2010 Press Releases
October - December
15 December Pittman Guilty Verdict
9 December Ricky Morrow Sentenced
9 December Ecknozzio C. Jackson Sentenced
6 December Four Postal Employees Indicted
GUILTY VERDICT IN BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, ON CHARGE OF POSSESSION OF FIREARMS BY A CONVICTED FELON
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a federal jury convicted ADRIAN PITTMAN, age 36, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a charge of possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
The indictment, filed August 26, 2010, charged PITTMAN, who had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (a felony), with knowingly possessing a Remington semiautomatic rifle and a Taurus .357 revolver.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Jackson presided over the two day jury trial. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert W. Piedrahita and Susan Amundson prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
PITTMAN faces a sentence of a term of imprisonment of not more than ten years and a maximum fine of $250,000. Judge Jackson will sentence the defendant following the completion of a pre-sentence investigation.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Baton Rouge Police Department.
DENHAM SPRINGS MAN SENTENCED FOR FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that RICKY L. MORROW, age 47, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady.
In August of 2010, MORROW pled guilty to wire fraud, arising out of his scheme to defraud his employer located in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and one of his employer’s customers. In connection with his guilty plea, MORROW acknowledged that his scheme lasted approximately 18 months, during which time MORROW fraudulently obtained at least 10 wire transfers into his personal bank account, representing funds that should have been paid to MORROW’s employer. These wire transfers totaled more than $390,000.
MORROW was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 20 months, followed by a 3year term of supervised release. MORROW was also sentenced to pay restitution to the victims of his fraudulent scheme, in an amount to be determined by the Court.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens.
FORMER CORRECTIONS OFFICER SENTENCED
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced former corrections officer ECKNOZZIO C. JACKSON, age 40, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to twenty-one (21) months imprisonment followed by three (3) years supervised release for agreeing to accept a $10,000 bribe in exchange for using his position to smuggle cellular telephones to ROBERT THOMPSON, an inmate in the lockdown unit at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. THOMPSON used the cellular phones to continue a massive identity theft and corruption scheme involving over 60 victims and intended losses in excess of $20,000,000.
In February 2010, THOMPSON was sentenced for his leadership of the fraud and corruption scheme, including the bribery of JACKSON, to three hundred nine (309) years in prison, the fourth-longest white collar prison sentence in U.S. history. THOMPSON is currently serving his sentence in a specialized Communication Management Unit located within the maximum security federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois. The Unit is one of only two in the country and is specially designed to deal with inmates who are prone to use communication with the outside to facilitate additional crimes.
The other charged defendants include:
CHARLENE B. JACKSON, age 38, of New Iberia, Louisiana, has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. She was sentenced to fifteen months in prison.
SEDRIC L. JACKSON, age 37, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruct justice. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
ZELBONY O. TAYLOR, age 34, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruct justice. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
DACOBIA L. HAMILTON, age 33, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana has pled guilty to wire fraud. She was sentenced to serve thirty days in prison.
MURKEL L. PARKER, age 35, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has pled guilty to unauthorized use of an access device. He was sentenced to serve a five-year probation term.
KELVIN ARCHIE, age 42, of Texas, is charged in a bill of information with one count of use of an unauthorized access device.
This investigation is being led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the security and investigations staff of the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. Many other agencies have assisted in the investigation, including the Madison Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Hardeman County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office, the Bolivar, Tennessee Police Department, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and the Louisiana Department of Corrections.
United States Attorney Cazayoux stated, “This office will remain dedicated to fighting corruption and fraud wherever we find it. This expansive investigation was the result of a dedicated effort by various federal, state, and law agencies who worked jointly to successfully root out a serious criminal element.”
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson, who serves as the Senior Deputy Criminal Chief, and Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens.
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Louisiana returned indictments against four individuals who were employees of the United States Postal Service (USPS).
GLENN T. AUGILLARD, age 50, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was charged with five counts of unlawfully opening mail entrusted to him which was intended to be delivered. If convicted, AUGILLARD faces a maximum sentence of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both, per count.
JOHN A. KEMP, age 50, of Ethel, Louisiana, was charged with four counts of unlawfully delaying and detaining mail entrusted to him which was intended to be delivered. If convicted, KEMP faces a maximum sentence of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both, per count.
GWENDOLYN R. MEADOWS, age 48, of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, was charged with one count of unlawfully opening mail entrusted to her which was intended to be delivered. If convicted, MEADOWS faces a maximum sentence of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
REBECCA F. SHARP, age 27, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was charged with one count of delaying and detaining mail entrusted to her which was intended to be delivered. If convicted, SHARP faces a maximum sentence of five years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
USPS-OIG Deputy Special Agent in Charge Chris Cave stated: “The American public has an expectation that their mail is going to be delivered on time and in tact. When a postal employee intentionally delays that mail or rifles it and removes contents, the Office of Inspector General quickly responds and investigates, as we have done here. Cases such as these are not common occurrences and do not reflect on the reputation and work ethic of most employees. The majority of postal employees would never consider delaying or stealing customers’ mail.”
The investigation was conducted by Special Agents Brandon Tullier and Augustus Magee of the United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lane Ewing and Helina Dayries.
NOTE: An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by the defendants. The defendants, of course, are presumed innocent until and unless they are proven guilty at trial.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES
ELECTION DAY PROGRAM
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that Rich Bourgeois, an Assistant United States Attorney in the Middle District of Louisiana, will lead the efforts of his Office in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program for the upcoming November 2, 2010, general elections. AUSA Bourgeois has been appointed to serve as the District Election Officer for the Middle District of Louisiana, and in that capacity is responsible for overseeing the District’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters.
In 2002, the Department of Justice established a nationwide Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative. The goals of this Initiative are to increase the Department’s ability to deter voter intimidation, suppression, discrimination and election fraud and to prosecute these offenses whenever and wherever they occur - to make voting easier and cheating harder. Both goals are equally important. It is imperative that in pursuing voter integrity, ballot access is not in any way diminished or harmed. The Department’s long-standing Election Day Program furthers the goals of the Initiative. The Program also is intended to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the election process by providing local points of contact within the Department where the public can report possible election fraud and voting rights violations while the polls are open on election day. The franchise is the cornerstone of American democracy. We all must ensure that those who are entitled to the franchise exercise it, while those who seek to corrupt it are brought to justice.
In order to respond to complaints of election fraud or voting rights abuses on November 2, 2010, and to ensure that such complaints are directed to the appropriate authorities, USA Cazayoux stated that Assistant United States Attorney/DEO Bourgeois will be on duty in this District while the polls are open. He can be reached by the public at 225-389-0443.
The FBI will also have Special Agents available in this District to receive allegations of election fraud, intimidation, suppression and other election abuses. FBI Special Agent David Clarke can be reached by the public at 225-291-5159.
Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767. Where voter intimidation or suppression tactics target voters on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin, please contact the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section at 202-514-3204.
United States Attorney Cazayoux said, “The integrity of the election process is at the heart of our representative form of government. Crimes that serve to impair that process will be dealt with aggressively so as to ensure public confidence in the fairness of our elections. Anyone who has information suggesting electoral corruption or voting rights abuses should make that information available immediately to my Office, the FBI, or the Civil Rights Division.”
ILLEGAL ALIEN SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that yesterday, JOSE ANTONIO PALMA, also known as “Honduras,” 23, of Mexico, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola to serve 15 years in prison and three years supervised release.
PALMA pled guilty to one count of illegally reentering the United States after having been deported in 2008. Prior to his guilty plea, the United States Attorney’s Office filed a Notice of Sentencing Enhancement seeking to enhance PALMA’s sentence based on his 2004 conviction for simple burglary and 2008 conviction for aggravated battery. Either of these prior convictions qualified as an “aggravated felony” for purposes of immigration law and served to enhance the statutory maximum from 2 to 20 years imprisonment.
Judge Polozola, in ordering the sentence, referenced the defendant’s propensity to commit crimes, the repeated lenient treatment he received for prior convictions, his pattern of preying on illegal aliens, and the serious, assaultive nature of his prior crimes. He stressed the violent nature of the defendant’s prior crimes in which the defendant used a knife and/or hammer to stab and/or beat two victims. He further emphasized that the defendant had been deported on two occasions, had entered illegally on several occasions and had been warned that, as an aggravated felon, he was barred from entry into the United States for life.
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “The defendant in this case is an excellent example of the type of offender who should be targeted under the Criminal Alien Program. PALMA is a violent offender who has repeatedly entered our country and committed serious crimes. His sentence will ensure that the public will be protected from his future crimes, as well as send a message to those who enter illegally and commit brutal crimes that their conduct will not be tolerated.”
The charge arose from the Criminal Alien Program which is administered by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Office of Enforcement & Removal (ICE). Under the Criminal Alien Program, Enforcement and Removal agents routinely comb the local jails to identify foreign nationals who are illegally present in the United States and, who may, by
virtue of their criminal history, warrant federal prosecution. The case was investigated by David Bordelon of ICE, with the assistance of the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office, and officers of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and Denham Springs Police Department who testified at the sentencing hearing. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Susan C. Amundson.
BATON ROUGE MAN CONVICTED OF BANK FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that a federal jury convicted TIMOTHY M. STRAIN, 47, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on two counts of bank fraud and forfeiture.
The indictment, filed March 17, 2010, charged STRAIN with using fraudulent money orders to pay the balance due on two vehicle loans.
Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson presided over the two day jury trial. Assistant United States Attorneys Corey R. Amundson and Richard L. Bourgeois, Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
STRAIN faces a term of imprisonment of not more than thirty years and a maximum fine of $1,000,000, or both, per count. Judge Tyson will sentence the defendant following the completion of a pre-sentence investigation.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated, “We believe the jurors rendered a fair and just verdict in this case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting the integrity of our financial institutions during our economic recovery. Fraudulent conduct regarding our banking system affects everyone.”
The case was investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
OPERATION GATORBAIT DRUG DEFENDANT SENTENCED TO 360 MONTHS
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that JOSE RICARDO RAMIREZ, age 33, of Houston was sentenced today in federal court by Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson. RAMIREZ was sentenced to 360 months imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and 60 months imprisonment for unlawful travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise, ordered to forfeit over $250,000, followed by a term of supervised release of five years, and a $200 special assessment.
RAMIREZ and his brother JOSE ANGEL RAMIREZ, supplied cocaine to Willie Jones who ran one of the largest cocaine distribution organizations prosecuted in the district. RAMIREZ previously pled guilty to conspiring with Willie Jones, Jr., Kenya Smith, Malchai L. Tillman, Dedrick Dionell Turner, Courtney Demon Clayton, Kimberly Shawn Smith, Reginald D. Allen, Dwayne T. Wicker, Troy A. Johnson, Jason Tyrone Patterson, Nick Martinez, Suzanna Marie Voelker, Jose Angel Ramirez, Mario Arteaga, and Roberto Truijillo to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and fifty grams or more of crack cocaine, and unlawful travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise. All of the defendants have been convicted.
Judge Tyson, in ordering such a lengthy sentence, referenced eight additional cocaine deliveries that the defendant had made to Baton Rouge and elsewhere, a “grow house” that the defendant renovated and utilized to grow marijuana, a stash house operated by the defendant in which the U.S. Marshals found 25 firearms, silencers, body armor, ammunition, cocaine, crack cocaine, other drugs and cash, and credible information concerning the defendant conspiring with his wife and brother to break out of jail, in addition to the eight kilograms of cocaine that the defendant admitted to transporting to Baton Rouge for distribution to Willie Jones.
These charges were a result of “Operation Gator Bait,” an extensive investigation conducted by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the Middle District of Louisiana. The OCDETF is a multi-agency task force formed to investigate and prosecute criminal groups and individuals who organize, direct, finance, or are otherwise engaged in high level drug trafficking and related financial crimes. The OCDETF is comprised of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, and the U.S. Marshal's Service. Other participating members in this OCDETF investigation included the Louisiana Alcohol, Tobacco Control Board, the Louisiana State Police, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff=s Office, the Ascension Parish Sheriff=s Office, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and the Gonzales Police Department. This OCDETF investigation was coordinated by the United States Attorney's Office, with Deputy Criminal Chief Jennifer Kleinpeter serving as the OCDETF prosecutor.
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “This case is an excellent example of the complicated multi-state drug trafficking investigations that the federal government is uniquely equipped to handle. The Baton Rouge DEA office and local law enforcement officials worked closely with the Houston DEA office to make certain that not only the local cocaine distributors, but also their sources in Houston, were identified and prosecuted in order to dismantle the entire drug trafficking organization. ”
This OCDETF operation successfully identified eleven local members of the drug trafficking organization and the five Houston residents who were supplying the cocaine to the Baton Rouge organization. The Houston residents were also prosecuted in this case.
NEW ORLEANS DOCTOR AND OWNER OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT COMPANY EACH PLEAD GUILTY FOR THEIR ROLES IN BATON ROUGE-AREA HEALTH CARE FRAUD SCHEME
WASHINGTON – A New Orleans-area medical doctor and the owner and operator of a medical equipment company each pleaded guilty today for their roles in a Baton Rouge-area durable medical equipment (DME) health care fraud scheme, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.
Medical doctor Dahlia V. Kirkpatrick and Emmanuel M. Komandu each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson in the Middle District of Louisiana to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. At sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 6, 2011, Kirkpatrick and Emmanuel each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine equal to the greater of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary loss to the United States resulting from the offense.
According to plea documents, Kirkpatrick began working with Komandu in or around January 2005. Komandu was the owner and operator of Alpha Medical Solutions Inc., a purported DME supplier based in Baker, La. Alpha purportedly specialized in the provision of power wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and feeding nutrients to Medicare-eligible beneficiaries.
According to court documents, from approximately January 2005 through February 2010, Komandu and Kirkpatrick submitted and caused the submission, on behalf of Alpha, of approximately $775,019 in fraudulent claims to the Medicare program. The majority of Alpha=s fraudulent claims were based on prescriptions for medically unnecessary DME that were written and provided by Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick wrote prescriptions for medically unnecessary DME, such as power wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and feeding nutrients. Medicare paid $302,811 to Alpha based on these fraudulent claims.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys O. Benton Curtis III and Sarah M. Hall of the Criminal Division=s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG and the Louisiana Attorney General=s Office. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division=s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney=s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 810 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $1.85 billion. In addition, HHS=s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov