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Press Release

Houston Man Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison for Racketeering Schemes that Involved the Attempted Capital Murder of State District Judge Julie Kocurek

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas

In Austin today, a federal judge sentenced 31-year-old Chimene Hamilton Onyeri to life in federal prison for 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 U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore; FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Goss, Houston Field Office; Austin Police Chief Brian Manley; and, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ordered Onyeri to pay $178,374.41 restitution.

“Today’s life sentence for Mr. Onyeri was about more than obtaining a measure of justice for Judge Kocurek—although we certainly did that.  It was also about safeguarding the integrity of our judicial system.  This office, along with our federal, state, and local law-enforcement partners, will be absolutely relentless in pursuing those who attack or threaten judges or court staff.  Impartial, fearless judges are key to the rule of law.  Today the rule of law was vindicated,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.

On April 26, 2018, a jury 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. 

“I have watched Judge Kocurek and her family handle this ordeal with courage and grace. At long last, they see justice,” stated Travis County District Attorney Moore. “I commend Dayna Blazey from my office and AUSA Gregg Sofer, along with the host of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, for their tireless efforts to reach this conclusion.”

“Today’s sentencing 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.

“Today’s sentencing proves that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our local, state, and federal partners, will vigorously pursue individuals that attempt to circumvent justice,” stated USPIS Inspector in Charge Gonzalez.

“Thank you to all of our state, local and federal partners that helped bring justice for Judge Julie Kocurek against Chimene Hamilton Onyeri,” said APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon. “We respect the jury verdict in this case and the Court’s sentencing decision today. We hope Onyeri’s sentence continues to bring healing to Judge Kocurek and her family.”

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 scheduled for sentencing at 9:00am on November 13, 2018, in Austin before Judge Yeakel. 

The FBI, IRS-CI, USPIS, U.S. 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; U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Louisiana; the U.S. 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.

Updated October 2, 2018

Violent Crime