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Former Construction Company Dispatcher Charged with Accepting Kickbacks June 14, 2010

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HULON EUGENE PARSONS, a/k/a GENE PARSONS, JR., a resident of Hammond, Louisiana, was charged today in a one count bill of information with illegally accepting kickbacks from a subcontractor in connection with a federal contract.

According to court documents, the defendant was employed by a construction company headquartered in New Orleans which had agreed to perform asphalt work on the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Belle Chasse, located in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. That company held a subcontract under a prime contract awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast, an agency of the Department of the Navy. As a trucking dispatcher for his employer, PARSONS’ job duties included deciding which trucking companies would be awarded trucking business in connection with various public works projects, specifically asphalt road projects, of his employer. A cooperating individual reported to law enforcement that he owned a trucking business and he had made cash payments to PARSONS over at least 10 years to ensure that he would continue to be awarded trucking business. When the individual ceased making such payments, the frequency and amount of trucking work awarded to that individual greatly decreased.

Court documents reflect that the individual, using money furnished to him by law enforcement for that purpose, then offered cash payments to PARSONS to obtain and reward favorable treatment in connection with trucking work awarded to him on the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Belle Chasse subcontract. The bill of information charges that PARSONS accepted a total of $900 in cash payments on three occasions from September through November, 2009.

Man Indicted for Making Threatening Phone Calls to Congressman June 14, 2010

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A federal grand jury in Tucson returned a one count indictment against Justin M. Hayes of Phoenix, for a violation of threatening to assault, kidnap, and murder officials or employees of the United States.

The indictment alleges that on April 23, 2010, Haynes called Congressman Raul Grijalva’s office located in Tucson and threatened to come down and “blow the brains out” of the Congressman and his staff members. Haynes claimed he was angry over Congressman Grijalva’s position on immigration issues.

Quick plea in Atlantic City ballot fraud case is a good deal October 19, 2009

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New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram announced last week that a worker for the unsuccessful 2009 mayoral campaign of Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small pleaded guilty to engaging in fraud involving messenger absentee ballots during the June Democratic primary.
Ronald Harris of Atlantic City, pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree conspiracy to commit absentee ballot fraud before Superior Court Judge Robert Neustadter in Atlantic County.  Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Harris be sentenced to a term of probation, conditioned upon him serving up to 364 days in the Atlantic County Jail. He may face a fine of up to $15,000.  I doubt he’ll do any jail time.

Harris was charged in a 10-count state grand jury indictment returned on Sept. 3, which also charged Councilman Small and 12 other campaign workers and operatives. The indictment resulted from an investigation led by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit.

In pleading guilty, Harris admitted that he conspired with others involved in Small’s mayoral campaign to submit false documents related to the procurement, casting, or tabulation of messenger absentee ballots in the Democratic primary in Atlantic City.

This seems like a pretty good deal as it keeps him out of prison and I doubt he’ll see any time.

Undercover operation results in arrests of 8 unregistered contractors August 28, 2009

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 “Operation Hammer Time,”  as the sting was called, operated out of a house in Brick, which is owned by Brick Township.  Between February and July, prosecutor’s Sgt. Kimberly Milana posed as a woman who wanted to renovate the property.  Investigators targeted unregistered home-improvement contractors who advertised their services.

Milana asked them to go to the Brick house to give her estimates for various work on the house.  In New Jersey, home improvement contractors must be registered with the state Division of Consumer Affairs. Failure to register is a fourth-degree crime which carries a potential prison term of 18 months.

The contractors charged in indictments with being unregistered are: David Nichols, of Lakewood; Thomas J. Smith, of Tuckerton; Stephen J. Sente, of Berkeley Township; James Hamilton, of Toms River; Nenad Brezanin, of Howell; Guy Gambarony, of Brick; James MacMillan, of Stratford; and Orlando Escobar, of Keyport.

Nichols and Smith also were charged with tampering with public records.  They both allegedly made false statements on applications for a home-improvement registration. Smith was also charged with theft by deception of $7,000 from a customer.

Sente was charged in another indictment with four counts of theft, unregistered home-improvement contracting and electrical contracting without a permit.  That indictment stemmed from an investigation that was underway before the prosecutor’s office started this operation.  

For the guys facing just the one charge, a good attorney should be able to handle this case with little expense.  For the other guys however, the cases are a little more complex.  While I can easily deal with the theft charges, the fact that they are also unregistered creates an added problem.  A good attorney would file a 404b motion to separate the charges and the State will argue that they are all part of the same scheme. 

Story is here.

Missouri State Senator & State Representative Plead Guilty to Federal Obstruction Charges August 25, 2009

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This case shows another good reason to hire an attorney at the first sign of trouble.  An attorney that knows what he or she is doing can assess the situation and decide whether or not you should say anything.  If you are going to talk, the attorney needs to make sure that it is the truth (see Martha Stewart).  As so many of us know, the lie is sometimes worse than the underlying issue itself. 

This case wasn’t that serious but the attempted cover up really put these people in hot water.  Elections are serious business and anyone contacted by Federal or State election officials should call an attorney before saying or doing anything!

ST. LOUIS, MO—Smith, Brown, and Adams all have pleaded guilty to federal obstruction charges involving their conspiracy and attempt to obstruct a Federal Election Commission proceeding from July 2004 through December 2007, Acting United States Attorney Michael W. Reap announced today. In addition, Smith and Adams pled guilty to federal obstruction charges involving their conspiracy and attempt to obstruct a Federal Grand Jury proceeding from June 1, 2009 through July 15, 2009.

During August 2004, a primary election was held to nominate candidates for the 3rd District of Missouri United States Congressional seat vacated by Richard Gephardt. Along with eight others, Russ Carnahan and Jeff Smith were Democratic candidates in that primary. Russ Carnahan won that primary election, with Jeff Smith placing second in the balloting among Democratic candidates. Russ Carnahan went on to win the general election for United States Congress during November 2004.

Jeff Smith’s campaign committee during the 2004 primary election was known as “Friends of Jeff Smith”. Steve Brown was a close and personal friend of Jeff Smith. During 2004 Brown, on leave as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri, served as campaign manager for Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon during his successful campaign for Missouri Attorney General. Steve Brown also provided substantial support, advice, and assistance to Jeff Smith and the Friends of Jeff Smith committee during Smith’s 2004 campaign for the Democratic nomination for United States Congress.

According to the documents filed with the court at the time of the pleas, during July 2004, an individual, referred to as “John Doe,” approached individual members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including the committee’s Treasurer, Nicholas Adams, the committee’s Communications/Press Director, Artie Harris and the committee’s Campaign Manager, Clay Haynes, and offered to assist Smith’s campaign by producing and distributing negative campaign advertisements aimed at Russ Carnahan. John Doe was affiliated with an organization known as Voters for Truth.

Smith and members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee discussed and agreed with John Doe’s plan to produce and distribute the negative campaign advertisements aimed at Russ Carnahan. Steve Brown was introduced to John Doe by members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, and at Smith’s request, Brown agreed to solicit funds from Smith’s donors for John Doe and Voters for Truth, for the production and distribution of the negative campaign advertisements. Steve Brown did, in fact, solicit and obtain substantial funds for John Doe and Voters for Truth from several of Smith’s donors, and he also provided John Doe with $5,000 cash of his own personal funds.

Members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including Nick Adams,

Using the funds provided by Brown, and information provided by Adams, Artie Harris, and Clay Haynes, John Doe and Voters for Truth contracted with a direct mail company in Cleveland, Ohio for the production and mail distribution of a postcard containing negative information about Russ Carnahan, sometimes referred to as the “Miss More Work” mailing. On July 23, 2004, approximately 25,000 of the negative advertisement postcards were mailed to Missouri’s 3rd District resident voters. The postcards did not accurately identify the individuals or organizations involved in their production and distribution, and did not make any mention of Voters for Truth, John Doe, Jeff Smith, or the Friends of Jeff Smith committee.

Thereafter, the Russ Carnahan for Congress committee, acting upon information it had obtained, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the Friends of Jeff Smith committee had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and Commission regulations relative to the printing and distribution of the negative advertisement postcards. The Federal Election Commission opened an investigation.

On September 8, 2004, Jeff Smith submitted a false sworn affidavit to the Federal Election Commission, falsely representing he had no knowledge of who was responsible for the postcard, nor who paid for the mailing.

During November 2006, John Doe received a subpoena to testify before the Federal Election Commission. John Doe’s testimony was scheduled for November 16, 2006. On November 14, 2006, with Jeff Smith’s knowledge, Steve Brown met with John Doe at a health and social club in St. Louis in an effort to convince John Doe not to testify about Brown and Smith’s knowledge and involvement in the anti-Carnahan postcards. Shortly after that meeting, Brown and Smith discussed their ongoing concerns that John Doe was going to disclose their conduct to the Federal Election Commission, and agreed they should offer John Doe the opportunity to work on Smith’s political committee if John Doe kept them out of the Federal Election Commission investigation. Steve Brown had a second meeting with John Doe where they discussed the possibility of John Doe getting future work from Brown and Smith if he kept them out of the FEC investigation. Two days later, Doe appeared before the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., and gave sworn testimony concerning the allegations raised by the Carnahan committee. Consistent with his discussions with Brown, John Doe made numerous false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and failed to identify Brown, any members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, Adams, or Jeff Smith as being involved in the funding, production, and/or distribution of the anti Carnahan postcards. John Doe falsely testified that he had been retained by an anonymous individual who provided John Doe with the print copy, artwork, and mailing addresses for the anti Carnahan postcard, and that he was paid in cash by this anonymous individual for his work in producing and distributing the postcards. John Doe falsely testified that Voters for Truth was not his organization, that he had simply been retained by Voters for Truth to do polling work, and that Voters for Truth was not involved in the anti- Carnahan postcards.

Following John Doe’s testimony before the FEC, Brown, Smith and Adams had numerous telephone conversations amongst themselves and with other members of the Friends of Jeff Smith Committee, including Artie Harris, about what they should say if interviewed by the Federal Election Commission. During these conversations it was agreed that everyone would deny involvement in the production, funding, and distribution of the anti Carnahan postcards, and deny knowledge of John Doe’s conduct in that regard.

On March 1, 2007, Artie Harris was interviewed by the Federal Election Commission and falsely denied his involvement. Harris told the Federal Election Commission that both he and Adams were leery of John Doe’s true agenda. Harris acknowledged that he had provided John Doe with a copy of some publicly available information the campaign had already compiled on Russ Carnahan, but that he did not recall any further conversations with John Doe. Shortly following his interview by the Federal Election Commission, Artie Harris died. On March 15, 2007, Nick Adams was interviewed by the Federal Election Commission and also falsely denied any involvement in the production, funding, and distribution of those postcards.

On December 10, 2007, the General Counsel for the Federal Election Commission issued its final report recommending that the investigation into the Carnahan committee allegations concerning the 2004 postcards be closed, and that no action be taken against the Friends of Jeff Smith committee or any individuals. The report noted that John Doe’s testimony had been vague, contradictory and lacking in credibility. The report noted that Jeff Smith and members of the Friends of Jeff Smith committee, including Adams and Artie Harris, denied any firsthand knowledge of Voters for Truth or involvement in the distribution of the postcard, and went on to state that the circumstances suggest that John Doe paid for the postcards with his own personal funds and created Voters for Truth to conceal his involvement on the negative attack on Carnahan.

Following the issuance of the December 10, 2007 final report, Bown and Smith met to review and discuss the report’s findings, and agreed that they “got lucky” that the Federal Election Commission had not been able to uncover their involvement in the anti-Carnahan postcards.

Additionally, as admitted to by Smith and Adams relative to Count II of the Information; during January 2009, the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI, acting upon newly discovered information, opened a federal criminal investigation into the original allegations raised by the Carnahan Campaign Committee and investigated by the FEC, as well as to determine whether any individuals had attempted to obstruct that Federal Election Commission proceeding. As charged in the Information, the object of the conspiracy was to obstruct a Federal Grand Jury proceeding by preventing the flow of information to federal law enforcement authorities through false statements and false representations.

On June 1, 2009, Jeff Smith and Steve Brown had a telephone conversation to discuss the possibility that John Doe was cooperating with federal law enforcement and providing federal law enforcement with information regarding the 2004 postcard mailing and subsequent investigation by the FEC. Smith discussed how they should respond if interviewed by federal law enforcement. Regarding the postcard, Smith acknowledged that Nick Adams and Artie Harris, both officials of his 2004 U.S. Congressional campaign committee, had handled the coordination between his committee and John Doe. Smith further discussed what potential evidence John Doe might have against him, and what he could say about it to federal law enforcement. During the telephone conversation, Smith also acknowledged that he knew Brown and some of his donors had given John Doe money to produce the anti-Carnahan postcard. Smith urged Brown how to respond if interviewed by law enforcement.

On June 17, 2009, Smith, Adams and Brown met at Smith’s residence to further discuss the possibility that John Doe was cooperating with federal law enforcement. During the meeting Smith acknowledged that he knew that Adams and Artie Harris were working with John Doe on the postcard, and that Clay Haynes had given John Doe the campaign committee’s mailing address list. Adams again acknowledged that he had lied to the FEC during March 2007 when asked about John Doe. Smith told them that John Doe would not be believed by federal law enforcement, saying that “Doe against the three of us is not even a contest.”

On June 30, 2009, Smith was interviewed by FBI Agents. During the interview, Smith made numerous false statements and false representations. The same day Adams was also interviewed and made numerous false statements and false representations as well. After the FBI interviews that morning Smith, Adams, and Brown met to discuss the interviews, and to discuss what Brown should say if he were to be interviewed by the FBI. Smith and Adams urged Brown to tell the FBI that Artie Harris, deceased, was the only one who had any contact with John Doe.

Finally, in order to conceal their future discussions from the FBI, and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Smith and Adams agreed to purchase and communicate only through “pay as you go” cellular telephones.

“The fact that Senator Jeff Smith, Rep. Steve Brown and Nicholas Adams all pled guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice is further evidence that the FBI has zero tolerance for public corruption,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in St. Louis. “Politicians are supposed to serve the people who elected them, not their own self-interests. What Senator Smith, Rep. Brown and Adams did is nothing more than old fashioned corruption.”

Jeff Smith, 35, St. Louis City, and Nicholas Adams, 29, University City, MO, pleaded guilty to two felony counts fo conspiracy to obstruct justice. Mark Steven Brown, 42, Clayton, MO, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. All three defendants appeared before United States District Judge Carol E. Jackson, in federal District Court, in St. Louis.

Each count of conspiracy to obstruct justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. Sentencings have been set for November 10, 2009.

Atlantic City Councilman gets into PTI over the State’s objection August 24, 2009

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This is an interesting situation.  The State AG’s office did not want Atlantic City Councilman John Schultz to get into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program but the Atlantic County Prosecutor was ok with it and the Judge let him in.  You don’t see too many disputes between the AG’s office and the local county prosecutor in New Jersey. 

Schultz was set to go to trial next month with regard to an alleged scheme orchestrated by former Atlantic City council President Craig Callaway to blackmail Councilman Eugene Robinson, who was lured to a motel room and secretly taped having sex with a prostitute. Callaway’s brothers — Ronald Callaway, and former city public works director David Callaway — and Floyd Tally were also charged.  Craig Callaway pleaded guilty and is serving a three-year sentence.  The others maintain their innocence.

Callaway admitted that he and others hired a prostitute to lure Robinson to a motel in neighboring Absecon where they had hidden a clock radio with a hidden video camera connected to a recorder in the next room.

The others will stand trial and Schultz will testify against them.  This set up will actually work out great for the State because it will be tough for the defense attorneys to argue that his testimony is skewed by his desire to get  good deal.

Story is here.

NJ law enforcement cracks down on fake dentists August 24, 2009

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In any low income, immigrant community, there are plenty of people that line up to take advantage of those who live outside of society.  Say what you want about the immigration debate but no one should be taken advantage of.  Unlicensed lawyers and dentists are common in these area as a the recent arrests of ten fake dentists show. 

My problem with these cases is that it seems like everyone is lumped in together.  There has to be a difference between simply being unlicensed and then recklessly or purposely hurting people.  On the flip side, I think that society also ignores most of these scams so it is interesting that this crackdown is occurring. 

You can read more about this issue here.

Will Brian Stack get caught up in Operation Bid Rig III? August 2, 2009

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Yesterday, the Record reportedthat a donation of $4,000 from BH Property Management shows up on a 2007 campaign finance report for Union City First, a political action committee linked to Union City Mayor Brian Stack.  The company has been identified in a federal complaint as “an FBI undercover company” that was used to facilitate money laundering.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that every dollar the company gave was used or intended to be used to facilitate criminal activity. 

However, this story comes a day after the Star Ledger reportedthat Solomon Dwek, the cooperating witness who was at the heart of the 44 arrests of Operation Bid Rig III which ensnared three mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis.    Dwek reportedly gave $2,600 to Stack as well as $3,500 to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.  Menendez claimed to not know who Dwek was.

It seems like Stack has either been contacted by law enforcement or had some indication that he would be looked at as he has hired attorney Dennis McAlevy.  McAlevy has also represented former Hoboken Mayor Anthony J. Russo who pled guilty  to extorting $317,220 from accounting firm in exchange for contracts.  Russo was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

I’m sure that as OBR3 moves on, some of the 44 people will provide evidence against others who have not been arrested yet.  Whether or not Stack is one of them remains to be seen.

Contractor arrested for theft by deception August 1, 2009

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Robert D. Hamway of Toms River, who is not a licensed contractor, was arrested and charged with theft by deception after allegedly taking money to fix a roof but never performing the work. 

These cases are common but in my opinion, most of them are not criminal cases.  Instead, they are civil cases where the customer does not want to go to civil court for a number of reasons.  While I have little to no facts here, my experience tells me that the customer got fed up at some point and asked for his money back.  However, Hamway may have dodged phone calls or told the customer that the money was on the way, when it never really was.  It is that conduct that occurs after the transaction that tends to push this into criminal court.

Story is here.

Utah law firm indicted for H-2B visa program fraud August 1, 2009

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James Hector Alcala, his law firm the Alcala law firm, seven current or former employees and a property management company have all been indicted for an alleged immigration fraud scheme.  Authorities allege that the firm lied on applications to help 10 companies in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties get work visas for ineligible foreign workers. 

The H-2B visa program allows employers to petition for permits that allow foreign nationals to work temporarily in the United States. More than 700 petitions filed by the Salt Lake City firm led to the issuance of more than 5,000 work visas. The majority of those were fraudulent.

This is the type of case where the number of people arrested can increase exponentially if authorities find evidence that the companies working with the firm knew that the applications were fraudulent.  I’m sure at least some of the companies know, but proving it is another matter.  These other companies need attorneys right away to field inquiries from authorities. 

While it looks bad for Acala, I’m questioning the case against the other employees.  Authorities in these cases tend to believe that everyone is in on it.  However, most employees are “worker bees” that do what they are told without being told what is really going on.  With the benefit of the whole picture in front of them, authorities find it impossible to believe that everyone else wasn’t in on it.  I’ve seen this many times. 

Thus, attorneys for these other employees need to really look at the case from a number of angles to see if there is any real criminal exposure for their clients.  Law enforcement tends to exert a lot of pressure on attorneys in an effort to weaken their opinion of the case which in turn, will change the advice they give to their clients.  In these situations, attorneys need to counter this pressure and work to convince law enforcement that they have no case.  I’ve done this several times with great results.

Story is here.