Volkswagen executive sentenced to 7 years for emissions fraud

A U.S.-based Volkswagen AG executive who oversaw emissions issues was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $400,000 by a judge on Wednesday for his role in a diesel emissions scandal that has cost the German automaker as much as $30 billion.

The prison sentence and fine for the executive, Oliver Schmidt, were the maximum possible under a plea deal in August the German national made with prosecutors after admitting to charges of conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violate clean-air laws.

“It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of Detroit told Schmidt in court. “You saw this as your opportunity to shine … and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”

Schmidt read a written statement in court acknowledging his guilt and broke down when discussing his family’s sacrifices on his behalf since his arrest in January.

“I made bad decisions and for that I am sorry,” he said.

“Every time he chose to lie,” Singer said.

In March, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three felony counts under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges that it installed secret software in vehicles in order to elude emissions tests.

U.S. prosecutors have charged eight current and former Volkswagen executives. Five of those remain at large.

Volkswagen rebounded from the scandal during the past year. Chief Executive Matthias Mueller last month predicted record deliveries of vehicles for the company this year, and the Volkswagen car brand has said it expects record deliveries for 2017, and raised its midterm profitability outlook.

At the Los Angeles auto show last week, the head of Volkswagen’s U.S. operations declared, “we’re back,” citing improved U.S. vehicle sales.

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Navy commander gets 18 months in massive corruption scandal

A U.S. Navy commander was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for his role in a fraud and bribery scheme that cost the government about $35 million.

Cmdr. Bobby Pitts, 48, of Chesapeake, Virginia, was the latest person to be sentenced in connection with a decade-long scam linked to a Singapore defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” Francis.

Francis bribed Navy officials to help him overbill the Navy for fuel, food and other services his company provided to ships docked in Asian ports, according to prosecutors. The bribes allegedly ranged from cash and prostitutes to Cuban cigars and Spanish suckling pigs.

Pitts pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges that alleged he tried to obstruct a federal investigation while in charge of the Navy’s Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore.

In handing down the sentence against Pitts, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino told him that he had “betrayed the Navy and betrayed the country,” prosecutors said in a news release.

“Pitts deliberately and methodically undermined government operations and in doing so, diverted his allegiance from his country and colleagues to a foreign defense contractor, and for that, he is paying a high price,” said Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney in San Diego.

In addition to his prison sentence, Pitts was also ordered to pay $22,500 in fines and restitution.

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Fishers attorney pleads guilty to immigration fraud

An attorney from Fishers, Indiana has pleaded guilty to filing false visa applications for immigrants.

Joel Paul, 45, entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis on Thursday, according to a release from the Justice Department. The plea agreement shows that Paul submitted more than 250 visa applications for his clients without their knowledge, taking in around $750,000 in fraudulent fees.

The applications were filed between 2013 and 2017, and they claimed that Paul’s clients had been victims of crime and had cooperated with law enforcement investigations of those crimes. In at least 200 of the applications, federal prosecutors say Paul submitted unauthorized copies of a certification of his clients’ cooperation from a U.S. Attorney’s office.

Paul agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced sometime in early 2018.

“Individuals who commit immigration fraud undermine and abuse our generous immigration system—a system that lawfully admits more immigrants than any other country in the world—and put our public safety and national security at risk,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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Virginia judge thrown off bench for witness tampering in wife’s federal corruption trial

A juvenile and domestic relations judge in southwest Virginia was removed from the bench Monday by the Virginia Supreme Court, effective immediately, after he admitted contacting two key witnesses in a pending federal corruption case against his wife.

Kurt J. Pomrenke, 64, was elected to the bench in 2013 to oversee juvenile and domestic court cases in Washington and Smyth counties and Bristol City along the Virginia-Tennessee border. He is only the second Virginia judge in the last 23 years to be removed by the state Supreme Court, court records show, with the other being a juvenile and domestic judge who resolved some visitation issues with a coin flip.

Pomrenke has also been found guilty of contempt of court by a federal judge in Bristol in connection with his wife’s case and is scheduled to be sentenced in that matter on Thursday. His wife, Stacey Pomrenke, the former chief financial officer of Bristol Virginia Utilities, is currently in prison serving a 34-month sentence on multiple charges of conspiracy, extortion and wire fraud as well as contempt of court, in part for her husband’s contact with potential witnesses in the case.

Kurt Pomrenke, in a hearing before the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, which handles complaints against judges, conceded that his actions were wrong and violated the state Canons of Judicial Conduct. The canons require judges to “uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary” and to “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities.” Pomrenke suggested he only be censured, but the Supreme Court felt his actions were “particularly damaging to the integrity of the judicial process and the confidence of the citizens of the Commonwealth that a sitting judge in the Commonwealth would attempt to improperly influence two potential witnesses in his wife’s federal criminal trial.”

Pomrenke did not respond to a request for comment. His lawyer, John E. Lichtenstein, said in a statement that Pomrenke was “disappointed but respects the action of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

“He will assess his position, but his focus now is on the needs of his family,”Lichtenstein said in the statement. “He is, and will always be, deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the 28th Judicial District.”

Pomrenke’s downfall began with the 2015 indictment of his wife on 15 corruption-related counts. She had been the chief financial officer of the city’s electric, water and sewer utility since 2003, and prosecutors alleged she pressured BVU’s vendors for tickets to ballgames and auto races, money to pay for BVU employee parties, awarded bonuses to BVU employees without reporting them for tax purposes, and other executive chicanery. Her husband, a judge and former BVU board member, was granted access to pre-trial discovery in the case over the government’s objection.

Three weeks after his wife’s indictment, Pomrenke sent a handwritten note to her boss, the BVU chief executive officer Donald L. Bowman, with his business card included in a “Thank You” envelope. “I just wanted to sincerely thank you for your kindness and understanding support for Stacey during these horrible times,” Kurt Pomrenke wrote. “It is horrible what our government is doing to her. She will be proven innocent.”

Bowman is a lawyer and had been cooperating with the widely publicized investigation into corruption at BVU, and had made his cooperation known in the news media, the Supreme Court noted. He was shocked to receive the note from Pomrenke, and drove directly to the U.S. attorney’s office in Abingdon, Virginia, to show it to them. This note, and an email that Stacey Pomrenke sent to five friends asking for their support, caused prosecutors to try to revoke her bond, which the judge denied. Instead, U.S. District Judge James P. Jones charged her with contempt of court for attempted witness tampering. He later found her guilty of this, and added two months to her 32-month corruption sentence in August 2016.

Next, on the eve of his wife’s trial in February 2016, then-Judge Pomrenke left a voicemail for a BVU employee expected to testify during the trial. “Hey Connie, this is Kurt,” the judge said, according to the Supreme Court. “Um, when you’re testifying in that trial there might be a couple of things that you could do that would really help Stacey. If you could kinda slip in when you have a chance just little remarks like how Stacey did a great job, or Stacey was the one that took care of the employees. . .just something like that even though it’s not directly in response to the questions.”

That didn’t sit too well with Judge Jones.

Bowman didn’t end up testifying in the trial but the employee, Connie Moffatt, did. The jury convicted Stacey Pomrenke on 14 of 15 charges, and three days later the judge directed the government to prosecute her for contempt of court, based on both her email and her husband’s contacts with Bowman and Moffatt.

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New Jersey man sentenced for role in Russian uranium bribe scheme

A New Jersey man has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with his role in arranging bribes for the awarding of contracts with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday.

Boris Rubizhevsky, 67, of Closter, New Jersey, was sentenced to prison along with three years of supervised release and a $26,500 fine by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang for the District of Maryland, the department said in a statement.

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Coast pharmacist, marketer admit defrauding military health care by $2.3 million

A Biloxi man and a Lamar County pharmacist have pleaded guilty in what has been called the largest ever national health care fraud enforcement action by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.

The investigation involves at least one doctor who wrote false prescriptions for compounded medicines, costing the U.S. military healthcare program a loss of $2.3 million, court papers show. Gerald Jay Schaar and Jason May are participants in a new investigation involving a doctor.

Schaar, 46, has admitted he marketed illegal prescriptions that were billed to TRICARE, which provides health care benefits for military personnel, veterans and their dependents. But those prescriptions were not dispensed to patients while Schaar received kickbacks.

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What $20 million in alleged food stamp fraud bought these 12 people: prosecution

South Florida reached another fraud milestone for what the Justice Department called “the largest combined financial fraud loss for a food stamp trafficking takedown in history.”

That dubious new record, federal prosecutors claim, is $20 million and resulted in a dozen charged with doing the government dirty via food stamp fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The 12 charged over four cases are Hasan Saleh, 59, Mohammed Alobaisi, 37, Reynold Francois, 38, Ihab Hassouna, 44, Mohammad Alteen, 33, Maria Jerdana, 36, Joe Ann Baker, 56, Yousef “Joe” Homedan Zahran, 60, Omar Hajje, 43, Jalal Hajyousef, 42, Andy Javier Herrera, 24, and father Javier Herrera, 49.

“In this instance, eight small convenience stores in South Florida committed a staggering amount of fraud in a relatively short amount of time,” said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, special agent in charge, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of the Inspector General, in a release. “These retailers created an illegal benefits exchange system that defrauded the American taxpayer and denied healthy foods to needy children and their families. The store owners who allegedly orchestrated this trafficking scheme pocketed millions in ‘fees’ which they charged for converting food assistance benefits into cash.”

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Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein court documents detail undercover work for feds

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein had drinks on the town at the request of federal investigators to hide that he was working for them after his arrest, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

Cooperation could have gotten Rothstein a break on his 50-year prison sentence, but prosecutors said earlier this week he had lied to them and doesn’t deserve a reduction.

Rothstein pleaded guilty to several federal charges after his Ponzi scheme imploded during the Halloween weekend in October 2009. The now-disbarred lawyer was caught operating a $1.4 billion fraud at his Fort Lauderdale law firm offices.

On Jan. 20, 2010, Rothstein agreed to testify for the prosecution and go undercover if requested by investigators, according to the document. He’d voluntarily returned to Florida from Morocco.

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U.S. Navy fraud case involving Fat Leonard snares captain

United States Navy captain Jesus Vasquez Cantu admitted in federal court yesterday (August 18) that he accepted bribes, including the services of multiple prostitutes, to pass critical information to Leonard Glenn Francis (aka Fat Leonard) and his Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

Cantu, 59, who had a “top secret” clearance, acknowledged, among many things, that Francis provided him with the services of two prostitutes on June 1, 2012, at the Hotel Singapore. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and is scheduled to be sentenced November 9 before U.S. district judge Janis L. Sammartino.

Cantu admitted that on numerous occasions in 2012 and 2013, Glenn took him and others for drinks and dinner at posh eating and drinking places and provided him prostitutes. As of now, 28 individuals, including 21 current and former Navy officials and 5 civilian defendants, plus Glenn’s company, have been charged as part of the investigation.

Cantu left the Navy in 2014. He had held high posts, including assistant chief of staff for logistics for the commander of the Seventh Fleet. Dermot O’Reilly, deputy inspector general for investigations in the Department of Defense, said that the Glenn case is the “largest fraud and corruption scandal in the U.S. Navy’s history.”

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Dallas Woman Gets 10 Years, Must Pay $51M Fraud Restitution

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas woman must serve 10 years in federal prison and repay $51 million in a health care services fraud case involving home visits.

Myrna S. Parcon was sentenced Thursday in Dallas. Parcon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud involving Medicare beneficiaries.

Prosecutors say three other people who were convicted await sentencing, including a doctor.

Authorities say many Medicare patients in the case were certified for home health care — whether they needed it or not — from 2009 through mid-2013.

Co-defendant Ransome Etindi of Waxahachie (wahks-uh-HA’-chee) also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in prison. Etindi must repay $18 million.

Another person who pleaded guilty was sentenced to two years and ordered to repay $4.2 million.

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