Jerry Williams to ask for leniency in Tuesday’s federal court sentencing

June 12, 2012

NaplesNews.com on June 11, 2012 released the following:

“By LAURA LAYDEN

FORT MYERS — Once facing fraud charges that could have put him away for life, Jerry Williams, the ex-CEO of Orion Bank in Naples, won’t spend more than 15 years in prison.

Under his plea agreement, he can’t get any more time than that for his crimes.

But he’s asking for a sentence of no more than five years, arguing through his attorneys that when he crossed the line it was an “isolated mistake.”

His sentencing hearing is at 1 p.m. Tuesday in federal court in Fort Myers.

Williams, 52, pleaded guilty to three counts involving bank fraud at Orion, with each count carrying a sentence of up to five years. He faces fines of at least $250,000 and he’s agreed to pay restitution to his victims. Charges in his original 13-count indictment carried a maximum sentence of 220 years in prison.

“Based on the fact he only pleaded to three of the 13 charges I see no reason for any additional leniency,” said Patrick Miller, Orion’s former senior vice president and one of the hundreds of shareholders in Orion’s holding company who lost millions when the bank failed in November 2009.

Williams admitted to orchestrating a complex scheme that involved illegally raising more capital for Orion and selling off bad loans to a borrower to make the failing bank appear in better financial shape than it was to its regulators.

Williams isn’t the only bank executive to find himself in trouble after doctoring financial documents and lying to state and federal regulators. Some of the more recent cases resulted in sentences ranging from a few months to more than six years in prison:

** In late 2011, a former Georgia banker was sentenced to six years in federal prison for a scheme that netted him kickbacks for fraudulent loans made to a Florida real estate developer. On top of his sentence, banker S. Pope Cleghorn Jr., the former president and CEO of Hometown Bank, had to pay more than $2.5 million in restitution to SunTrust, which acquired the bank after its collapse in 2008.

** Earlier this year, Mary S. Becker, a former vice president of Jersey State Bank in Illinois, was sent to prison for five years and three months for bank fraud and ordered to pay restitution after siphoning $4.45 million from the bank, putting it into her accounts.

** About a year ago, William Sandison, the former CEO of Community National Bank in Minnesota, got a four-month prison sentence and had to pay a $30,000 fine after he pleaded guilty to defrauding nearly two dozen other banks that invested millions of dollars in a failed town center project.

** A little more than two years ago, David Kennelly, a former executive with the Bank of Clark County in Washington, was sentenced to four months in prison after he hid appraisals on 17 properties that had fallen in value. Based on the appraisals, regulators would have required his bank to set aside nearly $17 million in reserves for loan losses.

** In late 2010, Jeffrey Thompson, former president of Hume Bank in Missouri, got a 6-and-1/2-year prison sentence after admitting he concealed problem loans from regulators and altered records. Loan losses caused the bank to fail in March 2008.

Peter Turecek, a senior managing director in the New York office of Kroll, a leading risk consulting company, said though plea deals can often result in lighter sentences for the accused, there are benefits to others. There doesn’t have to be a costly trial, saving taxpayer money, and it keeps the courts from getting clogged.

If Williams went to prison for life he wouldn’t be able to pay restitution, Turecek noted.

Bank fraud often doesn’t involve hardened criminals, he said.

“They are people who probably went into it with a high ideal and a desire to run a business and somewhere along the way something came up and when faced with an ethical decision or hard decision they made the wrong choices,” he said. “Then they tried to continue to cover it up, which led to more lies.”

Fred Gibson, deputy inspector general for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a bank regulator, said his office has 210 open investigations and about half of those cases involve allegations of criminal activity against bank officials.

Some think there hasn’t been enough prosecution of bankers.

“The general feeling of a lot of people is that with this current crisis there weren’t enough put in jail,” said Ken Thomas, a Miami-based economist and independent banking consultant. “There is a public sentiment out there that ‘How could we have this terrible crisis with so many losses and very few people going to jail?'”

In the case of financial fraud, a judge needs to look closely at the victims and consider how they’ve been hurt, he said.

“You’re not talking about a lost life or someone who has lost a leg, or who is injured for life or paralyzed,” Thomas said. “But financial disaster can also ruin lives. They cause relationships to break up, foreclosures, lost homes, lost businesses.”

Williams’ co-conspirators already are serving time in federal prison and will have to pay restitution to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which lost $844 million when Orion failed. Their sentences ranged from two years to 5-and-1/2-years.

Nicole Waid, the federal prosecutor in the Orion case, wrote in a memorandum to the judge that Williams “clearly had the most to gain financially” from the fraud. He owned 24 percent of Orion Bancorp’s stock and was the largest single shareholder.

In 2009, Williams reported a net worth of about $78 million, but if his bank had failed at that time and his stock had become worthless his net worth would have dropped to $65,000, according to the court filing.

Waid’s recommending the court not go easy on Williams.

In a motion for a lighter sentence, Williams’ attorneys paint him as a community leader, a family man, a philanthropist, a caring employer. Attached to the motion are letters from his wife, Heather, and other supporters.

“He offers neither excuses nor qualifications,” his attorneys wrote. “And yet the facts of this case compel one to recognize it for what it is: a critical aberration from an otherwise exemplary life and career.””

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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 – 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.


Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings

April 16, 2012

The Washington Post on April 13, 2012 released the following:

“By Peter Finn

Days before his arrest in Pittsburgh last month, Khalifa Ali al-Akili posted a remarkable message on his Facebook page: A mysterious man who spoke often of jihad had tried to interest Akili in buying a gun, then later introduced him to a second man, whom Akili was assured was “all about the struggle.”

It smelled, Akili wrote on Facebook, like a setup.

“I had a feeling that I had just played out a part in some Hollywood movie where I had just been introduced to the leader of a ‘terrorist’ sleeper cell,” Akili wrote.

When he googled a phone number provided by the second man, it turned out to be to Shahed Hussain, one of the FBI’s most prolific and controversial informants for terrorism cases. Soon the sting was off; Akili was subsequently arrested on gun — not terrorism — charges, which he has denied.

It was a rare miss for Hussain, 55, who has played a wealthy, dapper member of a Pakistani terrorist group in several FBI operations over nearly a decade.

This role has inflamed Muslim and civil rights activists, who describe Hussain as an “agent provocateur,” and prompted harsh comments from the presiding judge in a 2010 case, who questioned his honesty and the aggressiveness of the FBI’s tactics.

“I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition,” said U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon at the sentencing of four men from Newburgh, N.Y., convicted on terrorism charges. She added, “That does not mean there was no crime.”

Hussain declined to speak about his work for the FBI, saying in a brief phone interview, “I can’t say anything for security reasons.” The FBI declined to discuss Hussain or McMahon’s comments.

But the blown Pittsburgh sting and the voluminous court records from the 2010 case have provided rare insight into a tactic used increasingly by the FBI since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in which suspects are monitored almost from the beginning of plots and provided with means to help them carry them out. The targets in such stings have included Washington’s Metro subway system, the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.

There have been 138 terrorism or national security cases involving informants since 2001, and 51 of those have come over the past three years, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York. The center said the government secured convictions in 91 percent of those cases.

Law enforcement officials say stings are a vital tactic for heading off terrorism. But civil rights activists and others say the FBI has been identifying individuals with radical views who, despite brash talk, might have little ability to launch attacks without the government’s help.

“It almost seems like the government is creating a theatrical event that produces more fear in the community,” said Michael German, a senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI agent who worked undercover.

Yet in these terrorism stings, every attempted defense that has alleged entrapment by the government has failed, according to Fordham’s Center on National Security. The FBI said that record speaks volumes and rejected any suggestion that it has invented terrorist plots. “They present the idea,” FBI spokesman Kathleen Wright said of the targets of investigations. “It is not us coming up with these ideas.”

Officials said the subjects of these stings are the ones who first generate suspicion — by contacting terrorists overseas, attempting to secure weapons or speaking of a desire to commit violence.

One of the prosecutors in the 2010 case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin, said in court that confidential informants such as Hussain are an “important tool” for the FBI. “Mr. Hussain is Pakistani. He speaks Urdu. He speaks Pashto. He’s Muslim. He can read Arabic,” Halperin said. “All of these things make Mr. Hussain a very valuable asset for the FBI.”

The birth of an asset

In testimony for the 2010 terrorism case, for which Hussain appeared as a witness for the prosecution, he described himself as a member of a politically connected family in Pakistan who fled to the United States with his wife and children after he was falsely accused of murder during a government crackdown against the secular MQM party. He arrived on a fake British passport in 1994, Hussain testified.

In the years since, his relatives in Pakistan have transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to him, allowing him and his family to acquire gas stations, a beverage center and a motel in Upstate New York, according to financial records produced in court. He also testified that former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, during a trip to New York, gave his son $40,000 to buy a new car, but the judge, McMahon, questioned the veracity of the claim.

It was not the only time McMahon expressed doubts about Hussain’s honesty.

“By the end of the trial, the jury knew that Hussain had lied about his finances to at least two courts (the Northern District of New York and the Northern District Bankruptcy Court), lied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, lied to the Town of Colonie and its school district about his residence, lied to potential customers of his motel, and lied to the IRS about his income at tax time,” wrote McMahon.

In late 2001, Hussain was arrested on federal fraud charges of helping immigrants illegally secure driver’s licenses. Hussain, who had been working as a translator for the Department of Motor Vehicles, faced a possible prison term and deportation to Pakistan. He pleaded guilty and, as part of his agreement with the government, cooperated with the FBI by going undercover to secure evidence against several former associates in the scheme, including his mistress.

Hussain excelled in this new role — a fact grudgingly accepted even by his detractors.

“Both his physical and emotional presence seemed impervious to chastisement, to exposure, to anything — nothing seemed to throw his casual defiance off course,” said Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham’s Center on National Security, who has observed Hussain in court.

The bureau also has sent Hussain to London and Pakistan, where he infiltrated a terrorist training camp, according to court testimony.

In the summer of 2003, Hussain first adopted the persona of the suave, moneyed terrorist at the direction of the FBI. The object of the sting was Yassin Aref, an Iraqi Kurd and the spiritual leader of an Albany mosque.

Aref was convicted of participating in a plot to launder funds from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile. Aref’s attorneys said he simply saw what he thought was a loan between Hussain and the owner of a struggling pizza parlor who was also convicted. Aref and the owner of the pizza parlor were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The informant at work

On another assignment for the FBI, Hussain went to Newburgh’s Masjid al-Ikhlas mosque 12 times before he met James Cromitie, a convert to Islam and a stocker at a Wal-Mart, in June 2008.

In a poor community, Hussain struck an odd figure, driving Hummers and BMWs and wearing designer clothes.

Salahuddin Muhammad, imam of the mosque, said in an interview that some people suspected that Hussain was an FBI informant. He was too eager to engage people in conversation about jihad, Muhammad said.

Cromitie, who attended the mosque infrequently, either didn’t hear of the suspicions of others or didn’t care.

Hussain later told the FBI that Cromitie said: “Look, brother, I might have done a lot of sin, but to die like a shaded (martyr), I will go to paradise . . . I want to do something to America.”

By July, Hussain had told Cromitie he was part of a Pakistani terrorist group. Cromitie, who had multiple drug convictions but no history of violence, said he wanted to join, according to the FBI’s debriefing of the informant.

During a November 2008 trip to Philadelphia with Hussain, which coincided with the terrorist attacks on several locations in Mumbai, India, Cromitie made some of his most incendiary statements.

Cromitie hadn’t heard of the attacks, but Hussain pointed out that one of the targets in Mumbai was a Jewish center, according to transcripts of conversations that were secretly recorded and later played in court.

“I’d like to get a synagogue,” Cromitie said.

The judge later noted in a finding of fact that “whenever Hussain asked Cromitie to act on those sentiments — make a plan, pick a target, find recruits, introduce the [confidential informant] to like-minded brothers, procure guns and conduct surveillance — Cromitie did none of the above.”

McMahon said that at this point Hussain began to add “more worldly inducements” to the “offer of paradise” beginning with a BMW “but only after Cromitie had completed a mission.”

Closing the net

Hussain left for Pakistan on Dec. 18, 2008, and didn’t return to the United States for two months. While he was away, the FBI briefed officials at Stewart International Airport in New York on the investigation but assured them that “Cromitie was unlikely to commit an act without the support of the FBI source.”

Indeed, Cromitie said, “I just dropped everything,” according to the transcript of the conversation. But when Hussain returned, Cromitie’s enthusiasm was rekindled.

McMahon later wrote that “the court believes and specifically finds that it was about this time when Hussain offered Cromitie as much as a quarter million dollars to participate in a mission.”

Such an offer was not authorized by the FBI, the prosecutor told the court. Hussain denied making it, saying the reference to a specific amount of money was not intended to be literal. McMahon, in her sentencing, said she did not believe him.

After a surveillance drive around Stewart Air National Guard Base on Feb. 24, 2009, Cromitie cut off communication with Hussain for six weeks, he later testified. Cromitie pretended to have left town, although he was still in Newburgh.

On April 5, Cromitie called Hussain. “I have to try to make some money, brother,” Cromitie said.

“I told you. I can make you $250,000, but you don’t want it, brother. What can I tell you,” Hussain said.

Cromitie soon was back in.

On May 20, 2009, Hussain, Cromitie and three associates drove south from Newburgh carrying three duffel bags, each stuffed with nearly 40 pounds of explosives and 500 steel ball bearings to maximize casualties at a synagogue and a Jewish community center in the Bronx. After bombing them, the men planned to double back north to Stewart Air National Guard base near Newburgh to launch a stinger missile at parked military planes.

But the FBI had provided the bombs and the missile and had rendered them harmless.

All four Newburgh men were later convicted on terrorism charges in a jury trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison. They have appealed.

On the final drive to the Bronx, Hussain tried to get Cromitie to prime the bombs by following his instructions on which wires to connect, Hussain testified. But Cromitie and the others couldn’t figure it out, and Hussain had to stop the car and do it himself.

When they got to the Bronx, Hussain had to explain how to operate a car key fob so Cromitie could open the first of the pre-parked cars and plant the bomb.

Afterward, Hussain asked him if he had turned the bomb on. “I forgot,” Cromitie replied.

Hussain told him not to worry, it could still be detonated.

Cromitie then set off to plant the other two bombs, but he couldn’t open the trunk of the next car. Hussain told Cromitie by walkie-talkie to just put them in the back seat.

Hussain then signaled for the FBI to move in.”

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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

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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.


Connecticut art gallery owner arrested on federal charges alleging fraud

April 4, 2012

PostCrescent.com on April 3, 2012 released the following:

By John Christoffersen, Associated Press

“BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTW) — An art dealer was arrested on fraud charges Tuesday, more than a year after his Madison gallery was raided by the FBI.

David Crespo, who has been accused previously of dishonest dealings in the art world, appeared in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport on mail and wire fraud charges. He was released on $50,000 bond.

Crespo owned Brandon Gallery, which was raided in November 2010 by FBI agents who seized several pieces of artwork. At the time Crespo denied that he was the target of a federal probe and said he was assisting a larger investigation into art fraud.

Crespo’s attorney and his wife declined to comment at Tuesday’s hearing.

Philip Coffaro, a Long Island art gallery owner who once did business with Crespo, said he was interviewed by FBI agents who showed him fraudulent certificates that Crespo had apparently used to overstate the value of signed Marc Chagall prints. Crespo would buy items from him for around $200 and mark them up as much as $10,000 for sale as far afield as Korea, Coffaro said.

“The certificates were disgusting,” Coffaro said.

Coffaro had a falling-out with Crespo in 2008 when he accused his former associate of selling off a piece of art that did not belong to him.

A lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York alleged that Coffaro loaned Crespo a Salvador Dali painting, “Folle Folle Folle Minerva.” Coffaro said Crespo later refused his demands to return it, giving it instead to another man to pay off a debt.

Coffaro spent $40,000 to reclaim the painting and sold it for about $220,000, but Crespo continued to claim ownership of the painting, according to a complaint.

A judge ruled in 2010 that Coffaro is the rightful owner. That ruling is under appeal.

“David is his own worst enemy,” said Coffaro, who owns Gallery 25 in Mineola, N.Y. “He took advantage of the system. He took advantage of people. He’s very smooth.”

The next court hearing for Crespo was scheduled for July 13.”

18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Mail Fraud

18 U.S.C. § 1343 – Wire Fraud

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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.


Defense witnesses say Stanford wasn’t hands-on boss

February 17, 2012

The Houston Chronicle on February 16, 2012 released the following:

“Defense witnesses portrayed R. Allen Stanford as distant from the day-to-day operation of his companies, as his lawyers laid a foundation Thursday for their contention that financial machinations by a star prosecution witness led to fraud charges against Stanford.

Joan Stack, who headed global human resources for Stanford’s companies in the final two years before U.S. regulators shut them down, characterized her boss as “disconnected” from much of the companies’ operations. She said he focused mostly on the Island Club, a resort for the wealthy he hoped to develop on Caribbean islands he owned.

She testified that government witness James Davis, Stanford’s former chief financial officer, worked out of an office in Tupelo, Miss. that Stanford set up to accommodate Davis, his longtime business associate and former college roommate.

Davis pleaded guilty to three felony counts and testified against Stanford during the government’s portion of the trial.

Stack described the Tupelo office as clubby, employing mostly relatives and friends of Davis or Laura Holt, former Stanford chief investment officer who is named in a separate indictment and will be tried later.

Stack said employees in Tupelo reported solely to Davis and Holt rather than to others in the company.

Kelly Bailey, a graphic designer, testified that Stanford told her to “work with Jim” on annual report numbers.

Bailey testified that Davis was “highly disrespectful” of Stanford and once mumbled under his breath “something to the effect of ‘he doesn’t know what he’s doing’” in reference to Stanford as they worked on financial reports.

She acknowledged under government cross-examination, however, that Stanford had the final say on annual reports.

Government witnesses testified earlier in the trial that they saw Stanford and Davis changing numbers on annual reports before sending them to printers, and Davis said they fabricated figures to make financial reports look more favorable.

Bailey said she also recalled last-minute changes on reports, but could not detail what they were.

Stanford is accused of running a $7 billion investor fraud through certificates of deposit issued by his Stanford International Bank in the Caribbean nation of Antigua.”

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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.


Prosecutors: Blagojevich should get 15 to 20 years

November 30, 2011
former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
“In this June 27, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media at the federal courthouse in Chicago. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, Blagojevich should be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison. Blagojevich’s attorneys are expected to respond with their own recommendation later Wednesday. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 6. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)”

The Associated Press (AP) on November 30, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich deserves a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for his convictions on corruption charges, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Blagojevich, who was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts including that he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, should receive more time than his predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, and a key former fundraiser, Tony Rezko.

Ryan is serving 6 1/2 years on racketeering and fraud charges. Rezko was sentenced last week to 10 1/2 years, minus time served, on convictions for fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze more than $7 million in kickbacks from companies seeking state business.

Blagojevich, who is to be sentenced next week, had campaigned as a reformer following Ryan and “was acutely aware of the damage” Ryan had caused, prosecutors said. And Blagojevich was an elected official, unlike Rezko, who also offered limited cooperation to the government, they said.

“As the chief executive of the state, Blagojevich was in a special position of responsibility to the public,” prosecutors said. “His abuse of office is particularly grave given the faith put in him by the citizens of Illinois.”

Blagojevich, 54, was convicted at two trials of 18 counts, including lying to the FBI. His attorneys are expected to make their own sentencing recommendation later Wednesday, ahead of Blagojevich’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Dec. 6.

Prosecutors appeared to preemptively attack any argument that Blagojevich deserves leniency. They said he should not be seen as a family man and governor who helped the state, but as a common criminal. The former governor “appears to be committed to his wife and daughters,” prosecutors said, noting that defendants in other cases also often have families that suffer when they go to prison. And any good work he did as governor shouldn’t mitigate the charges against him, prosecutors argued.

“Many criminals are productive members of society, holding down jobs that they ably accomplish when they are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity,” they said.

Prosecutors also enclosed a packet of news releases and articles about other convicted public officials who were sent to prison for 15 years or more.”

Government’s Sentencing Memorandum

Government’s Sentencing Memorandum – Exhibit A

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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.