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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 28, 2019

United States Attorney’s Office Hard at Work During the Government Shutdown

RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. stated today:  “I was pleased to return the United States Attorney’s Office to full operations this morning following the resolution of the lapse in appropriations by our leadership in Washington.  And as we resume normal operations, I want to thank and commend the lawyers and staff of the United States Attorney’s Office for their faithful service during this difficult period.  The vast majority of our staff served without pay for the duration of the lapse as essential employees tasked with ensuring the safety and security of the people of our District.  This is the dedication I see from them every day.  But the depth of their commitment to the mission and work of the Department of Justice was an example to us all over the last 35 days.”

“Today I am pleased to provide a summary of some of the matters which were handled during the lapse in government funding.”

In furtherance of the Take Back North Carolina Initiative the following violent crime and drug cases were adjudicated[1].

On January 3, 2019, ARCHIE ANTWON BRIDGES, 37, of Raleigh, was sentenced to 120 months imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release as the result of his guilty plea to distribution of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.  In January 2018, officers of the Raleigh Police Department (RPD) conducted a controlled purchase of heroin from BRIDGES. During a search of BRIDGES’s residence, officers found heroin in his master bedroom.  A later search revealed two firearms, one with an extended magazine, in a storage unit at BRIDGES’s home.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Raleigh Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

On January 4, 2019 ALEX ALTERICK HAMILTON, a/k/a “P”, 24, of Shallotte, North Carolina, was sentenced to 262 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of distribution of a quantity of cocaine and aiding and abetting and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.  In July of 2017, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) conducted a controlled purchase of cocaine and a rifle from HAMILTON in Shallotte, North Carolina. HAMILTON retrieved a bag from his truck containing 13.7 grams of cocaine and a rifle loaded with one round of ammunition, and HAMILTON sold the cocaine and rifle to a confidential informant for $1000.   This case was investigated by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Lemmon.

Also on January 4, 2019, GRIFFIN STANTON LEWIS, 29, of Maxton, North Carolina was sentenced to 126 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release.  On August 22, 2018, LEWIS pled guilty to conspiracy, one count of distribution of a quantity of cocaine base (crack), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.   According to the investigation, in June 2015, law enforcement officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the narcotics distribution activity of LEWIS, who they knew to be involved in drug distribution from previous cases.  A confidential informant was utilized to make two controlled purchases of cocaine and cocaine base (crack) from LEWIS.  A firearm was involved in both transactions, with the second controlled purchase including the sale of a firearm.  Investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.

“On January 8, 2019, RAYMOND GRIFFIN was found guilty of bank robbery by a federal jury.   GRIFFIN, who has three prior state robbery convictions, was convicted of robbing the Wells Fargo bank located at 3500 West Millbrook Road in Raleigh on August 29, 2017.  After GRIFFIN fled the bank on foot, witnesses in the area identified a suspicious man walking away from a bank toward a construction site.  Witnesses at the construction site saw GRIFFIN enter a porta john, which he exited just as police arrived.  Officers detained GRIFFIN on site, and in the porta john, they found items that the robber had worn during the robbery.  GRIFFIN was arrested and found with a large amounts of cash that corresponded with the amount stolen during the bank robbery.  His boots were later determined to match a shoeprint left when he jumped the bank counter.   The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jake D. Pugh and Charity Wilson.”

On January 8, 2019, CAYLE MARCUS COLEMAN, also known as “Kamari,” 40, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was sentenced to 228 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release.  COLEMAN pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  In 2014, investigators determined that COLEMAN was distributing large amounts of heroin in the Fayetteville area. COLEMAN was arrested on state cocaine and heroin-trafficking offenses.  While COLEMAN was on pretrial release for the state offenses, investigators conducted six additional controlled purchases of heroin from COLEMAN.  Witnesses explained that COLEMAN would send co-conspirators to New York on buses, and the co-conspirators would then return to North Carolina with heroin.   On December 15, 2015, investigators executed search warrants at two residences associated with COLEMAN.  The agents seized a .25 caliber handgun; 40 rounds of ammunition; $15,257 in cash; marijuana; 343.71 grams of liquid oxycodone; 76.63 grams of liquid codeine; and drug packaging materials.  In total, COLEMAN was responsible for distributing approximately 1.3 kilograms of heroin.   This case was investigated by the Fayetteville Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Lemmon.

On January 9, 2019, ANDREW LIGE, 40, of New Hanover County to 132 months’ imprisonment, followed by 4 years of supervised release.  On October 2, 2018, LIGE pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.  On July 26, 2016, Duplin County Sheriff’s Deputies and Highway Patrol Officers attempted to stop an automobile driven by LIGELIGE led members of law enforcement on a lengthy high-speed chase through Duplin County.   LIGE’s car reached speeds in excess of 115 miles per hour.  A bag containing more than 100 grams of heroin was thrown from the car during the chase.  Law enforcement was ultimately able to stop the car.   LIGE and a passenger had gone to New Jersey to pick heroin for distribution in Eastern North Carolina.  On November 26, 2017, LIGE was the victim of a home invasion in Wilmington North Carolina.  Law enforcement believes the residence was targeted because it was a heroin stash house.  LIGE was shot and lost his leg.  LIGE was found in close proximity to a handgun that was lying in a pool of his blood.  Law Enforcement Officers found more than $19,000 in the residence.  This currency was from drug proceeds.   On February 26, 2018, law enforcement received information that LIGE was returning from Richmond Virginia with a load of heroin for distribution in Wilmington.  The Wilmington Police and ATF conducted a traffic stop on a BMW in which LIGE was a passenger when it entered into Wilmington.  During a search of the car, law enforcement found 5,000 bags of heroin.  The driver had several bags with the same marking on his person at the time of the stop.  LIGE was a passenger. This case is part of an FBI lead OCDETF operation “Tooth Fairy”. This is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  This investigation is focused on the distribution of heroin from New Jersey to New Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, Duplin, and Sampson Counties and associated gang activities.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Street Unit, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Wilmington Police Department, Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Highway Patrol and the United States Marshall’s Fugitive Task Force.    Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Severo prosecuted the case.

On January 11, 2019, BRANDON AHART HAMPTON, a resident of Florence, South Carolina, was sentenced to 264 months imprisonment followed by 5 years of supervised release.  HAMPTON was convicted after a jury trial on February 21, 2018, of Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence.  He previously pled guilty to a charge of Hobbs Act Robbery on February 6, 2018.  The evidence at trial showed that on December 5, 2014, HAMPTON entered the ABC Store #8 in Spring Lake, North Carolina armed with a handgun.  HAMPTON pointed the firearm at the clerk’s head and threatened to kill a store clerk.  HAMPTON moved the clerk at gunpoint to the back office where the safe was located.  HAMPTON threatened to shoot the clerk when the clerk could not get the safe open fast enough.  HAMPTON fled the store and was captured later.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Alcohol, Beverage Control Law Enforcement Division, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Ft. Bragg Military Police and the Spring Lake Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Jane J. Jackson represented the government in this case.

On January 16, 2019, MYKEL LEVONT DAVIS, 38, of Elizabeth City was sentenced to 110 months’ imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised released.  On October 9, 2018, DAVIS pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.  On March 2, 2018, the Elizabeth City Police Department conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by DAVIS, who attempted to elude police.  After apprehending DAVIS and the vehicle’s other occupants, a search of the car revealed that DAVIS possessed a stolen .9mm handgun.  DAVIS was a convicted felon at the time of the incident and had other outstanding warrants.   The investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Elizabeth City Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Robert J. Dodson prosecuted the case for the government. 

On January 16, 2019, ANTHONY JERROD HIGH, 40, of Sharpsburg, North Carolina was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release, and DARLENA MOORE HIGH, also known as “Darlene High,” 50, of Wilson, North Carolina was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  The prosecution of ANTHONY and DARLENA HIGH, a husband and wife couple, was a part of an  Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation (OCDETF), which has focused on heroin and cocaine trafficking in Halifax, Nash and Edgecombe counties.  On July 11, 2018 ANTHONY HIGH pled guilty to distribution of a quantity of cocaine base (crack) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  On the same date, DARLENA HIGH pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine.   According to the investigation, the Rocky Mount Police Department utilized a confidential informant to purchase crack cocaine from ANTHONY HIGH on two occasions in September 2017.   On November 17, 2017, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by ANTHONY HIGH after seeing ANTHONY HIGH meet with a known drug trafficker.  DARLENA HIGH, was a passenger in the vehicle.  During a search of the vehicle, officers seized individually packaged marijuana and a loaded Taurus 9mm handgun from the center console.   At the time of this traffic stop, ANTHONY HIGH who had previously been convicted of second degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, which prohibited him from possessing a firearm.  Officers later found 303 grams of cocaine during a search of DARLENA HIGH.   DARLENA HIGH stated she received the cocaine from her husband, ANTHONY HIGH.  Investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Rocky Mount Police Department, and Halifax County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Dena King represented the government.

On January 18, 2019, COVIA SMITH was found guilty by a federal jury of distribution of cocaine and marijuana.  Members of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) have been conducting an investigation into a violent drug trafficking organization in Brunswick County under OCDETF Operation Hell Swamp.  During the investigation, agents learned that SMITH was selling large amounts of cocaine.  SMITH had a motorcycle for sale, and undercover ATF agents reached out to SMITH under the guise of purchasing the motorcycle.  On the first day they met, SMITH gave a small amount of marijuana to an ATF undercover Special Agent.  On the second date they met, SMITH sold cocaine to an undercover Special Agent.  On a third date, SMITH sold cocaine to a confidential informant.   At sentencing scheduled at a later date, Smith, who is a career offender, will be facing a guideline range of 262-327 months.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott Lemmon.

On January 18, 2019, KENDRICK DEQUAN ROGERS, also known as “Bentley,” 26, of Raleigh, North Carolina was sentenced to 125 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release, BRENDON RASHAD WHITE, also known as “B White,” 21, of Wilson, North Carolina was sentenced to 84 months imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release, and COHN DEANGELO HINTON, 49, of Raleigh, North Carolina was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment, followed by 4 years of supervised release.  The prosecution of ROGERS, WHITE, and HINTON was a part of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation (OCDETF), which has focused on heroin and cocaine trafficking in Nash and Wilson counties.  ROGERS, WHITE, and HINTON were named in a four-count Indictment filed on June 13, 2018 charging them with drug conspiracy running from at least September 2, 2016 until April 5, 2018.   On October 9, 2018, ROGERS pled guilty to the conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more cocaine, twenty-eight (28) grams or more of cocaine base (crack), one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin, and a quantity of marijuana as well as possession with intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more cocaine, one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin, a quantity of cocaine base (crack) and a quantity of marijuana.  On August 13, 2018, HINTON pled guilty to the conspiracy charge as well as possession with intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more cocaine, one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin, a quantity of cocaine base (crack) and a quantity of marijuana.  On September 12, 2018, WHITE pled guilty to the conspiracy charge as well as possession with intent to distribute five hundred (500) grams or more cocaine, one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin, a quantity of cocaine base (crack) and a quantity of marijuana.  According to the investigation, ROGERS, WHITE, and HINTON were a part of a drug trafficking organization that distributed cocaine, cocaine base (crack), heroin, and marijuana throughout Wilson and Wake counties.  The investigation revealed that in April 2018, WHITE and ROGERS were collecting money to travel to New York to obtain drugs.  On April 4, 2018, WHITE travelled from Wilson, North Carolina to Long Island, New York.  On April 5, 2018, after returning back to North Carolina, law enforcement initiated a traffic stop in Nash County on a car driven by HINTON with ROGERS and WHITE as passengers.  During a search of the car, officers seized 1,223 grams of cocaine, 101 grams of heroin, 25 grams of cocaine base (crack), and 2,721 grams of marijuana.  The investigation revealed this group had completed at least three trips to New York in the past to purchase drugs.  Investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Wilson Police Department, Nash County Sheriff’s Office, Raleigh Police Department, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Wake County Sheriff’s Office, and North Carolina Highway Patrol.  Assistant United States Attorney Dena King represented the government.  

On January 16, 2019, KHALIEF BALLARD, 22 of New Hanover County was sentenced to 81 months’ imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release.    On October 18, 2018, BALLARD pled guilty to possessing with the intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine base (crack) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  On January 18, 2018, Wilmington Police Officers stopped an automobile driven by BALLARD in the area of Shipyard Boulevard, Wilmington North Carolina.  The police had received information that BALLARD and the car he was driving had been involved in a shooting on January 14, 2018.  Officers detected an odor of marijuana coming from the car.  Officers searched the glovebox and found a loaded 40 caliber handgun with an extended magazine and a quantity of crack cocaine.   According to law enforcement, BALLARD was associated with a Wilmington Gang.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Wilmington Police Department Gang Unit.    Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Severo prosecuted the case.

On January 18, 2019, KEVIN FAIRCLOTH 38, of Duplin County, was sentenced to 144 months’ imprisonment, followed by 5 years of supervised release and SARAH FAIRCLOTH 26, of Duplin County was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment followed by 3 years supervised release.   On August 22, 2018 KEVIN FAIRCLOTH pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.    On July 12, 2018, SARAH FAIRCLOTH pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine.  On November 8, 2017, an operative working at the direction of the Duplin County Sheriff’s Narcotics Division ordered a quantity of methamphetamine from KEVIN FAIRCLOTH.  Detectives stopped a car in which KEVIN and SARAH FAIRCLOTH were passengers in the back seat on the way to deliver the methamphetamine.  A loaded firearm was found at KEVIN FAIRCLOTH’S feet.  SARAH FAIRCLOTH was searched at the jail and found to have more than an ounce of methamphetamine on her person.   According to law enforcement, the investigation revealed that KEVIN FAIRCLOTH was involved with the distribution of multiple kilograms of methamphetamine in the Duplin County area during 2017 until the time of his arrest.  This case is part of the DEA lead OCDETF operation “House of Usher”.  This is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  This investigation is focused on the distribution of methamphetamine in Duplin, Sampson and New Hanover Counties.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office.   Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Severo prosecuted the case.

On January 23, 2019, LAQUIN CORBIN, 34, of Fayetteville, was convicted by a federal jury of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  CORBIN has an extensive criminal record; and was found in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle, a .380 handgun with extended magazine, and almost 200 rounds of ammunition at his apartment while on probation and post release supervision.  The jury was out for 15 minutes or less before returning with their guilty verdict.  The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Fayetteville Police Department, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Department of Corrections, and North Carolina State Highway Patrol.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Phillip Rubin.

On January 25, 2019, KEVIN JUNIOR GRANT, 34, of Lumberton, was sentenced to 180 months imprisonment followed by 5 years of supervised release.  On October 18, 2018, GRANT pled guilty to distribution of heroin, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  In 2017 and 2018 the Lumberton Police Department repeatedly caught GRANT with distribution quantities of narcotics.  On several occasions he was also caught possessing a firearm.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the Lumberton Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

In addition to violent crime and drug trafficking cases discussed above, our Office indicted two cases under the Project Safe Childhood strategy.  It is important to note that charges and allegations contained in the Indictments are merely accusations.  The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

On January 16, 2019, an eleven-count indictment was returned charging ALAN SIGFRED ANDERSEN, age 57, of Elizabeth City, North Carolina with ten counts of Receipt of Child Pornography and one count of Possession of Child Pornography.  The indictment alleges that, beginning at a time unknown and ending on February 28, 2018, ANDERSEN received at least ten images containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  The indictment further alleges that on December 28, 2018, ANDERSEN was found to be in possession of digital media containing images and videos involving minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  If convicted of these charges, ANDERSEN would face a maximum of twenty years’ imprisonment and up to a lifetime of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.  The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations.  Assistant United States Attorney Melissa Belle Kessler is prosecuting the case for the government.

Also on January 16, 2019, an eleven-count indictment charging JAMES ROBERT BONNETTE, age 38, of Hubert, North Carolina, with ten counts of Receipt of Child Pornography and one count of Possession of Child Pornography.  The indictment alleges that, beginning at a time unknown and ending on October 30, 2017, BONNETTE received at least ten images containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  The indictment further alleges that on October 30, 2017, BONNETTE was found to be in possession of digital media containing images and videos involving minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  If convicted of these charges, BONNETTE would face a maximum of twenty years’ imprisonment and up to a lifetime of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.  The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Melissa Belle Kessler is prosecuting the case for the government.

The Office continued to enforce our nation’s immigration and election laws during the shutdown.  On January 18, 2019,  RAMON ESTEBAN PAEZ-JEREZ, age 59, of The Dominican Republic, was sentenced to 366 days imprisonment, after an August 14, 2018, guilty plea to passport fraud and unlawful voting by an alien.  According to the Criminal Information, PAEZ-JEREZ was ordered deported from the United States and failed to appear for his scheduled removal.  Thereafter, according to court records, PAEZ-JEREZ assumed a fraudulent identity and applied for amnesty. PAEZ-JEREZ, as mentioned in the charging document, was granted lawful permanent status under the false identity and fraudulently naturalized as a United States citizen.  Court records further show that on September 16, 2009, PAEZ-JEREZ made a false statement in an application for a United States passport when he applied under the fraudulent identity and failed to disclose his real name. Moreover, on November 8, 2016, PAEZ-JEREZ illegally voted in the General Election of 2016 in Wake County, North Carolina, knowing he had illegally obtained United States citizenship.   Immediately prior to sentencing, PAEZ-JEREZ was denaturalized as a United States citizen in a civil proceeding.  PAEZ-JEREZ was sentenced by United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan who, in addition to the term of incarceration, issued a judicial order of deportation ordering PAEZ-JEREZ’s prompt removal from the United States to the Dominican Republic upon release from federal custody.  The civil denaturalization case was prosecuted by the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation, District Court Section.  The criminal case was investigated under the newly created framework of the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina.  The DBTTF represents a joint effort by agents of the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, and Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Also, on January 7, 2019, SAIRAM YERUVA, age 44, a resident of Cary, North Carolina, and a naturalized United States citizen from India, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud as charged in a Criminal Information.   The Criminal Information alleges that YERUVA, and others, conspired to submit false and misleading information to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of at least one hundred eighty-three (183) initial H-1B petitions and at least one-hundred (100) H-1B extension petitions that were filed on behalf of KRONSYS, INC., CYGTEC, INC., and ARKSTEK, INC.  According to the charging document, YERUVA, and others, declared in their initial petitions that their H-1B nonimmigrant foreign workers would be employed by the companies at specific work locations in or near Raleigh, North Carolina or Aurora, Colorado for the sole purpose of developing internal, or “in-house”, information technology projects.  The petitions also declared that the H-1B workers would be paid the prevailing wage throughout the entirety of their H-1B status with the companies.  Rather than developing the “in-house” projects, the H-1B workers provided IT consulting services to end clients throughout the United States, thereby earning KRONSYS, INC., CYGTEC, INC., and ARKSTEK, INC. at least $26,225,000.  Many of the H-1B workers were “benched” while they waited for their initial end client assignment to begin or while they were in between end client assignments.  “Benching” refers to the practice of placing H-1B foreign workers in nonproductive status without pay while they search for new end client assignments.  The H-1B program is intended to assist employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the United States workforce. The H-1B program authorizes these employers to temporarily employ foreign workers as nonimmigrants in specialty occupations. Speculative employment is not permitted under the H-1B program, as the program is not intended as a vehicle for foreign workers to engage in a job search, or for employers to bring in foreign workers to meet possible workforce needs. YERUVA faces maximum penalties of five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.  The case is being investigated by the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF).  The investigation is led by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.         

Our White Collar prosecutions also continued during the shutdown.  On January 16, 2019, ELIZABETH HAYES COX, 61, an Eastover, NC was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release.  On July 17, 2018, COX pled guilty to the theft of approximately $68,840.00 in Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits and approximately $44,629.48 in Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) benefits.  COX was also ordered to pay restitution of those amounts to the SSA and DVA.   Beginning in April 2000, COX and her late husband filed a birth certificate of a child, Oliver Cox, with the Wake County Human Services Office of the Register of Deeds.  The birth certificate was fraudulent and the alleged child did not exist.  As a result of this fraudulent birth certificate, a Social Security number was issued for the fictitious child.  Over a period of approximately 17 years, COX received Social Security and Veterans Benefits on behalf of her fictitious child.  She and her late husband received this benefits by continuously submitting fraudulent documents attesting that the fictitious child was entitled to both SSA and DVA funds.  The investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General.  Assistant United States Attorney Melissa Belle Kessler represented the United States in this case.

Additionally, on December 27, 2018, CHRISTIAN GERALD DESGROUX, age 58, of Raleigh was charged with contacting the 911 Raleigh-Wake Communication Center, pretending to be a United States Federal Officer, and falsely telling the dispatcher that he was pursuing ten illegal immigrants transporting a bomb in a van on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, North Carolina– all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 844(e).  If convicted of this charge DESGROUX would face maximum penalties of 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.  The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.  The case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Raleigh Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorneys Gabriel Diaz and Jason Kellhofer are prosecuting the case for the government.

 

[1] Take Back North Carolina Initiative is the initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which emphasizes the regional assignment of federal prosecutors to work with law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices on a sustained basis in those communities to reduce the violent crime rate, drug trafficking, and crimes against law enforcement

Updated January 28, 2019