2011 Press Releases
January - March
30 March Thompson Sentencing
28 March Ruman Plea
25 March Forest Sentencing
25 March Barahona-Munguia Sentencing
25 March Willis Sentencing
25 March CMI Sentencing
17 March Hills Sentencing
17 March Creel Sentencing
17 March Levy and Anderson Hilton Sentencing
8 March Amadi Guilty Plea
24 February Sharifrazi Indictment
17 February Medicare Fraud February Takedown
11 February Robinson Antwain Guilty Verdict
10 February Stewart Levonne Sentencing
9 February Landry Guilty Plea
7 February Former DOW research scientist convicted
2 February Lawyer Guilty of Mail Fraud
25 January Chinwoh - Dangerfield - Johnson guilty plea
RECORD 309 YEAR SENTENCE UPHELD FOR WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a sentence of three hundred nine (309) years imprisonment for Robert Thompson, also known as John Lawson, age 44, of Zachary, Louisiana. Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson imposed the sentence on February 17, 2010, following Thompson’s conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruct justice; seven counts of wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering; one count of mail fraud; one count of honest services mail fraud; one count of money laundering; four counts of access device fraud; two counts of aggravated identify theft; one count of computer fraud; one count of bank fraud; and one count of obstruction of justice.
The 309 year sentence constituted the fourth-longest white collar prison sentence in U.S. history and the longest such sentence in the history of the Middle District of Louisiana. 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.
This matter involved Thompson, a career criminal, engaging in multiple, long-running conspiracies with numerous co-conspirators to obtain and use the personal and financial information of approximately one-hundred-fifty (150) individuals, churches, financial institutions, and businesses, without their knowledge or authorization, to steal from their bank accounts and use their credit to obtain things of value, including attempting to steal $20,000,000 from one victim’s bank accounts. To facilitate the scheme, Thompson enlisted corrections officers to assist him through bribery and other means.
This matter was 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 assisted in the investigation, including the Madison Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, 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.
This matter was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson and Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens. Appellate Chief Catherine M. Marist and Assistant United States Attorney Helina S. Dayries handled the appeal.
OPERATION ZENITH DEFENDANT CONVICTED OF MAIL FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that MOHAMED H. RUMAN, age 38, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson to two counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, in connection with a scheme to avoid paying payroll tax to the State of Louisiana. As a result of his pleas, RUMAN faces up to forty (40) years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and restitution.
During the guilty plea, RUMAN admitted that, from 2000 until 2006, he and Jamal Roman knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of the wages paid to employees at Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, and Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street. During that period, RUMAN, who served as general manager of the restaurants, was partially responsible for hiring and paying employees. RUMAN also oversaw the businesses during the owner’s (Jamal Roman) regular trips to Syria.
This case is part of Operation Zenith, a long-running investigation into fraud and corruption in the collection and payment of sales and payroll taxes. With regard to the sales tax fraud, Operation Zenith uncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, the business owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue.
Four of the business owners, the accountant, and a City-Parish Auditor have been convicted of various felony charges, including mail fraud, bribery, use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering, and making false statements. Two of the business owners have been sentenced. Humam Al-Alousi was sentenced to sixty (60) months imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution. Khoa Dinh “James” Chau was sentenced to thirty-seven (37) months imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution. The other convicted defendants await sentencing.
Jamal Roman has pled not guilty and is awaiting trial. Mr. Roman faces charges of conspiracy, mail fraud relating to sales tax fraud, mail fraud relating to payroll tax fraud, and bribery, including allegations that he funneled $700,000 to Syria as part of the conspiracy.
Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation has also been greatly assisted by the cooperation of the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office. Other governmental agencies and entities also provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Department of Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.
Operation Zenith is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson, Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens, and Assistant United States Attorney Reginald Jones.
NEW ROADS MAN CONVICTED BY JURY OF POSSESSION OF A FIREARM BY A CONVICTED FELON
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a federal jury convicted JAHAR R. FOREST, age 29, of New Roads, Louisiana, on the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson presided over the trial.
On November 12, 2009, law enforcement officials with the New Roads Police Department and Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of shots being fired. Officers attempted to contact FOREST and a foot chase ensued. Officers ran after FOREST, who was carrying a rifle, and later found him hiding underneath a raised shed in his backyard. Officers also located a loaded Ruger Model Mini 14, with one cartridge in the chamber, along the neighboring back fence.
After a four-day trial, a jury convicted FOREST of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. FOREST faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years supervised release. FOREST has two prior felony convictions, including possession of cocaine in 2000 and attempted felon in possession of a firearm in 2005.
The case was investigated by Alton Cambre of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF), the New Roads Police Department, and the Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Susan C. Amundson and Michael J. Jefferson.
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “This trial demonstrates the effectiveness of our office working closely with ATF and local police departments under Project Safe Neighborhood in order to identify and prosecute convicted felons who illegally possess firearms.”
HONDURAN MAN CONVICTED OF DRUG TRAFFICKING AND POSSESSION OF A FIREARM BY AN ILLEGAL ALIEN SENTENCED TO 78 MONTHS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that on March 24, 2011, Mario Barahona-Munguia, 40, of Honduras, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson to serve 78 months (6.5 years) in prison and three years supervised release.
BARAHONA-MUNGUIA pled guilty to one count of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and one count of possession of a firearm by an illegal alien. When apprehended, he had an outstanding immigration order requiring his removal from the United States to Honduras which was issued in 2005.
BARAHONA-MUNGUIA requested to be removed rather than serve imprisonment. Chief Judge Tyson, in ordering the 78-month sentence, found that, in addition to trafficking cocaine, the evidence demonstrated that the defendant was involved in trafficking firearms, as well as smuggling firearms to Honduras.
The charges stemmed from an undercover operation involving the purchase of a firearm and narcotics from BARAHONA-MUNGUIA. The case was investigated by Richard Lovell of Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Susan C. Amundson.
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “We will vigilantly defend our citizens against narcotics and firearms trafficking. BARAHONA-MUNGUIA’s sentence – rather than immediate removal – should send a message to those who enter our borders and commit serious crimes that their behavior will not be tolerated.”
MAN SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. Chief District Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced CHRISTOPHER R. WILLIS, 36, of Baton Rouge to twenty-five years in prison. WILLIS was sentenced for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and to two counts of intimidation of a witness.
During the conspiracy, WILLIS received pounds of methamphetamine from Luther J. Franklin and his associate, Sommay Payanouvong. Following the arrest of Payanouvong and Franklin, WILLIS sought another supplier for methamphetamine. He entered into an understanding with Lauren Denise Smith to supply him with amounts of methamphetamine from Denise Boudreaux.
Luther J. Franklin was sentenced by Judge John V. Parker to serve 120 months in prison for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Judge Parker sentenced Sommay Payanouvong to serve 57 months in prison.
Judge Frank J. Polozola sentenced Lauren Denise Smith to serve 78 months in prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine.
Chief Judge Tyson sentenced Denise Boudreaux to serve 190 months in prison for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute five hundred grams or more of methamphetamine and for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and five hundred grams or more of methamphetamine.
During this investigation, WILLIS obstructed justice by intimidating an individual who was cooperating with federal authorities in their investigation of his drug trafficking activities.
During the period of time WILLIS was participating in this drug trafficking conspiracy, he was on parole for possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and ecstasy.
The investigation of WILLIS was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Baton Rouge City Police Department, West Baton Rouge Parish’s Office, and Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert W. Piedrahita.
COLORADO COMPANY SENTENCED IN CONNECTION
WITH DEATH OF HONEYWELL EMPLOYEE
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced Chemical and Metal Industries Inc. (“C&MI”), a company based in Colorado, to two years probation, a $1,000,000 fine, and $2,000,000 in restitution to the victim’s estate, including his three children. The sentence stems from C&MI’s conviction for negligently causing the release of hazardous air pollutants and thereby negligently placing another person in imminent danger of death, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 7413(c)(4) (federal Clean Air Act).
Today’s sentencing is the result of a long-running investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, and the Louisiana State Police into an incident that occurred in the summer of 2003 at Honeywell’s Baton Rouge Plant. On July 29, 2003, Delvin Henry, an employee at the Baton Rouge Plant, opened a one-ton cylinder, which C&MI had labeled as containing relatively benign refrigerant while the cylinder was at C&MI’s Colorado facility. Once opened, approximately 1800 pounds of spent antimony pentachloride, which is highly toxic and corrosive hazardous material, was violently released from the cylinder. Mr. Henry was struck by the material and died the following day from his injuries.
In 2008, Honeywell accepted responsibility for its role in the incident, pled guilty to negligent endangerment under the Clean Air Act, and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $8,000,000, restitution of $2,000,000 to Mr. Henry’s three children, community restitution of $750,000 to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, community restitution valued at $750,000 to the Louisiana State Police Hazardous Materials Unit, and community restitution valued at $500,000 to the Louisiana State Police Emergency Operations Center. This is the largest criminal monetary penalty in the history of Middle District of Louisiana.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: "The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to working with our federal and state partners to enforce our nation's environmental laws and ensure the safety of our workers. Corporations, like individuals, have a responsibility to comply with the law and a failure to do so will not be tolerated.”
"Today’s sentencing demonstrates our commitment to enforce our nation's environmental laws and prosecute violators who damage the environment and place workers in harm's way,” said Ivan Vikin, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Louisiana. “This company’s negligence led to the tragic death of an individual, a death that could have been avoided if the law was followed. This manner of doing business is not only dangerous it is criminal and it will not be tolerated.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson who serves as the Senior Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
MAN SENTENCED FOR FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. Chief District Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced OSCAR HILLS, IV, 39, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to thirty-three months in prison, to pay restitution of $88,797.48, and to three years supervised release after imprisonment. Judge Tyson ordered Hills to pay restitution to Ascension Credit Union, Eagle Louisiana Federal Credit Union, and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company.
HILLS pled guilty on April 26, 2010 to four counts of wire fraud. HILLS submitted a false and fraudulent claim for a storm loss to State Farm. In the course of investigating the false insurance claim, investigators discovered that HILLS also submitted false and fraudulent documents to Ascension Credit Union and Eagle Louisiana Federal Credit Union which caused losses to the credit unions.
The investigation of HILLS was conducted by Special Agent Joseph Gahn of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rene Salomon and Susan Amundson.
FORMER DEPUTY SENTENCED TO 12 MONTHS
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that William B. Creel, age 43, Franklinton, LA, was sentenced yesterday in federal court by U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola. CREEL, who was convicted of making a false statement to a federal agent, was sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment, a $4,000 fine, supervised release of two years, and a $100 special assessment.
CREEL was found guilty during a three-day jury trial in April of 2010. Creel is a former Washington Parish Sheriff’s Deputy and former member of the Louisiana National Guard. CREEL admitted to being a member of the Arawyns Motorcycle club but denied his association with the Banditos Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, including providing thousands of rounds of ammunition to them, or attendance at a Banditos meeting regarding the identity of a confidential informant. Judge Polozola upwardly departed on the defendant’s sentence to 12 months, upon finding that the guideline range of 0-6 months substantially understated the seriousness of the offense because it did not consider the risk of the injury or harm that was caused by the defendant’s offense. Judge Polozola further stated that the defendant should have known of the danger created by exposing a confidential informant and that he “should be ashamed of himself.” Judge Polozola denied the defendant a sentence reduction for acceptance of responsibility because he continued to deny his close association with the Banditos. The Judge also found that CREEL obstructed justice by not telling the truth at trial, stating that “the criminal justice system depends on the truth being told at trial or during an investigation.”
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “We are pleased with the outcome of this case as the sentence reflects the serious nature of the defendant’s conduct and demonstrates that criminal activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs will not be tolerated.”
This was a joint investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Louisiana State Police.
THREE SENTENCED FOR SCHEME TO DEFRAUD MEDICARE
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson sentenced Alton Bates, 62, an attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to thirty-four months in prison, to pay restitution of $1,063,873 to Medicare, to forfeit the gross proceeds of his scheme to defraud Medicare, and to three years supervised release after imprisonment. Judge Jackson also sentenced co-defendants Robert Ivory Levy, 59, and Juanita Anderson Hilton, age 42, both of whom are residents of Baton Rouge and were Licensed Clinical Social Workers. Levy was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment, ordered to pay restitution of $120,946.89 to Medicare, and to three years supervised release after imprisonment. Anderson Hilton was sentenced to three years probation with a condition that she serve six months in a local halfway house and repay $89,450 to Medicare.
Alton Bates pled guilty on July 21, 2009 to two counts of health care fraud and two counts of paying illegal kickbacks. Levy and Anderson Hilton both pled guilty to one count of health care fraud. Anderson Hilton pled guilty on July 21, 2009 and Levy pled guilty on September 21, 2009.
Alton Bates, Robert Levy, and Juanita Anderson Hilton schemed to defraud the Medicare program by submitting false and fraudulent claims for psychotherapy services that were not provided. In total, the three defendants’ participation in this scheme involved more than 7,700 false claims seeking Medicare payments totaling $3,052,838. Due to the scheme, Medicare program paid more than $1,000,000 to Above and Beyond, LLC, the Baton Rouge company which the defendants operated between 2003 and 2005.
The investigation of Above and Beyond, Bates, Levy, and Anderson Hilton was conducted by the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, AdvanceMed, the Zone Program Integrity Contractor for Medicare, and the United States Attorney’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rene Salomon.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “Uncovering, investigating, and prosecuting health care fraud is critically important to protecting the solvency of these important medical programs. We will continue the collaborative team approach to fighting these crimes and to putting those who would defraud our Medicare and Medicaid systems in jail.”
The Office of the Inspector General is proud of the three sentences obtained here which send a strong warning to anyone defrauding the Medicare program. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute you,” said Mike Fields, Special Agent in Charge Health and Human Services.
According to FBI Special Agent-In-Charge David Welker: "Crimes such as these continue to drive the cost of healthcare up for the average citizen and most needy. The FBI will continue to work collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to bring these type of criminals to justice in an effort to reduce this type of crime.”
The investigation of similar schemes to defraud the Medicare program is ongoing.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
BATON ROUGE MAN GUILTY OF HEALTH CARE FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that BENJAMIN AMADI, age 54, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty last week before U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady to health care fraud.
The indictment filed April 28, 2010, arose from a health care fraud scheme involving a company known as Liberty Medical Services, LLC (“Liberty”), which was engaged in the business of providing power wheelchairs and other durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries in the Baton Rouge area. AMADI owned, operated, and managed Liberty. The indictment alleges that AMADI, through Liberty, engaged in a scheme to defraud the Medicare program by submitting false and fraudulent claims to Medicare for equipment that had not been provided and was medically unnecessary. Specifically, the indictment alleges that AMADI routinely submitted claims representing to Medicare that Liberty had provided a beneficiary with an extra heavy-duty power wheelchair, designed for beneficiaries weighing more than 600 pounds, when in fact Liberty had purchased and provided a much less expensive wheelchair. The indictment further alleges that AMADI submitted false claims totaling approximately $2.8 million and that, between October 2007 and October 2008, AMADI withdrew more than $470,000 in cash from Liberty’s corporate account.
As a result of his guilty plea, AMADI faces a maximum sentence of imprisonment of ten years. AMADI will be ordered to pay full restitution and may also forfeit property traceable to the gross proceeds from his crime. A sentencing date has not yet been set by the court.
The investigation of this matter was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR INDICTED
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a Federal Grand Jury returned an indictment on February 24, 2011, charging PARVIZ SHARIFRAZI , 59, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with mail fraud, money laundering and theft from an organization receiving federal program funds. SCOTT D. WOODALL, 40, also of Baton Rouge, was indicted for mail fraud. SHARIFRAZI faces a maximum sentence of 300 years in prison and WOODALL faces a maximum term of 240 years in prison.
The indictment alleges that from April 2008 to December 2009, SHARIFRAZI and WOODALL devised a scheme to defraud Southern University of $157,366 by using their positions at Southern University to bill the institution by using fraudulent invoices. SHARIFRAZI was employed at Southern University as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and WOODALL was the Information Technologies Director.
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said, “It is shocking that an Engineering Professor and an Information Technology Director -- whose job it is to help educate our young people – carefully devised this scheme to steal taxpayer money. Against the backdrop of the funding crisis facing our colleges and universities, it is particularly outrageous. We will continue to work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to root out this sort of corruption wherever it may exist.”
James C. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation stated, “We all suffer when federal programs are undermined by fraud. Today’s indictment should send a clear message that we intend to stop these types of fraudulent practices. It is the goal of IRS Criminal Investigation to work with Department of Justice and other Federal and State agencies to ensure that those engaged in illegal activities are brought to justice.”
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., stated, “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals who defraud public institutions. Diverting monies meant for the public institutions to corrupt individuals will not be tolerated. This investigation is another great example of federal and state agencies cooperating to combat such illegal activity in our community.”
The investigation of SHARIFRAZI and WOODALL was conducted by the Louisiana State Inspector General’s Office, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Department of Education Office of Inspector General The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Walt Green and Alan Stevens.
NOTE: An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that probable cause exists to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial.
Baton Rouge Indictments Part of National Strike Force Takedown; 111 Defendants Charged with Submitting $225 Million in Fraudulent Claims
WASHINGTON – In an indictment unsealed today, six individuals were charged for their participation in a scheme to defraud Medicare, announced the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS). The indictments in Baton Rouge were part of a nationwide takedown by the Medicare Fraud Strike operations that led to charges against 111 defendants for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes to collectively submit more than $225 million in fraudulent claims.
Baton Rouge area residents Henry L. Jones, Chikenna D. Jones, and Stephanie V. Dangerfield, and Natchez, Mississippi area residents Shedrick O. McKenzie, Dr. Jo A. Francis, and Mary H. Griffin were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive and pay health care kickbacks in connection with McKenzie Healthcare Solutions, Inc., a purported supplier of durable medical equipment that submitted approximately $9.1 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare. Dangerfield additionally was charged with aggravated identity theft.
Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine districts have obtained indictments of 1,000 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, the HHS 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.
The results of the nationwide takedown were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer and HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson. The Baton Rouge charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., for the Middle District of Louisiana; Special Agent-in-Charge David W. Welker of the FBI’s New Orleans field office; Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations; and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
DRUG DEALER FACES LIVE IMPRISONMENT
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a federal jury convicted ANTWAIN ROBINSON, age 35, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, on a charge of possession with the intent to distribute fifty grams or more of “crack” cocaine.
On November 9, 2009, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at a residence in Hammond, Louisiana, where they found and seized approximately 181 grams of “crack” cocaine. A few days before, ROBINSON had sold approximately two ounces of “crack” cocaine from this house.
ROBINSON has two prior convictions for possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. One conviction occurred on March 11, 1996, in East Baton Rouge Parish, where he was ordered to serve seven years imprisonment at hard labor. The second conviction arose on January 16, 2001, in Lincoln Parish, Louisiana. He was ordered to serve a term of imprisonment of fifteen years.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson presided over the two day jury trial. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert W. Piedrahita and J. Lane Ewing, Jr. prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
ROBINSON faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $8,000,000. Judge Tyson will sentence the defendant following the completion of a pre-sentence investigation.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the Hammond City Police.
WOMAN SENTENCED FOR FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson sentenced LEVONNE STEWART, 42, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to forty-eight months in prison, to pay restitution of $70,485.38, and to three years supervised release after imprisonment.
STEWART pled guilty on October 26, 2010, to conspiracy to file false claims for tax refunds, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. STEWART conspired with others, including Sheila Cage and Clarissa Ayo, to obtain the names and social security numbers of various individuals and to prepare false and fraudulent federal income tax returns for filing with the IRS. Some of these names and social security numbers were of residents at area nursing homes. Other names and social security numbers were traded or purchased between co-conspirators. The conspiracy included falsely claiming that taxpayers had been self-employed and had earned income to maximize the refund amount obtained. In all, STEWART’s participation in this scheme involved approximately 30 false tax returns claiming refunds totaling $102,913.00.
James C. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation stated: “We are pleased with today's announcement. The tax system is built on the premise that taxpayers file accurate and timely tax returns. Willfully aiding or assisting in the preparing of false tax returns is a serious crime, punishable under Federal law. To ensure confidence in our tax system, Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are committed to the aggressive pursuit and prosecution of individuals who intentionally violate the nation's laws."
The investigation of STEWART was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Social Security Administration. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rich Bourgeois who serves as Deputy Criminal Chief.
PRAIRIEVILLE MAN CONVICTED OF MAIL FRAUD IN CONNECTION WITH FRAUDULENT PURCHASE AND RE-SALE OF COMPUTER EQUIPMENT
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that DUSTIN J. LANDRY, 30, of Prairieville, Louisiana, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Brian A. Jackson to mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341.
The Bill of Information, filed December 28, 2010, alleges that LANDRY was employed by MMR Group, Inc. (“MMR”) as an Information Technology (“IT”) specialist. MMR was a business that provides electrical services, instrumentation, and other technical services to the construction industry. LANDRY’s duties included ordering computers and computer equipment and providing IT services to MMR’s employees. The Bill of Information alleges that from in or about June of 2006 through in or about April of 2010, LANDRY devised a scheme to defraud MMR and others by using MMR’s corporate account to purchase computers and related equipment and then re-selling the equipment, without MMR’s knowledge or authorization, for his own personal gain. According to the factual basis that was offered in connection with the defendant’s guilty plea, over the course of his scheme, LANDRY sold approximately 136 computers and related components and obtained approximately $197,000 from the fraudulent sales.
As a result of his guilty plea, LANDRY faces a maximum sentence of a term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
The investigation of LANDRY was conducted by the United States Secret Service and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alan A. Stevens and Chris Dippel.
FORMER DOW RESEARCH SCIENTIST
CONVICTED OF STEALING TRADE SECRETS AND PERJURY
WASHINGTON – A federal jury in Baton Rouge, La., today convicted a former research scientist of stealing trade secrets from Dow Chemical Company and selling them to companies in the People’s Republic of China, as well as committing perjury, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. for the Middle District of Louisiana.
After a three-week trial, the jury found Wen Chyu Liu, aka David W. Liou, 74, of Houston, guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and one count of perjury.
According to the evidence presented in court, Liou came to the United States from China for graduate work. He began working for Dow in 1965 and retired in 1992. Dow is a leading producer of the elastomeric polymer, chlorinated polyethylene (CPE). Dow’s Tyrin CPE is used in a number of applications worldwide, such as automotive and industrial hoses, electrical cable jackets and vinyl siding.
While employed at Dow, Liou worked as a research scientist at the company’s Plaquemine, La., facility on various aspects of the development and manufacture of Dow elastomers, including Tyrin CPE. Liou had access to trade secrets and confidential and proprietary information pertaining to Dow’s Tyrin CPE process and product technology. The evidence at trial established that Liou conspired with at least four current and former employees of Dow’s facilities in Plaquemine and Stade, Germany, who had worked in Tyrin CPE production, to misappropriate those trade secrets in an effort to develop and market CPE process design packages to various Chinese companies.
Liou traveled extensively throughout China to market the stolen information, and evidence introduced at trial showed that he paid current and former Dow employees for Dow’s CPE-related material and information. In one instance, Liou bribed a then-employee at the Plaquemine facility with $50,000 in cash to provide Dow’s process manual and other CPE-related information.
“Today a federal jury found Mr. Liou guilty of stealing protected trade secrets from Dow Chemical Company, including by bribing fellow employees for this valuable information,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “American industries thrive on innovation and they invest substantial resources in developing new products and technology. We will not allow individuals to steal the technology and products that U.S. companies have invested years of time and considerable money to create.”
“This office will continue to pursue sophisticated and complex schemes, such as the one perpetrated by this defendant,” said U.S. Attorney Cazayoux. “Such actions undermine the economic viability of our community and our nation, and will not be tolerated.”
“Companies within the United States lose millions of dollars to the theft of trade secrets such as this,” said Special Agent-in-Charge David Welker of the FBI’s New Orleans Division. “The FBI is committed to aggressively identifying and investigating such schemes and along with our partners to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
In addition, according to evidence presented at trial related to the perjury charge, Liou falsely denied during a deposition that he made arrangements for a co-conspirator to travel to China to meet with representatives of a Chinese company interested in designing and building a new CPE plant. Liou was under oath at the time of the deposition, which was part of a federal civil suit brought by Dow against Liou.
Liou faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit trade secrets theft charge, and a maximum of five years in prison on the perjury charge. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson, who serves as the Senior Deputy Criminal Chief, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian F. Hipwell for the Middle District of Louisiana, as well as Trial Attorney Kendra Ervin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. The case was investigated by the FBI’s New Orleans Division.
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that ALMOND J. RICHARDSON, age 38, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was sentenced today in federal court by United States District Court Judge Frank J. Polozola to serve 240 months in prison to be followed by a term of supervised release of five years.
RICHARDSON was charged in a seven count Indictment filed on October 17, 2007. At the conclusion of the jury trial on August 13, 2009, verdicts of “Guilty” were returned by the jury as to five of the seven counts. Specifically, RICHARDSON was found guilty of Count II, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Count IV, manufacture of marijuana; Count V, distribution of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (commonly referred to as “Ecstacy”), Count VI, possession with intent to distribute 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamin; and Count VII, possession of marijuana.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “Project Exile is alive and well. Mr. Richardson has now joined the ranks of other Exile defendants and will be exiled from the streets of Baton Rouge to a federal prison. Baton Rouge is now a safer place because of Mr. Richardson’s departure. We look forward to continuing this effort with our state, local, and federal law enforcement partners. We can now focus our efforts on other convicted felons who continue to possess firearms.”
Milton Bonaventure of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives remarked, “This is an example of the success that can be achieved when law enforcement agencies work together. Through the efforts of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, ATF, and the dedication to prosecute armed criminals by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, another violent individual is removed from our society.”
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, III stated, “I hope this sentence sends a strong message to the criminal element in our community. We in the criminal justice profession are dedicated to taking back our neighborhoods and will continue to pool our resources to achieve that goal.”
The case was investigated by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Jefferson, who also serves as Point of Contact for Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program aimed at reducing the illegal possession of firearms in the Middle District of Louisiana.
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a Federal Grand Jury returned an indictment charging ARNOLD H. THOMAS, 46, of Fernandina Beach, Florida, with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. THOMAS faces a maximum sentence of 128 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500,000.
The indictment alleges that, beginning on an exact date unknown but continuing through June 2010, THOMAS devised a scheme to defraud the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). In order to execute the scheme, THOMAS provided false quarterly wage reports to the LWC in the names of fictitious companies. Following the submission of these wage reports, THOMAS fraudulently applied for unemployment insurance benefits in the names of various third parties and thereby received money from the LWC. The filing of these false unemployment applications caused interstate wire transmissions between the LWC in Baton Rouge and Chase Bank in Florida.
The indictment alleges that in all, THOMAS submitted approximately 392 false applications for unemployment insurance benefits which resulted in a loss of approximately $1,254,533 to the LWC.
Thomas F. Farrell, Assistant Inspector General for Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, United States Department of Labor, stated, “Today’s indictment demonstrates my office’s commitment to safeguarding the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Program. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate fraud schemes perpetrated against Department of Labor programs.”
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “This type of public assistance program is intended to lessen the effects of unemployment by ensuring that the necessities of life can be met while those individuals seek future employment. Our office will continue to aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to illegally take advantage of this assistance for their personal gain.”
The investigation of STEWART was conducted by the United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rich Bourgeois who serves as Deputy Criminal Chief.
NOTE: An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that probable cause exists to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial.
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that RANDY P. ZINNA, 53, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty in October 2010 before Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson to mail fraud.
As a result of his guilty plea, ZINNA faces a maximum sentence of twenty (20) years imprisonment, over $2 million in fines, or both.
In pleading guilty, ZINNA agreed to the following facts. ZINNA, who was an attorney licensed to practice in Louisiana, represented the Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System of Louisiana (MPERS), which was a retirement system established by the Louisiana Legislature to provide retirement and other benefits for employees of municipal police departments. MPERS, through a wholly owned subsidiary named Olde Oaks Development, LLC, owned, for investment purposes, a real estate development known as Olde Oaks Subdivision in Bossier City, Louisiana. ZINNA served as manager of Olde Oaks Development. From 2002 through 2009, ZINNA deposited into his law office escrow account Olde Oaks Development checks made payable to contractors of Olde Oaks Development on invoices then due and owing to the contractors, more than $850,000 in proceeds from the sale of lots in Olde Oaks Subdivision, and over $2,000,000 in MPERS funds. Although some of the monies were eventually remitted to the intended recipients, ZINNA retained some of the funds and used them for his personal benefit. In 2009, defendant ZINNA obtained three checks totaling $570,000 from an 83-year-old widow with the understanding that the funds would be invested for her benefit. Instead, defendant ZINNA used the funds for his own personal benefit, primarily to re-pay Olde Oaks Development for lot sales proceeds which had been deposited into his escrow account and used for his personal benefit.
In a signed plea agreement, ZINNA has agreed to make restitution of over $1,000,000 to the victims of the scheme. In addition, ZINNA has agreed to make restitution of over $340,000 to the East Baton Rouge City-Parish Employees’ Retirement System.
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street commented, “This guilty plea shows what can be accomplished when state agencies such as the Legislative Auditor, Attorney General and Inspector General work together with the FBI and United States Attorney. From day one, this was a true team effort that helped to uncover the brazen theft of more than 1.5 million
dollars. I want to express my thanks to Mr. Cazayoux, former U.S. Attorney David Dugas, and AUSA Patricia Jones.”
“I want to commend the investigative efforts of the Louisiana Inspector General’s Office, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Through the leadership of Inspector General Street and the whole investigative team, we were able to prosecute this man who first betrayed the trust of his client, MPERS, and the public in general by stealing from the pension fund he represented. His efforts to cover up his crime by stealing from another client, an elderly widow, make his actions all the more reprehensible. We will not tolerate this behavior and will continue to make prosecuting crimes involving the breach of the public trust a priority.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Patricia Jones.
GUILTY PLEAS IN BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, TO CHARGE OF HEALTH CARE FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that THOMPSON W. CHINWOH, age 57 and STEPHANIE DANGERFIELD, age 49 of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, both pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady to one count of an indictment charging conspiracy to commit health care fraud. SAMUEL B. JOHNSON, age 48 of Baton Rouge, also pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of money laundering.
The superseding indictment in this matter, filed December 8, 2010, arose from a health care fraud scheme involving a company known as Medical Supplies of Baton Rouge, Inc. (“MSBR”). CHINWOH and JOHNSON were owners of MSBR and DANGERFIELD worked for the company. MSBR was a company engaged in the business of providing power wheelchairs, orthotics and other durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. CHINWOH, JOHNSON and DANGERFIELD conspired with each other to defraud the Medicare program and commit health care fraud by submitting false claims to Medicare seeking reimbursement for sets of expensive braces (including a back brace, knee braces, and other items) knowing that the braces were not medically necessary and had not been prescribed for the beneficiaries by their physicians.
As a result of their guilty pleas, CHINWOH and DANGERFIELD each face a maximum sentence of a term of imprisonment of ten years. As a result of his guilty plea, JOHNSON faces a maximum sentence of a term of imprisonment of thirty years. Sentencing has not yet been set for these defendants.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. remarked, “Perpetrators of health care fraud increase the costs of care for us all. The public deserves a health care system free of those who seek personal gain through crime. This successful prosecution demonstrates our firm commitment to the aggressive and effective prosecution of Medicare fraud.”
Special Agent in Charge Mike Fields of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Dallas Regional Office, said, “The Office of the Inspector General is proud of the accomplishments gained so far by the joint effort of the Baton Rouge Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The three guilty pleas obtained here send a strong warning to anyone defrauding the Medicare program. We will continue to investigate and prosecute you."
The investigation of this matter was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alan Stevens, Helina Dayries and Chris Dippel. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 850 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.1 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.