Armed Leader Of Fentanyl And Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy Sentenced To 40 Years In Federal Prison
Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces the return of an indictment charging Howard D. Farley, Jr. (72, Weirsdale) and Duc Hanh Thi Vu (56, Weirsdale) with passport fraud. Farley was also charged with aggravated identity theft, Social Security fraud, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, and operating as a pilot without a legitimate airman’s certificate. Vu was additionally charged with false statements to a federal agency and employing a pilot without a legitimate airman’s certificate. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation to seize the couple’s aircraft.
If convicted, Farley faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Vu faces a maximum penalty of 18 years in federal prison.
Farley was previously arrested on December 2, 2020, as “John Doe,” after federal agents obtained an arrest warrant for passport fraud. Once Farley was fingerprinted, agents confirmed that he had been using the identity of a deceased person for more than 35 years to avoid apprehension in the District of Nebraska where, in 1985, he had been indicted as part of a drug distribution conspiracy. Those charges were dismissed in 2014.
According to the indictment and other court records, in or around February 2020, Farley and Vu, acting together, submitted a passport application using the name and date of birth of an infant who had died in 1955. Farley and Vu failed to disclose Farley’s true identity in the application. They also included a Social Security number for the victim, which Farley had obtained by fraudulent means in 1982.
At the time of his arrest on December 2, 2020, authorities executed a search warrant at the couple’s residence, in which agents recovered a firearm and ammunition inside Farley’s nightstand. Farley was convicted in 1970 of a felony in Nebraska and is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law. While agents were at the residence, Vu allegedly made false statements regarding the true identity of Farley.
The Department of Homeland Security also seized an aircraft located at the residence. While the aircraft was registered to Vu, Farley was the only pilot who operated it. The indictment charges Farley with operating as a pilot without a legitimate airman’s certificate. It further charges Vu with employing Farley as a pilot without a legitimate airman’s certificate. Farley did not have a legitimate airman’s certificate because he falsified his identity to the Federal Aviation Administration. He also failed to disclose his felony conviction from Nebraska and his status as a fugitive from justice. If convicted of these offenses, the aircraft would be subject to forfeiture by the United States.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the Department of Transportation – Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation,with support from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael P. Felicetta.