Former Government Contractor Sentenced to 60 Months for His Participation in Bribery Conspiracy

Friday, July 28, 2017

A former owner of a government contracting company that serviced the Military Sealift Command (MSC) was sentenced to 60 months in prison, and to pay a $15,000 fine, for his participation in a bribery conspiracy from approximately 1999 to 2014, in which he provided a contracting official at MSC with almost $3 million in bribes.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen today sentenced Joseph P. Allen, 56, of Panama City, Florida, following his guilty plea on April 19, to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

According to the statement of facts included in Allen’s guilty plea, Allen conspired with a government contracting official, Scott B. Miserendino, Sr., 58, formerly of Stafford, Virginia, to use Miserendino’s position at MSC to enrich themselves through bribery.  Specifically, beginning in about 1999, Miserendino used his position and influence at MSC to facilitate and expand Allen’s company’s commission agreement with a third-party telecommunications company that sold maritime satellite services to MSC.  Unknown to MSC or the telecommunications company, throughout the scheme, Allen paid half of the commissions he received from that telecommunications company to Miserendino as bribes.

For his role in the scheme, Miserendino was charged in a five-count indictment on May 4, with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery, and three counts of honest services mail fraud.  His trial is currently scheduled for October 31, before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.  The charges and allegations against Miserendino contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Norfolk offices of the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne and Molly Gaston of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Former Deputy Director of USAID Contractor Sentenced for Theft of Grant Funds

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

South African Doctor Took Over $200,000 Meant to Promote Safer Childbirth

WASHINGTON – Eugene Sickle, the former deputy executive director of a South African research institute, was sentenced today to seven months of incarceration and ordered to pay $206,250 in restitution for a scheme in which he stole grant funds originating with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The sentencing, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by Channing D. Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and Jonathan Schofield, Special Agent in Charge for the USAID Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations.

Sickle, 47, a chemist and a citizen of South Africa, pled guilty in May 2017 to a charge of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. The plea, which was contingent upon the Court’s approval, called for an agreed-upon sentence of six months to 12 months and a day of incarceration. The Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson accepted the plea today and sentenced Sickle accordingly. In addition to the restitution order, the judge issued a forfeiture money judgment of $206,250. Following his release, Sickle will be subject to deportation proceedings.

Based in Washington, D.C., USAID is a U.S. government agency that provides international development assistance and humanitarian aid worldwide. It implements and administers foreign assistance programs and funds, including those supporting global health, from dedicated offices (“missions”) around the world. USAID’s South Africa mission is one such office that works with local organizations in that country. USAID’s Office of Inspector General bases investigators in 11 countries outside the United States, including South Africa, and provides oversight of USAID programs and operations around the world.

According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Sickle was deputy executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, a South African research institute focusing on sexual and reproductive health as well as vaccine-preventable diseases. Its primary source of funding is USAID, and Sickle administered grant funds for projects. One such project involved a mobile electronic device software application, in connection with the South African National Department of Health, which would help facilitate safer childbirth deliveries in South Africa.

On Oct. 2, 2015, according to the statement of offense, Sickle and the institute’s chief executive officer signed a contract with a company called Alzar Consulting Services Ltd. to develop the childbirth app. Likewise, an individual named “Dr. Carla Das Neves” Alzar’s purported director, signed the contract. Pursuant to this contract, the institute made two payments to Alzar totaling $206,250. However, the childbirth app has never been developed.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Sickle created Alzar in the British Virgin Islands. Unbeknownst to anyone at the research institute, he was the sole owner of the company. Sickle also created e-mail accounts for Alzar and fake Alzar employees, including “Carla Das Neves.” He created a fake LinkedIn page for “Carla Das Neves,” which had a beach scene for a picture, and falsely claimed that “Carla Das Neves” was a trained expert in aid/relief work.

Sickle shepherded the research institute’s contract with Alzar through the approval and compliance process. He signed the contract both as himself and also as “Carla Das Neves.”

According to the statement of offense, Sickle did not perform any of the work required under the contract, nor did anyone else. None of the USAID money was used for its intended purpose to facilitate safer childbirth in South Africa. Instead, Sickle diverted the money to himself personally, and an associate.

Sickle resigned from his position last year. Agents with the USAID Inspector General’s Office arrested him in Washington, D.C., in February 2017. He has been in custody ever since.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Marston and Denise Simmonds and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vesna Harasic-Yaksic of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

Friday, July 28, 2017

Yesterday, a federal jury convicted the chairman of a real estate development company for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Chief Don Fort of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

After a four week trial, Ng Lap Seng, a/k/a “David Ng,” 69, of Macau, China, was convicted of two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering and two counts of conspiracy. No sentencing date has been set.

“The defendant’s corrupt activities were all the more egregious and shameful as he tried to hide his bribes as philanthropy,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Corruption is a disease that has a corrosive effect on the rule of law everywhere and harms good people throughout the world. The Department is steadfast in its mission to aggressively investigate and prosecute bribery in all its forms, and vigorously protect the rule of law.”

“In his unbridled pursuit of even greater personal fortune, billionaire Ng Lap Seng corrupted the highest levels of the United Nations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Through bribes and no show jobs, Ng turned leaders of the league of nations into his private band of profiteers. Ng’s journey from a Macau real estate mogul to convicted felon should serve as a cautionary tale to all tempted to follow his path. If you bring corruption to New York – whether to the State Capitol in Albany or to the halls of the U.N. General Assembly – your journey may very well end in a Manhattan federal courtroom, with a unanimous jury announcing your guilt.”

“Ng’s bribery scheme began at the intersection where business and intergovernmental matters overlap,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney, Jr. He may have thought this was a good place to start, but it’s doubtful this was the ending he had in mind. This case is nothing more than an example of corruption in its purest form, and we’ve proven once again that no individual or organization is powerful enough to be immune from prosecution.”

“Today’s conviction is a result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by Seng to facilitate bribes to foreign officials,” said Chief Fort. “IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of those who use corruption as their business model to circumvent the law. CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a dynamic synthesis of global teamwork and our robust financial investigative talents.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, Ng, the chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, conspired with and paid bribes to Francis Lorenzo, a former UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and John W. Ashe, the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN and the 68th President of the UN General Assembly (“UNGA”). With the assistance of Jeff C. Yin, an accountant and co-conspirator who worked with Ng and others and previously pleaded guilty, Ng orchestrated a scheme with the principal objective of obtaining the formal support of the UN for a multi-billion dollar facility that Ng hoped to build in Macau using the Sun Kian Ip Group (the “Macau Conference Center”). Ng wanted the Macau Conference Center to serve as a location for meetings, discussions, forums, and other events associated with the UN. In particular, he wanted it to serve as the permanent home of the annual “Global South-South Development Expo,” which is run by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, and is hosted in a different country or city every year.

The trial evidence further showed that Ng bribed Ambassador Ashe and Ambassador Lorenzo (together, the “Ambassadors”) in exchange for their agreement to use their official positions to advance Ng’s interest in obtaining formal UN support for the Macau Conference Center. As the evidence demonstrated at trial, Ng paid the Ambassadors in a variety of forms. For example, Ng appointed Ambassador Lorenzo as the President of South-South News, a New York-based organization — funded by Ng — which described itself as a media platform dedicated to advancing the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a set of philanthropic goals. Ng provided bribe payments to Ambassador Lorenzo through South-South News by transmitting payments from Macau to a company in the Dominican Republic affiliated with Ambassador Lorenzo’s brother (the “Dominican Company”). Through South-South News, Ng also made payments to Ambassador Ashe, including to Ambassador Ashe’s wife, who was paid in her capacity as a “consultant” to South-South News, and to an account that Ambassador Ashe had established, purportedly to raise money for his role as President of UNGA. Ng also provided bribes through cash and wire payments to the Ambassadors.

According to the trial evidence, one of the actions that the Ambassadors took in exchange for bribe payments, to advance Ng’s objectives, was to submit an official document to the then-UN Secretary-General in support of the Macau Conference Center (the “UN Document”). The UN Document claimed that there was a need to build the Macau Conference Center to support the UN’s global development goals. Ambassador Ashe, aided by Ambassador Lorenzo, initially submitted the UN Document to the UNGA in or about late February 2012. More than a year later, at Ng’s behest, the Ambassadors revised the UN Document to refer specifically to Ng’s company, the Sun Kian Ip Group, as a partner in the Macau Conference Center project. The UN Document requested that the Secretary-General circulate the UN Document “as a document of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly,” under a specific item of the official UNGA agenda. The Secretary-General followed this request, thereby making the UN Document an official part of the UNGA record.

Five other defendants have been charged in this matter. Co-conspirators Lorenzo, Yin and Heidi Hong Piao have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Shiwei Yan has pleaded and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Co-defendant Ashe passed away in 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed.

This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Trial Attorney David A. Last of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal, Janis M. Echenberg and Douglas S. Zolkind of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

Richmond Man Sentenced to 33 Months for Embezzlement

July 31, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Richmond, Ky., man, who previously admitted to embezzling money from several related commercial real estate companies in Lexington, has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison.

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph M. Hood sentenced 65-year-old Robert K. Chaffins for four counts of mail fraud. Chaffins was Vice President of the Asset Management Division of a conglomerate of related entities, namely Lex/108, LLC, Leestown Distribution, LLC, Melbourne Distribution Center, LLC, and 801 Realty, LLC. In this role, Chaffins was responsible for collecting various payments from tenants renting business space from these entities. Knowing some of the fees provided for in the leases were not being collected, he set up bank accounts in the name of these entities, billed the tenants for particular fees through the U.S. Mail, and deposited payments into the bank accounts for his personal use.

In total, from February of 2007 until January 28, 2016, Chaffins deposited $1,064,522.36 in checks intended for Lex/108, LLC, Leestown Distribution, LLC, Melbourne Distribution Center, LLC, and 801 Realty, LLC, into bank accounts he controlled. He used this money to make payments on a second home, a Mercedes Benz, investment and retirement accounts, and dozens of other personal expenses.

Chaffins pleaded guilty to the mail fraud charges in March 2017. Under federal law, he must serve 85% of his prison sentence and will be under the supervision of the United States Probation Office for three years following his term of incarceration.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Jon Oldham, Resident Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, Lexington Resident Office; and Chief Mark Barnard, Lexington Police Department, jointly announced the sentence.

The United States Secret Service and the Lexington Police Department conducted the investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Anderson represented the United States.

Former Home Healthcare Nurse Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud in Case that Resulted in Minor’s Death

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DAYTON, Ohio – Mollie Parsons, 47, of Middletown, Ohio, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 36 months in prison for healthcare fraud related to the death of a severely physically disabled minor.

She was previously sentenced by the state to serve 10 years in prison for her role in the death of her minor patient, and her federal sentence will be served consecutive to her state one. She is also banned from working for any governmental entity in the healthcare field for life.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Lamont Pugh, Special Agent in Charge, Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announced the sentence handed down today by U.S. District Judge Walter H. Rice.

According to the Statement of Facts in this case, Parsons was employed as a home healthcare nurse for a minor with severe physical impairments from at least 2009 until March 2011. Parsons was paid through Medicaid to provide daily nursing services, including but not limited to, wound care, personal hygiene maintenance and feeding assistance. The child under her care was unable to communicate, completely paralyzed and dependent upon feeding tubes.

Rather than working her eight-hour shift and providing the nursing services, Parsons was frequently absent from the home for extended periods of time. To conceal her neglect, the defendant submitted false claims to Medicaid to receive fraudulent payments for private duty nurse services.

Parsons pleaded guilty in the federal case in January 2016 to two counts of healthcare fraud.

“Parsons’ actions directly undermined the purpose for which Medicaid compensated her – providing medical care to a severely disabled child – as she deprived a child with cerebral palsy of the most basic medical care and comfort,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said. “The state prosecution served as the primary mechanism to address and punish the child victim’s death, but could not address the fraud against Medicaid. This federal prosecution therefore provides accountability for her fraudulent conduct as it relates to Medicaid.”

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the cooperative investigation by HHS-OIG, as well as Assistant United States Attorney Brent G. Tabacchi and Deputy Criminal Chief Laura I. Clemmens, who are representing the United States in this case.

Rowlett Woman Sentenced to 48 Months in Federal Prison for Role in Healthcare Fraud Conspiracy

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DALLAS — Charity Eleda, R.N., 56, of Rowlett, Texas, was sentenced this morning in federal court in Dallas on a health care fraud conspiracy conviction, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Eleda was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay to 48 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $397,294.51 in restitution to Medicare. She has been in custody since April 2016, after a federal jury found her guilty of various health care fraud offenses.

Eleda, along with co-defendants, Jacques Roy, M.D., 59, of Rockwall, Texas; Cynthia Stiger, 54, of Dallas; and Wilbert James Veasey, Jr., 65, of Dallas, were each convicted following a six-week-long trial on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. In addition, Roy was convicted on eight, Veasey on three and Eleda on four counts of health care fraud. Roy was also convicted on two counts of making a false statement relating to healthcare matters and one count of obstruction of justice. Eleda was also convicted on three counts of making false statements for use in determining rights of benefit and payment by Medicare.

Three other defendants charged in the case, Cyprian Akamnonu and his registered nurse wife, Patricia Akamnonu, both of Cedar Hill, Texas, and Teri Sivils, of Midlothian, Texas, each pleaded guilty before trial to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Cyprian and Patricia Akamnonu are each currently serving a ten-year federal prison sentence. They were also ordered to pay $25 million in restitution. Sivils pleaded guilty in April 2015, and was sentenced to 3 years probation.

The government presented evidence at trial that Dr. Roy, Stiger, Veasey and Eleda engaged in a large-scale, sophisticated health care fraud scheme in which they conspired together and with others to defraud Medicare and Medicaid through companies they owned/controlled: Medistat Group Associates, P.A., Apple of Your Eye Health Care Services, Inc., Ultimate Care Home Health Services and Charry Home Care Services.

As part of the conspiracy, Stiger, Veasey and Eleda, along with others, improperly recruited individuals with Medicare coverage to sign up for Medicare home health care services. Eleda recruited patients from The Bridge homeless shelter in Dallas, sometimes paying recruiters $50 per beneficiary they found and directed to her vehicle parked outside the shelter’s gates. Eleda and other nurses would falsify medical documents to make it appear as though those beneficiaries qualified for home health care services that were not medically necessary. Eleda and the nurses prepared Plans of Care (POC), also known as 485’s, which were not medically necessary, and these POCs were delivered to Dr. Roy’s office and not properly reviewed by any physician.

Dr. Roy instructed his staff to certify these POCs, which indicated to Medicare and Medicaid that a doctor, typically Dr. Roy, had reviewed the treatment plan and deemed it medically necessary. That certifying doctor, typically Dr. Roy, certified that the patient required home health services, which were only permitted to be provided to those individuals who were homebound and required, among other things, skilled nursing. This process was repeated for thousands of POCs, and, in fact, Medistat’s office included a “485 Department,” essentially a “boiler room” to affix fraudulent signatures and certifications.

Once an individual was certified for home health care services, Eleda, nurses who worked for Stiger and Veasey, and other nurses falsified visit notes to make it appear as though skilled nursing services were being provided and continued to be necessary. Dr. Roy would also visit the patients, perform unnecessary home visits, and then order unnecessary medical services for the recruited beneficiaries. Then, at Dr. Roy’s instruction, Medistat employees would submit fraudulent claims to Medicare for the certification and recertification of unnecessary home health care services and other unnecessary medical services.

The government presented further evidence at trial that the scope of Dr. Roy’s fraud was massive; Medistat processed and approved POCs for 11,000 unique Medicare beneficiaries from more than 500 different home health agencies. Dr. Roy entered into formal and informal fraudulent arrangements with Apple, Charry, Ultimate and other home health agencies to ensure his fraudulent business model worked and that he maintained a steady stream of Medicare beneficiaries.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force supervised by the Criminal Division Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys P.J. Meitl and Nicole Dana and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham prosecuted the case.

Marshall County physician indicted on health care fraud charges

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WHEELING, WEST VIRGINIA – A physician with a pain management clinic in McMechen, West Virginia, was indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in Wheeling on June 6, 2017 on health care fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud charges, Acting United States Attorney Betsy Steinfeld Jividen announced.

Dr. Roland F. Chalifoux, Jr., age 57, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, was indicted on eleven counts of “Health Care Fraud for Travel Dates,” seven counts of “Mail Fraud,” four counts of “Wire Fraud,” and four counts of “Health Care Fraud.” The crimes are alleged to have occurred from 2008 to June 2017 in Marshall County and elsewhere in the Northern District of West Virginia.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert H. McWilliams is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the West Virginia Insurance Fraud Investigation Unit are investigating.

An indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

SEC Announces Whistleblower Award of More Than $1.7 Million

Washington D.C., July 27, 2017

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a whistleblower award of more than $1.7 million to a company insider who provided the agency with critical information to help stop a fraud that would have otherwise been difficult to detect.  Millions of dollars were returned to harmed investors as a result of the SEC’s ensuing investigation and enforcement action.

”When whistleblowers tip the SEC, it not only can bring wrongdoers to justice but also relief to investors,” said Jane Norberg, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.  ”This whistleblower’s valuable information enabled us to stop further investor harm and ultimately return money to victims.”

Approximately $158 million has now been awarded to 46 whistleblowers who voluntarily provided the SEC with original and useful information that led to a successful enforcement action.

By law, the SEC protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers and does not disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal a whistleblower’s identity.  Whistleblowers may be eligible for an award when they voluntarily provide the SEC with original, timely, and credible information that leads to a successful enforcement action.

Whistleblower awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected when the monetary sanctions exceed $1 million.  All payments are made out of an investor protection fund established by Congress that is financed entirely through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators. No money has been taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards.

For more information about the whistleblower program and how to report a tip, visit www.sec.gov/whistleblower.

Hudson County, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To 63 Months In Prison For Masterminding Fake ID Website And Participating In ‘SIRF’ Scheme

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Jersey City, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for his role in two separate conspiracies: one to create and operate a website that sold high-quality, custom-made fake identification documents, some of which were later used to commit financial crimes, and a second to fraudulently obtain tax refund checks, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Ricardo Rosario, 34, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with authentication features and conspiracy to submit false claims to the U.S. Government. Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2012 through August 2014, Rosario, with the assistance of Abraham Corcino, 34, of Jersey City, and Alexis Scott Carthens, 38, of Newark, sold fake driver’s licenses over the Internet, running a website that was available at “fakeidstore.com” and “fakedlstore.com.” A number of the fake driver’s licenses sold by Rosario and other conspirators were used in connection with “cash out” schemes, where stolen credit card information, usually obtained through hacking or ATM skimming operations, was encoded on to counterfeit credit cards and used to steal cash from victims’ accounts.

Rosario created and ran the website. Corcino and Carthens assisted him by creating and mailing the fake driver’s licenses purchased through the website. Corcino also maintained an Instagram account to promote the website. The website sold fake New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin driver’s licenses, and the website boasted that the licenses had “scannable barcodes” and “real” holographic overlays. The price for each fake driver’s license was approximately $150, but the website offered bulk pricing for orders of 10 or more.

The website allowed its users to pay by bitcoin, a cryptographic-based digital currency, or MoneyPak, a type of prepaid payment card that could be purchased at retail stores. The “FAQ” section of the website indicated that orders would be received approximately one to two days after payment was received and described the website’s policy with respect to returns: “No Refunds. No snitching.”

In the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) conspiracy, Rosario assisted Carthens, who obtained stolen personally identifiable information (PII) primarily in the form of lab testing request forms that he purchased from another individual. Rosario provided Carthens with email accounts and drop addresses used in furtherance of the scheme. The email accounts were used to register accounts for online tax filing services and prepaid card accounts used to apply for and receive the tax refunds. The drop addresses were used to physically receive the refunds in the form of prepaid debit cards.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Rosario to three years of supervised release and ordered forfeiture of $232,660 and restitution of $121,922.

Corcino was sentenced on April 17, 2017, to three years of probation. Carthens pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme on April 25, 2016, and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit and Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Brian Neary Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey

Woman Pleads Guilty To Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds

Thursday, July 27, 2017

SAN JUAN, P.R. – Zoraida Velázquez-Bracero plead guilty to an information charging her with theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General was in charge of the investigation.

From June 2005 until July, 2015, Velázquez-Bracero was the Purchasing Director at Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, an entity that receives in excess of $10,000.00 in federal funding in a one year period. In this position, Defendant was issued a University corporate credit card for purchasing goods and supplies for the University as well as arranging official travel for University professors. However, in 2008 Defendant started using this corporate credit card for personal expenses not authorized by the University.

Through direct charges and cash advances, Velázquez-Bracero used this corporate credit card to pay for school tuition, household utility bills and other items, and vacations to Disney World, New York City, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Canada, and France. Defendant concealed the use of this corporate credit card by altering and/or creating fictitious credit card statements wherein she hid the charges by increasing the amounts of other legitimate charges to the card, or by deleting the charges altogether before submitting the statement to the finance department for payment.

Although the original limit on this corporate credit card was $80,000.00, Velázquez-Bracero obtained numerous credit limit increases by forging her supervisor’s signature on letters to the credit card company requesting said increases. Defendant knew that she was affecting federal grants when she illegally used this corporate credit card. The total amount of unauthorized charges by Velázquez-Bracero was $655,432.00.

“The defendant misappropriated funds intended to aid University students, for her illegal personal gain,” said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “At the U.S. Attorney’s Office we will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute financial crimes. This arrest should discourage those who get involved in these types of schemes before it’s too late, because we will continue investigating and prosecuting these offenses.”

“Federal education funds exist to provide students with educational opportunities and help students make their dreams of higher education a reality, it’s not a personal slush fund,” said Yessyka Santana, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Southeast Regional Office. “I’m proud of the work of OIG special agents, our law enforcement partners, and the PCUPR staff for holding Ms. Velázquez accountable for her alleged criminal actions.”

As a result of the guilty plea, the defendant may be sentenced to a term of eight to fourteen months in prison, a fine not to exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000.00), and/or a term of supervised release of not more than three (3) years. Assistant United States Attorney Scott H. Anderson is in charge of the prosecution of the case.

###

%d bloggers like this: