The Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting violations of federal criminal laws. The offenses cover a wide range of crimes including violent crimes committed by street gangs, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses, health care fraud, public corruption, civil rights violations, securities fraud, tax crimes, identity theft, human trafficking, and child exploitation
The Criminal Division works closely with federal and state law enforcement agencies that investigate violations of federal law. These agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Health and Human Services, United States Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service, United States Secret Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Offices of Inspector General for various federal agencies. The Criminal Division also works closely with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, and other local police departments, county sheriff’s offices, and drug task forces consisting of representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement to enforce federal law.
The Criminal Division is divided into the following Units: the Organized Crime Unit, the White-Collar Crime Unit, and the General Crimes Unit. A description of each Unit follows:
Organized Crime Unit
The Organized Crime Unit identifies, investigates, and prosecutes significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations with the goal of disrupting and dismantling the operations of those organizations to reduce the drug supply in the Middle District of Tennessee and the United States. AUSA’s in the OCU also prosecute the most significant healthcare fraud cases in the office, public corruption, and civil rights violations.
White-Collar Crime Unit
The White-Collar Crime Unit prosecutes corporations and individuals who commit violations of a wide variety of federal laws, including bank fraud, investment fraud, securities fraud, tax crimes, and theft from government programs. The investigations and prosecutions frequently involve complex criminal schemes implicating the bank, mail, and wire fraud statutes.
General Crimes Unit
The General Crimes Unit (GCU) prosecutes violent crimes such as shootings, carjackings, and the armed robberies of banks, pharmacies, and other businesses. A focus of the GCU is the enforcement of federal firearm laws which prohibit the possession of firearms and ammunition by convicted felons and those individuals who possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes. AUSAs in the GCU also prosecute other offenses such as interstate violation of sex offender registry laws, inmates who escape from federal prison facilities, and identity theft related to mail or wire fraud.
Some recent examples of the work performed by the Criminal Division, broken down by subject matter, include:
U.S. v. Frazier, et al. (Mongols Motorcycle Club Prosecution): Between 2015 and 2018, the Mongols Motorcycle Club, an international organization that identifies as an “outlaw” motorcycle gang, engaged in widespread violence and drug trafficking that terrorized the greater Clarksville, Tennessee area. In addition to their extensive drug trafficking, members and associates of the gang engaged in a host of violent criminal activities, including murder, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, and witness tampering. Their most heinous acts were the kidnapping and brutal murders of two individuals. Ultimately, the prosecution resulted in federal convictions for 24 members and associates of the Clarksville Mongols on a wide array of criminal offenses including RICO offenses, drug-trafficking offenses, various crimes in aid of racketeering (including murder and kidnapping), and firearms offenses. Those 24 defendants are now awaiting sentencing, with some of them facing mandatory life sentences.
U.S. v. Marcus Darden, et al. (Gangster Disciples Prosecution): For more than a decade, members of the Gangster Disciples street gang terrorized middle Tennessee communities through a relentless campaign of murders, shootings, robberies, assaults, and witness intimidation. Federal authorities began investigating the gang in 2013, eventually charging more than 30 of its members and associates between 2017 and 2020 with a wide range of criminal offenses, including RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, various crimes in aid of racketeering (including murder and attempted murder), and obstruction of justice. This extensive prosecution resulted in convictions related to (among other offenses) five cold-case homicides in Clarksville, Tennessee. All the defendants charged as a result of the investigation either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and many are now serving lengthy sentences (up to and including life imprisonment).
U.S. v. Ochoa, et al. (MS-13): Between 2014 and 2021, members and associates of the LaMara Salvatrucha criminal street gang (“MS-13”) engaged in murder, attempted murder, assault, extortion, kidnapping, carjacking, witness tampering, destruction of evidence, and drug trafficking to maintain and advance their imprint in the Middle District of Tennessee. These members and associates primarily sold drugs in and around local Hispanic nightclubs and threatened patrons, employees, and rival drug dealers with violence if they impeded their drug trade. In the summer of 2017, federal, state, and local law enforcement officers began an initiative to dismantle this gang by locating and identifying members and associates. Agents arrested dozens of MS-13 members and associates on federal and state charges in Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and El Salvador. While executing arrest and search warrants, Agents seized firearms, ballistic vests, gang paraphernalia, and controlled substances. Many of the defendants already have been convicted and received sentences of up to 35 years’ imprisonment. There are seven remaining defendants presently awaiting trial in the Middle District of Tennessee.
U.S. v. Erik Maund, et al.: Maund, a wealthy car dealer in Austin, Texas, has been indicted for a murder for hire conspiracy in which he is alleged to have hired three co-defendants to kidnap and murder a Nashville woman and man after the man attempted to extort Maund. This case is pending.
U.S. v. Miller, et al.: Miller and eleven co-defendants have been indicted with crimes stemming from the purchase and transfer of dozens of firearms to the streets of Chicago. The defendants have been charged with conspiring to violate federal firearms statutes, including dealing in firearms without a license; transporting and receiving firearms into another state; making false statements to a federally licensed firearm dealer; conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes and to use and carry firearms in relation to crimes of violence; and conspiring to commit money laundering, as well as other related substantive offenses. Two individuals alleged to be part of the conspiracies died as a result of gang violence, which was facilitated by the firearms illegally transferred to individuals in the Chicago area prior to this indictment. This case is pending.
HEALTH CARE FRAUD
U.S. v. Alshalabi, et al.: Eight defendants, including the owner and senior executives at a laboratory headquartered in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with other locations in Maryland and Texas, as well as several marketing company executives, were indicted for their roles in an alleged $150 million dollar health care fraud conspiracy related to the payment and receipt of kickbacks for fraudulent cancer and cardiovascular genetic testing billed to Medicare and Medicaid that was also medically unnecessary. The indictment alleges that between 2016 and 2021, Alshalabi and co-conspirators orchestrated a nationwide scheme to pay kickbacks in exchange for laboratory tests. The alleged scheme involved marketers, who recruited Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries across multiple states to provide their genetic material via a mouth swab and then sold the swabs to the laboratory in exchange for kickback payments. Telemedicine companies accepted kickback payments in exchange for providing signed physician orders for the laboratory tests even though the physicians did not know the patients, were not treating the patients, and never spoke to the patients. The laboratory then paid the marketers kickbacks based on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for the unnecessary tests. This case is pending.
U.S. v. John Manning: Manning was indicted for committing a $41,000,000 health care fraud scheme. Manning allegedly submitted reimbursement claims to Medicare resulting from electronically signed doctors’ orders for braces, topical creams, and genetic testing despite having little, if any, interactions with the patients. In addition, telemedicine companies paid Manning an illegal kickback to induce doctors’ orders and prescriptions. This case is pending.
U.S. v. Richard N. Schott: Schott, a licensed dentist, owned and operated a dental practice. Between November 2013 and January 2018, he caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to healthcare benefit programs, including billing for dental work that had not been completed or performed at all; falsifying dates of service to appear to comply with benefit programs’ timeframe and preauthorization requirements; falsifying claims to appear that services had been rendered by a benefits program credentialed dentist; falsifying supporting documents and adding false narratives to support the upcoding of claims; and others, including continuing to submit false claims after being advised by insurance companies that audits had determined a pattern of false claims and that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was conducting a criminal investigation into the company’s billing practices. Schott was sentenced to 33 months and ordered to pay $956,448.00 in restitution.
U.S. v. Kelsey, et al.: Former Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey unsuccessfully ran for the House of Representatives in 2016. Kelsey and his co-conspirators orchestrated the concealed movement of $91,000 — $66,000 of which came from Kelsey’s State Senate campaign committee, and $25,000 of which came from a nonprofit corporation that publicly advocated on legal justice issues — to a national political organization for the purpose of funding advertisements that urged voters to support Kelsey in the August 2016 primary election. Kelsey and others also caused the political organization to make $80,000 worth of contributions to Kelsey’s federal campaign committee in the form of coordinated expenditures. Kelsey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the FEC and aiding and abetting the acceptance of excessive contributions on behalf of a federal campaign. Joshua Smith, one of Kelsey’s co-conspirators, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the solicitation, receipt, direction, transfer, and spending of soft money in connection with a federal election. They are scheduled to be sentenced in the spring of 2023, and face a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count.
U.S. v. Casada, et al: Former Tennessee State Representative Glen Casada and his former Chief of Staff, Cade Cothren, were charged in a 20-count indictment related to their fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves by exploiting Casada and another co-conspirator’s official positions for a company called Phoenix Solutions. The indictment alleges that Casada and the other conspirator told members of the Tennessee General Assembly that Phoenix Solutions was run by an individual named “Matthew Phoenix,” an experienced political consultant who had previously worked for a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, when in fact, Cothren operated Phoenix Solutions and Matthew Phoenix was a fictional person. Former Tennessee State Representative Robin Smith pleaded guilty, admitting her role in the scheme. The case remains pending against Casada and Cothren.
U.S. v. Janbakhsh: Janbakhsh, the former CEO and CFA of Auto Masters was indicted for bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a bank, and bankruptcy fraud. The CEO was also charged with witness tampering, and the CFO was charged with filing false tax returns. Another former part-owner of Auto Masters, and the former Auto Masters portfolio manager, were charged by information in the scheme with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. According to the indictment, the co-conspirators conspired to defraud Capital One by falsely overvaluing the collateral that supported a line of credit with the bank. They then made draws in excess of the legitimate collateral. The loss to Capital One is approximately $24 million. This case is pending.
U.S. v. Gregory Vogel, a/k/a Gregory Schneider: Vogel was indicted for devising a fraudulent investment scheme through which he solicited individuals to invest money with his company to support the creation and operation of foreign currency exchange (forex) websites and software, which Vogel claimed would generate substantial revenue for investors in monthly profits and eventually could be sold to a third party to realize an even greater return. Vogel is alleged to have unlawfully obtained over $1 million from investors as part of the scheme. This case is pending.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee has established and maintains an Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC). The current function of each ATAC is to enhance training and information sharing among the district’s federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as other first responders and private parties, in matters related to terrorism. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Josh Kurtzman is the ATAC Coordinator for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The Nashville-area Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and comprised of various other state and federal agencies, is the primary agency responsible for investigating potential terrorist related activities and suspicious incidents. Prosecutions are coordinated with the Criminal Division at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The primary objectives of the JTTF are: 1) the prevention and disruption of terrorist activity by implementing the full range of resources available to investigate terrorist incidents; and 2) the vigorous prosecution of those who have committed, or intend to commit, terrorist acts in the United States.
CONTACTS FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE: