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
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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.


Charlottesville Federal Grand Jury Indicted Individuals for an Alleged Contraband Cigarette Conspiracy They Organized

July 15, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia on July 14, 2011 released the following:

“GROUP INDICTED FOR CONTRABAND CIGARETTE TRAFFICKING

Four Men Are Accused Of Trafficking Cigarettes from Virginia to Northern States

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA — The owner of a Citgo gas station in Fredericksburg, Va, two of his employees and a man from the Bronx, N.Y., were indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville this week on charges related to an alleged contraband cigarette conspiracy they organized.

In an indictment returned under seal on July 13, the grand jury has charged Vijay Nanubhai Patel, 50, Pullin P. Amin, 30, and Diveshkumar Desai, 23, all of Fredericksburg, Virginia and the Bronx individual, whose identity remains under seal. The grand jury also charged Mars and Roshni, Inc., the company that owns the Citgo gas station.

The three defendants who appeared in court today have been charged with one count of conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and six counts of trafficking in contraband cigarettes. Patel, Amin, Desai and Mars and Roshni Inc., have each been charged with one additional count of conspiracy in regards to the failure to maintain cigarette sales records.

According to the indictment, Patel is the President of and directs the day-to-day operations of Mars and Roshni, which owns and operates C&J Citgo on Jefferson Davis Highway in Fredericksburg. Amin and Desai were employees of M&R and Citgo and worked under Patel’s management and direction.

From at least 2009, Patel, Amin and Desai purchased cigarettes from several legitimate sources in the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia. The three sellers also purchased taxed and untaxed cigarettes from an undercover law enforcement officers in the spring of 2011.

As part of the alleged conspiracy, the sellers would hold large amounts of cigarettes for cigarette traffickers who would drive to the Citgo station to purchase contraband cigarettes in amounts exceeding fifty cartons (10,000 cigarettes) and transport them to points outside of Virginia, including New York and Pennsylvania, for resale.

According to the indictment, between June 11, 2010 and April 21, 2011, alone, the sellers sold approximately 38,097 cartons of cigarettes to New York traffickers, costing the City and State of New York $4,867,024.50 in cigarette taxes and $431,948.42 in sales taxes.

During the peak of their alleged criminal activity, Patel, Amin and Desai were selling approximately $1 million in cigarettes a month to cigarette traffickers.

Each defendant faces a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for each count they are charged. Mars and Roshni faces a possible monetary fine if convicted. In addition, restitution may be ordered in this case.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and the Spotsylvania County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Huber and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Ramin Fatehi and Thomas Shaia are prosecuting the case for the United States.

A Grand Jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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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Christopher Blackwell Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on Two Counts of Wire Fraud in Relation to an Alleged Investment Fraud Scheme

June 24, 2011

U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 23, 2011 released the following press release:

Defendant allegedly defrauded more than 20 victims out of more than $4 million

FORT WORTH, Texas – A north Texas man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of wire fraud in relation to an investment fraud scheme he operated since January 2007.

This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas (NDTX). The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Christopher Blackwell, 32, of Colleyville, Texas, was arrested in Phoenix, Ariz., earlier this month on a charge outlined in a related federal complaint filed in the NDTX. Blackwell remains in custody; a date has not yet been set for his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.

According to the indictment, Blackwell allegedly deceived investors by falsely telling them that he would invest their money in business ventures that would generate a high rate of return, and by fraudulently assuring them that the investments would involve little to no risk. He told investors that their money would be invested in specific business ventures. But when he received investors’ money, instead of investing it he used most of it for his own personal benefit. On occasion, he used some of the funds from new investors to make small payments to earlier investors to convince them that their money was generating a profit. However, not all investors received payments from Blackwell, and many lost all the money they invested.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, more than 20 victims, suffering more than $4 million in losses as a result of Blackwell’s scheme, have been identified. One investor, identified only by initials, lost all of the $325,000 he gave Blackwell to invest. In fact, after this investor wired the money as directed to Blackwell’s accounts, agents obtained Blackwell’s bank records and were able to determine that Blackwell didn’t invest the money as promised. Instead, he used it for personal expenditures, including automatic teller machine withdrawals, dining and entertainment, luxury vehicle expenses, and payments to family and business associates.

In February 2011, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against Christopher Love Blackwell, AV Bar Reg Inc. and Millers A Game LLC, two entities he controls. The SEC complaint claimed that Blackwell enticed investors by telling them that his trading program would generate highly impressive, guaranteed returns of 25 to 30 percent per month with regularity. He falsely claimed these profits were possible because of his academic pedigree, including Master’s and Ph.D. degrees acquired at a prestigious university in Spain (Blackwell holds no such degrees); his extensive experience as a trader (he has little, if any, such experience); and the know-how and connections he acquired while employed by Goldman Sachs and The Bank of Madrid (he never worked at either firm). In March 2011, the SEC and Blackwell and his entities entered into an agreed judgment.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: http://www.stopfraud.gov.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. If convicted, however, each of the wire fraud counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could be ordered.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Stevenson Weimer is in charge of the prosecution.”

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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Utah Woman Indicted for Making Alleged False Statements to FBI

August 18, 2010

Lul Noor Abdi, age 42, of Salt Lake City, is charged with making false statements to FBI special agents and task force officers in a two-count indictment unsealed Friday morning.

The indictment alleges Abdi made false and fictitious material statements and representations to the agents and officers. The indictment alleges she told them that she had taken her son to live in Uganda when, as the government contends, she had taken her son to live in Somalia.

The indictment also alleges Abdi told agents and officers that she was supporting her son by sending money to a named individual in Uganda on her son’s behalf when, the government argues, she was sending money to that named individual in Somalia.

The government may have manipulated Abdi into making these alleged false statements. The FBI agents probably arrived at Abdi’s home, did not tell her that she, or her son, were under investigation, and began asking questions. Once Abdi gave information that the agents regard as false, they had the legal right to indict her for making material false statements to the government. Now that the government has indicted her on these charges, they will use it as leverage when attempting to elicit additional information in regards to her son’s whereabouts.

It is a form of trickery against an individual, and the government uses this tactic whenever they are conducting an investigation. It is critical to remember that an individual, when confronted with questions from federal agents, should not answer their questions and seek legal representation immediately.

Abdi was arrested last Thursday. She entered not guilty pleas to the charges at a hearing Friday morning. The potential maximum penalty for each count in the indictment is five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

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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