Houston Man Convicted of Racketeering Schemes that Involved the Attempted Capital Murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek
In Austin today, a federal jury convicted 30-year-old Chimene Hamilton Onyeri on federal charges related to his leadership role in carrying out fraud and racketeering schemes that involved the attempted capital murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek in November of 2015.
That announcement was made by United States Attorney John F. Bash; Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore; FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Andy Tsui; Austin Police Chief Brian Manley; and, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division.
“Today’s verdict vindicates the integrity of our judicial system and achieves justice for Judge Kocurek. I thank the jury for their conscientious service over a long trial,” stated United States Attorney John F. Bash.
Jurors convicted Onyeri of one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft, and six counts of witness tampering.
Evidence presented during trial revealed that from January 2012 to November 2015, Onyeri, 28-year-old Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, TX, and 26-year-old Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrero, LA, all conspired to commit various fraudulent schemes for financial gain in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas. Schemes included converting stolen debit card numbers obtained from skimming devices into cash, and Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF), through the use of the U.S. Mail. Their racketeering enterprise involved mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud, money laundering and attempted murder.
According to testimony, when the existence of the criminal enterprise was threatened, Onyeri responded with violence. On the night of November 6, 2015, Onyeri attempted to murder State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, whom Onyeri believed was going to sentence him to prison, by shooting Judge Kocurek while she sat in her car outside her home in Austin. As a result of the incident, Kocurek suffered serious bodily injury from multiple gunshots and resulting shrapnel.
Testimony also revealed that in September 2016, Onyeri attempted to contact six witnesses by smuggling a note out of the Travis County Jail and corruptly persuade them not to talk about Onyeri’s criminal activities to investigators in this case.
“The law enforcement response to this evil has been truly exemplary. The investigation was tireless and meticulous. And the United States Attorney and the Travis County District Attorney jointly delivered the resources necessary to achieve this successful prosecution,” stated Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore.
“Today’s verdict should send a clear message to those who threaten, injure or kill members of the judiciary – you will not escape the consequences of your actions. Justice will be served and you will be held accountable,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “It was an honor and privilege to work with Austin Police Department, and our law enforcement partners, to bring justice for a brave jurist and dedicated public servant whose life was changed forever by the defendant’s brazen and violent actions.”
“Chimene Onyeri’s criminal organization perpetuated elaborate fraud schemes driven by his insatiable greed. This trial has shown Onyeri’s blatant disregard for human life by the attempted murder of a State District Court Judge,” said Andy Tsui, Acting IRS Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio field office. “This conviction demonstrates IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment in supporting our law enforcement partners in holding criminal organizations accountable for their actions.”
“This investigation was an excellent example of a partnership between local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working together to successfully prosecute numerous violations of federal statutes. I commend the hard work and countless hours put forth by all of the law enforcement agencies involved, which resulted in justice for the victims,” stated USPIS Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez.
“I am grateful to our local, state and federal partners for bringing closure to this case,” said Police Chief Brian Manley. “The strong partnerships we have with our partnering agencies were crucial to this investigation. I’d like to thank the Austin Police Department’s Homicide and Homicide Cold Case Unit for their tireless work and dedication seeking justice for Judge Julie Kocurek and the Kocurek family whose lives will always be impacted by this senseless act.”
“I’m glad to see justice prevail against Onyeri and congratulate federal and state prosecutors on a job well done. I wish Judge Kocurek nothing but the best as she moves forward and continues to heal. It was the Travis County Sheriff’s Office’s honor to provide security to her and her family and to participate in the multi-agency efforts that investigated and prosecuted this case,” stated Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez.
Burgin and Scott both entered guilty pleas prior to jury selection. Burgin and Scott each pleaded guilty to the RICO conspiracy charge. Both remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing which has yet to be scheduled. Onyeri, who also remains in federal custody, is scheduled for sentencing at 9:00am on August 17, 2018, in Austin before United States District Judge Lee Yeakel.
This FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Secret Service, Austin Police Department and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office investigated this case. The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in (Calcasieu Parish) Lake Charles, Louisiana; Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office; United States Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Louisiana; the United States Marshals Service; Travis County Sheriff’s Office; and, the Houston Police Department provided valuable assistance during this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dayna L. Blazey of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.