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Credit Card Counterfeiter Gets Five Years In Prison
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/04/06 18:29

United States Attorney Scott N. Schools announced that defendants Ming Li and Zhou Ru Tan have been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay fines in connection with their roles in a counterfeit credit card scam. Mr. Li was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine as well as more than $10,000 in restitution for possessing counterfeit access devices. Ms. Tan, who had a minor role in the scheme, was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. These sentences were the result of a four-year investigation by the United States Secret Service in coordination with local law enforcement in the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

Mr. Li, 35, of El Monte, California, was originally indicted by a federal grand jury on June 15, 2004. He was charged with possession and use of counterfeit access devices as well as possession of access-making equipment. Mr. Li pleaded guilty to possessing over fifteen counterfeit credit cards. Mr. Li also admitted to using counterfeit credit cards to fraudulently purchase merchandise in retail stores in the Bay Area that resulted in a total loss of between $1,000,000 and $2,500,000.

Ms. Tan, 36, of Richmond, California, was indicted by the same grand jury with the same violations of federal law and pled guilty to the same violation as Mr. Li. Ms. Tan admitted that her actions in using counterfeit credit cards resulted in loss of more than $5,000.

"These sentences embody the United States Attorney’s Office ongoing commitment to work closely with the United States Secret Service to investigate and prosecute credit card fraud," U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools stated. "The possession and use of counterfeit credit cards is a scourge on our modern society. Counterfeit credit cards threaten the integrity of our banking system and result in higher costs to businesses and consumers. Those who choose to engage in such fraud will be prosecuted, and if convicted, face lengthy jail time. The Department of Justice commends the dedication of the Secret Service in bringing Mr. Li and Ms. Tan to account for their crimes."

Charge upgraded after lieutenant's death
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/04/04 07:17

A man accused of driving drunk and fatally injuring a Gainesville Police lieutenant in the aftermath of Tuesday morning's national championship celebration could be prosecuted under a law passed following the death of another GPD officer in 2001.

Attorneys with the State Attorney's Office are reviewing whether Austin J. Wright, accused of DUI manslaughter in connection with Gainesville Police Lt. Corey Dahlem's death, could be prosecuted under a law known as the Scott Baird Act.

Gainesville Police Officer Scott Baird, 23, died in 2001 after he was struck by a vehicle while trying to remove a batting cage that had been dragged from a field at Gainesville High School onto NW 16th Terrace. Baird had been with the department two years when he was killed.

The year following Baird's death, Florida legislators passed an act that makes manslaughter of a law enforcement officer punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison rather than 15 years.

Prosecutors plan to review crash investigation reports and other records before determining if Wright will be tried under the Scott Baird Act, said State Attorney's Office spokesman Spencer Mann.

Wright, listed by troopers as an Atlantic Beach resident, was being held at the Alachua County jail late Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, Wright had made his first court appearance, at which a $500,000 bond was set for his release, said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Mike Burroughs.

Charges originally filed against Wright after the crash were driving under the influence with serious bodily injury to another and failure to stop or remain at an accident involving injury, Burroughs said. But, after Dahlem's death Wednesday afternoon, the charge was upgraded to DUI manslaughter aggravated by leaving the scene of a traffic crash involving death. Wright also was cited for careless driving and violation of a traffic control device.

Wright's prior criminal history and driving record show he had received tickets for speeding and was charged with minor drug-related charges.

Misdemeanor charges against Wright out of Highlands County for marijuana possession, possession of narcotics equipment and possession of alcohol by a person under 21 were dismissed, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He also had been cited for speeding in Hernando and Duval counties last year, a report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles showed.

Wright appeared to have a bruise on his cheek in a jail mug shot taken after his arrest. Police spokesman Lt. Keith Kameg said officers on the scene when Wright was stopped and later arrested said the bruise was present when he was taken into custody.

The name of an attorney representing Wright was not immediately available Wednesday.

Alameda man gets prison for groping girl
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/04/03 20:51

An Alameda man will spend seven months in prison for groping a 14-year-old girl he was sitting next to on a flight home from the Philippines last July, U.S. Attorney Scott Schools announced today. Benjamin Caniaveral, 48, was sentenced today in San Francisco federal court by Judge William Alsup and must report to prison by the end of the month.

Caniaveral pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of simple assault on a juvenile in October. In doing so, he admitted to intentionally touching the girl, who was sleeping in the window seat covered by a blanket.

The U.S. Attorney's office reports that Caniaveral first stroked the girl's arm with his hand, then he touched her on the stomach below the navel. The tip of his fingers reached below the waist of her pants, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The girl awoke during the incident, according to the U.S. Attorney's office, and she alerted a flight attendant.

"I laud the victim's courage in reporting and pursuing this case," said Schools. "Too often this type of attack is not reported or not punished."

The incident, which was investigated by the FBI, took place on a Philippine Airlines flight to San Francisco from Manila.

Milan woman indicted on bank fraud charges
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/04/01 17:15

A Milan woman has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Jackson on bank fraud and income tax evasion charges, according to a Friday release from David Kustoff, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

Donna L. Hardy, 48, of Milan, was charged with 12 counts of bank fraud and five counts of income tax evasion in a sealed indictment returned on Tuesday.
She made her initial court appearance on Wednesday, the release said.

According to the indictment, Hardy was employed by The Dedmon Company as a bookkeeper until it merged with Milan Box Corp. in March of 2002.
Hardy then was employed by Milan Box as a plant accountant. The indictment charges that from March 25, 2002 until around December 17, 2004, Hardy devised a scheme to defraud the former Union Planter's National Bank, now called Regions Bank.

Prosecutors said Hardy did not close bank accounts that belonged to Dedmon upon the merger of the two companies as she was instructed to do.

Instead, Hardy transferred funds from Milan Box accounts into the bank accounts belonging to Dedmon that were supposed to have been closed, the indictment said.

Hardy then transferred funds from this account to her personal bank accounts. The indictment lists more than $232,000 in fraudulent transfers from Milan Box accounts to Dedmon accounts.

In addition, the indictment charges Hardy with five counts of income tax evasion for the years 2000 through 2004.

According to the indictment, Hardy did not report over $250,000 in income on her federal income tax returns filed for these years. This resulted in a tax loss to the government of over $58,000.

This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and IRS Criminal Investigation.

Two former Rangers Pleads Guilty to Bank Robbery
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/03/11 01:37

Two former Army Rangers based at Fort Lewis pleaded guilty on Friday to charges related to an August 2006 bank robbery. Alex Blum, 19, of Greenwood Village, Colo., and Scott A. Byrne, 32, of California, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, according to the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington. A third Army Ranger, Chad Palmer pleaded guilty in December to charges related to the robbery.

A fourth Army Ranger, Luke E. Sommer, who has a dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship is under house arrest in his mother's home in Peachland, B.C., and fighting extradition to the United States. 

Blum, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess on June 8. Byrne, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1.

According to court documents, Sommer recruited Palmer, Blum and two men from Canada, Tigra Robertson and Nathan Dunmall. Blum was recruited to drive the getaway car. Byrne was identified in court documents as a "consultant" for the Aug. 7, 2006, robbery.

Byrne was not present at the robbery, the U.S. attorney said, but he advised Sommer to abandon his original plan to rob a casino and identified the bank as a potential target. Byrne also drove Sommer, Robertson and Dunmall to the bus station to catch a bus to Canada.

"While driving to the bus station, Sommer told Byrne that robbing the bank was more thrilling than combat and said he could not have organized the robbery without Byrne's help," the U.S. attorney said.

Blum drove the getaway car -- his own -- during the robbery, according to prosecutors. The robbers had removed the rear license plate of the car but didn't remove the front one. A witness jotted down the license plate number and authorities traced the car to Blum.

Searches at the Army base near Tacoma turned up body armor and money from the bank in the barracks rooms of Blum and Chad Palmer, a fellow Ranger. In Sommer's room, investigators found body armor, $10,000 in cash, two AK-47s and two semiautomatic handguns.

Blum was arrested in Greenwood Village while visiting his family.

Robertson is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on March 12. Sommer and Dunmall are fighting extradition from Canada.

Ohio Man Sentenced for Criminal Civil Rights Charges
Criminal Law Updates | 2007/01/18 06:34

David Fredericy, of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced today to serve 33 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit and for committing hate crimes targeting African-American residents of Cleveland, and for making false statements to federal investigators. During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Gaughan stated that she wanted to send "a message loud and clear that this conduct will not be tolerated."

On October 26, 2006, Fredericy pleaded guilty to conspiring to interfere and interfering with the federally protected housing rights of an interracial family because of their race, and for making false statements to federal investigators. Another Cleveland resident, Joseph Kuzlik, pleaded guilty to the same charges on November 27, 2006, and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 21, 2007.

Fredericy and Kuzlik engaged in a series of acts intended to threaten and intimidate African-American residents in their neighborhood. Among other acts, the defendants placed toxic mercury on the porch of a family with children for the purpose of intimidating them because they were an interracial family. In order to keep their unlawful actions secret, both Fredericy and Kuzlik lied to federal investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the federal agency that was initially charged with cleaning up the mercury and investigating the incident. Fredericy was ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA for the cost of cleanup, and was also ordered to pay restitution of a to be determined amount to individual victims who suffered financial losses as a result of the offenses.

"Any vicious act of racism is deplorable," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "What these men did is despicable, and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who violate the federally protected civil rights of others."

"Today's sentence is a fitting conclusion to a joint effort by the FBI, the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, and the Cleveland Police Department, and demonstrates the commitment of both state and federal law enforcement authorities to protecting every citizen's basic right to live in and enjoy his or her own home without fear of racial intimidation," said Gregory White, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann C. Rowland and Trial Attorney Kristy L. Parker of the Civil Rights Division.

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