Baltimore Man Sentenced to Over 31 Years in Federal Prison for Extortion Related to a Murder
Baltimore, Maryland –Matthew Hightower, age 34, of Baltimore, was sentenced today to 380 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for collection of a debt by extortionate means, and use of interstate facilities for extortion resulting in death in connection with the murder of victim David Wutoh. Hightower was convicted by a federal jury on September 22, 2016, after a seven-day trial.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to evidence presented at trial, in 2013, Matthew Hightower was employed at RX Resources and Solutions (RXRS) as a delivery driver. RXRS was owned by Hightower’s co-defendant, Harry Crawford, who was also Hightower’s boss at RXRS.
According to trial testimony and Crawford’s plea agreement, in 2013 Crawford approached Hightower to facilitate a loan to Crawford’s longtime friend, David Wutoh. Wutoh promised Hightower that in exchange for $15,000 in cash, Wutoh would pay Hightower $20,000 within a short period of time. Crawford also loaned Wutoh at least $6,000 of his own money. Wutoh did not pay either man back the money he had borrowed, and as a result, from May through September 2013, Crawford and Hightower used cellular telephones and electronic messaging to harass, threaten, and coerce Wutoh to repay the loans.
For example, according to Crawford’s plea agreement, on June 7, 2013, Wutoh sent an electronic message to Crawford stating, “Battery dying.” Crawford responded, “You will be also. Stop playing with people’s money.” On June 11, 2013, Crawford left Wutoh a voicemail, “Dave, I hope you don’t wanna go to sleep permanently. Give me a call.”
According to trial testimony, after further discussions about whether Wutoh would pay Hightower back, Crawford texted Wutoh on June 12, 2013, “You are putting me in a bad bad bad position I vouch for you and now you are sh**ting on Matt I have no control if you get hurt...” In response to these threats, Wutoh paid Hightower $6,000 of the $20,000 he had promised. On August 27, 2013, Hightower texted Wutoh that he was “really sick of your lies.” On September 6, 2013, Wutoh sent a message to Hightower in an attempt to repay Hightower with prescription drugs instead of money, which Hightower refused. Between September 6 and September 9, 2013, Hightower sent several messages to Wutoh about wanting his “money,” including a text to Wutoh stating, “Wheres my cheese man I don’t have time for these games.” “Cheese” is a slang term for money. On September 13, 2013, Crawford sent a message to Wutoh telling him to put him in his will. Wutoh responded to Crawford, “you are.” As of September 21, 2013, Wutoh had not repaid Hightower or Crawford all of the money he borrowed from them.
According to trial testimony, on the evening of September 21 and the early morning hours of September 22, 2013, Hightower traveled from West Baltimore to East Baltimore County in the area of Wutoh’s home. According to testimony at Hightower’s trial, at approximately 2:45 a.m., Matthew Hightower walked up to the driveway of the house where Wutoh was staying and shot seven times through the window at Wutoh, who was asleep on the couch in the living room. Wutoh was shot in the arm, leg, and head, killing him almost instantly. Then Hightower fled the scene. According to the evidence presented in court, moments later, Hightower answered a phone call on a phone he used, but had registered in another person’s name. Records showed the phone was located in close proximity to the house where Wutoh was murdered. Hightower was subsequently interviewed by investigators, and he denied being “anywhere” in the vicinity of the murder. Several weeks later, Crawford asked an associate of Wutoh questions about Wutoh’s will.
On November 22, 2016, Harry Crawford, age 56, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to: collection of a debt by extortionate means from victim David Wutoh; conspiracy to commit health care fraud in connection with schemes to defraud Medicaid and other health benefit programs of more than $1.2 million; and conspiracy to defraud the United States, for not reporting income from the health care fraud scheme on his taxes, resulting in over $125,000 in taxes owed. Judge Garbis scheduled sentencing for Crawford on March 28, 2017, at 11:30 a.m. Crawford is released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.
Hightower and co-defendant Elma Myles, age 52, of Baltimore, are scheduled to go to trial on charges related to the health care fraud scheme on January 23, 2017. Hightower remains detained.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the HHS-OIG, IRS, and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and thanked the Maryland Attorney General’s Office Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for its assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, Judson T. Mihok, and Sandra Wilkinson, who are prosecuting the case.