Health Care Fraud: Vincent Njong Charged of Health Care Fraud Stemming From Scheme Targeting D.C. Medicaid Program

Health Care Fraud

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud in Scheme Targeting D.C. Medicaid Program

Defendant Worked as Personal Care Aide, Submitted Timesheets For Work That Never Was Performed

WASHINGTON – A Maryland man who was employed as a personal care aide pled guilty today to a federal charge of health care fraud stemming from a scheme in which he submitted more than $66,000 in false claims to the District of Columbia Medicaid program.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Maureen Dixon of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Philadelphia Regional Office, and Inspector General Daniel W. Lucas of the District of Columbia.

Vincent Njong, 48, of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Honorable Senior Judge Rosemary M. Collyer scheduled sentencing for Dec, 6, 2018. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Njong faces a possible range of six to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. The plea agreement requires him to pay $66,086 in restitution to the District of Columbia. He also is subject to a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $43,209, representing his share of the proceeds from the scheme.

According to a statement of offense submitted at the plea hearing, Njong was a licensed personal care aide. Under the Medicaid program, personal care aides perform services intended to assist Medicaid beneficiaries in carrying out the activities of daily living. These can include helping beneficiaries get in and out of bed, bathe, dress, eat out, take medication, and engage in toileting. To receive personal care services under Medicaid, a beneficiary must obtain a prescription from a doctor.

Between September 2012 and April 2014, Njong caused false claims to be submitted by two home health care agencies to the District of Columbia’s Medicaid program for personal care services that he did not provide or that were tainted by the payment of kickbacks to the Medicaid beneficiary. During the time period, Njong was assigned to provide personal care services to two Medicaid beneficiaries. He submitted false timesheets for work that was not provided. Starting in August 2013, for example, he began working full-time as a teacher in Maryland. Notwithstanding his full-time employment, he continued to submit timesheets to the two home health care agencies claiming to be working full-time for them.

In addition, he paid one of the beneficiaries approximately $100 bi-weekly to sign blank or false statements; he also provided the beneficiary with food or other items of value in exchange for the beneficiary’s signature on false timesheets.

Because of Njong’s fraudulent conduct, D.C. Medicaid paid $66,086 to the two home health care agencies. Njong personally received $43,209 of the fraudulently obtained proceeds.

In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu, Assistant Director in Charge McNamara, Special Agent in Charge Dixon and Inspector General Lucas commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, as well as a team from the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the District of Columbia’s Office of the Inspector General. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the District of Columbia’s Department of Health Care Finance.

They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Arvind K. Lal, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Swanton, who assisted with forfeiture issues; Assistant U.S. Attorney Oliver McDaniel, and Paralegal Specialist Brittany Phillips. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise A. Simmonds, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

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Disaster Fraud: Rod Rosenstein – Committing Fraud Against Natural Disaster Victims Is An Inexcusable Crime

Disaster Fraud

National Center for Disaster Fraud Reminds Residents to be Aware of Fraud When Disaster Strikes and Report It

On August 29th 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Region of the United States, caused hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced from their homes, and caused damages estimated in excess of $100 billon. In the wake of Katrina, billions of dollars in federal aid flowed into the Gulf Region and, inevitably, so did those willing to exploit people during some of their most vulnerable times. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF).

The NCDF, a national coordinating agency, was created by a partnership between the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and various law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The goal was to improve and further the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for the victims of such fraud. The NCDF is led by U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana Brandon J. Fremin who serves as its Executive Director.

The NCDF serves as a centralized clearinghouse for disaster fraud complaints and provides a nationwide call center located on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The NCDF takes calls from members of the public and encourages them to report all types of disaster fraud. The NCDF employs a team of law enforcement agents who review those reports and make referrals to the appropriate investigative agencies for further investigation and for potential referral for prosecution. The NCDF provides de-confliction and coordination in handling disaster fraud matters and is focused on protecting disaster victims and any funds dedicated to disaster victims.

Committing fraud against natural disaster victims is an inexcusable crime,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “We are now in hurricane season, and it is important for people to be on the lookout for fraudsters who seek to profit from natural disasters through identity theft schemes and solicitations for fake charities. The Department of Justice is committed to detecting this type of fraud, and we will aggressively prosecute the offenders. Through our National Center for Disaster Fraud, and in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, we are working to keep Americans from becoming victims of these schemes.”

The recent Carr Fire in California, though largely contained, has caused severe damage; the Pacific Hurricane Season has already proven to be quite active, as demonstrated by Hurricane Lane’s destructive landfall in Hawaii; and we are already 90 days into the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Unfortunately, and inevitably, natural and man-made disasters will continue to occur across our great nation. These terrible and often tragic events leave many people without food, water, or shelter, and often cause devastating damage to life and property. Nevertheless, there are criminals ready to take advantage of victims before, during, and especially after a natural disaster. They are looking to strike those at their most vulnerable time.

In ongoing efforts to strengthen partnerships and better inform the American people of its mission, the NCDF has joined with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who was recently installed as the President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), in an effort to spread the message of the NCDF to more of our partners nationwide. We at the NCDF are collaborating with Attorney General Landry and the NAAG to inform every state Attorney General of the mission and function of the NCDF as part of Attorney General Landry’s presidential initiative on disaster fraud.

“The NCDF has an excellent staff of investigators, analysts, call center operators, and managers who are well prepared to handle the anticipated volume of complaints during hurricane season and help ensure that each report of fraud reaches the appropriate investigative agency,” said Executive Director Fremin. “Our collaboration with the National Association of Attorneys General and Attorney General Landry is yet another example of our efforts to better serve the American people before, during and after a natural disaster. Raising public awareness by spreading the message of the NCDF through the state Attorneys General is a great way for the NCDF to reach thousands of people who may one day be subjected to fraudulent schemes.”

“As President of the National Association of Attorneys General, my goal is to use the next 18 months to gather as much intel as possible so we may better prepare state and federal leaders for future crises,” said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. “We are fortunate to have the NCDF right here in Louisiana and it has served as a great resource to our citizens through hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. I am proud to team up with U.S. Attorney Fremin and the great men and women at the NCDF as we continue to look for ways to move Louisiana and other states forward in terms of emergency preparedness and management.”

Members of the public are reminded to be extremely cautious before providing personal identifying or financial information to anyone, especially those who may contact you after a natural disaster. They are also reminded to report suspected waste, fraud, abuse, or allegations of criminal conduct. If members of the public believe they have been the victim of fraud from a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, they are strongly encouraged to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at (866) 720-5721.

The telephone line is staffed by live operators 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information can also be faxed to the Center at (225) 334-4707, or sent by email. To learn more about the NCDF please visit the website at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud and watch a public service announcement here.

Financial Fraud: Five Defendants Stole Money From The E‑rate Program, Billing The E-rate Program For Equipment And Services

Financial Fraud

Vendors, Consultants, And School Administrator Charged In Wide-Ranging Scheme To Defraud Federal “E Rate” Subsidy Program

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (the “FBI”), David L. Hunt, Inspector General of the Federal Communications Commission (the “FCC-OIG”), and Thomas P. Zugibe, the District Attorney for Rockland County, announced today the return of an Indictment charging SIMON GOLDBRENER, a/k/a “Simon Goldbrenner,” a/k/a “Shimon Goldbrenner,” PERETZ KLEIN, SUSAN KLEIN, a/k/a “Suri Klein,” BEN KLEIN, a/k/a “Benzion Klein,” a/k/a “Benzi Klein,” MOSHE SCHWARTZ, SHOLEM STEINBERG, and ARON MELBER, a/k/a “Aharon Melber,” with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud charges in connection with the federal program known as “E‑rate,” which provides subsidies for affordable telecommunications equipment and related services to qualified schools This case has been assigned to United States District Judge Kenneth M. Karas.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “For years, these defendants stole money from the E‑rate program, billing the E-rate program for equipment and services which were not in fact provided. In doing so, the defendants fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in E rate funds to which they were not entitled, and which should lawfully have been spent to help provide access to technology to educate underprivileged children. This indictment is important not only because fraudsters should be held to account for their crimes, but also because the next generation of students should have access to telecommunication services, internet access, and related equipment, irrespective of their means and in spite of the fact that people like the defendants seek to line their own pockets at the expense of underprivileged children.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney said:  “Schools have to fight for every dollar these days to supply their students with the high-tech, expensive equipment and technology they need in this day and age to succeed in life. The suspects in this investigation allegedly used funding from a program designed to give underprivileged schools internet access to pad their own bank accounts.  To add insult to injury, school officials, who see the day-to-day struggle to even find money for pencils and paper, were allegedly involved in the scheme.  The FBI and our law enforcement partners will hold these criminals accountable, and stop others from defrauding not only the government and tax payers, but students who depend on these programs to get a better education.”

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe said:  “These individuals concocted a scheme that not only defrauded taxpayers, but also deprived local students of access to affordable technology equipment and Internet service. In short, the defendants are accused of shamelessly stealing millions of federal dollars earmarked to broaden young minds. The Rockland County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work collaboratively with the U.S. Attorney and FBI to root out fraud and abuse – especially misconduct that impacts children. Offenders must be dealt with swiftly to prevent further fraud of this magnitude from occurring.”

According to the allegations made in the Indictment:

The E‑rate distributes funds to schools and libraries mostly serving economically disadvantaged children, so that those institutions can afford needed telecommunication services, internet access, and related equipment. Over 30,000 applications from schools and libraries seeking funds to serve economically disadvantaged children were received each year during the relevant time period; every year, requests for E‑rate funds have exceeded funds available. In order to obtain those funds, educational institutions certify that they are purchasing equipment and services from a private vendor; if approved, the program defrays the cost by up to 90%. The educational institution is supposed to enter into an open bidding process in order to select a vendor, and the educational institution and vendor submit a series of certifications that they comply with a number of requirements of the E‑rate program. A school applying for E‑rate funds may employ a consultant, but that consultant must be independent of the vendors competing to sell E‑rate funded equipment and services.

PERETZ KLEIN, SUSAN KLEIN, BEN KLEIN, and SHOLEM STEINBERG (collectively, the “Vendor Defendants”) held themselves out as vendors to schools participating in the E‑rate program. Corporations controlled by the Vendor Defendants requested over $35 million in E‑rate funds, and received over $14 million in E‑rate funds, from in or about 2010 to in or about 2016.

SIMON GOLDBRENER and MOSHE SCHWARTZ (collectively, the “Consultant Defendants”) held themselves out as consultants who assisted educational institutions that desired to participate in the E rate program. The Consultant Defendants, and individuals acting at their direction, completed and filed E‑rate documents that resulted in the payment of millions of dollars in E‑rate funds to the Vendor Defendants.

ARON MELBER is an official at a private religious school in Rockland County, New York. MELBER and his school have participated in the E‑rate program with certain of the Vendor Defendants and Consultant Defendants, and filed certifications purporting to have obtained authorized E‑rate funded equipment and services from Vendor Defendants selected through a fair and open bidding process. From in or about 2009 through in or about 2015, MELBER’s school received over one million dollars in E‑rate funds.

From at least 2009 up to and including 2016, certain private religious schools, including MELBER’s school, sought and received E‑rate funds for the purpose of paying the Vendor Defendants for equipment and services that the schools, the Vendor Defendants, and the Consultant Defendants falsely claimed the Vendor Defendants had provided to the schools.

However, the schools never received millions of dollars’ worth of these items and services. In other cases, the schools, Vendor Defendants, and Consultant Defendants requested hundreds of thousands of dollars of sophisticated technology that served no real purpose for the student population. For example, from 2009 through 2015, one day care center that served toddlers from the ages of 2 through 4 requested over $700,000—nearly $500,000 of which was ultimately funded—for equipment and services—including video conferencing and distance learning, a “media master system,” sophisticated telecommunications systems supporting at least 23 lines, and high-speed internet—from companies controlled by PERETZ KLEIN and SUSAN KLEIN, using the Consultant Defendants as their consultants. In still other instances the schools received equipment and services that fulfilled the functions for which the schools had requested E‑rate funds (such as providing the school with internet access), but the schools, Vendor Defendants, and Consultant Defendants materially overbilled the E‑rate program for the items provided, in order to enrich themselves at the expense of the underprivileged children the program was designed to serve.

As alleged, the defendants also perverted the fair and open bidding process required by the E‑rate program. The Consultant Defendants—who held themselves out in filings as independent consultants working for the schools, but, in truth, worked with and for the Vendor Defendants—and the Vendor Defendants presented the schools with forms to sign or certify, awarding E‑rate funded contracts to the Vendor Defendants. As a result of false and misleading E‑rate filings, the Vendor Defendants received millions of dollars in E‑rate funds for equipment and services that the Vendor Defendants did not in fact provide and which the schools did not use, and the Consultant Defendants accepted payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Vendor Defendants, despite falsely presenting themselves as independent of the Vendor Defendants.

In return for their participation in the scheme to defraud the E‑rate program, certain schools and school officials received a variety of improper benefits from the Vendor Defendants, including: a percentage of the funds fraudulently obtained from E‑rate for equipment and services that were not in fact provided to the schools; free items paid for with E‑rate funds but not authorized by the program, such as cellphones for school employees’ personal use and alarm systems and security equipment (which the E‑rate program does not authorize) installed at the schools; and free services for which the E‑rate program authorizes partial reimbursement (such as internet access) but for which the Schools did not—contrary to their statements in filings—make any payment at all.

The defendants and the counts with which they are charged in the Superseding Indictment are set forth in the attached list.


Mr. Berman thanked the FBI, the FCC-OIG, and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office for their outstanding work on the investigation. This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Maimin, Hagan Scotten, and Vladislav Vainberg are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

18-296                                                                                                                                                                                                             ###

United States v. Simon Goldbrener, et al.

 

DefendantAgeResidenceCharges and Maximum Penalties
Simon Goldbrener55Monsey, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (three counts): 20 years in prison per count

Peretz Klein64Spring Valley, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (one count): 20 years in prison

Susan Klein57Spring Valley, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (one count): 20 years in prison

Ben Klein39Monsey, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (one count): 20 years in prison

Moshe Schwartz45Monroe, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (one count): 20 years in prison

Sholem Steinberg39Monsey, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (two counts): 20 years in prison per count

Aron Melber42Monsey, New YorkConspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (one count): 20 years in prison

Wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (one count): 20 years in prison

 

Financial Fraud: Gregory Schnabel Sentenced For Defraud The Federal Government And The Public Through Unlawful Renewable Fuel Credit Schemes

Financial Fraud

Ohio Man Sentenced to 63 Months in Prison for Renewable Fuel Fraud

The owner of a company that bought and sold renewable fuel and fuel credits was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison to be followed by a three year term of supervised release and $26,244,437.06 in restitution for his role in a conspiracy that generated over $47 million in fraudulent EPA renewable fuels credits and over $12 million in fraudulent tax credits connected to the purported production of renewable fuel.

The sentencing of defendant Gregory Schnabel was imposed by The Honorable Judge James L. Graham for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division; U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio; Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation; Acting Special Agent in Charge John K. Gauthier, of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), criminal enforcement program in Ohio; and Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Indianapolis Division.

“Today’s sentencing shows that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who seek to defraud the federal government and the public through unlawful renewable fuel credit schemes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood. “This sentencing serves as a powerful deterrent to those who would consider participating in similar schemes in the future. We applaud the work of the DOJ, EPA, and IRS law enforcement team that obtained justice in this case.”

“The outcome of this case is a great achievement,” said Assistant Administrator Susan Bodine of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The defendant participated in a complex scheme to defraud his clients and the United States Government. Through the great work of investigators from EPA and its law enforcement partners, that criminal activity is over and those involved have been prosecuted.”

“Vigorously prosecuting cases like this one not only protect the public fisc, but are also crucial to safeguarding the integrity of national programs that benefit the environment,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who defraud government programs, including environmental programs.”

“Today’s sentencing reinforces the message that there are serious consequences for those who manipulate the system for their own financial gain and defraud taxpayers and the United States government in doing so,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall. “The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to uncover fraudulent schemes such as this.”

“This investigation uncovered a complicated fraudulent fuel tax credit scheme that generated millions of dollars through a tangled web of financial lies,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “We hope that today’s sentencing deters others who might be tempted to engage in similar illegal activity, which not only defrauded the U.S. Government and the American taxpayers, but also created an unfair competitive advantage over businesses that play by the rules. Investigations of this magnitude would not be successful without the collaborative efforts of the prosecutors and agents who investigated this case.”

According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, Schnabel, owner of GRC Fuels of Oneonta, New York, engaged in a scheme with other co-conspirators to fraudulently claim EPA renewable fuels credits (also known as “RIN” credits) and tax credits on fuel that did not qualify for the credits, on fuel that had already been used to generate credits, and on fuel that was exported or otherwise used contrary to EPA and IRS regulations.

Schnabel bought and sold fuel and RINs from several individuals who have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme, including:

Fred Witmer and Gary Jury, formerly of Triton Energy, who pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Indiana to conspiracy, fraud, and false statements and were sentenced to 57 months’ and 30 months’ incarceration, respectively;
Malek Jalal, formerly of Unity Fuels, who pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Ohio to conspiracy and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 60 months’ incarceration; and
Dean Daniels, William Bradley, Ricky Smith, and Brenda Daniels, of New Energy Fuels and Chieftain Biofuels, who pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Ohio to conspiracy and were sentenced to terms of incarceration ranging from 12 months to 63 months.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous for the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorney Adam Cullman and Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy Korzenik of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the IRS, EPA-CID, and the FBI.

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Financial Fraud: CEO and CFO of Washakie Renewable Energy Charged With Laundering Proceeds of a Mail Fraud Scheme

Environment, Financial Fraud, Tax Fraud

CEO and CFO of Utah Biodiesel Company and California Businessman Charged in $500 Million Fuel Tax Credit Scheme

A federal grand jury sitting in the District of Utah has returned an indictment, which was unsealed today, charging the CEO and CFO of Washakie Renewable Energy (WRE), a Utah-based biodiesel company, and a California businessman with laundering proceeds of a mail fraud scheme, which obtained over $511 million in renewable fuel tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah, Don Fort, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation and Jessica Taylor, Director of Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.

According to the indictment, Jacob Kingston was Chief Executive Officer and Isaiah Kingston was Chief Financial Officer of WRE and each held a 50% ownership interest in the company. WRE has described itself as the “largest producer of biodiesel and chemicals in the intermountain west.”

Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston, and Lev Aslan Dermen (aka Levon Termendzhyan), owner of California-based fuel company NOIL Energy Group, allegedly schemed to file false claims for renewable fuel tax credits, which caused the IRS to issue over $511 million to WRE.  Jacob Kingston is separately charged with filing nine false claims for refund on behalf of WRE in 2013.

The IRS administered tax credits designed to increase the amount of renewable fuel used and produced in the United States. These tax credits were paid by the IRS regardless of whether the taxpayer owed other taxes.

From 2010 through 2016, as part of their fraud to obtain the fuel tax credits, the defendants allegedly created false production records and other paperwork routinely created in qualifying renewable fuel transactions along with other false documents.  To make it falsely appear that qualifying fuel transactions were occurring, the defendants rotated products through places in the United States and through at least one foreign country.  The defendants also allegedly used “burner phones” and other covert means to communicate during the scheme.

The indictment further charges that the defendants laundered part of the scheme proceeds through a series of financial transactions related to the purchase of a $3 million personal residence for Jacob Kingston.  Jacob and Isaiah Kingston are separately alleged to have laundered approximately $1.72 million in scheme proceeds to purchase a 2010 Bugatti Veyron.  Jacob Kingston and Lev Aslan Dermen are separately charged with money laundering related to an $11.2 million loan funded by scheme proceeds.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of 10 years in prison for each money laundering count and Jacob Kingston faces a maximum of 3 years in prison for each false tax return count. They also face a period of supervised release, monetary penalties, and restitution.

An indictment is an accusation.  The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah thanked special agents of IRS-CI, EPA-CID, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorneys Richard M. Rolwing, Leslie A. Goemaat, Arthur J. Ewenczyk, and Senior Litigation Counsel John E. Sullivan of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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Financial Fraud: 22 Defendants Charged With Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods, Smuggling, Money Laundering, Immigration Fraud

Financial Fraud

22 Charged With Smuggling Millions of Dollars of Counterfeit Luxury Goods From China Into the United States

Defendants Trafficked Items that Included Fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch Handbags, Michael Kors Wallets, Hermes Belts and Chanel Perfume

Earlier today, six indictments and one criminal complaint were unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging a total of 22 defendants with illegally bringing into the United States millions of dollars of Chinese-manufactured goods by smuggling them through ports of entry on the East and West Coasts. One defendant is also charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization. Twenty-one defendants were arrested this morning, and their initial court appearances and arraignments are scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom.

The charges include conspiracy to traffic, and trafficking, in counterfeit goods; conspiracy to smuggle, and smuggling, counterfeit goods into the United States; money laundering conspiracy; immigration fraud and unlawful procurement of naturalization. In addition, the government restrained nine real properties in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York belonging to the defendants.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the charges.

“The defendants allegedly smuggled millions of dollars of counterfeit luxury goods into our country, depriving companies of their valuable and hard-earned intellectual property,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “The illegal smuggling of counterfeit goods poses a real threat to honest businesses, and I commend our federal prosecutors and partners at HSI and the NYPD for their outstanding work on this important investigation. The Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable those who seek to exploit our borders by smuggling counterfeit goods for sale on the black market.”

“As alleged, the defendants used many forms of deception to smuggle large quantities of counterfeit luxury brand goods from China into the United States, and then profited by distributing and selling the fake merchandise,” said U.S. Attorney Donoghue. “This Office, working with our law enforcement partners, is committed to securing our country’s ports of entry, as well as to protecting the integrity of intellectual property upon which free and fair international trade and markets depend.”

“This investigation exposed the global nature of intellectual property crimes, allegedly being executed by those arrested today. Counterfeit goods manufactured and smuggled from China with a suggested value close to half a billion dollars, were intended to make its way into U.S. markets and into the hands of unsuspecting consumers,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “This investigation should be a crystal clear message that counterfeiting and intellectual property rights violations is anything but a victimless crime as it harms legitimate businesses, consumers and governments.”

According to the court filings, the defendants played various roles in the trafficking of counterfeit goods manufactured in China, brought by ocean-going ships to the United States in 40-foot shipping containers, smuggled through ports of entry disguised as legitimate imports and distributed throughout the country. The counterfeit goods included items such as fake Louis Vuitton and Tory Burch handbags, Michael Kors wallets, Hermes belts and Chanel perfume. The defendants’ roles included:

Importers

Qi Feng Liang, Wo Qi Liu, Zhi Ming Zhang and Yu Ming Wong served as shipping container importers. They arranged to smuggle counterfeit goods into the United States through the Port of New York/New Jersey and elsewhere. They fraudulently used the names, addresses and other identifying information of legitimate import companies and falsified the descriptions of the containers’ contents on U.S. customs paperwork associated with the containers of counterfeit goods. They used “burner” phone numbers and “burner” email accounts—obtained by using false or incomplete information—in order to conceal their true identities. The counterfeit goods were transported by trucks to self-storage facilities in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, New York, where the goods were unloaded and stored. Qi Feng Liang, Wo Qi Liu, Zhi Ming Zhang and Yu Ming Wong smuggled or attempted to smuggle 23 40-foot shipping containers into the country loaded with counterfeit items. The estimated Manufacturers’ Suggested Retail Price of these items, had they been genuine, would have been more than $450 million.

Wholesale Distributors

Josstina Lin, Xue Wei Qu, Xi Quan Huang, Yun Lei Huang, Yun Wu Huang, Si Lung Chung, Le Wei Zheng, Xiao Ying Huang, Qiong Chan Mu, Ren Zhong Zhu, Cheng Xu Yu, Jin Hua Zhang, Jian Hua Zhu, Yong Lin Dong and Cai Ying Lin managed the receipt, storage and distribution of counterfeit goods smuggled into the United States by the importers. They resold the counterfeit items to other wholesale and retail sellers in New York, California and elsewhere in the United States.

Domestic Shippers

Wei Mei Gao, Sheng Miao Xia and Jie Mei Chen used private shipping businesses they controlled to distribute the counterfeit goods smuggled into the United States by the importers and handled by the wholesale distributors. The domestic shippers also facilitated payments by the wholesale and retail counterfeit goods sellers to the wholesale distributors. Jie Mei Chen is also charged with unlawful procurement of naturalization.

As alleged in the indictments, some defendants additionally conspired to launder the proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods, and others illegally concealed their involvement in the trafficking of counterfeit goods when applying for immigration benefits.

The charges in the indictments and criminal complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation was conducted by HSI Intellectual Property Group and HSI Border Enforcement Security Task Force and the NYPD Border Security Enforcement Task Force. Assistance was provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the New York State Police and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. The government’s cases are being prosecuted by Senior Counsel James S. Yoon of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), Assistant U.S. Attorneys William P. Campos and Temidayo Aganga-Williams of the Eastern District of New York and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Kaftal of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Claire S. Kedeshian is handling the forfeiture aspect of this case. The investigation was previously led by Senior Counsel Evan Williams of CCIPS.

The Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) contributed to this case. The IP Task Force is led by the Deputy Attorney General to combat the growing number of domestic and intellectual property crimes, to protect the health and safety of American consumers and to safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work. To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to https://www.justice.gov/iptf.

The Defendants:

QI FENG LIANG (aka “Alex” and “Mike Sotire”)
Age: 34
Brooklyn, New York

WO QI LIU (aka “Louis,” “Qi,” “Woqi” and “Big Elephant”)
Age: 43
Brooklyn, New York

ZHI MING ZHANG (aka “Jordan” and “Four B”)
Age: 43
Staten Island, New York

JOSSTINA LIN (aka “Tina”)
Age: 42
Brooklyn, New York

XUE WEI QU
Age: 51
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-419 (WFK)

XI QUAN HUANG
Age: 58
Queens, New York

YUN LEI HUANG
Age: 32
Queens, New York

YUN WU HUANG
Age: 34
Queens, New York

WEI MEI GAO
Age: 35
Queens, New York

SHENG MIAO XIA
Age: 44
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-408

SI LUNG CHUNG (aka “Allan”)
Age: 42
New York, New York

LE WEI ZHENG
Age: 42
New York, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-407 (CBA)

XIAO YING HUANG (aka “Linda”)
Age: 53
Nassau County, New York

QIONG CHAN MU (aka “Rosanna”)
Age: 26
Nassau County, New York

REN ZHONG ZHU
Age: 31
Nassau County, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-423 (JBW)

YONG LIN DONG
Age: 43
Queens, New York

CAI YING LIN
Age: 43
Queens, New York

CHENG XU YU (aka “Vic”)
Age: 29
Queens, New York

JIAN HUA ZHU
Age: 52
Queens, New York

JIN HUA ZHANG
Age: 55
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-396 (JBW)

JIE MEI CHEN (aka “Jenny”)
Age: 33
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-409 (BMC)

YU MING WONG
Age: 36
Queens, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-MJ-752

Financial Fraud: Harry Meir Mimoun Amar Sentenced For Participating in One Particular Fraud Scheme – BEC

Financial Fraud

Israeli-Moroccan Man Sentenced to 43 Months in Prison in International Business E-Mail Compromise Scheme

Fraud Scam Defrauded Companies of Millions of Dollars

WASHINGTON – Harry Meir Mimoun Amar, a resident and citizen of Israel and Morocco, was sentenced today to 43 months in prison for taking part in an international conspiracy to trick mid-level corporate employees into wiring millions of dollars to bank accounts under the control of those in the criminal enterprise.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

In April 2018, Amar, 40, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Today, he was sentenced by the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Following his prison term, Amar will be placed on 36 months of supervised release. He also must pay $273,321 in restitution and $49,503 in a forfeiture money judgment. Additionally, Amar will be subject to deportation proceedings.

Amar was among 17 people arrested in early 2017 following a multi-year investigative effort by federal and international law enforcement agencies to target multimillion-dollar fraud and money laundering schemes perpetrated by a transnational organized crime network. Amar was arrested in Israel and consented to his extradition to the United States. He has remained in custody since his arrest.

Amar was charged along with others last year with participating in one particular fraud scheme, known as a business e-mail compromise, or “BEC” scheme. One defendant was arrested and prosecuted in Germany for the BEC scheme. Cases against others remain pending.

According to a statement of offense submitted at the plea hearing, Amar and others used the Internet and primarily U.S.-based electronic communications to target mid-sized and large companies and impersonate executive-level employees in e-mail communications with mid-level employees. These mid-level employees were led to believe they were being entrusted to handle a large financial transaction, such as a “secret” corporate acquisition. The employees were instructed to initiate wire transfers from the company’s corporate bank accounts to bank accounts controlled by members of the criminal enterprise. Once the funds were transferred, the money was quickly wire transferred out of the reach of the target corporation into accounts located in the People’s Republic of China and elsewhere, with the funds ultimately being delivered to co-conspirators located in Europe and elsewhere.

In his guilty plea, Amar admitted taking part in the scheme from approximately January 2014 until August 2014, working with co-conspirators who were operating in other countries, including Turkey and Bulgaria. The statement of offense ties Amar to false representations made to four companies from Germany, Spain, Finland and Portugal. According to the statement of offense, the scheme generated $1,093,557 in U.S. dollars. Amar personally received $49,503 of the proceeds.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Liu and Assistant Director in Charge McNamara commended the work of those who are investigating the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Israeli National Police, German LKA Baden-Wurttemberg, the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior, Main Directorate Border Police, and Sofia Interpol.

They acknowledged the efforts of those who are handling the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Paralegal Specialists Brittany Phillips and Elizabeth Swienc, former Paralegal Specialist Christopher Toms, and Litigation Technology Specialist Jeanie Latimore-Brown.

Finally, they commended the work of former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Atkinson and David Last, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Lucas, of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Marando and David Kent, of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Original PressReleases…

Public Corruption: PAUL DEAN Plead Goilty to His Role in a Scheme to Obtain Approval of Gun Licenses in Exchange For Cash Payments

Financial Fraud

Former New York City Police Department Official Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Bribe Police Officers In Connection With Gun License Bribery Scheme

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the guilty plea of PAUL DEAN, to his role in a scheme to obtain approval of gun licenses by the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) License Division in exchange for cash payments and non-monetary bribes. DEAN, once second-in-command of the License Division, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Paul Dean betrayed his duty as a former leader within the New York City Police Department to protect and serve the public. Instead of assuring the integrity of the License Division he oversaw – a division charged with protecting the public safety by restricting access to firearms – he sought to corrupt it by bribing the very officers once under his command. This Office will continue to stop such corruption which undermines the public’s confidence in the law enforcement officers and institutions sworn to serve us all.”

According to the Indictment and Complaint filed in this case, other public filings, and statements made during the plea proceeding:

DEAN was a member of the NYPD from 1994 through 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2008 through 2016. DEAN, a lieutenant, was one of the highest-ranking members of the License Division and, from approximately November 2014 through November 2015, regularly ran the day-to-day operations of the License Division. Robert Espinel was a member of the NYPD from 1995 through his retirement in 2016, and was assigned to the License Division from 2011 through 2016.

From at least 2013 through 2016, multiple NYPD officers in the License Division serving under DEAN’s command, including David Villanueva and Richard Ochetal, solicited and accepted bribes from gun license expediters in exchange for providing assistance to the expediters’ clients in obtaining gun licenses quickly and often with little to no diligence. They obtained bribes from at least three expediters: Gaetano Valastro, a/k/a “Guy,” Frank Soohoo, and Alex Lichtenstein, a/k/a “Shaya.” Valastro was a former NYPD detective who retired in 1999, and who operated a gun store out of which he sold guns, gun paraphernalia, and gun safety courses.

The bribes included cash payments, paid vacations, food and liquor, the services of prostitutes, and free guns, among other things. In exchange, Villanueva, Ochetal, and the other officers approved, expedited, and upgraded licenses for clients of Valastro, Lichtenstein, and Soohoo. They did so by foregoing standard License Division diligence, including by failing to interview the applicants and failing to investigate the business-based need for applicants to carry guns. They approved licenses for individuals with substantial criminal histories, including arrests and convictions for crimes involving weapons or violence, and for individuals with histories of domestic violence.

In 2015, dissatisfied with the fact that private gun expediters were profiting thousands of dollars per gun license applicant when DEAN and others did the work to approve those applications, DEAN and Espinel decided to retire and go into the expediting business themselves. In order to ensure the success of their business, DEAN and Espinel planned to bribe Villanueva and Ochetal, who were still in the License Division, to enable their clients to get special treatment. They also agreed with Valastro to run their expediting and bribery scheme out of Valastro’s gun store. According to the plan, Valastro would benefit from the scheme because DEAN and Espinel would steer successful applicants to Valastro’s store to buy guns. They also tried to corner the expediting market by forcing other expediters to work through them. DEAN and Espinel attempted to coerce Frank Soohoo, another gun license expediter, into sharing his expediting clients with them by threatening to use their influence in the License Division to shut down Soohoo’s expediting business if Soohoo refused to work with, and make payments to, DEAN and Espinel.


DEAN, 44, of Wantagh, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. The charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison. DEAN is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Ramos on November 15, 2018. The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department, Internal Affairs Bureau.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Russell Capone and Kimberly Ravener are in charge of the prosecution.

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Financial Fraud: Tessicar Karelle Jumpp Sentenced For Orchestrating a Lottery Fraud

Financial Fraud

Jamaican Woman Sentenced for Lottery Scam Targeting Elderly Victims

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Jamaican citizen was sentenced today to six years in prison for orchestrating a lottery fraud that scammed elderly victims out of approximately $385,000.

“The financial and emotional harm these scams cause elderly victims and their family members can be devastating,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This office will continue to aggressively prosecute crimes involving elder fraud, and we are firmly committed to bringing the offenders to justice, no matter where they reside.”

According to court documents, Tessicar Karelle Jumpp, 34, conspired with several of her family members and associates to scam elderly victims out of their savings. From her home in Jamaica, Jumpp contacted victims in the United States and used an alias to pretend to be a representative of Publishers Clearing House. Jumpp falsely informed her victims that they had won a lottery prize of millions of dollars, but that in order to collect their winnings, they would need to pay taxes and advance fees. Jumpp then instructed her victims to send funds through wire transfers and in packages of cash mailed to her co-conspirators in the United States. Those co-conspirators would keep a portion of the funds and then send the remainder to Jumpp and others in Jamaica. Jumpp’s victims included an 85-year-old woman from Great Falls who was scammed out of over $335,000, and an 85-year-old Massachusetts man who was defrauded out of almost $50,000.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is grateful for the strong working relationships that led to the successful resolution of this case,” said Eric Shen, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “Postal Inspectors will continue to work together with our other federal law enforcement partners to ensure that criminals who target elderly and vulnerable victims in the United States cannot hide behind international borders.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners coordinated the largest sweep of elder fraud cases in history. The cases involved more than 250 defendants from around the globe who victimized more than 1 million Americans, most of whom were elderly. The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.

“This case is an excellent example of the interagency cooperation required to dismantle an international scheme designed to target elderly U.S. citizens,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark Field Office. “HSI’s financial expertise coupled with our international footprint demonstrates even those criminals operating outside of the United States will be pursued vigorously.”

“This investigation exemplifies the positive outcomes that the FBI and our partner law enforcement agencies are bringing about in a continued effort to protect all American citizens, but particularly our senior citizens, from scams,” said Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office. “In addition to the Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, and Inspectors, I want to thank our foreign partners in Jamaica for their coordination, which led to today’s sentencing.”

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Eric Shen, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Bateman prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14-cr-416.

Original PressReleases…

Financial Fraud: Olayinka Olaniyi And Damilola Solomon Ibiwoye Pleaded Guilty Of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Computer Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft

Financial Fraud

Jury convicts cybercriminal for hacking universities

ATLANTA – Olayinka Olaniyi, a citizen of Nigeria, was convicted by a federal jury on August 9, 2018, after a three-day trial, on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft. Co-defendant, Damilola Solomon Ibiwoye, pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced on January 31, 2018.

“These defendants used trickery to lure and exploit their unsuspecting victims, but they will now face the consequences of their scheme in federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We are grateful for the collaborative work by our national and international law enforcement partners in this case, and we will continue to vigorously prosecute cybercriminals who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to commit these types of crimes.”

“The FBI is determined to arrest criminals who believe they can hide out on the internet, protected by geographic boundaries, and prey on the American people and our institutions,” said J. C. “Chris” Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Division. “This case clearly shows the benefits of global cooperation between the United States and international law enforcement.”

“We were proud to support our federal partners in bringing down this criminal enterprise,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “We will remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting all who attempt to defraud honest, hard-working Georgians.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Olaniyi and Ibiwoye were behind several “phishing scams” that targeted colleges and universities in the United States, including the Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”) and the University of Virginia. While both are Nigerian citizens, they committed their crimes while living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and were extradited to the United States to face these charges.

A “phishing scam” is the act of sending fraudulent emails that appear to come from legitimate enterprises for the purpose of tricking the recipients into providing personal information, including usernames and passwords. Olaniyi and Ibiwoye directed phishing emails to college and university employees. Once they had possession of employee logins and passwords, they were able to steal payroll deposits by changing the bank account into which the payroll was deposited. Also, while logged into the university system through the stolen logins and passwords, these defendants were able to gain access to employee W2 forms, which they used to file fraudulent tax returns. The attempted theft was over $6 million.

The stolen funds were routed into U.S. bank accounts, and the evidence showed that access to these bank accounts was acquired through the use of romance scams, where fraudsters pose on dating sites and apps as potential partners to gain the trust of their victim. At some point, the fraudster will make a request to deposit money into their victim’s account and claim to need all of the account information, including their account number, routing number, passwords, and answers to security questions. In this case, all of that information was then used to funnel the proceeds of theft through those accounts and out of the country.

Olayinka Olaniyi, 34, of Nigeria is scheduled to be sentenced on October 22, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones.

Damilola Solomon Ibiwoye, 29, of Nigeria was sentenced to three years, three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release on January 31, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Brown, Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura D. Pfister prosecuted the case.

Original PressReleases…

Financial Fraud: Hiteshkumar Patel Pleaded Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Identity Theft, Wire And Mail Fraud

Financial Fraud

South Abington Man Sentenced To Over 19 Years In Prison For Fraud And Identity Theft Scheme

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Hiteshkumar Patel, age 52, a resident of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania, was sentenced on August 9, 2018, by United States District Court Judge Robert D. Mariani to serve 234 months in prison on the charges of conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Patel pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft in November 2017. The investigation revealed that beginning in or about August 2015 through May 2016, Patel was involved in a multi-faceted international conspiracy and devised a scheme to defraud that included individuals who falsely represented themselves as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents, as well as individuals associated with an illegitimate online loan business.

Individuals who falsely claimed to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacted unsuspecting victims throughout the United States. The victims were told that they had to immediately make a monetary payment in order to satisfy outstanding IRS tax debt and/or IRS penalty fees. Victims were told that there would be severe consequences if they did not immediately comply, such as federal agents knocking on their door, notification to employers, garnishment of wages, and even arrest.

South Abington Man Sentenced To Over 19 Years In Prison For Fraud And Identity Theft Scheme

Victims of the online loan fraud scheme were instructed that in order to receive the proceeds of their online loan application, they had to first make monetary payments associated with the processing of the application, such as fees for expediting the loan and insurance. Some victims of the loan fraud scheme were also told that outstanding IRS debt had to be satisfied before their loan application could be processed.

All of the victims were instructed to remit monetary payments to a number of different individuals via the U.S. Mail, Western Union, MoneyGram, and/or RIA (Walmart to Walmart). The monetary payments were received by Patel, or by members of the unlawful telemarketing organization and unindicted co-conspirators. The investigation identified 634 individuals directly tied to Patel’s criminal conduct from across the country. The victims collectively sustained a loss of nearly $900,000.

At sentencing, Judge Mariani stated that “Telephone schemes and online fraud have become a scourge in our society.” He described Patel’s crimes as “reprehensible” and “lacking in human decency.”

In addition to the prison term, Judge Mariani ordered that Patel be supervised by a probation officer for three years following his release from prison and further ordered that Patel pay restitution in the amount of $896,112.33.

Patel was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 20, 2017, after an investigation jointly conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of the Treasury – Treasury Inspector General, and the South Abington and Scranton Police Departments. Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski prosecuted the case.

Original PressReleases..

Health Care Fraud: Thomas Edward Spell Pleads Guilty For His Role in a More Than $240 Million Dollar Scheme to Defraud TRICARE

Health Care Fraud

Pharmacy Owner Pleads Guilty As Part Of Largest Health Care Fraud Case Ever In Mississippi

Nationwide Compound Pharmacy Fraud Scheme Involved Almost a Quarter of a Billion Dollars

Hattiesburg, Miss. – Thomas Edward Spell, Jr., 50, of Ridgeland, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett to a Criminal Information outlining his role in a more than $240 million dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE, the health care benefit program serving our nation’s military, veterans, and their respective family members, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze, IRS-Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Holloman, III, and Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Southeast Field Office.

Spell’s case is part of the largest health care fraud scheme ever investigated and prosecuted in the State of Mississippi. The investigation is ongoing and prosecutions are continuing nationwide, including in states such as California, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Connecticut. Spell will be sentenced by Judge Starrett on October 16, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.

“Ripping off our veterans and members of the military is despicable, and that is exactly what this defendant and others have done by defrauding TRICARE and the American taxpayer. Rest assured that we will hunt down all those who commit this type of fraud and we will not stop until such criminals are brought to justice. I want to thank the agents, AUSAs, DOJ trial attorneys, and our other law enforcement partners for their tireless work on this far-reaching scheme. This fraudulent activity has gone on for far too long, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to enforce our federal laws and clean up crime and corruption throughout our state,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.

“Spell’s guilty plea today proves that the scheme to defraud TRICARE, and the taxpayers who fund its services, operated throughout the highest professional levels in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Without the participation of those individuals in executive and decision-making positions, these schemes would often not materialize and/or profit those involved,” stated Thomas J. Holloman, III, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS – CI. “Thomas Spell was a leader and organizer in this far-reaching fraud and his guilty plea today is a win for all taxpayers. The special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation will continue to seek justice on behalf of this nation’s taxpayers, and will pursue the prosecution of wrong doers at the highest levels of these criminal organizations.”

“This guilty plea, resulting from the aggressive and tireless efforts of DCIS special agents, was part of a complex and widespread investigation with other law enforcement partners that brought to justice numerous defendants who believed they could get away with scheming to fleece the Department of Defense of hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. “Fraud and corruption in TRICARE, the Pentagon’s health care program, especially involving deceptive practices with prescription medications, is far from a ‘victimless’ crime. As a pharmacist who was entrusted with providing safe, effective medications, this defendant selfishly put greed and personal gain before the safety and well-being of our military members, combat veterans, and retirees, who deserve the best medications and care available.”

From approximately August 2014 through January 2016, Spell owned and operated a pharmacy in Madison County, Mississippi, and several other pharmacies across the United States. During this time, Spell and other co-conspirators marketed compounded medications at his pharmacies. Rather than formulating compounded medications based on the individualized needs of patients, formulas were selected to maximize profit based upon reimbursements fromTRICARE and other health care benefit programs.

At the direction of Spell and his co-conspirators, Spell’s pharmacies submitted fraudulent claims to TRICARE and other health care benefit programs. The result was that TRICARE reimbursed Spell’s pharmacies on these fraudulent claims totaling over $243 million.

In order to further their scheme, Spell and his co-conspirators waived TRICARE’s requirement that a beneficiary make a copayment to receive medicine. Instead, Spell and his co-conspirators had their employees purchase prepaid debit cards and money orders to use towards a copayment for a beneficiary, with Spell and his co-conspirators reimbursing their employees. Additionally, Spell and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to marketers in order to obtain prescriptions for compounded medications from prescribers for beneficiaries who were covered by the most lucrative health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, irrespective of whether the compounded medications were medically necessary for the treatment of beneficiaries.

As a result of this fraudulent activity, Spell personally obtained over $29 million in proceeds from the illegal scheme. Spell used these proceeds to fund bank accounts and investment accounts in his name, in the name of familymembers, and in the name of various business entities. Spell also used these proceeds to lend money and to purchase vehicles, boats, and property. The United States is seeking forfeiture of these assets listed in the Information.

This case has been designated as a related prosecution to cases charged earlier this year in the Southern District of Mississippi. Silas K. Richmond, II, a licensed pharmacist and marketer, pled guilty on July 18, 2018, to conspiracy to commit health care fraud regarding a scheme to defraud health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, of more than $545,000. To date, a total of 11 people have been charged and 8 convicted in the compounding pharmacy scheme in the Southern District of Mississippi.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Helen Wall and U.S. Department of Justice trial attorneys Katherine Payerle and Sean Welsh.

Original PressReleases…