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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

U.S ATTORNEY KENNEDY APPOINTS VETERAN PROSECUTOR TO LEAD ROCHESTER BRANCH OFFICE


BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that he has appointed Douglas E. Gregory, a 19-year veteran prosecutor of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York, Attorney-in-Charge of the Rochester Branch Office.  

“I am pleased to announce Doug’s selection as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Rochester Branch Office,” said United States Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. “Doug’s skills, both as a litigator and a leader, make him eminently qualified to serve in this role.  He has the respect and confidence of the law enforcement community, the legal community, and all who work for the Department of Justice. Having dedicated his entire legal career to enforcing the rule of law, to protecting the community, and to achieving justice, Doug has literally spent a lifetime preparing for this position. I have the upmost confidence in him, and I believe that Rochester and our entire District will benefit from his service. Simply put, Doug’s appointment represents good news for law-abiding citizens and bad news for criminals.”

Mr. Gregory, a native of Rochester, NY, began his legal career as a prosecutor with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office in 1993, where he served until July of 1999, at which time he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Gregory began his federal service prosecuting illegal weapons cases under Project Exile, a nationally recognized anti-violence campaign. Prior to being named Attorney-in-Charge, Gregory served as the Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Organized Crime Section, where he was responsible for the prosecution of gang cases, drug trafficking crimes and violent felony offenses. Gregory has been the lead prosecutor in several high-level prosecutions and jury trials, including a nearly four-month long, eight-defendant narcotics and weapons trial. He has successfully tried cases involving historical drug conspiracies, federal weapons violations, gang and violent criminal activity, and multi-defendant racketeering (RICO) offenses.

During his federal career, Gregory has received several national awards and honors, including the Directors Award for Superior Performance. He has also been recognized for distinguished service by the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation in New York City, and was a member of a Prosecutorial Instructor Team in Zagreb, Croatia as part of the Department of Justice Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training Program. Gregory received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Union College in 1989 and Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School in 1993.

U.S. Attorney Kennedy also made the following additional appointments:

·        Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Lee was named Chief of the Appellate Division for the Western District of New York;
·        Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick was named Chief of the White Collar General Crimes Section in Rochester; and
·        Brett A. Harvey was re-appointed as Chief of the Narcotics and Violent Crime Section in Rochester.

United States Attorney Kennedy went on to note that, “Chief Lee, Chief Resnick, and Chief Harvey are each widely-recognized as among the most talented AUSAs in their respective areas of practice in the entire Department of Justice. Tiffany is a talented writer and exceptional appellate advocate; Rick is hands-down one of the best white-collar prosecutors in the country; and Brett, who has a wealth of prosecutorial experience in area of drugs and violent crime, is likely the only AUSA in the entire United States successfully to convict two different individuals in two unrelated cases of providing material support to ISIS. All three AUSA’s are supremely talented, and as a community, we are fortunate to have them on our side.”

Ms. Lee obtained her J.D. cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law in 1997. She also obtained her M.A. in International Relations from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. From 1997-1999, Lee worked as a court attorney for the New York State Court of Appeals. In 1999, she became a confidential law clerk for the Honorable Richard C. Wesley, then Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. After completing her clerkship in August 2002, Lee began working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting white collar crimes and crimes against children in Rochester, NY. In December 2007, Lee was appointed the Project Safe Childhood coordinator for the Western District of New York. 

Mr. Resnick obtained his law degree from the State University at Buffalo, and his undergraduate degree from Alfred University. From 1990-1994, Resnick was a trial attorney with the Department of Justice, Tax Division, in Washington, D.C. Prior to that,  Resnick was a trial attorney with District Counsel, Internal Revenue Service, in Miami, Florida. In 1994, he began working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Rochester Office in the Western District of New York, prosecuting white collar and economic crimes. 

Mr. Harvey graduated from Albany Law School in 1995 after earning his undergraduate degree from Geneseo State in 1993. From 1995 to 1997, Harvey served as an Appellate Court Attorney for the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department. In 1997, Harvey joined the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, where he served until joining the Rochester Office of the United States Attorney’s Office in 2002.

NIAGARA FALLS MAN SENTENCED ON HEROIN CHARGE



BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Shaquan M. Shingledecker, 23, of Niagara Falls, NY, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute heroin, was sentenced to 30 months by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The defendant will serve his federal sentence once he completes a 24 month sentence he is currently serving for a New York State Parole violation.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan A. Tokash, who handled the case, stated that on February 2, 2017, New York State Troopers attempted to conduct a traffic stop of the defendant for a missing front license plate. Shingledecker did not pull over, but instead lead police on a high-speed chase at over 95 miles per hour through commercial and residential sections of Niagara Falls. The defendant lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the side of a house located at the intersection of Girard Avenue and 75th Street in Niagara Falls.

Inside Shingledecker’s vehicle at the accident scene, police found 95 glassine envelopes containing heroin, a loaded Ruger handgun with 10 rounds of ammunition, and $1,439.08 in United States currency.

Today’s sentencing is the result of an investigation by the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Edward Kennedy; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict, New York Field Division; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; and the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Superintendent Bryan DalPorto.

Monday, April 9, 2018

SCHUELE BOYS GANG MEMBER PLEADS GUILTY TO COCAINE CONSPIRACY



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Schuele Boys Gang member Antwon Steward, a/k/a Stacks, 34, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The charge carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a $5,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wei Xiang and Scott Allen, who are handling the case, stated that Steward admitted to participating in a cocaine distribution operation with co-defendant Michael Robertson, a/k/a Bones. Among the defendant’s roles was cooking powder cocaine into “crack” for Robertson. Steward and Robertson also shared supplies of cocaine, locations for storing and selling cocaine, and customers. The investigation utilized court-ordered interceptions of wire and electronic communications between Robertson, the defendant, and customers. Robertson was previously convicted and sentenced to 97 months in prison. 

Steward was one of 28 Schuele Boys Gang members, associates and other individuals arrested and convicted in this case. The Schuele Boys Gang, which operated in the Schuele Street area of the East Side of Buffalo, was responsible for multiple acts of violence, including murder, and the distribution of illegal narcotics including cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana.


The plea is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 8, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Arcara.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

SENECA FALLS MAN SENTENCED FOR FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS



ROCHESTER, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that James LaRock, II, 43, Seneca Falls, NY, who was convicted of filing a false tax return, was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $107,000 by U.S. District Judge Charles J. Siragusa.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard A. Resnick and Tiffany H. Lee, who handled the case, stated that for the tax years 2010-2013, the defendant, who is self-employed in the logging and firewood business, filed false personal income tax returns. Among other things, LaRock understated his gross receipts and omitted the cost of goods. In total, the defendant omitted approximately $280,470.72 in taxable income, resulting in a tax loss of $107,749 to the Internal Revenue Service.  

The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office.

BUFFALO MAN PLEADS GUILTY FOR HIS ROLE IN A DRUG TRAFFICKING RING LINKED TO A MEXICAN DRUG CARTEL



BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Pethrod Dunnigan, 40, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more or cocaine, and money laundering conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life and a $20,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Adler, who is handling the case, stated that between 2012 and March, 2016, the defendant conspired with Jose Manuel Lua-Guizar, Gerardo Ballardo, Enrique Munoz, Max Riestra, and others, to distribute cocaine and hide the proceeds from the illegal drug sales.

Co-defendants Ballardo and Lua-Guizar received shipments from California and then sold the cocaine to Dunnigan and others. The defendant paid $35,000 for each kilogram of cocaine received and then took the kilograms of cocaine to an apartment building on Delaware Avenue and store them in an abandoned apartment. 

Most of the drug proceeds were sent back to California by structured deposits made under the $10,000 reporting requirement at Bank of America branches. Dunnigan made multiple structured deposits at different Bank of America branches. The defendant and his co-conspirators accounted for over $1,000,000.00 in structured deposits in Buffalo. A ledger for structured deposits was recovered from a stash house in California. In that stash house, law enforcement officers also recovered shipping materials, 21 kilograms of cocaine, and three kilograms of heroin. On at least one occasion, the defendant shipped about $500,000 in U.S. currency to California by hiding the cash in a small refrigerator within a crate. 

A total of seven defendants have been indicted in this sophisticated drug trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel operating out of the Los Angeles, California area. The organization shipped drugs to various states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado, and Ohio. To date, four defendants have been convicted. Charges are pending against the remaining defendants. The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office. Additional assistance was provided by ICE-HSI in Los Angeles, California.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 8, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. before Judge Wolford.

ROCHESTER MAN SENTENCED FOR SELLING COUNTERFEIT COINS



ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today Timothy Meacham, 32, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted of selling counterfeit coins, was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $5,184.00 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Rossi, who handled the case, stated that in May 2017, Meacham posted an ad on Craigslist advertising the sale of two genuine United States gold collector coins. The defendant used a false name and concealed his phone number in the ad in order to hide his true identity. The victim, a Pennsylvania man, contacted Meacham and traveled to Rochester on May 15, 2017, at which time he purchased the counterfeit coins for $5,000.00 cash. As part of the fraud, the defendant falsely represented that the coins were authentic and had been passed to Meacham from his deceased grandfather. The defendant also falsely represented that he needed to sell the coins in order to pay for funeral expenses related to the unexpected death of a family member. Upon his return to Pennsylvania, the victim discovered that the coins were counterfeit and contacted the United States Secret Service in Rochester which began an investigation leading to the arrest of Meacham.     

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Lewis Robinson.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

NIGERIAN MAN SENTENCED FOR USING A FALSE PASSPORT



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Ibilola Rasheedat Yussuf, 30, of Nigeria, who was convicted of using a passport secured by a false statement in application, was sentenced to nine months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Cantil, who handled the case, stated that on September 12, 2017, the defendant applied for admission to the United States at the Peace Bridge Port-of-Entry in Buffalo. As proof of identity and citizenship, Yussuf presented a fraudulently obtained United States passport bearing the name Olivia Payne, born in 1981 in Chicago, Illinois. This passport was secured by reason of false statements provided in a passport application.

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy.

Friday, April 6, 2018

BUFFALO MAN INDICTED ON HEROIN CHARGE



BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Emmanuel Lopez, 27, of Buffalo, NY, with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, 100 grams or more of heroin and 40 grams or more of fentanyl. The charge carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a $5,000,000 fine

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and a previously filed complaint, between 2016 and December 5, 2017, the defendant sold heroin and fentanyl in the Buffalo area. In October, 2017, the ICE-HSI Border Enforcement Security Team (BEST) conducted a controlled purchase from Lopez. During the buy, the defendant turned over 24 small yellow bags which later tested positive for heroin, fentanyl, and tramadol.   

The indictment is the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Border Enforcement Security Team, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.  

HUSBAND AND WIFE PLEAD GUILTY IN SCHEME TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES



ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Bin “Ben” Wen, 46, and Peng “Jessica” Zhang, 45, both formerly of Horseheads, NY, pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to defraud the United States before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. Wen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud which is punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Zhang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea, the defendants agreed to forfeit nearly $5,000,000 in assets derived from their criminal activity. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tiffany H. Lee Grace M. Carducci, who are handling the case, stated that between June 2010, and December 2015, the defendants participated in a scheme to defraud departments and agencies of the United States of federal research funds that were awarded to companies controlled by the defendants. The government entities defrauded by the defendants included: the National Science Foundation (NSF); the United States Department of Energy (DOE); and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

In December, 2003, Zhang incorporated United Environment & Energy, L.L.C. (UEE) in Horseheads, NY. Meanwhile, Wen incorporated Advanced Technologies and Materials, L.L.C. (ATM), in December, 2007, also in Horseheads. UEE submitted approximately 13 applications to NSF totaling over $2,600,000, 10 applications to the DOE totaling more than $5,000,000 and four applications to the USDA totaling approximately $650,000. The defendant received, through their companies, approximately $8,400,000 in awards from the NSF, the DOE, and the USDA. 
Wen and Zhang submitted false and fraudulent information in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) applications by:

• fabricating letters of support and investment;
• providing false information in research grant proposals and reports regarding business entities, business employees, business/research facilities, matching funds and investments; and
• providing falsified reports and emails regarding how federal research funds were expended.

A substantial amount of the fraudulently obtained money went toward the personal use and benefit of the defendants.

“By diverting monies that were intended to promote innovation and technology in small businesses, the defendants, through their frauds, not only swindled taxpayers but stifled economic and scientific development,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “It is a core responsibility of this Office to ensure that those receiving federal funds are entitled to those funds and that they are spent in accordance with the purposes for which it was given. Wen and Zhang neither deserved nor appropriately dispersed the millions of dollars in grants that they received.”

Allison Lerner, NSF’s Inspector General said, “The defendants conspired to provide false information about their businesses in SBIR/STTR research proposals, correspondence, and reports submitted to the federal government, misrepresenting among other things, their key personnel and investments, and forming multiple sham companies to carry out their fraud schemes. Not only did they divert scarce taxpayer dollars intended for scientific research to personal use, they inflated their budgets with hours for individuals who were not actually employed by or doing research for their business, and doctored their biographies to strengthen their proposals, victimizing legitimate researchers and professionals in the community. I commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our investigative partners for their work on this case.”

“The SBIR Program is an essential Department of Energy program that supports scientific excellence and technological innovation,” stated Principal Deputy Inspector General April G. Stephenson. “We appreciate the efforts of our investigative partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in pursuing this matter. We will continue to work collaboratively with them to aggressively investigate those who seek to defraud Department programs.”
“In addition to enforcing the nation’s criminal tax laws, we are also an essential part of the larger law enforcement community,” said James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in- Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office. “Our specialized financial expertise is needed in these large and complex investigations, where in this case our Criminal Investigators followed the complex flow of money designed by the defendants to conceal fraudulent grant proceeds they obtained. In addition to today’s guilty plea, this led to the seizure of $5,000,000 in assets that will be forfeited.”

“This investigation demonstrates that ensuring taxpayer dollars are protected from fraud and abuse is a top priority for both the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Transportation (DOT),” said Douglas Shoemaker, DOT OIG Regional Special Agent-in-Charge. “Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue our efforts to promote the prevention, detection, and prosecution of contract and grant fraud schemes.”

Today’s plea is the result of a joint investigation by Special Agents with the National Science Foundation, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Inspector General Allison Lerner; the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Principal Deputy Inspector General April G. Stephenson; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James D. Robnett,  New York Field Office; and the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Douglas Shoemaker.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

PENNSYLVANIA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO PRODUCTION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY


BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Thomas A. Gillespie, 44, of East Brady, PA, pleaded guilty to production of child pornography, before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of life, and a fine of $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott S. Allen, Jr. and Russell T. Ippolito, Jr., who are handling the case, stated that between July 2014 and August 7, 2014, the defendant began communicating with a minor under the age of 12 in Cheektowaga, NY, via instant messaging on Vine.com. The communications were sexually graphic in nature, and involved the defendant coercing the minor victim into sharing sexually explicit images of herself.  A search warrant was executed at the defendant’s apartment in East Brady where federal agents recovered Gillespie’s computer. A forensic examination recovered images of the minor victim, including one nude image of the victim.  

The plea is the result of an investigation by detectives from the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Zack, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Kevin P. Lyons, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Wolford.

DUNKIRK WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO COCAINE CHARGE





BUFFALO, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a Minerva Maestre, 49, of Dunkirk, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroder to possessing with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum of 40 years, and a $5,000,000 fine.



Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch, who is handling the case, stated that on April 28, 2017, Dunkirk Police, the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant at 51 E. Second Street in Dunkirk, which is the residence of the defendant. During the search, officers seized 60 grams of crack cocaine, 42 grams of cocaine, plastic baggies, and $171,962 in cash.



The plea is the result of an investigation by the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, under the direction of Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Geraci; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; and the Dunkirk Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Ortolano. 



Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date before Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. 



CALIFORNIA MAN SENTENCED ON METHAMPHETAMINE CHARGE



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Lawrence Neubert, 46, of Spring Valley, CA, who was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, was sentenced to 120 months in prison by Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who handled the case, stated that on September 4, 2014, and October 2, 2014, the defendant shipped packages, containing more than 220 grams of methamphetamine, from California to Buffalo. Surveillance video from September 4, 2014, showed Neubert preparing the package and paying for its shipment in cash. In exchange for sending the packages, Neubert received $3500 in USPS money orders.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division. 

BUFFALO MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO DISTRIBUTING FENTANYL



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Jeremy Jorge, 21, of Buffalo, NY, pleaded guilty to distribution of fentanyl before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott S. Allen, Jr., and Wei Xiang, who are handling the case, stated that on at least seven occasions, between December 2016 and September 2017, the defendant sold what he marketed as heroin in exchange for sums of money between $300 and $1,300. A forensic analysis later determined that the substances contained a mixture of various controlled substances including heroin, fentanyl, butyryl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl, and U-47700. In total, Jorge distributed over 24 grams of fentanyl in the Buffalo community.

The plea is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 15, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Vilardo.

ROCHESTER WOMAN SENTENCED ON BANK FRAUD CHARGE



ROCHESTER, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Maria A. English, 28, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, was sentenced to 15 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany H. Lee, who handled the case, stated that between November 2012 and September 2013, English and co-conspirator, Michael Debardlabon, using the names, social security numbers, and dates of birth of two different Florida residents, obtained financing to purchase used automobiles, including an Infinity, a Lexus, and a BMW. The funding was obtained through financial institutions such as ESL and Ally Financial. The Florida residents never authorized the financial transactions to occur.  In addition, on one occasion, the personal information of a third Florida resident was used to open an American Express card and charge air fare for English.

Michael Debardlabon was previously convicted and sentenced.

Today’s sentencing is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Raymond Moss, Boston Division, and the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli.


OKLAHOMA WOMAN SENTENCED IN CONNECTION TO A FRAUD SCHEME



BUFFALO, N.Y.—U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Ann Nichols, 61, of Edmond, OK, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, was sentenced to two years probation to include eight months home detention by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The defendant was also ordered to pay $147,004 in restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie P. Grisanti, who handled the case, stated that Nichols and co-defendant Donnie Helig utilized a business entity known as CED Computer Services (CED) fraudulently to obtain loans for clients in the form of equipment “leases.” Another co-defendant, Wilfredo Sanio, operated a business in Georgia known as SCF Funding, which acted as a broker and brought clients to CED Computer Services. 

Nichols and Helig falsely advised lease finance companies that CED was selling new equipment to clients and prepared fraudulent invoices for new equipment when, in fact, no equipment or inferior equipment was actually being provided.  Upon receipt of the funding from the finance companies, defendant Nichols gave a commission to Heilig, herself, and Sanio, from the lease proceeds and sent the majority of the remaining proceeds to the client.

All three defendant have been convicted and sentenced.

Today’s sentencing is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen.

DEFENDANTS SENTENCED ON METH CHARGES


Buffalo, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Todd E. Varney, 34, of Wellsville, NY, who was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine, was sentenced to 42 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. In addition, Lionel C. Carter, a/k/a Skip, 61, of Wellsville, NY, who was convicted of a similar charge, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan T. Cullinane, who handled the case, stated that between January of 2011 and October of 2014, Varney and Carter engaged in the practice of “smurfing” (buying small quantities) at local pharmacies to get around restrictions on purchasing products containing pseudoephedrine, an important chemical necessary in the process of manufacturing methamphetamine. The defendants purchased the products in order to manufacture methamphetamine.
Varney and Carter are two of 12 defendants convicted in a methamphetamine manufacturing conspiracy in Allegany County. Six of the defendants have been sentenced.
The sentencings are the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET), under the direction of Lieutenant Kevin Reyes and Major David Krause; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict, New York Division; the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force, under the direction of Cattaraugus County Sheriff Timothy Whitcomb; the Wellsville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Timothy O’Grady; U.S. Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent-in-Charge Steven Oldman; and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, under the direction of Captain John Burke.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

BUFFALO WOMAN INDICTED ON HEROIN CHARGE IN CASE INVOLVING OVERDOSE DEATH



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Brittney Ridgeway, 29, of Buffalo, NY, with possession with intent to distribute, and distribution of, heroin. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul C. Parisi, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and a previously filed complaint, on November 24, 2017, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Cheektowaga Police officers responded to a report of a possible overdose death. After the officers arrived, they discovered a deceased 28 year-old female in the residence. Investigators who examined the scene discovered a NARCAN kit which had been opened but unused, items of drug paraphernalia, and a red and white checkered wax envelope, the type commonly used to package heroin.

Also discovered, a cellular phone belonging to the deceased woman. Investigators accessed the contents and recovered a series of text messages between the woman and another individual that appeared to be drug related in nature. Subsequent investigation determined that the other individual was Brittney Ridgeway.

The defendant was previously convicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of fentanyl and sentenced to 15 months in prison. Ridgeway was released on June 28, 2017, and began 36 months supervised release.

On November 29, 2017, United States Probation officers met with the defendant.  Ridgeway refused to provide her cell phone for examination. Officers then conducted a search of Ridgeway's Waverly Street residence and recovered a box containing numerous red and white checkered wax envelopes, similar in physical size and color to the envelope found near the deceased woman. Ridgeway was uncooperative with Probation Officers conducting the investigation.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt, New York Field Division; the Cheektowaga Police Department, under the direction of Chief David Zack; and the U.S. Probation Department, under the direction of Chief Probation Officer Anthony SanGiacomo.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

CITIZEN OF GHANA INDICTED ON CHARGES OF ASSAULTING FEDERAL OFFICERS



ROCHESTER, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Nana Dwomah Yeboah, 34, a citizen of the Republic of Ghana, with assaulting and resisting federal law enforcement officers and possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle P. Rossi, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and a previously filed complaint, on the morning of December 24, 2017, Customs and Border Protection Officers were conducting a routine patrol of the Greyhound bus station on Cumberland Street in Rochester. Officers observed the defendant enter the bus station, place a package on a bench in the lobby area, and exit the station, leaving the package unattended. After several minutes, the officers searched the abandoned package to ensure that it did not pose a threat to the public. Inside, the officers discovered a quantity of marijuana that appeared to be packaged for sale. After several minutes, Yeboah returned to the area and was questioned by the officers, who quickly determined that he was not a U.S. Citizen. As officers attempted to detain and further identify the defendant, he fled the station, leading the officers on a short chase. Yeboah was ultimately apprehended, but proceeded to fight the officers for several minutes, causing one of the officers to suffer facial injuries that required treatment at Rochester General Hospital.

The defendant was arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Feldman and is being detained. 

The indictment is the result of an investigation by Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Rose Brophy, Director of Field Operations, with assistance from the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli. 

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.  

SEVEN ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN ROUNDUP OF ROCHESTER DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION



BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Carlos Javier Figueroa, a/k/a/ Javi, a/k/a Big Bro, 39, Roberto Figueroa, 42, Leitscha Poncedeleon, 28, and Orlando Yelder, 36, Jose Justiliano-Rodriguez, 18, Jashua Figueroa, 19,  and Obed Torresall, 21, all of Rochester, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of five kilograms or more of cocaine, and use of a telephone to facilitate drug trafficking.The charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. In addition, Felix Figueroa was arrested and charged in a separate complaint with distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katelyn Hartford, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, Carlos Javier Figueroa is the leader of a Rochester-based drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing many kilograms of cocaine in the City of Rochester. The organization was involved in the transportation and sale of cocaine and was also responsible for acts of violence in furtherance of the organization’s drug trade. Various locations throughout Rochester were utilized to receive, store, and sell the supply of illegal narcotics. Carlos Javier Figueroa coordinated shipments of cocaine from Puerto Rico, which were sent to locations in Rochester via the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Since September 2017, at least 23 packages have been sent from Puerto Rico to addresses associated with the organization via USPS. Once the packages arrived in Rochester, members of the organization, including Carlos Javier Figueroa, Roberto Figueroa, and Poncedeleon, picked up the packages and took them to another location. The cocaine was then distributed or broken down and packaged for sale in quantities to be further distributed by others, including defendants Yelder, Justiliano-Rodriguez, Jashua Figueroa, Torresall and Felix Figueroa. 
In April 2017, members of the Rochester Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit and Special Investigations Section received information from an active member of the organization stating that the individual feared for his/her safety. The individual told investigators that Carlos Javier Figueroa was willing to provide a reward for his/her murder and that Carlos Javier Figueroa has had people killed in the past and he/she was very afraid of him. 
In December 2017, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began utilizing court authorized wiretaps and surveilling the area of 6 and 12 Burbank Street in Rochester, believed to be Carlos Javier Figueroa’s residence;      292 Barrington Street in Rochester, believed to be Roberto Figueroa and Poncedeleon’s residence and a stash house where shipments of cocaine are stored; 59 Fernwood Avenue in Rochester, a residence belonging to Carlos Javier Figueroa and the address where at least two packages of suspected cocaine were shipped to from Puerto Rico; and 820 East Main Street in Rochester.
On January 29, 2018, during the execution of state search warrants, law enforcement officers seized more than $600,000 in cash, six assault rifles, two loaded handguns, over two kilograms of cocaine, and a quantity of suspected heroin and fentanyl.   
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict; the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michael Ciminelli; the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter; the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley; the Greece Police Department, under the direction of Chief Patrick Phelan; the Brighton Police Department, under the direction of Chief Mark Henderson; and U.S. Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent-in-Charge Gregory Johnson.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

FORMER HAMBURG RESIDENT SENTENCED FOR WIRE FRAUD AND TAX EVASION IN CONNECTION WITH INVESTMENT FRAUD SCHEME



BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Christopher F. Venti, 49, of Ocala, Florida, formerly of Hamburg, NY, who was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford to 46 months in prison. Venti was also ordered to pay approximately $1,700,000 in restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse, who handled the case, stated that the defendant devised and executed schemes to obtain money from individuals by misrepresenting the existence and success of investment opportunities in order to convince those victims to transfer funds to him or to bank accounts he controlled. Venti engaged in three separate investment schemes between May 2011 and February 2014 as a result of which investors were defrauded of approximately $7,700,000. The defendant, without the authorization of the investors, utilized a portion of those investor funds for personal use.

Between 2006 and 2012, Venti also filed individual income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service on which he willfully evaded the payment of approximately $216,000 in taxes due and owing.

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Adam S. Cohen, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of James D. Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, New York Field Office.

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