Law enforcement honored by U.S. Attorney at awards ceremony in Clarksburg
CLARKSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Eleven law enforcement members were recognized today for their outstanding work in the greater Clarksburg area.
U.S. Attorney Bill Powell recognized WV State Police Cpl. John W. Smith, FBI Special Agent Fred Aldridge, FBI Special Agent Matt Eagles, DEA Diversion Investigator Guy McCartney, DEA Diversion Investigator Chris Skaggs, WV State Police Sgt. Rob Talkington, Bridgeport Police Lt. Gary Weaver, WV State Police Task Force Commander Josh Tallman, FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits, FBI Special Agent Jared Jankowski, FBI Special Agent Justin Van Tromp, and IRS Special Agent Tami Devericks for their exemplary work.
“Honoring those who go above and beyond to protect our children, our community and our national security is a great privilege. While this year has created exceptional challenges, they continue their great work to keep our communities safer. Those honored today never seek recognition, but it is important to let the public know about the accomplishments of our law enforcement members. I thank each and every one of them for their continued service,” said Powell.
West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.W. Smith and FBI Special Agent Aldridge conducted an arduous two-year investigation resulting in the successful prosecution of former Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Rock for distributing drugs to his confidential informants in 2016. Cpl. Smith and Special Agent Aldridge conducted dozens of interviews, often with hard-to-locate subjects, active drug users, uncooperative witnesses, and Rock himself. They poured over and organized hundreds of pages of law enforcement records and reports Their work was exceptional, and Rock’s conviction was uniquely important to the county and the law enforcement community. Rock was sentenced to more than 58 months in prison.
For the successful outcome of this case and their important roles in the investigation, the Outstanding Investigative Effort Award was given to Cpl. J.W. Smith and Special Agent Fred Aldridge.
FBI Special Agent Matt Eagles, DEA Diversion Investigator Guy McCartney, DEA Diversion Investigator Chris Skaggs worked tirelessly in the prosecution of several physicians and others in a prescription drug case. The Dr. Felix Brizuela investigation began in January 2015 as a DEA investigation into Dr. Brizuela’s prescribing practices. It soon became evident that Dr. Brizuela was engaging in healthcare fraud, the FBI joined the investigation. The investigation quickly expanded to other targets, including Dr. George Naum, Sharon Jackson and Eric Drake. Investigator McCartney and Special Agent Eagles spent the next four years investigating these individuals and preparing the case for trial. Their investigation included collecting and reviewing over 650,000 documents, among which were hundreds of patient medical charts from two different medical practices. The agents executed search warrants on five physical locations and three email accounts. They also interviewed over one hundred witnesses. Ms. Jackson and Mr. Drake resolved their cases by plea agreement. Dr. Naum was found guilty after a lengthy trial and sentenced to 6 months incarceration and 6 months home confinement and ordered to forfeit over $75,000.00 in ill-gotten gains. Dr. Brizuela pled guilty last week. He was sentenced to time served which equaled six months, and three years of supervised release. During this time, he is not permitted to request a license to prescribe medications from the DEA. Investigator Guy McCartney and Special Agent Matt Eagles devoted many long and tedious hours to investigating and seeing through this complex case to prosecution, and Investigator Chris Skaggs stepped in and carried the case through to sentencing. For all of their hard work, they each received the Outstanding Investigative Effort Award.
WV State Police Sgt. Rob Talkington has been doing child exploitation cases for a long time. His experience is reflected in his poise and in his decision-making. His hard work in the Tara Ponceroff and Ian Toothman child pornography cases. A sharp eye and some excellent investigative work led law enforcement to believe that there were child pornographic images on Toothman’s phone, and that Ponceroff was the depicted female in the pictures. He was able to ascertain the identity of the victim (whose face was not visible). Both defendants pled guilty and were given severe sentences for their conduct. Toothman is serving 278 months and Ponceroff is serving 360 months. Sgt. Talkington also handled the James Smith child pornography case in which Smith, a previously convicted offender, was engaging in an extremely sexual chat with various teenaged boys. Smith pled guilty and was sentenced to 168 months in prison. Sgt. Rob Talkington was honored with the Outstanding Investigative Effort Award.
Lt. Gary Weaver with the Bridgeport Police Department is a staunch force for good in the fight against child exploitation. Lt. Weaver was a key part of the investigations into Jeremy Smith, Jack Rice, and Quionte Crawford, all child pornography cases. Rice was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Jeremy Smith pled guilty to a child pornography charge and was sentenced to 51 months in prison. Lt. Weaver put forth an extraordinary effort on the Crawford case. Crawford had befriended and groomed teenaged boys he met at youth baseball games and tournaments. Crawford groomed their parents as well. Then he would approach them on-line in the persona of a sexually eager 18-year-old girl. Lt. Weaver’s patience with the victims was exemplary. Crawford received a life sentence for his crimes. Lt. Weaver was also integral in the case against defendant James Vincent Scott. Lt. Weaver posed online as a 15 y/o female, in which Scott sent sexually explicit text to what he thought was an underage female. He solicited pictures. He then agreed to meet the “female” for sex and drove from Ohio to Bridgeport for the purpose of meeting her. Scott pled guilty and was sentenced to 50 months. Lt. Weaver received the Outstanding Investigative Effort Award.
On the evening of Monday, August 5, 2019, Task Force Commander J. M. Tallman, as well as other troopers, responded to Pocahontas County to assist in the search of an armed subject. The suspect had fired upon the Pocahontas County Sheriff and one of his deputies after a single vehicle crash and fled into a heavily wooded area. TFC Tallman and another trooper went with a Huttonsville Prison K-9 unit in an attempt to track and locate the suspect. TFC Tallman heard movement in the brush and observed the suspect appear from behind some trees with a rifle. TFC Tallman instructed the suspect to put the gun down. An exchange of gunfire ensued, and the suspect charged toward TFC Tallman. TFC Tallman was struck in the abdomen with a high-powered rifle. The round had struck TFC Tallman’s cap stun and duty belt buckle before traveling through the lower part of his Kevlar vest and into his abdomen. The suspect continued charging at TFC Tallman at which time a physical altercation ensued. TFC Tallman transitioned to his 9mm duty weapon and fired several rounds as the suspect was attempting to disarm him. TFC Tallman’s duty weapon malfunctioned and TFC Tallman transitioned back to his AR-15 and fired a single round, fatally wounding the suspect. TFC Tallman was treated on scene by Troopers and flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital via WVSP Aviation. TFC Tallman has since recovered from his injuries and continues his work. For his bravery and selflessness, Task Force Commander Josh Tallman was given the Heroic Effort Award.
FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits, IRS Special Agent Tami Devericks, FBI Special Agent Jared Jankowski, and FBI Special Agent Justin Van Tromp worked tirelessly on two cases involving Chinese nationals.
Dr. Qingyun Sun, a Chinese national, was employed by West Virginia University as a professor since 2001 and contracted to the West Virginia Development Office, within the West Virginia Department of Commerce, to act as the governor’s assistant for China affairs since 2008. Dr. James Patrick Lewis, an American citizen, was employed by WVU as a physics professor since 2006. The investigations involved countless hours of investigative work and hundreds of documents. Dr. Sun pled guilty to wire fraud and tax fraud in July 2020 and is awaiting sentencing in December 2020. Dr. Lewis pled guilty to federal program fraud in March 2020 and was sentenced to three months of incarceration and fined $9,363 for the costs of the incarceration and was ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution to WVU. FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits, IRS Special Agent Tami Devericks, FBI Special Agent Jared Jankowski, and FBI Special Agent Justin Van Tromp were vital to the resolutions in both cases and were presented with Outstanding Investigative Effort Awards.
The ceremony was held in the Clarksburg Federal Courthouse and included remarks from U.S. Attorney Bill Powell and the presence of many local, state and federal law enforcement leaders from throughout West Virginia.
Other ceremonies were held in Martinsburg and Wheeling to honor more recipients of the U.S. Attorney Awards.