Former DEA Employee Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Credit Card Fraud Scheme

Used Fraudulently Acquired Government Credit Cards to Obtain Over $113,000 in Cash

A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) employee was sentenced today to two years in prison for defrauding JPMorgan Chase & Co. out of more than $113,000 using fraudulently issued government credit cards.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland and Special Agent in Charge Michael P. Tompkins of the the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General’s (DOJ OIG) Washington, D.C. Field Office made the announcement.

Keenya Meshell Banks, 41, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty in April 2015 to one count of wire fraud.  In addition to imposing the term of imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ordered Banks to pay restitution in the amount of $113,841.

According to her plea agreement, Banks was employed by the DEA as a Program Manager, and was responsible for the approval and issuance of government credit cards to DEA employees.  Banks admitted that, while serving in that role, she submitted dozens of fake credit card applications to JPMorgan Chase & Co. for fictitious DEA employees, using names and identifying information of individuals who did not work at the DEA.  In at least one instance, however, Banks submitted the identifying information of an actual DEA employee.  Through this scheme, Banks admitted that she obtained at least 32 fraudulent credit cards, which she then used to withdraw more than $113,000 from ATMs in Maryland and Northern Virginia.  As part of her plea agreement, Banks agreed to forfeit the proceeds she received as a result of the scheme and to pay full restitution.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portions Of Federal ‘3 Strikes’ Sentencing Laws

While the country was busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s long-awaited marriage equality ruling, the justices issued another ruling in the Johnson v. United States case that dealt a crucial blow to the prison industrial complex. The SCOTUS ruled that a key provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which lengthens the sentences of “career criminals,” is unconstitutionally vague. The ruling paves the way for thousands of prisoners to have their sentences reduced and will cause the private prison industry to lose millions of dollars in profits.

In 1984, Congress passed the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), the law required judges to sentence people to 15 years to life if they have three prior convictions for “serious drug offense” or “violent felonies.” However, what exactly qualified as a “violent felony” was frustratingly vague and was used as a sentence enhancer in many non-violent cases. A “residual clause” in the ACCA allowed third time felons to be sent to prison for any crime that ” presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” That potential risk could include drunk driving, fleeing police, failing to report to a parole officer and even attempted burglary. It seemed to be used as a catch-all sentence enhancer for the sole purpose of throwing people in prison for years longer than they deserved to be. This practice has become increasingly more common as more states allow for-profit prisons in their states.

In the Johnson case, the government used the ACCA to enhance Samuel Johnson’s prison sentence because of a prior conviction of possession of a sawed off shotgun. Johnson argued that he shouldn’t be subjected to a harsher sentence, because the definition of what was considered “violent” was unconstitutionally vague. The SCOTUS agreed with Johnson and issued a 7-1 ruling in his favor.

Posted in Defense Acquittal | Leave a comment

Informant steals drug-buy money in Natick

A Framingham man who volunteered to be an undercover police informant conned Natick cops out of $80, using the money to buy drugs for himself, authorities said.

The saga began when police initially arrested Christopher J. Barnicle on Atherton Street in Natick on Monday around 3:19 p.m. and charged him with trespassing, according to a Natick Police report filed in Natick District Court. When they searched him, police found a single Percocet pill in a cigarette paper and charged him with possession of the drug.

While in custody, the report says, Barnicle told police he wanted to be a drug informant and met with Detective Kevin Delehanty.

Barnicle gave information about two drug dealers, which Delehanty confirmed through other law enforcement sources, the report says. Delehanty paid Barnicle $40 for the information, which is the rate for drug informants. Barnicle used that money to pay the bail commissioner’s fee to get out of lockup at the Natick police station.

Later that day, Barnicle called Delehanty and said he wanted to work with police again.

Under the arrangement, Barnicle agreed to meet with a drug dealer and use $80 police provided to buy two oxycodone pills.

That money came with a stern warning.

“I told him that the one thing I would not stand for is him stealing money for drugs,” Delehanty wrote in his report.

Police brought Barnicle to an area in Natick where he was supposed to meet a drug dealer. Barnicle kept calling officers and telling them the dealer kept telling him to go to a different location to buy the drugs. At one point, police lost sight of Barnicle walking on Rte. 9.

At that point, police smelled something fishy.

“It was becoming clear to me that Barnicle was trying to evade the surveillance,” Delehanty wrote.

Police called Barnicle, who ignored several phone calls. After several phone calls, Barnicle eventually answered and told police the drug dealer had robbed him at gunpoint, the report said.

Police picked up Barnicle and told him they would arrest the dealer, charge him with armed robbery, and Barnicle would be brought to court to testify against him. Barnicle then admitted that he actually never contacted the drug dealer, but bought two oxycodone pills for himself from another dealer, Delehanty wrote. Police found the pills at his girlfriend’s Wellesley home.

Police arrested Barnicle, of 31 Lohnes Road, at 9:47 p.m., and charged him with larceny of less than $250, misleading a police officer, conspiracy and illegal possession of oxycodone.

Posted in Drug Bust | Leave a comment

Two U.S. Bureau of Prisons Corrections Officers Charged with Assaulting Prison Inmate and Obstructing Justice

Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida announced today the indictment by a federal grand jury of U.S. Bureau of Prison (BOP) Correction Officers (COs) William Houghton and Eddie Rodas-Castro.

The indictment charges CO Houghton with violating the civil rights of an inmate inside the Coleman Correctional Facility in Coleman, Florida, on March 22, 2014, by striking the inmate repeatedly in the head and face, causing him injury. The indictment also charges CO Houghton and CO Rodas-Castro with obstruction of justice by falsifying BOP reports and making false statements to federal investigators regarding the assault.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Roy Conn of the Civil Right Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Bodnar of the Middle District of Florida.

An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Miami Dade Police Department Detective Charged with Civil Rights Offenses for Stealing Property from Motorists and Obstructing Justice

Today, the Justice Department announced that a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida charged Miami Dade Police Department (MDPD) Detective William Kostopoulos, 47, with using his law enforcement authority to violate motorists’ civil rights.

The indictment charges Kostopoulos with making traffic stops of three motorists in order to steal their money and property, in violation of the motorists’ rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to be free from unreasonable seizures of their property. The indictment also charges Kostopoulos with making misleading statements in order to prevent the communication of information about his alleged crimes to federal law enforcement officers.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the Homestead, Florida, Police Department. The matter is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of the Civil Rights Division as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Long of the Southern District of Florida.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

600 court cases under review in California corruption probe

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Hundreds of Orange County court cases are being scrutinized amid suspicions that someone was paid to fix DUI and other traffic violations by falsifying court records.

The FBI and county prosecutors are investigating, and about 600 Superior Court cases, some dating to 2006, are going before a judge this month to determine whether they should be reheard, the Orange County Register reported (http://bit.ly/1B8TvRo).

The probe involves suspicions that some employees recorded fake sentence reductions and dismissals for drunken driving and misdemeanor traffic cases and in at least one case, falsely made it appear a defendant had served jail time, the Register reported.

No arrests have been made. Representatives for the FBI, the court and the county district attorney’s office declined to comment.

On Friday, 110 attorneys and former criminal defendants were summoned to the courtroom of Judge Thomas Borris and told there were errors in the court records. “You are here to convince me there is not a mistake in your case,” Borris said.

“There has been a clerk somewhere that was entering false information … getting cash in exchange for making stuff disappear,” said Sheny Gutierrez, one of the attorneys who appeared.

Ramon Vasquez said he was given a work program in 2012 after pleading guilty to driving on a suspended license. The judge said the case would be undone unless he produced documents, the Register said.

“I think it’s injustice,” Vasquez said. “If there’s a flaw in the court system, it’s on them, it’s not on us.”

Borris eventually reversed settlements in about a dozen cases. The defendants were given the options of negotiating with a prosecutor or the judge or hiring a private attorney.

Jesus Sanchez, 29, drove from Arizona to appear. His misdemeanor charge of driving on a suspended license was dismissed in 2012. After appearing before the judge, he agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and pay a fine.

FBI agents waited in the hall outside of the courtroom to question defendants and show them mug shots, the Register reported.

The judge also ordered the immediate arrest of Harania Farias, who had said she had served three months in a private jail in La Verne on a 2013 DUI charge. She was taken into custody in court and held without bail, the newspaper reported.

Not only did the private jail confirm Farias never was there, documents showing that she was allowed to serve time there appeared to be forged, and Lolita Kirk, the attorney who supposedly submitted the documents, told the Register she never had represented the woman.

Other lawyers listed as attorneys of record told the judge that they had never represented the defendants. Attorney Charmaine Druyor said that, in the courthouse on Friday, she met the person she supposedly had defended and realized that she had never represented him.

“It’s very odd, everything going on here today. It’s just bizarre,” she said.

Posted in Defense Acquittal, Lawyers | Leave a comment

Deputy Sheriff Convicted for Withholding Evidence Favorable to a Defendant Three Deputies Also Convicted of Obstructing Justice by Covering up a Fellow Officer’s Use of Force

A federal jury in Albany, Georgia, today convicted three sheriff’s deputies on various federal offenses related to the cover-up of a 2012 incident in which a fourth deputy used force during the arrest of a civilian. The charges against Decatur County Captain Elizabeth Croley, Decatur County Deputy Christopher Kines and Decatur County Deputy Robert Wade Umbach related to a September 2012 incident in which former Grady County Deputy Sheriff Wiley Griffin, IV—who is the son of Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, III— used force against Aaron Parrish during an arrest at the Bainbridge BikeFest. The jury found that Croley, Kines and Umbach obstructed justice when they later helped cover up defendant Griffin’s actions. Specifically, the jury convicted Croley of obstructing justice by writing a false report and convicted Kines and Umbach of engaging in misleading conduct by lying to an FBI agent about the incident. Croley was also convicted of violating Aaron Parrish’s constitutionally protected right to a fair trial by intentionally withholding material exculpatory evidence from the District Attorney’s Office, and, in turn from Aaron Parrish’s criminal defense attorney, during a criminal prosecution of Parrish arising out of the same BikeFest incident.

Croley, Kines and Umbach will be sentenced by the Honorable W. Louis Sands, Senior U.S.District Court Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, at a later date to be set by the court.

The same jury that convicted the three Decatur County officers of obstruction acquitted Griffin on a civil rights count charging him with having used excessive force against Parrish and acquitted Kines and Umbach of obstructing justice by writing false reports.

During a trial that lasted more than two weeks, the jury heard evidence that Griffin struck Parrish in the eye with a metal flashlight while Parrish was being restrained on the ground by other deputies, including Kines and Umbach. The government presented evidence that Captain Croley and Deputies Kines and Umbach then helped cover up the incident by, among other things, Croley writing a false report and Kines and Umbach misleading the FBI by stating that they did not see Griffin at the scene.

The government also presented evidence that, after Parrish complained to the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office about the abuse he had suffered at BikeFest, the Sheriff’s Office opened a criminal investigation led by Croley that eventually resulted in felony criminal charges against Parrish. During that investigation, Croley took a witness statement from a civilian eyewitness who provided information that would have been materially helpful to Parrish’s defense. However, rather than providing that statement to the District Attorney so that it could then be provided to Parrish’s defense attorney for use at trial, Croley intentionally removed the exculpatory statement from the case file. This conduct formed the basis of the civil rights charge on which defendant Croley was convicted.

At sentencing, Croley will face a maximum sentence of 20 years for her false report and one year for the civil rights violation involving hiding exculpatory evidence. Kines and Umbach face maximum sentences of 20 years for making misleading statements to the FBI.

“As the jury recognized through its verdict, there are serious consequences when law enforcement officers lie to cover up the misconduct of a fellow officer and when an officer intentionally stacks the deck against an accused person by hiding evidence that could show the person’s innocence,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “When officers engage in this type of outrageous behavior, the Department of Justice stands ready to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

“This case reflects that the rule of law applies to all and that the FBI will present for prosecution the facts as it finds them,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “Today’s verdicts conclude an extensive investigation and prosecution that needed to be heard and the FBI is satisfied that it was.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Christine M. Siscaretti and Risa Berkower of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, with support from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Former Law Enforcement Officer Arrested by Task Force in Thomasville, North Carolina

Thomasville, NC – Yesterday at approximately 6:00pm, Michael Paul Norton, a 29 year old male, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Joint Fugitive Task Force (JFTF) out of Greensboro, NC. On June 09, 2015, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina took out an arrest warrant for Norton. The alleged charge occurred when Norton knowingly contacted and met a 14 year old using a cell phone app known as GRINDR. Per the warrant, Norton is charged with Sex/Criminal sexual conduct with a minor or attempt-victim 11 to 14 years of age inclusive second degree. Norton was previously employed as a law enforcement officer in Charleston County South Carolina.

On June 10, 2015, the assistance of the JFTF was requested by detectives and investigators from South Carolina and Virginia in the apprehension of Norton. Information was passed to the JFTF that Norton was traveling by tractor trailer from Virginia to North Carolina and was to be considered armed and dangerous. On short notice the JFTF deployed to Norton’s next anticipated stop at 822 Clarksbury Church Road in Thomasville. Investigators among the JFTF coordinated the arrest prior to Norton’s arrival. The JFTF surrounded the area and positively identified Norton driving the tractor trailer onto the property. Once Norton delivered the merchandise and exited the tractor the JFTF surrounded and converged on Norton taking him into custody without incident. Norton was transported to the Guilford County Detention Center in High Point where he is currently being held on a $700,000.00 bond.

The U.S. Marshals Joint Fugitive Task Force for the Middle District of North Carolina is comprised of investigators from the U.S. Marshals Service, Chapel Hill Police Department, Durham Police Department, Greensboro Police Department, High Point Police Department, Winston-Salem Police Department, Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the North
Carolina Department of Public Safety, Department of Community Corrections – Probation & Parole.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

This Week’s Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops hauling pot, cops protecting loads of cocaine, cops selling ecstasy, and a whole bunch of cops with apparent prescription pill problems, Let’s get to it:

In Pennsauken, New Jersey, a Camden County police officer was arrested in late April on drug charges, but his arrest wasn’t made public until now. Officer Matthew Van Houten, 28, was one of 32 people arrested in the mass bust of two independent drug trafficking groups on the Jersey Shore. He is charged with possession of cocaine while employed as a police officer. He went down in Operation Tidal Wave, which netted 10 pounds of cocaine, three ounces of heroin, 16 pounds of marijuana, a thousand pills, seven vehicles, and $125,000 in cash.

In Sulphur, Louisiana, a Cameron County sheriff’s deputy was arrested last Tuesday with 18 pounds of marijuana in his car. Deputy Derek Nothnagel had been pulled over on I-10 by state troopers. He is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, use and sale of drug paraphernalia, improper lane usage, following too closely and expired inspection decal. He was booked into the Calcasieu Parish Correctional Center. His bond was set at more than $27,000.

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, a Virginia Beach police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs. Officer Harry Kephart Jr. is accused of misrepresenting facts when he went to a medical facility after being denied drugs by an emergency room doctor the same day. He’s out on bond now.

In Conway, Arkansas, a former assistant county jail administrator was arrested Monday for taking prescription drugs prescribed to an inmate. Capt. Lloyd Vincent, 40, resigned last year after an investigation into missing prescription drugs began and is now charged with fraud or deceit to obtain narcotic drugs. He has admitted taking the drugs and leading a nurse to believe that he was disposing of them. He was, but not in the way intended.

In Yulee, Florida, a Nassau County sheriff’s deputy was arrested Tuesday for allegedly selling his prescription pain medications. Deputy Stuart James Raulerson went down after authorities received a tip he was selling hydrocodone that had been prescribed to him. He is charged with sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy to engage in trafficking hydrocodone, both felonies. He’s also been fired.

In Savannah, Georgia, a former Savannah-Chatham police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to serve six months in jail for selling Ecstasy. Derrick Andre Fullmer had copped to one count each of possession and distribution of the drug. He also must pay a fine and do three years of supervised release.

In Miami, a former NYPD officer was sentenced last Friday to 10 years in federal prison after he provided armed security for a $200,000 cocaine deal that turned out to be a sting. Phillip Leroy, 28, had earlier pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking conspiracy charges. He went down in Sunrise, a Florida town notorious for its drug stings and asset forfeitures. He agreed to provide security for a load of 22 pounds of cocaine, but was busted when he went to a warehouse to get it.

In Pacific, Missouri, a former Pacific police officer was sentenced Monday to five years in prison for stealing drug evidence from the department. Arthur Tullock, 56, had pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing controlled substances. Local prosecutors said they had to throw out about a dozen drug cases because he consumed the evidence.

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Deputy Sheriff Convicted for Withholding Evidence Favorable to a Defendant Three Deputies Also Convicted of Obstructing Justice by Covering Up a Fellow Officer’s Use of Force

A federal jury in Albany, Georgia, today convicted three sheriff’s deputies on various federal offenses related to the cover-up of a 2012 incident in which a fourth deputy used force during the arrest of a civilian.  The charges against Decatur County Captain Elizabeth Croley, Decatur County Deputy Christopher Kines and Decatur County Deputy Robert Wade Umbach related to a September 2012 incident in which former Grady County Deputy Sheriff Wiley Griffin, IV—who is the son of Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin, III— used force against Aaron Parrish during an arrest at the Bainbridge BikeFest.  The jury found that Croley, Kines and Umbach obstructed justice when they later helped cover up defendant Griffin’s actions.  Specifically, the jury convicted Croley of obstructing justice by writing a false report and convicted Kines and Umbach of engaging in misleading conduct by lying to an FBI agent about the incident.  Croley was also convicted of violating Aaron Parrish’s constitutionally protected right to a fair trial by intentionally withholding material exculpatory evidence from the District Attorney’s Office, and, in turn from Aaron Parrish’s criminal defense attorney, during a criminal prosecution of Parrish arising out of the same BikeFest incident.

Croley, Kines and Umbach will be sentenced by the Honorable W. Louis Sands, Senior U.S.District Court Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, at a later date to be set by the court.

The same jury that convicted the three Decatur County officers of obstruction acquitted Griffin on a civil rights count charging him with having used excessive force against Parrish and acquitted Kines and Umbach of obstructing justice by writing false reports.

During a trial that lasted more than two weeks, the jury heard evidence that Griffin struck Parrish in the eye with a metal flashlight while Parrish was being restrained on the ground by other deputies, including Kines and Umbach.  The government presented evidence that Captain Croley and Deputies Kines and Umbach then helped cover up the incident by, among other things, Croley writing a false report and Kines and Umbach misleading the FBI by stating that they did not see Griffin at the scene.

The government also presented evidence that, after Parrish complained to the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office about the abuse he had suffered at BikeFest, the Sheriff’s Office opened a criminal investigation led by Croley that eventually resulted in felony criminal charges against Parrish.  During that investigation, Croley took a witness statement from a civilian eyewitness who provided information that would have been materially helpful to Parrish’s defense.  However, rather than providing that statement to the District Attorney so that it could then be provided to Parrish’s defense attorney for use at trial, Croley intentionally removed the exculpatory statement from the case file.  This conduct formed the basis of the civil rights charge on which defendant Croley was convicted.

At sentencing, Croley will face a maximum sentence of 20 years for her false report and one year for the civil rights violation involving hiding exculpatory evidence.  Kines and Umbach face maximum sentences of 20 years for making misleading statements to the FBI.

“As the jury recognized through its verdict, there are serious consequences when law enforcement officers lie to cover up the misconduct of a fellow officer and when an officer intentionally stacks the deck against an accused person by hiding evidence that could show the person’s innocence,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “When officers engage in this type of outrageous behavior, the Department of Justice stands ready to enforce the law and protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

“This case reflects that the rule of law applies to all and that the FBI will present for prosecution the facts as it finds them,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI Atlanta Field Office.  “Today’s verdicts conclude an extensive investigation and prosecution that needed to be heard and the FBI is satisfied that it was.”

Posted in Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment