Los Angeles Federal Grand Jury Indicts Chinese National, Su Bin, in Computer Hacking Scheme Allegedly Involving Theft of Trade Secrets

August 18, 2014

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 15, 2014 released the following:

“LOS ANGELES— A federal grand jury has indicted a Chinese national on five felony offenses stemming from a computer hacking scheme that involved the theft of trade secrets from American defense contractors, including The Boeing Company, which manufactures the C-17 military transport aircraft.

Su Bin—who also used the names “Stephen Su,” “Stephen Subin” and “Steven Subin”—was named in a five-count indictment returned Thursday afternoon and filed in United States District Court.

Su is currently in custody in British Columbia, Canada, where he is being held pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant submitted by the United States. Su was previously charged in a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles, but the indictment is now the operative charging document.

The indictment alleges that Su, a 49-year-old businessman, worked with two unindicted co-conspirators based in China to infiltrate computer systems and obtain confidential information about military programs, including the C-17 transport aircraft, the F-22 fighter jet, and the F-35 fighter jet.

The indictment specifically alleges three charges related to unauthorized computer access, a conspiracy to illegally export defense articles and a conspiracy to steal trade secrets. The charges carry a total maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.”

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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

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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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.


“Twelve Los Angeles-Area Residents Accused of Attempting to Bilk Medicare of $22 Million Arrested as Part of Nationwide Crackdown”

May 15, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 14, 2013 released the following:

“LOS ANGELES— Twelve Los Angeles-area residents—including California’s second-largest biller for chiropractic services, a physician’s assistant, and owners of durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance companies—were taken into custody today in relation to seven criminal cases that allege they cumulatively submitted more than $22 million in false billings to Medicare.

The charges filed in Los Angeles are part of a nationwide “takedown” by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in eight cities that led to charges against 89 individuals for their alleged participation in schemes to collectively submit about $223 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare.

The dozen defendants taken into custody are among 13 people charged in Los Angeles in cases that allege health care fraud. The 12 either were arrested this morning or self-surrendered to authorities after learning that they had been charged in federal court. All those defendants are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon. A 13th defendant is a fugitive.

Dr. Houshang Pavehzadeh, of the Sylmar Physician Medical Group, allegedly billed Medicare more than $1.7 million for chiropractic treatments he never performed. During the scheme, which ran from 2005 through 2012, Dr. Pavehzadeh, 40, of Agoura Hills, became the second-largest Medicare biller in California for chiropractic services—even though he was not in the United States when some of the alleged services were performed. In addition to being charged with health care fraud, Pavehzadeh is charged with aggravated identity theft related to Medicare beneficiaries whose information he used to bill Medicare as a part of the scheme. When investigators tried to conduct an audit of Pavehzadeh’s claims, he falsely reported to the Los Angeles Police Department that he had been carjacked and that patient files requested by the auditors had been stolen from his car. Pavehzadeh surrendered this morning, and he is scheduled to be arraigned with other Los Angeles-area defendants this afternoon in the Roybal Federal Building.

Nine defendants affiliated with DME companies were also charged in five separate indictments.

Olufunke Fadojutimi, 41, of Carson, a registered nurse; Ayodeji Temitayo Fatunmbi, 41, formerly of Carson and now believed to be residing in Nigeria; and Maritza Velazquez, 40, of Las Vegas, were charged with health care fraud. The scheme allegedly revolved around Lutemi Medical Supplies, a DME company Fadojutimi owned and where Fatunmbi and Velazquez worked. According to the indictment in this case, Lutemi billed Medicare more than $8.3 million in claims, primarily for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs. Fadojutimi and Fatunmbi allegedly laundered Medicare funds in order to purchase fraudulent prescriptions for those power wheelchairs and pay illegal kickbacks to recruit Medicare beneficiaries. Fadojutimi was arrested this morning in Los Angeles, while Velazquez was arrested in Las Vegas. Fatunmbi is currently a fugitive being sought by federal authorities.

Susanna Artsruni, 45, of North Hollywood, and Erasmus Kotey, 76, of Montebello, a licensed physician’s assistant, allegedly worked together to commit health care fraud out of a medical clinic on Vermont Avenue where they both worked. Kotey allegedly prescribed medically unnecessary DME, including power wheelchairs, for Medicare beneficiaries. Many of those power wheelchair prescriptions were then used by Artsruni’s DME company, Midvalley Medical Supply, to support fraudulent claims to Medicare. In only four months, the clinic and Midvalley billed Medicare more than $525,000 for these fraudulent claims. Artsruni has previously been convicted of health care fraud and was on pre-trial supervision at the time she allegedly laundered some of the proceeds of this fraud. Artsruni was arrested this morning, while Kotey self-surrendered.

Three other DME cases were also charged, alleging fraudulent Medicare billing for medically unnecessary power wheelchairs that were sometimes never even delivered. In one case, Akinola Afolabi, 53, of Long Beach, the owner of Emmanuel Medical Supply, allegedly submitted more than $2.6 million in false and fraudulent billing to Medicare. In another case, Queen Anieze-Smith, 52, of Encino, and Abdul King-Garba, 47, of Westwood, the owners and operators of ITC Medical Supply, allegedly submitted more than $1.8 million in false and fraudulent billing to Medicare. In the third case, Clement Etim Aghedo, 53, of Fontana, the owner of Ace Medical Supply Company, allegedly submitted more than $1.8 in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. Afolabi, Anieze-Smith, and King-Garba were all arrested this morning, while Aghedo self-surrendered.

In the seventh case brought as part of today’s takedown, three defendants affiliated with Gardena-based ProMed Medical Transportation, an ambulance company, were charged with submitting more than $5.9 million in false claims to Medicare between 2008 and 2011. ProMed’s owner, Yaroslav Proshak, 45, of Valley Village; general manager Sharetta Wallace, 35, of Inglewood; and office manager and biller Sergey Mumjian, 40, of West Hollywood, submitted claims for medically unnecessary transportation services and then created fake documentation purporting to support those claims. Proshak, Wallace, and Mumjian were arrested this morning.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.

The Los Angeles cases announced today are being investigated by a Medicare Fraud Strike Force team, which is composed of agents and investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; IRS-Criminal Investigation; and Medicaid Fraud Control Units, including the California Department of Justice. The cases are being prosecuted by attorneys from the United States Attorney’s Office and the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The charge of health care fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Money laundering carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year prison term.”

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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

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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.


ICE Leads A Federal Investigation and Arrests 9 in an Alleged Drug Trafficking Ring

May 2, 2013

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on May 1, 2013 released the following:

“9 defendants indicted in far-reaching cocaine and meth distribution scheme

LOS ANGELES — A federal investigation into a drug-trafficking organization led by two brothers who oversaw the distribution of cocaine to Italy and across the United States as well as methamphetamine being trafficked across the U.S. – has led to the indictment of nine defendants, three of whom were arrested Wednesday.

Operation “Family Guy” targeted the Urena family drug-trafficking organization through the use of undercover operatives and wiretaps that led to the interception of telephone calls, text messages, and communications sent through BlackBerry Messenger. The probe was conducted by the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, including the Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; and IRS – Criminal Investigation. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and Whittier Police Department also assisted with the case.

The investigation, which culminated with the issuance of a seven-count grand jury indictment April 24, resulted in the seizure of approximately 40 kilograms of cocaine being smuggled into Italy from the Dominican Republic and Mexico. That cocaine was being transported by female drug couriers allegedly recruited by the two Urena brothers, with assistance from their uncle Francisco Javier Vargas-Oseguera and others. The investigation also uncovered a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine throughout the United States using vehicles with hidden compartments.

The indictment also alleges members of the narcotics-trafficking operation laundered drug proceeds from the Dominican Republic through the use of Western Union wire transfers sent to Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga.

Those named in the indictment unsealed Wednesday are:

  • Milton Urena, 29, of the Dominican Republic, who is currently being sought by authorities;
  • Rafael Urena, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, Milton Urena’s brother, who was arrested Wednesday;
  • Daniel Alejandro Agredano Vazquez, 22, of the Dominican Republic, who allegedly oversaw the distribution of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Italy and conspired to launder drug proceeds. He is currently being sought by authorities;
  • Francisco Javier Vargas-Oseguera, 51, an uncle of the Urena brothers, previously of Seattle and recently of Fontana. He is currently in federal custody in Seattle after being charged in federal court there for allegedly possessing eight pounds of methamphetamine in a case unrelated to Operation Family Guy;
  • Leonel Urena-Partida, 49, of Guadalajara, Mexico, another uncle of the Urena brothers, who allegedly conspired to transport cocaine to Italy. He is being sought by authorities;
  • Carmen Garcia, 35, of San Bernardino, allegedly supplied methamphetamine and assisted with the recruitment of drug couriers, who was arrested Wednesday;
  • Eliseo Carrillo Duarte, 45, of Montebello, who is currently in federal custody in Indianapolis after being arrested there in March on unrelated drug-trafficking charges stemming from the seizure of approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine;
  • Jenna Michelle Martin (also known as Jenna Michelle Smith), 25, of Upland, an alleged drug courier who was arrested Wednesday; and
  • Beth Rene Ford (also known as Beth Rene Florance), 26, formerly of Ontario and now living in the Denver area, a second alleged drug courier, who is expected to self-surrender soon to authorities.

The defendants arrested Wednesday morning are expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

The indictment specifically charges eight defendants (not Duarte) with conspiracy to distribute cocaine to Italy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Six of the defendants (not Agredano Vasquez, Martin or Ford) are charged in another conspiracy involving the domestic distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, a charge that also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Various defendants are also named in a charge that alleges the distribution of approximately one pound of methamphetamine, three counts of use of a communication facility in committing a felony drug offense, and conspiracy to launder money.”

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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

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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.


Men Indicted For Allegedly Defrauding Lions Gate Entertainment

March 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 24, 2012 released the following:

“LOS ANGELES—Two men were arrested Friday by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation after being indicted for their roles in a $2 million kickback scheme involving the Santa Monica-based film and distribution company Lions Gate Entertainment (Lionsgate), announced André Birotte, Jr., United States Attorney for the Central District of California; Steven Martinez, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; and Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in Los Angeles.

Roccio James Cuccia, 31, of Downey; and Larry D. Collins, 50, of Northridge, were charged in a 14-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 22, 2012. The indictment includes allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

According to the indictment, Cuccia started working as a senior buyer at Lionsgate in January 2006 and was responsible for acquiring cardboard advertising used to display Lionsgate DVDs and Blu-ray Discs at retail stores. Cuccia is alleged to have used Collins as a vendor to supply the display cases to retail stores from 2006 through 2011.

Cuccia and Collins allegedly devised a scheme whereby Lionsgate was overbilled for the number of display cases provided by Collins. The indictment alleges that by accessing Lionsgate’s computer system, Cuccia would inflate the number of previously approved display cases ordered from Collins by Lionsgate. Collins would then generate fraudulent invoices for the inflated purchase orders, the indictment alleges.

Lionsgate sent payment for the inflated purchase orders to a third party, who would then wire a substantial percentage of the Lionsgate funds to Collins. The indictment alleges that Collins would then wire a portion of these funds to Cuccia’s bank account. The indictment alleges that Cuccia and Collins caused losses to Lionsgate totaling approximately $2,064,000.

The indictment lists 10 wire transfers totaling over $745,000, which represents funds received by Collins as part of the scheme, a portion of which were then wired to Cuccia. Cuccia is alleged to have used part of the funds to purchase a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid and a 2006 Mercedes Benz R350, both of which were seized on Friday by federal agents. The indictment further alleges that Cuccia failed to report his portion of the fraudulently received funds as income on his 2006 and 2007 federal tax returns.

Cuccia and Collins are each charged with 10 counts of wire fraud. In addition, Cuccia is charged with two counts of conducting a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 and two counts of subscribing to false tax returns.

Cuccia and Collins had an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Friday afternoon and were granted bond.

If convicted of all charges alleged in the indictment, Cuccia faces a statutory maximum sentence of 226 years in federal prison, and Collins faces 200 years in federal prison.

This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Santa Monica Police Department. Lions Gate Entertainment cooperated with the investigation.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.”

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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

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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.


Six Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in Alleged Internet Scam Involving Bogus Online Vehicles Sales

December 30, 2011

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on December 29, 2011 released the following:

“6 indicted in $4 million Internet scam involving bogus online vehicles sales Fraud scheme used well known websites that offered vehicles for sale

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has indicted six foreign nationals on charges related to an Internet sales scheme that allegedly defrauded Americans who attempted to purchase automobiles and other vehicles on the Internet through websites that included eBay Motors, Auto Trader, Yahoo Auto, Edmunds.com and Craigslist.

The 24-count indictment, which was returned Wednesday afternoon, alleges a scheme in which vehicles were offered for sale on various legitimate websites. Money was subsequently collected from victims across the United States and supposedly put into escrow accounts with PayPal and eBay Motors. The money was then siphoned from the accounts, with millions of dollars being sent to Europe. Not one vehicle was delivered to the hundreds of victims who lost more than $4 million during the 3 1/2 years the scheme operated, according to the indictment.

The charges are the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Secret Service. Several other state and local law enforcement agencies provided substantial assistance during the investigation, including the Costa Mesa Police Department.

The indictment alleges conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of money laundering. Additionally, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of property and money illegally obtained through the scheme, including more than $4.2 million in U.S. currency. If they are convicted of the charges in the indictment, the defendants would each face sentences that could total hundreds of years in federal prison.

Those charged in the indictment are:

  • Corneliu Stefan Weikum, 37, a Romanian national who resides in Berlin and is currently in federal custody in Nevada;
  • Yulia Mishina-Heffron, 23, a native of Yekaterinburg, Russia, who is in federal custody in Nevada;
  • Sergej Bugaev, 38, a Russian national and resident of Berlin, who is currently in state custody in Orange County;
  • Alexander Brem, 34, a native of Kazakhstan who resides in Berlin;
  • Marina Talashkova, 24, of Yekaterinburg, Russia; and
  • Rihards Avotins, 21, a Latvian resident.

“As more people use the Internet to conduct everyday transactions, we are increasing our efforts to protect consumers from fraud artists committed to taking hard-earned money from consumers who are increasingly comfortable doing business in cyberspace,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “This case demonstrates our ability to track down even the most sophisticated fraud artist who attempted to hide behind false identities and the perceived anonymity of the Internet.”

The indictment alleges a scheme in which members of the conspiracy offered vehicles – including automobiles, motorcycles, motor homes and boats – for sale on various websites. After the purchase price was negotiated through telephone and email communications, co-conspirators emailed fraudulent invoices to the purchasers. The fake invoices appeared to be from eBay, Edmunds.com, PayPal, and Google Checkout, and the documents often bore the names and logos of these legitimate companies. The victims were instructed to wire the agreed-upon purchase price into bank accounts they thought were related to the escrow companies, but had in fact been set up by members of the conspiracy who often used false identification to open the accounts. The fraudulent invoices falsely represented that the funds would not be released to the purported sellers until the purchasers had received and approved the purchased vehicles, and victims were further told that they had the option of returning the vehicles at the seller’s expense within a week of receiving and inspecting the vehicle.

Despite receiving the purchaser’s funds for the vehicles, the indictment alleges, the defendants did not provide any vehicles to the victims.

“Unfortunately, countless consumers fall prey to sophisticated Internet fraud schemes like this every year and most of them will never get their money back,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “While Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work closely with its enforcement partners here and overseas to aggressively target this type of crime, Internet shoppers must also take steps to protect themselves. Before buying anything online, shoppers should check to be sure their money is going to a legitimate account and always remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

According to the indictment, Weikum monitored the fraudulent bank accounts to determine if victims had deposited the funds. Once money was sent to the fraudulent bank accounts, the money was withdrawn – primarily in cash – and the money was delivered to Weikum and Mishina. Weikum and Mishina allegedly wired the money from the United States to other countries, mailed the funds in concealed packages to Berlin, or concealed the funds in personal carry-on luggage while traveling to Germany.

At least 110 bank accounts were opened to fraudulently receive proceeds derived from the Internet sales scam, according to the indictment. From Sept.4, 2007 until Oct. 5, 2010, victims deposited at least $4 million into the fraudulent bank accounts.

“The defendants conducted a scheme intending to defraud the everyday Internet shopper,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Leslie P. DeMarco. “The IRS will continue to use its resources to trace money received from fraudulent Internet schemes. Internet consumer safety is a concern of the IRS and we will do our part to combat this modern-day fraud.”

Joseph Beaty, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service Los Angeles Field Office, stated, “Cybercrime, including this kind of Internet sales scheme, has evolved significantly over the last several years. Cooperation between law enforcement allows us to focus our resources and respond quickly to uncover and prevent criminal activity such as this type of financial fraud.”

The fraud charges alleged in the indictment each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. The money laundering charges alleged in the indictment each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Weikum and Mishina are in custody after being charged last year in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nev. Weikum and Mishina were previously indicted on charges related to bulk cash smuggling, structuring cash transactions and false identification documents. The Nevada indictment alleges, among other things, that Weikum attempted to conceal $1.1 million in U.S. currency in his luggage as he traveled to Germany in October 2009. Weikum and Mishina are scheduled to stand trial in the Nevada case Jan. 24.”

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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

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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 McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Florida Man Arrested in “Operation Hackerazzi” for Targeting Celebrities with Computer Intrusion, Wiretapping, and Identity Theft

October 12, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 12, 2011 released the following:

“LOS ANGELES—A man accused of targeting the entertainment industry by hacking into the personal e-mail accounts of celebrities was arrested today after being charged with a range of cyber-related crimes, announced André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles; and Steven Martinez, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested this morning by FBI agents without incident. A federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned a sealed indictment yesterday charging Chaney with violations under Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, including: accessing protected computers without authorization; damaging protected computers without authorization; wiretapping; and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed this morning, Chaney used several aliases while illegally obtaining personal information of numerous celebrities through a series of computer intrusions. The aliases used include: “trainreqsuckswhat,” “anonygrrl,” and “jaxjaguars911.”

Investigators believe that Chaney used publicly available sources to mine for data about his female and male victims, all of whom are associated with the entertainment industry. Once Chaney gained access and control of an e-mail account, he would obtain private information, such as e-mails and file attachments, according to the indictment. In addition, investigators believe that Chaney was led to new victims by accessing the address books of victims whose computers he already controlled.

Throughout the 11-month investigation, agents identified over 50 victims whose accounts were illegally accessed by Chaney. The 26-count indictment details specific instances in which Chaney violated 11 of the victims, some of whom are identified by initials only. The victims are identified in the indictment as: Simone Harouche, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson, Renee Olstead, B.P., J.A., L.B., L.S., D.F., and B.G.

The indictment specifically charges Chaney with illegally accessing the computers, e-mail accounts and account settings of several victims, beginning November 13, 2010, through February 10, 2011. The indictment further alleges that Chaney knowingly caused the transmission of programs, information codes and commands, resulting in damage to e-mail servers, causing losses of at least $5,000 per instance. Chaney also used the identities of some of the victims to illegally access and control computers, according to the indictment. In other instances, Chaney allegedly intercepted and endeavored to intercept wire communications; specifically, e-mails and attachments.

In most cases, Chaney accessed the administrative settings on the victims’ accounts so that all of their e-mails would automatically be forwarded to a separate e-mail account Chaney controlled. This form of wiretapping allowed Chaney to continually receive victims’ e-mails even after a password had been reset.

Investigators determined that Chaney distributed some of the files he obtained illegally, including photos of celebrities, and offered them to various celebrity blog sites. Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately posted online as a result of Chaney’s alleged activities.

“While the case against Mr. Chaney involves celebrities who were targeted because of their fame, this case reminds us that we are all potential victims of computer hackers,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “Everyone can take simple steps that will help protect a computer system. Taking these steps will go a long way in protecting yourself from the financial and emotional costs of having someone intrude on your private life and potentially steal your identity.”

“As we highlight cyber awareness during the month of October, it’s important to remember that, although these victims appear to have been targeted based on their celebrity, similar methods may be used to illegally access any one of our computers,” said Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Strict computer security should be practiced when using smart phones, laptops, desktops, iPads, or any other device that provides Internet access.”

Chaney will have an initial appearance in United States District Court in Jacksonville, Florida. It is anticipated that the government will request that Chaney be removed to Los Angeles, the district in which he was charged, to face prosecution.

If convicted on all counts, Chaney faces a statutory maximum penalty of 121 years in federal prison. This investigation was conducted by the FBI. The charges against Chaney will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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 McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Matthew Taylor Indicted by a Los Angeles Federal Grand Jury on Charges Related to Alleged Art Theft

September 16, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 15, 2011 released the following:

“Florida Man Arrested on Charges of Selling Stolen Art and Selling Forged Paintings for Millions of Dollars

LOS ANGELES—A Florida man was arrested this morning pursuant to a federal indictment that alleges he sold paintings stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery, and that he had sold forged artworks to a collector with false claims that they had been painted by esteemed artists.

Matthew Taylor, 43, of Vero Beach, Florida, was arrested without incident this morning by special agents with the FBI. Taylor, who formerly worked as an art dealer, is expected to make his initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Fort Pierce, Florida.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Taylor last week on seven felony charges related to art theft and a long-running fraud that targeted a Los Angeles art collector.

The indictment charges Taylor with defrauding the art collector victim out of millions of dollars by selling him forged art works. Taylor allegedly sold the collector more than 100 paintings—including paintings that he falsely claimed were by artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko—for a total of more than $2 million. The indictment alleges that Taylor altered paintings from unknown artists to make them appear to be the products of famous artists, and then sold the bogus artwork to the victim at prices exponentially higher than their actual worth.

To conceal the true nature of the paintings, Taylor allegedly put forged on the paintings and painted over or otherwise concealed signatures from the actual artists. The indictment also alleges that Taylor created and put onto the paintings fake labels which falsely represented that the artworks were once part of prestigious art collections at famous museums, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in the New York and the Guggenheim Museum.

Regarding the alleged art heists, the indictment accuses Taylor of stealing a Granville Redmond painting called “Seascape at Twilight” from a gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor later sold that painting to a different gallery for $85,000, falsely claiming that his mother had owned it for several years. The indictment also alleges that Taylor stole a separate artwork—a painting by Lucien Frank titled “Park Scene, Paris”—from the same gallery in Los Angeles. Taylor was seen several years later in possession of the stolen Lucien Frank painting at a gallery in Vero Beach.

The indictment further alleges that Taylor laundered and transferred across state lines some of the proceeds from his fraud on the collector victim—specifically, $105,000 that Taylor had taken from the victim by selling him four forged paintings in September 2006.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

The indictment charges Taylor with three counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering, one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and one count of possession of stolen property. The mail fraud charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, and the remaining counts each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years. Therefore, if he is convicted of all seven counts in the indictment, Taylor faces a maximum possible sentence of 100 years in federal prison.”

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 McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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