Federal Bureau of Investigation
Former Mayor of Adelanto Arrested on Wire Fraud and Bribery Charges Alleging Illicit Payments for Support of Commercial Marijuana Activity
Press Release Friday, August 13, 2021RIVERSIDE, California – The former mayor of Adelanto was arrested today by special agents of the FBI on a federal grand jury indictment alleging he accepted more than $57,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for approving ordinances authorizing various types of commercial marijuana activity within the city, and ensuring his co-schemers obtained city licenses or permits authorizing certain commercial marijuana activities.
Richard Allen Kerr, 64, of Adelanto, was taken into federal custody without incident this morning. He is charged with seven counts of honest services wire fraud and two counts of bribery.
Kerr, who served as Adelanto’s mayor from 2014 to 2018, is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.
According to the indictment returned on August 11, as part of his official duties, Kerr voted on ordinances governing zoning regulations in the city and served on Adelanto’s Cannabis Dispensary Permit Committee, which determined the number of dispensary permits that would be issued and which applicants would receive them.
As mayor, Kerr supported marijuana legalization, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing marijuana cultivation in the city, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, and voted to authorize the distribution, transportation, and testing of medical marijuana, among other commercial marijuana activities. At the same time, Kerr secretly used his official position to enrich himself and his co-schemers bypassing these same ordinances, according to the indictment.
Kerr allegedly also drafted zones for commercial marijuana activities to include locations used by his co-schemers, and he ensured they obtained the licenses and permits they sought – in exchange for bribes, kickbacks, and gifts.
Kerr’s alleged co-schemers were a lawyer who specialized in plaintiffs’ tort litigation – identified in the indictment as “Person A” – and two individuals – labeled “Person C and “Person D” – who had business interests in the city, including those involving marijuana cultivation.
The bribes and kickbacks were disguised by Kerr and his co-schemers as gifts, donations to a charitable fund, donations to Kerr’s election campaign, or advance payments for the proceeds of planned litigation associated with a motorcycle accident.
In exchange for the bribes and kickbacks, Kerr provided favorable official action on behalf of the city to Person A, Person C, and other co-schemers with business interests in the city by authorizing various types of commercial marijuana activities, ensuring his supporters obtained the licenses or permits they sought and interfering with enforcement activities by city officials.
For example, on November 29, 2016, the Adelanto City Council held a public discussion related to an ordinance, including a discussion of “overlay zones” within which medical marijuana dispensaries would be located. The initial proposal included two zones, neither of which included a former restaurant – purchased two months earlier by Person A and his spouse.
During the discussion, Kerr requested a change in the boundaries of the second overlay zone, which expanded the zone to include Person A’s business. The plans for the business initially called for the building to be an attorney’s office, although they included items such as “elongated sales counters,” a “dispensing room,” “cashier,” and “security room,” the indictment alleges.
On December 5, 2016, Kerr deposited a $5,000 check – dated November 29, 2016 – from Person A’s real estate trust account into his bank account, and the check’s memorandum line read, “ADV XMAS FUND.”
In May 2017, Kerr voted twice in favor of a city ordinance that included Person A’s business in the marijuana dispensary overlay zone. In February, June, and August of 2017, Kerr deposited three $10,000 checks from Person A’s law firm, with the memorandum lines of each check stating, “ADVANCE.”
In total, Kerr accepted at least $57,500 in bribes and kickbacks from Person A, Person C, and other co-schemers.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, Kerr would face a statutory maximum sentence of 160 years in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Sean D. Peterson of the Riverside Branch Office is prosecuting this case
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – An Illinois man was sentenced today to 10 months in federal prison for sending a threatening message through social media to a West Virginia law enforcement officer.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Rodney Hanson, 37, sent a threatening Facebook message on January 8, 2019, to a law enforcement officer in Putnam County after a police involved shooting. Hanson pleaded guilty in May 2021 to transmitting an interstate threatening communication.
Acting United States Attorney Lisa G. Johnston made the announcement and commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentenced. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan A. Keefe handled the prosecution.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:20-cr-00169.
Source : FBI
FBI Deputy Director Paul M. Abbate traveled to Sydney, Australia, this past week for meetings with the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG). The international gathering brought together law enforcement leaders from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The partners discussed mutual challenges in countering global crime and national security threats.
Raymond P. Duda, assistant director of the FBI’s International Operations Division, also participated in the FELEG discussions.
Throughout the meetings, Deputy Director Abbate emphasized the commitment of the law enforcement partners to share information and expertise and the importance of maintaining and further developing these essential relationships to better protect citizens in all five nations and around the world.
Trio from South Dakota and Colorado Federally Indicted for Kidnapping, Carjacking, and Firearm Offense Against FBI Employee
United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced that three individuals, one who resides in South Dakota and two who reside in Colorado, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for Kidnapping, Carjacking, and Using, Carrying, and Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence.
Juan Francisco Alvarez-Soto, age 23 and originally from El Salvador; Deyvin Morales, age 27 and originally from Guatemala; and Lourdes Alondra Bonilla, age 23 and originally from Colorado, were indicted on May 19, 2022. The defendants appeared before a magistrate judge in the District of Colorado, and each defendant pleaded not guilty to the Indictment. The three defendants will be transported to the District of South Dakota for further court proceedings.
The maximum term of imprisonment upon conviction for each count is as follows: up to life for Kidnapping; up to fifteen (15) years for Carjacking; and a mandatory minimum of seven (7) years up to life for Using, Carrying, and Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence. Each count also has a maximum fine of $250,000.
According to the indictment, on or about May 6, 2022, near Red Shirt, in the District of South Dakota, the defendants, Juan Francisco Alvarez-Sorto, a/k/a Juan Francisco Alvarez, a/k/a “Juanito R.,” a/k/a “Juan Jr.,” Deyvin Morales, a/k/a Deyvin Eliabid Escriba Morales, a/k/a Deybi Eleabit Escriba Morales, a/k/a “Guate,” a/k/a “Watay,” a/k/a “Chapine,” and Lourdes Alondra Bonilla, a/k/a “Bhabie Doze,” a/k/a “Princess_Doze,” did willfully and knowingly kidnap and abduct a victim. At the time, the victim was engaged in the performance of their official duties as a professional support employee with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The defendants also took the victim’s vehicle, with force, violence, and intimidation, and brandished a rifle during the commission of the charged criminal conduct. It is alleged that the defendants aided and abetted each other in committing the charges set forth in the indictment.
The charges are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri is prosecuting the case.
The defendants were all detained pending further court proceedings in South Dakota. A trial date has not been set.
National Labor Organization Employee Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling More Than $270,000 from Union
WASHINGTON – Donnell Owens, a former employee of the American Federation of Government Employees, was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for an embezzlement scheme in which he stole more than $270,000 from the labor union.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Mark Wheeler, Director of the Washington District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards.
Owens, 34, of District Heights, Maryland, pleaded guilty in October 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to one count of embezzlement and theft of labor union assets. He was sentenced by the Honorable Reggie B. Walton. Following his prison term, Owens will be placed on three years of supervised release. He also must pay $273,745 in restitution and an equal amount in a forfeiture money judgment.
According to the statement of offense submitted to the Court and admitted by Owens, from October 2014 through June 2018, Owens worked as a Secretary to the Director of Communications at the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a labor organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. which represents workers in various functions of the private sector and the government affecting commerce throughout the United States and overseas. During this period, Owens embezzled more than $270,000 in AFGE funds for his use and the use of others.
As detailed in court documents, throughout the scheme Owens abused and misused his position and employment at AFGE in order to seek and obtain illegal monetary gains at the expense of the labor organization. For example, Owens submitted false and fraudulent check requests for payments related to services, such as photography and videography, that were purportedly provided by alleged vendors. As a result of these submissions, AFGE funds were subsequently disbursed. These check requests listed fictitious dollar amounts for fake work assignments supposedly performed by vendors, who were not actually hired by AFGE. In fact, the purported vendors who allegedly performed the fake work assignments were really friends and associates of Owens, who he recruited as part of his illegal scheme.
As Secretary to the Director of Communications, Owens also had access to an Amazon account and a union credit card linked to it. During the scheme, Owens also used this account and linked credit card to embezzle items and make dozens of unauthorized personal purchases, including clothing, shoes, jewelry, and party supplies. Additionally, Owens used union credit cards to purchase items from other online retailers for personal use, including T-shirts for his online business, microphones, and flowers.
To avoid detection and cover up the fraud, Owens provided falsified signatures, fraudulent expense vouchers, and altered receipts for these items. However, the investigation revealed photos of Owens, his family members, and associates wearing the clothing purchased on Amazon with the union credit card on social media accounts belonging to the defendant.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne P. McNamara of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Assistance was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Miller and Paralegal Specialists Amanda Rohde and Mariela Andrade.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has released its annual report.
The 2021 Internet Crime Report (pdf) includes information from 847,376 complaints of suspected internet crime—a 7% increase from 2020—and reported losses exceeding $6.9 billion. State-specific statistics have also been released and can be found within the 2021 Internet Crime Report and in the accompanying 2021 State Reports
Read-Helplessness in the Face of Dirt
The top three cyber crimes reported by victims in 2021 were phishing scams, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and personal data breach. Victims lost the most money to business email compromise scams, investment fraud, and romance and confidence schemes.
In addition to statistics, the IC3’s 2021 Internet Crime Report contains information about the most prevalent internet scams affecting the public and offers guidance for prevention and protection. It also highlights the FBI’s work combatting internet crime, including recent case examples. Finally, the 2021 Internet Crime Report explains the IC3, its mission, and functions.
The IC3 gives the public a reliable and convenient mechanism to report suspected internet crime to the FBI. The FBI analyzes and shares information from submitted complaints for investigative and intelligence purposes, for law enforcement, and for public awareness.
With the release of the 2021 Internet Crime Report, the FBI wants to remind the public to immediately report suspected criminal internet activity to the IC3 at ic3.gov. By reporting internet crime, victims are not only alerting law enforcement to the activity but aiding in the overall fight against cybercrime.
To report an online crime or view IC3’s annual reports and public service announcements, visit ic3.gov.
Man Charged with Transnational Repression Campaign While Acting as an Illegal Agent of the Chinese Government in the United States
A Chinese national is charged in a criminal complaint, which was unsealed today in the Southern District of New York, with conspiring to act in the United States as an illegal agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to court documents, Sun Hoi Ying, aka Sun Haiying, 45, of the PRC, from at least February 2017 through February 2022, acted in the United States as an agent of the PRC government, without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law.
“This case demonstrates, once again, the PRC’s disdain for the rule of law and its efforts to coerce and intimidate those it targets on our shores as part of its Operation Fox Hunt,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen. “The defendant allegedly traveled to the United States and enlisted others, including a sworn law enforcement officer, to spy on and blackmail his victims. Such conduct is both criminal and reprehensible.”
“The PRC government launched a campaign dubbed ‘Operation Fox Hunt,’ a global plot to repress dissent and to forcibly repatriate so-called ‘fugitives’ – including citizens living legally in the United States – through the use of unsanctioned, unilateral and illegal practices,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “We allege Mr. Sun, as part of that campaign, attempted to threaten and coerce a victim into bending to the PRC’s will, even using a co-conspirator who is a member of U.S. law enforcement to reinforce that the victim had no choice but to comply with the PRC government’s demands. Today’s charges reflect this office’s continued commitment, working hand in hand with our partners at the FBI, to combat transnational repression and bringing to justice those who perpetrate it.”
“The Chinese government takes advantage of our freedoms — freedoms they deny their own citizens — to advance their authoritarian regime, and calls uncomfortable truths about their behavior rumors and lies,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “There’s nothing false about seeing example after example of the Chinese government’s underhanded and illegal behavior here in the United States. I urge anyone to contact the FBI if you feel you’re a victim of the Chinese government’s illegal Fox Hunt activities.”
“As alleged, Sun Hoi Ying, acting at the direction of the PRC government, engaged in a range of activities designed to pressure individuals in the United States to return to the PRC to face charges brought by the Chinese government,” said Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Our commitment to protecting the freedoms enjoyed by all United States residents is steadfast. Today's action is the latest example of our unwavering determination to combat transnational repression in all its forms.”
According to court documents, the FBI has been involved in an investigation of individuals who, working at the direction of the PRC government, have engaged in an international campaign, known alternatively as “Operation Fox Hunt” and “Operation Skynet,” to pressure individuals located in the United States and elsewhere to return to the PRC to face charges or to otherwise reach financial settlements with the PRC government.
As alleged, from approximately October 2016 through May 2017, Sun conducted operations in the United States on behalf of the PRC government to pressure, threaten and collect personal information regarding victims of Operation Fox Hunt. Among other things, as part of his operations and at the direction of the PRC government, Sun hired private investigators in the United States to gather personal information on Operation Fox Hunt targets, labeled as “fugitives” by the PRC government and provided some of that information to the PRC government.
According to the complaint, Sun provided 35 names to a private investigator (P.I.-1) working at a U.S. company (Firm-1) of individuals described as PRC fugitives, including Victim-1, who is a U.S. citizen that previously lived in the PRC, worked at a PRC-owned company, and was subsequently accused by the PRC government of embezzlement. As alleged, P.I.-1 conducted surveillance at Victim-1’s home and provided a report to Firm-1 and Sun. By June 2018, the PRC government had publicly disseminated personal identifying information of Victim-1 – including case details, a photograph and home address – on PRC-based news media websites.
While Sun was collecting information about Victim-1 for the PRC government, Victim-1’s daughter (Victim-2), who is a U.S. citizen and was pregnant at the time, was held against her will in the PRC for approximately eight months. In or about October 2016, Victim-2, her spouse and her minor child attempted to leave the PRC to return to the United States. However, Victim-2 was told by PRC customs officials and a PRC prosecutor (Prosecutor-1) that she could not leave and was subject to an “exit ban.” While Victim-2’s spouse and minor child were able to return to the United States, Victim-2 was told that, since Victim-1 had committed a crime, the “exit ban” on Victim-2 was a consequence of Victim-1’s fugitive status. The PRC prosecutor further told Victim-2: (1) that she would not be permitted to leave the PRC until she helped cause Victim-1 to return to the PRC to resolve Victim-1’s criminal case; (2) that Victim-2 was not to discuss the “exit ban” with the U.S. government; and (3) that the U.S. Embassy was helpless to address Victim-2’s status in the PRC. When Victim-2 explained to Prosecutor-1 that she was pregnant and wished to deliver her baby in the United States, Prosecutor-1 told Victim-2 she would deliver her baby in the PRC if the conditions were not yet met for the “exit ban” to be lifted.
According to the complaint, on or about Dec. 1, 2019, Sun also sought out, located and met with an Operation Fox Hunt target (Victim-3), in New York City, in coordination with a co-conspirator who is a local U.S. law enforcement officer. During the meeting, Sun threatened and pressured the victim, including by threatening that the PRC government would take certain adverse and retaliatory actions if the victim did not comply with the demands of the PRC government.
Sun is charged with one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J.C. Hellman and Kyle A. Wirshba for the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with valuable assistance provided by Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
The FBI’s New York Field Office is investigating the case.
A complaint is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
PHOENIX, AZ—Falling in love or falling victim? They could be one and the same. FBI Phoenix wants to educate the public on romance scams, also known as confidence fraud.
Romance scams occur when an individual believes they are in a relationship (family, friendly, or romantic) and are tricked into sending money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the fraudster. This includes the Grandparent’s Scheme and any scheme in which the perpetrator preys on the victim’s “heartstrings”.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 651 Arizona victims reported losses of more than $20.9 million in connection with confidence fraud/romance scams in 2021. That’s about a 65% increase from the more than $12 million Arizona residents reported losing in 2020.
The FBI suggests these tips if you develop a relationship with someone online:
Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
Never provide your financial information or loan money to someone online. Do not allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand Travel, provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.
Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse as to why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, you have good reason to be suspicious.
If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place, and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame, or humiliation. It’s important to remember, romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.
If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately. If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution. Then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623) 466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.
For more information on romance scams, visitClick
WILKES-BARRE- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Brian Buglio, age 46, of Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, was sentenced by United States Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr., to two months of imprisonment and a one-year term of supervised release that includes four months of home confinement.
According to Acting United States Bruce D. Brandler, Buglio, the former Chief of Police for the West Hazleton Police Department, pleaded guilty to a deprivation of civil rights, after he threatened a private citizen with felony criminal charges, in retaliation for social media posts created by the private citizen that were critical of Buglio and of the West Hazleton Police Department.
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Saporito deemed Buglio’s actions an “abuse of power” when he threatened to use the criminal justice system to further his own personal interests. In addition to the term of imprisonment and supervised release, Judge Saporito also ordered Buglio to pay a $5,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Scranton Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Public Corruption Task Force, which consists of members of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and federal agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo prosecuted the case.
Source : FBI
PITTSBURGH, PA – Bobby Askew was sentenced to 27 months in prison for distributing fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine, including within 1,000 feet of a school in Butler, Pennsylvania, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.
Askew, age 39, formerlyof Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced by United States District Judge Robert J. Colville. Judge Colville ordered that Askew serve six years of supervised release following his prison term.
In 2009, Askew was convicted of crack cocaine trafficking in Philadelphia. He was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in state prison. After being paroled from state prison, he relocated to Butler in Butler County and trafficked fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine as part of a Butler-based drug trafficking crew. Askew dealt these drugs on a regular basis between 2017 and 2020, including within 1,000 feet of multiple schools in Butler.
Assistant United States Attorneys Yvonne M. Saadi and Craig W. Haller prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.
The Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Butler County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force led the investigation leading to the conviction and sentence in this case.