Best Defender Bytes: Crime after Crime

October 31, 2016

Two Los Angeles-Area Men Among Those Charged in Scheme to Smuggle $3 Million in Military Aircraft Parts and Defense Items to Iran

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – Two Los Angeles-area men have been arrested on federal charges for their alleged role in a scheme to smuggle military aircraft parts and other potential defense items to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR).

Zavik Zargarian, 52, of Glendale, and Vache Nayirian, 57, of Lakeview Terrace, were taken into custody Wednesday morning by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The men are among five defendants charged in a nine-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday that details a conspiracy to purchase and ship jet fighter aircraft parts worth more than $3 million to Iran.

Additionally, several of the defendants are accused of buying and illegally exporting fluorocarbon rubber O-rings to Iran. The O-rings in question have a variety of possible military applications including use in aircraft hydraulic systems and landing gear.

Also named in the indictment are Zargarian’s Glendale-based company, ZNC Engineering, and two Iranian nationals, Hanri Terminassian, 55, and Hormoz Nowrouz, 56, both of whom are believed to be in Iran.

The charges stem from a lengthy undercover probe spearheaded by HSI, with substantial assistance provided by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).


Four Charged after Ton of Marijuana Seized from Boat in Long Beach

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

LOS ANGELES – Four Southern California men were charged yesterday with a federal drug trafficking offense in relation to the seizure of approximately one ton of marijuana that was discovered Tuesday on a 30-foot fishing boat in Long Beach. The interdiction represents the third major local maritime smuggling incident in the last month and brings the total amount of marijuana seized to over three tons.

Omar Quintero, 28, of Los Angeles, Miguel Angel Quintero Jr., 38, also of Los Angeles; Eliasib Ventura, 34, of Alhambra; and Jonathan Ventura, 31, of Pomona, were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon and were named in a one-count criminal complaint filed yesterday in United States District court. The four defendants made their initial appearances late Wednesday before United States Magistrate Judge Alka Sagar, who ordered the detention of three of the men and ordered the release of Omar Quintero on a $50,000 bond. All four defendants are scheduled to be arraigned next month.

The four men were arrested Tuesday afternoon after officers with the Long Beach Police Department’s Port Police Division alerted Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force (LA BEST) investigators that they had spotted a truck that was the subject of an LA BEST lookout. The truck was hooked to a fishing boat on a trailer at the South Shores launch ramp in Long Beach. LA BEST investigators, including special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), responded to the launch ramp area, searched the vessel and found bundles of marijuana inside, according to court documents.

If the four defendants are convicted of conspiracy with the intent to distribute marijuana, each would face a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.


Pennsylvania Man Sentenced Today to 18 Months in Federal Prison for Hacking Apple and Google E-Mail Accounts Belonging to More Than 100 People, Including Many Celebrities

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

LOS ANGELES – A Pennsylvania man was sentenced today on felony computer hacking charges related to his illegal access of over 100 Apple and Google e-mail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sentenced in United States District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to 18 months in federal prison for a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He was taken into custody immediately after sentencing.

Collins pled guilty in May to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. Collins was originally charged in Los Angeles, but the parties agreed to transfer the case to Harrisburg in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, near Collins’ home, for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing.

The case against Collins stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014, known as “Celebgate.” Investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained, however.

“Hackers violate federal law whenever they access private information stored online and in digital devices,” said Eileen M. Decker, United States Attorney for the Central District of California. “Today people store important private information online and in their digital devices, which is why my office is deeply committed to holding hackers accountable, even when they do not sell or distribute the stolen data.”


October 28, 2016

Former CEO of Hollywood Payroll Company Convicted for Tax Fraud Conspiracy

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

RIVERSIDE, California – The former CEO of Axium International, Inc., a leading Hollywood payroll services company until its 2008 collapse, was convicted late yesterday afternoon of tax evasion, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and filing a false tax return.

John Visconti, 74, of Beverly Hills, was convicted by a federal jury following a one-week trial. United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal, who presided over Visconti’s trial, set sentencing for Visconti on January 23, 2017.

Axium was one of the largest payroll services companies serving the entertainment industry, and its clients included a list of high profile studios, Fortune 500 companies, television and cable companies, and media outlets. At its height, Axium’s gross revenues were well over $1 billion per year.

As the payroll services provider and employer of record for its client entities, Axium regularly submitted payroll tax returns to the IRS and to the taxing authorities of several states. In several instances, those tax returns generated refunds in six-figure dollar amounts. Axium collapsed in 2008, after revelations that its tax delinquencies exceeded $100 million and that, as a result, Axium’s lender foreclosed on its bank accounts. Axium’s tax delinquencies resulted in the IRS assessing a recovery penalty against Visconti of $15 million.


German Shipping Corporations Convicted of Environmental Crimes

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

Two German shipping companies that owned and operated the Motor Vessel (M/V) Nils B, pleaded guilty today to an environmental crime in federal court in San Diego before the Honorable Jan M. Adler, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden and United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy.

W. Bockstiegel Reederei GmbH  & Co. KG (which operated the vessel) and W. Bockstiegel GmbH & Co. Reederei KG MS “NILS B” (which owned the vessel), pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships for failing to accurately maintain an oil record book for the M/V Nils B.  In doing so, the firms failed to disclose that oil contaminated water had been discharged into the ocean from the vessel without the use of pollution prevention equipment.

According to the plea agreement, on August 5, 2014, personnel from the United States Coast Guard boarded the vessel after its entry into the Port of San Diego, California.  Once onboard, the Coast Guard discovered that the crew had failed to keep an oil record book for a significant period of time, modifications had been made to piping coming from the oil water separator and oil was discovered in discharge piping that should not have been present.

The defendants acknowledged that Coast Guard examiners took oil samples from the oil water separator’s overboard discharge valve and from the vessel’s sludge tank and the samples from the two locations matched.  Under U.S. and international law, sludge is never to be discharged through an oil water separator.  The Coast Guard also discovered a black hose near the oil water separator that contained oil slightly weathered light fuel oil mixed with lubricating oil.  In the industry, such a hose is known as a “magic hose.”  The defendants, in pleading guilty, admitted that the oil record book on board the vessel did not disclose any discharges of sludge between the time that the overboard discharge valve had been cleaned while the vessel was in dry dock in June of 2014 and its entry into the Port of San Diego in August.


San Jacinto Man Affiliated with Riverside Gang Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison for Methamphetamine Trafficking

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

LOS ANGELES – A San Jacinto man affiliated with the Riverside San Jacinto First Street gang was sentenced to a decade in prison yesterday for his role in methamphetamine trafficking.

Luis Miguel Castro, aka “Fat Boy,” 27, was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who found that Castro was affiliated with the gang.

Castro pled guilty earlier this year to possession with the intent to distribute three large plastic bags containing over a half-pound of methamphetamine, approximately 1,080 days of daily personal use.

“Criminal street gangs continue to sell dangerous drugs as a major source of revenue, so the Department of Justice will continue to attack these gangs by seeking imprisonment for drug-traffickers affiliated with them,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The convictions and sentences in this case demonstrate how cooperation between state and federal law enforcement can bring positive results for a community.”

In its sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said, “Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and harmful controlled substance that wreaks havoc on communities across the country.” Prosecutors also argued that Castro was a member of the San Jacinto First Street gang.


October 27, 2016

Bank Loan Officer Who Demanded Kickbacks as Part of Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme Sentenced to Federal Prison

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES – A former loan officer at Broadway Federal Bank who took more than $350,000 in kickbacks in exchange for considering mortgage applications submitted by churches in relation to a fraud scheme that resulted in losses of at least $4.2 million was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison.

Paul Ryan, 49, of Torrance, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge S. James Otero. In addition to the prison term, Judge Otero ordered Ryan to pay $353,925 in restitution to Broadway Federal Bank.

Ryan pleaded guilty in 2014 to one count of receiving bribes and rewards as a bank employee. During the time Ryan worked at the bank, from early 2007 until March 2010, the bank paid rebates to brokers who brought loans applications to the bank. Ryan “demanded from the brokers that all or part of that rebate amount be paid to him…intending to be rewarded and influenced in his processing and approval of these church loans,” according to the sentencing memorandum filed with the court.

Ryan worked with brokers and provided a template for presenting financial information for the churches that ensured the loan applications would be approved. Based on the false information concerning the financial status of the churches, Broadway Federal Bank issued loans to the churches.

“This bank insider accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in a scheme that led his employer to suffer millions of dollars in losses,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “After investigators began looking into the scheme, Ryan encouraged another bank employee to lie about the fraudulent loan applications, which further complicated but did not deter this investigation.”


Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorney Pleads Guilty to Willfully Failing to File Tax Returns

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

LOS ANGELES – A Santa Barbara-based criminal defense attorney has pled guilty to three counts of willfully failing to file tax returns and has also admitted, in his plea agreement, to willfully failing to pay his taxes for those three years as well as several additional years, costing the IRS $679,958.

Darryl W. Genis, 60, pleaded guilty this morning to willfully failing to file tax returns for his law practice for the years 2009, 2010, and 2011, federal misdemeanors.

Genis admitted that he made enough money in his law practice to require that he file tax returns in those years, but that he knowingly and intentionally chose to not file his tax returns despite his legal obligation to do so. Genis also admitted that he did not pay the full amount of taxes that he owed for the years 2005-2012.

“As an attorney this defendant had a heightened responsibility to follow the law, and instead he cheated the IRS and every law-abiding taxpayer in the country,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Today’s guilty pleas will deprive the defendant of the fruits of his crimes and send a message that everyone must pay their taxes.”


Orange County Man Pleads Guilty to Flying Private Jet with Passengers Onboard Without Having Properly Issued FAA License

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

LOS ANGELES – An Irvine man pleaded guilty today in federal court to charges of illegally flying on two separate occasions turbo-jet powered aircraft with passengers onboard without having a valid license.

Arnold Gerald Leto III, 36, pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment that charged Leto with violations of a federal statute that prohibits the knowing piloting of an aircraft without having the requisite “airman certificate.”

According to his plea agreement, in January 2015, Leto piloted a Cessna Citation aircraft from Santa Monica to Phoenix, and, in April 2016, Leto piloted a Falcon 10 turbo-jet aircraft from Van Nuys Airport to Las Vegas. On both of those occasions, Leto piloted the aircraft with passengers onboard knowing that he did not have the requisite airman certificate to pilot that aircraft.

“Federal laws regarding the operation of passenger aircraft protect the public,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Today’s guilty pleas demonstrate that the defendant willfully disregarded the rules and regulations of the FAA and operated jet aircraft, thereby endangering the passengers on board and the safety of the communities of Santa Monica, Van Nuys, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and everywhere in between.”


October 26, 2016

Imposter Attorney, 2 Others Arrested in Immigration Fraud Scam

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES — An Inland Empire man who allegedly posed as an immigration attorney and two female accomplices face a federal indictment charging them with operating an immigration fraud scheme in which they created phony employment visas and other bogus documents for foreign nationals who were seeking a way to remain in the United States legally.

Alexander Smirnoff, who also went by the name “Alex Scott,” 48, and his “legal assistants” – Ekaterina Vladimirovna Zamurueva, 28, and Anna Kirillovna Solodovnikova, 29 – were arrested late last week by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) at the residence they share in Corona.

The three defendants were charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on August 16. The indictment, which was unsealed following the defendants’ arrests, charges them with conspiracy, visa fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and identification fraud.

The trio was arraigned on the indictment Friday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. At the arraignment, United States Magistrate Judge Karen L. Stevenson ordered Smirnoff released on a $50,000 appearance bond subject to electronic monitoring and restriction to his residence and both Zamurueva and Soldovnikova detained without bail. Trial in the matter was scheduled for December 13.

According to court documents, Smirnoff and the two women told prospective clients they operated a consulting firm called ABC Flex, which purported to offer “legal support” to foreign nationals wanting to obtain immigration benefits that would enable them to stay in the U.S. For fees as high as $8,000, the services offered by the defendants allegedly included creating phony employment visas, which they told clients were genuine.


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