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Attorney General Sessions Announces New Cybersecurity Task Force

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the creation of the Justice Department’s Cyber-Digital Task Force, which will canvass the many ways that the Department is combatting the global cyber threat, and will also identify how federal law enforcement can more effectively accomplish its mission in this vital and evolving area.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Attorney General Sessions said.  “At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously.  That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe.”

The Task Force will be chaired by a senior Department official appointed by the Deputy Attorney General and will consist of representatives from the Department’s Criminal Division, the National Security Division, the United States Attorney’s Office community, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the ATF, FBI, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The Deputy Attorney General may invite representatives from other Department of Justice components and from other federal agencies to participate in the Task Force. He may also establish subcommittees to focus the Task Force’s efforts.

The Task Force will be responsible for issuing a report to the Attorney General by the end of June. 

The Attorney General has asked the Task Force to prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.  The scope of the Task Force’s report is not limited to these categories.


ICE removes MS-13 member wanted for murder in El Salvador

WASHINGTON – A Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang member wanted for homicide by El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities was removed from the U.S. Friday by deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
Raul Ramos-Guido, 32, was a convicted criminal alien illegally residing in the U.S. and had previously been deported to El Salvador in January 2014.
On Friday, he departed the U.S. from Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana under escort by ERO deportation officers. He was transferred to El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities upon his arrival in San Salvador, El Salvador.
ERO deportation officers most recently arrested Ramos on immigration violations in April 2015 at his residence in Falls Church, Virginia. Ramos was targeted for immigration enforcement because he was an aggravated felon who had previously been removed from the U.S. After his arrest, he was subsequently prosecuted and convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia on criminal charges of illegal re-entry and sentenced to 36 months in prison.
While Ramos was serving time in federal custody, Interpol, on behalf of El Salvadoran law enforcement authorities, issued a Red Notice for his arrest. He was wanted on homicide charges in his home country. On Dec. 26, ERO assumed custody of Ramos after his release from federal prison to facilitate his removal.


Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Cybersecurity for the Nation’s Election

WASHINGTON - Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) participation in a series of coordination meetings with state and local election officials, private sector companies, and federal partners to discuss cybersecurity for the nation’s election infrastructure. “The American public’s confidence that their vote counts -- and
is counted correctly -- relies on secure election infrastructure. The first primaries of the 2018 midterm election cycle are just around the corner, and DHS and our federal, state and local partners have been working together for more than a year to bolster the cybersecurity of the nation’s election infrastructure. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the Executive Board of the National Association of Secretaries of States, who were in town along with representatives from all 50 states and a number of local jurisdictions for a series of meetings and briefings on this important issue. I thanked them for their partnership and pledged the Department will continue its support to state and local election officials, primarily through sharing timely and actionable threat information and offering cybersecurity services.


Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies for Scheme to Interfere in the United States Political System

The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and with the Congress, to defend our nation against similar current and future schemes. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors working on this case for their exceptional service. And we received exceptional cooperation from private sector companies like Facebook, Oath, PayPal, and Twitter.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates. The conspiracy was part of a larger operation called “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta included multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple countries.

Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project.

Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American political influence operations.

To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the President-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on the same day.

On September 13, 2017, soon after the news media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating evidence that Russian operatives had used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, one defendant allegedly wrote, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity.... So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with my colleagues.”

The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.

Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.

There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. At trial, prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to the unanimous satisfaction of a jury of twelve citizens.

The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.


Boston CBP Discovers Traveler with ‘Hot Pockets’

BOSTON – On January 18, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Logan International Airport intercepted an inbound traveler found with a stack of concealed currency sewn into the lining of his pants. Traveler found with $10,000 in undeclared currency sewn into the lining of his pants at Boston Logan Airport.
The subject, a 51-year-old male, U.S. citizen arriving on a flight from Israel, reported to officers that he was carrying $7,000 and an extra $7,000 for a family friend. During a baggage examination, the subject presented approximately $18,000 however, further inspection revealed an additional $10,000 sewn into the pockets of his pants. In total, CBP officers discovered and seized more than $29,000.
Travelers may carry as much currency as they wish into and out of the United States. Federal law requires that travelers must report all U.S. and foreign monetary instruments totaling $10,000 or greater on a U.S. Treasury Department financial form. None of the currency is taxed.
“There is no limit to how much money a traveler can carry, but it is important to honestly declare the total amount to CBP officers during inspection,” said Boston Area Port Director Clint Lamm. “This seizure exemplifies that violating currency reporting laws can have serious consequences.”
Travelers are encouraged to visit CBP’s Travel section to learn more about the CBP admissions process and rules governing travel to and from the U.S.
Almost a million times each day, CBP officers welcome international travelers into the U.S. In screening both foreign visitors and returning U.S. citizens, CBP uses a variety of techniques to intercept narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products, and to assure that global tourism remains safe and strong.
On a typical day, CBP seizes $289,609 in undeclared or illicit currency along our nation’s borders. Learn more about what CBP did during "A Typical Day" in 2016.
CBP's border security mission is led at ports of entry by CBP officers from the Office of Field Operations. Please visit CBP Ports of Entry to learn more about how CBP’s Office of Field Operations secures our nation’s borders.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


Chinese National Sentenced for Economic Espionage and Theft of a Trade Secret From U.S. Company

Xu Jiaqiang, 31, formerly of Beijing, China, was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison, for economic espionage and theft of a trade secret in connection with Xu’s theft of proprietary source code from Xu’s former employer, with the intent to benefit the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China. Xu previously pleaded guilty to all six counts with which he was charged.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York made the announcement. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas in White Plains, New York federal court.

“Xu, a Chinese national, is being held accountable for engaging in economic espionage against an American company,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “Xu not only stole high tech trade secrets from his U.S. employer – a federal crime – he did so both for his own profit and intending to benefit the Chinese government. Xu’s sentence clearly demonstrates that the National Security Division will not hesitate to pursue and prosecute those who steal from American businesses. I thank the many people who worked hard to bring this result.”

“As he previously admitted in federal court, Xu Jiaqiang stole high-tech trade secrets from a U.S. employer, intending to benefit the Chinese government,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “The laws governing economic espionage and trade secrets exist, in part, to protect the sanctity of American ingenuity and property. Xu’s prison sentence should be a red flag for anyone attempting to illegally peddle American expertize and intellectual property to foreign bidders.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint and the Superseding Indictment filed against Xu, as well as statements made in related court filings and proceedings:

From November 2010 to May 2014, Xu worked as a developer for a particular U.S. company (the Victim Company). As a developer, Xu enjoyed access to certain proprietary software (the Proprietary Software), as well as that software’s underlying source code (the Proprietary Source Code). The Proprietary Software is a clustered file system developed and marketed by the Victim Company in the United States and other countries. A clustered file system facilitates faster computer performance by coordinating work among multiple servers. The Victim Company takes significant precautions to protect the Proprietary Source Code as a trade secret. Among other things, the Proprietary Source Code is stored behind a company firewall and can be accessed only by a small subset of the Victim Company’s employees. Before receiving Proprietary Source Code access, Victim Company employees must first request and receive approval from a particular Victim Company official. Victim Company employees must also agree in writing at both the outset and the conclusion of their employment that they will maintain the confidentiality of any proprietary information. The Victim Company takes these and other precautions in part because the Proprietary Software and the Proprietary Source Code are economically valuable, which value depends in part on the Proprietary Source Code’s secrecy.

In May 2014, Xu voluntarily resigned from the Victim Company. Xu subsequently communicated with one undercover law enforcement officer (UC-1), who posed as a financial investor aiming to start a large-data storage technology company, and another undercover law enforcement officer (UC-2), who posed as a project manager, working for UC-1. In these communications, Xu discussed his past experience with the Victim Company and indicated that he had experience with the Proprietary Software and the Proprietary Source Code. On March 6, 2015, Xu sent UC-1 and UC-2 a code, which Xu stated was a sample of Xu’s prior work with the Victim Company. A Victim Company employee (Employee-1) later confirmed that the code sent by Xu included proprietary Victim Company material that related to the Proprietary Source Code.

Xu subsequently informed UC-2 that Xu was willing to consider providing UC-2’s company with the Proprietary Source Code as a platform for UC-2’s company to facilitate the development of its own data storage system. Xu informed UC-2 that if UC-2 set up several computers as a small network, then Xu would remotely install the Proprietary Software so that UC-1 and UC-2 could test it and confirm its functionality.

In or around early August 2015, the FBI arranged for a computer network to be set up, consistent with Xu’s specifications. Files were then remotely uploaded to the FBI-arranged computer network (the Xu Upload). Thereafter, on or about Aug. 26, 2015, Xu and UC-2 confirmed that UC-2 had received the Xu Upload. In September 2015, the FBI made the Xu Upload available to a Victim Company employee who has expertise regarding the Proprietary Software and the Proprietary Source Code (Employee-2). Based on Employee-2’s analysis of technical features of the Xu Upload, it appeared to Employee-2 that the Xu Upload contained a functioning copy of the Proprietary Software. It further appeared to Employee-2 that the Xu Upload had been built by someone with access to the Proprietary Source Code who was not working within the Victim Company or otherwise at the Victim Company’s direction.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Xu met with UC-2 at a hotel in White Plains, New York (the Hotel). Xu stated, in sum and substance, that Xu had used the Proprietary Source Code to make software to sell to customers, that Xu knew the Proprietary Source Code to be the product of decades of work on the part of the Victim Company, and that Xu had used the Proprietary Source Code to build a copy of the Proprietary Software, which Xu had uploaded and installed on the UC Network (i.e., the Xu Upload). Xu also indicated that Xu knew the copy of the Proprietary Software that Xu had installed on the UC Network contained information identifying the Proprietary Software as the Victim Company’s property, which could reveal the fact that the Proprietary Software had been built with the Proprietary Source Code without the Victim Company’s authorization. Xu told UC-2 that Xu could take steps to prevent detection of the Proprietary Software’s origins – i.e., that it had been built with stolen Proprietary Source Code – including writing computer scripts that would modify the Proprietary Source Code to conceal its origins.

Later on Dec. 7, 2015, Xu met with UC-1 and UC-2 at the Hotel. During that meeting, Xu showed UC-2 a copy of what Xu represented to be the Proprietary Source Code on Xu’s laptop. Xu noted to UC-2 a portion of the code that indicated it originated with the Victim Company as well as the date on which it had been copyrighted. Xu also stated that Xu had previously modified the Proprietary Source Code’s command interface to conceal the fact that the Proprietary Source Code originated with the Victim Company and identified multiple specific customers to whom Xu had previously provided the Proprietary Software using Xu’s stolen copy of the Proprietary Source Code.


DHS Issues Waiver to Expedite Border Construction Project in New Mexico

WASHINGTON – Today, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it has issued a waiver to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international border in the state of New Mexico, near the Santa Teresa, New Mexico port of entry. The waiver was published in the Federal Register today.
This waiver is pursuant to authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security by Congress and covers a variety of environmental, natural resource, and land management laws. Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with a number of authorities necessary to carry out DHS’s border security mission. One of these authorities is found at section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended (“IIRIRA”). Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States. In section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress has called for the installation of additional fencing, barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border. Finally, in section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads authorized by section 102 of IIRIRA.
The Department exercised the waiver authority in Section 102 (c) of IIRIRA on five occasions from 2005 to 2008 and on two occasions in 2017.
The geographic scope of this waiver covers an approximately 20 mile segment of the border starting at the Santa Teresa port of entry and extending westward. This is within the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector. The El Paso Sector remains an area of high illegal entry. In fiscal year 2016 alone, the United States Border Patrol apprehended over 25,000 illegal aliens and seized approximately 67,000 pounds of marijuana and approximately 157 pounds of cocaine in the El Paso Sector. To begin to meet the need for additional border infrastructure in this area, DHS will replace legacy vehicle barrier that no longer meets the Border Patrol’s operation needs with new bollard wall.
While the waiver eliminates DHS’ obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, DHS remains committed to environmental stewardship. DHS has been coordinating and consulting, and intends to continue doing so, with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure that impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.
DHS continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 - also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.


District Court Awards $5 Million in Civil Penalties and Enters Permanent Injunction to Prevent Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Inc. from Distributing Prescription Drugs Not in Child-Resistant Packaging

The Department of Justice announced today that a federal court in New Jersey imposed a $5 million civil penalty and entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Inc. Dr. Reddy’s is the North American subsidiary of Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in India. The case involves allegations that Dr. Reddy’s failed to comply with the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). Under the terms of the consent decree, Dr. Reddy’s will implement a compliance program designed to ensure compliance with the PPPA and the CPSA.

The Department filed a complaint in the District of New Jersey on Dec. 18, 2017 on behalf of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As alleged in the complaint, Dr. Reddy’s knowingly violated the CPSA with respect to household oral prescription drugs in blister packs that were not child resistant as required by the PPPA. As set forth in the complaint, Dr. Reddy’s distributed such prescription drugs until 2012, despite being previously warned by its own employees that the blister packs had not been tested for PPPA compliance and that certain blister packs were expected to fail the PPPA’s child test protocol.

In addition, the complaint charges that Dr. Reddy’s failed to notify the CPSC “immediately,” as required by law, that its products were not compliant with the PPPA, that the products contained a defect presenting a substantial product hazard, and that the products created an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. The complaint further asserts that Dr. Reddy’s failed to certify that its products were in conformance with the PPPA.

“Dr. Reddy’s failed to ensure that children were protected from potentially harmful prescription drugs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The government will continue to take seriously alleged violations of laws meant to protect consumer safety.”

“Child-resistant packaging is a critical safety measure put in place to protect our country’s children,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle. “I appreciate and value the support from and collaboration with the Department of Justice.”

In addition to the $5 million civil penalty, the consent decree generally enjoins Dr. Reddy’s from distributing household oral prescription drugs in violation of the PPPA and CPSA and requires Dr. Reddy’s to implement a compliance program. The injunction further requires Dr. Reddy’s to maintain internal controls and procedures designed to ensure timely, truthful, complete, and accurate reporting to the CPSC as required by law.

In agreeing to settle this matter, Dr. Reddy’s has not admitted that it violated the law.

The matter is being jointly handled by Trial Attorneys Claude Scott and Shannon Pedersen, from the Civil Division’s Consumer Production Branch. Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judith Amorosa, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of New Jersey Charles Graybow, and Patricia Vieira with the CPSC’s Office of the General Counsel, provided significant assistance.


Former Department of Energy Subcontractor Sentenced for Conspiring to Defraud DOE and IRS

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- On January 22, 2018, Joseph Anthony Armes, II, 38, of Petros, Tennessee, was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, Senior U.S. District Judge, to serve 12 months and one day in prison for conspiring to defraud the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He will be also be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for a period of three years following his release from prison.

Armes formerly operated Transportation, Operations, and Professional Services (TOPS) and several other businesses in east Tennessee. In April 2011, DOE awarded UCOR the prime contract for the clean-up of the former K-25 Plant, which was being developed as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. UCOR awarded TOPS a $24 million subcontract for waste transportation services to the ETTP project in June 2011. The plea agreement for Armes, which is on file with U.S. District Court, detailed how he channeled payments to the son of UCOR’s President from TOPS and other businesses operated by Armes through an elaborate system of false invoices and cash payments from June 2011 through July 2013. TOPS had represented to DOE that it did not have an organizational conflict of interest with UCOR.

Armes also conspired with a tax preparer, Roger Beu, and others to submit false tax forms to the IRS to reduce federal taxes that he owed to the IRS for tax years 2007 through 2012. This resulted in a tax loss of over $1.4 million to the IRS. As part of the sentence, Judge Phillips ordered Armes to repay the IRS more than $2.3 million, which includes interest and penalties on the $1.4 million tax loss.

J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee stated, “In addition to pursuing tax fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to enforcing federal laws aggressively to ensure compliance and transparency in federal government contracting and subcontracting.”

"Today's sentencing again emphasizes the IRS and U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue their aggressive pursuit of those who use fraudulent methods in an attempt to corrupt our nation's tax system." said Christopher Altemus, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Nashville Field Office. “Everyone has a responsibility for filing correct and accurate tax returns, and this sentence should send a clear message: schemes to evade the payment of taxes are a violation of the federal tax laws and the consequences of such schemes can and will result in jail time.”

The investigation was conducted by IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris represented the United States.


Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino and His Brother, Marc Sorrentino, Plead Guilty to Tax Crimes

Reality television personality Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino and his brother, Marc Sorrentino, pleaded guilty today to violating federal tax laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for the District of New Jersey and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS CI) Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen.

According to documents and information provided to the court, Michael Sorrentino, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and Marc Sorrentino, 38, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding in the preparation of a fraudulent tax return.

“Today’s pleas are a reminder to all individuals to comply with the tax laws, file honest and accurate returns and pay their fair share,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman. “The Tax Division is committed to continuing to work with the IRS to prosecute those who seek to cheat the system, while honest hardworking taxpayers play by the rules.”

“What the defendants admitted to today, quite simply, is tantamount to stealing money from their fellow taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Carpenito. “All of us are required by law to pay our fair share of taxes. Celebrity status does not provide a free pass from this obligation.”

“As we approach this year’s filing season, today’s guilty pleas should serve as a stark reminder to those who would attempt to defraud our nation’s tax system,” stated Jonathan D. Larsen, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office. “No matter what your stature is in our society, everyone is expected to play by the rules, and those who do not will be held accountable and brought to justice.”

Michael Sorrentino was a reality television personality who gained fame on “The Jersey Shore,” which first appeared on the MTV network. According to documents and information provided to the court, he and his brother, Marc, created businesses, such as MPS Entertainment LLC and Situation Nation Inc., to take advantage of Michael’s celebrity status.

Michael Sorrentino admitted that in tax year 2011, he earned taxable income, including some that was paid in cash, and that he concealed a portion of his income to evade paying the full amount of taxes he owed. He also made cash deposits into bank accounts in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to ensure that these deposits would not come to the attention of the IRS.

Marc Sorrentino admitted that for tax year 2010, he earned taxable income and that he assisted his accountants in preparing his personal tax return by willfully providing them with false information and fraudulently underreporting his income.

U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton scheduled sentencing for April 25. Michael Sorrentino faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for tax evasion. Marc Sorrentino faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison for aiding in the preparation of a fraudulent tax return. Both also face a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. Gregg Mark, the accountant for the Sorrentino brothers, previously pleaded guilty in 2015 to conspiring to defraud the United States with respect to their tax liabilities.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Carpenito praised special agents of IRS CI, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Yael T. Epstein and Jeffrey B. Bender of the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan W. Romankow, who are prosecuting the case.


Ohio Man Sentenced for Providing Material Support to Terrorists, Making False Statements to Authorities

Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, 26, of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced on Jan. 22, to 22 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, for training with terrorists overseas and leading a terrorist plot.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio, Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and the FBI’s Columbus Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) announced the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Michael H Watson.

“Mohamud traveled to Syria to train and fight with the designated terrorist organization al-Nusrah Front. He then returned to the United States with the intent to conduct an attack here,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of law enforcement, Mohamud was arrested and his plans were thwarted. One of the National Security Division’s highest priorities remains identifying and neutralizing the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters who return to the United States.”

“Mohamud engaged in terrorist activity overseas, which included training and fighting with the Al-Nusrah Front, a designated foreign terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “He then returned to the United States with a plan to do grievous harm, recruited others to help him in his homeland plot, and then planned and prepared for attacks in the United States. Once caught, he orchestrated a cover-up beginning with his material misstatements to the FBI. The seriousness of his actions cannot be overstated and today’s sentence illustrates that.”

“Mohamud was originally arrested and indicted in state court by my office and a $2 million bond was set that maintained him in custody. Those state charges were dismissed when the federal prosecution commenced and Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Gibson was added to the federal team as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney,” said Franklin County Prosecutor O’Brien. “This case illustrates the effectiveness of the cooperative effort in the Columbus area to combat terrorism.”

A federal grand jury charged Mohamud in April 2015 with one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to terrorists, one count of attempting to provide and providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization – namely, al-Nusrah Front – and one count of making false statements to the FBI involving international terrorism. Mohamud pleaded guilty to those charges in August 2015. The plea was sealed until June 2017 because of an ongoing investigation.

According to court documents, Mohamud is a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen, who, in 2014, obtained a U.S. passport and one-way ticket to Greece. During his travel in April 2014, Mohamud did not board his connecting flight to Athens, Greece. Rather, during his layover in Istanbul, Turkey, he completed pre-arranged plans to cross the border into Syria. In Syria, Mohamud received training from al-Nusrah Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.

According to a statement of facts supporting Mohamud’s guilty plea, while in Syria, Mohamud trained with al-Nusrah Front on fitness, and on the use of weapons and tactics. Mohamud also engaged in a firefight and expressed his desire to die fighting in Syria.

Mohamud returned to the United States after his brother was killed fighting for al-Nusrah Front.

The statement of facts details that after returning to the United States, Mohamud planned to obtain weapons in order to kill military officers, other government employees or people in uniform. Evidence seized by the FBI indicates that Mohamud researched places in the U.S. to carry out such plans.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Glassman commended the cooperative investigation of the FBI’s JTTF and numerous local partners. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas Squires, Jessica H. Kim and Salvador Dominguez, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gibson of the Southern District of Ohio; and Trial Attorneys Bridget Behling and Lolita Lukose of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.
Component(s):
National Security Division (NSD)
USAO - Ohio, Southern


Two Former Tuskegee Police Lieutenants Charged with Civil Rights Offenses for Assaulting Arrestee

The Justice Department today announced that two former Tuskegee Police Department lieutenants, Alex Huntley, 53, and Darian Locure, 44, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in the beating of an arrestee and an attempted cover-up.

The five-count indictment charges that on or about Dec. 24, 2014, Huntley physically assaulted an arrestee, while Locure willfully failed to intervene to stop Huntley’s assault. The assault caused the arrestee to suffer bodily injuries.

Huntley and Locure are also charged with directing and encouraging other Tuskegee Police Department officers and recruits who witnessed the assault to keep it a secret. Finally, the indictment charges that Huntley gave false testimony under oath about the assault in a state court proceeding regarding criminal charges against the arrestee.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation has also assisted the investigation. The matter is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Samantha Trepel of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Assistant United States Attorney Denise Simpson of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.


Two Top Leaders in Italy and Five Us Residents Indicted for Racketeering, Health Care Fraud and Drug Trafficking Conspiracies to Distribute Opioids Resulting in Deaths Involving “Pill Mills” Operating in Tennessee and Florida

Investigation is Part of the Attorney General’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Task Force Initiative
On Jan. 4, a federal grand jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, returned a 14-count superseding indictment unsealed today charging seven individuals for their roles in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy and drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone, oxymorphone and morphine outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose and resulting in deaths, maintenance of drug-involved premises, distribution of oxycodone resulting in death, conspiracy to defraud the United States through the solicitation and receipt of illegal healthcare kickbacks and money laundering.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee and Special Agent in Charge Renae M. McDermott of the FBI’s Knoxville Division made the announcement.

“Throughout this country, and certainly in Tennessee and Florida, the illegal and unconscionable mass-distribution of prescription opioids through the operation of illegal pain clinics has taken a heavy toll on our citizens, families and communities,” said Attorney General Sessions. “This sort of profiteering effectively trades human lives for financial riches. The U.S. Department of Justice is determined to stamp out the operation of illegal pain clinics by all legal means, including finding and arresting those responsible wherever they may be in the world.”

“The Eastern District of Tennessee has been at the forefront in the battle against illegal pain clinics and mass-prescribing of opioids for years,” said U.S. Attorney Overbey. “Now, under the leadership of Attorney General Sessions, additional resources have been made available through recent Department of Justice initiatives, including the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Task Force. This latest indictment is a real and tangible result of all of those combined efforts. The citizens of East Tennessee can be assured that we are committed to ridding our district of illegal pill mills.”

Luca Sartini, 58, of Rome, Italy, and Miami; Luigi Palma aka Jimmy Palma, 51, of Rome, Italy, and Miami; Benjamin Rodriguez, 42, of Delray Beach, Florida; Sylvia Hofstetter, 53, of Knoxville; Courtney Newman, 42, of Knoxville; Cynthia Clemons, 45, of Knoxville; and Holli Womack aka Holli Carmichael, 44, of Knoxville, are charged in a third superseding indictment filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

On Jan. 19, Sartini and Palma were arrested in the Rome, Italy-area by Italian authorities. Extradition is being sought by the United States. Rodriguez is set to self-surrender. All other defendants were previously charged in prior indictments. The case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Varlan in Knoxville.

According to the indictment, Sartini, Palma, Rodriguez, Hofstetter and a co-conspirator charged in another indictment, from about April 2009 to March 2015, ran the Urgent Care & Surgery Center Enterprise (UCSC), which operated opioid based pain management clinics, “pill mills,” in Florida and Tennessee, where powerful narcotics were prescribed and/or dispensed. The defendants are alleged to have hired medical providers with DEA registration numbers, which would allow the providers to prescribe controlled substances. The prescriptions were primarily large doses of highly addictive and potentially deadly controlled substances. As alleged in the indictment, individuals seeking prescriptions would often travel long distances purporting to suffer from severe chronic pain.

The superseding indictment alleges the defendants distributed quantities of oxycodone, oxymorphone and morphine sufficient to generate clinic revenue of at least $21 million. As per the indictment, the clinics did not accept insurance, received gross fees and ordered unnecessary drug screenings defrauding Medicare. Shell companies were set up to launder the proceeds.

As alleged in the indictment, approximately 700 UCSC enterprise patients are now dead and a significant percentage of those deaths, directly or indirectly, were the result of overdosing on narcotics prescribed by the USSC Enterprise. As alleged in the indictment, the narcotics prescribed by the UCSC enterprise contributed to the deaths of another significant percentage of those patients.

The indictment further alleges that many patients arrived in groups, who were sponsored by drug dealers who paid for the pain clinic visits and prescriptions to obtain all or part of the opioids and other narcotics prescribed to the purported pain patients. In return, drug addicted patients would receive a portion of prescribed narcotics for free from the sponsor.

To date, as a result of this investigation, approximately 30 narcotics traffickers have been charged and convicted federally, and approximately 80 to 90 smaller narcotic distributers have also been charged and convicted. Today’s superseding indictment is among 35 related indictments charging approximately 140 individuals, including medical providers who worked at the pill mills, with various crimes.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The superseding indictment is the result of an investigation conducted by the the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, , and the FBI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) which is comprised of investigators assigned to the task force by the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Roane County Sheriff’s Office, Harriman Police Department and Clinton Police Department. Other agencies provided invaluable assistance, including the Rome Attaché of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs; the FBI’s liaison in Rome; the FBI Miami Health Care Fraud Strike Force; the Hollywood, Florida Police Department; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Tennessee Department of Health; and the DEA’s Knoxville Diversion Group. The Department of Justice extends its gratitude to Interpol and the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) for their assistance in locating and apprehending the defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Stone and Anne-Marie Svolto of the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Trial Attorney Kelly Pearson of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, are prosecuting the case.

In light of the nationwide opioid epidemic which led to the declaration of a public health emergency by the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 26, 2017, this superseding indictment represents just the latest in a series of federal efforts in the Eastern District of Tennessee meant to combat the scourge of prescription opioids.
Component(s):
Criminal Division
USAO - Tennessee, Eastern