Former Defense Department Official Arrested For Taking Cash To Aid Contractor’s Request For $6.4 Million Payment – December 14, 2020
Nizar Farhat was a former construction manager based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California.
Farhat is charged in a two-count indictment that charges him with being a public official receiving an illegal gratuity and being a public official receiving compensation from a private party for government services.
In 2014 and 2015, Farhat was on assigned temporary duty at the United States Navy Base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where he oversaw a private company’s $15 million contract to construct an aircraft hangar and a telecommunications facility. After the projects were completed, the company submitted to the Defense Department Requests for Equitable Adjustment (REAs) that sought $6.43 million in additional payments.
Farhat accepted $20,000 in cash from the company for performing official acts, specifically recommending that the Navy certify completion of the construction projects and pay the additional $6.43 million the company requested in the REAs. The indictment also alleges that Farhat took another $14,000 in cash from the company as compensation for advising the company and drafting the REAs submitted to the Defense Department.
Former Employee Of Research Institute Pleads Guilty To Steal Trade Secrets To Sell Them In China – December 11, 2020
Yu Zhou admitted to conspiring to steal scientific trade secrets related to exosomes and exosome isolation from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Research Institute for his own personal financial gain in China.
Zhou and his wife, Li Chen worked in separate medical research labs at the Research Institute for 10 years each. They conspired to steal trade secrets related to exosome research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The admitted to starting a company in China to sell the isolation kits. They received benefits from the Chinese government, including the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Former Pastor Sentenced To Prison For $2 Million+ Real Estate Development Fraud Scheme – December 11, 2020
Sherman Smith was sentenced to 7 years in prison and ordered to pay $2,187,000 in restitution for a scheme that defrauded church congregants and others.
According to court documents, Sherman Smith induced investors, including church congregants, to give money to the church by representing that the money would be used to finance a real estate development project for the benefit of the church. Smith made appeals from the pulpit, via email, and in person for monies to pay off the church’s mortgage and to fund an income-generating development.
Smith collected cash, checks, and rolled-over retirement accounts to fund the church’s project, but he did not disclose to investors that he used the money for personal expenses, to operate a publishing business, and to invest in foreign ventures. Smith defrauded investors of more than $2 million.
Smith had previously served 37 months in prison for securities fraud that caused a loss of over $5 million with 38 different victims.
Baggage Handler At Newark Liberty International Airport Sentenced To Prison For Role In Cocaine Smuggling Scheme – December 11, 2020
Tyrone Woolaston was a lead baggage handler for a commercial airline at Newark Liberty International Airport. From in or about 2013 through February 2018, Woolaston conspired to smuggle shipments of cocaine into the United States. Woolaston used his secure access to the restricted areas of the airport to remove suitcases containing shipments of multiple kilograms of cocaine from international flights and smuggle them through the airport for distribution in the New York City area.
Former Project Manager For Not-For-Profit Organization Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud Of Employer – December 11, 2020
Since at least 2014, Ingris Coronado worked as a Project Manager for Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA), which received millions of dollars annually in New York City government funding. Between August 2014 and September 2018, Coronado engaged in a scheme to steal money from SQPA. Coronado repeatedly falsified time sheets, collected checks issued in the names of more than ten of her supervisees and deposited those checks into her own bank account. On multiple occasions, Coronado also created false invoices for vendors for SQPA and deposited the resulting payment checks into her personal account. As a result of her fraudulent conduct, Coronado stole tens of thousands of dollars from SQPA.
State Police Troopers Charged With Conspiracy To Embezzle Overtime Funds For 3 Years – December 11, 2020
From 2015 through 2018, former Massachusetts State Police (MSP) Lieutenant Daniel Griffin, former MSP Sergeant William Robertson, and other troopers in the Traffic Programs Section at State Police Headquarters, conspired to embezzle thousands of dollars in federally funded overtime by regularly arriving late to, and leaving early from overtime shifts that were funded by grants intended to improve traffic safety. During the course of the conspiracy, Griffin made and approved false entries on police forms and other documentation to conceal and perpetuate the fraud.
When MSP overtime misconduct came to light in 2017 and 2018, Griffin, Robertson and their coconspirators allegedly took steps to avoid detection by shredding and burning records and forms. It is alleged that after an internal inquiry regarding missing forms, Griffin submitted a memo to his superiors that was designed to mislead them by claiming that missing forms were “inadvertently discarded or misplaced” during office moves.
It is further alleged that while perpetuating the overtime scheme, Griffin spent significant time running his security business, KnightPro, even during hours that Griffin was collecting his regular MSP pay and overtime. From 2012 to 2019, Griffin collected almost $2 million in KnightPro revenue. Of that total, it is alleged that Griffin hid over $700,000 in revenue from the IRS and used hundreds of thousands of dollars in KnightPro income to fund personal expenses, such as golf club expenses, car payments, private school tuition and expenses related to his second home on Cape Cod.
Former Employee Sentenced To Prison For $800,00+ Embezzlement Scheme From His Employer – December 10, 2020
Michael Henry worked from June 2006 to August 2018 as an assistant to a Marin-based philanthropist, assisting her with personal matters and administration of her family’s charitable foundation.
While employed there, Henry stole in excess of $800,000 by forging the philanthropist’s signature on hundreds of checks, many of which were made out to Henry personally or to his side business, Hella. The philanthropist was seriously ill with cancer in 2016 and 2017 – a time when Henry continued to be entrusted with full access to financial and account records – and she discovered the embezzlement only after her recovery in 2018.
Former State Department Employee And Spouse Plead Guilty To Trafficking In Counterfeit Goods From U.S. Embassy – December 10, 2020
A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. The guilty pleas took place before U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane, who has scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2021, for both defendants.
Gene Thompson was an Information Programs Officer employed by the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea. Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, is married to Thompson and resided with him in Seoul, Korea.
Between September 2017 and December 2019, the two conspired to sell counterfeit goods, primarily Vera Bradley products. Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms. Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring counterfeit merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon. Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.
Former Chief Financial Officer Sentenced To Prison For Embezzling $15 Million+ – December 10, 2020
Tamra Villarreal is the former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Richardson Enterprises (RE), Ltd. RE has automobile dealerships in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. As CFO, Villarreal compiled financial information and provided it to outside accountants. She also had signing authority on RE bank accounts.
Villarreal admitted that from 2009 to January 2018, she embezzled the funds from RE accounts and used that money for personal enrichment. Villarreal diverted monies from Richardson bank accounts to accounts belonging to her and her husband.
She used those stolen funds along with a corporate business credit card to pay for numerous personal expenditures including luxury items, hotel stays and restaurant tabs without the knowledge or permission of the Richardson family. Villarreal admitted that she used her access and control of Richardson’s books and records to conceal and disguise her unauthorized transactions.
In April 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant on her residence. Recovered during the search were many valuables purchased during the scheme, including rare coins, gold bars, expensive watches, lavish jewelry and multiple firearms.
Villarreal’s former husband, Robert Villarreal, pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with this investigation.
Former Bank President Sentenced To Prison For Embezzlement – December 10, 2020
According to his plea agreement, Thomas Hinkebein admitted that, between January 12, 2016 and August 13, 2018, while he was the President of Whitaker Bank, he willfully misapplied assets of the bank.
Specifically, he admitted stealing golf carts and other property of Andover Country Club, an asset owned by Whitaker Bank.
He also sought reimbursement from Whitaker Bank for a variety of personal expenses, including cell phone plans, gym memberships, fuel purchases, vehicle repairs, technology purchases for his family members, shipping expenses, and landscaping at his home. To hide the personal nature of these expenses, the Defendant falsely reported many of the expenses to Whitaker Bank to make them appear to be legitimate work expenses.
Hinkebein will be required to pay a $5,500 fine and $50,739.56 in restitution owed.
Former U.S. Marine Found Guilty For Illegal Exportation Of Firearms And Controlled Equipment – December 10, 2020
Today in federal court, Jacques Yves Sebastien Duroseau, age 34, a former U.S. Marine born in Haiti and a naturalized citizen of the United States, residing in Onslow County, was found guilty following a three-day trial before United States District Judge James C. Dever III. The jury found the defendant guilty of conspiracy to illegally export and smuggle firearms and controlled equipment from the United States to Haiti, as well as transporting firearms without a license to the Haitian Army. Additionally, the jury decided that the firearms and equipment should be forfeited.
At trial, the evidence showed that Duroseau, at the time an active duty U.S. Marine with the rank of sergeant, and a co-conspirator, impersonated high ranking military officers and pretended to be on military business in order to facilitate the illegal transportation of eight firearms, including a Ruger model Precision Rifle 300WIN MAG and a Spike’s Tactical model ST15, as well as copious ammunition, riflescopes, and body armor, via commercial aircraft to Haiti.
The evidence further showed that Duroseau’s purpose was to train the Haitian Army with the firearms and equipment in order to engage in foreign armed conflict.
Lowes Employees Stole $15,000 From Lowe’s Conducting 183 Fraudulent Returns – December 4, 2020
A pair of employees at Lowe’s Home Improvement are accused of bilking the store out of thousands using fraudulent returns, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Timothy Rivett and Drew Hall were arrested after a loss-prevention officer at the chain store alerted them to a fraud investigation at the store. The investigation was launched after a customer service manager became suspicious.
Rivett, who worked as a cashier in customer service, was conducting returns for cash with no customers present. Then he passed the money to Hall, who worked in curbside pickup, deputies said.
The pair conducted 183 fraudulent returns and stole a total of $15,710 from the store from mid April through the end of November.
Former Employee Sentenced To Prison For Sabotaging Cisco’s Network With Damages Costing $2.4 Million – December 9, 2020
Sudhish Ramesh admitted to intentionally accessing Cisco Systems’ cloud infrastructure that was hosted by Amazon Web Services without Cisco’s permission on September 24, 2018.
Ramesh worked for Cisco and resigned in approximately April 2018. During his unauthorized access, Ramesh admitted that he deployed a code from his Google Cloud Project account that resulted in the deletion of 456 virtual machines for Cisco’s WebEx Teams application, which provided video meetings, video messaging, file sharing, and other collaboration tools. He further admitted that he acted recklessly in deploying the code, and consciously disregarded the substantial risk that his conduct could harm to Cisco. As a result of Ramesh’s conduct, over 16,000 WebEx Teams accounts were shut down for up to two weeks, and caused Cisco to spend approximately $1,400,000 in employee time to restore the damage to the application and refund over $1,000,000 to affected customers. No customer data was compromised as a result of the defendant’s conduct.
Former Chief Operating Officer Sentenced To Prison For $4.5 Million+ Embezzlement Scheme – December 9, 2020
Richard Diver was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a Manhattan-based asset management company (Company-1) that offers its customers investment planning and wealth management services. As COO, Diver’s responsibilities included overseeing the company’s payroll and billing functions, and he had unfettered access to the payroll controls.
Beginning in 2011 and continuing into December 2018, Diver fraudulently caused Company-1’s third-party payroll vendor to pay him salary significantly beyond his authorized salary and bonus. Over that period, Diver caused over $4.5 million to be routed to his personal checking account above and beyond his approved compensation.
In 2017, Diver began to also defraud Company-1’s clients. Typically, Company-1 billed its clients quarterly, in most cases having been authorized by the clients to deduct its investment advisory fees directly from their custodial accounts. Diver instructed an employee to run the billing process twice, but were only notified of the single legitimate billing transaction in periodic reports and correspondence from the company. Diver routed the excess funds to his own personal bank accounts through the company’s payroll system. Through this mechanism, Diver defrauded the clients of over $700,000.
In December 2018, certain clients noticed the overbilling and complained to Company-1’s president, who confronted Diver. Diver admitted to both fraudulent practices, stating that the funds he had stolen were consumed by his own “wild” spending.
Navy Investigation Of Pensacola Naval Air Station Shooting Points To Toxic Command Climate As Factor
A U.S. Navy investigation has determined that the Saudi pilot who killed three people when he opened fire on Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola last year was self-radicalized. However, it also found that Navy leaders could have picked up on a pattern of negative behaviors exacerbated by the “toxic” command climate at the base.
Investigators concluded that, while 2nd Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old Royal Saudi Air Force member, was motivated by anti-American and “jihadist” sentiment, the aviation training climate “likely increased” his chances of successfully carrying out the Dec. 6, 2019 attack that killed three sailors and injured eight others.
“The self-radicalization of 2nd Lt. Alshamrani was the Iprimary cause of this fatal attack,” according to the incident summary of the report, which was signed off by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday in July. “However, his actions and behaviors, along with the organizational environment inherent in the aviation pipeline, likely increased his probability of committing an insider attack. Military leaders, government employees, contracted employees, peers and civilians knew of isolated events and indicators, but all remained unaware of a complete picture of 2nd Lt. Alshamrani’s potential threat indicators.”
A key factor was the unprofessional behavior and harassment from a contracted instructor and a group of instructors who stood idly by at the base within Training Wing Six.
Army Punishes 14 Senior Officers After Murder And Other Deaths At Fort Hood – December 8, 2020
The Army is punishing 14 leaders at Fort Hood, relieving some high-ranking officers of duty and suspending other leaders after a review sparked by the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillén.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy cited profound problems at the base, including a command climate that was “permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault.” The issues at Fort Hood are “directly related to leadership failures,” McCarthy said.
The disciplinary moves and other changes stem from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, whose chair, Chris Swecker, said its recommendations are meant “to address deeply dysfunctional norms and regain Soldiers’ trust” at Fort Hood and possibly beyond.
McCarthy said he has accepted all of the review committee’s findings. The group submitted a report with nine findings and 70 recommendations, touching on areas from protocols around missing soldiers and crime prevention to public relations.
Guillén went missing on April 22. Her remains were found on June 30 and the Army confirmed they belonged to Guillén one week later. The day after the remains were found, Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, died by suicide as authorities attempted to taking him into custody. Cecily Aguilar, 22, was charged with conspiracy to tamper with evidence in connection with Guillén’s disappearance.
Former Comptroller Of Catholic Diocese Sentenced To Prison Embezzlement Of $299,000+ – December 8, 2020
David Franklin was the former comptroller of a Catholic Diocese.
From 2004 through 2016, Franklin caused payroll taxes to be withheld from employee paychecks for the Diocese, but did not pay the withheld funds over to the Internal Revenue Service. From 2013 through 2016, Franklin did the same thing at the Mount Calvary Cemetery Association.
As a result, the three Diocesan Entities later paid the IRS more than $2.7 million in withheld payroll taxes and the employer portion of the employment taxes that Franklin had caused not to be paid over. The Diocesan Entities also had to pay nearly $1 million in interest and penalties to the IRS that they otherwise would not have had to pay.
From 2008 to 2017 Franklin also embezzled $299,500 from the Diocesan Entities by preparing fraudulent checks to be issued to himself. For four tax years.
The court ordered Franklin to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution.
Federal Aviation Administration Employee Arrested For Using Confidential Information For Attempted Extortion Scheme – December 7, 2020
Brian Booth, an FAA employee, had access to information identifying persons who were previously authorized to exercise piloting or aircraft maintenance privileges in the United States, but who had their piloting or aircraft maintenance privileges revoked. Booth sent the names and addresses of certain of these individuals to the embassies of Germany, France, and the People’s Republic of China, demanding payment for the information. Booth does not appear to have obtained any money as a result of the scheme.
Visiting Chinese Professor At University of Texas Pleads Guilty To Lying To FBI About Stealing American Technology – December 4, 2020
A Chinese professor accused by U.S. prosecutors of helping steal American technology to benefit China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on Friday pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but is expected to be allowed to return home after prosecutors decided not to pursue a more serious charge.
The professor, Bo Mao, had been charged with conspiring to defraud Silicon Valley’s CNEX Labs and faced up to 20 years behind bars. He was a visiting professor at the University of Texas when he was arrested in August 2019.
Former Trucking Employee Charged With Embezzling $120,000+ From 2 Employers – December 3, 2020
Michelle Stein embezzled funds from her employers to pay for retail expenditures and personal loans. Stein first worked at St. Louis-based Midwest Systems where she was the company’s driver recruiter. Stein’s role required submitting invoices for reimbursement of driver recruitment expenses. Stein submitted false and fraudulent invoices to Midwest Systems for payments directed to Stein’s personal bank account. The company fired her on January 24, 2019.
On March 3, 2019, AA Express, Inc. hired Stein to conduct driver recruitment and oversee driver safety. From approximately March 2019 until August 2019, Stein made unauthorized Automated Clearing House transactions from the AA Express, Inc. business bank account and intercepted at least one check made payable to AA Express, Inc. by using her check signing privileges on the AA Express, Inc. bank account. Stein then directed the funds into her personal checking account. On August 10, 2019, Serth-Stein’s employment with AA Express, Inc. ended.
Stein embezzled approximately $120,804.57 from Midwest Systems and AA Express, Inc. without the knowledge or authorization of her employers.
Former Employee Pleads Guilty To Stealing $282,670 From Former Employer By Creating Fake Company – December 1, 2020
William Robinson was initially hired by the non-profit corporation in 2012 as a web developer. After multiple promotions, he became its Chief Technology Officer in 2015.
While working at the non-profit corporation, Robinson devised a scheme to defraud by creating Vulcan Network & Data Security, LLC (Vulcan) and arranging a contract for Vulcan to provide web security services to his non-profit corporation employer. Robinson then created false invoices on behalf of Vulcan and submitted them to his employer’s finance department, requesting payment for purported web security services, testing, and equipment. In reality, Vulcan never provided any services to the non-profit corporation, which was already paying a separate company for those services. From April 2017 to September 2019, Robinson submitted 13 false Vulcan invoices to his non-profit corporation employer. The non-profit corporation paid Vulcan a total of $282,670 for services never provided. Robinson received all of these funds and used them to pay for personal expenses.