2nd campaign aide to DC mayor faces federal charges

May 24, 2012

CBS News on May 24, 2012 released the following:

“WASHINGTON — A second former aide to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray was charged Wednesday with a federal offense arising from Gray’s 2010 campaign and intends to plead guilty, a day after another aide’s guilty plea revealed the use of underhanded tactics to get Gray elected.

Howard Brooks, a 64-year-old campaign consultant to Gray, faces a single count of making a false statement to the FBI. He was charged in a criminal information, a document that typically means a defendant has reached a plea deal. A plea hearing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court.

According to the document, Brooks told FBI agents in April 2011 that he never gave any cash, money orders or other payments to the campaign of minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown, when in fact Brooks did make such payments.

At some point after the agents interviewed him, Brooks began cooperating with the FBI.

The charges have rattled the first-term mayor, who has been the subject of a federal probe since Brown went public last March with allegations that he was paid by the Gray campaign and promised a job in the Gray administration in exchange for making disparaging comments about then-mayor Adrian Fenty on the campaign trail. Gray has denied knowledge of the payments.

Gray declined to comment Wednesday on the charges, citing the ongoing investigation.

“We’ll let the investigation play out as well as it should, and then we’ll see where we are,” Gray said before chastising reporters for not paying attention to “the good things that are going on in this city.”

Gray won the 2010 Democratic primary by 10 percentage points after tapping into widespread dissatisfaction with Fenty, perceived by many as aloof. Gray, 69, billed himself as the more ethical candidate, criticizing Fenty for steering lucrative government contracts to his fraternity brothers. But Gray’s administration has been mired in scandal since shortly after he took office.

Thomas Gore, the acting treasurer for Gray’s campaign who pleaded guilty Tuesday, said in court that he was captured on a wiretap talking to Brooks about shredding evidence of payments to Brown. Brooks was not mentioned by name in court because he had not yet been charged.

Gore acknowledged at his plea hearing that he and Brooks conspired to convert undocumented cash contributions into money orders that were given to Brown, and that Brown was paid to stay in the race and disparage Fenty. The money orders contained the names of relatives and associates of Brooks, including his son Peyton Brooks. Gore admitted giving Brown $660 in money orders, although Brown contends the Gray campaign gave him more.

Peyton Brooks’ attorney, Troy W. Poole, confirmed Wednesday that his client has been granted immunity from prosecution in the ongoing federal probe. Poole added that Howard Brooks’ guilty plea had nothing to do with his client receiving immunity.

The charge against Brooks is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, although Brooks would likely receive a much lighter sentence under federal guidelines. His cooperation also could lead to a reduced sentence.

Brooks’ attorney, Glenn Ivey, did not return a message seeking comment.

Brooks and the mayor are not close — Gray said in late 2011 that he had not spoken to Brooks all year — and Brooks is not well-known in district politics. He is, however, a close personal friend of Lorraine Green, Gray’s campaign chairwoman and closest adviser during his 2010 bid. Brown has said he also received money from Green before she delegated that task to Brooks.

Brooks was rewarded handsomely for his work on the Gray campaign, receiving $44,000 in consulting fees. He was also paid $34,500 by the Gray transition.

Council Chairman Kwame Brown is also the subject of a federal probe for actions during his 2008 campaign, and former councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. is heading to prison after pleading guilty in January to embezzling from the city.

Several Gray campaign staffers have said Sulaimon Brown’s harsh rhetoric against Fenty at campaign forums amounted to a sideshow that did nothing to help Gray, although Brown has claimed his efforts were crucial. The Gray administration appointed Brown to a $110,000-a-year position in January 2011 and fired him less than a month later.

In a statement emailed to reporters Wednesday morning before the charges against Brooks were filed, Brown called on Gray to resign for violating the public trust. He also praised U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen for his efforts.

“I was not looking for vindication for the truth need not be vindicated,” Brown wrote. “I was seeking justice.””

————————————————————–

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.


Alaska Wildlife Trafficking Case Recovers Stolen Victorian Artwork From esse Leboeuf and Loretta Sternbach

May 5, 2012

Huffington Post on May 4, 2012 released the following:

“Reuters

By Yereth Rosen

May 3 (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors are seeking to take control of five paintings – one valued at up to $50,000 – seized in one of Alaska’s biggest wildlife-trafficking cases in recent years.

Prosecutors said they hope to ultimately return the paintings to their rightful owners.

The paintings were found during last year’s prosecution of two Alaskans, Jesse Leboeuf and Loretta Sternbach, who pleaded guilty in July to wildlife trafficking and weapons charges.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, the pair admitted to buying raw ivory and other animal body parts from Alaskan natives in an impoverished Bering Strait island village.

The couple also acknowledged trading cash, guns, ammunition, snowmobiles, cigarettes and other goods for the illegal wildlife parts, then trying to sell them over the Internet to buyers in the lower 48 states and in Alaska.

Contraband collected at the time included ivory from roughly 100 walruses, according to federal prosecutors, who called it Alaska’s biggest wildlife-trafficking case in two decades.

A co-defendant, Richard Weshenfelder of Anchorage, pleaded guilty to helping Leboeuf and Sternbach sell the wildlife parts on the Internet and was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The art is currently being held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as evidence, spokesman Bruce Woods said, and releasing the paintings in civil forfeiture will allow insurers to receive them.

“Our plan at this point is to have the paintings back in the custody of the insurance company n ext week,” he said, adding that for a federal agency that enforces wildlife-protection laws in Alaska, the paintings are unusual pieces of evidence.

“There’s been things like jewelry from overseas made from parts of endangered animals, but as far as pieces of fine art, that’s never happened, as far as I can remember,” Woods said.

Although most of his criminal activity involved illegal trade in Arctic wildlife, Leboeuf appeared convinced that sale of the stolen paintings would yield him a small fortune, according to an affidavit filed on Tuesday by a Fish and Wildlife Service investigator.

Leboeuf told an undercover agent in 2010 the paintings, which he said were stolen by his half-brother and some cousins from a collector in Connecticut, were worth a total of $1 million, according to the affidavit. (Reporting by Cynthia Johnston; editing by Todd Eastham)”

————————————————————–

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

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

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.


Feds: Irvine real estate broker deserves five years in prison

April 16, 2012

The Orange County Register on April 13, 2012 released the following:

“By BRIAN MARTINEZ

Federal prosecutors are recommending a sentence of no more than five years and three months for David R. Sparks, the Irvine real estate broker who swindled $4.3 million from 34 victims in a Ponzi scheme.

Sparks is a former planning commissioner for Irvine who resigned the post just after the FBI began investigating his business dealings. He took money from family members, close friends and acquaintances, prosecutors said.

U.S. attorneys filed their formal recommendation petition, the result of a plea agreement, on Thursday.

“The government notes that prior to being charged, defendant took full responsibility for his fraud and pleaded guilty,” the document states. “By doing so, defendant saved the government considerable resources which were, in turn, used to pursue other investigations.”

Sparks’ sentencing hearing is May 7 at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana. Judge Cormac J. Carney, who is handling the case, is not bound by the five-year recommendation. Sparks faces a maximum prison term of 20 years.

He pleaded guilty in July to one count of felony interstate wire fraud. The plea deal calls for Sparks to repay the $4.3 million he took from his victims.

That figure does not include any taxes the victims paid on the false profits, the costs incurred in the ordeal or interest payments and late fees promised in the investment agreements. Victims may seek reimbursement for that money via civil lawsuits.

He was first scheduled to be sentenced in December, but that was postponed at the request of his legal team when he encountered some health issues. Prosecutors supported the postponement so as to not burden the prison health care system with expensive medical procedures for Sparks that could have included heart surgery, court records show.

The real estate license for his company, Sparks Realty & Investment Inc., has yet to be revoked, according to a state-run online database.

Details from the criminal case documents, two uncontested civil lawsuits and victim statements to The Orange County Register paint a picture of Sparks as a charming man who claimed to be buying, rehabbing and selling foreclosed or pre-foreclosure homes that he never actually purchased.

He forged bank documents, used non-existent escrow companies, provided bogus status updates and falsely reported significant profits, the lawsuits claimed. If the investors did not want to reinvest their money with him, Sparks made up excuses for why he could not give it back.

The defendant started speculative real estate investing in the late 1980s, according to the plea agreement. In 2005, he believed that real property in Utah’s Cedar City was likely to see a dramatic increase in value, so he used his own funds and investor cash to buy 35 properties for approximately $7 million in Utah and California, the document says.

By 2007, the rents Sparks was collecting from the properties were no longer sufficient to cover the debt service. Sparks began soliciting cash from investors to cover the debts – deliberately lying to them by telling them the funds would be used to buy new properties.

To back up his lies to investors, Sparks created false paperwork.

Sparks took in about $4.8 million under the false pretenses. He spent about $500,000 on “lulling payments” to the investors and about $4.3 million on his debt, the plea agreement states.

Some assets are to be transferred to the United States government to liquidate. If his current assets and cash can’t cover the restitution, he will presumably have to pay the rest of it back from his earnings once he gets out of prison, if he goes to prison.

Two lawsuits were already filed in January – one by a 22-year friend of Sparks from Santa Ana and one by a married couple from Wisconsin. Sparks never responded to the courts, which handed the plaintiffs default judgments.

The FBI’s investigation did not find any evidence that Sparks is in possession of a large sum of money. But some victims still believe he has money stashed away somewhere.

The FBI began investigating Sparks in January of 2011. Sparks resigned from the Irvine Planning Commission in February of the same year.”

————————————————————–

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 Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

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.


Christopher Coke Pleaded Guilty in Federal Court to Trafficking Large Quantities of Marijuana and Cocaine, as well as Approving the Stabbing of a Marijuana Dealer in New York

September 1, 2011

The New York Times on September 1, 2011 released the following in print:

“Jamaican Kingpin Seized After Violent Manhunt Pleads Guilty in Manhattan

By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN

Christopher Coke, a Jamaican drug trafficker whose arrest last summer came after a monthlong manhunt that left scores dead in Kingston, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to racketeering conspiracy charges in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

The guilty plea emerged during an hour of quiet dialogue between Mr. Coke and a federal judge, a proceeding that stood in sharp contrast to the violence generated last year as the Jamaican authorities searched for Mr. Coke, a neighborhood don, at the request of American prosecutors.

Mr. Coke, a short, balding man of 42, pleaded guilty to trafficking large quantities of marijuana and cocaine, as well as approving the stabbing of a marijuana dealer in New York. He faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison; the plea deal does not require him to cooperate or to testify on behalf of the government in any proceeding.

“I’m pleading guilty because I am,” he told Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr.

In seeking Mr. Coke’s extradition, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, charged that for more than a decade Mr. Coke had controlled an international drug ring from his stronghold of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston.

His organization often transported cocaine to Miami and New York, prosecutors said. A portion of the profits, they said, went to buy guns in the United States, which were shipped back to Mr. Coke, who wielded considerable political influence in Jamaica. His organization was so well armed that it “rendered the Tivoli Gardens area virtually off-limits to the local police,” prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing.

The extradition and prosecution of Mr. Coke’s father, a leader of the same criminal organization, had been sought by the United States, but he died in a mysterious fire in a Jamaican prison cell in 1992.

The manhunt for Christopher Coke last year led to more than 70 deaths; in some instances, the police executed unarmed men, according to relatives of victims. In the months before the Jamaican prime minister, Bruce Golding, acted on the extradition request, Jamaican leaders warned officials in the American Embassy that any move to arrest Mr. Coke could result in widespread violence or civil unrest because Mr. Coke was well fortified in Tivoli Gardens and had a measure of popular support, according to a review of secret State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.

His plea deal came together in recent days after prosecutors told Mr. Coke’s lawyers that various confidential informers were prepared to testify that Mr. Coke had been involved in five murders, one of Mr. Coke’s lawyers, Stephen H. Rosen, said. One witness was prepared to testify that Mr. Coke used a chain saw to kill someone who had stolen drugs from him, according to a filing.

Under the original indictment, Mr. Coke could have faced a life sentence if convicted.

Mr. Coke’s lawyers described him as a well-spoken man who had never cursed in their presence; they said he had approached his new life in federal custody, where he is held under unusually restrictive conditions, with stoicism. “He’s never been in bad spirits,” one of the lawyers, Frank A. Doddato, said. “Let’s just say he’s one of the last tough guys.”

Dressed in a blue smock and orange socks, Mr. Coke was one of the first in the courtroom to stand when Judge Patterson entered on Wednesday, and he was the last to sit down. During a lengthy hearing in which he was asked routine questions, like whether his lawyers had provided effective assistance and whether he had recently consumed drugs or alcohol, Mr. Coke remained perched attentively on the edge of his seat, answering each question carefully.

In giving a statement of his guilt, Mr. Coke remained vague as to the specific crimes he had committed. He said that “a person gave someone narcotics on my behalf, on my instructions,” without offering any further details other than the year, 2007.

Initially, Judge Patterson voiced skepticism that the vaguely described crimes to which Mr. Coke was pleading guilty met the standard for racketeering.

When Mr. Coke pleaded guilty to approving the stabbing of a marijuana dealer in the Bronx in 2007, Judge Patterson asked whether the person had sustained serious injury — a component of the charge. Mr. Coke said he believed the person was stabbed in the face.

“Was it something that required hospitalization or was it something he could go home and brag about?” the judge asked.

Mr. Coke said that he was in Jamaica at the time and did not know the details, but that he was sure it would have required medical attention. He did not offer the name of the person who was stabbed. Asked for details about the violence, Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bharara, refused to name the victim or the attacker.

Mr. Coke acknowledged involvement in the distribution of more than three tons of marijuana and more than 30 pounds of cocaine.

In addition to the confidential informers, prosecutors built the case using wiretaps the Jamaican authorities had been collecting since 2004, when they started eavesdropping on Mr. Coke’s cellphone conversations and on those of other members of his drug trafficking enterprise, according to a court filing.

Mr. Rosen said that some 50,000 conversations had been intercepted in the investigation. Of those, he said, “there was only one in which there was discussion of violence, and I can tell you it wasn’t murder.””

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 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.

Bookmark and Share


Bradley Whitsell Pled Guilty to Mail Fraud Pursuant to a Plea Agreement in Federal Court

August 23, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 22, 2011 released the following:

“Former SDN Communications Employee Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud

U.S. Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that Bradley Whitsell, age 46, of Sioux Falls, appeared before U.S. District Judge Lawrence L. Piersol on August 22, 2011, and pled guilty to one count of an indictment that charged him with mail fraud. The maximum penalty upon conviction is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.

Whitsell, a former management employee of SDN Communications, used his various oversight positions to embezzle funds totaling approximately $392,111.65 from SDN over approximately 10 years beginning in 2000. As part of his plea agreement, Whitsell has agreed to make full restitution to SDN Communications of $476,184.77 which includes the amount he stole, plus the amount SDN spent on a forensic audit that uncovered the theft.

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Koliner.

A presentence investigation was ordered, and a sentencing date was set for November 7, 2011. The defendant was released on bond pending sentencing.”

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.

Bookmark and Share


Claymon Trammell, Jeannettea Williams, and Michelle Trammell Plead Guilty in Houston Federal Court to Mortgage Fraud Scam

July 7, 2011

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

“Mother, Daughter, Father Plead Guilty to Mortgage Fraud Scam

HOUSTON – Claymon “Butch” Trammell along with his wife, Jeannettea Williams, and daughter, Michelle Trammell, have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. The three residents of Houston entered their pleas yesterday in federal court before United States District Court Judge Vanessa Gilmore.

From 2003 until the end of 2006, Claymon Trammell, 61, conspired with his wife, 56, and daughter, 39, to defraud mortgage lenders. Claymon Trammell and Williams recruited and paid individuals to act as straw borrowers on applications for residential mortgage loans, even though the borrowers had no intention of making payments on the mortgage loans or, in the case of homes supposedly purchased as “primary residences,” of residing in the homes. Some borrowers were used multiple times, including one borrower whose name and credit was used to “purchase” approximately 17 homes. Claymon Trammell pitched the scheme as an investment where the straw borrowers would not need any money down, would not be responsible for the monthly payments and would get money for the use of their name and credit.

At times during the scheme, Michelle Trammell and Williams were licensed mortgage loan officers. Michelle Trammell acted as a loan officer in the transactions and filled out loan applications in the names of borrowers and knowingly provided lenders with false information and documents about the borrower’s employment, income, assets and intent to occupy the purchased property. Michelle Trammell and Williams provided lenders with various documents she knew to be false, including false verifications of deposit, false verifications of rent and false earnest money contracts. There were more than 70 homes involved in the scheme, all of which went into payment default and most into foreclosure. The three defendants caused lenders to fund loans to purchase more than 70 homes in the Houston area and personally benefitted by funneling some of the loan proceeds to themselves via businesses they controlled and/or owned via bogus repair invoices and realtor and loan officer commissions.

For their conviction of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 371, the defendants face a maximum of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine as well as up to a three-year-term of supervised release at their sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 5, 2011. As part of their plea agreements, the defendants also agreed to pay restitution if ordered to do so by the court.

The investigation leading to the charges was the result of an investigation conducted by agents of the FBI. Assistant United States Attorneys Belinda Beek, Jimmy Sledge and Kebharu Smith prosecuted the case with assistance from paralegal specialist Brenda Williams.”

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.

Bookmark and Share