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Monday, April 1, 2019

Two Sentences Handed Down In Northeast Georgia Methamphetamine Crackdown


G.F. “Pete” Peterman, III, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that two individuals were sentenced yesterday in Athens on drug and other charges by the Honorable C. Ashley Royal, Senior United States District Court Judge.
Travis Eugene Pearson, aged 40, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, was sentenced to serve 10 years (120 months) in Federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm by an illegal drug user. Mr. Pearson pled guilty to the charges on October 26, 2016. According to the plea agreement, on June 10, 2015, a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy stopped Mr. Pearson’s vehicle on Interstate 85 in response to several traffic violations. Mr. Pearson had more than $13,000 in U.S. currency in his trousers pocket. During a subsequent search, the deputy found a loaded firearm in the driver-side panel, drugs in clear baggies and drug paraphernalia.
During an interview, Mr. Pearson admitted that he had collected the currency from at least ten individuals in South Carolina and planned to use it to pay for methamphetamine acquired in Atlanta. He further admitted that he had made trips to Atlanta three prior times for drug-related activities. Mr. Pearson also stated that the firearm found in the car was his and that he had been a daily user of methamphetamine for two years.
In a separate case, William Corey Hughes, aged 26, of Bowman, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 13.5 years (162 months) in Federal prison for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Mr. Hughes entered his guilty plea on November 15, 2016.
In pleading guilty, Mr. Hughes admitted that on March 17, 2015, he was stopped by a Hart County Sheriff’s Deputy in Royston, Georgia while driving in the middle of the road. After Mr. Hughes refused to give consent for a search of the vehicle, a drug dog alerted on several spots on the car, including the front right headlight. Upon lifting the hood, the deputy found a metal box attached to the frame of the truck with magnets. Inside the box was a gallon-sized bag containing a crystalline substance later identified as methamphetamine, a substantial number of pills, and other drug paraphernalia.
The case against Mr. Pearson was investigated by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Peter Leary with the participation and cooperation of the District Attorney’s Office for the Northern Judicial Circuit of Georgia.
The Hart County Sheriff’s Office, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigated the case against Mr. Hughes. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Danial Bennett, again with the participation and cooperation of the District Attorney’s Office for the Northern Judicial Circuit of Georgia.
United States Attorney Peterman stated that “These two cases are excellent examples of what can be accomplished when federal, state and local authorities work together. In each case a major drug dealer has been taken out of the local community for a decade or more as the result of this cooperation.”
“We are grateful to the dedicated and professional prosecutors working in the United States Attorney’s Office for partnering with us to incapacitate those who peddle poison in our community. Drug dealers breed crime by profiting off of the misery of individuals who might otherwise have a chance to be productive citizens. The actions taken here by the United States Attorney’s Office sends a strong message to would be outlaws regarding the consequences of their action.” said Northern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Parks White.

Panamanian Drug Trafficker Sentenced for International Drug Conspiracy


RICHMOND, Va. – The leader of a Panamanian drug trafficking organization who imported 62 kilograms of cocaine into the United States using commercial shipping vessels was sentenced today to 16 years in prison.
Javier King-Ariano, 48, of Colon, Panama, pleaded guilty on March 21. According to court documents, starting in August 2015, King-Ariano set up a smuggling operation at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, to import two large shipments of cocaine into the United States. Both cocaine shipments were secreted into shipping containers in Panama and transported by unwitting commercial shipping vessels to the Port of Charleston. In his role as leader of the conspiracy, King-Ariano organized the operation by sending a co-conspirator to inspect the Port of Charleston to assess the viability of smuggling activities, arranged for suppliers to provide the cocaine, managed the offload of cocaine in the United States, and arranged payment for smugglers.
On the first shipment, in February 2016, King-Ariano sent 20 kilograms of cocaine from Panama to the Port Charleston. On February 12, 2016, law enforcement intercepted the 20 kilograms of cocaine sent by King-Ariano. On or about February 13, 2016, King-Ariano’s co-conspirators obtained a bag containing 15 kilograms of cocaine from undercover law enforcement officials. Upon taking possession of the cocaine, the co-conspirators boarded a commercial bus line and traveled to the Eastern District of Virginia. On or about February 14, 2016, law enforcement executed a drug interdiction operation in Sussex County, Virginia, on the commercial bus on which the co-conspirator was traveling. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement officers seized the bag containing the 15 kilograms of cocaine.
On the second shipment, in March 2016, King-Ariano sent 42 kilograms of cocaine from Panama to the Port Charleston. On March 11, 2016, law enforcement intercepted the 42 kilograms of cocaine sent by King-Ariano. On or about March 13, 2016, King-Ariano’s co-conspirator obtained a bag containing 22 kilograms of cocaine from undercover law enforcement officials. Upon taking possession of the cocaine, the co-conspirator traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina. Later that day, law enforcement executed a traffic stop on the vehicle driven by the co-conspirator. During the traffic stop, law enforcement seized the bag containing the 22 kilograms of cocaine.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Brothers Grimm and Holy City Shipping. The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Daniel Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Atlanta Division; Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charleston; Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent of Virginia State Police; Humberto I. Cardounel, Jr., Chief of Henrico County Police Division, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erik S. Siebert and Peter S. Duffey are prosecuting 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 is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:16-cr-59.

Two Sentenced for Roles in International Cocaine Trafficking Conspiracy


RICHMOND, Va. – A Charlotte woman was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for her role in an international drug trafficking conspiracy.
Tammie D. Diggs, 48, pleaded guilty on January 13. According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, on March 12, 2016, Diggs traveled from Charlotte, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina, to receive 22 kilograms of cocaine from a Panamanian drug trafficking organization (DTO) for domestic distribution. On the same day, law enforcement intercepted 22 kilograms of cocaine on a commercial shipping vessel at the Port of Charleston sent by the Panamanian DTO. The next day, Diggs obtained a bag containing 22 kilograms of cocaine in Charleston from a co-conspirator while under surveillance of law enforcement, and upon taking possession of the cocaine, Diggs traveled to Spartanburg, South Carolina. Later that day, law enforcement executed a traffic stop on the vehicle driven by Diggs and seized the bag containing the 22 kilograms of cocaine.
Diggs’s co-conspirator, Lamar Gayle, 34, of Brooklyn, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday. According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, on Feb. 12, 2016, Gayle traveled from Brooklyn to Charleston to receive 15 kilograms of cocaine from a Panamanian drug trafficking organization (DTO) for domestic distribution. On the same day, law enforcement intercepted 15 kilograms of cocaine on a commercial shipping vessel at the Port of Charleston sent by the Panamanian DTO. The next day Gayle obtained a bag containing 15 kilograms of cocaine in Charleston from a co-conspirator while under surveillance of law enforcement, and upon taking possession of the cocaine, Gayle boarded a commercial bus and traveled to the Eastern District of Virginia. The next day law enforcement executed a drug interdiction operation in Sussex County on the commercial bus on which Gayle was traveling. During the stop of the bus, law enforcement surveillance observed Gayle hide the bag containing the cocaine under a seat inside the bus, and shortly thereafter seized the bag containing the 15 kilograms of cocaine.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Daniel Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Atlanta Division; Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charleston; Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent, Virginia State Police; and Humberto I. Cardounel, Jr., Chief of Henrico County Police, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erik Siebert and Peter S. Duffey 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 is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:16-cr-108 (Gayle), and 3:16-cr-117 (Diggs).

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Federal Grand Jury Returns Twenty-Eight Indictments


MACON: Charles E. Peeler, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, announces that a Grand Jury, sitting in Macon Georgia, has returned indictments against twenty-eight defendants. An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct. All of the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.  “I want to thank our Federal and State law enforcement partners for their hard work bringing these cases before the Federal Grand Jury” said United States Attorney Peeler.
Those charged are:
NORRIS LOWE, aged 45, and KEISHA BUSSEY, aged 44, both of Atlanta, GA are charged in an indictment alleging:
Mr. Lowe is charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Count 1), Possession of Marijuana (Count 2), Felon in Possession of a Firearm (Count 3) and Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Offense (Count 4). Mr. Lowe faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, a maximum $1 million fine, or both, for Count 1; 12 months, a maximum $25,000 fine, or both, for Count 2; 10 years, a maximum $250,000 fine, or both, for Count 3 and life imprisonment, a $250,000 maximum fine, or both, for Count 4, if convicted.
Ms. Bussey is charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine (Count 1), Felon in Possession of a Firearm (Count 3), Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Offense (Count 4). If convicted, Ms. Bussey faces a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $1 million maximum fine, or both, on Count 1; 10 years, a $250,000 maximum fine, or both, for Count 3 and life imprisonment, a maximum $250,000 fine, or both, for Count 4.
The case was investigated by the Perry Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles L. Calhoun is prosecuting the case for the government.
JARON THOMAS, aged 26, of Eastman, GA, is charged with Possession of a Firearm with an Obliterated Serial Number and faces a maximum sentence of five years, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, if convicted. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles L. Calhoun is prosecuting the case for the government. 
SHAYANA A. TRUITT, aged 27, of Stone Mountain, GA, and JOHN ANTHONY WILLIAMS, aged 36, of Spartanburg, SC are charged as below:
 Ms. Truitt is charged with Possession of a Stolen Firearm (Count 1) and Possession of Marijuana and Methamphetamine (Count 3).  If convicted, Ms. Truitt faces maximum sentence of 1 year, a maximum fine of $1000, or both, for Count 1 and a maximum 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both, on Count 2.
Mr. Williams is charged with Possession of a Stolen Firearm (Count 1), Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (Count 2) and Possession of Marijuana and Methamphetamine (Count 3). If convicted, Mr. Williams faces a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment, a maximum fine of $1000, or both, on Count 1; a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, for Count 2; and a maximum sentence of 10 years, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, for Count 3.
The case was investigated by the Hart County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Jarrett is prosecuting the case for the government.
JOSE CALDERON A/K/A “FLACO”, aged 40, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine. If convicted, Mr. Calderon faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a maximum $10 million fine, or both.  The case was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Corrections and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah E. McEwen is prosecuting the case for the government.
FREDDIE LAMAR JOHNSON, aged 34, of Athens, GA, is charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana (Count 1), Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking (Count 2), Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (Count 3), Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana within 1000 Feet of a School (Count 4), and Possession of Oxycodone (Count 5). Mr. Johnson faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 maximum fine, or both, on Count 1; a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, a maximum sentence of $250,000, or both, on Count 2; a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, on Count 3; a maximum sentence of 10 years, a maximum fine of $500,000, or both, on Count 4, and a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment, a maximum fine of $100,000, or both, on Count 5, if convicted.  The case was investigated by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham A. Thorpe.
Four individuals were indicted for alleged Illegal Reentry after having been deported and removed from the United States.  All of the cases were investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael T. Solis is prosecuting the cases for the government.
  1. DERMER DUBON-SERRANO, aged 22, a citizen of Honduras, is charged with Illegal Reentry, having been deported and removed from the United States on or about September 13, 2013 and March 4, 2016. If convicted, Mr. Dubon-Serrano faces a maximum of two years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
  2. ALEJANDRO GODINEZ-MORALES A/K/A GABRIEL VASQUEZ-TORRES, aged 31, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with Illegal Reentry having been deported and removed from the United States on or about March 13, 2008; May 23, 2011; January 30, 2012; August 14, 2014 and March 6, 2017. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
  3. JUAN PEZA-RAMIREZ a/k/a JOSE HERNANDEZ-SALDANA, aged 44, a citizen of Mexico, is charged with Illegal Reentry having been deported and removed from the United States on or about January 19, 2007, October 21, 2011 and April 24, 2012. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
  4. EFRAIN HERRERA-ALAS, aged 28, a citizen of El Salvador, is charged with Illegal Reentry, having been deported and removed on May 8, 2004. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
JAMES T. PARKER, aged 35 of Leary GA, is charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, if convicted.  The case was investigated by the Albany Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Crane.
Twelve individuals were indicted for their alleged participation in a Wire Fraud Conspiracy: 
  1. GARLAND ALFORD, aged 75, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Counts 2-9). If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
  2. ETHELENE ALFORD, aged 75, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Counts 2-9). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  3. ANTONIO GARDNER, aged 34, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 17). If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  4. VICTORIA HENRY, aged 46, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 19). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  5. JENNIFER JOHNSON, aged 29, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (15). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  6. RENEE KIMBLE, aged 40, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 16). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  7. CRYSTAL MAXWELL, aged 35, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 10). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  8. WENDY MITCHELL A/D/A WENDY PRICKETT, aged 43, of Nashville, TN, is charged withWire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 11). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  9. ROSANNA ROUPE, aged 32, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 12). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  10. JEANIE SHEFFIELD, aged 34, of Colquitt, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SMAP Fraud (Count 14). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  11. KAYLA WALLACE, aged 25, of Donalsonville, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 18). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. 
  12. KANEESHA WOOTEN, aged 23, of Bainbridge, GA, is charged with Wire Fraud Conspiracy (Count 1) and SNAP Fraud (Count 13). If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
     
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher.
DEMETRIUS CLARK, aged 32 of Columbus, GA, is charged with Access Device Fraud (Count 1) and Aggravated Identity Theft (Counts 2-5). If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both, on Count 1 and two years in prison, to be served consecutively, on Counts 2 through 5.  The case was investigated by the Columbus Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin E, Hyde, Jr. is prosecuting the case for the government.
BRYANT HOOKER, aged 29 of Athens, GA, is charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person. Mr. Hooker faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, if convicted.  The case was investigated by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham A. Thorpe is prosecuting the case for the government.
ROBERT IVAN MASK, is charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, a $10 million fine, or both, if convicted.  The Brooks County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Drug enforcement Administration investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia C. Bowen is prosecuting the case for the government.
RYNE MICHAEL SEETO, aged 31, of Fort Washington, MD, is charged with Failure to Register as a Sex Offender and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in Federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, if convicted. The Houston County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul C. McCommon, III is prosecuting the case for the government.

Co-Conspirators in Upstate Counterfeiting Ring Plead Guilty to Federal Charges



Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated that yesterday afternoon Jose Alfredo Felix, Jr. , a/k/a “Smiley”; Benjamin Andrew Hinson; Penny Leigh Pilgrim; and Christine Nicole Snelson,  each have entered a guilty plea in federal court in Anderson, to Conspiring to Pass Counterfeit Currency, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  Additionally, Felix, Jr. entered a guilty plea to Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency, a violation of 18  U.S.C. § 471; Possessing a Firearm after a Felony Conviction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and 924(e);  and Passing Counterfeit Currency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472.  Additionally, Hinson entered a guilty plea to Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 471.  United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain of Anderson accepted the guilty pleas and will impose their sentences after he has reviewed the presentence reports which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Benjamin Hinson and Maranda Hopper, a co-conspirator who has already pled guilty, began manufacturing counterfeit currency in the summer of 2015.  Hinson distributed counterfeit to fellow co-conspirators, including Jose Felix, Jr., and passed the fake bills at stores around the Upstate. 
Felix joined in manufacturing and distributing counterfeit to fellow co-conspirators, including Penny Pilgrim and Christine Snelson, and the three passed counterfeit to businesses in the Upstate.  Additionally, Snelson and Felix worked together to pass the counterfeit to individuals on Craig’s List who were selling goods.  When Felix was arrested in late August 2015, he was in possession of a stolen vehicle with stolen plates, counterfeiting supplies, a Hi-point 9mm pistol, and ammunition.  Felix was a convicted felon at the time of his arrest, and therefore, prohibited from carrying firearms. Co-conspirators in this ring were responsible for passing counterfeit currency throughout the Upstate, Midlands, and North Carolina.
The co-conspirators were indicted on the counterfeiting charges in October of 2015.  Co-conspirators Maranda Hopper, Donald Wesley West, and Ashley King have already pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy.  
Mr. Nettles stated the maximum penalty for Manufacturing Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $250,000, the maximum penalty for Felon in Possession of a Firearm is imprisonment for Life and/or a fine of $250,000, the maximum penalty for Passing Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $250,000, and the maximum penalty for Conspiracy to Pass Counterfeit Currency is imprisonment for 5 years and/or a fine of $250,000.
The case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Secret Service, the ATF, the Spartanburg Police Department, the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office, the Columbia Police Department, the Greenville City Police Department, the Pickens County Sheriff's Office, the Anderson Police Department, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Easley Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, the Fletcher Police Department, and by South Carolina Probation and Parole.  Assistant United States Attorney Jamie Schoen of the Greenville office is prosecuting the case.

Jury Finds Georgia Man Guilty of Conspiracy to Pass Stolen Treasury Checks and False Statements


Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Colby L. Simmons, age 35, of Lithia Springs, Georgia, was found guilty by a jury in federal court in Anderson, for his involvement in a conspiracy to pass Treasury checks of the United States bearing falsely made or forged endorsements, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and making false statements to federal authorities, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain, of Anderson, presided over the trial and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. 
Evidence presented at the trial established that there was a multistate conspiracy, beginning in or about June 2013, to steal Treasury checks and cash them.  The checks belonged to disabled veterans, retired federal employees, and current federal employees. Several victims appeared at trial and testified about having automobiles repossessed, no money for Christmas gifts, and loss of homes because of the thefts.  
The investigation focused on Simmons beginning in June 2014 during a car stop on I-85.  Greenville County deputies stopped Simmons and found a Treasury check that did not belong to Simmons and $10,000 in proceeds from the cashing of Treasury checks.  On top of the check recovered there was written the driver’s license number of Brandy D. Page, a co-conspirator from Cowpens, South Carolina, who has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing. The check was sent to the laboratory and it came back as having on it the fingerprints belonging to Joshua A. Martin, a co-conspirator from Spartanburg, South Carolina, who has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing.  Martin and Page arrested some months after the stop of Simmons’ vehicle and confessed to their involvement.
In December 2014, Wal-Mart in Boiling Springs reported that it was the victim of approximately $200,000 in reclamations related to the cashing of Treasury checks.  Three cashiers were interviewed and several picked Page out of a line up as a person who cashes multiple Treasury checks in the store.  Cashiers also identified Josh Martin as cashing multiple Treasury checks. 
In January 2015, the Greer Wal-Mart reported approximately $75,000 in reclamations related to the cashing of Treasury checks.  On many of these checks there were written Page’s driver’s license number and date of birth.  Others had Martin’s driver’s license number and date of birth.  The store also had on file fake power of attorney forms that Page and Martin had used to cash the checks.
Investigation revealed that Page and Martin began cashing checks for Simmons in the summer of 2013.  During the initial meeting with Simmons, Page received three to four (3-4) checks. There were many more meetings in which checks were provided to Page and Martin and proceeds from the cashing of the checks were given to Simmons.  Simmons brought Treasury checks to Page approximately one to two times per month for at least eighteen (18) months.
Ms. Drake stated the maximum penalty Simmons can receive on both charges is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
The case was investigated by agents of the Greer Police Department, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.

Greenville Woman Pleads Guilty to a Mail Theft Conspiracy


Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that Julie A. Nelson, age 42, of Greenville, pled guilty in federal court in Greenville, to a conspiracy to defraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  United States District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks, of Charleston, accepted the plea and will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Nelson and co-conspirator Julie K. McDowell, who has pled and is awaiting sentencing, stole mail throughout the upstate of South Carolina.  Nelson and McDowell altered checks stolen from the mail and also created counterfeit checks from the information obtained. Nelson and McDowell then went to various business in the upstate to pass the checks and obtain goods or cash.  Often they used the stolen identification documents to aid in the negotiation of the checks.  Law enforcement was able to identify McDowell and Nelson after obtaining surveillance video from various merchants and banks where the two conspirators cashed checks. Upon making arrests, law enforcement recovered approximately $40,000 in stolen checks and $80,000 in counterfeit checks.
Ms. Lydon stated the maximum penalty Nelson can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, supervised release of three years, plus a special assessment of $100. 
The case was investigated by agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenville City Police Department, the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.

Six Illegal Aliens Guilty in Federal Court of Social Security Number Fraud


Columbia, South Carolina –------- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that six individuals, illegally in the United States, entered pleas of guilty before District Judge Donald C. Coggins, Jr., in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  The names of the Defendants are as follows:
From Honduras:
Luis Alberto Isaguirre-Cortes
Jose Santos Martinez      
Noe De La Cruz Galvez-Munguia

From Guatemala:
Fredin Orlando Cordon-Gonzalez
Julio Cesar Rojas Vasquez
Josue Eduardo Maas-Aparicio

Each Defendant entered a plea of guilty to one count of using a false Social Security number in order to acquire health insurance in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 408.  Sentencing will occur after the preparation of a Presentence Report by the United States Probation Office.  Each Defendant faces a possible sentence of up to five (5) years in prison.
At the guilty plea hearing Assistant United States Attorney David C. Stephens advised the Court that in the course of a wide ranging investigation the personnel records of the Defendants’ employer were reviewed.  During this review it was discovered that the six were working under false Social Security numbers and that using these numbers each had applied for and received health insurance. Stephens declined to go further in to details of the referenced investigation. Stephens further advised the Court that each of the six Defendants were cooperating with the Government concerning their employment and their use of false Social Security numbers.
USA Lydon stated that the case had been investigated by agents from the Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, and ICE-Homeland Security Investigations and she commended all of them for their hard work and close cooperation and support for each other.

Illegal Alien Sentenced to 10 Months in Federal Court


Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Jesus Patino-Lopez, age 31, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Florence, South Carolina, for Illegal Re-Entry into the United States.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins, Jr. of Spartanburg sentenced Patino-Lopez to 10 months in federal prison with 1 year of supervised release to follow. 
The evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing established that on June 23, 2017, ICE–Enforcement and Removal Operations Officers in Charleston, SC, encountered Patino-Lopez at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center where he was detained for local charges.  A records check revealed that Patino-Lopez is a native and citizen of Mexico and had two prior removals in 2009.  On both occasions, he was removed from the United States back to Mexico.  A records check also revealed that Patino-Lopez had not received permission to enter, re-enter, or remain in the United States. 
This case was investigated by officers of the ICE–Enforcement and Removal Operations and the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Hummel of the Florence office handled the case.

Dark Web Opioid Distributor Sentenced to 15 Years Imprisonment


Columbia, South Carolina------- United States Attorney Beth Drake announced today that Ana Milena Barrero, age 24, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment today in Federal Court in Greenville.

The evidence presented at the change of plea hearing and at the sentencing hearing showed that Barrero and her boyfriend, Theodore Khleborod, formed an agreement to sell large quantities of opioids, including U-47700 and fentanyl, using a dark web internet site called “AlphaBay.”  Interfacing with customers on AlphaBay under the username “PetertheGreat,” Khleborod and Barrero would ship opioids to customers via the U.S. Mail, and these customers would pay for the drugs using bitcoin.  The investigation culminated in the arrest of Khleborod and Barrero on April 26, 2017, and a search of their apartment in downtown Greenville.  Police seized approximately 43 pounds of substances they believe to be opioids during the search of the apartment, and authorities believe that drugs distributed by Barrero and Khleborod resulted in the deaths of at least two people and the serious bodily injury of a third.

The case was investigated by Special Agents with ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenville Police Department, and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. 

Assistant United States Attorney Andy Moorman, Deputy Criminal Chief for the Narcotics Division, prosecuted the case.

Greenville Business Owners Convicted by Federal Jury of Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy


Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Jonathan E. Field, age 41, and Shena J. Field, age 40, both of Mauldin, South Carolina, were found guilty of a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  A federal jury returned guilty verdicts late Friday evening after two hours of deliberation.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins of Spartanburg received the verdict and will sentence the Fields after receiving and reviewing a Presentence Investigation Report prepared by the United States Probation Office.   
Evidence presented at trial showed that the Fields owned and operated the business Reboot LLC, which purports to be a used electronics store.  Reboot, however, was an organized fencing operation where shoplifters, many of whom suffered from drug addiction, unloaded their new-in-the-box stolen items for a fraction of the items’ retail value.  The Fields posted the stolen items for sale on EBay and sold the items to honest purchasers who were uninformed as to the status of the items. 
The evidence showed that the Fields welcomed the shoplifters’ business by not requiring production of sales receipts and implementing a no-questions-asked policy at Reboot.  Store records entered into evidence showed that some shoplifters went to Reboot almost every day, and sometimes multiple times per day, to bring stolen goods.  The Fields and store employees would also meet the shoplifters after hours at gas stations and other spots to receive the stolen goods.  If Reboot oversold an item on EBay, the Fields would instruct selected shoplifters to obtain the item for Reboot so as to avoid bad feedback on the EBay website. 
Law enforcement estimates that during the conspiracy period the Fields received hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise.  Thirteen co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and admitted their involvement in the Reboot criminal enterprise. 
The maximum sentence the Fields face is 20 years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of court-ordered supervision. 
This case was investigated by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Secret Service.  Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew B. Moorman, Sr., and Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case. 

Florence Resident Sentenced in Federal Court for Manufacturing and Passing Counterfeit Money


Columbia, South Carolina ---- Sherri A. Lydon stated today that Gary Jerome Smart, age 26, of Florence, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Florence for conspiracy to manufacture and pass counterfeit money, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  United States District Judge Bryan Harwell, of Florence, sentenced Smart to 20 months’ imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release.
The evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing established that Smart was involved in a conspiracy to manufacture and pass counterfeit $100 and $50 bills in multiple states including South Carolina and North Carolina.  This conspiracy, which began in 2015, included at least nine codefendants who were responsible for producing and passing over $100,000 in counterfeit money. 
Smart was directly involved in making counterfeit at various locations, including residences in Florence.  In January 2017, he also passed counterfeit $100 bills at businesses in Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina.      
The case was investigated by agents of United States Secret Service with the assistance of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and the Florence Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney A. Bradley Parham of the Florence office prosecuted the case.

Sentencing Hearing Set for Barrero in Federal Court


Columbia, South Carolina-------United States Attorney Beth Drake announced today that a sentencing hearing for Ana Milena Barrero, age 24, has been set for Friday morning, May 11, 2018, at 10:00 A.M. in the federal courthouse in Greenville. 
The case was investigated by Special Agents with ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST), the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenville Police Department, and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. 
Assistant United States Attorney Andy Moorman, Deputy Criminal Chief for the Narcotics Division, is prosecuting the case.

Oconee Woman Sentenced to 18 Years in Federal Prison on Meth Charge


Greenville, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon announced today that Tabitha A. Hammond, age 37, of Seneca, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.  United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins of Spartanburg sentenced Hammond to 216 months in federal prison. 
Evidence presented to the court established that on August 8, 2017, an Oconee County deputy sheriff was patrolling in the Fair Play area when he observed a vehicle turn without signaling and then turn quickly into a residence before he could initiate a traffic stop.  The vehicle stopped at the residence for just a few minutes and resumed travel.  Upon observing a defective break light, he initiated a traffic stop.  There were four persons in the car and no one had a valid driver’s license with them.  The deputy observed much suspicious behavior, including extreme nervousness, attempts to hide the contents of various bags, and one passenger giving indications of flight.  The deputy received consent to search from the driver and located more than five pounds of methamphetamine in a bag belonging to Hammond.  After being given her Miranda warnings, Hammond admitted to engaging in drug trafficking activity.
This case was investigated by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office prosecuted the case.

Attorney General Sessions Announces $98 Million to Hire Community Policing Officers


Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department, City of Myrtle Beach, and the Spartanburg Department of Public Safety grant recipients in South Carolina

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced $98,495,397 in grant funding through the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) COPS Hiring Program (CHP). The Attorney General announced funding awards to 179 law enforcement agencies across the nation, which allows those agencies to hire 802 additional full-time law enforcement officers.
“Cities and states that cooperate with federal law enforcement make all of us safer by helping remove dangerous criminals from our communities,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Today, the Justice Department announced that 80 percent of this year’s COPS Hiring Program grantees have agreed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in their detention facilities. I applaud their commitment to the rule of law and to ending violent crime, including violent crime stemming from illegal immigration. I continue to encourage every jurisdiction in America to collaborate with federal law enforcement and help us make this country safer.”
Beth Drake, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, applauded the Department’s continued dedication to fighting violent crime at the local level and securing communities across South Carolina.  “The COPS grants will result in the hiring of additional officers in Berkeley County, Myrtle Beach, and Spartanburg. Protecting our communities against violent criminals is paramount and we look forward to continuing these efforts and working closely with our state and local law enforcement partners.”
The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department was awarded $1,000,000 for eight new officers.  The City of Myrtle Beach was awarded $1,250,000 in grant funding for the hiring of ten new officers.  The Spartanburg Department of Public Safety received $244,409 which will provide for the hiring of two new officers. 
CHP provides grant funding directly to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to support hiring additional law enforcement officers for three years to address specific crime problems through community policing strategies.
In September, the Justice Department announced additional priority consideration criteria for FY2017 COPS Office grants. Applicants were notified that their application would receive additional points in the application scoring process by certifying their willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities within their detention facilities. Cooperation may include providing access to detention facilities for an interview of aliens in the jurisdiction’s custody and providing advance notice of an alien’s release from custody upon request. Eighty percent of the awarded agencies received additional points based on their certifications of willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The COPS Office awards grants to hire community policing officers, develop and test innovative policing strategies, and provide training and technical assistance to community members, local government leaders, and all levels of law enforcement. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to help advance community policing.

Upstate Man Pleads Guilty to Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods


Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Beth Drake stated today that Joshua D. Korb., age 38, of Greenville, pled guilty in federal court in Greenville, to trafficking in counterfeit goods, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320.  Senior United States District Judge Henry M. Herlong, Jr., of Greenville, accepted the plea and will impose sentence after he has reviewed the presentence report which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. 
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing established that Korb ran an online EBay store called Steel-Town Memorabilia.  The investigation was initiated from a request by the National Football League (NFL) because of numerous complaints received by EBay and PayPal that Korb sold counterfeit NFL merchandise and sports memorabilia. 
Agents from the United States Postal Inspection Service made six undercover purchases from Steel-Town Memorabilia of NFL merchandise advertised as authentic.  Experts examined all the merchandise and determined all of the items were counterfeit because they were not manufactured by the trademark holder, not licensed or authorized by the NFL, contained a fake certificate of authenticity, or contained a forged signature.
Based on the results from the undercover buys, federal agents obtained and executed a search warrant on Korb’s Greenville residence.  Agents seized 2,911 pieces of NFL memorabilia. These items included counterfeit jerseys, forged signatures of current and former NFL players on NFL replica footballs and jerseys, and forged signatures of current and former NFL players on photos and posters. Agents also seized counterfeit certificate of authenticity seals.
In an interview with agents, Korb admitted that he purchased and sold counterfeit merchandise through his Steel-Town Memorabilia store. He told agents he signed the names of current and former NFL players to sports memorabilia and that he listed and sold some of the items as authentic NFL merchandise through Steel-Town Memorabilia. Korb started Steel-Town Memorabilia as a part-time business in 2006 after the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL but it expanded into a full-time business after the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.
Law enforcement estimates that Korb trafficked in more than $4 million worth of counterfeit goods before the search warrant shut down his business.
Ms. Drake stated the maximum penalty a defendant can receive is a fine of $2,000,000 and/or imprisonment for 10 years, three years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100.
The case was investigated by agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Homeland Security.  In addition, representatives of the NFL, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball also assisted in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins of the Greenville office handled the case.

U.S. Attorney Lydon Announces Progress in Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods


COLUMBIA, SC ------ United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that one year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
South Carolina’s implementation of PSN is called Project CeaseFire. PSN has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority. 
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “We know that the most effective strategy to reduce violent crime is based on sound policing policies that have proven effective over many years, which includes being targeted and responsive to community needs.  I have empowered our United States Attorneys to focus enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals in their districts, and directed that they work together with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to develop tailored solutions to the unique violent crime problems they face.  Each United States Attorney has prioritized the PSN program, and I am confident that it will continue to reduce crime, save lives, and restore safety to our communities.” 
Sherri Lydon, United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, has quickly redoubled efforts and resources in combatting violent crime and securing our communities, recently adding federal prosecutors in the Columbia, Greenville, and Florence offices.  “We are ‘all in’ with our state and local partners and committed to turning the tide of violence in South Carolina.”
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN/Project CeaseFire actions over the past year in South Carolina:
Enforcement Actions
Across the state, federal partners have worked hand in hand with local law enforcement agencies to make our communities safer by getting the most violent armed recidivists off our streets and out of our communities. One of the programs implemented under PSN/Project CeaseFire in South Carolina is “Operation Real Time,” which is designed to fast-track the most violent armed offenders to federal court, where many times they face stiffer penalties for firearm offenses and swift justice.
During 2017 – 2018, the USAO has prosecuted 533 armed offenders in 178 federal criminal complaints and 455 federal indictments. Below are some examples of armed felons successfully prosecuted under PSN/Project CeaseFire recently. Additional PSN/Project CeaseFire press releases may be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-sc/pr.
Community Partnerships
“National Day of Concern”:  On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office, along with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, will visit schools across South Carolina to meet with students as a part of our 17th annual Student Pledge Against Gun Violence.  With a focus on keeping their schools and communities safe, students in middle school and high school are signing a voluntary pledge promising that they will never take a gun to school, will never resolve a dispute with a gun, and will use their influence to prevent friends from using guns to resolve disputes. Elementary school children are making a simpler commitment, pledging that if they see a gun they will not touch it, they will tell a teacher or a trusted adult, and they will assume that any gun they see might be loaded.
The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is a national program that recognizes the role young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence. The program provides a means for beginning the conversation with young people about gun violence and encourages important conversation among young people about gun safety and respectful ways to resolve disputes. Students from around the country will join together in pledging to do their part.
'Focused Deterrence Models:  Aiken Safe Communities and beyond”: In late 2012, the USAO-DSC partnered with the Aiken Department of Public Safety as well as numerous other federal, state, and local enforcement partners and community partners in their efforts to advance “Aiken Safe Communities.”  This program entails inviting repeat offenders, many of whom are on state probation, to a public forum and allowing community partners, as well as law enforcement, to urge the offenders to not re-offend and to seize opportunities offered by the community. Officially launched in early 2013, the Aiken Safe Communities Initiative is a unified, proactive community approach to engage, educate, and encourage recurring offenders to change their behavior and make healthy life choices.  The initiative also bands together local, state, and federal law enforcement to expedite the investigation and prosecution of individuals who reoffend in lieu of accepting opportunities and assistance offered by the community during public notification meetings held at Aiken City Hall several times a year.
From 2012-2013, the City of Aiken experienced an 86% reduction in murders.  In 2014, the South Carolina Community Development Association presented the city of Aiken with its 2014 Award of Excellence, recognizing community development efforts that have significantly improved the quality of life in the community.  “Safe Communities” continues to thrive with active involvement by the community, to include faith-based, non-profit, and business partners, as well as law enforcement at all levels.  For those participants who did not avail themselves of the opportunities offered at the “call in” and reoffended thereafter, indictments followed.  However, of the over 125 individuals who have participated in the program, the resulting recidivism rate is less than 18% compared to a national average of over 75%.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has also helped facilitate and initiate additional iterations in Conway (C-STAND), Columbia (Ceasefire Columbia), Hartsville (Hartsville Safe Communities), Greenville (Greenville Safe Communities), and Orangeburg (Orangeburg) Safe Communities. 
“Operation ‘Home Front’”:  Home Front is a focused deterrence-based initiative to combat domestic violence led by 7th Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette.  The initiative launched in December of 2016 and has the full support and partnership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Solicitor Barnette has detailed a career prosecutor from his office, Jennifer Wells, to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney handling these cases for the 7th Circuit in United States Federal Court. Since early 2017, thirty-seven domestic violence defendants have been indicted and prosecuted as a part of the United States Attorney’s Office’s partnership with the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office to reduce domestic violence homicides and lower recidivism rates. Twenty-three of these defendants pled guilty to firearm related offenses. Two were found guilty at trial.  To date, eleven defendants have been sentenced between 16 – 108 months in the Bureau of Prisons.  The average sentence is 52 months. 
Modelled after a program started in High Point, North Carolina, members of the Home Front task force began earlier this fall, meeting with representatives from every police department in Spartanburg county as well as the Sheriff’s Office.  The Spartanburg County State Probation office and victim’s advocate stalwart, SAFE Homes, also serve as critical partners in this effort. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence is a community crime problem that costs the United States over $5.8 billion every year. It is a major drain on law enforcement resources as domestic violence generates a high volume of calls and repeated calls to the same location. Domestic violence homicides make up 40–50 percent of all murders of women in the United States. Women who have experienced a history of domestic violence report more health problems than other women and they have a greater risk for substance abuse, unemployment, alcoholism, and suicide attempts.
Research shows that the repeat domestic violence offender tends to have a significant criminal history that includes a wide range of both domestic violence and non-domestic violence offenses. Most of these offenders are readily identified as they are known to the criminal justice system. The Home Front initiative exposes the repeat domestic violence offender to sanctions because of his pattern of criminal behavior.  According to the 2015 Violence Policy Center “When Men Murder Women” report, South Carolina led the nation in rates of women murdered by men. Sixty-six percent (66%) of the victims were killed with a firearm and ninety-six percent (96%) of women murdered were killed by someone they knew.  In Spartanburg County during the 2015 calendar year, SAFE Homes serviced 6726 victims of domestic violence. In the same time frame, the Spartanburg Police Department charged 907 domestic violence cases and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office charged 1068 domestic violence cases. There were fourteen (14) domestic related deaths in Spartanburg County in 2015.
Solicitor Barnette has had enough.  “Domestic violence is violence, period.  It continues to plague our community--so costly and harmful to families and children, persisting year after year.  It is time for these offenders to get our best shot—our best efforts.  That is Home Front.”
 United States Attorney Sherri Lydon agrees.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office stands with Solicitor Barnette as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement in this innovative approach to stop the abuse and secure our victims and families from this continued cycle of horrific violence.”
Improvements to Community Safety
•        The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline.  The nationwide violent crime rate decreased by approximately one percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half percent.
•        The preliminary information we have for 2018 gives us reason for optimism that our efforts are continuing to pay off. Public data from 60 major cities show that violent crime was down by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.
These enforcement actions and partnerships are part of PSN, a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.

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