is commonly referred to as a “short sale.”  By their very nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated and act independently, allowing sellers to cede their ownership of the property in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid mortgage debt.  In order to get approval for the sale, DeCicco and Avedisian concealed their long-term romantic and business relationships from the loan servicing company and falsely represented that Avedisian could no longer make payments towards the mortgage on the property.  In fact, just two months before the “short sale” closed, Avedisian purportedly received $3.5 million from the sale of another asset to DeCicco.
The indictment also alleges that from November 2015 to September 2016, DeCicco and a co-conspirator falsified rent rolls and prepared fake leases, which they then provided to financial institutions in support of their applications for a $5.5 million loan secured by a commercial building in Peabody.  The indictment further alleges that between September 2016 and January 2017, DeCicco committed unlawful monetary transactions with the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme, and between February and December 2016, DeCicco engaged in a scheme to defraud multiple insurance companies using fake invoices and other documents to support his claims.
The charges of wire fraud and conspiracy, as well as bank fraud and conspiracy, provides for a sentence of no greater than 30 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.  The charges of wire fraud and attempted wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.  The charge of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina E. Barclay of Lelling’s Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting the case.

JESSICA ARONG O’BRIEN fraudulently caused lenders to issue and refinance approximately $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans

CHICAGO — A federal jury  convicted an Illinois attorney of fraudulently obtaining loans related to the purchase, maintenance and sale of properties on Chicago’s South Side.
JESSICA ARONG O’BRIEN fraudulently caused lenders to issue and refinance approximately $1.4 million in mortgage and commercial loans by making false representations and concealing material facts in documents submitted to the lenders.  O’Brien used the fraudulently obtained mortgage loan proceeds to purchase an investment property in the 600 block of West 46th Street in Chicago.  She fraudulently refinanced the mortgage on the property, as well as on a second investment property in the 800 block of West 54th Street in Chicago.  O’Brien then fraudulently obtained a commercial line of credit to maintain the properties, before selling them to a loan officer – co-defendant MARIA BARTKO – and a straw buyer whom O’Brien knew would fraudulently obtain mortgage loans.
The jury convicted O’Brien, 50, of Chicago, on both counts against her, including one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and one count of bank fraud.  Each count is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin set sentencing for July 6, 2018.
The conviction was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Catherine Huber, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Central Region of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew F. Madden and Tyler C. Murray.
Evidence at trial revealed that O’Brien carried out the fraud scheme from 2004 to 2007.  At the time, O’Brien was employed as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Illinois Department of Revenue, while also owning a real estate company, O’Brien Realty LLC, and working part time as a loan officer for Amronbanc Mortgage Corp. in Lincolnwood.  At the time, Bartko was employed at Amronbanc as a loan officer.
Bartko, of Chicago, pleaded guilty before trial to one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution.  Judge Durkin will schedule Bartko’s sentencing hearing at a later date.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nicolae Popescu, Dumitru Daniel Bosogioiu, Dragomir Razvan, Ovidiu Vlad Cristea cautati de FBI

Autoritatile federale americane ofera pana la 1,7 milioane de dolari recompensa pentru informatii care sa conduca la arestarea sau condamnarea lui Nicolae Popescu si Dumitru Daniel Bosogioiu, autori de fraude pe internet. http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/cyber
 
Bosogioiu Daniel Dumitru este din Orlesti, Valcea.

 Cautati de FBI mai sunt : Dragomir Razvan.
http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/cei/dragomir-razvan/view

Ovidiu Vlad Cristea http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/cei/ovidiu-vlad-cristea/view



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Immigration Official Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Soliciting Bribes to Approve Applications for Citizenship and Green Card

SANTA ANA, CA—An immigration service officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who took thousands of dollars in bribes from immigrants who were seeking either citizenship or lawful permanent resident status in the United States was sentenced today to 30 months in federal prison.
Mai Nhu Nguyen, 48, of Irvine, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton.
From 2011 through June 2013, Nguyen solicited and took bribes from Vietnamese immigrants. In one case, Nguyen took $1,000 from an immigrant seeking a “Green Card” and 200 egg rolls from an immigrant seeking citizenship.
Nguyen, who worked at USCIS’s Santa Ana office for approximately eight years and is now on leave, was an immigration service officer with the power to approve or deny applications for immigration benefits that are submitted by immigrants.
The case against Nguyen is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.