DOJ – West MI

DOJ - Department of Justice
DOJ - Department of Justice
  • Suttons Bay Man Sentenced To 37 Months In Federal Prison For Domestic Violence Strangulation Of A Native American Woman
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Joaquin Ramon Alfonseca, 41, from Suttons Bay, Michigan, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for Assault by Strangulation of a Native American woman, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist imposed a 3-year term of supervised release that will commence once Alfonseca is released from imprisonment.           Alfonseca pled guilty on October 15, 2018. He admitted that during an argument, he had used both of his hands to grab the victim by the neck and apply pressure to her neck. This pressure impeded the victim’s normal breathing, and the assault left marks and swelling on the victim’s face and neck. The victim reported that on a prior occasion, Alfonseca had strangled her to the point of unconsciousness. The United States had jurisdiction over the case because it occurred on the reservation of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.           In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued in favor of meaningful jail time because assault by strangulation is extremely dangerous and poses great risk to its victims. The United States noted that Alfonseca had a history of domestic violence, and it argued that his conduct in this case was particularly serious because it was part of a pattern of domestic abuse and continued a pattern of abuse involving strangulation and attempted strangulation.           The Grand Traverse Band Tribal Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-04-18
    5 days ago
  • North Adams Couple Charged In Case Of Fatal Drug Distribution And Subsequent Arson For Burning Victims Body And Car
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - Damiane Buehrer and Kristy Bumpus (aka “Kristy Buehrer”), have been indicted on federal arson charges related to the January 11, 2017, burning of the body and car of a former North Adams, Michigan, resident who had overdosed on the synthetic opiate carfentanil. Buehrer is also charged with distributing the carfentanil that resulted in the death of the North Adams resident. Indeed, the indictment specifically alleges that Buehrer and Bumpus conspired to destroy evidence of Buehrer’s carfentanil distribution by burning the vehicle, body, and personal effects of the overdose victim. In addition, Buehrer faces four controlledsubstance trafficking offenses, each of which allegedly involves 5 grams or more of methamphetamine.           Because of a prior felony drug conviction, Buehrer faces a mandatory term of life imprisonment if convicted of distributing the carfentanil that resulted in the death. Both Buehrer and Bumpus face a mandatory 10-year-term of imprisonment if they are convicted on the arson charge. The methamphetamine charges each carry a penalty of a minimum of five and up to forty years in prison, due to Buehrer’s prior record.           The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Michigan State Police.Michigan State Police Troopers and Detective Sergeants responded to the initial scene of the fire and have been investigating the case since then. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kate Zell and Hagen W. Frank, who also prosecuted Buehrer for engaging in interstate dog fighting for profit. Buehrer was sentenced ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-04-16
    1 week ago
  • Former Owner Of Large Michigan Farming Operation Pleads Guilty To Bank Fraud And Crop Insurance Fraud
    Mike Stamp Owned Stamp Farms, Fraudulently Obtained a $68 Million Operating Loan           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Mike Stamp, age 46, of Decatur, Michigan, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit crop insurance fraud. The convictions arise from acts that occurred while he owned and operated Stamp Farms. Stamp’s wife, Melissa Stamp, age 38, pled guilty to misprision of a felony for some of her actions in connection with Stamp Farms.           Mike Stamp admitted he fraudulently obtained a $68 million operating loan from Wells Fargo Bank in December 2011 by misrepresenting the amount of land he farmed and the value of his company’s assets, including harvested grain, fertilizer and fuel. After he obtained the loan, he continued to make misrepresentations to Wells Fargo about his business, including by creating false farmland leases and other documents.           Mike Stamp also admitted that he defrauded the federal crop insurance program by filing false claims, falsifying harvested crop records, and obtaining crop insurance in the names of entities with no insurable interest.           Melissa Stamp admitted that she was aware of Mike Stamp’s fraud, did not report it to authorities, and helped hide money from Wells Fargo and other creditors of Stamp Farms.           "Bank fraud is a very serious financial crime," said Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation for the Detroit Field Office. "Providing false or misleading documents to financial institutions undermines the integrity of our ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-04-16
    1 week ago
  • Grand Ledge Man Sentenced To More Than 30 Years In Prison For Producing Child Pornography
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Kevin Scott Konen, 52, of Grand Ledge, Michigan, was sentenced for sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of children, and for possession of child pornography, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Konen was sentenced to 380 months’ imprisonment to be followed by 10 years of supervised release and was ordered to pay fines and other monetary penalties.           U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist observed at the sentencing hearing that Konen led a double life – one that was of an upstanding family man and member of the community, and a second secret life. That secret life preyed on children and exploited them for his sexual interests. Konen used online persona to perpetrate his scheme. He used the alias "Jenny Mays" on Facebook and other social media, whereby he pretended to be a high school girl and befriended girls and boys in order to manipulate and encourage them to take sexually explicit images of themselves. Konen also used the alias of "Alyssa Pietrzak" to aggressively extort minors and demand that they send him sexual images under the threat that such person would send compromising pictures to the victims’ family and friends. Another ruse involved directing the victims to contact "Denny Ha," on the representation that he could help the victims remove their pictures from internet websites, but to do so "Denny Ha" needed user names and passwords for their accounts. Once he had access to the accounts, Konen would search the victims’ accounts for compromising pictures. ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-04-14
    1 week ago
  • Michigan Fish Dealer Sentenced For Unlawful Trafficking In Michigan Lake Trout
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – John H. Cross III (Cross) and John Cross Fisheries Inc. (Cross Fisheries) were sentenced in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for trafficking in illegally transported and sold lake trout, announced Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and United States Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan. Cross Fisheries was also sentenced for making false records about whitefish purchases.           The two defendants previously had pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act by knowingly selling and attempting to sell in interstate commerce lake trout, when they should have known the fish was possessed and sold in violation of underlying State law, specifically Mich. Comp. Laws, Sections 324.47333 and 324.47319 which prohibit any person from marketing, possessing, or offering for sale any fish illegally taken from the relevant waters. Cross Fisheries also pled guilty to one felony count of violating the Lacey Act by knowingly making a false record and account of whitefish that was intended to be sold and transported in interstate commerce.           Cross was ordered to serve 12 months in prison – intermittently during a five year term of probation – for his role in trafficking lake trout. Cross Fisheries was sentenced to five years’ probation. Both defendants were ordered to pay $1,032,132.00 in restitution, jointly and severally, to the National Fish Hatcheries, which stock Lake Michigan with lake trout. In addition, Cross Fisheries was ordered to create and implement a compliance ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-04-02
    3 weeks ago
  • Excluded Felon Sentenced To Twelve Years For Health Care Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft
      Babubhai Rathod Ran Multiple Health Care Providers After Being Convicted And Excluded From Medicare And Medicaid For Paying Illegal Kickbacks           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Babubhai Bhurabhai Rathod, of Okemos, Michigan, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for health care fraud and an additional 2 years in prison for aggravated identity theft. Rathod pleaded guilty to both charges in August 2018. U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff also ordered Rathod to pay $939,795.89 in restitution to Medicare and Medicaid.           In 2013, Rathod was sentenced to four years in prison—and was further excluded from participating in Medicare and Medicaid—after being convicted of paying practitioners illegal kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals to his health care companies. While in prison, Rathod faked a drug and alcohol use disorder in order to qualify for admission into the Residential Drug Abuse Program ("RDAP"). Rathod completed RDAP and was released early from custody. Within days of his release in 2016, Rathod began violating his exclusion and supervised release conditions by operating four health care providers across the State of Michigan: Advanced Medical Services (d/b/a Advanced Sleep Diagnostics of Michigan); Sleep Diagnostics of Michigan; EZ Sleep Supplies; and Paramount Home Care. To conceal his ownership of these providers from Medicare and Medicaid, Rathod used a variety of aliases, straw owners, and shell holding companies that were registered to other people. Rathod’s scheme netted nearly a million dollars in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to which his providers ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-03-27
    4 weeks ago
  • United States Attorney's Office Marks Women's History Month By Honoring The First And The Most Recent Female Assistant United States Attorneys In The District
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN —U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge’s office took the occasion of Women’s History Month to recognize a pioneer in the practice of law who his office can call its own: Ella Mae Backus. In 1923, Ms. Backus became the first female Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in Michigan. At the time, she was only the sixth such female attorney in the entire Department of Justice. Ms. Backus had actually been working in the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office since 1903 as a Clerk, even though she had passed the bar in 1895 without the benefit of law school and had previously handled cases of her own in private practice. U.S. Attorney Edward Bowman, initially endeavoring to give Ms. Backus a mere raise, ultimately secured a second AUSA position for the office and appointed her to it when he learned it was the only way to increase her pay. As rare as it was at the time, the appointment was overdue. By 1911, Ms. Backus had been appearing in court on behalf of the United States as only a licensed lawyer can. During an era when AUSAs tended to serve no longer than the tenure of the U.S. Attorney who hired them and well before civil service protections, Ms. Backus worked for a total of 35 years under six different U.S. Attorneys. She cemented her legacy of dedication and service when she refused to go home ill the day before she passed away at the age of 76 in 1938. ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-03-26
    4 weeks ago
  • Battle Creek Woman Sentenced To 3 Years In Federal Prison For Filing False Tax Returns
                GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that U.S. District Judge Janet Neff sentenced Tammy Sue Burdette, 52, of Battle Creek, to 36 months in prison and ordered her to pay $569,852 in restitution for filing false tax returns.           From 2009 through 2012, Burdette was employed as the office manager at VHC, PC and stole more than $3 million. Burdette wrote checks payable to herself from VHC’s bank account and spent the money gambling. Burdette failed to account for the money on her income tax returns.           "The defendant, Tammy Sue Burdette, stole more than $3 million and willfully failed to report that income to the Internal Revenue Service. Her conduct deprived the American taxpayer of $569,852 in tax revenue," stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel. "As we approach the April 15 tax deadline, the public can rest assured that the special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to protect the U.S. tax system, ensuring everyone accurately reports their income and pays their fair share of taxes."           The case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Stiffler handled the prosecution. ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-03-10
    1 month ago
  • Four Lansing Men Sentenced In Food Stamp Fraud Case
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that four Lansing-area men have been sentenced in connection with convictions arising out of a USDA investigation into fraud at convenience stores in Lansing, Michigan, where customers were allowed to buy prohibited items (such as cigarettes) or receive cash in exchange for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (also known as food stamps).           Raymond Gedeon, Edward Gedeon, and Youssef El-Chaer were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Raymond Gedeon and Edward Gedeon were each sentenced to 24 months’ custody and two years of supervised release. Raymond Gedeon was ordered to pay restitution of more than $485,000. Edward Gedeon was ordered to pay restitution of more than $241,000. El-Chaer was ordered to pay restitution of more than $39,000. Elias Abudaya was convicted of food stamp fraud in violation of 7 U.S.C. § 2024(b) and sentenced to six months’ incarceration and restitution of more than $241,000.           "My office will aggressively prosecute individuals who attempt to defraud taxpayer-funded programs, such as those designed to assist members of our community in need," U.S. Attorney Birge said.           USDA Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony V. Mohatt said, "The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps put healthy food on the table of 1.3 million Michigan residents each month. The criminal activities of the store owners and employees targeted during this investigation deprived needy citizens of the Lansing area access to nutritious meals. The USDA Office of Inspector General ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-27
    2 months ago
  • Kentwood Man Pleads Guilty To Interstate Threat To U.S. Senator
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Rick Lynn Simmons, 52, of Kentwood, Michigan pleaded guilty before a U.S. Magistrate Judge to one count of making an interstate telephone call to the Camden, New Jersey office of U.S. Senator Cory Booker and leaving a voicemail message with a threat to injure Senator Booker, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). Simmons faces a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised released, and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 5, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff.           Simmons admitted at the plea hearing that he placed a call in the evening of October 26, 2018 from his Kent County, Michigan home to Senator Booker’s office and left a vulgarity-filled voicemail message that threatened to "put a nine millimeter" into the Senator’s face.           "No individual, whether a public official or a member of the public, deserves to field threatening messages designed to dehumanize, intimidate and terrorize," U.S. Attorney Birge said.           "The FBI works closely with the U.S. Capitol Police to investigate threats to harm or kill public officials wherever those threats originate," said FBI Detroit Field Office Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater. "In this case, the targeted individual was a Senator, but we remain committed to safeguarding the rights of all individuals."           The case was jointly investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police, Kentwood Police Department, and the FBI - Grand Rapids Violent Crime Task ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-26
    2 months ago
  • Holland Attorney Charged With Defrauding Clients And Filing A False Federal Income Tax Return
    Attorney Jeffrey Palmer Admits Embezzling More Than $339,000 From Clients and Underreporting Income to the Internal Revenue Service           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Jeffrey James Palmer, a resident of Holland, Michigan, has been charged with making a false statement on a federal income tax return and wire fraud. Palmer has agreed to waive indictment by the grand jury and plead guilty to those charges. Palmer also agreed to pay the Internal Revenue Service additional tax due and owing for tax years 2012 through 2016 (approximately $55,511, before interest and penalties) and restitution to his victims (approximately $339,520).           In a written plea agreement filed today with the Court, Palmer admitted that he embezzled and converted to his own use approximately $339,520 of client trust funds while licensed and practicing as an attorney. Between 2012 and 2016, Palmer withdrew approximately $274,856 from one client trust account and about $64,664 in funds from a second client trust account. He did not disclose to his clients that he was withdrawing their funds for his own personal use and benefit.           In addition to the scheme to defraud his clients, Palmer admitted that he failed to report as income the funds he embezzled on his federal income tax returns. Specifically, and by way of example, Palmer failed to report $82,000 of income on his federal Form 1040, which he signed and filed with the IRS under penalty of perjury in January 2017.           Palmer faces a ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-20
    2 months ago
  • Home Health Nurse Sentenced To Federal Prison For Tampering With Patients' Medication
    Kristie Mollohan Stole and Diluted Seizure Medication From Disabled Patients           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN —Kristie Ann Mollohan, 42, formerly of Kalamazoo, Michigan and currently of Cosby, Tennessee, was sentenced to 82 months in prison for drug tampering, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist imposed a 2-year term of supervised release that will commence once Mollohan is released from federal prison.           Mollohan pled guilty on May 10, 2018, to two counts of drug tampering, involving liquid diazepam (Valium), a Schedule IV controlled substance. Mollohan, who was a licensed practical nurse working for a home health company, admitted to stealing Valium from three patients in two homes in August of 2016. All three patients relied on Valium to suppress life-threatening seizure activity, were completely disabled, and required 24-hour care by their families or other caregivers at the time of the thefts. Mollohan replaced the Valium that she stole with water or saline solution, leaving the patients’ medication 90-99% diluted. Mollohan acknowledged that her conduct resulted in one of the patients having a life-threatening seizure.           In imposing sentence, Judge Quist called Mollohan’s conduct "reprehensible." He emphasized that patients must rely on medical professionals to be honest and act professionally, to administer patients’ drugs and not steal them. Judge Quist remanded Mollohan to begin serving her federal sentence at the end of the sentencing hearing.           In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that federal drug tampering involves ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-19
    2 months ago
  • Leader Of Identity Theft Conspiracy Sentenced
    The conspirators helped illegal aliens obtain Michigan driver’s licenses. These aliens had criminal convictions that previously led to their removal to the Dominican Republic.           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Michelle Martinez-Marte, 37, of Rhode Island, was sentenced to 4 years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Martinez- Marte previously pled guilty in the Western District of Michigan to charges returned by grand juries in both Michigan and Massachusetts related to her involvement in a conspiracy to assist illegal aliens from the Dominican Republic with obtaining driver’s licenses using the identities of others. In sentencing Martinez-Marte, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker commented that Martinez-Marte was at the center of a very significant conspiracy that assisted others with prior criminal records in residing illegally in the United States.          U.S. Attorney Birge added that, "The use of someone else’s identity is a very serious crime. This conspiracy was particularly brazen because defendants assisted many individuals previously removed from our country after criminal convictions – including drug-trafficking crimes – in establishing new identities through Michigan driver’s licenses so that they could again live in our country undetected by immigration authorities. My office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who enter this country illegally and steal the identities of innocent citizens."           Between at least April 4, 2016, and July 20, 2017, Martinez-Marte conspired with Eddie Michael Balderramas of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to commit identity theft and social security account number fraud. Martinez-Marte, a citizen of the Dominican Republic illegally ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-18
    2 months ago
  • Federal Court Sentences California-Based Drug Trafficking Head To 42 Years In Prison
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Alex Alberto Castro received 42 years in prison for conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine.  A federal jury convicted Castro in October 2018.  He was the lead defendant of a 20-defendant drug conspiracy that began in 2013 and continued until all defendants were arrested in 2017. Chief United States District Judge Robert J. Jonker handed down the sentence..           Evidence presented at trial proved Castro to be the lead California-based drug distributor, responsible for sending heroin and cocaine to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Kansas, through the use of trap-cars, semi-trucks with custom-made concealed compartments, and car trailers.  Castro employed multiple drivers and maintained his drug distribution deliveries even while in prison for a federal supervised release violation in 2016.           The conviction was the result of a multi-agency Federal and State investigation into the conspiracy.  The investigation began in 2016 and continued through 2017 and involved the wiretap of seven separate telephones used by multiple coconspirators.  In total, 24 defendants were convicted as a result of the charges brought in the investigation. During the arrests of the defendants and execution of associated searches, federal and state investigators seized over 30 kilograms of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, multiple pounds of marijuana, two kilogram presses, over $1,300,000 in drug proceeds, a bullet-proof vest, three handguns and an assault rifle with an extended magazine.           "Heroin, fentanyl and cocaine - trafficked into our state from other regions—have been ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-13
    2 months ago
  • Muskegon Heights Man Sentenced To 120 Months In federal Prison For Drug And Firearm Offenses
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Willie Earl Hector, 33, of Muskegon Heights, Michigan, was sentenced to 120 months (10 years) in federal prison for drug and firearm offenses, U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff imposed a 3-year term of supervised release that will commence once Hector is released from imprisonment.           Hector pled guilty on October 5, 2018, to one count of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition, and one count of Possessing a Controlled Substance (Fentanyl) with Intent to Distribute. Hector came to the attention of police in Summer 2017 after a surveillance camera captured him walking around his home brandishing an AK-47 style rifle. Hector is prohibited from possessing firearms because he has nine prior felony convictions plus a conviction for domestic violence.            The ATF executed a search warrant at Hector’s residence in October 2017. Agents recovered two rifles, ammunition, 19.425 grams of fentanyl, other drugs, and drug paraphernalia. In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office underscored the need to protect the community from Hector’s ongoing criminal activity. The United States noted that Hector had more than 20 convictions, and his priors include multiple drug felonies, as well as numerous instances of gun violence. “Society prohibits felons from possessing firearms and ammunition for a reason, and the defendant’s violent history is a paradigmatic example of why such laws exist. The defendant has proven through his conduct that he will ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-11
    2 months ago
  • Man Who Carried Child Pornography Across U.S.-Canada Border Sentenced To 20 Years In Federal Prison
              MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Jason Harry Bishop was sentenced to 240 months (20 years) in federal prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker for transporting child pornography from Sault St. Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Judge Jonker also sentenced Bishop to serve 10 years of supervision following his release from prison, pay a $40,000 fine, and pay $5,100 in special assessments.           On January 27, 2017, Bishop crossed the U.S.-Canada border at Sault St. Marie. While crossing, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) became suspicious and sent Bishop for a secondary inspection. During the secondary inspection, CBSA located several photos of child pornography.           CBSA forwarded Bishop’s electronic devices to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which recovered child pornography and the following images Bishop took of himself:           A review of Bishop’s criminal history uncovered that he solicited sex with underage children on at least three prior occasions.           "Today's significant prison term against a convicted child predator should serve as a clear warning for those who target and prey on children," said Steve Francis, special agent in charge for HSI Detroit. "The aggressive investigation and prosecution of child predators remains among HSI's highest priorities."           This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Lochner and Davin Reust as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-05
    3 months ago
  • Lansing Man Sentenced To More Than 13 Years In Prison For International Identity Theft And Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — On Tuesday, January 29, 2019, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker sentenced Oghenevwakpo Igboba to a total of 162 months’ in federal prison to be followed by three years’ supervised release, $514,823 in restitution, a money judgment of $48,205, and $1800 in court assessments.           In September 2018, a jury found Igboba guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of wire fraud, eight counts of making a false claim to the United States, and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. Igboba used other individuals’ personally identifying information to access tax information using an Internal Revenue Service website. He then took that sensitive tax and personal information and used it to file false federal income tax returns directing the IRS to pay fraudulent refunds to bank accounts he controlled.            "My office will seek appropriate punishment for those who undermine the functioning of Internal Revenue Service systems and steal refunds owed to other hard-working Americans," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge. "This crime harms the individual tax payers whose identities were stolen in connection with the fraud, but it also harms all Americans who place their trust in the proper functioning of the tax system and expect an orderly and prompt payment of tax refunds. This defendant stole from all of us."           By filing Form 1040s before the real taxpayers, Igboba managed to direct hundreds of thousands of dollars to himself. IRS systems stopped many of the stolen ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-02-03
    3 months ago
  • Lansing Residents Arrested For Conspiracy To Provide Material Support To ISIS
              Grand Rapids, MI - Three residents of Lansing, Michigan, were arrested without incident Monday afternoon for conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan charged all three in a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.           Members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested MUSE ABDIKADIR MUSE (MUSE MUSE) at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after he checked in for a flight to the first of a series of destinations on his way to Mogadishu, Somalia. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement arrested alleged coconspirators MOHAMUD ABDIKADIR MUSE (MOHAMUD MUSE), and MOHAMED SALAT HAJI (HAJI). MUSE MUSE and MOHAMUD MUSE are brothers and HAJI is a cousin. All three were born in Kenya. HAJI is a naturalized U.S. citizen and the brothers are derivative U.S. citizens, having received U.S. citizenship as minors through the naturalization of their parents.           According to thecomplaint affidavit, MUSE MUSE purchased airline tickets earlier this month to travel from Grand Rapids to Mogadishu, departing on Monday, January 21, 2019. Among other support, the complaint alleged HAJI and MOHAMUD MUSE aided in the purchase of the ticket and drove MUSE MUSE to the Grand Rapids airport, each knowing the true purpose of the travel was for MUSE MUSE to ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2019-01-21
    3 months ago
  • Mendon, Michigan Man Sentenced To 13 Months In Prison For Crop Insurance Fraud
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Douglas Edward Diekman, 55, of Mendon, Michigan, was sentenced to 13 months in federal prison for committing crop insurance fraud. He was also ordered to serve two years of supervised release and pay $488,432.86 in restitution. U.S District Judge Paul Maloney imposed the sentence.           Diekman pled guilty to conspiring with Michael Stamp of Stamp Farms to defraud the federal crop insurance program. Diekman admitted that he illegally obtained crop insurance for approximately 1,000 acres of farmland he rented to Stamp Farms. Diekman did not farm the land and had no ownership interest in the crops. Nevertheless, he falsely certified that he had a 100% ownership interest in the crops and falsely certified that he had crop losses. When Stamp Farms declared bankruptcy and was unable to pay rent for the farmland, Diekman kept a crop insurance indemnity payment to which he was not entitled.           U.S. Attorney Birge said, "This office will continue to vigorously prosecute people like Mr. Diekman who defraud taxpayer-funded programs such as the federal crop insurance program."           Manny Muriel, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit's IRS Criminal Investigation, stated, "IRS Special Agents and our Federal Law Enforcement partners will continue to work tirelessly to bring to justice those who attempt to defraud programs that are backed by taxpayer funds. We will not tolerate those cheating the system in efforts to deepen their own pockets at everyone else's expense."           The case ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-12-19
    4 months ago
  • Chicago-Area Man Sentenced To 10 Years And 10 Months For Traveling To Coldwater And Robbing Cell Phone Store
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist sentenced Tramain Hill to 130 months in federal prison for committing an interstate cell phone store robbery with three other people. Hill was also ordered to repay $42,129.44 in restitution and serve 3 years under court supervision following release from prison.           On August 27, 2016, Hill and three associates met up in Kankakee, Illinois to prepare to rob a cell phone store. The crew had recently stolen a Mitsubishi Eclipse in Chicago, and they planned to use it as a getaway vehicle. On August 27, they loaded into the Eclipse and another car.           At approximately 6:50 PM, two of the crew entered a Universal Wireless store at 849 E. Chicago Street in Coldwater, Michigan. After entering, one robber pulled a gun, pointed it at the three employees and one customer present, and herded everyone to a back room. Once in the back room, the other robber bound everyone’s wrists and ankles with zip ties, stole the property of the employees and customer, and proceeded to steal approximately $40,000 in cell phones from the store. The robbers stashed their proceeds in a black trash bag and exited through the back door of the store. The robbers then traveled back to central Illinois, where they sold the cell phones to a fence.           To date, three of the four robbers have been prosecuted federally. Two of them are pending sentencing in the Central District of Illinois.           The Coldwater ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-12-19
    4 months ago
  • Joseph Lee King Sentenced To 48 Months In Federal Prison For Domestic Violence
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Joseph Lee King, 59, from Peshawbestown (Leelanau County), Michigan, was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison for Domestic Assault – Habitual Offender, U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney imposed a 2-year term of supervised release that will commence once King is released from imprisonment.           King pled guilty on July 26, 2018. He admitted that the assault occurred during an argument on the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians’ Reservation. King was subject to increased penalties under federal law because he had at least two prior convictions for domestic violence. The United States had jurisdiction over the case because it occurred in Indian Country.           In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted "a witness observed the defendant grabbing the victim by the throat, practically lifting her off the ground by the neck, and then throwing her to the ground. Police observed bruising and discoloration on and around the victim’s neck." The United States sought a significant sentence because of King’s conduct, his long criminal history, and his pattern of offending against women. The United States noted that King had previously strangled or attempted to strangle his domestic partners. "Such conduct is extremely dangerous and poses great risk to its victims," the United States argued. In light of the facts that domestic violence often causes severe, ongoing harm to women and is a risk factor for future domestic ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-12-05
    5 months ago
  • Davi Bailey Sentenced To Six And A Half Years For Witness Retaliation
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced Davi Sarah Bailey to six and a half years in prison for retaliating against a victim of child pornography pro-duction, along with the victim’s family. Judge Neff made clear that threatening and intimidating witnesses will not be tolerated in the Western District of Michigan: "It has to be known that it is just not acceptable to interfere with or retaliate against witnesses who come to court…. We simply cannot have any indication that witness intimidation or retaliation is acceptable under any circum-stance."           In June of 2018, a jury found the father of Bailey’s children (Michael Clayton) guilty of sex trafficking one minor girl and producing child pornography of three minor girls. You can read more about Clayton’s case here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdmi/pr/2018_1023_Clayton_Hernandez. For his crimes, Clayton received life in prison.           Throughout Clayton’s trial, Bailey threatened two of the victims of child pornography pro-duction. On the first day of trial, one of the victims testified, after which Bailey threatened to harm the girl. On the second day of trial, another victim testified, and Bailey threatened her too. Due to those threats, law enforcement accompanied the victims throughout the rest of the trial to ensure their safety. After trial concluded one evening, law enforcement found Bailey waiting in a parking lot by a victim’s vehicle.           After trial, Bailey threatened to beat up the sister of one of the victims, based on the vic-tim’s testimony:                    The threat affected the ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-29
    5 months ago
  • Drug Dealer Found Guilty Of Distributing Fentanyl Causing Death Of Veteran In Kalamazoo
    Deondray Christopher Abrams now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Yesterday evening, a jury in federal district court in Kalamazoo found Deondray Christopher Abrams guilty of distributing fentanyl on March 21, 2017, which resulted in the death of Brandon Jay Demko, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from severe PTSD. Due to Abrams’ prior conviction, this offense carries a statutory mandatory term of life in prison. Abrams is scheduled to be sentenced on April 8, 2018. Abrams, 26, of Kalamazoo, sold fentanyl on March 21, 2017, as heroin. Fentanyl is at least 40 times more powerful than heroin. Brandon Demko used the fentanyl believing it to be heroin. He became unconscious and ultimately died. In response to a 911 call, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officers and LIFE EMS paramedics tried diligently to revive Mr. Demko but were unsuccessful. Officer John Khillah, with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team, conducted the investigation into the source of the fentanyl. After a two day-long trial, the federal jury convicted Abrams of distributing the fentanyl that killed Mr. Demko. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge warned: "Fentanyl is increasingly available in Western Michigan. Drug dealers are mixing fentanyl with heroin and, as in this case, selling fentanyl as heroin. Fentanyl is so much more powerful than heroin that opioid deaths have risen in the past few years. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute opioid drug dealers ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-28
    5 months ago
  • Fraudulent Tax Preparer Sentenced To Prison
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Faheem Olugbodi, also known as Faheem Abdul Nichols and James Moore, 48, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sentenced to 3 and ½ years in federal prison, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Olugbodi pled guilty to conversion of government property for preparing fraudulent tax returns from 2011 through 2013. In his plea agreement, Olugbodi admitted collecting personal information from taxpayers and then reporting false income listed as household employment in order to generate tax refunds based on the Earned Income Tax Credit. Olugbodi acknowledged that he obtained $1,827,450.00 by filing approximately 322 fraudulent tax returns. At the sentencing hearing, the evidence showed that Olugbodi utilized multiple bank accounts, including one in the name of local mosque Baitul Shukur to conceal his fraud scheme.           United States District Judge Gordon Quist directed that Olugbodi pay $1,827.450.00 in restitution and ordered two years of supervised release following the prison term. In imposing the sentence, Judge Quist remarked that there is both "a social cost as well as a financial cost" to such fraud schemes which appear to be on the rise in this district.           "Tax preparers who abuse the Earned Income Tax Credit are just engaged in theft by another name. My office will continue to work closely with IRS Criminal Investigation to limit theft from the U.S. Treasury and to punish those who obtain monies through fraudulent tax filings," said U.S. Attorney Birge. "As the tax filing season approaches, I strongly encourage taxpayers to be ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-28
    5 months ago
  • Ringleader Of Florida-Based Identity Theft Scheme Sentenced To 78 Months In Federal Prison
    Last of Ten Defendants Sentenced in Scheme That Involved Installing Card- Skimming Devices in Gas-Pumps, Creating Cloned Credit Cards Using Captured Account Numbers, and Using Cloned Cards to Bulk-Buy Prepaid Cards at Meijer Branches Throughout the Greater Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing Areas           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Guillermo Rodriguez, 45, of Miami, Florida, was sentenced to serve 78 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for leading a wire-fraud and identity-theft conspiracy that operated between Florida and Michigan for several months during 2015, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today.           Rodriguez is the last of a total of 10 defendants sentenced in the course of a long-running investigation that was led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Lansing office of the FBI’s Detroit Division, and that resulted in three related cases that were prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. In addition to Rodriguez, the following defendants, all of whom were residents of the Miami, Florida, area, received lesser prison sentences based on their varying roles in the scheme and whether they cooperated with investigators after their arrests: Yunier Cudello-Albelo, 33, was sentenced to serve 69 months; Yaimari Gonzalez-Santos, 39, was sentenced to serve 12 months; Juan Ledesma, 27, was sentenced to serve 63 months; Elisabe Hernandez-Perez, 46, was sentenced to serve 12 months; Yoel Alfonso, 39, was sentenced to time-served in pretrial detention; Dunieski Gutierrez, 41, was sentenced to serve five months; Jesus Carrazana, 45, was sentenced to serve six months; Isabel Tiedemann, 29, was sentenced ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-27
    5 months ago
  • Serial Robbers Sentenced To Prison
             GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Shaun Michael Cook, 31, of Lansing, Michigan, was sentenced to 102 months in federal prison for his role in a series of Lansing area robberies, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Cook and his codefendants, Donald Charles Westmoreland and Shackeem Louis Jones, committed a series of armed robberies of various businesses in the Lansing metropolitan area from November 2016 through May 2017. Cook, Jones and Westmoreland each pleaded guilty earlier this year to interference with commerce by robbery and brandishing a firearm. United States District Judge Janet T. Neff, who sentenced Cook, sentenced Westmoreland to 87 months in prison and Jones to 96 months. She ordered Cook to pay $2,139.21 in restitution and Jones and Westmoreland to pay $4,739.21.           "Reducing violent crime rates is a priority for this office as well as the Department of Justice," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. "Repeated violent behavior involving firearms will be met with increased law enforcement attention, swift justice, and severe punishment."           During most of these robberies, two of the men would enter a business, point a gun at the employees and customers, demand money, and order everyone to the ground. During some of the robberies, the men destroyed the businesses’ telephones or stole cell phones from employees in order to prevent calls for help. At sentencing, Judge Neff attributed the following robberies to this group (all occurred in the Lansing area unless otherwise indicated): • November 16, 2016: Cook and Jones robbed a Subway restaurant ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-19
    5 months ago
  • New DEA Office in Traverse City, Michigan
      Partnership with the Michigan State Police           DETROIT – On Monday, November 19, 2018, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Detroit Field Division, announced the opening of the Traverse City Post of Duty. This new post of duty will allow the DEA to better serve Michigan by identifying, disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations and their subsidiary organizations operating in the northern Michigan area. Also announced, was the DEA’s partnership with the Michigan State Police Traverse Narcotics Team (T.N.T.).           The DEA currently has 222 domestic offices in 23 Divisions throughout the United States, and 90 foreign offices in 69 countries. Today’s announcement will mark the 223rd domestic office, located in Traverse City, Michigan. The Traverse City Post of Duty is the seventh DEA office in Michigan and will be overseen by an Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Grand Rapids, and ultimately the Detroit Division Office.           The full-time presence of DEA personnel in northern Michigan will enhance partnerships with law enforcement agencies throughout the region and increase the service we provide to our communities. Personnel assigned to the DEA Traverse City Post of Duty will coordinate with Federal, state and local investigators to identify, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute transnational criminal organizations, violent drug trafficking organizations, firearms trafficking organizations, and their subsidiary organizations, which operate throughout northern Michigan, the United States, and the world.           The DEA also announced the partnership with the Michigan State Police Traverse Narcotics Team (T.N.T.), which consists of the Michigan State Police; ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-18
    5 months ago
  • Grand Ledge Man Pleads Guilty To Producing Child Pornography
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Kevin Scott Konen, 52, of Grand Ledge, Michigan, pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of children, and possession of child pornography, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Konen will face a mandatory minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment and a combined maximum of 40 years’ imprisonment, restitution, fines, and other penalties.           Konen used various persona and schemes on social media to cause and attempt to cause minors to take sexually explicit images of themselves. Konen used the alias "Jenny Mays" on Facebook and other social media and pretended to be a high school girl and befriended girls and boys. Using the "Jenny Mays" alias, Konen manipulated minors and then encouraged them to take sexually explicit images of themselves. Konen also used the alias of "Alyssa Pietrzak" to contact minors. Using this persona, Konen aggressively extorted minors and demanded that they send him sexual images or "Alyssa Pietrzak" would send compromising pictures to the victim’s family and friends. Another ruse involved directing the victims to contact "Denny Ha" who could help the victims remove their pictures from internet websites, but to do so "Denny Ha" needed user names and passwords for their accounts. Once he had access to the accounts, Konen would search the victims’ accounts for compromising pictures.           Konen operated this scheme from 2011 to 2018 and had communications with numerous minors in Eaton County, Michigan, ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-18
    5 months ago
  • Members Of Venezuelan Crime Syndicate Sentenced For Multistate ATM “Jackpotting” Scheme
    Christian Zerpa-Ruiz and Ragde Pinto-Coronado Stole From Bank and Credit Union ATMs By Infecting Them With Malicious Software That Forced the ATMs to Dispense Cash           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Christian Eduardo Zerpa-Ruiz, 32, and Ragde Hussein Pinto-Coronado, 24, both of Venezuela, were sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank larceny. Zerpa-Ruiz was sentenced to 51 months in prison, Pinto-Coronado was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and both were ordered to pay restitution. U.S District Judge Janet T. Neff imposed the sentences.           Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado are members of a Venezuelan crime syndicate who, in a sophisticated hacking scheme known as "jackpotting," robbed bank and credit union automated teller machines by infecting their hard drives with malware that allowed them to take command of the machines and force them to dispense all the cash they contained in a relatively short period of time – somewhat like hitting a jackpot on a casino slot machine. This type of crime was first reported in the United States in January 2018.           Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado successfully jackpotted four ATMs in Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, and stole approximately $125,000 in cash. They were arrested on March 15, 2018, while attempting to jackpot an ATM in St. Joseph, Michigan containing more than $43,000. Pinto- Coronado is in the United States illegally. Zerpa-Ruiz came to the United States on a tourist visa in late January 2018, and began jackpotting in February 2018.           In imposing the ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-12
    5 months ago
  • Statement of United States Attorneys Matthew Schneider and Andrew Birge Regarding the Passage of Proposal One
              The people of Michigan have voted to legalize – with certain restrictions – the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana under state law. However, marijuana continues to be an illegal drug under federal law. As the chief federal law enforcement officers in Michigan, we are providing this statement regarding the enforcement of federal marijuana laws in light of the passage of Proposal One.           Because we have taken oaths to protect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States, we will not unilaterally immunize anyone from prosecution for violating federal laws simply because of the passage of Proposal One.           We will continue to approach the investigation and prosecution of marijuana crimes as we do with any other crime. We will consider the federal law enforcement priorities set by the United States Department of Justice, the seriousness of the crime, the deterrent effect of prosecution, and the cumulative impact of the crime on a community. As we weigh the interests in enforcing a law, we must also consider our ability to prosecute with our limited resources.           Combating illegal drugs is just one of our many priorities. We are also focused on preventing and prosecuting terrorism, violent crime, gangs, corruption, and fraud. Even within the area of drugs, we are increasingly focused on combating the opioid epidemic, which is killing our citizens at an alarming rate.           Our offices have never focused on the prosecution of marijuana users or low-level offenders, unless aggravating factors are present. ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-07
    6 months ago
  • Final Defendant In Staged Automobile Accident Insurance Fraud Conspiracy Sentenced
    Marvin David Ramirez Sent to Prison for his Role in the Fraud at the Primary Rehab Center in Wyoming, Michigan           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Marvin David Ramirez, 45, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sentenced to prison in federal court yesterday. Ramirez pled guilty in June of this year to conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to a staged automobile accident ring that operated at Primary Rehab Center in Wyoming. United States District Judge Paul L. Maloney sentenced Ramirez to 37 months in prison. When imposing the sentence, Judge Maloney commented that "Michigan residents pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the country and fraud schemes like the present case contribute significantly to these high premiums." The court also ordered Ramirez to pay restitution of $298,992.29 to the automobile insurance companies that he defrauded.           "Ramirez and his cohorts operated a sophisticated scheme over several years in our community," stated U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge. "The well-deserved sentence imposed by the court reflects the leadership role played by Ramirez and the fact that he greatly profited from this fraud at the expense of Michigan’s automobile insurance system."            The staged automobile accident ring operated at Primary Rehab from December 2011 to May 2014. The ring recruited and paid cash to individuals to stage automobile accidents and obtain police reports so that insurance claims could be made with their automobile insurance companies. The managers of the clinics and others working with them then told the accident participants what symptoms to ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-11-07
    6 months ago
  • Dog-Fighter Damiane Buehrer Gets 46 Months In Federal Prison
    Buehrer, A West Michigan Resident, Continued to Participate in Underground Pit Bull Terrier Fighting Even After Serving State Prison Time for Dog-Fighting Offense           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - Damiane Buehrer, 40, of Jonesville, Michigan, was sentenced yesterday to serve 46 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for participating in a dog-fighting conspiracy between November 2016 and December 2017. The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge of the Western District of Michigan made the announcement.           Buehrer and four co-defendants were indicted on April 18, 2018, for conspiracy and for unlawfully possessing animals to use in dog fighting, along with equipment to train and condition them for fighting. The remaining co-defendants, including Charles Joseph Miller, Kian Maliak Miller, Charles Deon Davis, Jr., and Jarvis Jason-Roy Askew, have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Buehrer was convicted in State court in 2010, under Michigan’s animal-fighting statute.           Between November 14, 2016, and December 7, 2017, as part of the conspiracy, Buehrer—who had just been released from the Michigan Department of Corrections in August 2015 after serving a five-year-sentence for the same activity—acquired and possessed four dogs for the purposes of breeding, training, conditioning, and developing them to fight other dogs for prize money in underground and illegal contests that routinely result in dogs being wounded, maimed, and killed. Buehrer’s dogs, along with 33 other dogs owned by his co-conspirators, were rescued by Federal and state law-enforcement agencies as part of the investigation. Buehrer also ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-31
    6 months ago
  • Two Ohio Men Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Unlawfully Export Firearms To Lebanon
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Abdul Majid Saidi, 42, and Walid Mounir Chehade, 38, both of metro Cleveland, Ohio, each pleaded guilty before a U.S. Magistrate Judge pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of conspiring to violate the Arms Export Control Act. The guilty pleas were accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist and both defendants were adjudicated guilty. Saidi and Chehade face a maximum of 5 years of imprisonment, 3 years of supervised released, and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing hearings will be held in February, 2019.           Saidi and Chehade admitted at their plea hearings that they conspired with Gilbert Elian in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area to conceal twenty semiautomatic pistols wrapped in felt and plastic inside automobile engine blocks and transmissions. Many of the firearms were purchased in West Michigan. Those engine blocks and transmission were then placed in a cargo shipping container addressed to a consignee in Beirut, Lebanon. The cargo container shipment was intercepted after a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol inspection in Virginia. Elian was convicted of the same offense in 2016.           “Abdul Majid Saidi and Walid Mounir Chehade flouted laws designed to control the export of defense articles and international arms trafficking. That conduct warrants the serious consequences they face for obvious reasons,” U.S. Attorney Birge said.           “The illegal proliferation of weapons is controlled by U.S. laws for an important purpose,” said Steve Francis, Special Agent in Charge of ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-30
    6 months ago
  • Battle Creek Man Known As “Rodeo Loco” Sentenced To Life Imprisonment For Sexually Exploiting Three High School Girls
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff sentenced Michael Clayton (a.k.a. "Rodeo Loco") to life in prison for sexually exploiting three girls, each about half Clayton’s age. The sentence follows a three-day trial, where a jury found Clayton guilty of being a felon in possession of firearms, conspiring to distribute cocaine, producing child pornography involving the three girls, and forcing one of them to engage in prostitution. Judge Neff remarked, "this was a horrendous, drug-fueled, weapon-heavy nightmare…. We really do need to protect the public from further crimes of this man."           The Battle Creek Police Department (BCPD) became aware of Clayton’s exploitation when they received a call on October 5, 2017, informing them Clayton was holding a 16-year-old girl against her will. Police reported to Clayton’s residence around 9:30 pm. Clayton initially told police there were no females at the house, but they found the 16-year-old girl in the unlit basement:           After interviewing the girl, police learned Clayton forced her into the basement to avoid police detection. She originally met Clayton a few weeks earlier, when he invited her to party, gave her cocaine, and expected her to have sex with him as payment for the cocaine. Clayton continued providing her cocaine and demanding sex, and he frequently recorded and saved videos of those sex acts. When BCPD and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed search warrants for Claytons SnapChat account and iPhone, they uncovered over 20 videos of Clayton engaging in ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-22
    6 months ago
  • DEA and partners hold National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on October 27, 2018
    DEA aims to dispose of 10 million pounds of unused pills           DETROIT – After collecting a total of more than 9.9 million pounds (nearly 5,000 tons) of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications during 15 previous events over the past eight years, the Drug Enforcement Administration expects to reach a total of 10 million pounds collected following the upcoming fall 2018 Take back event. DEA and its national, tribal and community partners will hold the 16th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day across the country on Saturday, October 27. The service is free and anonymous.           This weekend, more than 5,400 collection sites manned by more than 4,400 partner law enforcement agencies will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. The public can find a nearby collection site at www.DEATakeBack.com or by calling 800-882-9539. (DEA cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps.)           "We know that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet," said Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. "If we reduce the availability of those unused or expired medications through proper disposal, the fewer drugs there are to be misused, and fewer people will be at risk for abuse, addiction, overdose, and even death."           The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Initiative addresses a critical public safety and public health issue. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States continue to be alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-22
    6 months ago
  • Greenville Roofing Company Owner Sentenced To Prison For Tax Evasion
    John Frederick Snyder, Owner of Snyder’s Roofing, Willfully Underreported his Income by Over $6 Million for tax years 2009 to 2014           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist sentenced John Frederick Snyder, 72, of Greenville, Michigan, and owner of Snyder’s Roofing, to 12 months and 1 day in prison on October 18 following his guilty plea to a felony information charging him with tax evasion for the 2011 tax year. Snyder further admitted to willfully evading the assessment of income taxes for 2009 to 2014 by underreporting his income by over $6 million. The court also ordered Snyder to pay restitution of $414,160.00, representing the amount of taxes he intentionally failed to pay, which Snyder paid in full prior to sentencing. The IRS will assess interest and penalties against Snyder in the additional amount of approximately $600,000.00.           "Today, the court again justifiably recognized that the integrity of our country’s tax system depends upon voluntary and honest participation by everyone," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. "Those who repeatedly and intentionally evade their obligation to accurately report their income and pay their fair share of taxes will be brought before the court and face appropriate punishment, up to and including imprisonment."           According to his plea agreement and court records, Snyder consistently failed to timely file tax returns and when he did file he underreported the amount of his business income. He purposely deposited less than all of his business income into his business bank account without ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-18
    6 months ago
  • Kenneth Nickerson Sentenced To 57 Months For Threatening To Assault A Social Security Administration Employee
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge announced today that Kenneth L. Nickerson, 53, of Ludington, Michigan, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for threatening to assault a Social Security Administration employee. U.S District Judge Janet T. Neff imposed the sentence.           On June 6, 2017, Mr. Nickerson, who was upset about the level of Supplemental Security Income benefit payments he was receiving, threatened to physically assault a Social Security Administration Claims Specialist working in the Administration’s Ludington, Michigan office. Mr. Nickerson had to be removed from the building and was banned from reentering the property. A month later, on July 6, 2017, Nickerson returned to the vicinity of the Social Security Administration office and sat on a curb across the street. When questioned by officers, Nickerson said he was waiting for the Claims Specialist to finish working and exit the building, whereupon Nickerson planned to “beat him to death.”           “We take threats against federal employees seriously,” Birge said. “Anyone who threatens a federal employee just because he or she is doing their job will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”           Tracey Thanos, the Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, Chicago Field Division echoed these comments. “Employee safety is of paramount concern to the Social Security Administration.” she said. “The Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General will investigate and pursue criminal prosecution of any individual who threatens our employees. We appreciate ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-14
    6 months ago
  • United States Attorney's Office For The Western District Of Michigan Honored By Department Of Defense For Support Of Employees Serving In The Guard And Reserve
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Michigan Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense office, joined U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge in announcing today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan was honored with a Patriot Award in recognition of its extraordinary support of its employees serving in the United States military Reserve Components. U.S. Attorney Birge accepted the award on behalf of the office.           According to Paul Ryan, Michigan ESGR State Chair, “the Patriot Award was created by ESGR to publicly recognize individuals who provide outstanding patriotic support and cooperation to their employees, who like the citizen warriors before them, have answered their nation’s call to serve. U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan were nominated for being highly supportive of Reserve Service. Supportive supervisors are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation’s Guard and Reserve units.”           U.S. Attorney Birge said, “I appreciate the sense of mission, focus and unique skills Service members bring to my office. At the same time, I understand that supportive employers are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation’s Guard and Reserve units. We’ve embraced that supportive role here.”           ESGR, a Department of Defense office, seeks to foster a culture in which all employers support and value the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve in the United States. ESGR facilitates and promotes ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-10-14
    6 months ago
  • Kalamazoo Man Sentenced To Over Nineteen Years For Methamphetamine Trafficking
    Sentence concludes investigation and prosecution of nine-member methamphetamine distribution ring operating in Kalamazoo and Van Buren Counties           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge announced today that Michael Donnell Neeley, age 39, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff to 235 months in prison for participating in a methamphetamine distribution ring that operated in Kalamazoo and Van Buren Counties from July 2016 to December 2017. In addition to his prison term, the Court sentenced Neeley to five years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a fine of $3,000.           Neeley, Noel Francisco Saldana, Jesus Manuel Ramirez-Luna, Thomas Lee Cowley, Sheryl Lynn Ayad, Thomas Lewillan Cowley, Jr., Justin Owen Smith, Robert Eugene Nichols, and David Leroy Strickler were charged in December 2017 with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and various other drug and firearm charges. Neeley, the only charged co-conspirator to go to trial, was convicted by a jury on May 17, 2018. He was the last defendant to be sentenced. Judge Neff sentenced Neeley’s co-defendants earlier this year to the following: Noel Francisco Saldana of Hartford, Michigan: 210 months Jesus Manuel Ramirez-Luna of Phoenix, Arizona: 121 months Thomas Lee Cowley of Kalamazoo, Michigan: 136 months Sheryl Lynn Ayad of Kalamazoo, Michigan: one day time served plus two years of weekend confinement Thomas Lewillan Cowley, Jr. of Kalamazoo, Michigan: 120 months Justin Owen Smith of Watervliet, Michigan: 120 months Robert Eugene Nichols of Kalamazoo, Michigan: ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-25
    7 months ago
  • Defendants Plead Guilty To Conspiracy And Identity Theft Charges
    Eddie Balderramas, Michael Balderramas, and Michelle Martinez-Marte Assisted Illegal Aliens in Obtaining Michigan Driver’s Licenses in the Identities of Other Individuals           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Michelle Martinez-Marte, 37, of Rhode Island, Eddie Michael Balderramas, 51, and his son, Michael James Balderramas, 28, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, recently pled guilty to a federal indictment charging conspiracy to transfer identification documents and the means of identification of others to obtain Michigan driver’s licenses. According to the plea agreements, between at least April 4, 2016, and July 20, 2017, defendants conspired to assist illegal aliens, mostly from the Dominican Republic, in obtaining Michigan driver’s licenses using the identities of others. Martinez-Marte acquired Puerto Rican birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and social security account number cards in the names of actual individuals from a source in Puerto Rico. Martinez-Marte then referred the illegal aliens to Eddie Balderramas. Either Eddie Balderramas, or his son Michael Balderramas, would travel to New York City and transport the illegal aliens to Michigan where they would be harbored at a home in Kalamazoo. Eddie Balderramas produced false leases, paystubs, and other documents to make it appear as if the illegal aliens were truly Michigan residents. Eddie and Michael Balderramas would then transport the illegal aliens to Michigan Secretary of State Offices and would use the Puerto Rican documents, the social security numbers, and the counterfeit documents of Michigan residency, to acquire an authentic Michigan driver’s license for the illegal aliens using the names and personal identifiers of other individuals. The ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-19
    7 months ago
  • Jury Convicts Lansing Man In International Identity Theft And Tax Refund Scheme
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — On Monday, September 17, 2018, a jury convicted Oghevwakpo Igboba of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of wire fraud, eight counts of making a false claim to the United States, and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. Igboba used other individuals’ personally identifying information to access tax information using an Internal Revenue Service website. He then took that sensitive tax and personal information and used it to file false federal income tax returns directing the IRS to pay fraudulent refunds to bank accounts he controlled. Igboba now faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud conviction, which was the most serious charge, and at least two years consecutive for the aggravated identity theft convictions. The conspiracy and false claims convictions carry up to ten and five years in prison, respectively.           "My office will aggressively prosecute those who undermine the functioning of Internal Revenue Service systems and steal refunds owed to other hard-working Americans," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. "This crime does damage to the individual tax payers whose identities were stolen in connection with the fraud, but it also does damage to all Americans who place their trust in the proper functioning of the tax system and expect an orderly and prompt payment of tax refunds. This defendant stole from all of us."           By filing Form 1040s before the real taxpayers, Igboba managed to direct hundreds of thousands of dollars to himself. IRS systems ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-17
    7 months ago
  • Retired Prison Guard And School Bus Driver Sentenced To 12 Years For Attempting To Travel To Canada To Engage In Sex With Minors
              MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN - Michael Keith Feighner, 64, of Rudyard, Michigan, was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison for attempted travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney ordered Feighner to serve eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his sentence. He will also be required to register as a sexual offender.           On June 28, 2018, Feighner pled guilty to a charge of attempting to travel to a foreign country for the purpose of having sexual relations with a minor. This investigation began when an undercover Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent, operating from a list of customers who were frequenting child pornography websites and trading child pornography, contacted Feighner. Believing that he was communicating with the father of three underage children, Feighner arranged for a meeting in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with the children. On the agreed date, Feighner traveled from Rudyard and was intercepted and arrested at the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.           Feighner is a retired state corrections officer who was employed at the MDOC prison in Kincheloe, Michigan. He later worked as a school bus driver for the Rudyard Area Schools from 2013 through 2017.           The investigation was conducted by special agents of HSI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul D. Lochner. END ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-12
    7 months ago
  • Baldwin Man Sentenced To Probation For Supplemental Security Income Fraud
    Ikie Ealy Concealed His Wife’s Income to Continue Qualifying for Benefits           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced that Ikie G. Ealy, 54, of Baldwin, Michigan, was sentenced to two years’ probation yesterday by U.S. District Judge Paul L Maloney for concealing material facts regarding his eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. The Court additionally ordered Ealy to pay restitution of $77,026.05 to the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Medicaid Program.           Between November 2009 and October 2016, Ealy, who was aware that his wife’s earnings counted towards the calculation of household income for determining his eligibility for SSI benefits, intentionally failed to disclose on several occasions that he and his wife were living together and that she was earning an income. Ealy’s concealment included providing false answers on Social Security forms and providing a false letter indicating that he and his wife were divorcing. As a result, Ealy received SSI benefits in higher amounts than he otherwise should have received, or when he should have received no benefits at all. In total, Ealy received more than $70,000.00 in benefits to which he was not entitled.           “The integrity of the SSI program, and all programs providing federal entitlements, remains a priority of this office,” said Birge. “If you cheat the system, you will be  prosecuted and ordered to pay back the benefits that you fraudulently obtained.”           The Grand Rapids office of the Social Security Administration--Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Assistant U.S. ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-12
    7 months ago
  • Child Predator Sentenced To Ten Years
                GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U. S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Sameer Paul Gadola, 23, of East Lansing, Michigan was sentenced to 120 months in prison for possession of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff also imposed special assessments of $15,300 and a period of supervised release of five years following his imprisonment.           In 2016, Gadola engaged in conversations with minor boys over the internet using social media. He engaged in sexual conversations with the children and induced them to send him sexually explicit photographs. There was also evidence of Gadola sexually exploiting additional children beyond the counts of conviction, both online and in person. Gadola pled guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 72 months each on counts one and two to be served concurrently with each other, and 48 months on count three, to be served consecutively to counts one and two.           In sentencing Gadola, Judge Neff called him a "sexual predator" who groomed children and then acted on his impulses with them online and in person. Judge Neff stressed the need to protect the public from further crimes by Gadola, whom she described as "a danger to the community."           In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sought a significant sentence in light of the nature and magnitude of Gadola’s conduct. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office agrees with the Court’s assessment that Gadola engaged in very serious criminal conduct warranting significant time in prison," ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-09-09
    8 months ago
  • Former U.S. Citizen Extradited To Bosnia To Face Murder Charges
    Convicted of lying during naturalization process and stripped of his U.S. citizenship, former Serbian militia member returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina to face charges for murders of Muslim couple during 1990s Bosnian Conflict                 GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Alexander Kneginich, 58, formerly of Crown Point, Indiana, has been transported back to his native Bosnia-Herzegovina after the U.S. Marshals Service surrendered him to Bosnian law-enforcement officials last Friday in Chicago.             Kneginich was convicted in August 2017 of having fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship by falsely denying, during the immigration and naturalization process, that he had ever been charged with or jailed for a crime.  In fact, Kneginich, along with several other veterans of a Serbian militia unit, had been charged with the 1994 murders of two Muslim civilians – a husband and wife –during the 1990s Bosnian conflict.  Kneginich told these lies to U.S. immigration authorities in the course of obtaining authority to enter the United States as a refugee, subsequently obtaining permanent-resident status, and ultimately obtaining U.S. citizenship in January 2007 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  In November 2017, Kneginich was sentenced to 12 months in prison for the naturalization offense, and his U.S. citizenship was also revoked.  In December 2017, and at the request of the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office initiated extradition proceedings against Kneginich under the extradition treaty between the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  In June 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green ruled that Kneginich was extraditable and referred his case to the U.S. State Department ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-08-30
    8 months ago
  • Former Home Health Nurse Pleads Guilty To Tampering With Patients' Drugs
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Kristie Ann Mollohan, 42, formerly of Kalamazoo, Michigan, pled guilty before the Hon. Phillip J. Green, U.S. Magistrate Judge, to two counts of tampering with a consumer product. This federal offense prohibits tampering with a drug or other consumer product with reckless disregard for the risk of death or bodily injury and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the risk of injury or death. Mollohan faces a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment on each count, and she will be required to serve a term of supervised release after any prison term has been completed. U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist will sentence Mollohan on a date to be scheduled by the Court.           Mollohan admitted at the plea hearing that, while working as home health nurse in two homes in Allegan and Barry Counties in August 2016, she removed liquid diazepam (valium) from the medication bottles prescribed to three different patients. All three patients were totally incapacitated at the time from serious brain impairment and required twenty-four hour care. Mollohan admitted that she replaced the diazepam with water or saline solution, resulting in the patients’ diazepam containing less than 10% of the declared diazepam concentration in one case, less than 6% of the declared diazepam concentration in the second case, and less than 1% of the declared diazepam concentration in the third case. Mollohan acknowledged that she knew that she put the patients at risk of serious bodily injury or death given that ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-08-30
    8 months ago
  • Kalamazoo And Benton Harbor Crystal Methamphetamine Ring Dismantled
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge along with Special Agent-in-Charge Timothy Slater of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Special Agent-in- Charge Timothy Plancon of the Drug Enforcement Administration announced today that eighteen individuals were charged by the attached complaint with conspiring to distribute controlled substances, primarily crystal methamphetamine. In conjunction with the arrests, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies executed twelve federal search warrants in Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, and Phoenix, Arizona. Earlier in the investigation, law enforcement seized packages sent in the mail to supply the distribution scheme in Michigan. In total, law enforcement has seized nearly seventeen pounds of crystal methamphetamine and five firearms as a part of this investigation.             "I am grateful to federal, state, and local law enforcement for today’s diligent and professional operation," U.S. Attorney Birge said. "Drug trafficking is a dangerous business that ruins lives in our communities every day. Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, and the rest of the Western District are safer today without pounds of crystal methamphetamine flowing onto their streets."           The following individuals were charged: • Raymond Demetrius Stovall, 28, of Benton Harbor • Richard Lee James Jr., 27, of Benton Harbor • Kentrell Terome Dunn, 32, of Phoenix, Arizona • David Richard Uminn, 34, of Kalamazoo • Andrew Peter Bagley, 29, of Kalamazoo • Robert Bruce Armstrong, 64, of Kalamazoo • Kandy Kay Kirby, 46, of Kalamazoo • Eshawn Jamier Whiteside, 20, of Kalamazoo • Aaron Earl Rimpson, 27, of Kalamazoo • DeMichael Mishaun ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-08-29
    8 months ago
  • Allegan Online Child Predator Sentenced To Over 20 Years
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN - United States Attorney Andrew Birge announced that James Theodore Pyle, 27, of Allegan, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 245 months’ imprisonment for sexual exploitation of a minor. The Court also ordered that he spend ten years on supervised release and pay a fine of $2,500.           In 2014, Pyle posed as "Roman Kalhart" on Facebook, claiming he was 15 years old. He befriended numerous young teens and persuaded them to send him sexually explicit photographs. In sentencing Pyle, Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker commented on the sheer number of victims, noting that the investigation showed Pyle had obtained photographs from as many as 50 to 70 minors, at least 20 of whom were outlined in the presentence investigation report. At the time of the offense, Pyle was on probation for accosting a child for immoral purposes. His probation was revoked and on January 25, 2015, he was sentenced in Allegan County Circuit Court to 33 to 48 months in prison. Chief Judge Jonker ordered that his federal sentence be served consecutively to his state sentence, which will be completed on November 20, 2018.           "The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes very seriously cases involving child predators," said U.S. Attorney Birge. "Those people who would use the internet to hide their true identity to befriend and exploit children deserve the fullest punishment the law provides."           This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-08-15
    8 months ago
  • Grand Rapids Man Sentenced For Credit Card Fraud And Aggrivated Identity Theft
              GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge announced today that Kahwahnas Nucumbhi Potts, age 39, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 9 years’ imprisonment for his aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud. The court also ordered Potts to pay restitution to the victims of his offense in the amount of $17,955.50. In sentencing Potts, U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff remarked that Potts’ brazen conduct "was among the most serious stolen mail conduct she has seen in eleven years, but that his act of breaking into the home of one of his victims and then impersonating that victim while talking to his credit card company was outrageous." The judge also noted that Potts previously appeared before her on federal charges of identity theft and that she sentenced Potts to two years’ imprisonment for his prior offense.           From at least March 2015, until April 2016, Potts stole mail belonging to West Michigan residents from their mailboxes. In December 2015, Potts stole a credit card after breaking into the home of a victim in Grand Rapids who was vacationing out of state. Potts used the means of identification of the victim and pretended to be the victim when calling the credit card company from the victim’s home phone to activate the card. Potts used that credit card without authorization to withdraw over $16,000.00 at automated teller machines (ATM) in December 2015 and January 2016. Potts disguised himself with a mask, a ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-08-12
    8 months ago
  • Former Executive Director Sentenced To 37 Months In Federal Prison
    Tracy Bronson embezzled $573,159 from the Calhoun Conservation District between 2014 and 2017           GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Tracy Lynn Bronson, 57, of Marshall, Michigan, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for stealing from her former employer, the Calhoun Conservation District, a local special unit of government with a mission to maintain and improve land, water, and wildlife. Bronson also was ordered to pay $573,159.20 in restitution. Following release from prison, Bronson will serve three years on supervised release. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney imposed the sentence.           Bronson was indicted by a grand jury in February 2018 and charged with five counts of theft concerning a program receiving federal funds. Bronson pled guilty to committing that offense. Between 2014 and 2017, the Calhoun Conservation District ("CCD") received more than $466,000 in federal funds. During that same period, Bronson embezzled $573,159 from the CCD while employed as its Executive Director. She committed the offense by writing more than 400 unauthorized checks to herself and by using CCD credit cards for personal expenses. Bronson attempted to hide her offense by altering CCD’s books and records, and creating fake monthly account statements, which she provided to CCD’s Board of Directors. Bronson admitted that most of the embezzled funds were spent at a local casino. She faced a maximum of 10 years in prison for the offense, but was sentenced within the range recommended by the federal Sentencing Guidelines.           In announcing the sentence today, U.S. Attorney Birge remarked, "Bronson ... read more
    Source: DOJ – West MIPublished on 2018-07-30
    9 months ago