“Obama Ricin Letters: Shannon Richardson, Texas Woman, Indicted For Threatening Mailings”

June 28, 2013

The Huffington Post on June 28, 2013 released the following:

AP

“TEXARKANA, Texas — A Texas woman was indicted Friday on charges that she sent ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an attempt to frame her estranged husband, federal prosecutors said.

Shannon Richardson, 35, is charged with two counts of mailing a threatening communication and one count of making a threat against the president of the United States, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas said in a news release.

Richardson, an actress from New Boston, Texas, was arrested June 7. She is accused of sending the threatening letters in May to Obama, Bloomberg and a third man who heads the mayor’s gun-control group. Richardson faces up to five years in prison on each of the charges.

Richardson’s court-appointed attorney, Tonda Curry, was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The government accused Richardson of mailing the letters and trying to pin the crime on Nathan Richardson, the man she married in 2011. He filed for divorce earlier this month. He’s told the Texarkana Gazette that he contemplated divorce last year but reconsidered when the relationship seemed to improve.

The marriage was at least Shannon Richardson’s third, and she has five children ranging in age from 4 to 19 from other relationships, according to Nathan Richardson’s attorney, John Delk.

A federal judge last week ordered Shannon Richardson to undergo a psychological exam. Curry had requested the exam, saying her client had displayed “a pattern of behavior” that calls into question whether she could assist in her defense.

Authorities have determined that the ricin letters, which threatened violence against gun-control advocates, were mailed from New Boston, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas, or nearby Texarkana and postmarked in Shreveport, La.

According to an FBI affidavit, Richardson first contacted authorities to implicate her husband in the scheme. But she failed a polygraph exam and investigators found inconsistencies in her story, the document alleges.

Richardson later admitted she mailed the letters but maintained that her husband made her do it, according to the affidavit.

The actress has had minor roles on television and in films under the name Shannon Guess.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Shannon Richardson Charged By the Feds With Allegedly Mailing Ricin Letters

June 10, 2013

Huffington Post on June 8, 2013 released the following:

By NOMAAN MERCHANT and DANNY ROBBINS AP

Shannon Richardson Tried To Frame Husband Nathaniel Richardson For Ricin Letters: FBI

TEXARKANA, Texas — Shannon Richardson had been married to her husband less than two years when she went to authorities and told them her suspicions: He was the one who had mailed ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg threatening violence against gun-control advocates.

When investigators looked closer, they reached a different conclusion: It was the 35-year-old pregnant actress who had sent the letters, and she tried to frame her estranged husband in a bizarre case of marital conflict crossing with bioterrorism.

Those allegations are detailed in court documents filed Friday as Richardson was arrested and charged with mailing a threatening communication to the president. The federal charge carries up to 10 years in prison, U.S. attorney’s office spokeswoman Davilyn Walston said.

Richardson, a mother of five who has played bit roles on television and in movies, is accused of mailing the ricin-laced letters to the White House, to Bloomberg and to the mayor’s Washington gun-control group last month.

Richardson’s court-appointed attorney, Tonda Curry, said there was no intention to harm anyone and noted that it’s common knowledge that mail is checked before it reaches the person to whom these letters were addressed.

“From what I can say, based on what evidence I’ve seen, whoever did this crime never intended for ricin to reach the people to which the letters were addressed,” Curry said.

According to an FBI affidavit, Richardson contacted authorities on May 30 and implicated her husband, Nathaniel Richardson. She described finding small, brown beans with white speckles – a description matching the key ingredient in ricin, castor beans – at the couple’s home in New Boston, Texas. She also told investigators that she had found a sticky note on her husband’s desk with addresses for Bloomberg and Obama, the affidavit said.

But she later failed a polygraph test, the document said, and investigators looking into her story found numerous inconsistencies. Among them: Nathaniel Richardson would have been at work when Internet searches tied to the letters were made on the couple’s laptop and when the envelopes containing the letters were postmarked.

Finally, the affidavit says, in an interview with authorities on Thursday, Shannon Richardson admitted that she had received syringes and lye – a caustic chemical used in making ricin – in the mail; that she had printed the labels for the letters; and that she mailed them. However, she insisted her husband typed them and “made her” print and send them, the affidavit says.

No charges have been filed against her husband. His attorney, John Delk, told The Associated Press on Friday that his client was pleased with his wife’s arrest and was working with authorities to prove his innocence.

Delk previously told the AP that the couple is going through a divorce and that the 33-year-old Army veteran may have been “set up” by his wife. In divorce papers filed Thursday, Nathanial Richardson said the marriage had become “insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.”

FBI agents wearing hazardous material suits were seen going in and out of the Richardsons’ house on Wednesday in nearby New Boston, about 150 miles northeast of Dallas near the Arkansas and Oklahoma borders. Authorities conducted a similar search on May 31.

The house is now under quarantine for “environmental or toxic agents,” according to a posting at the residence. Multiple samples taken from the couples’ home tested positive for ricin, according to the affidavit. Federal agents also found castor beans along with syringes and other items that could be used to extract the lethal poison, the affidavit says.

Bloomberg issued a statement Friday thanking local and federal law enforcement agencies “for their outstanding work in apprehending a suspect,” saying they worked collaboratively from the outset “and will continue to do so as the investigation continues.”

Shannon Richardson appears in movies and on TV under the name Shannon Guess. Her resume on the Internet movie database IMDb said she has had small television roles in “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Walking Dead.” She had a minor role in the movie “The Blind Side” and appeared in an Avis commercial, according to the resume.

Delk said the Richardsons were expecting their first child in October. Shannon Richardson also has five children ranging in age from 4 to 19 from other relationships, four of whom had been living with the couple in the New Boston home, the attorney said.

Nathaniel Richardson works as a mechanic at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, Texas, a facility that repairs tanks, Humvees and other mobile military equipment. He and Shannon were married in October 2011.

A detention hearing for Shannon Richardson is scheduled for next Friday, court records show, and the government is requesting that she be held without bond.

The FBI is investigating at least three cases over the past two months in which ricin was mailed to Obama and other public figures. Ricin has been sent to officials sporadically over the years, but experts say that there seems to be a recent uptick and that copycat attacks – made possible by the relative ease of extracting the poison – may be the reason.

If inhaled, ricin can cause respiratory failure, among other symptoms. If swallowed, it can shut down the liver and other organs, resulting in death. The amount of ricin that can fit on the head of a pin is said to be enough to kill an adult if properly prepared. No antidote is available, though researchers are trying to develop one.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Charges filed in Pilot Flying J case, 2 sales executives who worked for Jimmy Haslam plead guilty”

May 29, 2013

Cleveland.com on May 29, 2013 released the following:

By John Caniglia, The Plain Dealer

“Two Pilot Flying J sales executives pleaded guilty today to federal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their role in sending fraudulent rebate checks “to certain targeted Pilot customers,” the charges said.

Arnold Ralenkotter, a regional sales director in Hebron, Ky., and Ashley Judd, an account executive in Knoxville, entered their pleas in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn. No dates have been set for their sentencing.

They became the first people charged in the two-year investigation of Pilot Flying, the company owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

The charges said the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to increase the commissions of Pilot’s direct sales staff and increase the company’s profits. Ralenkotter’s home was one of several sites searched by federal agents in April. The main sites of the raid took place at Pilot Flying J’s main offices.

Haslam has said he had no knowledge of the scheme, which is contradicted by a FBI affidavit used to obtain a judge’s permission to search Pilot Flying J, Ralenkotter’s home and other sites.

The charges say that Pilot Flying J had a mandatory sales meeting in Knoxville in November. Ralenkotter attended a breakout session in which a top Pilot sales official “encouraged and taught Pilot direct sales personnel how to defraud, without detection, some of Pilot’s customers who chose to receive their discounts in the form of a rebate check.”

The charges said Ralenkotter told a subordinate that if he wasn’t willing to reduce a customer’s rebate, then Ralenkotter would take the customer’s account over. Ralenkotter’s attorney said his client is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

In March, Judd told an employee of Pilot Flying J who was cooperating with investigators that she kept a file in her desk drawer related to the rebate reductions. Judd told the informant that “if anyone ever came in the office that that file would be the first one that Judd would burn,” according to the FBI affidavit. Her attorney could not be reached.

The company declined to comment.

It was last month when FBI and IRS agents raided the company’s headquarters in Knoxville.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent said some sales employees withheld fuel price rebates and discounts from certain companies to boost the company’s profits and their commissions. The document also says Haslam knew about the scheme, as he had been in sales meetings where the scheme was discussed.

But Haslam on May 16 told hundreds of trucking company officials in Indianapolis that he was “absolutely not aware of” the scheme.

Until today, no one had been charged in the investigation.

But several civil lawsuits have piggybacked on the FBI affidavit.

A spokesman for Haslam has said that class-action lawsuits are predictable in cases where allegations of wrongdoing take place, and he said the company will defend the cases appropriately.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Adel Daoud Indicted By a Federal Grand Jury for Allegedly Trying to Detonate a Car Bomb Outside a Chicago Bar

September 21, 2012

Chicago Tribune on September 20, 2012 released the following:

“Man indicted for attempted bombing of Chicago bar

Peter Bohan
Reuters

CHICAGO (Reuters) – An 18-year-old man his attorney described as a “misguided kid” was denied bail and indicted on Thursday for attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb outside a Chicago bar.

Adel Daoud was subdued in federal court, dressed in bright orange prison clothing with shackled legs, a mop of frizzy black hair and a sparse beard and mustache. He exchanged a few words with his attorney but said nothing during the hearing.

Daoud, a U.S. citizen who lives in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, was arrested on September 10 after trying to explode a fake bomb provided by an undercover FBI agent as part of an investigation lasting several months, authorities said.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted him on two counts of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and maliciously attempting to use an explosive to destroy a building. If convicted on the first count, Daoud faces up to life in prison.

Daoud’s attorney Thomas Durkin argued before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys that Daoud had been entrapped by the FBI and “this kid couldn’t build a bomb if his life depended on it.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway read through details of the charges against Daoud with evidence recorded over months, including alleged comments that Daoud said he would “only be satisfied of 100 were killed and 300 injured” in the attack. Daoud had repeatedly rejected suggestions to delay or halt plans for the attack, Ridgway said.

Ridgway described Daoud as deceptive, charismatic and knowledgeable, arguing that the defendant was dangerous and a flight risk. The judge agreed.

“The evidence shows he was predisposed to do it before the FBI” got involved, Judge Keys said of the bomb plot, adding that Daoud appeared to have “a strong desire to kill Americans, felt justified in doing so, and the more he could kill the better.”

The judge ordered Daoud held without bail after the 20-minute hearing. Daoud shuffled out silently but glanced at his father, Ahmed, who was seated in the front row at court.

According to an FBI affidavit, Daoud used email accounts starting in about October 2011 to gather and send materials “relating to violent jihad and the killing of Americans.”

Undercover FBI employees began corresponding with Daoud in May and later provided Daoud with a Jeep apparently full of explosives – but which was an inert device produced by undercover law enforcement, according to the affidavit. Daoud was arrested after trying to detonate it outside a downtown bar located near the Chicago Board of Trade building.

Durkin, who has experience as a defense lawyer in terrorist trials including representing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, told reporters after the hearing that he was not surprised by the denial of bail.

“No judge in the world is going to let anybody out on a terrorism case,” he said.

But he accused the FBI of coming down hard on Daoud because Islam and terrorism were involved and despite evidence that his father and two religious leaders had tried to dissuade Daoud from “ideas” like jihad.

“Anybody at 18 years old who was raised in America who would be seriously questioning those type of values I would think might have some mental issues, and I think the FBI would know that as well,” Durkin told reporters.

The next hearing will be an arraignment before U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman. No date was set.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Remorseful bank robber calls 911, turns himself in

August 29, 2012

Mercury News on August 28, 2012 released the following:

“By James MacPherson
Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — Kent Anthony Clemens returned home to Kansas after a short stay in North Dakota’s booming oil patch with a stack of crisp $50 bills, sharing what authorities say was ill-gotten booty with his sister.

Then, apparently, guilt set in.

Three days after Clemens allegedly held up a bank in the western North Dakota town of Williston, the 53-year-old called 911 and asked police in his hometown of Topeka, Kan., to arrest him “for making a mistake,” according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.

“People have an attack of conscience all the time — like returning stolen items to a store,” Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “But it is unusual to rob a bank and then call 911 in an attack of conscience.”

When police arrived at Clemens’ home last month, he was sitting on the front porch, “wearing what appeared to be the same blue polo shirt he was wearing when he committed the Gates City Bank robbery,” the FBI affidavit said. He “put both of his hands out to police and told them to arrest him for making a mistake,” court papers said.

Clemens is being held in North Dakota. He appeared in federal court in Bismarck on Aug. 17 and waived his right to a preliminary hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Volk said. Federal public defender Heather Mitchell said no other court hearings have been scheduled.

Neither attorney would comment on specifics of the case.

According to court papers, the suspect was wearing a polo shirt, a golf-style flat cap and tinted glasses when he walked into Gates City Bank in Williston on July 18.

He “looked more like he was going golfing than robbing a bank,” said Williston Police Det. Cory Collings.

The suspect told the teller he had a gun and demanded $50 bills. The robber fled on foot with about $700, court papers said.

Clemens told authorities he did not have a gun at the time of the robbery and believed he made off with $800.

North Dakota has risen from the nation’s ninth-leading oil producer to No. 2 in just six years, and Williston is the epicenter of the state’s oil patch. Officials say the city’s population has doubled in the past decade to some 30,000 residents.

Collings said the Williston Police Department is understaffed and overwhelmed by the increased crime from an exploding population.

“It would be great if all of our cases worked out like this. At least some of the sleepless nights would maybe go away,” Collings said Tuesday.

Clemens’ sister, identified as “Sheila” in court papers, told investigators her brother announced in early July that he was “quitting his job, and leaving to work the oil fields either in Alabama, North Dakota, or Canada,” the FBI affidavit said. Clemens returned home on July 19, one day after the Williston bank robbery and gave his sister $350 in $50 bills, court papers said.

Clemens’ sister told investigators she had spent most of the money but later gave authorities four $50 bills she had in her purse, court records show.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Inside story: FBI nabs Alleged Ocean’s Eleven-style ring of thieves after biggest heist in U.S history

June 18, 2012

NJ.com on June 17, 2012 released the following:

“By Ted Sherman/The Star-Ledger

The Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Conn., is a nondescript beige building with a pebbled concrete exterior, just off Freshwater Boulevard.

Although just down the road from a suburban shopping mall and an Olive Garden restaurant, it feels like the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods and little else.

A light rain was falling on Saturday, March 13, 2010, when a tractor-trailer rumbled up to the loading dock about 9:33 p.m. Shut down for the weekend, the building had no security fence or watchman to keep an eye on the pallets of the costly pharmaceuticals awaiting shipment.

A video surveillance camera captured the fuzzy image of two men apparently checking to see if there was anyone inside the office. Then they quickly carried a ladder to get to the roof. Little more than tar and metal sheeting, it would not take much effort to cut through if nobody was watching.

And nobody was.

The Enfield warehouse was about to become legend — the scene of an $80 million commercial drug heist, the biggest in U.S. history.

This is the inside story of how it went down and how authorities tracked and arrested 22 alleged members of an Ocean’s Eleven-style ring of thieves, who operated with their own trucks, warehouses and black market wholesalers.

Criminal complaints filed in federal court in New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut and Illinois detail an operation that stole and then sold an eclectic litany of products: trailer-loads of pharmaceuticals exchanged for cash in the parking lot of a Toys “R” Us in North Bergen, hair care products taken in San Antonio and unloaded to a buyer in Newark, boxes of respiratory medicine loaded onto a flatbed tow truck at a Home Depot parking lot in Hollywood, Fla. They made off with millions in cancer drugs and antidepressants, and carried away loads of whiskey, inflatable boats and cigarettes.

It was an operation, say federal law enforcement sources, that was penetrated by an FBI cargo theft task force in New Jersey after a buy-and-bust sting involving a load of pharmaceuticals stolen in Georgia led investigators to Florida.

But the most revealing information comes by way of an FBI court affidavit, mistakenly unsealed, offering a rare insight into the workings of a network that operated like a big business with high-end, fast-moving theft crews — sometimes working independently, other times as teams.

The accused, say investigators, included two brothers — one an expert in alarm systems — each with a long history of taking stuff that did not belong to them. And both might still be free but for two mistakes that ultimately helped federal agents identify gang members and track them down — a discarded water bottle and a brand new set of tools.

“This wasn’t about a guy walking down the street with a black knit hat and a crowbar over his shoulder. It was nothing like that,” said Charles Forsaith, coordinator of the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition, an industry group that shares intelligence. “This was a group that had tentacles elsewhere.”

EL GATO AND THE CUBANS

Amaury Villa is a stocky man with close-cropped hair, a tattoo of a scorpion on his left arm, and a long rap sheet for burglary.

“Unfortunately he has a substantial criminal background,” acknowledged his attorney, Frank Rubino of Miami.

Living in Miami with a girlfriend, and having to make monthly child support payments, Villa had recently incorporated a transportation company, Florida records showed. E-mails revealed he was looking to purchase several long-haul tractor-trailer rigs.

He also apparently knew his way around security systems. On an application for a safe deposit box at the Bank of America, Villa listed his occupation as a self-employed alarm installer.

Three months before the drug company warehouse in Enfield was hit, prosecutors said Villa boarded an American Airlines flight from Miami to LaGuardia Airport in New York on Jan. 7, 2010, together with another individual — a man not charged in the case, but identified in the FBI affidavit as “El Gato.” The Cat. According to the affidavit, El Gato’s real name was Yosmany Nunez Aguilar, who also had a record for theft of interstate freight.

Villa rented a luxury Infinity QX56 SUV from Hertz at the airport counter. He then drove to the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Jersey City waterfront, where Villa — a Hyatt platinum club member — had reserved two rooms for the night.

The next day, Villa and another man, believed to be Aguilar, drove to Windsor, Conn., approximately 11 miles from Enfield, where Villa checked into the Hyatt Summerfield Suites for a two-night stay.

It was a scouting mission, agents surmised in the affidavit. Late Saturday evening, about 10:35 p.m., the surveillance video at the Eli Lilly warehouse captured an individual walking around the outside and peering through the front doors of the locked building. Nobody was monitoring the camera, but someone — very likely Villa — appeared to be casing the joint, the FBI said. Villa returned to Miami the next day.

Cargo theft is a multibillion-dollar business, according to the FBI and Forsaith, a former New Hampshire state police officer who now works as a transportation security expert, said there is a methodology to how cargo thieves ferret out targets.

“In today’s day and age, you can pretty much go on the internet and tell what a company makes, where it is located — be it Pfizer or Purdue — and use that public information to make an educated guess as to what that company manufacturers, and where those products may be distributed,” he said.

Trucks leaving a warehouse may be followed to determine their routes of travel long before any theft takes place. Warehouses are not hard to find on Google Maps.

Villa, say authorities, had made a career out of it. Less than two weeks after his advance trip to Connecticut, Villa was tracked to another warehouse job 1,000 miles away. On Jan. 22, records show someone using Villa’s credit card checked into the Fairfield Inn in East Peoria.

The target that weekend, according to the FBI, was a commercial warehouse along Illinois Route 116 containing a sizable load of cigarettes being stored for distribution.

The operation seemed well orchestrated to police. Thieves did not try to go in through the front door, but rather climbed to the unsecured roof, cut through with power tools, and lowered themselves in with ropes. They seemed to know what they were looking for there. The alarm system was bypassed without cutting a single wire, and a convoy of stolen tractor-trailers pulled up to haul away more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes valued at more than $8 million.

One of the truck trailers turned up in New Jersey two days later, abandoned near Newark on the southbound shoulder of the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike, authorities say.

But inside the East Peoria warehouse, someone left a clue that would help connect the dots much later. According to the FBI affidavit, DNA that they now link to Villa’s older brother, Amed, was recovered at the scene.

With dark hair and the tattoo of a skull on his right arm, Amed Villa was well known to law enforcement authorities. He reportedly installed fire doors for a living, according to his attorney, but he had a history of arrests and convictions for burglary. He had been arrested and convicted for burglary in January 2000 in Seminole County, Fla., and charged with multiple burglary-related offenses in Florida between 1995 and 2005, the FBI affidavit noted.

A Cuban citizen, he had been ordered deported from the United States, according to the FBI, although he had not been detained. Rather, he was required to periodically check in with immigration authorities. He had not done so for years, according to the affidavit.

In July 2009, another multimillion-dollar cigarette warehouse burglary was reported in Montgomery, Ill. Inside, said the FBI, they again found DNA that matched the same unique biological fingerprint picked up in East Peoria. Days before the July 4 break-in, the FBI found Amaury Villa had checked into a hotel in Rosemont, some 40 miles away, and checked out after the heist.

Then in August 2009, thieves struck the big GlaxoSmithKline distribution warehouse in Chesterfield, Va., cutting through the roof, disabling the alarms and driving away with at least $4.3 million of its respiratory drug Advair Diskus.

Amaury again had not been far away. The day before, he had checked into a hotel in Chester, Va., some 15 miles away from Chesterfield, according to the FBI. And investigators again had a DNA match to the earlier jobs, they said, left on a coffee cup in the warehouse.

Officials will not disclose if they knew who they were looking for based on the DNA. But if they did not yet know the name of Amed Villa, the evidence showed that one person had been at the scene of three major unsolved crimes.

THE CONNECTICUT CAPER

In March, members of the gang were zeroing in on their new target, the Eli Lilly warehouse in Enfield, Conn., according to complaints filed in the case and other court documents.

Amaury Villa had just negotiated lease agreements for two Freightliner CL-20 tractor trucks — one for $20,205 and the other for $23,211 — through the company he set up in Florida, called Trans-USA.

Villa rented another Infiniti QX56 in early March, between a flurry of flights he made to and from Miami and New York. On March 12, Villa checked back into the Summerfield Suites, using his platinum Hyatt membership card.

The Connecticut break-in occurred on the night of March 13, following the same script as that of the GlaxoSmithKline theft in Virginia, the cigarette heist in East Peoria, and the job in Montgomery. The thieves went in on a Saturday night, climbed to the roof, cut into the drugmaker’s warehouse, rappelled down using climbing gear to the floor below and knocked out the alarm system without cutting wires.

“The security surveillance system and alarm were disabled in a manner which indicated familiarity with systems of this type,” wrote FBI agent John Howell in his affidavit. “For example, wires were not cut, but rather unplugged and only certain of the wires were unplugged. Other wires, which might have set off alarms outside of Connecticut were not disconnected for some time.”

The crew had plenty of time to themselves and put together 49 pallets of drugs, using forklifts inside the warehouse to load boxes of Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic drug used to treat bipolar disorder; Prozac and Cymbalta, both antidepressant drugs; and Gemzar, a chemotherapy drug used to treat lung cancer.

They drove away into the night, and into international headlines of what seemed like a Hollywood-style caper movie, starring a crack team of brazen professionals who knew what they were looking for before they punched their way inside.

But as smart as the alleged gang members were, law enforcement documents say, they left more evidence behind — enough to get the Villa brothers arrested.

When the Enfield Police Department was called to the scene, they found an opened case of water bottles, with several empty plastic bottles scattered on the floor of the kitchen and office area of the warehouse. Later in a lab, they found DNA on the water bottle that matched the DNA found on the coffee cup of the GlaxoSmithKline warehouse in Virginia, and at two Illinois warehouse break-ins, linking four jobs now to the same man — Amed Villa.

Also lying on the floor was a collection of several red-handled Husky-brand hand tools and an assortment of power tools, all with that immaculate, never-used look. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut would not disclose what specific tools were used, but the thieves could not have made a more ill-advised purchase.

Husky is a brand sold only at Home Depot stores, and investigators speculated that someone might have purchased everything at one time. Agents began scouring Home Depot computer records to find out if how many collections of the eight tools matching those recovered in Connecticut had ever been sold together in one place.

The answer was a blockbuster. The purchase had been made only once in the past 12 months — at the Flushing, N.Y., store on March 12, 2010, at 1:13 p.m.

The home improvement store’s own records not only provided a road map, but images of the sale itself at the checkout line. Surveillance cameras in the store showed two men at the register, paying for the $757 purchase in cash. Those same two men could then be seen on other video footage Home Depot maintained of its parking lot, as they put their purchases into the back of an SUV.

It looked a lot like the Infiniti QX56 rented by Villa.

AN UNSELLABLE CARGO

Just days after the theft, the FBI in New Haven got an anonymous call helping connect more of the pieces. Three of the perpetrators of the Eli Lilly heist, the caller said, would be meeting in the near future to negotiate the load.

Among them was Aguilar, who the caller knew only as El Gato. All of them, the FBI was told, hung out at the Rickenbacker Marina in Key Biscayne, Fla., where the nearby Rusty Pelican offers up a great waterside view of Miami, along with steaks, burgers with avocado fries, and Holy Mackerel Special Golden Ale.

The surveillance that followed would soon lead investigators to others, and an undercover buy operation to locate the stolen drugs, the criminal complaints show.

Pharmaceuticals are typically marketed through wholesalers, but there has long been a secondary wholesale market that often deals with products offered at cheaper prices because they are about to expire. Sellers are supposed to have “pedigrees” to show the stuff came from an authorized wholesaler.

“Typically you have these sellers with fax machines who blast out that they have this stuff available cheap,” said former New Jersey federal prosecutor A. Jeff Ifrah, whose Washington-based law firm represents major health, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

“There’s a ready market,” he conceded. “Although there’s not necessarily a market super-diligent about the pedigrees of these products.”

In fact, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey set up a major sting in 2004 called “Operation Pill Collector” to catch pharmaceutical thieves by setting up a fake wholesale company with the help of an informant who agreed to cooperate with the FBI after he was caught selling stolen drugs with fake pedigree paperwork. Instead of looking for the bad guys, the investigation had bad guys coming to them.

Ultimately, 17 people in New Jersey and three other states were arrested on charges of trafficking $56 million in stolen or misdirected prescription drugs, which were sold to local pharmacies at big discounts.

The drugs taken from the Eli Lilly warehouse would have been much harder to move. Forsaith said that because of pressure from law enforcement, publicity about the Eli haul became almost too hot to handle. The alleged gang members only felt comfortable dealing small to the black market, FBI documents said.

In a meeting in Elizabeth, one of those eventually charged with hijacking a tractor-trailer load of inhalers stolen from Tampa, Fla., discussed the importance of holding “cold” stolen goods. Caught on surveillance tape by an informant, Reynado Tapanes, 45, of Miami, was recorded saying, “If you’re holding hot stuff … you’re gonna get burned at some moment.”

Samples of Advair stolen from Glaxo were already showing up in legitimate pharmacies as far west as Texas, sparking an alert by the Food and Drug Administration over concerns that improper storage conditions might render the products ineffective, risking the health of patients.

In mid-August 2010, according to the FBI affidavit, the U.S. Customs Service intercepted a FedEx package addressed to a business at the Rickenbaker Marina, sent from the Dominican Republic. The package contained approximately 2,200 counterfeit labels for the pharmaceuticals stolen from the Eli Lilly warehouse. Someone, the FBI believed, was trying to re-label the haul.

TAKEDOWN

By late 2010, the gang appears to have been penetrated, court documents suggest. Law enforcement sources said a buy-and-bust operation being directed by a cargo theft task force headed by FBI agent Tom Hauck in Newark led investigators to Florida beginning in 2009, after an $8.8 million tractor-trailer load of drugs was hijacked at a truck stop in Georgia.

For more than a year, transactions in stolen merchandise tied to those eventually arrested were recorded by several unidentified individuals cooperating with the feds. In one meeting, an informant arranged to have part of a stolen drug shipment delivered to the Toys “R” Us parking lot in North Bergen. When it arrived, the trailer was hooked up to another tractor and driven away, and then returned empty an hour later in exchange for a cash payment of $64,000.

According to Amaury’s attorney, the government told him that an informant fingered Villa when drugs stolen from Eli Lilly were being fenced.

“From what I understand, the government conducted surveillance on my client. When he turned in a rental car, they found a set of keys that fit a storage warehouse where they had followed him earlier,” said Rubino.

The FBI agents tried the keys to every storage locker at the facility and found several that opened. Then they obtained a search warrant to look inside, and discovered the stolen pharmaceuticals, according to Rubino.

On the morning of May 3, teams of federal agents began arresting people — including the Villa brothers. In all, 22 men were charged in four states.

None of those charged has yet to go to trial.

Amed Villa on Thursday entered a plea of not guilty in Connecticut. His attorney, Jonathan Einhorn of New Haven, said it was still early in the process.

“The government has a very dramatic account of what happened,” said Einhorn. “But this is not Hollywood. You have to prove the facts.”

Amaury Villa sits in jail in Florida.

“He’s not happy he’s been arrested,” said Rubino. But the lawyer conceded this may not be the easiest case he has ever handled. “There may be significant physical evidence in this case,” he said.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US Indicts 14 In Alleged Drug and Money Laundering Scheme Involving Horses

June 13, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2012 released the following:

“By Samuel Rubenfeld

A federal grand jury in Texas voted to return an indictment against 14 defendants in connection with a conspiracy to launder Los Zetas drug money by buying, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses in the U.S.

Among those charged was Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the leader of Los Zetas, along with his brothers, Oscar Omar Trevino Morales and Jose Trevino-Morales, the Justice Department said.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. It accuses the Zetas of directing part of the cash generated from selling drugs to buy, train, breed and race quarter horses in the U.S.

Miguel and Oscar sent their brother Jose and his wife cash to operate Tremor Enterprises LLC, the business they created for the horse training, the indictment said.

“This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system,” said Rich Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division, in a statement (pdf).

“This attack on one of the Zeta’s most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt and help dismantle this violent international criminal organization,” Weber said.

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of several quarter horses, including Tempting Dash, winner of the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park race track in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 24, 2009; Mr. Piloto, $1 million All American Futurity winner at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day, 2010; Dashin Follies; Coronita Cartel; and Separate Fire.

It also seeks the forfeiture of farm and ranch equipment; horse racing equipment; property in Lexington, Okla. and Bastrop County, Texas; and money contained in bank accounts used in the scheme.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities arrested seven of the 14 defendants, including Jose Trevino-Morales and his wife, Zulema Trevino, in Lexington, Okla. Also arrested were Fernando Solis Garcia in Ruidoso, N.M.; Carlos Miguel Nayen Borbolla, Adrian Farias and Felipe Alejandro Quintero in Los Angeles; and Eusevio Maldonado Huitron in Austin, Texas. They remain in federal custody, the Justice Department said.

None of those arrested could be reached for comment.

The New York Times, in a blockbuster 4,000-word story, reported earlier Tuesday about the scheme. The Times reported that an FBI affidavit said the Zetas channeled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the U.S, and that authorities were tipped off in January 2010, when the cartel paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares.

In its report, the paper said it became aware of Tremor’s activity in December 2011 while reporting about the Zetas and learned of the U.S. government probe last month, but agreed to hold the story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

Among those charged but not arrested is Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa of Veracruz, Mexico. Colorado Cessa is accused in the indictment of acting as a straw buyer for various horses. In connection with the indictment, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control slapped Kingpin Act sanctions [OFAC SDN Sanctions] on him that label Colorado Cessa as a narcotics trafficker.

“Our action cuts Colorado Cessa off from the U.S. financial system and it is yet another signal to Miguel and Omar Trevino Morales, and the Zetas, that OFAC will target their financial and business network wherever it is found,” said Adam Szubin, director of OFAC, in the statement.

The Zetas were designated under the Kingpin Act as a narcotics trafficker by the president in 2009. The group is notorious for its violence; officials blamed the Zetas for a dump of 49 headless and handless bodies in May along a Mexican highway. Since 2009, OFAC has designated several of its top leaders and dozens of its lieutenants.”

US v. Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, et al. – Federal Criminal Indictment

18 U.S.C. § 1956

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Mexican Cartel Hides Millions in Horse Races, U.S. Alleges

June 12, 2012

The New York Times on June 12, 2012 released the following:

“By GINGER THOMPSON

Newcomers rarely make it into the winner’s circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.

Yet in September 2010, a beaming band of men waving Mexican flags and miniature piñatas swept into Ruidoso, N.M., to claim the million-dollar prize with a long-shot colt named Mr. Piloto.

Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto’s owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends.

As for the man who made the whole day possible, Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, he was living on the run, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Mr. Treviño, a younger brother of José Treviño, is second in command of Mexico’s Zetas drug trafficking organization. Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer — infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.

The race was one of many victories for the Treviño brothers, who managed to establish a prominent horse breeding operation, Tremor Enterprises, in the United States that allowed them to launder millions of dollars in drug money, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials. The operation amounted to a foothold in the United States for one of Mexico’s most dangerous criminal networks, the officials said.

Using Miguel Ángel Treviño’s cash, José Treviño’s legal residency and Mr. Villarreal’s eye for a good horse, Tremor bought a sprawling ranch in Oklahoma and an estimated 300 stallions and mares. The Treviño brothers might have kept their operation quiet, given the criminal connection, but their passion for horses and winning apparently proved too tempting. In the short span of three years, Tremor won three of the industry’s biggest races, with prizes totaling some $2.5 million.

The business was “so far out there it’s hard to believe,” said Morris Panner, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases. “Maybe they were using some kind of perverse logic that told them they could hide in plain sight, precisely because people wouldn’t believe it or question it.”

The Justice Department moved against Tremor on Tuesday morning, dispatching several helicopters and hundreds of law enforcement agents to the company’s stables in Ruidoso and its ranch in Oklahoma. Jose Treviño and several associates were taken into custody and were charged later in the day, authorities said.

Miguel Angel Trevino and another brother, Omar, were also charged. The two remain at large in Mexico. Omar Trevino is also a high-ranking member of the Zetas and an F.B.I. affidavit filed in United States district court describes him as participating in the money laundering.

The affidavit said the Zetas funneled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the United States. The authorities were tipped off to Tremor’s activities in January 2010, when the Zetas paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares, the affidavit said.

The New York Times became aware of Tremor’s activities in December 2011 while reporting on the Zetas. The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold this story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

The brothers’ activities on either side of the border made for a stark contrast. One week in May began with the authorities pointing fingers at Miguel Ángel Treviño for dumping the bodies of 49 people — without heads, hands or feet — in garbage bags along a busy highway in northern Mexico. The week concluded with José Treviño fielding four Tremor horses in a prestigious race at Los Alamitos Race Course, near Los Angeles.

By then, Mr. Villarreal’s story had come to a fatal, fiery end. Not long after the 2010 victory at Ruidoso, he was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration and reluctantly agreed to work as an informant. Five months later, his charred remains were found in a burnt-out car on the highway outside Nuevo Laredo.

The buzz around Tremor’s winnings and acquisitions began three years ago, when José Treviño bought an estimated $3 million in quarter horses, including one named Number One Cartel.

Since then he has worked with breeders, trainers and brokers considered pillars of the business. Tremor Enterprises did not always put its name on the horses it owned or the races they ran, presumably to avoid the attention of tax collectors and law enforcement authorities, according to federal agents.

But people inside the financially struggling industry do not need written records to tell them who is doing business with whom. And some of those insiders acknowledged that the subject of José Treviño’s identity, and where he got his money, was treated like so many taboos: people did not ask many questions, either because they did not care, or did not want to know.

“Everyone knows who José Treviño is,” one trainer said. “But all they cared about was whether his checks would clear.”

A Drug Organization Ascends

Made up of rogue members of the Mexican military and police, the Zetas were a protection force for the powerful Gulf Cartel before they set out on their own in 2010. Their ascendancy ignited a spate of massacres and assassinations of elected officials, police chiefs, journalists and others, which turned organized crime from a law enforcement problem to the No. 1 national security threat for Mexico’s fragile democracy.

Miguel Ángel Treviño, known as Zeta-40, or just 40, was never in the military. But he became useful to the Zetas for his experience moving contraband across the border.

Law enforcement authorities said the Zetas have been able to rapidly expand their reach beyond Mexico’s borders with the United States and Guatemala. And while other Mexican drug organizations prefer to keep themselves and their money close to home, the Zetas have established outposts as far as South America and West Africa.

“The Zetas are particularly adroit at spreading their tentacles across borders,” said Michael S. Vigil, a former senior official with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He added that the gang’s extensive intelligence and operational capabilities allow it to take control of new territory so quickly that it is difficult for law enforcement to keep up.

Their primary stronghold is Nuevo Laredo, one of North America’s busiest border-crossings and Mr. Trevino’s hometown.

He had grown up there in a large family with six brothers, including José, and six sisters, American authorities said. Like most local residents, the Treviño family treated the border as a kind of imaginary line.

Law enforcement authorities knowledgeable about the family said the siblings learned the tricks of moving easily between the United States and Mexico, using temporary visas and border-crossing cards to start families, buy properties and do business in both countries.

Court records lay out the nature of the brothers’ turn to crime, which dates back at least two decades. In 1995, an older brother, Juan Francisco Treviño, was sentenced on charges of conspiring to smuggle hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the United States.

On the witness stand, Juan Francisco described himself as a struggling entrepreneur who had tried to make a go of a small construction company, Treviño Masonry, but later went into trucking.

Prosecutors argued that those businesses were fronts for the Treviños’ smuggling activities, citing a raft of lapsed business licenses, false identification documents and suspicious wire transfers.

The defendant was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and remains incarcerated. José and Miguel Ángel Treviño were implicated in the case, but were never prosecuted for lack of evidence, said authorities involved in the investigation.

It is unclear whether the two brothers parted ways at that point or continued collaborating. Miguel Ángel Treviño’s rise through the ranks of the Zetas is well known. Jere Miles, an expert on the Zetas at the Department of Homeland Security, said that among the Mexican underworld, Mr. Treviño had gained the notoriety of a cult figure, one who has escaped unscathed from several gun battles against the law, makes deals with no one and seems unafraid to die. Dismembered bodies, dumped by the dozens, have become his calling card.

He also manages the organization’s money, according to George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary who has written a book about the Zetas.

The trail of public information on José Treviño goes cold until 2009, when he began buying expensive racehorses.

“From all appearances, he looked like anyone else interested in quarter horses,” said one person in the industry who knows José Treviño. “But he had a massive amount of money, with no good explanation where it came from. And he had a family name that made a lot of people wonder.”

New Player at the Track

As much as Tremor was a money-laundering operation, the Treviño brothers’ quarter horse venture allowed them to mix business with pleasure. Horses have long been considered a status symbol in Latin America and drug traffickers have been among the region’s most avid collectors.

Law enforcement officials said quarter horse racing was one of Miguel Ángel Treviño’s favorite pastimes, and even while living on the run, he has managed to keep control of several ranches and racetracks in Mexico and Guatemala where he holds match races, known as parejeras.

But Mexican horse racing — like so much else in that country — has been battered by the violence of the drug war. Many Mexican breeders have moved their operations to the United States, where they could buy horses with better bloodlines and compete for bigger prizes, without fearing for their lives.

“Much of the growth in American quarter horse racing is due to those guys,” said one industry expert, referring to the influx of breeders and buyers from Mexico. “They have spent a lot of money. And it’s made a big, big difference.”

The races, centered in the Southwest, pit scrappier, less expensive horses than high-end thoroughbreds in contests that can be over in less than 20 seconds.

To get in on the action at American tracks, Miguel Ángel Treviño needed someone he could trust to pick a winner. For that, he turned to Mr. Villarreal.

Mr. Villarreal was an unlikely horseman, the socially awkward son of a bookkeeper and teacher known for his build and bottomless appetite as “El Gordo,” or “Fatso.” He began attending auctions as a child, and developed an uncanny ability to spot horses that may not have come from the best lineage, but whose stride or attitude suggested an exceptional capacity for speed.

Mr. Villarreal’s parents said he started buying horses as a teenager, mostly borrowing from relatives and friends. Still, he never seemed to have enough to purchase the kinds of horses that could compete for major prizes. Nor did the strikingly effeminate man ever develop the social skills needed to fit into the macho world of breeders and trainers.

In some ways, said one friend, he stopped trying. For awhile, he named his horses after runway models — like Campbell, as in Naomi, and Elle, as in Macpherson — because he was captivated by women’s fashion.

Mr. Villarreal got his big break in 2006, when he cobbled together $10,500 to buy a colt at an auction at Los Alamitos, records show. He took the horse to Mexico, named it “El Sicario” — which means “The Assassin” — and entered it in the parejera circuit, where it began to beat younger, better-rated competitors.

“That horse got 40’s attention,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “He told Ramiro, ‘I want you to buy horses for me.’ ”

He did not hesitate, the friend said. “This was his chance to live his dream.”

Mr. Villarreal’s father, who is also named Ramiro, saw it slightly differently.

“If someone like that asks you to do something,” the elder Mr. Villarreal said, “Are you going to tell him no?”

Soon, the younger Mr. Villarreal’s name began appearing on the lists of the top buyers at auctions in California, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. His first champion was Tempting Dash, which won more than $600,000 in 2009, set a track record during the Texas Classic Futurity and gave Tremor its first victory in a million-dollar race.

No matter how successful, Mr. Villarreal always showed deference to his boss, calling him “Papi.” When Miguel Ángel Treviño wanted to see Tempting Dash for himself, Mr. Villarreal drove the horse, along with dozens of others, to Mexico.

Getting back was more complicated. To avoid inspections, quarantines and other procedures required for bringing livestock into the United States, Mr. Villarreal had trainers sneak the horses back across the border, herding them just after dawn through the Rio Grande.

“My son used to tell me that his biggest blessing was also his curse,” said Mr. Villarreal’s father. “He would tell me, ‘My problem is that I am good at what I do, so a lot of people ask me to help them. Some of those people are good. Some of those people are bad.”

‘A Great Moment’

As much as Miguel Ángel Treviño relied on Mr. Villarreal, he needed his brother, José, to be the face of his fledgling American horse business.

José Treviño, the clean-cut father of three, with a small tattooed Tremor logo on his hand, almost always attended races with his family at his side. He often credited his success to a combination of divine intervention and dumb luck.

“After a win, he always says that he’s been blessed with an ability to pick the right horses and run them in the right races,” said one person who met him. “He’s always humble. He’s the kind of guy who knows what he doesn’t know, who seems eager to learn, and who isn’t shy about asking for advice.”

At the start, José Treviño seemed reticent in the spotlight, avoiding reporters by pretending he did not speak good English. But the more races he won, the more comfortable he seemed with cameras and microphones. People who knew him said he never sought out the media, but never refused to talk when they called.

And they called often.

“That was awesome, that was awesome,” José Treviño said, beaming before reporters in November 2009, after Tempting Dash won the Texas Classic Futurity. “We were expecting him to run big, but we weren’t expecting something like this, to break the track record like this.”

The following year, when the colt named Mr. Piloto won the All American Futurity in Ruidoso, N.M., racing writers called it the “biggest upset in All-American history,” and marveled at how Mr. Treviño, with a “green-as-grass” horse, could beat competitors with better qualifying times and world-class jockeys.

Then last year, a sorrel filly named Separate Fire swept the Ed Burke Futurity at Los Alamitos, Calif., delivering José Treviño his third race where the top prizes were worth $1 million — a record.

“We’re down-to-the-ground people,” he humbly told Track Magazine after the race last July. “This is a great moment, one we are going to enjoy for a long time. But I think you have to take it as it comes and don’t let it change your life.”

Still, his life did change. Tremor’s winning streak allowed him to hire the most respected jockeys, trainers and sales associates in the business. Last year, said people who know him, José Treviño moved his family from a modest suburban house in Mesquite, Tex., where he said he worked in the construction industry, to a large ranch outside Lexington, Okla.

The 70-acre ranch, Zule Farms, is named after his wife, Zulema, a former secretary who told people that she kept the books for Tremor. A person familiar with the ranch said that Mr. Treviño had converted a manure-filled cattle barn on the property into a breeding facility, with state-of-the-art labs and special stalls where mares are implanted with embryos.

Across the quarter horse industry, people started to whisper about where he was getting his money.

“There’s no way all the money he’s putting into that ranch came from being a brick mason. It’s just not logical,” said a person familiar with Zule Farms.

Nor were José Treviño’s operations always transparent. Records show that on at least a couple occasions, he had other people sign for the company’s major purchases. One deal was signed by a teenager who looked like he was not yet old enough to drive. The other was handled by the scion of a prominent quarter horse family, Tyler Graham, who stunned a packed auction house in Oklahoma by agreeing to pay a record $875,000 for a broodmare named Dashin Follies.

At the time of the sale, Mr. Graham said he was buying the horse on behalf of a client he would only identify as “a Mexico resident.” Shortly afterward, records show, he turned the horse over to Tremor. Mr. Graham has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

An industry expert who attended the auction said the sale prompted more rumors. But he said sketchy deals are not uncommon in an industry where payments are made in cash and records are notoriously — even deliberately — unreliable.

“If someone walks into an auction with hundreds of thousands of dollars, and refuses to give his name, no one is going turn him away,” the industry expert said. “What they’ll tell him is, ‘We’ll register the horse in any name you want.’ ”

A Mysterious Death

As José Treviño’s prominence grew in the quarter horse community, so did Miguel Ángel Treviño’s place in the drug trade. By the end of 2010, he had helped lead a brutal expansion so deep into Mexico that the Zetas became not only a priority for Mexico’s security forces, but also an enemy that inspired other drug organizations to join forces and fight.

Miguel Ángel Treviño’s control over drug warehouses and hit squads across the border also compelled United States authorities to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

At the same time, Mr. Villarreal was falling out of favor with Tremor. He was in debt because the Treviño brothers barely paid him enough to cover travel costs, friends said. Mr. Villarreal began padding his expenses, prompting Miguel Ángel Treviño to suspect him of skimming money from Tremor, the friends said.

In September 2010, Mr. Villarreal was traveling to a horse auction in Oklahoma when he was detained by D.E.A. agents during a layover at a Houston airport. A spokesman for the agency refused to comment on its relationship with Mr. Villarreal.

But several law enforcement officials familiar with the case said agents held him for up to six hours, questioning him about his ties to Miguel Ángel Treviño. Before releasing him, the agents confiscated Mr. Villarreal’s cellphone and computer, and ordered him to meet with them a few days later.

When Mr. Villarreal returned, the agents said he could either work for them as an informant or face being prosecuted himself, according to the officials. The D.E.A. wanted Mr. Villarreal to help track Miguel Ángel Treviño’s whereabouts and then lure him into the United States.

Mr. Villarreal pleaded that he was too nervous to pull off the ruse, adding that Miguel Ángel Treviño would never trust him enough to follow him across the border.

But the D.E.A. insisted and a beleaguered Mr. Villarreal relented, the officials said.

At least once, Mr. Villarreal tipped off his handlers when Miguel Ángel Treviño went to a racetrack in Nuevo Laredo.

“Mexican authorities took pictures of 40, but they didn’t try to arrest him,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “They told Ramiro that they were afraid too many people might get killed. Ramiro told them if they waited any longer, he was going to get killed.”

Sometime around the end of that year, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned Mr. Villarreal to a meeting. Mr. Villarreal’s friends recounted the following incident as he had described it to them.

A pickup point was arranged in Laredo, where Mr. Villarreal was blindfolded and then driven into the Mexican desert by gang members.

Minutes dragged as Mr. Villarreal waited for Miguel Ángel Treviño to arrive. He saw two vats filled with a liquid he presumed to be acid, one of the trafficker’s preferred methods for disposing of bodies.

“Where’s Papi?” he asked the men.

“Don’t worry,” they answered. “He’s coming.”

Miguel Ángel Treviño arrived about an hour later in a car with more lieutenants and an unknown man, who was also wearing a blindfold.

The trafficker hugged Mr. Villarreal and asked, “You’re not screwing me, are you, Gordo?”

“No, of course not, Papi,” Mr. Villarreal answered.

Saying he would be back “in a minute,” Miguel Ángel Treviño walked over to the unknown man, took off his blindfold, shot him in the head and ordered his men to dump the body in one of the vats of acid.

Mr. Villarreal passed out. He told his friends he did not know how long he was unconscious, but when he awoke Miguel Ángel Treviño was slapping him in the face and laughing.

“What’s wrong, Gordo?” he joked. “You can’t handle seeing me kill someone? Next time, I’m going to have you do it.”

“No Papi,” Mr. Villarreal said. “I don’t want there to be a next time.”

The drug trafficker got back into his car and drove away. Mr. Villarreal was taken back to Laredo and immediately got in touch with the D.E.A., imploring the agents to release him from their agreement.

“When I met him he was a complete mess; profusely sweating, gangrene in one leg, and barely able to walk,” said a former law enforcement official. “He was in between a rock and a hard place: either stay in the United States and risk going to prison, or go back to Mexico and risk getting killed.”

In the end, Mr. Villarreal, 38, continued informing for the D.E.A. and in March, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned him to another meeting.

On March 10, 2011, Mr. Villarreal’s car was found incinerated outside Nuevo Laredo. There was so little left of him that authorities took DNA samples from the ashes to identify his remains.

One federal law enforcement official said some agents believed his death was an accident, but acknowledged that no investigation was conducted.

Mr. Villarreal’s father said he had little hope of ever finding the truth. Asked who he thought was behind Mr. Villarreal’s death, the round, balding man looked over at his wife, tears streaming down her cheeks, and echoed a refrain heard from so many Mexican crime victims. “If we ask questions, we could be the next ones to die, so for us, this is a closed chapter.”

Whispers of a “mob hit” spread across the quarter horse industry. In March, law enforcement agents even raided Tremor’s stables at Los Alamitos racetrack. But none of it seemed to slow down Tremor’s business.

Last weekend, at Los Alamitos, a Tremor colt named Mr. Ease Cartel ran the second-fastest qualifying time for a million-dollar race scheduled for June 24. When Jose Trevino’s daughter was married recently, guests included well-known figures in the industry and Track magazine covered the “big event” on its Web site.

“If he had been some thug, or the stereotypical person you’d expect to be in a drug cartel, then maybe people wouldn’t have accepted him and done business with him,” a former trainer said of José Treviño. “But he’s a really nice guy, so none of us wanted to believe he could have anything to do with the killing going on in Mexico.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


APNewsBreak: FBI affidavit says Minn. man plotted attack against Mexican consulate

May 18, 2012

The Washington Post on May 17, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota man with suspected ties to white supremacist groups planned to attack the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, believing it would stir debate on immigration amnesty issues ahead of the 2012 presidential election, according to a federal affidavit obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Joseph Benjamin Thomas also told an undercover FBI agent he considered himself a “domestic terrorist” instead of an American and would risk his life for the white supremacist movement in the event of a “race war,” the FBI affidavit said.

The document, recently unsealed in federal court, provides new details about the investigation into Thomas’ alleged plan. He was indicted in April on drug charges, though authorities had been watching him and another man since 2010 as part of a domestic terrorism probe. The affidavit said he’d amassed weapons and wanted to attack minorities, people with left-leaning political beliefs and government officials.

Thomas, 42, is not facing any terrorism-related charges. His attorney did not return a phone message Thursday, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

“We consider him a threat, and we believe he had the capacity to carry these threats out,” FBI spokesman Kyle Loven said in an interview Thursday. “This was a lengthy investigation, and it was driven by our belief that the intentions of these persons were sincere.”

In addition to the plot against the consulate, the FBI alleges, Thomas had collected license plate numbers of people with Barack Obama bumper stickers and had asked an associate to volunteer at a left-leaning bookstore to obtain customers’ addresses.

The affidavit alleges that Thomas and another man arrested in April, 31-year-old Samuel James Johnson, were trying to form a supremacist group with a militant wing. Thomas told an undercover agent he expected a race war within two years and that his group would be able to control an interstate and airports to prevent the military from coming into Minnesota, the affidavit said.

In the plot against the consulate, Thomas allegedly told an undercover agent he wanted to steal a pickup truck, load it with barrels of oil and gas, drive it into the consulate and allow the mixture to spill, then set it ablaze with a road flare. Thomas also said he’d found recipes for the mixture and instructions for making napalm, the affidavit said.

The affidavit alleged Thomas wanted to carry out the attack on May 1, a day used in recent years by activists in the U.S. to hold rallies for immigrant rights. But he later said the attack couldn’t happen that day, blaming personal reasons and noting more police were in the area, the affidavit said.

FBI agents reported seeing Thomas conducting surveillance on the consulate building in December. At that point, he told an undercover agent he wasn’t sure if the plot should move forward but continued to develop it and found a place where 55-gallon barrels could be stolen.

Thomas also suggested placing hoax explosive devices along the May Day parade route in the Twin Cities, saying he had video of prior parades so he could identify parade participants.

Ana Luisa Fajer, the consul of Mexico based in St. Paul, said the consulate was “duly and timely” notified of Thomas’ alleged plot.

“We take these threats very seriously and appreciate the full support we have received from the outset,” she said in a phone interview, adding that the consulate’s security protocols have been reinforced.

“Expressions of hate are the ones that motivated the alleged plotter,” she said. “These things exist, but we definitely think it’s an isolated voice here.”

Thomas, from the St. Paul suburb of Mendota Heights, was indicted on four charges related to possession and sale of methamphetamine, while Johnson, of Austin, Minn., was indicted on weapons charges. The indictment said Johnson’s prior convictions barred him from having weapons, though he was found with five — including a semi-automatic assault rifle — and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist groups nationwide, said weapons charges are common in such cases because it’s hard for prosecutors to prove terror charges based on someone’s planning.

“In my 18 years of having tracked extremists, I think that weapons charges are among the most sure to stick,” he said. “Weapons charges are pretty common among most major right wing extremist movements because they love guns.”

According to an affidavit unsealed last month, Johnson was a former member and Minnesota leader of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist group, and he and Thomas were trying to form a spinoff group called the Aryan Liberation Movement with the intent of committing violence.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Harold Waller Charged in a Federal Criminal Complaint with 49 U.S.C. 46505(b)(1), Allegedly Carrying a Weapon on an Aircraft

March 27, 2012

USA Today on March 27, 2012 released the following:

“Feds charge Montana man with bringing guns to flight

By Paul Elias And Matt Volz, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal officials on Monday took over the case of a Montana man alleged to have tried to carry four loaded hand guns onto a commercial flight departing Sacramento International Airport.

The U.S. attorney in Sacramento charged Harold Waller, 45, with trying to board a commercial flight with concealed weapons.

An FBI affidavit released Monday said Waller told investigators he had no intent to harm anyone when he tried to bring four guns onto a flight to Phoenix. In an interview with The Associated Press, his mother said the 45-year-old divorced father of two is suffering from mental illness

“I don’t understand it. Nobody who was thinking properly would do what he did,” Helen Waller said. She said her son was driven from the family farm near Circle, Mont., and to Sacramento for treatment of depression several weeks ago.

His mother said Waller sought treatment at a Sacramento clinic that specializes in detoxification because he discovered that he is allergic to the anti-depression medication prescribed to him. He also visited a nutritionist there. His mother said the treatment worked well for two years.

According to the FBI, a fidgety and sweaty Waller approached a US Airways ticket counter Thursday afternoon and asked for a ticket to any destination in Alaska. He was given a ticket to Anchorage with a change over in Phoenix.

Waller told the FBI he intended to “spend a few days” in Alaska. Waller was arrested after he was found with a loaded 9 mm handgun in a shoulder holster and a loaded handgun in each of the three carry-on bags at the security checkpoint. The FBI said he gave investigators permission to search his car parked in a nearby lot, where they discovered “numerous additional loaded guns, including two assault rifles and a high volume of ammunition.”

Waller’s initial appearance in federal court Monday was brief and he didn’t enter a plea. He was ordered to return to court Thursday to discuss bail and identify his lawyer. He is currently being held in jail without bail.

Helen Waller said she hired an attorney Monday morning because she refused to allow her son to be represented by a public defender.

She did not know why her son was attempting to catch a US Airways flight.

“I am thankful that nobody got hurt,” she said. “I am hoping it will bring more awareness to individuals that there are more people than they would guess that have a mental disorder.””

US v Harold E Waller – Federal Criminal Complaint

49 U.S.C. § 46505

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.