7 indicted for massive $8.5 million food stamp fraud scheme in Massillon

CLEVELAND – Seven people have been indicted in connection with a large-scale food stamp scheme in which they allegedly defrauded millions from the SNAP program.

Authorities said the seven people had a conspiracy to commit money laundering. Some face other charges of wire fraud and more.

The indictment handed down in U.S. District Court names Kaitlin Koher, owner of Ohio Direct Distributors, which used to be housed on Lincoln Way in Massillon.

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Rachel Dolezal Faces Felony Charges of Welfare Fraud in Washington State

Rachel Dolezal is facing a felony theft charge related to alleged welfare fraud.

The former NAACP local chapter leader, who is white but posed as a black woman, has been accused of first-degree theft by welfare fraud, second-degree perjury and false verification for public assistance by authorities in Washington state.

Dolezal could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, according to KHQ.

Court documents allege Dolezal, who has legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo, illegally received $8,747 in food assistance and $100 in child care assistance starting in August 2015 up until November 2017.

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7 arrested in Travis Co. Tax-Assessor Collector’s office fraud scheme

“This is something we don’t tolerate.  This is taxpayer money.  We’re government employees.  This is a priority for us at the department,” said DPS Regional Commander Freeman Martin.

Seven arrests: charges like forgery, organized crime, bribery.

“There’s a lot of things about this investigation we can’t talk about.  This is an ongoing investigation that still has to be prosecuted,” Freeman said.

Martin joined DMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster and Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore at a press conference Monday morning about the multi-agency fraud investigation called “Operation Even Trade.”

Martin says the investigation launched in March at the request of the D.A.

“Say somebody purchases a vehicle.  When you go to the Tax-Assessor Collector’s office, you pay taxes on the amount of that vehicle.  So there’s a potential there for corruption,” Martin said.

According to court paperwork, 43-year-old Shell Kenneth Prieto-Reese and 57-year-old Cathy Lynn Wilson worked together at the Precinct 1 tax office on Hefflin Lane.  43-year-old Susie Alvarez Araujo and 35-year-old Steven Hernandez worked at Precinct 2 in Pflugerville.

The employees are accused of entering false values on title form applications, resulting in the reduction of sales tax sent to the state.

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College President Pleads Guilty Before Arkansas Fraud Trial

The president of a Christian college in Springdale pleaded guilty to a fraud charge Wednesday, admitting he took part in what prosecutors called a kickback scheme involving his school.

Oren Paris III had faced a trial Monday with former state Sen. Jon Woods and consultant Randell Shelton. Instead, the president of Ecclesia College pleaded guilty in federal court.

Prosecutors say Paris paid kickbacks to Woods and then-Rep. Micah Neal in return for $550,000 in state grants in 2013-14, using Shelton’s consulting firm as a go-between. Neal pleaded guilty last year but has not been sentenced.

Woods, a Republican, faces 15 fraud counts while Paris and Shelton were named in 14 counts. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Paris pleaded guilty to a fraud charge Wednesday. All had been charged with conspiracy, and Woods also faces a money-laundering charge.

Paris plead guilty to transferring $50,000 of a $200,000 in grant money from Woods and Neal to Shelton. Shelton sent $40,000 of the money to Woods as a kickback, according to Paris’ plea.

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At war with the Fed: Independent inventor’s story akin to ‘David vs. Goliath’

William Bozeman, an independent inventor with a colorful history, says he used to have a good relationship with the Federal Reserve System and even helped improve its fraud detection efforts.

He thought the Fed was working toward a licensing deal for some of his software, which he said could help spot fraudulent checks earlier than the system it was using.

So he was stunned when the government’s central bank in 2017 went to war with him “out of nowhere” by filing a federal lawsuit and two challenges to his patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Fed described Mr. Bozeman as an opportunist, trying to demand money for technology he didn’t invent.

Mr. Bozeman said he is being bullied by the secretive central bank and that the Fed is trying to run up his legal bills by filing all the complaints in an effort to make him go away.

“This appears to be a David versus Goliath story,” said Terry Fokas, a lawyer and founder of a Dallas-based patent software company. “The Federal Reserve, with all of its resources, appears to be trying to bury an independent inventor.”

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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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