4 arrests in Metro Detroit drug, human trafficking ring

Four people were arrested in connection with an alleged opioid drug and human trafficking operation based in Metro Detroit, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Tuesday.

The group — identified as Melvin Niblett, Corey Cooper, Maurice Rushton and Jasmin McGinnis — was identified through a probe that launched in September, when the joint FBI and Oakland County Gang and Violent Crimes task force received a tip about a suspected drug and prostitution ring in Madison Heights.

Niblett and Cooper were caught selling drugs in Warren and charged in a separate but related case by the Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, the Attorney General’s Office said.

They both later were released on bond. But in October, police learned Niblett was reportedly using rooms at a Southfield hotel to lead a drug and human trafficking operation with dozens of others, authorities allege.

“Drug and human trafficking continue to plague the safety of many communities in Michigan,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios said in a statement. “Today’s arrests reflect the continuing impact federal, state and local law enforcement are having on the ability of criminals to victimize and enslave others through their addiction to a variety of dangerous and sometimes lethal drugs.”

All four arrested have been charged with 24 felonies, including conducting a criminal enterprise, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $100,000, Schuette’s office said Tuesday.

An Aug. 21 preliminary examination is scheduled for Cooper, 45, Niblett, 38, of Southfield, and McGinnis, a 27-year-old from Canton Township. Rushton, 57, who was apprehended in Ohio, awaits extradition.

“The individuals involved in this human and drug trafficking ring will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said Tuesday. “The victims deserve justice and I am proud of our task force members who partnered with the attorney general and other agencies to send a clear message that these types of crimes will not be tolerated in our community.”

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.detroitnews.com/amp/104640802

FinCEN Fines BTC-e Virtual Currency Exchange $110 Million for Facilitating Ransomware, Dark Net Drug Sales

WASHINGTON—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, assessed a $110,003,314 civil money penalty today against BTC-e a/k/a Canton Business Corporation (BTC-e) for willfully violating U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) laws. Russian national Alexander Vinnik, one of the operators of BTC-e, was arrested in Greece this week, and FinCEN assessed a $12 million penalty against him for his role in the violations.

BTC-e is an internet-based, foreign-located money transmitter that exchanges fiat currency as well as the convertible virtual currencies Bitcoin, Litecoin, Namecoin, Novacoin, Peercoin, Ethereum, and Dash. It is one of the largest virtual currency exchanges by volume in the world. BTC-e facilitated transactions involving ransomware, computer hacking, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption, and drug trafficking.

“We will hold accountable foreign-located money transmitters, including virtual currency exchangers, that do business in the United States when they willfully violate U.S. anti-money laundering laws,” said Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director for FinCEN. “This action should be a strong deterrent to anyone who thinks that they can facilitate ransomware, dark net drug sales, or conduct other illicit activity using encrypted virtual currency. Treasury’s FinCEN team and our law enforcement partners will work with foreign counterparts across the globe to appropriately oversee virtual currency exchangers and administrators who attempt to subvert U.S. law and avoid complying with U.S. AML safeguards.”

FinCEN acted in coordination with law enforcement’s seizure of BTC-e and Vinnik’s arrest. The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the criminal investigation.

Among other violations, BTC-e failed to obtain required information from customers beyond a username, a password, and an e-mail address. Instead of acting to prevent money laundering, BTC-e and its operators embraced the pervasive criminal activity conducted at the exchange. Users openly and explicitly discussed criminal activity on BTC-e’s user chat. BTC-e’s customer service representatives offered advice on how to process and access money obtained from illegal drug sales on dark net markets like Silk Road, Hansa Market, and AlphaBay.

BTC-e also processed transactions involving funds stolen between 2011 and 2014 from one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox. BTC-e processed over 300,000 bitcoin in transactions traceable to the theft. FinCEN has also identified at least $3 million of facilitated transactions tied to ransomware attacks such as “Cryptolocker” and “Locky.” Further, BTC-e shared customers and conducted transactions with the now-defunct money laundering website Liberty Reserve. FinCEN previously issued a finding under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act that identified Liberty Reserve as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern.

BTC-e has conducted over $296 million in transactions of bitcoin alone and tens of thousands of transactions in other convertible virtual currencies. The transactions included funds sent from customers located within the United States to recipients who were also located within the United States. BTC-e also concealed its geographic location and its ownership. Regardless of its ownership or location, the company was required to comply with U.S. AML laws and regulations as a foreign-located MSB including AML program, MSB registration, suspicious activity reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. This is the second supervisory enforcement action FinCEN has taken against a business that operates as an exchanger of virtual currency, and the first it has taken against a foreign-located MSB doing business in the United States.

https://www.fincen.gov/news/news-releases/fincen-fines-btc-e-virtual-currency-exchange-110-million-facilitating-ransomware

 

 

Man indicted after selling fentanyl on ‘dark net’ that caused fatal overdose, feds say

A man was indicted Thursday after federal prosecutors say he sold synthetic fentanyl that caused an Orange County man to die of an overdose.

Jeremy Achey 43, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, faces up to life in federal prison if convicted.

Achey is accused of selling a variety of synthetic substances over the “dark net,” an area of the Internet only accessible through the use of an encrypted browsing platform, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In February, an Orange County man, whose name wasn’t released, died after taking tetrahydrofuran fentanyl, a synthetic substance similar to fentanyl, federal prosecutors said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration determined that the man bought the substance from Achey, who was using the name “Etiking” online, according to the indictment.

Achey is facing charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of controlled substance analogues.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-jeremy-achey-arrest-dark-web-fentanyl-20170720-story.html

 

 

Cuban man accused of laundering $238 million in Medicare payments must face trial

A Cuban businessman charged with laundering $238 million in illicit Medicare payments through South Florida will have to face trial now that a federal judge has rejected his motion to dismiss a massive money laundering case against him.

The motion by Jorge Emilio Perez de Morales to dismiss the indictment was highly unusual because the 52-year-old is considered a fugitive after fleeing to Spain.

Through his Miami defense attorney, the absent Perez asked a magistrate judge to throw out the case, claiming he was running a legitimate remittance company outside the United States so he couldn’t have committed a crime.

But this month, Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt denied his motion, saying the U.S. money-laundering conspiracy charge filed five years ago extends beyond the boundaries of this country because the alleged offense happened here.

“If he wishes to contest the charges in this case, [Perez] will have to first submit to the court’s jurisdiction,” Hunt wrote in a nine-page ruling. “If he would like to go to trial, the door to the federal court, as always, remains open.”

Perez’s attorney, Stephen Golembe, has until Friday to appeal the judge’s ruling. It came in response to an unusual hearing in March, when the judge, Golembe and federal prosecutor Ron Davidson debated whether Perez is a fugitive — a thorny legal issue arising from the fact that he has yet to be arrested on the money-laundering conspiracy charge. His lawyer said he isn’t; the prosecutor said he is.

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.miamiherald.com/news/local/article157126544.html

 

 

Deputies: Stolen guns recovered when swiped iPad found

DELTONA, Fla. — A stolen iPad led deputies to an even larger theft in Deltona.

The investigation began Sunday when a woman called the Sheriff’s Office to report her iPad was stolen while it was in her son’s possession outside a Publix supermarket.

“Just beware and be careful,” Rosa Campbell said about the theft.

She told WESH 2 her son was trying to do something nice for a man in need, but that man then took advantage.

“My son went into the store to buy him a sub-sandwich because he said he was homeless,” Campbell explained, “then he took the iPad … he distracted him.”

Campbell and her son then decided to investigate. She called her cellphone service provider and enabled the “Find My iPad” app.

She watched as the device’s GPS was sending back signals from all over town.

Once the movement stopped, she called the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Within an hour, deputies moved in on their suspect and arrested him. He’s identified as 28-year-old Raymond Ingberg.

“(We) found him in possession of various items that were stolen in another case,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant said.

Gant told WESH 2 the other items found in a bag Ingberg was holding had been taken during a recent home break-in.

Along with the iPad, deputies also recovered jewelry and five stolen guns.

“We’re thankful we were able to get those guns quickly off the street before they became involved in some other kind of crime,” Gant said.

Campbell said she’s glad she was able to track her iPad and help deputies find it and the suspect as well.

“Even though it may look minor you have to think what they might do to someone else,” Campbell said. “That minor thing can lead to big things, remember these people that do these crimes, they start little and then they keep getting big.”

Ingberg was booked into the Volusia County Jail on several charges under a bond of $55,000.

http://www.wesh.com/article/deputies-stolen-guns-recovered-when-swiped-ipad-found/10046035

 

Skimming device found at Cocoa Beach gas station

Cocoa police showed off the devices that were helping thieves steal money at a gas station pump.

A maintenance worker discovered credit card skimmers at the Chevron station at 2700 U.S. Highway 1.

Police are not sure how long the device may have been in place.

Authorities are asking customers who made fuel purchases there to contact their credit card company to verify all recent transactions.

Additionally, they are asking people to be on the alert for any other devices that may be in place in the area.

http://www.wesh.com/article/skimming-device-found-at-cocoa-gas-station/10036202

 

Former Eatonville mayor asks for new trial in voting fraud case

Former Eatonville mayor Anthony Grant’s defense attorney asked a judge for a new trial Tuesday in his voting-fraud case, in part because one of the jurors may have not been able to hear some of the proceedings.

Grant was found guilty May 19 of felony election violation, voting fraud, and misdemeanor absentee-voting violation. When a court official tried to poll the jury — a routine proceeding asking every juror in open court if the verdict that was just read is the one he or she chose — one juror sitting in the courtroom did not respond.

Another juror said that the juror’s hearing aid was not working properly at that moment, so she could not hear them.

Grant’s lawyer, Gary Dorst, filed a motion May 24 asking for a new trial. But that would require evidence that the juror indeed could not hear the evidence, arguments, and deliberations.

In this case, the only evidence Dorst had was what happened in court after the jury delivered its verdict. Without speaking with the juror, he said, he would have no way of knowing how much of the trial she could or could not hear.

But Florida case law does not allow attorneys to interview jurors about a verdict without evidence that there are legal grounds to challenge the verdict or proof of jury misconduct, Circuit Judge Keith Carsten said in court Tuesday, citing case law.

It comes down to one of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure: “If no reason is found to believe that the verdict may be subject to challenge, the court shall enter its order denying permission to interview.”

Dorst filed another motion Monday, arguing that the jury’s guilty verdict on the voting fraud charge contradicts the weight of the evidence.

Grant, who was sent to the Orange County Jail after the guilty verdict, sat quietly in his navy blue jail-issued clothing during the hearing, listening to the proceedings. He did not speak.

Jurors last month also convicted former campaign aide Mia Nowells of coercing a voter, acquitting her of three other charges she faced. They found another campaign aide, James Randolph, not guilty.

Grant was Eatonville’s mayor from 1994 to 2009.

He ran again in 2015 against Bruce Mount, getting 15 fewer votes at the polls but winning in absentee votes, getting 196 to Mount’s 69. Mount sued, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation that ended in Grant’s arrest.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-anthony-grant-new-trial-request-20170613-story.html

Three Orlando area lawyers suspended, including former Cay Clubs attorney

Three Orlando area lawyers have been suspended in the most recent action by the Florida Bar, including one that provided legal advice to the Cay Clubs Ponzi scheme in the Florida Keys.

The following details were provided by the Florida Bar and court records:

William Scott Callahan, Winter Park, was suspended for one year, retroactive to April 20. Callahan was subpoenaed and agreed to cooperate in a federal fraud investigation involving the Cay Clubs vacation rental scheme. He had been a partner at a law firm that handled closings for the company. In the course of his duties supervising the closing agents, Callahan violated Bar rules.

According to court records, Callahan made misleading statements, and when he learned the principals of the company were omitting pertinent information from the closing documents, he failed to warn them, failed to obtain additional legal opinions and failed to withdraw from further representation. Callahan received immunity from prosecution in return for providing information. (Florida Supreme Court Case No. SC17-539)

Michael Kevin Rathel, Orlando, suspended for one year. According to the Florida Bar and court records, Rathel bought a house after persuading the seller to hold a second mortgage for $100,000 needed by Rathel to pay the purchase price. Rathel promised to repay the seller and pledged his current home as security for the mortgage. Rathel sold his current home without telling the seller or repaying the seller’s second mortgage. Commencing in or about 2010, Rathel failed to file and pay his personal federal and corporate tax returns in a timely manner. In another matter, Rathel failed to timely respond to an inquiry about a Bar complaint. Suspension is effective 30 days from a March 23 court order. (FSC Case No. SC16-1024)

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-florida-bar-suspensions-20170530-story.html

Photo: Florida Bar

 

South L.A. charter school founder charged with embezzlement, money laundering

The head of a now-defunct South L.A. charter school has been charged with embezzlement and money laundering, accused of funneling roughly $200,000 from the school to a company she owned, prosecutors said Thursday.

Kendra Okonkwo, 51, was charged with misappropriation of public funds, grand theft by embezzlement, money laundering and keeping a false account, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Her son, 29-year-old Jason Okonkwo, is accused of approving fake invoices to further the plot and faces the same charges, prosecutors said.

Kendra Okonkwo founded the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists near the Watts neighborhood in 2006, but the school quickly became a target of regulators and lost its charter in 2016. She and her son were arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday morning and remain jailed in lieu of $145,000 bail, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani, who is prosecuting the case.

From January 2012 to March 2014, approximately $201,000 was transferred from the school to an unnamed business run by Okonkwo, according to the district attorney’s office. The money was then transferred to her personal bank account, prosecutors said.

Her son approved a number of fake invoices, purportedly for the purchase of school supplies and food from his mother’s “shell company,” that documented the transfer of money, prosecutors said.

Okonkwo did not immediately return a call seeking comment, and it was not immediately clear if she or her son have retained attorneys.

Both face up to six years in prison if convicted. A court date has yet to be scheduled.

The school operated under the authority of the Los Angeles Unified School District until 2011, when the district declined to renew the school’s charter, citing violations of education code and conflicts of interest.

Okonkwo agreed to step down as the school’s director as part of an agreement with the county to stay in operation, but she named several relatives and associates to key positions at the school.

That move, according to the findings of a 2014 state audit, allowed her to retain control and benefit from transactions at the academy.

According to the audit’s findings, Okonkwo, her family members and close associates received about $2.6 million in payments from the school. None of the employees in question indicated any financial interest in school affairs on required conflict-of-interest statements, the audit said.

Among the audit’s findings, the organization leased two properties owned by Okonkwo’s holding company, paying more than $1 million in rent over six years. The school also paid Okonkwo $228,665 in severance, unused vacation and a vehicle lease despite a lack of documents to support the amount.

The audit also found the school had paid more than $158,800 to a company owned by a relative of Okonkwo. The payments were supposedly for school supplies, but state auditors could not confirm that the school received any of the materials for which it paid.

Aratani said prosecutors began reviewing Okonkwo’s conduct and business dealings after the audit results were released. An arraignment could take place as early as Friday, he said.

Last year, Okonkwo agreed to pay $16,000 in fines as part of a settlement with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission after she was found to have established leases for the school at buildings she owned and used public funds to renovate those properties.

“In this matter, Okonkwo engaged in a pattern of violations in which she made, used or attempted to use her official position to influence governmental decisions involving real property in which she had a significant financial interest,” the commission said last year.

When the county began the process of revoking the school’s charter in 2014, Okonkwo claimed she was being “slandered.”

“I’m not a soldier; I’m not a politician. I’m just an educator,” she said at the time.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-charter-school-founder-charged-20170518-story.html

Photo: My News LA 

U.S. judge approves $2.6 billion fine for Odebrecht in corruption case

A U.S. judge on Monday sentenced Brazilian engineering company Odebrecht SA to pay $2.6 billion in fines in a massive criminal corruption case, signing off on a plea deal between the company and U.S., Brazilian and Swiss authorities.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie said at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court that about $93 million will go to the United States, $2.39 billion to Brazil and $116 million to Switzerland.

Odebrecht, along with affiliated petrochemical company Braskem SA, pleaded guilty to U.S. bribery charges in December. U.S. authorities charged Odebrecht with paying about $788 million in bribes to officials in 12 countries, mostly in Latin America, to secure lucrative contracts.

Some of those bribes flowed through U.S. banks, the prosecutors said.

Monday’s order comes as Odebrecht tries to negotiate plea deals with other countries, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama and Portugal.

A public relations executive working for Odebrecht in São Paulo declined to comment, as did William Burck, a lawyer for Odebrecht in the United States.

The charges against Odebrecht stemmed from a nearly three-year investigation in Brazil into corruption at the state-run oil company Petrobras, which has led to dozens of arrests and political upheaval in Brazil.

Brazilian President Michel Temer said on Monday he expects some of his ministers to resign after they were accused of wrongdoing by Odebrecht executives in plea bargain testimonies and placed under investigation by a Supreme Court justice.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-corruption-usa-idUSKBN17J1A7

Photo: Reuters