Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces $13.4 Million Settlement Of Civil Healthcare Fraud Lawsuit Against US Bioservices Corp.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General for the New York Region (“HHS-OIG”), announced that the United States has settled a civil fraud case against US BIOSERVICES CORP. (“US BIO”) pursuant to which US BIO will pay a total of $13.4 million. The settlement resolves claims that US BIO violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act by participating in a kickback scheme with Novartis PharmaceuticalS Corp. (“Novartis”) relating to the NOVARTIS drug Exjade. Specifically, the United States’ Complaint alleges that US BIO and NOVARTIS entered into a kickback arrangement pursuant to which US BIO was promised additional patient referrals and related benefits in return for refilling a higher percentage of Exjade than the two other pharmacies that also dispensed Exjade. The settlement will also resolve numerous state law civil fraud claims.

Yesterday, Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon approved a settlement stipulation to resolve the Government’s claims against US BIO. Under the settlement, US BIO is required to pay approximately $10.6 million to the United States and has made extensive admissions regarding its conduct. Further, as part of the settlement, US BIO will pay approximately $2.8 million to resolve the state law civil fraud claims. In prior lawsuits, the Government sued NOVARTIS and the two other pharmacies that participated in this same Exjade kickback scheme. The Government settled those lawsuits, pursuant to which NOVARTIS paid $390 million, the two other pharmacies paid $75 million, and NOVARTIS and the pharmacies made extensive admissions regarding their conduct.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “The integrity of the federal healthcare system requires that all providers, including pharmacies like US Bioservices, refrain from entering into kickback relationships. When healthcare providers accept kickbacks, they violate the law, subject what should be health-based decision-making to the influence of profit-seeking drug manufacturers, and thereby put their own financial interests ahead of the interests of their patients. This Office will continue to use its law enforcement tools to pursue healthcare providers who accept kickbacks or otherwise put their profits ahead of patient safety.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “The conduct displayed by US Bioservices compromised patient care and undermined the integrity of our nation’s health care programs. This settlement should serve as a warning to all providers that choose to let financial inducements cloud their medical judgment.”

As alleged in the Government’s Complaint, US BIO participated in a kickback scheme with NOVARTIS that violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. In connection with this scheme, US BIO submitted claims for thousands of Exjade prescriptions to Medicare and Medicaid, causing those programs to pay out millions of dollars for false claims tainted by kickbacks. As part of the settlement, US BIO admitted as follows:

  • In December 2005, US BIO signed a contract with Novartis relating to the distribution of Exjade. Under that contract, Novartis agreed that US BIO would be one of three specialty pharmacies (the “EPASS pharmacies”) permitted to dispense Exjade as part of Novartis’s EPASS network. US BIO, in turn, agreed to provide specialty pharmacy services to Exjade patients, including having clinical staff available to speak with patients and to answer clinical questions or concerns about Exjade.
  • In or about June 2007, Novartis began issuing monthly “Exjade Scorecards” to US BIO and the other two EPASS pharmacies that measured, among other things, the pharmacies’ “adherence” scores. The “adherence” score in the Exjade Scorecards showed how long Exjade patients continued to order refills, without excluding patients who stopped ordering refills due to side effects or patients who were directed to stop therapy by their physicians. Starting in or about July 2007, Novartis had discussions with US BIO regarding how US BIO could improve its “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards.
  • In late 2007 and early 2008, and to improve its “adherence” score, US BIO trained its nurses to call Exjade patients and tell patients that not treating iron overload, for which Exjade is prescribed, could have severe consequences like organ failure, and that while Exjade had certain common side effects like diarrhea, such side effects typically went away with time. The nurses at US BIO did not use written scripts for the calls with Exjade patients.
  • In October 2008, Novartis implemented a new plan for allocating Exjade patient referrals among US BIO and the other EPASS pharmacies. Under that plan, Novartis would allocate 60% of all undesignated patient referrals to the EPASS pharmacy with the top “adherence” scores in the Exjade Scorecards and allocate 20% of the undesignated patient referrals to each of the other two EPASS pharmacies.

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Mr. Kim thanked HHS-OIG and the Medicaid Fraud Control Units for New York, Washington, and California for their investigative efforts and assistance with this case.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu and Mónica P. Folch are in charge of the case.

Owner of Hudson County Medical Equipment Supply Store Pleads Guilty To $100,000 from Medicaid Fraud Scam

TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced today that the owner of a Hudson County medical equipment supply store has pleaded guilty to fraudulently billing the Medicaid program more than $100,000 for medical supplies never provided to patients.

Alfredo Valdes, Jr., who owns T-N-T medical supplies in West New York, pleaded guilty to second-degree charges of health care claims fraud and theft by deception in a hearing before Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in Hudson County. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the State will recommend that the 42-year-old Clifton resident be sentenced to four years in state prison. Valdes will also pay $101,000 in restitution to Horizon New Jersey Health, and sign a consent order agreeing to lifetime disbarment from participation as a provider in the New Jersey Medicaid program.

“Stealing from a program that provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford health insurance or health care services is not only a crime, it’s a disgrace,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This guilty plea ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for his actions and will never again be in a position to divert resources from those who truly need it.”

“Every dollar lost to Medicaid fraud is one less dollar available to help some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Christopher Iu. “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue to aggressively investigate and punish those exploit the Medicaid system for their personal enrichment.”

In pleading guilty, Valdes admitted that between January 2008 and March 2016 he fraudulently submitted claims totaling more than $100,000 to Horizon NJ Health, a provider of Medicaid services in the state. The claims falsely stated that Valdes had distributed durable medical equipment – including compression stockings, diapers and other items – to patients who, in fact, had died prior to the dates of the purported distributions.

Valdes is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2018.

Deputy Attorney General Melissa Simsen represented the State in the plea hearing. Detectives Anthony Iannice and Kylie Mattis coordinated the investigation with assistance from Det. Megan Brennan of the Special Investigation Unit at Horizon New Jersey Health, and Analysts Keira McRae-Wiggins and Kelly Celenza. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu thanked the SIU Unit at Horizon for referring the matter to the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor.

John Lynch, Esq. represented Valdes at the plea hearing.

Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Iu noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.NJInsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.

Follow the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office online at TwitterFacebookInstagram & YouTube. The social media links provided are for reference only. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office does not endorse any non-governmental websites, companies or applications.

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Civil Suit And Criminal Charges Against Pharmacy Owner For Allegedly Defrauding Medicaid Of Millions

Hin T. Wong Allegedly Paid Patients Kickbacks And Billed Medicaid For HIV Medications Never Dispensed

Defendant Allegedly Used Money Stolen From Medicaid To Fund Personal Expenses, Including Travel And Furniture 

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit and criminal charges against pharmacist Hin T. Wong, 49, of Manhattan, and NY Pharmacy, Inc. (“NY Pharmacy”) for allegedly defrauding the New York State Medicaid program out of millions of dollars. Wong, a licensed pharmacist and owner of NY Pharmacy, located at 131 Walker Street in Manhattan, allegedly paid undercover agents posing as Medicaid recipients kickbacks for HIV prescriptions and for referring other Medicaid recipients to bring their prescriptions to NY Pharmacy. Wong and NY Pharmacy also allegedly billed and were eventually paid over $60,0000 by Medicaid for refills on prescriptions submitted by undercover agents that NY Pharmacy either did not dispense or were predicated on the payment of a kickback.   Various state laws and Medicaid regulations prohibit the payment of kickbacks for the referral of patients or individual prescriptions. In addition, the  Attorney General also announced the filing of a civil asset forfeiture action seeking over $11 million in damages from Wong, NY Pharmacy and two other pharmacies owned by Wong that are now closed.

“Stealing from Medicaid in order to purchase fancy accessories and travel tickets is absolutely shameful,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will not allow Medicaid to serve as a personal piggy bank for criminals. Fraudsters who seek to rip-off this vital program that helps millions of New Yorkers will be held accountable.”

The on-going investigation into NY Pharmacy being conducted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (“MFCU”) revealed that on multiple occasions between July 2014 and August 2017, Wong allegedly paid kickbacks to undercover MFCU agents posing as patients to fill prescriptions, most of which involved medication to treat HIV, at NY Pharmacy or at two other pharmacies she owned, which are now closed.  The defendants thereafter allegedly submitted claims for reimbursement to Medicaid through NY Pharmacy for refills that were not dispensed by the pharmacy, a scheme known as “auto-refilling.”

Simultaneous to today’s arrest, the Attorney General filed a civil asset forfeiture action against Wong, NY Pharmacy, and Wong’s two closed pharmacies in New York State Supreme Court, New York County seeking over $11 million in damages.  In papers filed in court today, the Attorney General alleges that Wong personally made millions from the scheme and used the proceeds, among other things, to make lavish credit card purchases of high-end retail items (including Prada and Vuitton), and to pay for travel expenses and expensive furniture. An investigational audit uncovered evidence indicating that Wong’s pharmacies did not purchase enough medication to support their substantial billings to Medicaid. Between January 1, 2014 and August 1, 2017, Wong’s pharmacies billed Medicaid and other insurers over $15 million for medications, but allegedly purchased only a fraction of the amount of drugs necessary to fill those prescriptions. As part of the civil action, the Attorney General also obtained a court order freezing the bank accounts held by the defendants to preserve money wrongfully obtained from Medicaid.

Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office with the assistance of investigators from the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General executed a search warrant this morning at NY Pharmacy. Hin T. Wong and NY Pharmacy were arrested and charged by felony complaint filed in New York City Criminal Court, New York County with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Medical Assistance Provider: Prohibited Practices (Kickbacks), a class E felony. Wong is expected to be arraigned later this afternoon. If convicted on the top count, Wong faces up to seven years in state prison. Wong may face additional criminal charges as the criminal investigation continues.

The Attorney General thanks the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General under the leadership of Inspector General Dennis Rosen for its continued partnership and its assistance in this investigation.  The Attorney General also thanks Medicaid managed care insurers Amida Care and Metro Plus for referring the matter and for their cooperation throughout the investigation.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

MFCU’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Nefertiti Clarke with the assistance of Supervising Investigator Dominick DiGennaro and Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan. The audit investigation was conducted by Principal Auditor Investigator Cristina Marin and Auditor Investigator Megan Scott with the assistance of New York City Regional Deputy Chief Auditor Jonathan Romano and New York City Regional Chief Auditor Thomasina Smith.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel Imran S. Ahmed with the assistance of MFCU New York City Deputy Regional Director Twan Bounds and MFCU New York City Regional Director Christopher M. Shaw. The civil action is being brought by Senior Counsel Marie Spencer and Special Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Kappakas with the assistance of MFCU Chief of Civil Enforcement Carolyn Ellis.  Special Assistant Attorney General Thomas O’Hanlon is the MFCU Chief of Criminal Investigations-Downstate. MFCU is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney.

Naval Employee Pleads Guilty to Accepting More Than $250,000 in Cash Bribes From Unauthorized Liquor Buyers

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An employee of the U.S. Department of the Navy pleaded guilty today to accepting more than $250,000 in cash bribes from three people making unauthorized liquor purchases from the Navy Exchange Service Command where he worked, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Leo Lamont of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Northeast Field Office.

Eric Jex, 29, of Uniondale, New York, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert of the Eastern District of New York. Sentencing is set for Feb. 2, 2018.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, as a supervisory sales associate at the NEX at Mitchel Field in Garden City, New York, Jex was responsible for preparing and processing retail transactions, and he had direct authority to make decisions concerning large liquor orders and shipments from the NEX’s warehouse. He was also subject to policies limiting access to the NEX’s goods to authorized personnel, such as Navy service members, and requiring NEX employees to check purchasers’ IDs. In connection with his guilty plea, Jex admitted that from approximately November 2015 through December 2016, he agreed with three unauthorized purchasers, one of whom had a New York State Liquor License, to arrange repeated large purchases of liquor from the NEX. He allowed the three unauthorized purchasers access to the NEX’s low prices and frequently provided additional price-matching discounts to which the purchasers were not entitled. In exchange, the three unauthorized purchasers paid cash bribes to Jex, typically $5 to $20 per case of liquor. According to plea documents, these bribes added up to more than $250,000 for the period of the scheme.

The NCIS; U.S. Treasury Department, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau; and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Criminal Investigations Division investigated this case. Trial Attorneys Luke Cass and Andrew Laing of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

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.

Ivorian Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Conspiring To Provide Material Support To The FARC

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Raymond Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced that FAOUZI JABER, a/k/a “Excellence,” pled guilty to conspiring to provide material support to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the “FARC”), a designated foreign terrorist organization.  JABER pled guilty earlier today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine H. Parker.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Faouzi Jaber arranged to traffic millions of dollars’ worth of lethal weapons and narcotics in support of the FARC’s efforts to violently overthrow the government of Colombia and terrorize U.S. forces stationed there.  In a series of meetings that took him around the world, Jaber was willing to do whatever it took to help this foreign terrorist organization achieve its violent and undemocratic goals.  Our Office will continue to prosecute those who conspire to provide material support to the FARC and other dangerous terrorist organizations to the fullest extent of the law.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan said:  “DEA’s number one priority is going after individuals and organizations that pose a direct threat to the safety and security of the American people.  Faouzi Jaber demonstrated how willing he was to do business with some of the world’s most deadly terror networks that wish harm on innocent Americans and the rule of the law.  We must continue to attack these potentially deadly networks globally, no matter where they hide.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment, statements made during the plea proceeding, and other documents in the public record:

From the fall of 2012 through early 2014, JABER participated in a conspiracy to provide material support to the FARC, a guerilla group that, as of that time period, was dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Colombia, had engaged in acts of violence against U.S. citizens and interests in Colombia and elsewhere, and was one of the world’s largest suppliers of cocaine.  JABER engaged in a series of meetings, in locations such as Accra, Ghana, and Warsaw, Poland, with individuals who identified themselves as representatives and associates of the FARC, but who were, in fact, confidential sources (the “CSes”) working for the DEA.  In the course of those meetings, which were recorded, JABER introduced the CSes to two of his associates, a weapons trafficker based in Ukraine and a narcotics trafficker based in West Africa, in furtherance of his efforts to assist the FARC.  Working together with those associates, during the meetings with the CSes, JABER agreed to provide weapons – including surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, grenade launchers, and grenades – to the FARC, at a total price of over $8 million, with the understanding that those weapons would be used by the FARC against U.S. forces in Colombia.  JABER also agreed to assist the FARC with the transportation and storage of FARC-owned cocaine in West Africa, and with the laundering of cocaine proceeds for the FARC, including by moving the cocaine proceeds through bank accounts in New York.

In April 2014, JABER traveled to Prague, Czech Republic, to meet with certain of the CSes to continue negotiating and arranging the weapons and narcotics-trafficking transactions in support of the FARC.  On April 5, 2014, JABER was arrested in Prague by Czech authorities based on the charges in this case, at the request of U.S. authorities.  JABER was later extradited to the United States to face the charges against him.

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JABER, 61, of the Ivory Coast, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, i.e., the FARC, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge. Sentencing is scheduled for November 8, 2017, at 4:00 p.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division and DEA’s Vienna, Austria Country Office; DEA’s Warsaw, Poland Country Office; DEA’s Accra, Ghana Country Office; and DEA’s New York Field Division.  Mr. Kim also thanked Czech law enforcement authorities, the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance.

This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney George D. Turner is in charge of the prosecution.

Alleged Head of Wildlife Smuggling Ring Extradited from Australia

Monday, July 24, 2017

Guan Zong Chen (“Graham Chen”), a Chinese national was arraigned today in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts on charges that he led a conspiracy to illegally export (smuggle) $700,000 worth of wildlife items made from rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral from the United States to Hong Kong. Chen was arrested last year when he traveled from China to Australia and today’s hearing was his first court appearance on an indictment returned by a Boston grand jury in 2015 and unsealed in anticipation of the hearing.

According to the eight-count indictment, Chen purchased the wildlife artifacts at U.S. auction houses located in California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas. He conspired with another Chinese national, a recent college graduate in China to travel to the United States to pick up the purchased items and either hand carry or arrange for them to be mailed to another co-conspirator that owned a shipping business in Concord, Massachusetts. The shipper then repacked the wildlife items and exported (smuggled) them to Hong Kong with documents that falsely stated their contents and value and without obtaining required declarations and permits. In April 2014, Chen visited the United States and visited the shipper in Concord, Massachusetts. During the visit with the shipper, CHEN instructed the shipper to illegally export (smuggle) a sculpture made from elephant ivory to Hong Kong on Chen’s behalf and falsely declared it to be made of wood and worth $50.

The unsealing of the indictment and court appearance were was announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts. In announcing the case today, Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood and Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb expressed their appreciation to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Attorney-General’s Department for their help in apprehending Chen and extraditing him to the United States.

Trade in rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and coral have been regulated since 1976 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty signed by over 175 countries around the world to protect fish, wildlife, and plants that are or may become imperiled due to the demands of international markets. Animals listed under CITES cannot be exported from the United States without prior notification to, and approval from, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

was apprehended as part of Operation Crash, an ongoing effort by the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, in coordination with the Department of Justice to detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of and trafficking in protected species including rhinoceros and elephants.

An indictment contains allegations that crimes have been committed. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation is continuing and is being handled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and support on the extradition from DOJ’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Marshals Services in the District of Massachusetts. The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Richard A. Udell and Trial Attorney Gary N. Donner of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Employee Of New Jersey-Based Trucking Company Gets 33 Months In Prison For Stealing More Than $3 Million From Her Employer

Monday, July 24, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. – A former employee of a New Jersey based-trucking company was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for stealing more than $3 million by issuing company checks for her own benefit, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Tracey Perrigan, 55, of Sparta, Tennessee, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan to Count One of an indictment charging her with wire fraud. Judge Sheridan imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.

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

Perrigan was an employee of a company identified in the indictment as “Company A,” the corporate parent of several subsidiary trucking, rigging, and transportation companies. Company A was headquartered in Oceanside, New York, and had a Branchburg, New Jersey, facility where Perrigan worked.

Company A used the “Comchek” system, which enables clients to authorize and monitor fuel and repair expenditures by drivers in remote locations. As part of her duties, Perrigan was responsible for authorizing Comcheks drawn on Company A’s bank account. From March 2007 through August 2015, Perrigan diverted $3.25 million from her employer to an entity identified as “Company B,” a trucking and towing company based in Tennessee that she owned with another person. Company B never conducted any business with Company A.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Perrigan to three years of supervised release. Perrigan must also pay restitution of $3,251,419.65.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Carol Gillen Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark

Passaic County Man Admits Defrauding Clifton-Based Trucking Company of $900,000

Monday, July 24, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a scheme to defraud a trucking company out of more than $900,000, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Angel D. Vidal, 25, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to Count 1 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud.

According to documents filed in this and other cases and statements made in court:

Lisa Popewiny, 55, of Clifton, New Jersey, was the payroll clerk at Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc., a Clifton-based company that provided transportation and freight services to various public and private entities located in New Jersey, New York, and elsewhere. From June 2012 to April 2015, Popewiny, Vidal, and his two brothers, Angel Gabriel Vidal, 23, and Miguel Vidal, 23, a former truck driver for the company, engaged in a scheme to defraud the company out of $920,380. On June 26, 2017, Angel Gabriel Vidal pleaded guilty before Judge Arleo to Count 2 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud. On March 30, 2017, Miguel Vidal pleaded guilty to an information charging him with wire fraud. Popewiny is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 2, 2017.

Popewiny allegedly falsified payroll records in order to generate fraudulent paychecks payable to non-existent employees, including the Vidal brothers. All of the Vidal brothers have admitted to allowing the use of their personal identifying information to generate the fraudulent paychecks. The three men then converted the checks, many of which were deposited into their bank accounts and then funneled out of the accounts in cash. Miguel Vidal admitted to recruiting other individuals to provide their personal information so that Popewiny could allegedly falsely add them to the payroll. Over the course of the scheme, Popewiny allegedly input false hours for at least 12 different individuals. The scheme came to light when owners of the company, in an effort to investigate suspected fraud, distributed the payroll checks to employees – a task normally completed by Popewiny. After all of the payroll checks had been distributed, several paychecks remained unclaimed that turned out to be fraudulently issued.

The charge to which Angel D. Vidal and his brothers pleaded guilty carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick credited criminal investigators in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and postal inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cari Fais of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.

The charges and allegations against Popewiny are merely accusations, and she is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Three Former Traders for Major Banks Arraigned in Foreign Currency Exchange Antitrust Conspiracy

Monday, July 17, 2017

Three United Kingdom nationals and former traders of major banks voluntarily surrendered to the FBI and were arraigned on a charge arising from their alleged roles in a conspiracy to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the foreign currency exchange (FX) spot market, the Justice Department announced today.

A one-count indictment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on January 10, 2017, charges Richard Usher (former Head of G11 FX Trading-UK at an affiliate of The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, as well as former Managing Director at an affiliate of JPMorgan Chase & Co.), Rohan Ramchandani (former Managing Director and head of G10 FX spot trading at an affiliate of Citicorp) and Christopher Ashton (former Head of Spot FX at an affiliate of Barclays PLC) with conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for U.S. dollars and euros exchanged in the FX spot market.

The charge in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than $1 million.

According to the indictment, from at least December 2007 through at least January 2013, Usher, Ramchandani and Ashton (along with unnamed co-conspirators) conspired to fix prices and rig bids for the euro – U.S. dollar currency pair. Called “the Cartel” or “the Mafia,” this group of traders carried out their conspiracy by participating in telephone calls and near-daily conversations in a private electronic chat room. Their anticompetitive behavior included colluding around the time of certain benchmark rates known as fixes, such as by coordinating their bidding/offering and trading to manipulate the price of the currency pair by the time of the fix or otherwise profit as a result of the fix price. The conspirators also coordinated their trading activities outside of fix times, such as by refraining from entering bids/offers or trading at certain times as a means of stabilizing or controlling price.

The charge in the indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This prosecution is being handled by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office and the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Anyone with information concerning price fixing or other anticompetitive conduct in the FX market should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at (888) 647-3258, visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations or call the FBI tip line at (415) 553-7400.