North Texas man pleads guilty in conspiracy to illegally export radiation-hardened integrated circuits to Russia and China

08/03/2017

PLANO, Texas — A 62-year-old North Texas man pleaded guilty Thursday to federal violations of conspiring to smuggle and illegally export to China and Russia circuits used in space and military programs.
This guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston, Eastern District of Texas, and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente. This case is being investigated by the Dallas and Denver offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement, and the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

Peter Zuccarelli, from Plano, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle and illegally export from the U.S., radiation-hardened integrated circuits (RHICs) for use in the space programs of China and Russia, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). He entered his guilty plea Aug. 3 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest-Johnson.

Zuccarelli pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to smuggle and illegally export from the U.S. items subject to IEEPA, without obtaining licenses from the Department of Commerce.  According to the allegations contained in the information filed against Zuccarelli and statements made in court filings and proceedings, including the Aug. 3 guilty plea:

  • Between about June 2015 and March 2016, Zuccarelli and his co-conspirators agreed to illegally export RHICs to China and Russia. RHICs have military and space applications, and their export is strictly controlled;
  • In furtherance of the conspiracy, Zuccarelli’s co-conspirator received purchase orders from customers seeking to purchase RHICs for use in China’s and Russia’s space programs. Zuccarelli received these orders from his co-conspirator, as well as payment of about $1.5 million to purchase the RHICs for the Chinese and Russian customers. Zuccarelli placed orders with U.S. suppliers, and used the money received from his co-conspirator to pay the U.S. suppliers. In communications with the U.S. suppliers, Zuccarelli certified that his company, American Coating Technologies was the end user of the RHICs, knowing that this was false. Zuccarelli received the RHICs he ordered from U.S. suppliers, removed them from their original packaging, repackaged them, falsely declared them as “touch screen parts,” and shipped them out of the U.S. without the required licenses. He also attempted to export what he believed to be RHICs.  In an attempt to hide the conspiracy from the U.S. government, he created false paperwork and made false statements.

At sentencing, Zuccarelli faces a maximum statutory term of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes a presentence investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas together with the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Operators of Bogus Medical Clinics Charged in Conspiracy to Divert Massive Amounts of Prescription Narcotics to the Black Market

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Glendale Defense Attorney and Others Involved in Scheme Allegedly Obstructed Justice by Creating Fake Medical Records to Justify Fraudulent Prescriptions

LOS ANGELES – The operators of seven sham medical clinics were among 12 defendants taken into custody this morning on federal drug trafficking charges that allege they diverted at least 2 million prescription pills – including oxycodone and other addictive and dangerous narcotics – to the black market.

Two indictments returned late last month by a federal grand jury alleges that members of the conspiracy profited from illicit prescriptions that were issued without any legitimate medical purpose through a series of clinics that periodically opened and closed in a “nomadic” style. The fraudulent prescriptions allegedly allowed the conspirators to obtain bulk quantities of prescription drugs that were sold on the street.

Those arrested this morning include Minas Matosyan, an Encino man also known as “Maserati Mike,” who is charged with leading the scheme and controlling six of the sham clinics. Matosyan allegedly hired corrupt doctors who allowed the conspirators to issue fraudulent prescriptions under their names in exchange for kickbacks.

“The two indictments charge 14 defendants who allegedly participated in an elaborate scheme they mistakenly hoped would conceal a high-volume drug trafficking operation,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “In addition to generating illicit profits, this scheme helped drive the prescription drug epidemic that is causing so much harm across our nation.”

“This investigation targeted a financially motivated racket that diverted deadly and addictive prescription painkillers to the black market,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge David Downing. “Today’s arrests underscore our resolve – DEA and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate criminal enterprises that fuel and exploit the opioid epidemic.”

The indictments unsealed today and search warrants executed this morning describe how Matosyan would “rent out recruited doctors to sham clinics.” Matosyan allegedly supplied corrupt doctors in exchange for kickbacks derived from proceeds generated when the other sham clinics created fraudulent prescriptions or submitted fraudulent bills to health care programs. In one example described in the court documents, Matosyan provided a corrupt doctor to a clinic owner in exchange for $120,000. When the clinic failed to pay the money and suggested instead that Matosyan “take back” the corrupt doctor, Matosyan demanded his money and said, “Doctors are like underwear to me. I don’t take back used things.”

In a recorded conversation described in court documents, Matosyan discussed how one doctor was paid “for sitting at home,” while thousands of narcotic pills were prescribed in that doctor’s name and Medicare was billed more than $500,000 for purported patient care.

The conspirators also allegedly stole the identities of doctors who refused to participate in the scheme. In an intercepted telephone conversation described in court documents, Matosyan offered a doctor a deal to “sit home making $20,000 a month doing nothing.” When the doctor refused the offer, the conspirators nevertheless created prescription pads in the doctor’s name and allegedly began selling fraudulent prescriptions for oxycodone without the doctor’s knowledge or consent.

According to court documents, the conspirators also issued prescriptions and submitted fraudulent billings in the name of a doctor who at the time was hospitalized and later died.

“The defendants in this scheme heartlessly lined their pockets with cash from the sale of thousands of addictive prescription drugs sold through the black market,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation’s Special Agent in Charge, R. Damon Rowe. “IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to profit from the sale and distribution of illegitimate prescription narcotics creating a drug crisis of epic portions in our country.”

“For the sake of mere profit, the operators of these medical clinics spewed deadly prescription drugs onto our streets. The opioid epidemic gripping this country is well documented and our communities in the Los Angeles area have been impacted,” said Christian J. Schrank, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Too often those ill-gotten gains came at the expense of innocent Americans. It has been a pleasure working with our law enforcement colleagues to bring these people to justice.”

“Today’s enforcement actions, and the long-term multiagency investigation that preceded them, have dealt a major blow to a sophisticated healthcare fraud and identity theft scheme that posed a double threat. Not only did the defendants in this case use physicians’ names to write fraudulent prescriptions and fleece Medicare out of millions of dollars, but they’re also accused of funneling large quantities of dangerous prescription opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, into the community,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, HSI will continue to aggressively target those who compromise the integrity of our healthcare system and public safety to satisfy their own greed.”

The indictment also charges Matosyan and others – including Glendale-based criminal defense attorney Fred Minassian – with obstruction of justice for allegedly creating fraudulent medical records in an effort to deter the investigation.

After a load of Vicodin was seized from one of the conspiracy’s major customers, Matosyan allegedly oversaw the creation of fake medical paperwork in an effort to make it appear the drugs had been legitimately prescribed. The indictment describes intercepted conversations in which Minassian strategized on how to deceive law enforcement, which included a plan to bribe a doctor to lie to authorities.

The 12 defendants arrested this morning are:

  • Minas Matosyan, 36, of Encino, who is accused of leading the scheme by recruiting corrupt doctors, overseeing the theft of other doctors’ identities, and negotiating the sale of fraudulent prescriptions and narcotic pills;
  • Armen Simonyan, 52, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at some of the fraudulent clinics;
  • Grisha Sayadyan, 66, of Burbank, who allegedly managed the operations at various clinics and sold oxycodone and Vicodin pills directly to black market customers;
  • Sabrina Guberman, 45, of Encino, who, while working at the sham clinics, allegedly lied to pharmacies seeking to verify the fraudulent narcotic prescriptions, which included creating and sending fake medical paperwork;
  • Frederick Manning Jr., 47, of Santa Ana, allegedly one of the major drug customers of the clinics, who is charged with agreeing to purchase as many as 1,000 pills per week of narcotics from Matosyan;
  • Fred Minassian, 50, of Glendale, the criminal defense attorney who allegedly spearheaded the scheme to lie to law enforcement by making it falsely appear that Vicodin seized from Freddie Manning Jr. had been legitimately prescribed by a doctor;
  • Ralph Manning, 49, of North Hills (no relation to Frederick Manning Jr.), who is charged with being one of the principal couriers Matosyan used to deliver fraudulent prescriptions and “bulk quantities” of narcotic pills;
  • Hayk Matosyan, 30, of Granada Hills, Matosyan’s brother, who allegedly filled fraudulent narcotic prescriptions at pharmacies and sold the resulting narcotics pills to black-market customers.
  • Marisa Montenegro, 54, of West Hills, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptions;
  • Elizabeth Gurumdzhyan, 25, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled fraudulent prescriptons;
  • Anait Guyumzhyan, 27, of Hollywood, who allegedly filled prescriptions for oxycodone and returned the drugs to Matosyan-operated clinics in exchange for cash payment; and
  • James Wilson, 54, of Venice, who alone is charged in the second indictment with illegally selling oxycodone prescriptions out of a Long Beach clinic that he controlled.

The 12 defendants arrested this morning are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court.

Authorities are continuing to seek two defendants named in the main indictment. Those fugitives are: Gary Henderson, 62, of Lancaster, who allegedly purchased fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions from Matosyan; and an unidentified conspirator known only by the name “Cindy.”

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

All of the defendants face significant terms in federal prison if they are convicted. For example, if convicted of the nine counts in which he is charged, Matosyan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 165 years in prison.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration; IRS Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General; the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The primary investigative agencies received substantial assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Department of Justice, and the Orange Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Barron and Jamie Lang of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

California Man Arrested for Alleged Scheme to Smuggle Export-Controlled Rifle Scopes and Tactical Equipment to Syria

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rasheed Al Jijakli, 56, the chief executive officer of an Orange County, California check cashing business, was arrested this morning on federal charges that accuse him of procuring and illegally exporting rifle scopes, laser boresighters and other tactical equipment from the U.S. to Syria, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).  Jijakli is expected to be arraigned this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on a three-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on July 14.  The indictment was unsealed this morning after Jijakli was taken into custody without incident by law enforcement authorities.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California made the announcement.

The indictment accuses Jijakli, a naturalized U.S. citizen, of violating IEEPA, which authorizes the President of the U.S. to impose economic sanctions on a foreign country in response to an unusual or extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S. In accordance with that authority, the President issued an executive order that included broad restrictions on exports to Syria.  The U.S. Department of Commerce subsequently issued corresponding regulations restricting exports to Syria of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations.  Jijakli also faces charges of conspiring to violate IEEPA and smuggling.

From January 2012 through March 2013, Jijakli and three other individuals purchased and smuggled export-controlled items to Syria without obtaining licenses from the Department of Commerce. Jijakli and others allegedly hand-carried the items through Istanbul, Turkey and provided them to fighters in Syria. Those items allegedly included day-and night-vision rifle scopes, laser boresighters (tools used to adjust sights on firearms for accuracy when firing), flashlights, radios, a bulletproof vest and other tactical equipment.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.  If convicted of all three charges in the indictment, Jijakli would face a statutory maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Takla of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section of the Central District of California, and Trial Attorney Christian Ford of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

FinCEN Fines BTC-e Virtual Currency Exchange $110 Million for Facilitating Ransomware, Dark Net Drug Sales

July 26, 2017

Treasury’s First Action Against a Foreign-Located Money Services Business

WASHINGTON—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, assessed a $110,003,314 civil money penalty today against BTC-e a/k/a Canton Business Corporation (BTC-e) for willfully violating U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) laws. Russian national Alexander Vinnik, one of the operators of BTC-e, was arrested in Greece this week, and FinCEN assessed a $12 million penalty against him for his role in the violations.

BTC-e is an internet-based, foreign-located money transmitter that exchanges fiat currency as well as the convertible virtual currencies Bitcoin, Litecoin, Namecoin, Novacoin, Peercoin, Ethereum, and Dash. It is one of the largest virtual currency exchanges by volume in the world. BTC-e facilitated transactions involving ransomware, computer hacking, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption, and drug trafficking.

“We will hold accountable foreign-located money transmitters, including virtual currency exchangers, that do business in the United States when they willfully violate U.S. anti-money laundering laws,” said Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director for FinCEN. “This action should be a strong deterrent to anyone who thinks that they can facilitate ransomware, dark net drug sales, or conduct other illicit activity using encrypted virtual currency. Treasury’s FinCEN team and our law enforcement partners will work with foreign counterparts across the globe to appropriately oversee virtual currency exchangers and administrators who attempt to subvert U.S. law and avoid complying with U.S. AML safeguards.”

FinCEN acted in coordination with law enforcement’s seizure of BTC-e and Vinnik’s arrest. The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the criminal investigation.

Among other violations, BTC-e failed to obtain required information from customers beyond a username, a password, and an e-mail address. Instead of acting to prevent money laundering, BTC-e and its operators embraced the pervasive criminal activity conducted at the exchange. Users openly and explicitly discussed criminal activity on BTC-e’s user chat. BTC-e’s customer service representatives offered advice on how to process and access money obtained from illegal drug sales on dark net markets like Silk Road, Hansa Market, and AlphaBay.

BTC-e also processed transactions involving funds stolen between 2011 and 2014 from one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox. BTC-e processed over 300,000 bitcoin in transactions traceable to the theft. FinCEN has also identified at least $3 million of facilitated transactions tied to ransomware attacks such as “Cryptolocker” and “Locky.” Further, BTC-e shared customers and conducted transactions with the now-defunct money laundering website Liberty Reserve. FinCEN previously issued a finding under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act that identified Liberty Reserve as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern.

BTC-e has conducted over $296 million in transactions of bitcoin alone and tens of thousands of transactions in other convertible virtual currencies. The transactions included funds sent from customers located within the United States to recipients who were also located within the United States. BTC-e also concealed its geographic location and its ownership. Regardless of its ownership or location, the company was required to comply with U.S. AML laws and regulations as a foreign-located MSB including AML program, MSB registration, suspicious activity reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. This is the second supervisory enforcement action FinCEN has taken against a business that operates as an exchanger of virtual currency, and the first it has taken against a foreign-located MSB doing business in the United States.

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FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.

CONTACT: Steve Hudak 703-905-3770

Assessment:

http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&enid=ZWFzPTEmbXNpZD0mYXVpZD0mbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTcwNzI3Ljc2MzQ4NTgxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDE3MDcyNy43NjM0ODU4MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE3MDg0NDE4JmVtYWlsaWQ9am9hbi5tYXJzaGFsbEBnZXllcmdvcmV5LmNvbSZ1c2VyaWQ9am9hbi5tYXJzaGFsbEBnZXllcmdvcmV5LmNvbSZ0YXJnZXRpZD0mZmw9Jm12aWQ9JmV4dHJhPSYmJg==&&&102&&&https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/enforcement_action/2017-07-26/Assessment%20for%20BTCeVinnik%20FINAL%20SignDate%2007.26.17.pdf

KC Man Sentenced for Marriage Fraud

Thursday, July 13, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Kansas City, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court today for his role in leading a marriage fraud conspiracy.

Delmar Dixon, 49, of Kansas City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner to three years in federal prison without parole.

Dixon pleaded guilty on March 8, 2017, to leading a conspiracy to assist African nationals in circumventing immigration laws by arranging fraudulent marriages. Dixon also pleaded guilty to falsely swearing in an immigration matter.

Dixon admitted that he arranged 30 to 40 fraudulent marriages, including his own. Dixon charged the African nationals $1,000 upfront for his services, which included providing them U.S. citizen spouses. The African nationals were additionally required to pay $500 to the spouse at the time of the wedding, and an additional $500 immediately after completion of the wedding. They were required to pay their spouses $250 each month after the weddings until the immigration process was complete. The African nationals were coached by Dixon on how to make their marriages appear legitimate.

In addition to arranging fraudulent marriages, Dixon engaged in a fraudulent marriage himself. Dixon obtained a marriage license on March 19, 2008, and married a Kenyan national who had entered the United States as a B2 nonimmigrant visitor but overstayed her visa.

Co-defendant Traci R. Porter, 45, of Kansas City, Mo., was sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole. Co-defendant Tierra Ofield, 24, of Kansas City, Mo., was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison without parole. Co-defendants Kakeland Barnes, 37, Shakeisha Harrison, 37, and Stephanie Harris, 22, all of Kansas City, Mo., have pleaded guilty to their roles in the marriage fraud conspiracy and await sentencing.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Moore. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security.

Two More Defendants Plead Guilty in Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

Friday, July 7, 2017

An Arizona man and an Illinois woman each pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges today for their respective roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by India-based call centers.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) made the announcement.

Bhavesh Patel, 47, most recently residing in Gilbert, Arizona, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1956(h). Asmitaben Patel, 34, most recently residing in Willowbrook, Illinois, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses, in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 371.  The pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. Sentencing dates are pending.

According to admissions made in connection with their respective pleas, Bhavesh Patel, Asmitaben Patel, and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the U.S. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government. Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money. Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the U.S. to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.

According to Bhavesh Patel’s guilty plea, beginning in or around January 2014, Bhavesh Patel managed the activities of a crew of runners, directing them to liquidate victim scam funds in areas in and around south and central Arizona per the instructions of conspirators from India-based call centers. Patel communicated via telephone about the liquidation of scam funds with both domestic and India-based co-defendants, and he and his crew used reloadable cards containing funds derived from victims by scam callers to purchase money orders and deposit them into various bank accounts as directed, in return for percentage-based commissions from his India-based co-defendants. Patel also admitted to receiving and using fake identification documents, including phony driver’s licenses, to retrieve victim scam payments in the form of wire transfers, and providing those fake documents to persons he managed for the same purpose.

Based on admissions in Asmitaben Patel’s guilty plea, beginning in or around July 2013, Asmitaben Patel served as a runner liquidating victim scam funds as part of a group of conspirators operating in and around the Chicago area. At the direction of a co-defendant, Patel used stored value cards that had been loaded with victim funds to buy money orders and deposit them into various bank accounts, including the account of a lead generating business in order to pay the company for leads it provided to co-conspirators that were ultimately used to facilitate the scam.

To date, Bhavesh Patel, Asmitaben Patel, 54 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016. Including today’s pleas, a total of eleven defendants have pleaded guilty thus far in this case. Co-defendants Bharatkumar Patel, Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Harsh Patel, Nilam Parikh, Hardik Patel, Rajubhai Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilipkumar A. Patel, and Fahad Ali previously pleaded guilty on various dates between April and June 2017.

The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

HSI, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the investigation of this case. Also providing significant support were: the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; Ft. Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection and Elder Abuse Unit; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Alabama, Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey. The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.

Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Robert Stapleton of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

A  Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims and the public. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.

Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.

Labuda on Fake News and Trade

Former CBP Official, Janet Labuda at FormerFedsGroup.Com, provides us with her take on the importance of verifying the accuracy of news information in an emerging world news can longer be taken at face value.

 Janet.Labuda@FormerFedsGroup.Co

Over the last few months the fake news dilemma has featured prominently in the media. Day in and day out we receive bits and bytes of information through social media and other electronic sources that many read and take to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, regardless of how outlandish the claim or the source.

Such bits of information are rarely vetted either through our own personal “common sense” filters or through other reliable filters . This usually happens because we are pressed for time and simply can’t find the few minutes needed to verify and validate the information presented to us. What is even more problematic is that many of us pass on such unfiltered misinformation through broad electronic social networks thus perpetuating and exacerbating the problem.

The same holds true for the data we collect in the area of international trade. Customs uses data to drive every element of its trade facilitation and enforcement programs. Data collection and its subsequent crunching, dicing and slicing is the bedrock of their risk management processes. Decisions by Customs to focus on certain areas of potential non-compliance, on shifting resources to contain  perceived risk, and on pinpointing companies and their transactions for audit, and further scrutiny are made on what data is reported.

The key questions for companies are: how reliable is the data that is reported, and who is responsible to ensure that the data is accurate and reliable? In addition, what internal controls are followed to vet information. Compliance means reporting accurate information on the transaction to substantiate adherence to legal and regulatory requirements. U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforces strict record keeping requirements, which state “the accuracy of import (and export) information is important not only because it affects the revenue, but because accurate trade information and statistics are important in determining trade policy, the future eligibility of certain goods or goods from certain countries for special programs, the impact of imports on domestic industries, and the effectiveness of various trade agreements and programs.”

Companies need to established sound practices of filtering data received as well as   self-generated. If data is not regularly tested and validated it leaves your company in a vulnerable position. By reporting incorrect data to regulatory agencies, whether you yourself file, or you use a broker to file on your behalf, your company may be subject to unnecessary enforcement reviews, and penalties.

When it comes to data reporting, garbage in, garbage out is not acceptable anywhere in the supply chain. Only accurate and reliable data can help to keep your company insulated from risk.

ISRI gauging impact of coin buyback suspension

The American Metal Market Daily is the online resource for metals industry news and proprietary pricing information covering the steel, non-ferrous and scrap markets. Since its first print issue published in 1882, AMM has been the trusted name in metals industry information.  This is what AMM has learned about growing concerns reporrted by members of and recent actions taken by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI)  on their behalf (click below to access the article):

“Collecting coins out of scrap metal is a decades-old practice—particularly since the shredder came into being, and more so since the advent of advanced metal processing technology,” he said. “If it is hurting our members as a result of pricing of zorba or through the inability to sell direct back to U.S. Mint, then obviously we need to step in.”

Virginia Security Contractor to Pay $44,000 Over Allegations of Illegally Exporting Firearms Accessories

Alexandria, VA — Pax Mondial LLC, doing business as Mondial Risk Management Company (MRMC), agreed to pay the United States $44,000 to settle civil fraud claims that it illegally exported firearms accessories from the United States to Afghanistan in 2012. At the time, MRMC was providing security services to support work on the Kandahar Helmand Power Project, a United States Government reconstruction project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The settlement, reached between MRMC and the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2016, resolves claims that MRMC violated the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) by shipping weapons accessories from the continental United States to a U.S. Army/Air Post Office (APO) in Afghanistan between April 2012 and June 2012.  Working under a subcontract for security services with USAID implementer Black and Veatch, MRMC obtained these accessories, which included rifle stocks, replacement pistol magazines, and other weapons parts, to supply its security teams in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  The government alleged that MRMC knowingly failed to adhere to its subcontract provisions and U.S. laws and regulations regarding the export of such materials in violation of the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.).
“I commend the work of our special agents and their federal partners,” said Ann Calvaresi Barr, USAID’s Inspector General. “It is vital that U.S. Government contractors comply with rules governing their work and conduct overseas, especially those concerning international shipments of weapons and related accessories.  Failure to adhere to those rules is not acceptable.”
During the investigation, federal authorities identified a number of export violations, including MRMC’s failure to consult with the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a step that is required under both U.S. export laws and MRMC’s subcontract provisions.  Authorities also found that MRMC had failed to acquire the requisite permits, licenses, and registrations in order to ship these controlled items and had not registered as an exporter with DDTC.  MRMC did not disclose these violations to U.S. authorities until early 2013, long after the shipments had been made.
Under the settlement, Pax Mondial made no admission of liability.  The company registered with the Department of State’s DDTC while the investigation was underway.
The settlement is a result of joint investigative efforts by the USAID Office of Inspector General; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE’s) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Liberty Reserve Exec Gets 20 Years For Laundering

 

Arthur Budovsky, 42, was sentenced today in the Southern District of New York to 20 years imprisonment for running a massive money laundering enterprise through his company Liberty Reserve S.A. (“Liberty Reserve”), a virtual currency once used by cybercriminals around the world to launder the proceeds of their illegal activity.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York made the announcement.

In January, Budovsky pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering.  In imposing sentence, the court noted that Budovsky ran an “extraordinarily successful” and “large-scale international money laundering operation.”  U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote also ordered Budovsky to pay a $500,000 fine.

“The significant sentence handed down today shows that money laundering through the use of virtual currencies is still money laundering, and that online crime is still crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Together with our American and international law enforcement partners, we will protect the public even when criminals use modern technology to break the law.”

“Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky ran a digital currency empire built expressly to facilitate money laundering on a massive scale for criminals around the globe,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “Despite all his efforts to evade prosecution, including taking his operations offshore and renouncing his citizenship, Budovsky has now been held to account for his brazen violations of U.S. criminal laws.”

According to the indictment, Liberty Reserve billed itself as the Internet’s “largest payment processor and money transfer system” and allowed people all over the world to send and receive payments using virtual currency.  At all relevant times, Budovsky directed and supervised Liberty Reserve’s operations, finances, and business strategy and was aware that digital currencies were used by other online criminals, such as credit card traffickers and identity thieves.

Liberty Reserve grew into a financial hub for cybercriminals around the world, trafficking the criminal proceeds of Ponzi schemes, credit card trafficking, stolen identity information and computer hacking.  By May 2013, when the government shut it down, Liberty Reserve had more than 5.5 million user accounts worldwide and had processed more than 78 million financial transactions with a combined value of more than $8 billion.  United States users accounted for the largest segment of Liberty Reserve’s total transactional volume – between $1 billion and $1.8 billion – and the largest number of user accounts – over 600,000.

Four co-defendants, Vladimir Kats, Azzeddine El Amine, Mark Marmilev and Maxim Chukharev, have already pleaded guilty.  Marmilev and Chukharev were sentenced to five years and three years in prison, respectively.  Judge Cote is expected to sentence Kats and El Amine May 13. Charges remain pending against Liberty Reserve and two individual defendants who are fugitives.

The U.S. Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations investigated this case as part of the Global Illicit Financial Team.  The U.S. Secret Service’s New York Electronic Crimes Task Force assisted with the investigation.  The Judicial Investigation Organization in Costa Rica, Interpol, the National High Tech Crime Unit in the Netherlands, the Spanish National Police’s Financial and Economic Crime Unit, the Cyber Crime Unit at the Swedish National Bureau of Investigation and the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office also provided assistance.

Trial Attorney Kevin Mosley of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christian Everdell, Christine Magdo and Andrew Goldstein of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section provided substantial assistance.