#AceNewsReport – Oct.27: According to court documents, Xizhi Li, 48, a U.S. citizen who previously resided in Mexico, led a years-long scheme to launder money on behalf of transnational drug trafficking organisations…..
#AceDailyNews reports that Leader of Money Laundering Network: To carry out the scheme, Li and his conspirators used a foreign casino; foreign and domestic front companies; foreign and domestic bank accounts (some of which were opened under fictitious identities; encrypted communications platforms; and false identification documents…..
Li often dealt directly with members of drug trafficking organisations or their representatives to obtain “contracts” to move their drug proceeds. Once Li and his co-conspirators obtained a “contract” to launder drug proceeds, they would engage in financial transactions that were designed to conceal the illicit source of the original proceeds in return for the payment of commissions.
On Aug. 2, Li pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. Today, Li signed a consent order of forfeiture for $10,000,000 to the United States pursuant to his plea.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber of the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement.
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Division and the DEA’s Special Operations Division – Bilateral Investigations Unit investigated this case, with assistance from the DEA’s Office of Special Intelligence, Document and Media Exploitation Unit and the DEA’s offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Omaha, Atlanta, Newark, Portland Dallas, Mexico City, Merida (Mexico), Guatemala City, Belmopan (Belize), Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines), Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Lima (Peru), and Canberra (Australia). The U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Interpol, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Targeting Center were partners in the investigation of this case.
This prosecution is part of two investigations supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, known as Operation Dark Castle and Operation Taishan Triangle.
Trial Attorneys Kerry Blackburn, Mary K. Daly, and Stephen A. Sola of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Peters and Michael P. Ben’Ary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.
#AceDailyNews reports that a Jury Convicts Chicago Man of Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS: According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Thomas Osadzinski, 22, of Chicago, designed a process using a computer script to make ISIS propaganda more conveniently disseminated online. The process would automatically copy and preserve ISIS media postings in an organized format, allowing social media users to continue to conveniently access and share the content….
In 2019, Osadzinski shared his script and instructions for how to use it with individuals whom he believed to be ISIS supporters and members of pro-ISIS media organizations. Unbeknownst to Osadzinski, the individuals were covert FBI employees and a person confidentially working with law enforcement.
Osadzinski was convicted of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization and faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. for the Northern District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office made the announcement.
The Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barry Jonas and Melody Wells for the Northern District of Illinois and Trial Attorney Alexandra Hughes of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.15: Bianca Acedo-Ojeda, 34, of Sinaloa, Mexico, was extradited from Mexico to San Diego in November 2019, and on March 10, 2021, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to court documents, Acedo-Ojeda agreed with others to arrange, and did arrange, for the drug proceeds in the form of U.S. bulk currency to be smuggled into Mexico through ports of entry in Southern California in vehicles with hidden compartments. She also agreed with others to and did arrange for much of the U.S. bulk currency to be converted into Mexican pesos and transferred to drug traffickers….
#AceDailyNews reports that a money launderer for the Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for laundering approximately $15 million from the sale of methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin that were smuggled into the United States by the Sinaloa Cartel…
“Money launderers are the lifeblood of criminal organizations,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We will continue to vigorously prosecute money launderers associated with violent transnational drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel. I want to thank the Government of Mexico for extraditing Acedo-Ojeda to the United States to face criminal charges. Through such partnerships, we will attack and work to dismantle dangerous drug cartels and their money laundering facilitators.”
“Those who launder funds in support the Sinaloa Cartel’s efforts to flood our borders with deadly drugs will face justice in this district,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman for the Southern District of California. “Stopping the flow of funds to one of the most violent criminal organizations in the world is essential to disrupting their narcotics trafficking and other criminal efforts.”
“This investigation and prosecution serve as a prime example of how Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and federal prosecutors work together to bring down those involved in large scale money laundering in support of international drug trafficking organizations,” said Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz for HSI San Diego. “HSI will continue to identify and investigate criminal organizations who seek to exploit our borders in furtherance of their illicit activity – if you engage in illegal finance activity to aid drug cartels, you will be caught and prosecuted.”
Six other defendants, including Acedo-Ojeda’s brother, have previously pleaded guilty in this case and been sentenced (Omar Ayon-Diaz; Osvaldo Contreras-Arriaga; Joel Acedo-Ojeda; Cesar Hernandez-Martinez, Gibran Rodriguez-Mejia, and Oscar Rodriguez-Guevara). Another defendant, Robert Gallegos-Lechuga, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and is pending sentencing. In addition, approximately 20 other individuals linked to the conspiracy who served as drug and money couriers and drug stash house operators have entered guilty pleas and been sentenced in related cases.
The investigation was conducted by HSI. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs worked with law enforcement partners in Mexico to secure the arrest and extradition of Acedo-Ojeda in Mexico.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Counsel Mark Irish of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Casper of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.15: These sentences are a major achievement in our fight against gang violence,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Gangster Disciples have ravaged communities across the nation, but now dozens of their leaders and enforcers are off the streets thanks to the extraordinary devotion of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners.”
#AceDailyNews reports that Lewis Mobley, 45, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison for his role as an enforcer for the Gangster Disciples gang, including shooting a minor in the chest twice for interrupting the filming of a gang rap video….
“For decades, the Gangster Disciples have destroyed communities all across the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia. “The gang’s criminal activity in Atlanta included the killing of innocent people, brazen shootings, and prolific drug-trafficking. These horrific acts and the victims lost and injured will not soon be forgotten. Our community remains united and our law enforcement partners are committed to making sure this type of crippling criminal activity is met with our best investigative and prosecutorial effort. We understand that the sentences issued in this case will not mend the hearts of those who lost loved ones to the crimes of the Gangster Disciples, but we do believe they will make our community safer.”
“The Gangster Disciples have wreaked havoc in our neighborhoods for far too long with the drug trafficking, thefts, violent assaults and murders they have committed,” said Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker of FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. “Mobley is the last of many members of the ruthless gang to be sentenced as a part of this investigation by the FBI’s Safe Streets Gang Task Force and its state and local partners. We are all committed to dismantling these organized and violent criminal enterprises in order to make Atlanta and all of our communities safer for our citizens.”
“These gang members committed a number of heinous crimes including murder, and this sentence ensures the final defendant was held accountable for his actions,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This verdict shows the FBI is firmly committed to putting violent offenders behind bars and dismantling criminal enterprises across the country in order to make our communities safe from violent street gangs.”
In total, 38 defendants have been sentenced in the case, which a federal grand jury indicted on April 27, 2016, and then superseded to add defendants on Oct. 24, 2018. Convicted defendants include the highest ranks of Gangster Disciples leaders from Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and California.
The Gangster Disciples are a national gang with roots in Chicago, Illinois, dating back to the 1970s, and are now active in at least 25 states. The Gangster Disciples brought money into the gang through, among other things, drug trafficking, robbery, carjacking, extortion, wire fraud, credit card fraud, insurance fraud and bank fraud. The gang protected its power and operation through threats, intimidation and violence, including murder, attempted murder, assault and obstruction of justice. It also promoted the Gangster Disciples enterprise through member-only activities, including conference calls, celebrations of the birthday of the Gangster Disciples founder, the annual Gangster Ball, award ceremonies and other events.
The gang was highly structured, with a hierarchy of leadership posts known as “Positions of Authority” or “POAs.” Members were organized into different positions, including board members and governor-of-governors who each controlled geographic regions; governors, assistant governors, chief enforcers and chief of security for each state where Gangster Disciples were active; and coordinators and leaders within each local group.
The gang strictly enforces rules for its members, the most important of which was “silence and secrecy” – a prohibition on cooperating with law enforcement. To enforce discipline among Gangster Disciples and adherence to the strict rules and structure, members and associates were routinely fined, beaten and even murdered, for failing to follow rules.
At trial, the government presented evidence that the Gangster Disciples were responsible for 25 shootings from 2011 through 2015, including eight murders, multiple robberies, the extortion of rap artists to force the artists to become affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, fraud losses of over $450,000, and the trafficking of large amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, illegal prescription drugs and marijuana. Additionally, through trial and pleas, a total of 33 different firearms were forfeited.
Those sentenced by the court include:
Donald Glass, 31, of Decatur, Georgia, the leader of HATE Committee, a Gangster Disciples “enforcement team,” was sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy and using a firearm to cause death.
Lewis Mobley, 45, of Atlanta, Georgia, a Gangster Disciple enforcer, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after a trail jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy, attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and using a firearm during that attempted murder.
Shauntay Craig, 43, of Birmingham, Alabama, who held the rank of Gangster Disciples Board Member, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Kevin Clayton, 48, of Decatur, Georgia, the chief enforcer of the Gangster Disciples in Georgia, was sentenced to 33 years in prison after a trial jury convicted him of RICO conspiracy.
Alonzo Walton, 52, of Atlanta, Georgia, who held different positions including overseeing the gang in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Indiana and South Carolina, was sentenced to 32 years in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy, carjacking and using a firearm in connection of that carjacking.
Vertuies Wall, 45, of Marietta, Georgia, the leader of the Macon branch of the Gangster Disciples, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy.
Antarious Caldwell, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples HATE Committee member, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy, robbery, and using a firearm in connection with that robbery.
Mario Jackson, 39, of Jacksonville, Florida, the gang “governor” of Florida, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Lawrence Grice, 32, of Bay City, Texas, the gang “overseer” for Texas, was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in custody, after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy and illegal drug distribution.
Mangwiro Sadiki-Yisrael, 48, of Marietta, Georgia, who held different positions including gang “governor” of Georgia, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay $396,942.46 in restitution to victims based on his fraud conduct, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Damien Madison, 34, of Denver, Colorado, the gang “governor” of Colorado, was sentenced to 19 years and seven months, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Vancito Gumbs, 29, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, a member of the Gangster Disciples while at the same time serving as a police officer with the DeKalb County, Georgia Police Department, who provided sensitive information to the Gangster Disciples and claimed to be a hitman for them, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a trial jury found him guilty of RICO conspiracy.
Frederick Johnson, 44, of Marietta, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who sold drugs with other gang members, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Antonio Ahmad, 39, of Atlanta, Georgia, the chief of security for senior gang leaders in Georgia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Roy Farrell, deceased, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a former Gangster Disciples board member, was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison after pleading guilty RICO conspiracy.
Jeremiah Covington, 38, of Valdosta, Georgia, a local leader for the Valdosta region Gangster Disciples, was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Dereck Taylor, 35, who provided security to Macon, Georgia gang leadership, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
James Travis Riley, 40, of Coffeyville, Kansas, the gang “governor” of Kansas, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute illegal drugs.
Nicholas Evans, 32, of Newport Beach, California, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute illegal drugs.
Ronald McMorris, 39, of Atlanta, Georgia, a local leader of the Atlanta Gangster Disciples, was sentenced to nine years in prison and ordered to pay $10,345 in restitution to victims after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Markell White, 48, of Atlanta, Georgia, a regional leader in Macon, Georgia, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Eric Manney, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples’ member who stored narcotics and multiple guns at his house, was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Terrance Summers, 48, of Birmingham, Alabama, the gang governor for Alabama, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Alvis O’Neal, 43, of Denver, Colorado, a drug trafficker for the Gangster Disciples, was sentenced to seven years and six months in custody after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Condelay Abbitt, 37, of Hoover, Alabama, a Gangster Disciples member who transported illegal drugs for the gang, was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Adrian Jackson, 42, of San Jose, California, the national treasurer for the Gangster Disciples, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Charles Wingate, 31, of Conyers, Georgia, a local leader for the Gangster Disciples in Covington, Georgia who sold drugs with the gang, was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Quiana Franklin, 38, of Birmingham, Alabama, a Gangster Disciples’ member who stored drugs for gang leader Shauntay Craig, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Anthony Blaine, 39, of Dallas, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to three years and five months in prison and ordered to pay $64,234.29 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Myrick Stevens, 32, of Madison, Wisconsin, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to three years and five months in prison and ordered to pay $8,700 in restitution to victims after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Thomas Pasby, 47, of Cochran, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $83,918.56 in restitution to victims after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Laderris Dickerson, 51, of Hartselle, Alabama, who orchestrated a carjacking with senior Gangster Disciples members, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison after pleading guilty to federal carjacking.
Carlton King Jr., 31, of Cochran, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $5,897.88 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Michael Drummond, 54, of Marietta, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $3,677 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Curtis Thomas, 44, of Cochran, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and ordered to pay $59,521.90 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Kelvin Sneed, 33, of Cochran, Georgia, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison and ordered to pay $24,417.89 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Arrie Freeney, 37, of Detroit, Michigan, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $25,641.36 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
Denise Carter, 47, of Detroit, Michigan, a Gangster Disciples member who engaged in fraud for the gang, was sentenced to eight months of home confinement and three years of probation and ordered to pay $7,938.45 in restitution to victims, after pleading guilty to RICO conspiracy.
The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Postal Inspection Services, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Clayton County Police Department, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, DeKalb Police Department, Georgia Dept. of Community Supervision, Georgia Department of Corrections, Gwinnett County Police Department, and Marietta Police Department investigated the case.
Principal Deputy Chief Kim S. Dammers and Trial Attorneys Conor Mulroe and Hans Miller of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Buchanan, Erin Spritzer, and Stephanie Gabay-Smith of the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the case.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.15: According to court documents, Mark A. Forkner, 49, formerly of Washington State and currently of Keller, Texas, allegedly deceived the FAA AEG during the agency’s evaluation and certification of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane. As alleged in the indictment, Forkner provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Because of his alleged deception, a key document published by the FAA AEG lacked any reference to MCAS. In turn, airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for U.S.-based airlines lacked any reference to MCAS — and Boeing’s U.S.-based airline customers were deprived of important information when making and finalizing their decisions to pay Boeing tens of millions of dollars for 737 MAX airplanes.
#AceDailyNews reports that a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Texas returned an indictment today charging a former Chief Technical Pilot for The Boeing Company (Boeing) with deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane, and scheming to defraud Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing…..
“Forkner allegedly abused his position of trust by intentionally withholding critical information about MCAS during the FAA evaluation and certification of the 737 MAX and from Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “In doing so, he deprived airlines and pilots from knowing crucial information about an important part of the airplane’s flight controls. Regulators like the FAA serve a vital function to ensure the safety of the flying public. To anyone contemplating criminally impeding a regulator’s function, this indictment makes clear that the Justice Department will pursue the facts and hold you accountable.”
“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas. “His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls. The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud – especially in industries where the stakes are so high.”
“Forkner allegedly withheld crucial information about the Boeing 737 MAX and deceived the FAA, showing blatant disregard for his responsibilities and the safety of airline customers and crews,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI. “The FBI will continue to hold individuals like Forker accountable for their fraudulent acts which undermine public safety.”
“There is no excusing those who deceive safety regulators for the sake of personal gain or commercial expediency,” said Inspector General Eric J. Soskin of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Our office works continuously to help keep the skies safe for flying and protect the traveling public from needless danger. Today’s charges demonstrate our unwavering commitment to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold responsible those who put lives at risk.”
According to court documents, Boeing began developing and marketing the 737 MAX in and around June 2011. The FAA AEG was responsible for determining the minimum level of pilot training required for a pilot to fly the 737 MAX for a U.S.-based airline, based on the nature and extent of the differences between the 737 MAX and the prior version of Boeing’s 737 airplane, the 737 Next Generation (NG). At the conclusion of this evaluation, the FAA AEG published the 737 MAX Flight Standardization Board Report (FSB Report), which included, among other things, the FAA AEG’s differences-training determination for the 737 MAX, as well as information about differences between the 737 MAX and the 737 NG. All U.S.-based airlines were required to use the information in the 737 MAX FSB Report as the basis for training their pilots to fly the airplane.
As Boeing’s 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot, Forkner led the 737 MAX Flight Technical Team and was responsible for providing the FAA AEG with true, accurate, and complete information about differences between the 737 MAX and the 737 NG for the FAA AEG’s evaluation, preparation, and publication of the 737 MAX FSB Report.
In and around November 2016, Forkner discovered information about an important change to MCAS. Rather than sharing information about this change with the FAA AEG, Forkner allegedly intentionally withheld this information and deceived the FAA AEG about MCAS. Because of his alleged deceit, the FAA AEG deleted all reference to MCAS from the final version of the 737 MAX FSB Report published in July 2017. As a result, pilots flying the 737 MAX for Boeing’s U.S.‑based airline customers were not provided any information about MCAS in their manuals and training materials. Forkner sent copies of the 737 MAX FSB Report to Boeing’s U.S.-based 737 MAX airline customers, but withheld from these customers important information about MCAS and the 737 MAX FSB Report evaluation process.
On or about Oct. 29, 2018, after the FAA AEG learned that Lion Air Flight 610 — a 737 MAX — had crashed near Jakarta, Indonesia, shortly after takeoff and that MCAS was operating in the moments before the crash, the FAA AEG discovered the information about the important change to MCAS that Forkner had withheld. Having discovered this information, the FAA AEG began reviewing and evaluating MCAS.
On or about March 10, 2019, while the FAA AEG was still reviewing MCAS, the FAA AEG learned that Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — a 737 MAX — had crashed near Ejere, Ethiopia, shortly after takeoff and that MCAS was operating in the moments before the crash. Shortly after that crash, all 737 MAX airplanes were grounded in the United States.
Forkner is charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. He is expected to make his initial court appearance on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison on each count of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Chicago field offices of the FBI and DOT-OIG are investigating the case, with the assistance of other FBI and DOT-OIG field offices.
Trial Attorney Cory E. Jacobs, Assistant Chief Michael T. O’Neill, and Trial Attorney Scott Armstrong of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Lewis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.13According to court documents, Haji Najibullah, aka Najibullah Naim, Abu Tayeb, Atiqullah and Nesar Ahmad Mohammad, 45, of Afghanistan, was previously charged with crimes related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. In addition to those charges, the superseding indictment charges Najibullah with attacks on U.S. troops conducted by Najibullah and the Taliban fighters under his command, including a June 26, 2008, attack on an American military convoy that killed three U.S. Army servicemembers – Sergeants First Class Matthew L. Hilton and Joseph A. McKay, and Sergeant Mark Palmateer – and their Afghan interpreter, as well as an Oct. 27, 2008, attack that resulted in the shooting down of a U.S. military helicopter. In October 2020, Najibullah was arrested and extradited from Ukraine to the United States where he remains in federal custody.
#AceDailyNews reports Former Taliban Commander Charged with Killing American Troops in 2008: Haji Najibullah, Previously Charged in the 2008 Kidnapping of an American Journalist, Was Also Indicted Today for 2008 Attacks on U.S. Servicemembers in Afghanistan, Including Attacks Resulting in the Deaths of Three American Soldiers …..
” Najibullah, who allegedly served as a Taliban commander in 2007 and 2008, is charged with numerous terrorism offenses relating to attacks against the U.S. military in Afghanistan, including an attack that killed three U.S. servicemembers, and others relating to taking an American journalist hostage in Afghanistan,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “He will now be held accountable in an American courtroom. The National Security Division and our partners are committed to identifying and holding accountable those who target and harm Americans anywhere in the world. I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this case.”
“As alleged, during one of the most dangerous periods of the conflict in Afghanistan, Haji Najibullah led a vicious band of Taliban insurgents who terrorized part of Afghanistan and attacked U.S. troops,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York. “One of these lethal attacks resulted in the deaths of three brave American servicemembers and their Afghan interpreter, and another attack brought down a U.S. helicopter. Najibullah also arranged to kidnap at gunpoint an American journalist and two other men and held them hostage for more than seven months. Neither time nor distance can weaken our resolve to hold terrorists accountable for their crimes and to see justice done for their victims. Thanks to the outstanding work of our law enforcement partners, Najibullah will answer for his heinous acts in an American courtroom.”
According to court documents, as of in or about 2007, Najibullah was the Taliban commander responsible for the Jaghato district in Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, which borders Kabul. In this role, Najibullah commanded more than a thousand fighters, at times acted as a spokesperson for the Taliban, and reported to senior leadership in the Taliban. During that time, Najibullah and the Taliban fighters under his command conducted attacks intended to kill and which did kill American and NATO troops and their Afghan allies, using automatic weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and other anti-tank weapons, including an attack that destroyed an Afghan Border Patrol outpost in or about September 2008.
On or about June 26, 2008, Taliban fighters under Najibullah’s command attacked a U.S. military convoy in the vicinity of Sayed Abad, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, with IEDs, RPGs, and automatic weapons, killing three U.S. Army servicemembers, Sergeants First Class Matthew L. Hilton and Joseph A. McKay, and Sergeant Mark Palmateer, and their Afghan interpreter.
On or about Oct. 27, 2008, Taliban fighters under Najibullah’s command shot down a U.S. military helicopter using RPGs in the vicinity of Sayed Abad, Wardak Province, Afghanistan. The Taliban subsequently claimed responsibility for downing the helicopter, asserting that it was “shot down [by] the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate.” The Taliban also falsely claimed that “[a]ll those onboard were killed,” when, in fact, no troops died as a result of the attack.
On or about Nov. 10, 2008, Najibullah and his co-conspirators, armed with machineguns, kidnapped an American journalist (Victim-1) and two Afghan nationals who were assisting Victim-1 (Victim-2 and Victim-3) at gunpoint in Afghanistan. Approximately five days later, on or about Nov. 15, 2008, Najibullah and his co-conspirators forced the three hostages to hike across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where Najibullah and his co-conspirators detained the hostages. For the next seven months, Najibullah and his co-conspirators held the hostages captive in Pakistan.
During their captivity, Najibullah and his co-conspirators forced the victims to make numerous calls and videos seeking help. For example, on or about Nov. 19, 2008, while in Pakistan, Najibullah and a co-conspirator (CC-1) directed Victim-1 to call his wife in New York. In one of the videos, Victim-1 – the American journalist – was forced to beg for his life while a guard pointed a machinegun at Victim-1’s face.
Najibullah is charged with conspiring to provide material support for acts of terrorism resulting in death; providing material support for acts of terrorism resulting in death; conspiring to murder U.S. nationals; murdering U.S. nationals Hilton, McKay, and Palmateer; murdering officers and employees of the United States, and a person assisting them in their duties, by killing Hilton, McKay, Palmateer, and their interpreter; attempting to murder officers and employees of the United States; conspiring to destroy U.S. military aircraft; destroying a U.S. military aircraft; conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction; conspiring to take hostages; hostage-taking; conspiring to commit kidnapping; and kidnapping. Counts one through five and nine through 13 each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Counts six through eight each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. Count five also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD, is investigating the case. Valuable assistance was provided by the New York and New Jersey Port Authority Police and the Department of Defense, as well as the Ukrainian authorities and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, which assisted in the arrest and extradition of the defendant.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg, David W. Denton Jr., and Jessica K. Fender of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with valuable assistance provided by Trial Attorney Jennifer Burke of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.12: Investigators thereafter searched Blanco’s residence and digital devices and discovered that he had successfully persuaded and coerced multiple minors to produce sexually explicit material. Blanco used various methods of deception and enticement, including by pretending to be a modeling agent or to be a minor himself. Blanco used Snapchat, Kik, Musical.ly and other applications to communicate with minor females for the purpose of having those minors create and transmit to him images of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Blanco admitted, as part of his plea agreement, that he communicated with at least 50 minors and asked for and received sexually explicit images from many of them.
#AceDailyNews reports that a man has been sentenced to 55yrs-in-prison: Jacob Blanco, 29, of Fresno, pleaded guilty in May 2020 to sexual exploitation of a minor and receipt and distribution of material involving sexual exploitation of minors. According to court documents, Blanco’s activities were discovered in March 2017 when the parents of a then six-year-old discovered the child had communicated with and created sexually explicit images at the request of another user on the social media application Musical.ly (now TikTok). Law enforcement investigators subsequently identified the offender as Blanco.
“The defendant used an array of social media to target and manipulate young children,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “I commend the investigative and prosecution teams for their success in removing a dangerous child predator from the community. While no amount of jail time can undo the pain caused in this case, I hope today’s sentence brings a sense of justice and healing to those harmed by the defendant’s crimes.”
“Today’s sentence is warranted due to the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct, the large number of minor victims, and the impact that the defendant’s conduct has had – and will continue to have – on the dozens of children victimized by the defendant,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “The fact that the defendant used social media to sexually exploit the victims serves as a reminder that the internet can be a dangerous place especially for children.”
“The abuse and exploitation of children is deeply cruel, violating the trust and safety of victims, which generates trauma that may never fully heal. We hope today’s sentence provides some measure of justice to those he harmed,” said Special Agent in Charge Tatum King of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI stands ready with its local, state and federal partners to bring a network of resources and its international law enforcement capabilities to bare against those who seek to exploit our most vulnerable. HSI appreciates the dedicated work of its special agents, computer forensics agents, criminal analysts, victim witness coordinators and forensic interviewers, together with the investigative and prosecutorial teams of our law enforcement partners, who are unwavering in their commitment to pursue these predators.”
HSI investigated the case, with valuable assistance provided by the Fresno County Sherriff’s Office and the Fresno Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Gappa of the Eastern District of California and Trial Attorney Nadia C. Prinz of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about internet-safety education.
#AceNewsReport – Oct.05: This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from HSI offices in Mexico City, Houston and Calexico, Mexico; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol, and U.S. Marshals Service.
#AceDailyNews report Bangladeshi national sentenced to prison for his role in a human smuggling conspiracy after a multiple ‘law enforcement’ agencies investigation that eventually brought Mohamad Milon Hossain, 41, to be sentenced on Sept. 28 in federal court to 46 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty March 5.
“Today’s sentencing is a great example of how Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) uses its worldwide resources and interagency partnerships to bring international criminals like Mohamad Milon Hossain to justice in the United States,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. “Hossain was a key facilitator and smuggler of Bangladeshi nationals and his actions put our national security at risk. HSI is committed to working with its domestic and international partners to combat this type of crime throughout the globe.”
“This human smuggling conspiracy operated on a global scale and endangered the lives of Bangladeshi migrants,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department will continue working with our law enforcement partners here and abroad to bring human smugglers like Hossain to justice and to disrupt these criminal networks that unlawfully bring migrants from across the world through Central America and into the United States.”
“This criminal placed profit before life,” said Acting Assistant Attorney, Jennifer B. Lowery, of the Southern District of Texas (SDTX). “Human smuggling like Hossain often put migrants in dangerous situations, many leading to serious injury and even death. The SDTX is no stranger to this issue and will fervently pursue the battle, holding accountable not only the transporters, but any individuals who provided assistance along the way.”
According to court documents, between March 2017 and June 2019, Hossain, was residing in Tapachula, Mexico, when he conspired and assisted human smugglers operating out of Bangladesh, South and Central America, and Mexico to bring numerous noncitizens to the U.S. border in exchange for payment. Hossain operated out of Tapachula where he maintained a hotel that housed the noncitizens on their way to the United States. Hossain provided plane tickets and other assistance for the individuals to travel from Tapachula to Monterrey, Mexico, where co-conspirator Moktar Hossain assisted their illegal crossing into the United States.
This investigation was conducted under the Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, a joint partnership between the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and HSI. The ECT program focuses on human smuggling networks that may present particular national security or public safety risks, or present grave humanitarian concerns. ECT has dedicated investigative, intelligence and prosecutorial resources. ECT coordinates and receives assistance from other U.S. government agencies and foreign law enforcement authorities
Trial Attorneys James Hepburn and Erin Cox of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting this case with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.29: The information alleges that along with George, Kevin Womble, 37, of Detroit, Andrae Sims, 43, of Farmington Hills, and Sarah Vidal, 31, of Novi, provided false and misleading documents about certain aspects of the companies’ respective business operations and payroll expenses. For example, the information alleges that George obtained payroll information that was used to support a seemingly legitimate PPP loan application submitted on behalf of an unrelated entity and then used the unrelated entity’s payroll information to support fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications.
#AceDailyNews reports that ‘Four Michigan Residents Charged with #COVID19 – Relief-Fraud’ After A criminal information was docketed today charging them in connection with a wire fraud scheme involving over $4.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
George, Womble, Sims and Vidal are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. George, a tax preparer, is also charged with three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent returns for conduct related to his tax preparation business. If convicted of all counts, George faces a maximum total penalty of 29 years in prison. Womble, Sims and Vidal each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
George, Womble and Sims are scheduled to make their initial appearances today in the Eastern District of Michigan. Vidal is set to make her initial appearance tomorrow.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin of the Eastern District of Michigan; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; Inspector General Hannibal Mike Ware of the SBA’s Office of the Inspector General (SBA-OIG); and Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Thomas of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
The FBI, SBA-OIG and IRS-CI are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Patrick J. Suter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John K. Neal of the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the department’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the PPP began, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.26: In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicole Boeckmann for the Eastern District of New York. “Her admissions in the statement of facts confirm that, while acting as the Chief Financial Officer for Huawei, Meng made multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in an effort to preserve Huawei’s banking relationship with the financial institution.
#AceDailyNews reports that The Chief Financial Officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Wanzhou Meng, 49, of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), appeared today in federal district court in Brooklyn, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and was arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud.
The truth about Huawei’s business in Iran, which Meng concealed, would have been important to the financial institution’s decision to continue its banking relationship with Huawei. Meng’s admissions confirm the crux of the government’s allegations in the prosecution of this financial fraud — that Meng and her fellow Huawei employees engaged in a concerted effort to deceive global financial institutions, the U.S. government and the public about Huawei’s activities in Iran.”
“This Deferred Prosecution Agreement will lead to the end of the ongoing extradition proceedings in Canada, which otherwise could have continued for many months, if not years,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law.”
“Financial institutions are our first line of defense in maintaining the safety and security of the U.S. financial system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “That is why the law requires that companies who avail themselves of the U.S. financial system provide financial institutions with truthful information about their business operations. Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies, admitted today that she failed to tell the truth about Huawei’s operations in Iran, and as a result the financial institution continued to do business with Huawei in violation of U.S. law. Our prosecution team continues to prepare for trial against Huawei, and we look forward to proving our case against the company in court.”
“Meng’s admissions are evidence of a consistent pattern of deception to violate U.S. law,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate companies doing business in the United States when there are signs they behave with contempt for our laws.”
The Scheme to Defraud Financial Institutions
According to court documents, and as agreed to by Meng in the DPA’s statement of facts, Skycom Tech. Co. Ltd. (Skycom) was a Hong Kong company that primarily operated in Iran. As of February 2007, Skycom was wholly owned by a subsidiary of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei), Hua Ying Management (Hua Ying). In November 2007, Hua Ying transferred its shares of Skycom to another entity that Huawei controlled, Canicula Holdings (Canicula). At the time Hua Ying transferred its Skycom shares to Canicula, Meng was the Secretary of Hua Ying.
In February 2008, after Huawei transferred ownership of Skycom from Hua Ying to Canicula, Meng joined Skycom’s Board of Directors, which was comprised of Huawei employees. She served on the Board until April 2009. After Meng departed from Skycom’s Board, Skycom’s Board members continued to be Huawei employees, Canicula continued to own Skycom, and Canicula continued to be controlled by Huawei. As of August 2012, Huawei included Skycom among a list of “other Huawei subsidiaries” in Huawei corporate documents written in English.
Between 2010 and 2014, Huawei controlled Skycom’s business operations in Iran, and Skycom was owned by an entity controlled by Huawei. All significant Skycom business decisions were made by Huawei. Moreover, Skycom’s countrymanager – the head of the business – was a Huawei employee. Individuals employed by Skycom believed they worked for Huawei.
During the same time period, Huawei employees engaged with a U.K. staffing company to provide engineers in Iran to support Skycom’s work with Iranian telecommunications service providers. Negotiations and contracting on behalf of Skycom were conducted by Huawei employees. To pay for these contractors, Huawei sent at least $7.5 million to the U.K. staffing company in a series of approximately 80 payments from Skycom’s bank accounts in Asia, including at a multinational financial institution (Financial Institution 1), to the U.K. staffing company’s account in the United Kingdom. The transactions were denominated in U.S. dollars and cleared through the United States.
In December 2012 and January 2013, various news organizations, including Reuters, reported that Skycom offered to sell “embargoed” equipment from a U.S. computer equipment manufacturer in Iran in potential violation of U.S. export controls law, and that Huawei had close ties with Skycom. In a statement to Reuters published in a December 2012 article, Huawei claimed that Skycom was one of its “major local partners” in Iran. Reuters reported that Huawei had further stated that “Huawei’s business in Iran is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations including those of the U.N., U.S. and E.U. This commitment has been carried out and followed strictly by our company. Further, we also require our partners to follow the same commitment and strictly abide by the relevant laws and regulations.”
In January 2013, a subsequent Reuters article reported that Meng served on the Board of Directors of Skycom between February 2008 and April 2009 and identified other connections between Skycom directors and Huawei. The article also quoted the following statement from Huawei: “The relationship between Huawei and Skycom is a normal business partnership. Huawei has established a trade compliance system which is in line with industry best practices and our business in Iran is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations including those of the UN. We also require our partners, such as Skycom, to make the same commitments.” This statement was incorrect, as Huawei operated and controlled Skycom; Skycom was therefore not Huawei’s business “partner.”
After these articles were published, Financial Institution 1 and other global financial institutions that provided international banking services to Huawei (collectively, the “Financial Institutions”), including U.S. dollar-clearing, made inquiries to Huawei in response to the above-described press reports. In early 2013, Huawei employees represented to the Financial Institutions that Skycom was just a local business partner of Huawei in Iran and that Skycom had not conducted Iran-related transactions using its accounts at the Financial Institutions.
To address the allegations in the news reports, Huawei requested an in-person meeting with a senior Financial Institution 1 employee. That meeting occurred on Aug. 22, 2013 in Hong Kong, at which time Meng met with an executive of Financial Institution 1 responsible for operations in the Asia Pacific region. During the meeting, Meng delivered a PowerPoint presentation written in Chinese, which was translated by an interpreter into English. Meng stated that she was using an interpreter to be precise in her language.
In her presentation, Meng stated, among other things, that Huawei’s relationship with Skycom was “normal business cooperation” and “normal and controllable business cooperation,” and she described Skycom as a “partner,” a “business partner of Huawei,” and a “third party Huawei works with” in Iran. Those statements were untrue because, as Meng knew, Skycom was not a business partner of, or a third party working with, Huawei; instead, Huawei controlled Skycom, and Skycom employees were really Huawei employees. It would have been material to Financial Institution 1 to know that Huawei controlled Skycom.
In addition, Meng stated that Huawei “was once a shareholder of Skycom” but had “sold all its shares in Skycom.” Those statements were untrue, because, as Meng knew, Huawei had “sold” its shares to an entity that Huawei controlled. Specifically, Huawei transferred Skycom shares from a Huawei subsidiary (Hua Ying) to another entity that was controlled by Huawei (Canicula). It would have been material to Financial Institution 1 to know that Skycom was transferred from one Huawei-controlled entity to another.
Finally, Meng stated that Huawei “operates in Iran in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations and sanctions” and that “there has been no violation of export control regulations” by “Huawei or any third party Huawei works with.” These statements were untrue because Huawei’s operation of Skycom, which caused the Financial Institutions to provide prohibited services, including banking services, for Huawei’s Iran-based business while Huawei concealed Skycom’s link to Huawei, was in violation of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560. Moreover, between 2010 and 2014, Huawei caused Skycom to conduct approximately $100 million worth of U.S.-dollar transactions through Financial Institution 1 that cleared through the United States, at least some of which supported its work in Iran in violation of U.S. law, including $7.5 million for Iran-based contractors from the U.K. staffing company to do work in Iran.
At no point during or after the meeting did Meng, who was aware of Huawei’s public statements about Skycom in Reuters, retract or amend any of those statements. Moreover, Huawei’s Treasurer, who also attended the August meeting, did not correct or amend any of the statements made by Meng.
Shortly after the meeting between Meng and Financial Institution 1, Huawei prepared an English version of the PowerPoint presentation at Financial Institution 1’s request. Meng later arranged for a paper copy of that PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to the Financial Institution 1 executive she had met with in September 2013. The representations in the English version of the PowerPoint presentation closely tracked the ones Meng had made during the meeting.
After the meeting and subsequent to receipt of Meng’s PowerPoint presentation, Financial Institution 1 decided to continue its relationship with Huawei. The other Financial Institutions similarly continued their respective relationships with Huawei.
Under the terms of the DPA, Meng has agreed to the accuracy of a four-page statement of facts that details the knowingly false statements she made to Financial Institution 1. Meng also has agreed not to commit other federal, state or local crimes. If Meng breaches the agreement, she will be subject to prosecution of all the charges against her in the third superseding indictment filed in this case. The government also agreed to withdraw its request to the Ministry of Justice of Canada that Meng be extradited to the United States.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander A. Solomon, Julia Nestor, David K. Kessler, Sarah M. Evans and Meredith A. Arfa for the Eastern District of New York; Trial Attorneys Laura Billings and Christian Nauvel for the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section; and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler, David Lim and R. Elizabeth Abraham of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case. Valuable assistance was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Morris and Brendan King of the Eastern District of New York’s Civil Division and Associate Director John Riesenberg, Attaché Andrew Finkelman of U.S. Embassy Paris and former Trial Attorney Margaret O’Malley of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.25: An international auction house (the Auction House) later sold the tablet to Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. (Hobby Lobby), an arts-and-crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for display at the Museum of the Bible (the Museum). Law enforcement agents seized the tablet from the Museum, pursuant to a judicially-authorized seizure warrant, in September 2019.
#AceDailyNews reports that the United States Returns to Iraq Rare Tablet Bearing Portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh: The repatriation ceremony was held today at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, the artifact originated in the area of modern-day Iraq and entered the United States contrary to federal law……
Acting Executive Associate Director Steve K. Francis of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen signed a ceremonial certificate transferring ownership of the artifact from the United States to Iraq. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Stacy White of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood; Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Hassan Nadhem; Director-General Audrey Azoulay of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and Ambassador-at-large Richard Kurin for the Smithsonian Institution also participated in the repatriation ceremony.
“We hope that returning the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to the Republic of Iraq is a message to the people of Iraq, and to the world, that the United States government will take action to seize and repatriate antiquities and other significant items of cultural heritage that have been unlawfully brought into the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“This office is proud to have played a central role in making this rare and ancient cuneiform tablet available for repatriation to its country of origin and the people of Iraq,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn M. Kasulis for the Eastern District of New York. “We will continue to use our civil forfeiture laws to combat the illegal sale of cultural treasures so that they may be restored to their rightful place in a country’s history.”
“Today, Iraq is reclaiming a piece of its cultural history,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh of HSI New York. “We are honored to have played a role in the repatriation of this rare tablet that was pillaged from Iraq, only to be sold without a valid provenance and any regard for his cultural value. HSI New York’s Cultural Property, Arts and Antiquity Investigations program will continue to work tirelessly to interrupt the criminal activities of those who loot antiquities and seek to profit off the theft of a country’s rich history.”
As alleged in the government’s amended complaint, in 2003, a U.S. antiquities dealer (the Antiquities Dealer) purchased the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, encrusted with dirt and unreadable, from a family member of a coin dealer in London. The Antiquities Dealer and a U.S. cuneiform expert shipped the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to the United States without declaring formal entry. After it was imported and cleaned, experts in cuneiform recognized it as bearing a portion of the Gilgamesh epic in which the protagonist describes his dreams to his mother. The protagonist’s mother interprets the dreams as foretelling the arrival of a new friend. She tells her son, “You will see him and your heart will laugh.” The names of the hero, Gilgamesh, and the character who becomes his friend, Enkidu, are replaced in the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet with the names of deities Sin and Ea. The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet measures approximately 6-inches by 5-inches and is written in the Akkadian language, which was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.
In 2007, the Antiquities Dealer sold the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet with a false provenance letter that stated that the tablet had been among miscellaneous ancient bronze fragments purchased in a 1981 auction. This false letter traveled with the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet as it was sold several times in different countries, and a later owner provided the letter to the Auction House in London. In 2014, the Auction House sold the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet to Hobby Lobby in a private sale and an Auction House employee carried it on a flight from London to the United States and then transferred it to New York. Hobby Lobby consented to the tablet’s forfeiture based on the tablet’s illegal importation into the United States in 2014.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) worked with HSI to forfeit the tablet in July. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.
The government’s case was handled by Senior Trial Attorney Ann Brickley of MLARS and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sylvia Shweder of the Eastern District of New York.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.23: HSI is proud to have been a part of this successful human trafficking operation,” said HSI Nashville Special Agent in Charge Jerry C. Templet, Jr. “Working in concert with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in operations like this results in multiple perpetrator arrests and the rescue of victims of these heinous crimes.”
#AceDailyNews reports that a human trafficking investigation results in seven arrests during the two-day joint operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), TBI Human Trafficking Unit and Human Trafficking Task Force, Cookeville Police Department, and the office of 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office sought to identify individuals seeking to purchase illicit sex from minors and recover potential victims of human trafficking:
Authorities placed several decoy advertisements on websites known to be linked to prostitution and commercial sex cases.
Those arrested include:
Michael Blair, 68, of Sparta, Tennessee, charged with patronizing prostitution of a minor.
Daniel Dubree, 41, of Cookeville, Tennessee, charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.
Christopher Garcia-Perez, 18, of Washington, North Carolina, charged with patronizing prostitution of a minor.
Steven Howard, 58, of Cookeville, Tennessee, charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.
Jonathan McDonald, 37, of Sparta, Tennessee, charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.
David McGee, 26, of Cookeville, Tennessee, charged with trafficking for a commercial sex act.
Eric Trobaugh, 34, of Celina, Tennessee, charged with patronizing prostitution of a minor and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.
HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.21: Moises Alexis Reyes-Canales, aka Psicopata, aka Convicto, 23, of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to the offenses on May 5. According to court documents, Reyes-Canales was a member and associate of MS-13 and participated in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery and drug trafficking.
#AceDailyNews reports that a Maryland man was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and other charges in connection with his La Mara Salvatrucha, aka “MS-13” gang, activities between 2015 and 2019.
Department of Justice: Office of Public Affairs
Specifically, in 2016, Reyes-Canales participated in the murder of a suspected rival gang member and conspired and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis. In addition, between January 2016 and February 2017, Reyes-Canales and other MS-13 members/associates sold cocaine and marijuana to raise funds for the gang. The drug proceeds were used to purchase more narcotics and weapons, and to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador.
“Due to the diligent work of our law enforcement partners and the department prosecutors in this case, Reyes-Canales and his MS-13 co-defendants will no longer be able to victimize the Annapolis community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Reyes-Canales and his co-defendants murdered one victim and attempted to murder two others, causing irreparable harm to the victims and their families. We will never stop pursuing those MS-13 gang members who intimidate and harm our communities.”
Co-defendants Marlon Cruz-Flores, 25, Fermin Gomez-Jimenez, 23, and Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, aka “El Lunatic” and “Zomb,” 22, all of Annapolis, previously pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy and gun charge; both Gomez-Jimenez and Cruz-Flores were sentenced to 38 years in prison and Martinez-Aguilar was sentenced to 24 years. Co-defendant David Diaz-Alvarado, 20, of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering in connection with his MS-13 gang activities. Co-defendant Juan Carlos Sandoval-Rodriguez, 23, of Annapolis, was convicted on Oct. 31, 2019, of murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering for the murder of Victim 1 after an 11-day jury trial; he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2022. All of the defendants remain detained.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Anne Arundel Police Department, the Annapolis Police Department and the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Office investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Matthew Hoff and Samantha Mildenberg Loiero of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Stendig of the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.
Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tip lines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.20: According to court documents, between July 24, 2008 and July 29, 2013, Marques operated a free anonymous hosting service located on the dark web, an area of the internet that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable. The hosting service hosted websites that allowed users to view and share images documenting the sexual abuse of children, including the abuse of prepubescent minors and violent sexual abuse. The investigation revealed that the hosting service contained over 200 child exploitation websites that housed millions of images of child exploitation material. Over 1.97 million of these images and/or videos were not previously known by law enforcement. Many of these images involved sadistic abuse of infants and toddlers.
#AceDailyNews reports that a dual national of the United States and Ireland was sentenced yesterday to 324 months, or 27 years, in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for conspiracy to advertise child pornography…… “Eric Marques was one of the largest facilitators of child pornography in the world,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner for the District of Maryland. “
“The defendant’s web service anonymously hosted hundreds of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children, which openly and notoriously spread millions of images of child sexual abuse across the globe,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This complex, global investigation, lengthy and successful extradition, and substantial jail sentence are proof of the Department’s steadfast and unwavering commitment to identifying and bringing to justice criminals who hide behind anonymous networks to abuse and exploit the world’s children.”
“ This is an egregious case where one individual hosted and helped others to share millions of horrific images and videos of the abuse of children, including more than a million not previously known to law enforcement, and attempted to keep the abuse hidden on the dark web. We are grateful to our law enforcement partners here and abroad for helping us to bring Eric Marques to justice. We will continue to do everything we can to find and prosecute those who use the anonymity of the internet to perpetuate the cruel and heartless business of the sexual abuse of children.”
“Today’s sentencing of Eric Marques sends a clear message to perpetrators of this egregious crime that no matter where you are in the world, law enforcement will hold you accountable and bring you to justice,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI combats crimes against children and stands up for vulnerable children across the globe.”
“Europol is pleased to have played its part in what ranks as one of the most important investigations ever conducted into child sexual abuse,” said Head of the European Cybercrime Centre Edvardas Šileris of Europol. “I applaud the great work of the FBI and our many other law enforcement partners in Europe and beyond for their cooperation on a global scale to tackle this most heinous crime and bring this dangerous individual before court. Ensuring the safety of children by identifying those who have been victimized and educating children to avoid these harms remains a top priority for Europol.”
As described in public documents, this case was a part of a path-marking global investigation that targeted thousands of users of more than 200 websites operating on the Tor network and dedicated to the trade of child pornography. The Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), the FBI and Europol conceived of and executed a globally coordinated criminal investigation of then-unparalleled scope, which pooled resources of over a dozen countries that deployed over 70 law enforcement agents to Europol, which served as the hub for operational support, facilities, and information sharing. Through this investigation, more than 200 child sexual exploitation websites were taken offline (along with hundreds of other sites sponsoring or facilitating criminal activity); the activities of tens of thousands of online child pornographers were disrupted; over four million images and videos of child sexual abuse were seized (including more than 100 previously unknown series of child abuse images and new images from more than 50 existing series); and dozens of offenders were identified and prosecuted throughout the world.
The FBI’s Violent Crime Section, Child Exploitation Operational Unit and the Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force conducted the investigation with significant assistance from the Legal Attaché London Office, An Garda Síochána, and Europol. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in bringing Marques to the United States and procuring foreign evidence during the investigation.
Deputy Chief Keith A. Becker and Trial Attorney Ralph Paradiso of CEOS and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Sullivan of the District of Maryland prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.20: The defendant, motivated by ISIS’s call to violence and hate, plotted a terrorist attack targeting a church in Pittsburgh,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “With today’s guilty plea, he will be held accountable for his crimes. The Department of Justice is committed to identifying, disrupting and holding accountable individuals who seek to engage in such attacks. I commend the agents, analysts and prosecutors who identified the threat posed by this defendant and took action to protect the public from his plans.”
#AceDailyNews reports that Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 23, of Pittsburgh pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to ISIS in relation to his plan to attack a church in Pittsburgh: Pending sentencing, the court ordered that Alowemer remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
Department of Justice: Office of Public Affairs
“Inspired by ISIS, Mustafa Alowemer devised and intended to carry out a deadly attack on a house of worship and its congregation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania: “ If not for the tireless, multi-faceted investigation by the FBI and our partner agencies, the true depth of his determination to commit violence in the name of ISIS may not have been exposed until his deadly plans were achieved.”
“The guilty plea today by Mustafa Alowemer leaves no question about his intention to commit an act of terrorism against a place of worship,” said Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office. “Mr. Alowemer will now face the consequences of his elaborate plan to inflict harm on innocent people. I’m proud of FBI Pittsburgh and all of the personnel who worked countless hours to protect the community, and I want to thank all of the agencies that participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Together, we combine our resources to identify and disrupt threats to protect our communities and the nation.”
According to court documents, Alowemer plotted to bomb a church located on the north side of Pittsburgh using an explosive device: His stated motivation to conduct such an attack was to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States to join together and commit similar acts in the name of ISIS. Alowemer also targeted the church to “take revenge for our [ISIS] brothers in Nigeria.” Alowemer was aware that numerous people in the proximity of the church could be killed by the explosion.
In furtherance of the plot to bomb the church, in May 2019, Alowemer distributed multiple instructional documents related to the construction and use of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an individual Alowemer believed to be a fellow ISIS supporter, but who was in fact an FBI employee: Alowemer distributed these documents with the intent that the information be used in the assembly of a destructive device and in furtherance of conducting an attack in support of ISIS. In or around June 2019, Alowemer purchased several items, including nails and acetone (nail polish remover) with the belief that they were necessary to assemble a destructive device and with the intention they be used to construct the explosives that would be detonated in the vicinity of the church.
Between April 16 and June 11, Alowemer met four times in person with an FBI Undercover Employee (UCE) and/or an FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS). At the June 11 meeting with the UCE and CHS, Alowemer provided additional details about the bomb plot and provided the materials, including boxes of nails, he had purchased for construction of the device. Alowemer provided printed copies of detailed Google satellite maps, which included hand-written markings identifying the church and routes of arrival and escape. Alowemer also wrote and provided a 10-point handwritten plan outlining details related to his plot to personally deliver explosives in a backpack. Alowemer expressed a desire to meet one more time to conduct planning and coordination prior to carrying out the attempted bombing in July 2019. That meeting was later scheduled for June 19 in the Pittsburgh area, at which time Alowemer was arrested.
Alowemer is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 26, 2022. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000.00, or both, and a lifetime term of supervised release. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force members who were directly involved in this investigation include: FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County Police Department, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Port Authority Police, Allegheny County Probation, University of Pittsburgh Police Department and UPMC Police Security.
#AceDailyNews reports that a District Court Orders Puerto Rico Companies to Cease Importation of Dangerous Children’s Products
A federal court permanently enjoined Puerto Rican companies Pharmacare Inc., China District PR LLC, as well as their owner, Juan Reynoso, from importing children’s toys and other consumer products that violate the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) and the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) among other laws.
In a complaint filed on Sept. 15, the United States alleged that Pharmacare, China District, and Reynoso violated the CPSA, FHSA and other related statutes and regulations by importing and selling children’s products that contained illegal levels of lead and phthalates.
According to the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, since 2017 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) collected a total of 116 illegal children’s and other consumer products from the defendants’ import shipments and retail locations in Puerto Rico. Those samples, including 32 from Pharmacare and 84 from China District, contained a total of 296 violations of federal law, including children’s products containing illegal levels of lead or phthalates, and products such as bicycle helmets, rattles and pacifiers that failed to meet various safety or labeling requirements. Based on its findings, the CPSC issued 10 notices of violation to Pharmacare and 15 notices to China District, notifying them that their products violated federal law.
“Products sold to consumers – especially those intended for children – must be safe,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department is committed to ensuring that companies importing and selling toys and other consumer products comply with CPSC regulations and federal law.”
“I’m delighted to see the settlement of this important case that will protect children from being exposed to dangerous chemicals in their toys,” said Acting Chairman Robert S. Adler of the CPSC. “I thank CPSC and the Justice Department staff for their tireless efforts on behalf of vulnerable children.”
“There is no greater responsibility of the Department of Justice than to protect our children,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “Companies cannot be allowed to import hazardous toys and children’s products into Puerto Rico. We take this responsibility very seriously and will take the necessary action to keep unsafe products out of the hands of our children. I appreciate and value the support from and collaboration with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
The consent decree, which resolves the case against all defendants, generally requires that the defendants stop importing children’s toys and certain other consumer products until the defendants implement numerous remedial measures to bring their operations into compliance with the law. These requirements include, among other things, hiring an independent product safety coordinator, conducting an audit of all imported merchandise in inventory for compliance with the CPSA, FHSA, and related laws and implementing a written product safety program. The defendants may resume importing children’s and other consumer products only after implementing these measures and demonstrating that their operations fully comply with federal law.
Trial Attorney Lauren M. Elfner of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch is handling the case with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney David Martorani for the District of Puerto Rico and Renee McCune of the CPSC’s Office of the General Counsel.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.19: Beginning in 2012, Fahd, 35, conspired with others to recruit AT&T employees at a call center located in Bothell, Washington, to unlock large numbers of cellular phones for profit. Fahd recruited and bribed AT&T employees to use their AT&T credentials to unlock phones for ineligible customers. Later in the conspiracy, Fahd had the bribed employees install custom malware and hacking tools that allowed him to unlock phones remotely from Pakistan. In September 2020, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
#AceDailyNews reports that the overall loss to ‘AT&T Estimated’at more than $200 Million: Muhammad Fahd, a citizen of Pakistan and Grenada, was sentenced today to 12 years in prison for his leadership role in a seven-year scheme to unlawfully unlock nearly 2 million phones to defraud AT&T Inc. (AT&T), inflicting more than $200 million in losses.
At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik for the Western District of Washington noted that Fahd had committed a “terrible cybercrime over an extended period,” even after he was aware that law enforcement was investigating.
Cellular phones such as iPhones cost hundreds of dollars. To make the phones more affordable, during the relevant time, AT&T subsidized the purchase cost of phones or sold phones to customers under installment plans. Unlocking a phone effectively removes it from AT&T’s network, thereby allowing the account holder to avoid having to pay AT&T for service or to make any payments for purchase of the phone.
According to records filed in the case, in approximately June or July of 2012, using the alias “Frank Zhang,” Fahd contacted an AT&T employee through Facebook. Fahd offered the employee significant sums of money if the employee would help Fahd secretly unlock phones at AT&T. Fahd also asked the employee to recruit other AT&T employees to help with the unauthorized unlocks.
Fahd instructed the recruited employees to set up fake businesses and bank accounts for those businesses, to receive payments and to create fictitious invoices for every deposit made into the fake businesses’ bank accounts to create the appearance that the money was payment for genuine services.
In the spring of 2013, AT&T implemented a new unlocking system that made it more difficult for the bribed employees to unlock IMEIs for Fahd. In response, Fahd hired a software developer to design malware that could be installed without authorization on AT&T’s computer system to unlock phones more efficiently and in larger numbers. At Fahd’s request, the employees provided confidential information to Fahd about AT&T’s computer system and unlocking procedures to assist in this process. Fahd also had the employees install malware on AT&T’s computers that captured information about AT&T’s computer system and the network access credentials of other AT&T employees. Fahd provided the information to his malware developer, so the developer could tailor the malware to work on AT&T’s computers.
AT&T’s forensic analysis shows the total number of cellular telephones fraudulently unlocked by members of the scheme was 1,900,033 phones. AT&T has further determined that the loss it suffered because customers, whose cellular phones were illegally unlocked, failed to complete payments for their cellular telephones was $201,497,430.94.
Judge Lasnik ordered restitution of $200,620,698. (The difference between this amount and the total loss reflects restitution ordered against bribed AT&T employees in related prosecutions.)
Fahd was indicted in 2017 and arrested in Hong Kong in 2018. He was extradited and appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle in August 2019. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in September 2020.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Seattle field office of the U.S. Secret Service, IRS-CI and the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Friedman and Francis Franze-Nakamura of the Western District of Washington and Senior Counsel Anthony Teelucksingh of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.18: According to court documents, after several weeks of planning, on the morning of April 27, 2019, Earnest drove to the Chabad of Poway synagogue, where members of the congregation were gathered for religious worship.
#AceDailyNews reports that John T. Earnest, 22, pleaded guilty in federal court to a 113-count indictment for the religiously- and racially-motivated murder of one person and the attempted murders of 53 other persons….
Department of Justice: Office of Public Affairs
“The defendant entered a synagogue with the intent to kill all those inside because of his hatred for Jewish people, and days earlier used fire in an attempt to destroy another sacred house of worship because of his hatred for Muslims,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “There is no place in American society for this type of hate-fueled violence. The Department of Justice will enforce hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws to the fullest extent of the law and will hold perpetrators accountable for these crimes, which inflict harm not only on individual victims, but on entire communities.”
Earnest entered the building armed with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle that was fully loaded with a 10-round magazine. He wore a chest rig which contained five additional magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition. Earnest opened fire, killing one person and injuring three other members of the congregation, including a then eight-year-old child. After Earnest emptied his initial magazine, several congregants rushed at Earnest. Earnest fled in his car and, shortly after, called 911 and confessed that he had “just shot up a synagogue.” Earnest was apprehended by local law enforcement who found the rifle and additional ammunition in his car.
“This nation stands with Lori Gilbert Kaye’s family and the survivors of these unspeakable acts of terror,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman for the Southern District of California. “We emphatically reject the defendant’s hate, racism and prejudice, and we hope the conclusion of this case brings some measure of comfort to all those affected by his heinous crimes.”
“We continue to keep Lori Gilbert Kaye, the loved ones she left behind, and all those affected by the senseless acts of terror committed in 2019 in our thoughts,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “Violence motivated by racism and hate is reprehensible and must be vigorously pursued. The FBI is committed to ensuring that those responsible for hate crimes and all forms of violent extremism are brought to justice.”
“The tragic shooting at Poway Synagogue was shocking for our community,” said Special Agent in Charge Monique Villegas of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division. “Our condolences go out to the victims and their families who were affected by this horrific act. ATF remains committed to bringing individuals responsible for such acts to justice to ensure everyone can worship safely.”
Earnest also admitted that on March 24, 2019, he attempted to set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California, because of his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building. Seven missionaries were asleep in the mosque, but no one was injured.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shane Harrigan and Peter Ko, along with Deputy Chief Rose Gibson of the Civil Rights Division. The FBI, ATF and San Diego Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.
According to the terms of the plea agreement, the United States and Earnest will jointly recommend a sentence of life in prison followed by 30 years of imprisonment. Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 28.
#AceDailyNews reports that Los Angeles-area man pleads guilty to producing thousands of sexually explicit images and videos involving children following HSI investigation
As the result of a probe by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles, Billy Edward Frederick, 51, of Redondo Beach, pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with production of child pornography for transportation into the United States and enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.
According to his plea agreement, Frederick stored various images and videos depicting child pornography in his Google accounts, at least some of which he obtained from video calls on Google Hangout.
One video from July 2020, in which a boy who appears to be between 11 and 14 years old, engages in sexual activity while Frederick records the video call. In messages sent relating to the video call, the victim calls Frederick “MASTER.” In chats between Frederick and the victim prior to the video call, the boy asks to borrow money to purchase underwear. Immediately after the call, Frederick chatted online with the boy, who asked for money to be sent to his brother.
Frederick admitted to producing more than 5,000 images and videos of child pornography involving at least 35 different children by requesting these children engage in specified sexually explicit activity in exchange for money. Some of the videos and images depicted minor victims under the age of 12 being used for sexual acts.
A sentencing hearing has scheduled for March 14, 2022, at which time Frederick will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
HSI takes a victim-centered approach to child exploitation investigations by working to identify, rescue and stabilize victims. HSI works in partnership with NCMEC, ICAC partners, and other federal, state and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC’s toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California’s Violent and Organized Crime Section.
#AceNewsReport – Sept.16: According to the criminal complaint affidavit, between October 2016 and November 2020, Express Gene received numerous wire transfers from accounts in Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, Singapore, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, totaling almost $3.5 million. It is alleged that some of the money received was used by Express Gene and its principals to purchase genetic sequencing equipment from U.S. manufacturers and ship them to Iran without a license from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to export the machines, despite sanctions on Iran.
#AceDailyNews reports that three Florida residents have been charged in federal district court in Miami with crimes related to their alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, and money laundering…..
Defendants Mohammad Faghihi, 52, his wife Farzeneh Modarresi, 53, and his sister Faezeh Faghihi, 50, operated Florida company Express Gene: The incoming money also was used by F. Faghihi and Modarresi to fund the 2019 purchase of the Express Gene property, says the affidavit.
On Feb. 20, Faghihi arrived at Miami International Airport from Iran, where he was inspected by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. According to the charging documents, during his inspection by CBP officers, Faghihi made false statements, including that he did not practice his profession in Iran or conduct any type of research in Iran. In fact, according to the affidavit, Faghihi was the director of a laboratory within Shiraz University of Medical Science in Iran bearing his name: “Dr. Faghihi’s Medical Genetic Center,”. In addition, his luggage contained 17 vials of unknown biological substances covered with ice packs and concealed beneath bread and other food items, according to the affidavit. All the vials were subject to regulations.
From approximately 2013 to approximately 2020, Faghihi was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami (UM), Miller School of Medicine. During this period, he was the principal investigator on several National Institute of Health (NIH) grants awarded in February 2013, December 2016 and June 2017. It is alleged that Express Gene and Faghihi received large deposits from international wires during this period, but they were not disclosed as required to either UM or NIH’s financial conflict of interest reporting system.
Defendants made their initial federal court appearances today. Their pretrial detention hearings will take place tomorrow, Sept. 15, at 10:00 a.m. in federal magistrate court in Miami.
All defendants are charged with conspiring to commit an offense against the United States and conspiring to commit money laundering. Faghihi and Modarresi are also charged with the unlawful exports of goods to Iran, and smuggling goods out of the United States. Faghihi and F. Faghihi were charged with smuggling goods into the United States and making false statements. Faghihi is further charged with wire fraud.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge George Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Director Vernon Foret of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Miami Field Office made the announcement.
FBI Miami and CBP Miami are investigating the case. The University of Miami provided invaluable assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Thakur and Senior Litigation Counsel Randy Hummel of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Menno Goedman of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.