Columbia Falls man suspected in armed robbery of pharmacy appears in court

Source: United States Attorneys General 8

MISSOULA  — A Columbia Falls man suspected of robbing a Columbia Falls pharmacy of drugs at gunpoint appeared in court today for an initial appearance on a criminal complaint, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

The criminal complaint accuses Grant Alan West, 37, with a Hobbs Act robbery. If convicted of the most serious crime, West faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. West was detained pending further proceedings. 

Court documents allege that on April 13, Columbia Falls Police Department officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at the Logan Health Pharmacy inside the Super 1 Grocery Store. Three victims reported that shortly before closing for the day, a man wearing a beanie, sunglasses and a mask entered the pharmacy, brandished a handgun and said, “Percocet 10.” One of the victims grabbed a bottle of Percocet and put it in a tote bag the man carried. The three victims went into a bathroom and the man directed them to wait several minutes before they came out. When they came out of the bathroom, the victims called police and reported the robbery. An investigation led to West as the suspect, and he was arrested later that night.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara J. Elliott is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI and Columbia Falls Police Department.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

PACER case reference. 22-34.

The progress of cases may be monitored through the U.S. District Court Calendar and the PACER system. To establish a PACER account, which provides electronic access to review documents filed in a case, please visit http://www.pacer.gov/register.html. To access the District Court’s calendar, please visit https://ecf.mtd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/PublicCalendar.pl.

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Belgrade meth trafficker sentenced to 54 months in prison

Source: United States Department of Justice

MISSOULA  — A Belgrade man who admitted to trafficking methamphetamine with others in the community after investigators found nearly a half-pound of the drug during a vehicle stop was sentenced today to 54 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.

Max Dudley Stilson, 57, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to possession with intent to distribute meth.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.

In court documents, the government alleged that during an investigation of Stilson for distributing meth by the Missouri River Drug Task Force, an individual purchased a total of one and one-half ounces of meth from Stilson on two occasions. On the second buy, Stilson said he was going to meet another person to get more drugs. Investigators observed Stilson meet with co-defendant Arthur Kane. In addition, in November 2020, task force officers learned Stilson was traveling to Billings with a large amount of meth. A Montana Highway Patrol trooper stopped Stilson’s vehicle and investigators found almost a half- pound of meth. The vehicle was registered to another co-defendant Jared Williams. Another witness told investigators that he had purchased ounce quantities totaling one pound of meth over a four-month period from Stilson. Stilson admitted that he and Williams worked together to distribute drugs. Williams was sentenced to eight years in prison for conviction in the case, while Kane was sentenced to five years and a fourth co-defendant, Marty McDonald, was sentenced to four years in prison for conviction in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer S. Clark prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Missouri River Drug Task Force and the Montana Highway Patrol.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative to reduce violent crime. Through PSN, federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement partners in Montana focus on violent crime driven by methamphetamine trafficking, armed robbers, firearms offenses and violent offenders with outstanding warrants.

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Former El Paso Physician Agrees to Pay $350,000 to Resolve Allegations that He Failed to Account for Large Quantities of Opioids

Source: United States Department of Justice

EL PASO – Dr. Herbert Nassour, a former physician in El Paso, has agreed to pay $350,000 under a civil settlement to resolve allegations he violated certain provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 

Dr. Nassour was a physician registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prescribe and dispense controlled substances through his private practice located in El Paso.  The United States contends that Dr. Nassour violated the CSA by failing to properly account for over 11,000 doses of hydrocodone and by not maintaining the proper inventory or dispensing records for controlled substances as required by the CSA.  The failure to account for such large doses of opioids raises serious concerns about the potential diversion of controlled substances. The settlement reflects the ongoing commitment of Department of Justice and DEA to address the opioid crisis and to prevent, detect and investigate the diversion of controlled substances. 

“Doctors must live up to their obligations under the CSA to ensure that controlled substances are not illegally diverted into our community,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.  “Protecting our community from the diversion of controlled substances is a priority for the DEA and this office.”

“Opioid misuse and abuse remain at epidemic levels in the United States,” said Greg Millard, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement’s El Paso Division. “Because the majority of opioid addictions in America start with prescription pills, registrants must do their part and comply with the rules and regulations set forth by the Controlled Substance Act. Through our oversight, DEA will ensure that registrants comply with the law.”

The DEA’s El Paso Diversion Group investigated this matter.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Eduardo R. Castillo handled this case on behalf of the government.

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

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Health care clinic and home health owners found guilty of fraud

Source: United States Attorneys General 12

HOUSTON – Two individuals have been convicted of conspiracy to commit and committing health care fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

The jury deliberated for 45 minutes before convicting Alfred Olotin Alatan, 62, formerly of Houston and now residing in Fulshear, and Francis Ekene, 71, Sugar Land, following a day three-day trial. Alatan was also found guilty of money laundering.

Alatan was the owner of Colony Home Health Services, while Francis was the owner of Milten Medical Clinic, both businesses located in Houston.

At trial, the jury heard that Alatan paid recruiters to bring patient information to be billed for home health services regardless of whether they needed it or not. Beneficiaries testified in trial and admitted they did not need home health services at the time the health care service providers billed them.

Additional testimony revealed Dr. John Ramirez had signed off on plan of care forms at the Milton Clinic when patients were not actually under his care.

Previous employees Susana Bermudez and Rita Kpotie Smith also testified. Bermudez admitted she and Smith operated both clinics and that Alatan was the leader of the scheme. Both Alatan and Ekene would consult Bermudez and Smith who directed them and provided assistance in carrying out the scheme within both offices.

At trial, the defense attempted to convince the jury they were not involved in the daily operations and did not know the provided services were unnecessary and fraudulent.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake presided over trial and set sentencing for July 22. At that time, Alatan and Ekene face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine on each count of conviction. Alatan could also receive up to 20 years for his conviction of money laundering.

Alatan and Ekene were permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

Bermudez, both 55 and of Houston, previously pleaded guilty to their roles as co-conspirators in the scheme. Bermudez is currently serving 30 months in federal prison, while Smith is set for sentencing July 21.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with the assistance of the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tina Ansari and Grace Murphy are prosecuting the case.

Mount Pleasant Couple Charged with Firearms Trafficking and Drug Trafficking

Source: United States Attorneys General 13

United States Attorney Richard G. Frohling of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that on April 19, 2022, an indictment was returned charging Deandre L. Rodgers (age 36) of Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, and Viridiana Garcia-Ramirez (age 24) of Los Angeles, California, with conspiring to violate the laws of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, dealing in firearms without a license, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, 922(a)(1)(A), making a false statement to a federal firearms licensee, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(a)(6), unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g)(1), distribution of a controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1), using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A), and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1).

According to court documents, Rodgers and Garcia-Ramirez engaged in a conspiracy to purchase firearms from local gun stores in Wisconsin, alter or obliterate the serial numbers on those firearms, and sell those firearms to others. As part of the conspiracy, Rodgers and Garcia-Ramirez purchased 11 handguns and 1 rifle from local gun stores between December 2021 and March 2022. On April 5, 2022, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) executed a warrant at a hotel in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin, where Rodgers and Garcia-Ramirez were staying. Inside the hotel room, agents found 29-individually wrapped plastic bags containing crack cocaine, two digital scales, and approximately $800, but none of firearms. Rodgers is prohibited from possessing a firearm as a result of a prior felony conviction.

This case was investigated by the ATF and will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip T. Kovoor.

An indictment and criminal complaint are merely allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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For further information, contact Public Information Officer:

Kenneth.Gales@usdoj.gov

(414) 297-1700

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Putnam County Man Sentenced for Defrauding Elderly Citizens and Local Bank

Source: United States Attorneys General 13

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Putnam County man was sentenced today to four years in prison for committing two counts of aggravated identity theft as part of his scheme to defraud a local bank and two elderly residents in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Robert Jones, 52, of Hurricane, was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison sentence and to pay $25,000 in restitution as a result of his offenses and similar relevant conduct.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Jones admitted that an elderly woman from Clendenin hired him to do mold remediation and other handyman services at a Clendenin property that belonged to another elderly woman of advanced age. Jones admitted that he obtained blank checks belonging to the elderly homeowner and forged the signature of the woman who hired him. Jones wrote himself checks in this manner multiple times, in amounts payable of $7,000 and $8,500. Jones then deposited these falsified checks at the Hurricane branch of a local bank, where he had a checking account. Jones admitted that neither woman was aware that he used their personal identifiers in his efforts to obtain money from the bank.

United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentence. The Court cited Jones’ “despicable” criminal record, observing that Jones has a “persistent business of cheating people out of their hard-earned money” and that he “can’t keep cheating people and expect to get away with it.”

United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office-Consumer Protection Division for conducting the investigation.

“The excellent investigative work in this case helped bring justice for some of the most vulnerable among us,” Thompson said.

Assistant United States Attorney Kristin F. Scott prosecuted the case. Jones currently faces additional pending state-level charges in Jackson, Lewis, Lincoln, and Putnam counties in connection with additional fraud schemes. 

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-132.

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Two Plead Guilty to Interstate Stolen Property Charges

Source: United States Attorneys General 13

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Two people pleaded guilty to charges involving the interstate transport of stolen property, arising from a scheme to obtain vehicles totaling $172,950 in approximate value from car dealerships in Kentucky and West Virginia.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Millard Patrick, 52, and Mindy Turner, 51, admitted that Turner passed a bad check at a Louisville, Kentucky, dealership in June 2021 so they could obtain a 2020 Ford Explorer with an approximate value of $53,500. The two then transported that vehicle to West Virginia, where they unsuccessfully attempted to trade it in at a Charleston dealership for a more expensive Ford F-250.

Patrick admitted that he told an employee at the Charleston dealership that he worked for the United States Marshal Service, which he said would deliver a check in two days to pay for the trade-in. Patrick asked the employee to hold a personal check as collateral in the meantime. Patrick admitted that he told the employee not to be alarmed if an armed deputy U.S. Marshal appeared at the dealership to give him the check.

Turner and Patrick admitted that they passed another bad check at a Hurricane dealership in July 2021 to obtain a Jeep Cherokee with an approximate value of $60,056.22. The following day, the pair passed a bad check at a Ripley dealership to obtain a new Ford Explorer with an approximate value of $59,393.48. That same day, Patrick and Turner attempted to obtain a Ford F-150 with an approximate value of $64,108.24 from a Hurricane dealership. They were turned away when the bad check did not clear.

Patrick and Turner both pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the interstate transport of stolen property. Turner is scheduled to be sentenced on July 28, 2022. Patrick is scheduled to be sentenced on August 4, 2022. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement, commending the FBI for conducting the investigation and the Charleston Police Department, the Hurricane Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Louisville Police Department for their assistance in the investigation.

United States District Judge Irene C. Berger presided over the hearings. Assistant United States Attorneys Negar M. Kordestani is prosecuting the case. A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-18.

 

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FBI Phoenix Recognizes Crime Victims’ Rights Week Celebrates 20 Years of Victim Services Division

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI Crime News (b)

PHOENIX, AZ—FBI Phoenix, in commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), April 24–30, 2022, joins its federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners in taking this opportunity to raise awareness about crime victims’ issues and rights. NCVRW is celebrated each year in communities across the nation to honor, acknowledge, and support crime victims. This year also marks the 20-year anniversary of the FBI’s victim services division.

The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. When a scammer victimizes the elderly, a predator targets a child online, or terror strikes a community, the FBI works to bring the perpetrators to justice. But our job doesn’t stop there. One of the most important additional roles we play is assisting victims of federal crime through our victim services division. The FBI Phoenix Field Office has Victim Specialists in Phoenix and in each of our seven Resident Agencies across the state to include: Tucson, Sierra Vista, Yuma, Flagstaff, Pinetop-Lakeside, Lake Havasu, and Gallup.

The victim services mission is to inform, support, and assist victims in navigating the aftermath of crime and the criminal justice process with dignity and resilience. That includes, but is not limited to, working with elderly couples who lost their savings to a scam, providing emotional support to a child victim, and providing all assistance a family may need after the loss of a loved one.

“As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the FBI’s victim services program, we also remember and honor victims throughout Arizona who have had their lives forever altered by a devastating crime,” said Sean Kaul, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Phoenix field office. “Bringing criminals to justice as well as treating their victims with care and compassion are at the very heart of who we are and what we do.”

For additional information about the FBI victim specialist program, visit https://www.fbi.gov/resources/victim-services.

Former U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Inspector Pleads Guilty

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI Crime News (b)

LAREDO, Texas – A 68-year-old Laredo man has admitted to accepting bribes, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Roberto Adams pleaded guilty to accepting over $40,000 in bribery payments while employed as a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lead animal health technician.

Adams inspected cattle entering the United States to determine if they met the necessary health requirements to enter the country. Over the course of at least 14 months, Mexican cattle brokers paid Adams to allow cattle into the country without proper quarantine or legitimate inspection.   

U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo will impose sentencing Aug. 3. At that time, Adams faces up to 15 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.  

Adams was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of USDA – Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Winter is prosecuting the case.

Han Gil Defendant Who Sexually Assaulted, Allegedly Murdered Young Drug User Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

Source: United States Attorneys General 11

The final defendant in the Han Gil drug trafficking case was sentenced today to 40 years in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.

In June 2021, after seven days of trial, a jury convicted Bryan Reshad Hill, 39, of conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine. He was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Karen Gren Scholer.

According to evidence presented at trial, Mr. Hill, aka “Black,” dealt heroin and cocaine out of Han Gil Hotel Town, a drug infested establishment shut down by the feds in March 2019. He and other dealers paid an inflated daily rate, dubbed a “drug tax,” to induce the hotel’s proprietor to turn a blind eye to the trafficking occurring inside the building.   

The Han Gil – which served as home base for numerous high-level traffickers – saw four confirmed deaths, two non-fatal shootings, and dozens of drug-related incidents in the months before its closure. Numerous drug users, who often injected themselves while still on the premises, were subjected to brutality (including beatings and burnings with a butane torch) and sexual abuse by the dealers headquartered there. The hotel, once located caddy-corner to a local elementary school, has since been demolished.

According to evidence presented at his sentencing hearing, Mr. Hill raped and presumably murdered a 19-year-old drug user inside one of the Han Gil trap rooms on Dec. 27, 2018.

A witness to the assault testified at Mr. Hill’s jury trial that she heard the defendant tell the victim, “stop fighting, you cannot win.” The witness later saw the girl’s lifeless body on the floor of restroom after Mr. Hill exited. Her corpse was dumped in a park in Oak Cliff and recovered a month later.

During the hearing, Judge Scholer stated on the record that based upon her review of surveillance footage taken from the hotel – which showed the defendant carry the near-unconscious victim into the bathroom, then exit the bathroom a short time later wearing gloves on both hands (download footage here) – she determined that because the girl was unable to consent to a sex act, Mr. Hill had perpetrated a sexual assault against a vulnerable victim.

Her death was just one of several stemming from drug incidents at Han Gil. Two former Coppell High School students, both age 22, died of overdoses during the summer of 2018, and the body of an unknown male was removed from the property that fall.

Twenty three additional defendants have already been sentenced in this case, including Han Gil owner Su Amos Mun, who pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug involved premises and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and lead dealer Eric Dewayne Freeman, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute heroin, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

“Behind the walls of the Han Gil, this defendant committed truly heinous acts,” said U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham. “It has been four years since our office began its investigation of Han Gil Hotel Town, and today, we are proud to bring this sordid case to a close. We know, however, that our work is far from over. We will continue our crack down on violent drug traffickers and the establishments that allow them to operate.”

“To say the crimes that occurred at the Han Gil Hotel were horrendous would not be enough to describe the degree of violence, viciousness, and pain that occurred at the hands of Mr. Hill and others,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez.  “During this time where we honor Victims’ Rights Week, DEA Dallas will continue to work tirelessly to keep these atrocities and other acts of drug-related violence from repeating themselves.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, the Coppell Police Department, the Dallas Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives’ Dallas Field Office, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, IRS – Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Grand Prairie, Arlington, Grapevine, Lancaster, Plano, Farmers Branch, Garland, Rowlett, Denton, Lewisville, and McKinney police departments.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rick Calvert and Phelesa Guy prosecuted the criminal case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Hogan, Lindsey Beran (fmr.), and Braden Civins handled the civil case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Beverly Chapman and Melissa Childs oversaw the forfeiture