Jamaican National Stephano Walkers Sentenced to 40 Months in Federal Prison for Conspiracy


Jamaican National Stephano Walkers Sentenced to 40 Months in Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Smuggle Cocaine Aboard a Cargo Ship

(STL.News) – United States Attorney Brandon Fremin announced that United States District Court Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Stephano Walkers, age 25, of Jamaica, to serve 40 months in federal prison following his conviction for conspiracy to bring or possess cocaine on board of a vessel arriving in the United States.

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, Walters was arrested on February 13, 2019 by Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) agents that were conducting surveillance of cargo ships arriving into the United States.  Walters had smuggled over nine kilograms of cocaine onto a Jamaican cargo ship called the “Bulk Pangea” that was bound for the United States.  After docking in the United States, Walters then transported the cocaine to Baton Rouge.  There, he was arrested by HSI agents while attempting to deliver the cocaine to members of a drug trafficking organization.

U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “Aliens who come into the United States with the intent of committing crimes pose a serious threat to the safety of our citizens.  Our office is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to apprehend, convict, and remove this menace from our country.  I  want to commend our prosecutor and our partners at HSI who worked diligently throughout this investigation and prosecution.

“HSI is committed to holding all those involved in transnational drug smuggling accountable,” said Jere T. Miles, Special Agent in Charge for HSI New Orleans.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana to keep our communities safe.”

This matter was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Peter J. Smyczek.

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Baton Rouge Man Charles Hunt Sentenced to Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing a Firearm


(STL.News) – United States Attorney Brandon J. Fremin announced today that that United States District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Charles Hunt, age 28, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 32 months in federal prison following his conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  This sentence is to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on state charges pending against Hunt.  The Court further sentenced Hunt to three years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.

According to admissions Hunt made as part of his guilty plea, on April 25, 2018, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), along with Baton Rouge Police Department officers, went to a residence in Baton Rouge to execute an active arrest warrant for Hunt.  After Hunt was brought to East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, law enforcement obtained evidence indicating that Hunt, a convicted felon, was in possession of a firearm that he kept in the residence where he was arrested.  Law enforcement secured a search warrant for the residence and located a Smith & Wesson, Model SD 40, .40 caliber handgun, in a bedroom were Hunt was residing.

Prior to possessing the firearm, Hunt was convicted in 2014 of attempted simple burglary and simple burglary

U.S. Attorney Fremin stated, “This investigation, which involved a collective effort by several of our Violent Crime Strike Force partners, and the resulting conviction and sentencing of Hunt, exemplifies our effort to pursue offenders who have previously committed serious crimes and continue to engage in such conduct.  Our collective efforts also reflect our continuing commitment to keep our community safe.  I want to thank the ATF and Baton Rouge Police Department for their efforts.”

“The sentence imposed today sends a message to individuals who are prohibited from possessing firearms that they will be held accountable for their actions,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn.  “Reducing firearm related crimes and keeping our neighborhoods and communities safe is the top priority for ATF.”

This matter was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Baton Rouge Police Department, with critical assistance provided by the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Demetrius Sumner and Paul L. Pugliese.

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Jones County Man Matthew Williams Sentenced to Over 12 Years in Prison for Drug Conspiracy


(STL.News) – Matthew Williams, 33, of Jones County, Mississippi, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate to serve 146 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to distribute 2.6 pounds of methamphetamine and 2.1 pounds of heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Brad L. Byerley, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  Williams was also ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.

In May, 2019, Williams and Soto-Leon, an illegal alien from Mexico, reached an agreement to distribute heroin and methamphetamine.  To assist Soto-Leon, Williams made contact with one or more individuals in order to find a buyer for illegal drugs in the possession of Soto-Leon.  Through these contacts by Williams, a buyer was identified.  Williams spoke directly to the buyer and stated that Soto-Leon was in possession of approximately 3 pounds of methamphetamine known as “ICE” and one kilogram of heroin that he was trying to sell.  Williams connected the buyer to Soto-Leon, who began communicating directly with the buyer.  Soto-Leon and the buyer reached an agreement on the price for all of the methamphetamine and heroin.  Unknown to either Williams or Soto-Leon, the buyer was actually an undercover agent.

On May 2, 2019, Soto-Leon and the buyer met at a location near the Blair E. Batson Hospital in Jackson where Soto-Leon provided the buyer with methamphetamine and heroin.  Williams had assisted the buyer and Soto-Leon by giving them directions to the place where they met.  Lab tests later confirmed that Soto-Leon had provided 414.7 grams of methamphetamine which was 99% pure and 424.2 grams of heroin.

On May 3, 2019, Soto-Leon and the buyer met again at a location in Pearl, Mississippi, where Soto-Leon again gave the buyer methamphetamine and heroin.  Lab tests later confirmed that Soto-Leon had provided 772.4 grams of methamphetamine which was 98% pure and two containers of heroin containing 344.6 grams heroin and 228.8 grams of heroin.  Once the second batch of controlled substances were given to the buyer, law enforcement immediately arrested Soto-Leon.  Williams was arrested a few days later.

In total, Soto-Leon and Williams conspired to sell and sold 2.6 pounds of methamphetamine and 2.1 pounds of heroin to the undercover DEA officer.  The methamphetamine sold is a type of methamphetamine known as “ICE” due to its purity.

The defendants were indicted and pled guilty before Judge Wingate on October 18, 2019.  Edgar Soto-Leon remains in federal custody and is awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by the DEA, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, the Pearl Police Department, and the Richland Police Department.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dave Fulcher.

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Pinellas County Man Jeffrey Saylor Sentenced For Selling Opioids


(STL.News) – U.S. District Judge John Antoon II has sentenced Jeffrey Saylor (48, St. Petersburg) to 30 months in federal prison for the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.  Saylor had pleaded guilty on February 11, 2020.

According to court documents, Saylor acquired oxycodone prescriptions at a local pain management clinic, filled the prescriptions at a pharmacy, and then sold the oxycodone tablets to an undercover law enforcement officer.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and by the Opioid Fraud Abuse and Detection Unit at the United States Attorney’s Office, which focuses on opioid-related fraud and abuse by medical and health care professionals who have contributed to the prescription opioid epidemic.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Greg Pizzo.

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Alameda Resident James Heyward Silcox III Pleads Guilty To Illegally Importing Narcotics


(STL.News) – James Heyward Silcox III pleaded guilty to all three counts in an indictment charging him with illegally importing controlled substances, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent in Charge Kelly Hoyle, and Customs and Border Protection Director of Field Operations Brian J. Humphrey.  Silcox entered the guilty plea without a plea agreement.  The plea was accepted by the Hon. Jon S. Tigar, United States District Judge.

Silcox, 42, of Alameda, Calif., was originally charged by complaint on September 18, 2019.  The complaint alleged that he illegally imported Tramadol from Singapore and Germany to post office boxes he held.  Tramadol is a Schedule IV controlled substance and narcotic.

Silcox, a U.S. Coast Guard Commander, was arrested on the complaint on September 17, 2019, at Coast Guard Island, in Alameda.

During the change of plea hearing, the government advised the court of evidence that Silcox began purchasing tramadol in 2017 online from an unknown person he believed was in Singapore.  The government offered further evidence that Silcox had received shipments of tramadol from three separate overseas suppliers from 2017 to 2019, and sent shipments to downstream buyers of 500-1000 pills per month, which Silcox received from his overseas suppliers at his P.O. boxes.  According to the government, Silcox used end-to-end encrypted communication applications and email services to communicate with his overseas suppliers and his downstream domestic customers, and used crytpocurrency to make payments.

On September 26, 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Silcox charging him with three counts of importation of a Schedule IV narcotic drug, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a) and 960(b)(6).  Pursuant to the guilty plea, Silcox pleaded guilty to all three counts.

Silcox faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000, for each count in the indictment.  However, any sentence would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  His next court appearance has been set for September 25, 2020, which is a status hearing concerning the sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Griswold is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Mimi Lam.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations; the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area-Transnational Narcotics Team (HIDTA-TNT); the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General; and the Coast Guard Investigation Service.  The prosecution is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force National Heroin Initiative to combat the opioid crisis.

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Stephen Taylor Claims $1,000-a-Day-for-Life Prize


MO (STL.News) The winner of Missouri’s first $1,000-a-day-for-life prize in the Lucky for Life Draw Game has come forward to claim his prize.  Stephen Taylor of Sedalia presented the winning ticket at Lottery Headquarters in Jefferson City on June 23.

Taylor’s ticket matched all five white-ball numbers and the Lucky Ball number drawn on June 18 to win the game’s top prize.  The winning numbers – 1, 6, 16, 27 and 34, with a Lucky Ball of 2 – were contained in the first of five plays on the ticket Taylor purchased at Woods Supermarket, 1400 S. Limit Ave., in Sedalia.

“That top line? That’s me right there!” he joked of his reaction to eyeing the numbers on his winning ticket.  “That’s me!”

Lucky for Life is a $2 multi-state Draw Game.  In addition to offering top prizes of $1,000 a day for life, the game also features a $25,000-a-year-for-life second prize.  To date, the Missouri Lottery has had 13 $25,000-a-year-for-life winners in the game.

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Dominican National Yokasta Aybar-Soto Pleads Guilty to Distributing Fentanyl


(STL.News) – A Dominican national pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to distributing fentanyl.

Yokasta Aybar-Soto, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of and possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl and one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 40 grams of more of fentanyl.  U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for Sept. 3, 2020.  Aybar-Soto was initially charged by criminal complaint and has been in custody since Sept. 12, 2019.

With a companion, Aybar-Soto sold over 40 grams of fentanyl to an undercover officer in Lawrence on Sept. 12, 2019.

The charging statutes provide for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $5 million.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Office; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Drabick of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.

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Roanoke Man James Robert Banks Pleads Guilty to Distributing Heroin


(STL.News) – James Robert Banks, a Roanoke man responsible for distributing between one and three kilograms of heroin throughout the Roanoke area in 2019, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to federal drug distribution charges.  United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced the guilty plea this afternoon.

Criminal charges against Banks arose from his sale of heroin on specific dates in August and November 2019.  According to court documents, law enforcement agents arranged for the controlled purchase of approximately $6,000 worth of heroin from Banks on two occasions.  In both instances, Banks sold the heroin from a commercial auto repair facility on Centre Avenue in Roanoke, owned by his father.  In connection with his guilty plea to distribution charges, Banks has acknowledged distributing between one and three kilograms of heroin in the Roanoke area in 2019.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and member agencies of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), including the City of Roanoke Police Department, Virginia State Police, Roanoke County Police Department, and Salem Police Department.  Additional support was provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorneys Kari Munro and Dan Bubar prosecuted the case for the United States.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  Through PSN, a broad spectrum of law enforcement groups use evidence-based techniques to identify and address violent and related crime in local communities with the aim of focusing law enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders.  As part of this strategy, the PSN initiative involves partnerships with locally-based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

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NC Lottery: Mario Velazquez bags $200,000 scratch-off win


NC (STL.News)  Mario Velazquez of Angier scored the final top prize in the JAMES BOND 007™ scratch-off game.

Velazquez purchased his lucky $5 ticket from the T-Mart on North Raleigh Street in Angier.

He claimed his prize Friday at lottery headquarters in Raleigh.  After federal and state tax withholdings, he took home $129,500.

Players can enter their JAMES BOND 007™ tickets into second-chance drawings to win a VIP trip for two to Las Vegas.  Six trips can be won in three drawings, which include round-trip airfare to Las Vegas, four nights of deluxe accommodations and tickets to the JAMES BOND Lottery Challenge, where up to $1 million can be won.

The entry deadline for the second drawing is Tuesday and the drawing date is July 8.

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Chiropractor Eugene Kramer Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud, Tax Evasion


(STL.News) – A Providence chiropractor today admitted that he created and executed a scheme to defraud a health care benefits program and that he failed to pay taxes on some of the income he received from his business.

Eugene Kramer, 51, sole owner of New England Spine and Disc Center, admitted to the court that he committed health care fraud by billing for days a patient did not attend treatment, for treatment not provided, and by falsifying medical notes and documentation to support a nonexistent personal injury claim.

As part of the scheme, from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, Kramer provided invoices for chiropractic treatment to an attorney, who then, in order to support a patient’s bodily injury claim, provided those invoices to an automobile insurance company in Rhode Island.  To bolster the claim, Kramer created falsified medical notes and documentation.

According to court documents, an individual electronically monitored by the FBI visited Kramer’s office on 15 occasions for chiropractic treatment, under the pretext of having been involved in an automobile accident.  In most instances little or no treatment was provided and few if any medical notes were taken.  At no time did Kramer provide the person with a diagnosis or discuss a treatment plan.  The individual was emailed a package requesting a monetary settlement in connection with a supposed injury claim to  Progressive Insurance requesting, among other things, reimbursement for chiropractic services.

In addition to admitting to executing the health care fraud scheme, Kramer admitted that for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017, he failed to report a portion of his personal income, resulting in him owing the IRS $66,914.

Appearing today before U.S. District Court William E. Smith, Kramer pleaded guilty to one count each of health care fraud and filing a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta, and Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Kristina O’Connell.

Kramer is scheduled to be sentenced on October 2, 2020.

Health care fraud is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 10 years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release.  Filing a false tax return is punishable by up to three years in prison, a fine of $100,000, and one year of supervised release.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dulce Donovan.

The matter was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation.

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