“Outside Box, Federal Judges Offer Addicts a Free Path”

May 30, 2013

The New York Times on March 1, 2013 released the following:

By MOSI SECRET

“Federal judges around the country are teaming up with prosecutors to create special treatment programs for drug-addicted defendants who would otherwise face significant prison time, an effort intended to sidestep drug laws widely seen as inflexible and overly punitive.

The Justice Department has tentatively embraced the new approach, allowing United States attorneys to reduce or even dismiss charges in some drug cases.

The effort follows decades of success for “drug courts” at the state level, which legal experts have long cited as a less expensive and more effective alternative to prison for dealing with many low-level repeat offenders.

But it is striking that the model is spreading at the federal level, where judges have increasingly pushed back against rules that restrict their ability to make their own determination of appropriate sentences.

So far, federal judges have instituted programs in California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. About 400 defendants have been involved nationwide.

In Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, Judge John Gleeson issued an opinion praising the new approach as a way to address swelling prison costs and disproportionate sentences for drug trafficking.

“Presentence programs like ours and those in other districts mean that a growing number of courts are no longer reflexively sentencing federal defendants who do not belong in prison to the costly prison terms recommended by the sentencing guidelines,” Judge Gleeson wrote.

The opinion came a year after Judge Gleeson, with the federal agency known as Pretrial Services, started a program that made achieving sobriety an incentive for drug-addicted defendants to avoid prison. The program had its first graduate this year: Emily Leitch, a Brooklyn woman with a long history of substance abuse who was arrested entering the country at Kennedy International Airport with over 13 kilograms of cocaine, about 30 pounds, in her luggage.

“I want to thank the federal government for giving me a chance,” Ms. Leitch said. “I always wanted to stand up as a sober person.”

The new approach is being prompted in part by the Obama administration, which previously supported legislation that scaled back sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine. The Justice Department has supported additional changes to the federal sentencing guidelines to permit the use of drug or mental health treatment as an alternative to incarceration for certain low-level offenders and changed its own policies to make those options more available.

“We recognize that imprisonment alone is not a complete strategy for reducing crime,” James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general, said in a statement. “Drug courts, re-entry courts and other related programs along with enforcement are all part of the solution.”

For nearly 30 years, the United States Sentencing Commission has established guidelines for sentencing, a role it was given in 1984 after studies found that federal judges were giving defendants widely varying sentences for similar crimes. The commission’s recommendations are approved by Congress, causing judges to bristle at what they consider interference with their judicial independence.

“When you impose a sentence that you believe is unjust, it is a very difficult thing to do,” Stefan R. Underhill, a federal judge in Connecticut, said in an interview. “It feels wrong.”

The development of drug courts may meet resistance from some Republicans in Congress.

“It is important that courts give deference to Congressional authority over sentencing,” Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, a member and former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. He said sentencing should not depend “on what judge happens to decide the case or what judicial circuit the defendant happens to be in.”

At the state level, pretrial drug courts have benefited from bipartisan support, with liberals supporting the programs as more focused on rehabilitation, and conservatives supporting them as a way to cut spending.

Under the model being used in state and federal courts, defendants must accept responsibility for their crimes and agree to receive drug treatment and other social services and attend regular meetings with judges who monitor their progress. In return for successful participation, they receive a reduced sentence or no jail time at all. If they fail, they are sent to prison.

The drug court option is not available to those facing more serious charges, like people accused of being high-level dealers or traffickers, or accused of a violent crime. (These programs differ from re-entry drug courts, which federal judges have long used to help offenders integrate into society after prison.)

In interviews, the federal judges who run the other programs pointed to a mix of reasons for their involvement.

Judge Ricardo S. Martinez ran a state drug court in Seattle before he was appointed to the federal bench. “People that have a serious addiction, you can put them in custody, but the minute you put them back in the community, they go back to the same thing and lo and behold you see them again,” Judge Martinez said in an interview.

Some of the most pointed criticism of the status quo has come from Judge Gleeson, a former federal prosecutor. The drug court he helped set up is open to defendants who committed a range of nonviolent crimes, like fraud and selling prescription pills, and whose addictions fueled their actions.

In a 35-page opinion he issued this week, he criticized the Justice Department for charging defendants with drug offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences, urged the Sentencing Commission to reduce the guideline range for many drug offenses and called for more programs that divert defendants from prison time.

The opinion chronicled the case of three graduates of the drug court, including Ms. Leitch, 29. The daughter of two addicted parents, she began smoking marijuana daily and later snorting cocaine at a young age, stealing to pay for her drug habit.

After a visit with her children to Guyana, where her father lives, she was paid over $30,000 to transport drugs back to the United States. Customs agents at Kennedy found the cocaine and charged her with importing and possessing the drug, which carried a three-year sentence under federal guidelines.

Though she showed up high at a court hearing, causing her to be jailed for a time, Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold offered her a slot a year ago in the district’s new drug court. She later took parenting courses, earned a general equivalency diploma and got a commercial bus driver’s license — with government subsidies for some of those efforts. She now drives a bus in Nassau County.

Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, said she backed the program because drug courts elsewhere had lowered recidivism rates. “Our overall strategy of law enforcement and crime prevention isn’t just incarceration,” Ms. Lynch said.

At a sentencing hearing for Ms. Leitch last month, a prosecutor vacated her guilty plea and agreed to dismiss the charges if she did not use drugs or get arrested for 18 months. After the hearing, Judge Gleeson offered some encouraging words for the defendant, and then a hug.

“I don’t know them as just the judge,” Ms. Leitch said later. “People see judges as the bad guy. They get deeper. They get to know who you are.””

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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.


Six Face Federal Criminal Drug Charges in an Alleged Cocaine Selling Bust

April 11, 2012

Daily Herald on April 11, 2012 released the following:

“Cocaine-selling bust nets 14 arrests

By Jake Griffin

Federal prosecutors announced drug charges against 14 suburban residents stemming from a multijurisdictional 1 1/2-year investigation.

Six of the suspects face federal charges and are from Lake County, while another eight face state drug charges and are from Lake and Cook counties, according to U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office.

Investigators seized nearly three pounds of cocaine and a 2008 Cadillac Escalade as part of the ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors said. The largest seizure occurred nearly a year ago following a traffic stop on I-94 near Deerfield Road in Lake County when more than two pounds of cocaine were found in a car believed to be en route to the group’s alleged ringleader, Jose Luis Chavez, prosecutors said.

The federal court papers claim Chavez, 33, of Round Lake, headed the organization that distributed cocaine throughout the northern suburbs. He is charged federally with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and $5 million fine, prosecutors said. The five other federal defendants face the same charge, according to court papers.

That includes Armando Lopez, 34, of Round Lake Beach, who prosecutors said was Chavez’s chief distributor of cocaine sold in smaller, multi-ounce quantities.

Joseph Garcia, 28, of Algonquin, was arrested Tuesday in Florida and is being extradited back to the Chicago area to be formally charged. Prosecutors said Garcia also distributed cocaine for Chavez.

Amber Learn, 26; Ryon Baldarez, 35; and Agustin Zeta-Marin, 29; all from Round Lake Beach, are also accused of dealing cocaine for either Chavez or Lopez, according to prosecutors. Learn has been freed on bond. The other two remain at large and have had warrants issued for their arrests, prosecutors said.

The eight people facing state charges of criminal drug conspiracy, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and calculated criminal cannabis conspiracy are facing prison sentences up to 60 years, Lake County prosecutors said Wednesday.

The eight facing state charges are 46-year-old Jesus Serrano of the 1600 block of North Lake Shore Drive in Round Lake Beach; Adrian Tellez, 37, of the 1300 block of Oak Street in Round Lake Beach; Mitchell Shannon, 38, of the 3800 block of Glenview Road in Glenview; Eric Juarez, 32, of the 300 block of Kenwood Avenue in Round Lake Beach; Luis Vega, 29, of the 1500 block of Lotus Lane in Round Lake Beach; Gustavo Munoz, 35, of the 1900 block of Karen Lane in Round Lake Beach; Michael Ramirez, 37, of the 300 block of Ricard Court in Island Lake; and Gary Milem, 29, of the 25000 block of West Lakeshore Drive in Ingleside.

The eight facing state charges will appear in bond court later this week, prosecutors there said.

The investigation was conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, prosecutors said. The agencies that assisted in the investigation included the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Illinois State Police, McHenry County Sheriff’s office, Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group and police departments from Round Lake Beach, Rolling Meadows, Palatine and Mundelein.”

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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.


Thirty-Five Indicted for Allegedly Trafficking Heroin Throughout Virginia Peninsula

August 19, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 18, 2011 released the following:

“NEWPORT NEWS, VA— Thirty-five individuals have been indicted as part of an ongoing investigation into major heroin trafficking rings operating throughout the Virginia Peninsula. To date, 72 federal defendants and more than 100 related state defendants have been charged as part of this investigation.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Ava Cooper-Davis, Special Agent in Charge for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s Washington Division; and James D. Fox, Chief of Newport News Police, made the announcement after the coordinated arrests were completed and the indictment was made public.

“Heroin is a poison that ruins families and communities,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of this task force, we are striking a blow to those who traffic this deadly drug in Tidewater and taking scores of heroin dealers off our streets.”

“This case illustrates DEA’s mission to take down drug trafficking organizations from the street to the source,” stated DEA SAC Cooper-Davis. “Heroin is toxic for the body and the organizations that put it on the streets are toxic for our communities. The towns of the Virginia Peninsula are safer today thanks to the combined efforts of law enforcement.”

According to the one-count indictment unsealed today, Henry Lee Taylor, a/k/a “Junebug,” and “Bug,” 63, of Chesapeake, Va., is the alleged leader of an extensive heroin trafficking organization that smuggles large quantities of heroin from New York City into the Tidewater area, which has been linked to overdoses that have caused serious bodily injury and death.

Taylor is accused of regularly overseeing the transport of multi-kilograms of heroin and supervising his lieutenants as they repackaged the narcotic into 10-gram packages for further distribution in his network. Through his lieutenants—who were identified in the indictment as Cliff Taylor, a/k/a “Clee,” 63, of Hampton, Va.; Thurman Young, a/k/a “Charlie,” 47, of New York City, N.Y.; Darryl Leon Wiggins, a/k/a “Go Go,” 60, of Newport News, Va.; Jeffery Allen Solomon, a/k/a “Jeff,” 46, of Norfolk, Va.; Randy Alonzo White, 30, of Hampton, Va.; Lionell Poindexter, 63, of Hampton, Va.; and David Arthur Jones, a/k/a “Howard,” 40, of Newport News, Va. —Taylor allegedly provided the 10-gram packages to mid-level distributors, collected drug proceeds, and received reports on the day-to-day operations of the trafficking ring.

The indictment alleges that after obtaining the heroin from Taylor’s lieutenants, the mid-level distributors would cut and package the heroin into glassine bags and distribute the bags to street-level distributors and customers in Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, Gloucester, and Williamsburg and throughout the counties of York and James City. The mid-level distributors allegedly sold the heroin at prices dictated by Taylor, typically for $10 to $20 per bag or in a group of 10 bags, referred to as a “bundle” for $80 to $100 per bundle. Each 10-gram package produced at least 20 bundles, or 200 glassine bags.

The mid-level distributors charged in the indictment are listed below:

  • Edward Alphonse Hill, a/k/a “Puddin,” 65, of Newport News, Va.
  • Bobbie Ray Edwards, a/k/a “Tank,” 65, of Newport News, Va.
  • Alfred Lee Britt, a/k/a “Howard,” 60, of Portsmouth, Va.
  • Larry Darnell Belfield, a/k/a “Donnnie” or “D,” 29, of Newport News, Va.
  • Karen Lynn Belfield, 52, of Newport News, Va.
  • Viola Peartree, 59, of Newport News, Va.
  • Roy Ricardo Bell, 57, of Hampton, Va.
  • Ramona Sheree Conner, a/k/a “Mona,” 39, of Newport News, Va.
  • Eddie Christopher Perry, a/k/a “Chris,” 58, of Newport News, Va.
  • Thomas Leon Petteway, a/k/a “Shank,” 60, of Newport News, Va.
  • Tony Curtis Spivey, a/k/a “Tony-Red,” 49, of Newport News, Va.
  • Michael Anthony Keith, a/k/a “Mike,” 49, of Newport News, Va.
  • William Cofield, Jr., a/k/a “Duke,” 25, of Hampton, Va.
  • Michael George Tichenor, a/k/a “Mike,” 53, of Newport News, Va.
  • Jeffrey Lamont Banks, a/k/a “P,” 36, of Hampton, Va.
  • Lisa Dionna Peterson, 45, of Newport News, Va.
  • Thomas William Bethea, a/k/a “Tom Tom,” 60, of Newport News, Va.
  • Joe David Clark, Jr., 65, of Newport News, Va.
  • Adriane Michael Chambers, a/k/a “A.J.,” 30, of Newport News, Va.
  • Andrew Edward Webb, a/k/a “Shorty,” 49, of Hampton, Va.
  • Harry Lee Webb, 50, of Hampton, Va.
  • William Oliver Hill, a/k/a “Billy,” 64, of Newport News, Va.
  • Gail L. Delk, a/k/a “Gail Lashon Moore,” 53, of Newport News, Va.
  • Bettina May Perry, a/k/a “Tina,” 41, of Newport News, Va.
  • Kenisha Renee Hopkins, 30, of Newport News, Va.
  • Wayne Burnette Ellis, 54, of Hampton, Va.
  • Charles Edward Siron, 55, of Hampton, Va.

The 35 individuals named in the indictment were charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

This case is being investigated by an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) led by the DEA, Newport News Police Department and the Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, as part of an ongoing investigation that began after the heroin-overdose death of Jessie Truslow Jr. on Sept. 29, 2008, whose wife smuggled heroin obtained by a co-conspirator into the Newport News City Farm, where Truslow was serving time for a state offense. His wife, Jennifer Truslow, was sentenced on July 25, 2011, to 120 months in prison, and the man convicted of supplying the heroin, Dennis Bunch, faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 12, 2011.

In addition to the DEA and Newport News Police Department, the OCDETF investigative team includes the FBI, Virginia State Police, Hampton Police Division, Newport News Sheriff’s Department, Hampton Sheriff’s Department, York County Sheriff’s Department, Southampton County Sheriff’s Department, Chesapeake Police Department, Portsmouth Police Department, Portsmouth Sheriff’s Department, Norfolk Police Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Virginia National Guard, Counter-Drug Program.

Assistant United States Attorney Laura P. Tayman and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kristine E. Wolfe are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

An indictment is only an accusation and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

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 extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

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

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Members of Alleged Asian Organized Crime Organization Appear in Federal Court Today

July 12, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts on July 12, 2011 released the following:

“Detention Hearing Scheduled for Five Defendants Today at Noon

BOSTON, Mass. – Five federal defendants are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Boston today, following a multi-year federal investigation into their roles in illegal activity in Chinatown and elsewhere. A total of 26 individuals from Massachusetts, Florida and Rhode Island have been indicted in connection with the alleged organized crime conspiracy.

According to court filings, the FBI’s Organized Crime Task Force led a long-term investigation into drug-trafficking, illegal gambling, extortion, prostitution, and other criminal activity in the Chinatown area of Boston and elsewhere. The investigation included court-authorized wire surveillance of cellular telephones for seven months, including the cell phones of five of the defendants. The investigation to date has resulted in the seizure of more than $340,000, thirteen firearms and approximately 12,000 pills of suspected oxycodone. Investigators also uncovered extensive evidence of illegal gambling and prostitution, and the use of extortionate threats to collect loans to gamblers and others.

“Organized crime can paralyze or seriously disrupt small communities, particularly close-knit neighborhoods like Chinatown,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “This criminal organization is alleged to have trafficked large amounts of drugs, threatened and beat up individuals who failed to pay off large illegal debts, and moved women around the country to work in their brothels.”

“We encourage the victims of these alleged crimes to contact us to assist in protecting the community and prosecuting those responsible,” added U.S. Attorney Ortiz. “We are very fortunate in Massachusetts to have dedicated prosecutors, agents and local law enforcement who challenge themselves and creatively leverage resources to work these multi-faceted complex investigations.”

Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, said, “The indictments and arrests stemming from this operation send a clear message to those involved in organized crime organizations everywhere: The FBI and its law enforcement partners will pursue those who engage in drug dealing, illegal gambling, extortion and exploitation of women regardless of the geographic boundaries.”

SAC DesLauriers added, “In this case, law enforcement’s jurisdictional reach and investigative tenacity culminated in the arrest of multiple individuals. The methodical nature and duration of this investigation reflects our collective dedicated effort to secure justice for the victims. Organized crime groups are emerging from every corner of the globe. Through our task-force and intelligence based model, we will use every tool at our disposal to disrupt and dismantle organized criminal enterprises.”

In late May, 13 men and women were charged in the first of three indictments with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone, marijuana and human growth hormone in the Massachusetts, Florida, South Carolina, and elsewhere. According to an affidavit filed in connection with detention proceedings, John Willis, 40, of Dorchester, also known as “Bac Guai John” (“White Devil John”), the leader of this drug-trafficking conspiracy, has a long history of involvement in Asian organized crime.

The following were also charged in the drug-trafficking conspiracy with Willis: Brant Welty, 39, Kevin Baranowski, 41, and Bridget Welty, 38, all of Boston; Vincent Alberico, 29, of Centerville, Mass.; Peter Melendez, 50, of Sunrise, Florida; Aibun Eng, 38,and Steven Le, 21, both of Quincy; Brian Bowes, 42, and Michael Clemente, 29, both of Sunrise, Florida; Michael Shaw, 39, of Wilton Manors, Florida; Mark Thompson, 28, of Davie, Florida; and Anevay Duffy, 25, of Cumberland, Rhode Island. Alberico is also charged with assaulting a federal official who was performing his official duties.

With the exception of Melendez, the defendants in this matter have been arrested. Willis, Le, and Alberico have been detained pending trial. Brant Welty remains in custody pending the court’s decision on the government’s motion for detention and Baranowski remains in custody pending a detention hearing on July 14. Alberico is in state custody.

If convicted on these charges, Willis and Baranowski face up to 30 years in federal prison. Each of the remaining defendants faces up to 20 years in federal prison to be followed by up to a life term of supervised release, and $1 million fine. In addition, Alberico also faces up to eight years in federal prison to be followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine for the assault charge.

On June 30, 13 additional defendants were charged in two separate indictments. One of the indictments charged Minh Cam Luong, 46, Vapeng Joe, 44, Hin Pau, 45, Judy Huyen Truong, 41, and Hui Zhou, 24, all of Quincy; Jian Ming Chen, 38, of Brighton; Elburke Lamson, 47, of Chelsea; Tan Ngo, 54, of Waltham; Songzeng Cao, 28, of Malden; and Yao Zheng Cao, 23, of Somerville, for operating an illegal gambling business since January 2010. That business has been based, since November 2010, at a illegal gambling den at 17-23 Beach Street in Chinatown. Luong, Pau, Songzeng Cao, Yao Zheng Cao and Zhou were also charged with using extortionate means, including threats or actual use of violence, to collect debts, including debts owed to the illegal gambling business. With the exception of Lamson and Truong, all defendants are currently in custody pending detention hearings. Five defendants are expected to have detention hearings today at noon.

According to a court filing, Luong and Ngo were both members of Chinatown’s Ping On Gang in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Gang was vying for control of crime in Chinatown. Both were convicted on federal charges including heroin trafficking, and both have served sentences in federal prison.

If convicted on these charges, each of the defendants faces up to five years in federal prison to be followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine on the illegal gambling business charge. Luong, Pau, Cao, Cao, and Zhou also face up to 20 years in federal prison to be followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine for each count of using extortionate means to collect extensions of credit.

Lastly, Wei Xing Chen, 50, of Cambridge, and Yue Q. He, age unknown, of Boston, were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and 1-benzylpiperazine, both also known as ecstasy, and possession with intent to distribute 1-benzylpiperazine. In addition, Chen, He and Xiaohong Xue, 41, also of Cambridge, were charged in the same indictment with conspiring to induce travel to engage in prostitution. Chen, who operated brothels in Cambridge and Boston, is currently in custody. Arrest warrants have been issued for He and Xue.

If convicted on the drug charges, Chen and He face up to 20 years in federal prison to be followed by at least three years of supervised release, and a $1 million fine on each count. In addition, if convicted of prostitution conspiracy, each of the defendants faces up to five years in federal prison to be followed by up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

According to the affidavit, Willis and several of his co-defendants frequented Chen’s brothels and Luong’s gambling den. Employees of Luong’s gambling business frequented Chen’s brothels. Some of Luong’s employees, including Joe, associated with Willis.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz; FBI SAC DesLauriers; William P. Offord; Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Boston Field Division; Bruce Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis made the announcement today.

The cases were investigated by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, DEA, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Department of Correction, and Quincy, Cambridge, Medford, Boston and New York City Police Departments. Assistance was also received from the Broward County (Fla..) Sheriff’s Office and the Ridgeland and Dillon Police Departments in South Carolina. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy E. Moran and Richard L. Hoffman of Ortiz’s Strike Force Unit.

The details contained in the indictments are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”

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

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

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

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Muhammed Omar Mullahkhel, Ajmal Omar Mullahkhel, Bilqis Shahnaz Mullahkhel, Nargas Parwana Mullahkhel, Abdul Subur Mumtaz Mullahkhel, and AJ’s Kwik Mart Indicted in 20 Counts by a Federal Grand Jury in Salt Lake City

July 6, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Utah on July 6, 2011 released the following:

“AJ’s Kwik Mart, Five Individuals Charged in Alleged Scheme to Defraud Nutrition Assistance Program

SALT LAKE CITY— A federal grand jury returned a 20-count indictment Wednesday afternoon charging AJ’s Kwik Mart in Salt Lake City and five individuals with violations of federal law in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

AJ’s Kwik Mart is a small convenience store located at 268 South Main Street. It carries small food and convenience items such as soft drinks, chips, candy, canned soups, pastas, prepared sandwiches, and miscellaneous snack items, among other things.

Charged in the indictment along with the business are Muhammed Omar Mullahkhel, aka Omar Mullahkhel, age 59, and Ajmal Omar Mullahkhel, aka AJ, age 24, both of West Valley City; and Bilqis Shahnaz Mullahkhel, age 26; Nargas Parwana Mullahkhel, age 28; and Abdul Subur Mumtaz Mullahkhel, aka Mumtaz, all of Salt Lake City. A summons will be issued to each defendant to appear in federal court for an arraignment. (No date has been set.)

The indictment includes one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; 13 counts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits fraud; one count of access device fraud; and five counts of money laundering. The charges follow an investigation by agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General and the FBI.

The SNAP program provides assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase food. States are given authority to determine eligibility and to certify recipients who qualify for the program. In Utah, SNAP benefits are administered by the Utah State Department of Workforce Services. Approved applicants are given a benefits transactions card, similar to a bank debit card, linked to a SNAP account. Benefits for recipients are electronically encoded to the account on a monthly basis to allow beneficiaries to purchase eligible food items. SNAP card benefits can only be exchanged for eligible food items and can only be used at authorized stores. SNAP benefits may not be redeemed for cash.

The indictment alleges the defendants devised a scheme to redeem SNAP benefits for cash paid in amounts less than the amounts charged to the SNAP benefits cards. On multiple occasions between December 2007 and May 2011, according to the indictment, a SNAP benefits card would be presented to an employee of the store, along with a request to redeem the value on the card for cash. Employees would require the customer to purchase a nominal amount of food or non-food items, such as cigarettes, and in one or more card transactions would process the purchase and an additional amount up to the SNAP benefit limit on the card. The indictment alleges approximately 50 percent of the cash value of the transaction over the value of the merchandised purchased would be refunded to the customer and the other 50 percent would be kept by the store. The full value of the transaction would subsequently be deposited by electronic funds transfer into the bank account of AJ’s Kwik Mart. A portion of the excess SNAP benefits purchased would be allocated to various employees of the store, the indictment alleges.

AJ’s Kwik Mart was authorized to accept SNAP benefits on March 3, 2004. According to the indictment, on an application to participate as a SNAP retailer, Muhammed Omar Mullahkhel reported estimated annual food sales of items eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits of $175,000. A.J.’s Kwik Mart redeemed approximately $1,371,600 in SNAP benefits during the period of December 2007 to February 2011.

The potential maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud is up to 20 years in prison. SNAP benefits fraud carries a potential five-year penalty. The potential penalty for access device fraud is up to 15 years in prison and money laundering is up to 10 years.

Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.”

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

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

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

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