Recently in Federal Crimes Category

October 11, 2013

Julio Cesar Luna, Oscar Segura, Jonna Leigh Kimla, Adolfo Ayala Jr., Raul Aaron Rios, Edgar Sanchez Segura, and Mike Lewis Ramirez Arrested in Okeechobee County, Florida Methamphetamine Bust

Julio Cesar Luna, Oscar Segura, Jonna Leigh Kimla, Adolfo Ayala Jr., Raul Aaron Rios, Edgar Sanchez Segura, and Mike Lewis Ramirez were arrested in an Okeechobee County, Florida methamphetamine bust on Monday, news sources report. Facing charges of possessing and trafficking methamphetamines are Luna, 28; Oscar Segura, 21; Kimla, 25; Ayala Jr., 22; Rios, 26; Edgar Segura, 26; and Ramirez, 26. Luna's bail was set at $1.4 million, Oscar Seguar's at $950,000, and Kimla's at $65,000. The remaining defendants are being held on $750,000 bail bond each. The press did not say whether the defendants have hired criminal defense attorneys.

Very little information regarding the defendants' arrests were made available at current press time. According to reports, the federal government, the Drug Enforcment Administration, the Okeechobee County Narcotics Task Force, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement contributed to the investigation that led to the arrests. The agents executed a DEA search warrant at 2828 Northwest 46 Avenue and 3573 Northwest 24 Avenue in Okeechobee as a result of the investigation.

The detectives allegedly seized an unspecified amount of methamphetamines at the two properties. In all, the drugs were purportedly worth $258,000. Luna, Segura, Kimla, Ayala Jr., Rios, Segura, and Ramirez appear to have been arrested at the locations were the drugs were found. Reports say an investigation is still open; it is too early to tell whether there will be more arrests.

"I'm very proud of the Narcotics Task Force, Special Response Team (SRT), and the many deputies that helped with this investigation," an Okeechobee County Sheriff spokesperson reportedly stated. "We intercepted this shipment before it could be distributed to our citizens. All the officers on this case did an outstanding job."

Methamphetamine is a crystalized and highly addictive drug that is made using a variety of chemicals, sometimes including that medicine pseudoephedrine. Side effects of the drug include weight loss, acne, sleeplessness, and, in some cases, death. Addicts will often go to great lengths, such as thefts, to feed their drug habit.

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September 16, 2013

AARON ALEXIS (PICTURE): Washington Navy Yard Shooter ID'd

According to a recent Fox News report, Aaron Alexis has been identified as the alleged Washington Navy Yard shooter. This is a developing story as law enforcement continues its investigation at the active crime scene in Washington, DC.Aaron Alexis picture.jpg Photo Credit: Fox News, FBI, AP

From a legal standpoint, there are a number of very crucial unanswered questions. For instance, is Aaron Alexis the dead shooter? Was he a member of the military? What was his motive?

Was this terror related, ideologically motivated, or are we talking about disgruntled employees?

If Aaron Alexis or any of the suspected shooters are members of the military, they will fall under the jurisdiction of the military courts. If they are civilians, they will fall under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Court because the murders and shootings took place on Federal property.

One key difference between the two jurisdictions is the use of the death penalty. Despite the recent imposition of a death sentence in the case of Army major Nidal Hasan, the military rarely imposes the death penalty. However, I suspect any case of mass murder, such as this one, would be a very likely candidate.

We will keep you posted as things develop.

September 9, 2013

Toby Lamm of Vero Beach, Florida Arrested for Unlawfully Importing Wildlife

Toby Lamm of Vero Beach, Florida was accused of unlawfully importing various fish, crab, and lobster in violation of state regulations, a press release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida indicates. Lamm, 46, was indicted on charges stemming from the illegal imports. It is unclear whether he was arrested. No defense attorney appears to have spoken out of Lamm's behalf yet.

According to reports, detectives working for the St. Lucie County Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission discovered that Lamm tried to import a variety of marine wildlife on June 23, 2013. The shipment apparently included "338 queen conch, 11 spiny lobster tails, 31 stone crab claws, and 140 pounds of Snapper and Grouper fillets. Based on the indictment, Lamm violated the possession limits for each of the species he attempted to import, mainly those set forth in part 10 of the Fisheries Resources Regulations. Prosecutors are purportedly seeking for Lam to forfeit some or all of the illegally imported goods.

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August 30, 2013

George Louis Theodule of Wellington, Florida Arrested for Wire Fraud

George Louis Theodule of Wellington, Florida was arrested Friday for organizing a Ponzi scheme that duped investors out of nearly $60 million, a press release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida indicates. Theodule, 52, was booked into police custody on 36 counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and one count of securities fraud. It was unclear whether he qualified for bail bond. The press did not say whether Theodule had obtained a defense attorney.

Little is known about Theodule's background. He allegedly told investors that he had 17 years of experience working as a successful stock trader. According to sources, however, Theodule did not make a good living as an investor and did not have any reported income between 2000 and 2007. Several years ago, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil lawsuit against Theodule and his businesses in an effort to put a halt to his "ongoing fraud," reports say. That effort appears to have been successful at stopping the alleged scheme.

The indictment says that the scheme operated from July 2007 and December 2008. According to reports, Theodule owned and operated two investment firms called Creative Capital Consortium and Creative Capital Concepts. Theodule created and organized the creation of "investment clubs" in the South Florida area and various other places throughout the U.S. The scheme primarily targeted the Haitian community, the indictment alleges. Theodule and his conspirators reportedly offered investors the opportunity to double their money in three months through the clubs.

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August 2, 2013

Edward McElhenny, Clinton Story, Angela Story, Paul Richardson, and Kelly McCartney, Vero Beach, Florida Residents, Arrested for Manufacturing Methamphetamine

Edward McElhenny, Clinton Story, Angela Story, Paul Richardson, and Kelly McCartney, all of Vero Beach, Florida, were arrested this week after they were accused of making methamphetamine at an area residence, a press release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida indicates. McElhenny, 50; Clinton, 20; Angela, 32; Richardson, 27; and McCartney, 36, were each booked into the Indian River County Jail on a charge of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. It is unclear whether the defendants have qualified for bail bond. News sources did not specify whether the defendants had obtained legal representation.

According to the federal indictment released on Wednesday, special agents with the Indian River County Sheriff's Office and the Multi-Agency Criminal Enforcement Unit began investigating allegations of a methamphetamine lab at 1913 22nd Avenue in Vero Beach in late April. The indictment did not say what precursors led the investigators to that home.

On May 9, 2013, agents with the DEA-Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team reportedly executed a search warrant at the Vero Beach home. Inside, agents located Clinton, McElhenny, Richardson, and Angela, the indictment says. The agents detained the four defendants and reportedly questioned them about their role in the alleged meth manufacturing. Based on the indictment, Clinton, Angela, and Richardson confessed to buying pseudoephedrine for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine is sold in drugstores as a treatment for sinus-related allergy symptoms, but it can also be used to produce methamphetamine. It is most widely known by its brand name, Sudafed.

The agents conducted a thorough search of the home and the surrounding property, the indictment says. Agents reportedly located a laboratory equipped with precursor chemicals and laboratory equipment, all of which appeared be "utilized in and comprised a fully operational methamphetamine laboratory," the indictment alleges. Agents reportedly called in a fingerprint specialist, who pulled fingerprints from the various pieces of lab equipment. The indictment claims those fingerprints matched those of Clinton, McCartney, and McElhenny. In addition, McElhenny reportedly told the agents that he had produced methamphetamine on previous occasions.

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July 29, 2013

Daniel Carrasco, Federico Martin Gioja, and Romino Tasso, Miramar, Florida Businessmen, Indicted on Charges of Fraud

Daniel Carrasco, Federico Martin Gioja, and Romino Tasso, Miramar, Florida businessmen, were just indicted on charges of fraud, extortion, and conspiracy, a press release by the Federal Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida indicates. The defendants are accused of telling customers that their companies were Spanish-speaking television station affiliate to defraud customers. Carrasco, 54, and Gioja, 45, were originally charged in late June; it is unclear whether Tasso has been apprehended. It is also not yet known whether Carrasco and Gioja have qualified for bail bond. The press did not specify an defense attorney for any of the defendants.

According to reports, Carrasco and Gioja operated companies that purported to be affiliates with Univision, a Spanish-speaking television network. From their companies, Carrasco and Gioja would offer customers the opportunity to buy numerous products, including vitamins, lotions, medical insurance and English-language training products, the indictment alleges. The defendants did not have most of the products they were offering, and would instead send customers products different than what was ordered, reports say. These sales were purportedly accomplished through a telemarking service based in Argentina.

When customers received the incorrect products, they would sometimes refuse to accept the packages and file complaints against the defendants' companies. In return, the telemarketers allegedly told customers that if they did not pay they would face consequences such as deportation, arrest, or even fines on their gas and electric bills. None of the threats were legitimate, sources say. After one of Carrasco and Gioja's companies received too many complaints, the defendants would declare the company "burnt" and start a new company that practiced the same type of scam, the indictment claims.

"These defendants specifically targeted Spanish-speaking victims, pretending to be affiliated with Univision, to sell their products from their phone room in Argentina, when in fact, they had absolutely no connection to Univision, and their companies did not deliver the products consumers ordered," a U.S. Attorney spokesperson for the Southern District of Florida said. It is not clear just how many people became victims of the purported scam, nor is it known whether a class-action lawsuit may ensue.

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July 18, 2013

Roger Rousseau, Doris Crabtree, Angela Salafia, Liliana Marks, Ruben Busquets, Alina Fonts, and Blanca Ruiz, Miami-Dade County, Florida Health Care Professionals, Arrested for Medicare Fraud

Roger Rousseau, Doris Crabtree, Angela Salafia, Liliana Marks, Ruben Busquets, Alina Fonts, and Blanca Ruiz, all Miami-Dade County, Florida health care professionals, were arrested Tuesday after they were accused of participating in a scheme to defraud Medicare out of millions of dollars, a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida indicates. Rousseau, 71; Crabtree, 61; Salafia, 65; Marks, 46; Busquets, 49; Fonts, 47; and 59-year-old Ruiz all face charges of conspiring to commit health care fraud. Fonts faces two additional counts of health care fraud, while Crabtree, Salafia, Marks and Busquets face two additional counts of making false statements related to health care matters. Rousseau has since been released after posting a $375,000 bail bond amount. The other defenendants also qualified for bail bond. It is unclear whether all of the defendants have obtained lawyers.

According to reports, Rousseau, a medical doctor, and the defendants, all therapists, once worked for Armando "Manny" Gonzalez, who owned and operated Health Care Solutions Network in Florida. Based on reports, Gonzalez was once convicted of trafficking cocaine and opened two mental-health clinics, one in Cutler Bay and the other in Kendall, in the early 2000s. He allegedly opened these clinics as a way to defraud Medicare. Several years later, he relocated to North Carolina, where he opened an additional clinic. Gonzalez was later apprehended on charges of Medicare fraud that had occurred within his businesses. In February, Gonzalez was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he pled guilty to those charges.

Based on reports, Rousseau worked as a medical director at Health Care Solutions Network. Crabtree, Salafia, Marks, Busquets, Fonts, and Ruiz served as therapists at the clinics. At that clinic, Rousseau "routinely signed what he knew to be fabricated and altered medical records without ever reviewing the materials, and, in most instances, without ever meeting with the patient," the federal indictment says.

In addition, the indictment claims Crabtree, Salafia, Marks, Busquets, Fonts and Ruiz "fabricated HCSN medical records to support false and fraudulent claims for partial hospitalization program services that were not medically necessary and were not provided." Many of the patients who did receive therapy at the clinic allegedly suffered from diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, ailments that do not respond well to therapy. In all, reports say the illegal operation started by Gonzalez netted $63 million in fraudulent funds from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. Of that money, the indictment claims "HCSN allegedly received payments totaling approximately $28 million."

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July 17, 2013

Patrick J. Mansell of Boca Raton, Florida Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud

Patrick J. Mansell of Boca Raton, Florida was indicted late last week for illegally siphoning funds from government lending agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through the company Coastal State Mortgage Corporation, a press release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida indicates. It is unclear whether Mansell, 68, was jailed or, if so, whether he has qualified for a set bail bond amount. The press did not specify an attorney for Mansell.

According to reports, Mansell was once the vice president of Coastal State Mortgage Corporation in Fort Lauderdale. The corporation reportedly serviced loans for various people and businesses, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored agencies. According to the indictment, from a period between April 2007 and February 2012, "Coastal was a licensed mortgage brokerage whose primary business activity was the selling and servicing of mortgage loans for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae." Part of Coastal's duties included processing and payments and payoffs on those loans for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Sources say Coastal serviced around 21,000 loans for each of the companies, including around 14,000 loans with Fannie Mae alone.

The release claims that "Coastal failed to remit some of the mortgage loan payoffs that it received from borrowers to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, resulting in a loss to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae." According to a complaint by Fannie May, the losses it suffered from Coastal have not been completely determined, though it is suspect to be more than $28 million. A lawsuit was filed in November by the Federal National Mortgage Association, an associate of Fannie Mae, against Costal for fraud and a breach of contract. The lawsuit sets out to recover "tens of millions of dollars in mortgage loan payoffs and other borrower-remitted funds that Coastal and Mansell wrongfully and fraudulently misappropriated for their own use," sources say.

Based on reports, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation revoked Coastal State Mortgage Corporation's business license in August of last year after the company was revealed to be in a compromising financial position. No one from Coastal State Corp made a comment regarding the allegations. It is not clear whether anyone else at Coastal State Corp is suspected to have been involved in the alleged theft.

While some crimes are federal offenses that can mean serious jail time, others are shocking in a different way. Andrew Wilson of Sunshine Villas was arrested Wednesday after he was accused of walking around a neighborhood stark naked for about 20 minutes, news sources report. Wilson, 35, was booked into police custody on charges stemming from the incident. It is unclear whether he qualified for bail or hired legal representation.

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July 16, 2013

Kevin Porter, Thomas Mickey Tuner, Alan James Ender, Dozens of Others Arrested in Florida Child Porn Sweep

Kevin Porter, Thomas Mickey Tuner, Alan James Ender, and over 50 others were arrested in Florida as part of a nationwide operation targeting online child sex offenders and illicit porn traffickers, a press release by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations announced recently. Porter, 26, of Melbourne, faces charges of distribution and possession of child pornography; Turner, 65, of Daytona Beach, faces charges of failure to properly register as a sex offender and possession of child pornography; Ender, whose age and place of residence were not specified, was booked into police custody on unspecified charges. It was not immediately clear whether the defendants qualified for bail bond. The press did not specify a defense attorney for the defendants.

According to reports, the arrests were part of a nationwide investigation dubbed "Operation iGuardian" that targeted child pornographers, suspects attempting to entice children online, and suspects who download and share child pornography over the internet. The investigation was orchestrated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, who released information on Monday. "Our ultimate goal is to protect children in the digital age," a spokesperson for the operation reportedly said.

Sources say the investigation ran from May 28 to June 30. During that time, investigators searched for children who were being exploited by predators over the internet, as well as the persons who were abusing them, reports indicate. Throughout the country, the operation has so far netted 255 arrests of suspects accused of being child predators. A spokesperson from HIS also said the operation has identified 61 victims, three of whom are from Florida. Reports say the victims ranged in age from three years old to late teens. At least four of the victims were under the age of three, sources indicate.

According to reports, out of the 61 victims identified, 24 had been in contact with predators online who had sexually exploited them. "We need to talk to our children about the good and the bad of the internet. We need to teach them how to protect themselves from online predators," An HSI spokesperson was quoted as saying in reports. "If they are exploited online, they should report it. There are dedicated law enforcement officers and special agents who will do something about it."

Porter was one of 58 Florida suspects arrested as part of the operation, reports say. While the details surrounding Porter's arrest are still unclear, sources say a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of distributing and possessing child pornography. Porter has since been arrested and is awaiting trial.

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July 12, 2013

Richard Calderoni of Tampa, Florida Arrested for Disturbing the Peace

Richard Calderoni of Tampa, Florida was arrested Saturday after he allegedly acted belligerently aboard a flight to Key West, news sources report. Calderoni, 50, was booked into police custody on charges of disturbing the peace. The press did not say whether Calderoni qualified for bail bond. It is also unclear whether he has enlisted the help of a defense attorney.

According to reports, the incident occurred on Sunday aboard a Silver Airways flight to Key West. It is not known how many passengers were aboard the plane. Reports say the flight attendants asked Calderoni numerous times to power off his electronics, but that Calderoni reportedly refused. At some point, Calderoni also became irate and loud and used offensive language while speaking to the flight attendants. It should be noted that airplane passengers are required by federal law to cooperate with flight attendants.

At one point, Calderoni allegedly blocked a flight attendant from proceeding down the aisle by sticking his legs into the aisle area. Calderoni then allegedly told the attendant that she "must be miserable in her job." When the attendant looked at Calderoni, reports say he appeared as though he was masturbating over his clothing.

Due to the disturbance, the pilot nearly decided to turn the flight around, but figured it was not in the passengers' best interests, according to reports. After the plane landed, officers came aboard and placed Calderoni under arrest. Sources say that some of the passengers cheered as Calderoni as arrested; several passengers later reported feeling uncomfortable and even scared because of Calderoni's behavior during the flight, sources say. So far, Silver Airways has remained mum regarding the incident and the subsequent arrest.

Some disruptive behavior occurs right on the ground. Jeri Cox of Orlando was arrested Monday after she was accused of drunkenly crashing her SUV into a concrete pole, reports say. Two passengers, including Cox's 7-year-old child, were reportedly in the vehicle at the time; sources do not specify whether either party was injured. Cox was booked into the Orange County Jail on charges of child neglect, DUI while accompanied by a minor, leaving the scene of accident with property damage, and refusal to submit to a DUI test. It is unclear whether she qualified for bail or hired legal representation.

According to reports, the incident occurred around 11:00 Monday evening. After a day of eating waffles and drinking wine at Lake Eola Park, Cox allegedly climbed behind the wheel of her SUV with her mother in the passenger's seat and her child in the back seat. The child was reportedly in a car seat, though the seat was not properly secured. Cox drove to 7-Eleven, where a pedestrian had to dive out of the way of her SUV right before it struck a concrete pole, sources indicate.

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July 10, 2013

Stanley R. Simms of Sunrise, Florida Charged with Possession of Child Pornography

Stanley R. Simms of Sunrise, Florida had a warrant issued for his arrest recently after he was accused of downloading child pornography, news sources report. Simms, 47, is also wanted for questioning regarding a sexual assault case. Reports say Simms has not yet been apprehended. It is unclear whether Simms has heard of the arrest warrant and, if so, whether he has hired a criminal defense lawyer.

According to reports, Simms was identified during an online investigation targeting child pornography users on a file sharing network. Reports say detectives discovered an internet protocol address that had downloaded an unspecified amount of child porn (an IP address functions as an identifier for Internet users and is unique to each internet subscriber).

Reports say detectives issued a subpoena to Comcast, an Internet service provider, for information regarding the IP address's owner. Detectives then learned that the IP address was connected to Simms's home in Sunrise, reports say. On June 7, detectives issued a federal arrest warrant against Simms. However, that same day, Simms was seen leaving his home on East Aragon Boulevard on foot and has not been seen since.

Sources say the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also searching for Simms regarding a sexual assault case in Broward County from December 2012. The details of that case are sketchy; however, sources say the anonymous victim may have been drugged during the assault. It is unclear what role Simms might have played in the case.

Reports say Simms may be driving a green and gray BMW or a purple pickup truck and is a regular at adult entertainment clubs in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties, according to the press. "We want to get him off the streets," a police spokesperson said. "What we're asking is that if there's someone out there who has information on where he is, please call the FBI, call the local police. Don't approach him yourself." It is not known whether Simms has a criminal record.

While child pornography is a sexual form of child abuse, not all threats to children are of a lewd nature. Richard D. Rice of Naples was arrested this past week after he allegedly dumped gasoline onto the street near children lighting fireworks, then tipped a man's wheelchair over, reports say. Rice, 72, was booked into police custody on charges of abuse of an elderly or disabled adult without great harm. He was later released after he posted a $10,000 bail bond. It is unclear whether Rice has obtained legal representation.

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July 9, 2013

Dr. Vijay Chowdary, Jason Boyd, Jason Rodriguez, Harish Chowdary, Amanda Bozer, Nestor Merces, and Hector Bruno Indicted in Broward County, Florida Pill Mill Bust

Dr. Vijay Chowdary, Jason Boyd, Jason Rodriguez, Harish Chowdary, Amanda Bozer, Nestor Merces, and Hector Bruno were indicted in a Broward County, Florida pill mill investigation on Wednesday, a press release by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida indicates. Vijay Chowdary, 69, of Boca Raton; Boyd, 43, of Davie; Rodriguez, 36, of Fort Lauderdale; Harish Chowdary, 64, of Fort Lauderdale; Amanda Bozer, 34, of Fort Lauderdale; Hector Bruno, 35, of Pembroke Pines; and Nestor Merces, Jr., 35, of New York are facing multiple charges, including conspiracy to distribute, dispense and possess controlled substances and money laundering. It is unclear whether the defendants have qualified for bail bond or hired lawyers.

According to reports, the defendants operated Intracoastal Medical Groups, Inc., a medical clinic that is located on Intercostal Drive in Fort Lauderdale. The clinic was allegedly opened by Jason Boyd until 2012, when new legislation was put in place requiring pain clinic owners to hold a medical license. At that point, Dr. Chowdary allegedly took over as the official owner of the clinic.

Reports say detectives have been investigating suspicions that the clinic has been operating as a pill mill 18 months. During that investigation, detectives learned that, since October 2010, Dr. Chowdary had been writing narcotic prescriptions to patients after only brief visits, the release states. A DEA spokesperson commented on the case, saying, "This is a text book example of an illegal prescription drug trafficking organization. These rogue doctors and greedy drug dealers tried to make a pill mill look like a legitimate business. The days of profiting from these crimes have come to an end for these seven defendants. The diversion of pharmaceutical drugs remains a priority for the DEA and our law enforcement partners in South Florida. We will stay committed to ridding our communities of those who look to become rich from the diversion of powerful prescription medications.

The indictment says that Chowdary would agree "to prescribe oxycodone and other controlled substances to patients without regard to medical necessity, with only a cursory physical examination of the patient." In some cases, dealers or others would reportedly drive many miles to the clinic to procure large portions of prescription narcotics, including oxycodone.

To keep their pill mill clinic from being detected, the indictment alleges that the defendants "created and used a number of false documents," including Florida identification cards to make it appear as though out-of-state patients lived in Florida and false MRI reports. In certain cases, the defendants allegedly threw out urinalysis results that showed some patients had been consuming cocaine and similar narcotics. It is not clear from the indictment what role each defendant, other than Dr. Chowdary, played in the alleged scheme.

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July 3, 2013

Mitchell Berman, Robert Gallo, and Steven Axelrod, South Florida Businessmen, Arrested for Fraud

Mitchell Berman of Boca Raton, Robert Gallo and Coconut Creek, and Steven Axelrod of Wellington were all arrested Friday after they were accused of misrepresenting business opportunities to customers for over a decade, news sources report. Berman, 54, Gallo, 52, and Axelrod, 69, were all booked into jail on charges of mail fraud conspiracy, federal mail fraud, and criminal contempt of court. Berman faces an additional charge of criminal contempt of court. It is unclear whether the defendants qualified for bail bond. The press did not specify a lawyer for any of them.

According to reports, from 2000 to October 2011, Berman and Gallo ran a string of coffee companies one after the other out of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties: Royal Gourmet Coffee, Selective Services Business, Cambridge Coffee, South Beach Coffee, and Best Gourmet Coffee. The three defendants reportedly worked as salespersons, offering potential customers the opportunity to buy coffee display racks.

Reports say customers were asked to put forward a minimum of $10,000 for the business opportunities. The defendants allegedly told customers they could possibly make "substantial profits" and were offered assistance in selecting the best locations to make the most out of their investment. However, "Purchasers made little to no money on their investments, were unable to find profitable locations or accounts, and were not provided the support promised by defendants," reports say.

When customers invariably began to complain, the defendants allegedly closed down one coffee rack business and immediately opened another under a new name. The defendants allegedly tried to hide their involvement in the companies by using pseudonyms. Berman sometimes went by the alias Brian Griffin; Gallo used several aliases, including Vincent Pastone and Bobby Marion; Axelrod sometimes used the alias Michael Hutton, reports say.

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July 2, 2013

Eric P. Pedersen and Serdar Ercan, Owners of Key Marine, Inc., Indicted for Poaching

Eric P. Pedersen and Serdar Ercan, owners of Key Marine Inc., were Indicted Friday after they were accused of selling illegally collected sea life, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Florida. Pedersen, 51, and Ercan, 42, are charges with conspiracy to harvest, transport, and sell a variety of local sea wildlife. It is unclear whether the defendants were arrested or, if so, whether they qualified for bail bond. It is also unclear whether either of the defendants had hired an attorney.

According to the press release, the defendants are co-owners of Key Marine Inc. in Grassy Key. Key Marine Inc., which is also listed in the indictment as a defendant, deals in the sale and trade of live sea creatures, sources indicate. So far, it is unclear how these allegations have affected the day-to-day operations at Key Marine. The business and its president, Andrea Ercan, appear to have remained mum regarding the indictment. If the defendants are found guilty of the charges, Key Marine Inc. could face a fine of up to $500,000, or twice the gross monetary gain the defendants made from the illegal captures. In addition, the defendants could each face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars, reports indicate.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration enacted the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act and the National Marine Sanctuary Act into law in January 1997. These acts prohibit the capturing, removal, or injury to coral and/or live rock. Despite this, reports say between October 2010 and February 2011, the defendants collected rare and protected sea creatures from the local waters. Sources say Pedersen and Ercan did not have permits or licenses to collect most of the species, which were sometimes attached to live rock. These species included sea fans, lemon sharks, bonnethead sharks, and nurse sharks, according to the release. In addition, the indictment accuses the defendants of exceeding the legal amounts they were entitled to take of certain creatures.

The defendants were allegedly aware that their actions were illegal. The press release states that "The defendants engaged in the day to day business of collecting, exporting, and selling in interstate and foreign commerce various species of marine life, including Live Rock and attached invertebrates ... knowing that the marine life was taken and intended to be sold in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida."

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July 1, 2013

Daniel Carrasco and Federico Martin Gioja of Miramar, Florida Arrested for Telemarketing Fraud

Daniel Carrasco and Federico Martin Gioja of Miramar, Florida were arrested Wednesday after they were accused of running a Spanish-speaking telemarketing fraud operation, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Florida. Carrasco and Gioja were booked into the Broward County Main Jail on multiple federal fraud charges. It was not known at press time whether the defendants qualified for bail bond. Reports did not specify whether either the defendants had hired a defense lawyer.

According to the press release, Carrasco and Gioja bother operated companies that fraudulently claimed to be a partner of Univision, a Spanish-language TV network; Univision got wind of the scheme and told police, resulting in the investigation. Sources say the defendants changed the names of these companies regularly to avoid detection, referring to names that had been used for too long and riddled with customer complaints as "burnt." Some of these rotating names reportedly included Danmar Investments Group, Cargio Investments, Sial Inc., Brasan Inc., Amlab, and American Trading and Sales Corp. All of the companies, despite the name changes, allegedly continued with the same illegal practices. Detectives have since filed a restraining order that shut down the offending businesses.

Reports say the defendants' businesses hired telemarketers from Argentina, working out of a phone room located in that country, to contact potential victims. Those telemarketers, using the guise that they were affiliated with Univision, would allegedly claim to be selling products such as medical insurance, vitamins, lotions, and English language learning tools. The release did not mention where the operation acquired their telephone numbers.

The defendants allegedly did not have most of the products they promised to customers and would send other products instead. Customers, once they received the wrong order, would often refuse the shipment. The telemarketers would then use questionable techniques to get the customers to pay, threatening utility bill fines, phony arrest warrants, or even deportation. In one instance, a telemarketer allegedly told a victim that if she did not pay $479 for vitamins, she would be slapped with a $5,000 lawsuit. Gioja reportedly approved of these tactics on some occasions, referring to intimidating customers with a fine as a "healthy squeeze" in email communications.

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