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November 14, 2012

Grand Jury Indicts 11 Defendants for Theft of Government Property and Related Crimes in Inland Empire

Defendants Accused of Stealing Veterans’ Benefits and Social Security Funds

RIVERSIDE, California – A joint enforcement initiative by the United States Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General has resulted in a federal grand jury returning indictments charging 11 defendants with offenses relating to the theft of government benefit funds.

A federal grand jury began issuing indictments on October 31, and has returned a total of 11 indictments, each charging a separate defendant.  Ten of the 11 indicted defendants are charged with theft of government property exceeding $1,000 in value.  These charges allege that the defendants took and spent government benefit payments to which they knew they were not entitled, including in some cases payments the government had issued to their deceased family members.  Six of these 10 indicted defendants, and one additional defendant, are charged with making false statements to the government in connection with their efforts to fraudulently obtain government benefits.  The alleged lies related to, among other things, the defendants’ identities, social security numbers, and employment or marital status, and the locations of the defendants’ residences.

Included in the 10 defendants charged with theft of government property in excess of $1,000 in connection with this initiative are:
* Linda Marie Phillips, 59, of Fontana, who is also charged with making a false statement to a government agency and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on November 28 in Riverside federal court;
* Gilbert Jose Leon Guerrero, 65, of Chino, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued;
* Michael Leslie Snyder, 66, of Riverside, who is also charged with presenting a false document to a government agency and is scheduled to be arraigned on December 7 in Los Angeles federal court;
* William Edward Catchings, 71, of Pomona, who is also charged with making a false statement to a government agency and is scheduled to be arraigned on November 27 in Los Angeles federal court;
* Richard Victor Schmitz, 67, of Loma Linda, who is also charged with making a false statement to a government agency, and for whom an arrest warrant has been issued;
* Marta Urbina, 64, of Riverside, who is scheduled to be arraigned on November 21 in Riverside federal court;
* Valerie M. Ikeda, 45, of Moreno Valley, for whom an arrest warrant has been issued;
* Betty Jean Vieira, 66, of Moreno Valley, who is also charged with making a false statement to a government agency and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on December 3 in Los Angeles federal court; and
* Michelle Kay Jarrett, 42, of Lytle Creek, who is scheduled to be arraigned on December 3 in Los Angeles federal court.
The single defendant charged only with making a false statement to a government agency – Carmen Eugenia Tallman, 67, of Kent, Washington – is scheduled to be arraigned on December 12 in Riverside federal court.

June 19, 2012

Sylmar Man Pleads Guilty in $5.4 Million Loan Fraud Case

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 8:50 am

RIVERSIDE, CA—A Sylmar man has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges, admitting that he plotted with others to fraudulently obtain four loans for more than $5 million by pledging houses that they did not own as collateral, falsely claiming that the houses had enough equity to secure the loans, forging documents, and falsifying notary stamps.

Hamlet Sardariani, 42, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon in United States District Court. Hamlet Sardariani was scheduled to go on trial next week before United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Three other members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty. Hamlet Sardariani’s brother—Henrik Sardariani, 44, of Glendale—pleaded guilty in January and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Phillips on August 6 (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/004.html). Wanda Tenney, 66, of South Los Angeles, who was an escrow officer, pleaded guilty on December 5, 2011 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 15. The fourth co-conspirator, Christopher J. Woods, 53, of Beverly Hills, pleaded guilty on November 8, 2011 and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 16.

According to a plea agreement filed in his case, Hamlet Sardariani admitted that he either knew or reasonably should have known of the numerous false statements and falsified documents used to obtain the four loans involved in this case. For instance, to obtain one of the loans, Henrik Sardariani fraudulently claimed to own a Burbank property and created false records to maintain that pretense. In fact, the Burbank house was not owned by Henrik Sardariani, and, although it had previously been owned by Hamlet Sardariani, he had lost the property through foreclosure months before Henrik Sardariani pledged it to the victim lender. Hamlet Sardariani later promised the same property to one of Henrik Sardariani’s creditors, and, a day later, to another victim lender in this case. The Sardariani brothers pledged other properties in Sherman Oaks and Glendale that they did not own and which did not have the equity Henrik Sardariani claimed they had to obtain the other loans.

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June 10, 2012

U.S. Army Soldier Charged with Lying to Government Regarding Military Service and Military Awards, including Purple Hearts

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 8:22 pm

RIVERSIDE, California – A federal grand jury today charged an active duty command sergeant major in the U.S. Army with seven felony counts of defrauding the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense by falsely claiming to have seen combat in Vietnam and Afghanistan, as well as lying about military honors he claimed to have been awarded.

William John Roy, a 57-year-old Winchester resident, was named in a seven-count indictment returned by the grand jury this afternoon. Roy will receive a summons directing him to appear next month in United States District Court for an arraignment.

The indictment accuses Roy of making false statements and submitting bogus military documentation to the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007 as he sought disability, medical and educational benefits from the VA. In the documents, Roy falsely claimed that in 1974 he served as a combat medic in Vietnam in a special forces unit and was twice injured in combat. With false records that purported to detail his bravery during combat incidents in Vietnam, Roy further claimed he was awarded two Purple Hearts, as well as a Bronze Star for valor. An investigation revealed that during the period of his claimed Vietnam service, Roy was actually in Germany in a non-combatant role. According to court documents, Roy submitted a Purple Heart Certificate purportedly signed by Richard Nixon four months after the president resigned from office.

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June 6, 2012

Political Activist Pleads No Contest

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 5:06 pm

LOS ANGELES – A 64-year-old political activist pleaded no contest today to perjury for failing to disclose he was convicted of a felony when he purchased a gun in 2010.

Carlos Montes, of Alhambra, entered the no contest plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, said Deputy District Attorney Mario Haidar. He was immediately sentenced to three years formal probation, given credit for 1 day served in county jail, ordered to complete 180 hours of community service and told he could not possess any weapons.

In exchange for his plea, three remaining felony counts of perjury were dismissed.

Montes, convicted of felony battery on a peace officer in 1969, signed both the Federal Firearms Transaction Record and the State Dealer’s Record of Sale certifying that he had never been convicted of a felony when he bought a 12-gauge shotgun on Nov. 16, 2010.

March 7, 2012

Ex-Marine Accused of Attempting to Export Sensitive Military Items

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 1:30 am

LOS ANGELES – A retired Marine Corps staff sergeant, who until recently worked in the Marine Aviation Supply Office at Edwards Air Force Base, was arrested by federal agents this morning following an undercover probe that allegedly revealed he lied to the government as part of a scheme to sell sensitive military equipment to buyers around the globe.

Sean Elias Sayegh, 41, of Rosamond, was taken into custody at his residence by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Sayegh, who retired from the Marine Corps in December 2011, was named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury last Friday that charges him with four counts of making false statements. Specifically, the indictment alleges that on four occasions Sayegh made fraudulent claims on U.S. Postal Service customs declaration forms, stating that packages he was shipping contained camera lenses and other camera equipment, when the items were actually laser light interference filters (LIFs). The alleged violations, which occurred between December 2009 and February 2010, involved the shipment of more than 100 LIFs.

LIFs, which are used with military night vision goggles, are on the U.S. Munitions List and cannot legally be exported without a license issued by the Department of State. LIFs protect the optics inside night vision goggles from being damaged by lasers. The technology is considered sufficiently sensitive that the military requires that LIFs be destroyed when they reach the end of their service life.

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February 15, 2012

CO-OWNER OF TWO LOS ANGELES-AREA HEALTH CARE COMPANIES SENTENCED TO 96 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR HEALTH CARE FRAUD

WASHINGTON – The co-owner of two Los Angeles-area health care companies was sentenced today to 96 months in prison for his conviction stemming from a nine-year scheme to defraud Medicare, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS).

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson also ordered Evans Oniha, 49, to pay $7 million in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.  A federal jury in the Central District of California found Oniha guilty on July 7, 2011, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of health care fraud and one count of false statements relating to health care matters.

According to court documents, in 2002, Oniha and co-defendant Camillus Ehigie founded and began operating Prosperity Home Health Services Inc., a home health agency, and Caravan Medical Supplies Inc., a durable medical equipment (DME) company.  According to testimony presented at trial, from October 2002 to February 2011, Oniha conspired with Ehigie and others to defraud Medicare by paying “marketers” for Medicare beneficiary information, fraudulent prescriptions and other documents for DME and home health services.  Testimony at trial showed that the marketers were individuals who acquired patient Medicare numbers and doctors’ prescriptions and sold them to Oniha.  Oniha used these fraudulent documents to submit and cause the submission of false claims to Medicare for DME and home health services that were not medically necessary and that often were not provided to Medicare beneficiaries.  According to court documents, Oniha caused Prosperity to submit approximately $8 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for home health services purportedly provided by Prosperity.  Oniha caused Caravan to submit approximately $5.8 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare for DME purportedly provided by Caravan.

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December 28, 2011

Orange County Pharmacist Charged with Providing Material Support to Terrorists by Sending Money to Person in Pakistan

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 10:22 pm

LOS ANGELES – A Turkish citizen who resides in Orange County was indicted late this afternoon on federal charges of providing material support to terrorists for allegedly sending money to Pakistan to help fund attacks against American military personnel.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 39, of La Palma, California, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was named in a four-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury this afternoon.

The indictment alleges three counts of providing money to an individual located in Pakistan with the knowledge that the money would be used to prepare for and carry out attacks that would kill United States military personnel and other persons overseas. Mihalik allegedly sent a total of $2,050 in three wire transfers to the person in Pakistan over the course of three weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.

The fourth count of the indictment charges Mihalik with making false statements to special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Mihalik allegedly lied to the agents during an interview at Los Angeles International Airport on August 8, 2011, after she arrived in Los Angeles following a six-month trip to Turkey. Mihalik is accused of making false statements in a matter involving international terrorism by falsely telling the agents that she had never used an alias when using Western Union to send money to a person who was overseas and that she had sent money only once via Western Union to a person who was overseas.

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December 16, 2011

Former Department of Homeland Security Official Found Guilty of Obstruction of Justice for Lying to Federal Judge and Prosecutor

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 6:23 am

LOS ANGELES – A former assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was found guilty this afternoon of obstruction of justice and making false statements for giving false information to a federal prosecutor and a federal judge in Florida.

Frank Johnston, 55, of Whittier, who retired from ICE in August 2009 after 31 years in federal law enforcement, was convicted of the two felony charges following a 9-day trial.

The evidence presented during the trial showed that Johnston in 2006 and 2007 made false statements that resulted in the delay – lasting nearly a year and a half – of a prison term for a man who received an 18-month sentence after being convicted in relation to a cigarette-smuggling operation. At the time, Johnston began receiving payments for “consulting” services from a foster family agency run by a man with ties to the man who had been convicted of felony charges in Florida.

After telling a number of Justice Department officials that the convicted felon was cooperating with investigators and while trying to convince underlings at ICE to use the man as a cooperator, Johnston ultimately told a Justice Department prosecutor and a United States District Judge that the convicted felon was providing “ongoing cooperation” in two criminal investigations being conducted in Los Angeles. Johnston claimed that the “informant” was helping investigators who were looking into an alien smuggling ring and a “Vietnamese organized crime group” that were involved in “the smuggling and exploitation of Asian and Hispanic women that have either been smuggled or trafficked into the United States and are working as prostitutes.”

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June 5, 2011

Executive Director of Bronx Not-for-Profit Corporation Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Mail Fraud

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 3:09 pm

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea of DAVID GRIFFITHS, the executive director of the Neighborhood Enhancement for Training Services, Inc. (“NETS”), a not-for-profit corporation located in the Bronx, New York. GRIFFITHS pled guilty yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge ANDREW J. PECK to one count of mail fraud.

According to the information, the complaint, and statements made in Manhattan federal court yesterday:

From September 13, 2010, up to and including the present, GRIFFITHS, on behalf of NETS, attempted to obtain $400,000 in grant money from a New York State agency under false and fraudulent pretenses. Specifically, in seeking the grant, he falsely represented to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York that neither NETS nor any of its officers or directors had been the subject of a criminal investigation for the past five years. During the plea, GRIFFITHS admitted that he had actually been interviewed by the FBI about NETS, and, as alleged in the complaint, GRIFFITHS had produced certain documents related to the non profit to the FBI in response to a grand jury subpoena.

GRIFFITHS, 65, of White Plains, New York, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. He will be sentenced by Judge HELLERSTEIN on a date to be determined.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI.

This case is being prosecuted by the office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorney CARRIE H. COHEN is in charge of the prosecution.

March 27, 2011

Ninth Circuit Opinion 03-27-11

The petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Defendant-Appellant Xavier Alvarez conditionally pleaded guilty to one count of falsely verbally claiming to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, in violation of the Stolen Valor Act (the Act), 18 U.S.C. § 704(b), (c),1 reserving his right to appeal the Act’s constitutionality.

Xavier Alvarez won a seat on the Three Valley Water District Board of Directors in 2007. On July 23, 2007, at a joint meeting with a neighboring water district board, newly-seated Director Alvarez arose and introduced himself, stating “I’m a retired marine of 25 years. I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy. I’m still around.” Alvarez has never been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, nor has he spent a single day as a marine or in the service of any other branch of the United States armed forces. In short, with the exception of “I’m still around,” his selfintroduction was nothing but a series of bizarre lies.

Alvarez’s misrepresentations during the 2007 water district board meeting were only the latest in a long string of fabrica- UNITED STATES v. ALVAREZ 11851 tions. Apparently, Alvarez makes a hobby of lying about himself to make people think he is “a psycho from the mental ward with Rambo stories.” The summer before his election to the water district board, a woman informed the FBI about Alvarez’s propensity for making false claims about his military past. Alvarez told her that he won the Medal of Honor for rescuing the American Ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis, and that he had been shot in the back as he returned to the embassy to save the American flag. Alvarez reportedly told another woman that he was a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot who had been shot down but then, with the help of his buddies, was able to get the chopper back into the sky.

In addition to his lies about military service, Alvarez has claimed to have played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, to have worked as a police officer (who was fired for using excessive force), and to have been secretly married to a Mexican starlet. As the district court observed, Alvarez “live[s] in a world, a make-believe world where [he] just make[s] up stories all the time . . . . [T[here’s no credibility in anything [he] say[s].”

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