A prison guard working for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing two female inmates, officials announced last week.
Apolonio Gamez, 40, of Lake Elsinore, was arrested Thursday afternoon.
Gamez is charged in a criminal complaint filed on Wednesday that accuses him one count of sexual abuse of a ward, according to authorities.
If he were to be convicted of the charge in the complaint, Gamez would face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Gamez engaged in sexual activity with one inmate on two occasions in September 2016 while he was on duty as a correctional officer.
Gamez allegedly directed a second female inmate to engage in a sexual act with him in May 2017 after he caught her attempting to steal food from a storage facility, officials stated.
Gamez alleged threated to send the victim to the “hole,” and then directed her to engage in sexual activity, which the victim did not resist because “she felt frozen and powerless with fear,” according to the affidavit.
The complaint further alleges that Gamez exposed himself to a third inmate and attempted to engage in a sexual act with her in the summer of 2017.
Gamez has worked for the BOP at several California locations since August 2012. He has been assigned to the Victorville complex since July 2016.
The defendant is presumed innocent unless he is found guilty.
If he were to be convicted of the charge in the complaint, Gamez would face a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
SANTA ANA, CALIF.
A San Gabriel Valley doctor admitted to a federal drug trafficking charge for illegally distributing the powerful opioid best known by the brand name OxyContin, according to officials.
He was sentenced on Wednesday to over 13 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford sentenced Dr. Daniel Cham, 49, a Covina resident who formerly operated a clinic in La Puente.
As he was sentencing Cham, Judge Guilford expressed concern “that other doctors haven’t gotten the message of the seriousness of this activity.”
Cham pleaded guilty in April 2016 to one count of distribution of oxycodone, a powerful and addictive painkiller marketed under various names, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Norco.
Cham also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
In documents filed in relation to Wednesday’s sentencing, prosecutors wrote that Cham “stands before the court for selling prescriptions for massive amounts of oxycodone to persons he well knew were drug dealers and addicts, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
Defendant’s illegal prescriptions killed at least two addicted youths, including a 22-year-old woman and 28-year-old man.”
The young woman, who was a resident of Oregon, died after ingesting narcotics prescribed by Cham to members of Oregon-based drug trafficking conspiracy.
Cham issued prescriptions in the names of the Oregon drug traffickers – many of whom he had never met – and Cham created fake paperwork to make it falsely appear he had examined the “patients.”
Investigators in Oregon identified over 12,000 pills of oxycodone that Cham illegally prescribed to the drug traffickers in that state.
“There is an opioid-abuse epidemic in this nation, and some of that drug abuse is fueled by unscrupulous doctors like this defendant,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna. “The lengthy sentence imposed in this case is the direct result of this defendant’s profiting from prescribing narcotics to persons he knew to be addicts and drug dealers – actions that led to fatal overdoses for two people.”
In a plea agreement filed in this case, Cham admitted that he unlawfully prescribed oxycodone to an undercover agent posing as a patient in March 2014 in exchange for $300 in money orders, which Cham then deposited into a bank account held in the name of another business.
Cham made the deposit “knowing that the transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature and source of the money orders,” according to the plea agreement.
Acting on tip about a pharmacy that was filling a large number of prescriptions written by Cham, special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered a “large-scale criminal operation” in which Cham was writing thousands of prescriptions for powerful painkillers, often in combination with alprazolam (often sold under brand name Xanax) or carisoprodol (often sold under the brand name Soma), according to court documents.
“The combination of these drugs is particularly dangerous and is associated with the majority of overdose deaths,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed in court.
A doctor who specializes in pain management and addiction reviewed Cham’s history of writing prescriptions and found “gross and overwhelming evidence of inappropriate prescribing of narcotics and controlled drugs.” The expert also reviewed recordings made by undercover operatives who obtained prescriptions from Cham and found that the doctor was “essentially at that point dealing drugs.”
An affidavit previously filed in this case discussed how an undercover officer made three visits to Cham’s La Puente office in 2014, and how Cham wrote prescriptions for controlled substances in exchange for $200 or $300 in cash or money orders.
As discussed in the court document, Cham issued a prescription for oxycodone even though the undercover operative said he “had been high and drunk while receiving controlled substance prescriptions” previously from Cham.
On another occasion, Cham prescribed oxycodone even though the undercover law enforcement officer presented, in lieu of photo identification, a written notice that his license had been suspended for driving under the influence.
“Dr. Cham broke the Hippocratic Oath he swore to uphold when he became a physician – instead of serving the public good, his actions caused harm and death,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge David J. Downing. “Cham was no longer functioning as a healer but a common drug dealer, and his sentence should serve as a cautionary tale to other physicians who would choose this path for the sake of greed.”
“Not only did defendant Cham abdicate his oath as a physician, he deliberately caused harm by continuously drugging addicts who were in need of rehabilitation,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to end illegal drug networks operating out of doctors’ offices.”
In his plea agreement, Cham also agrees to forfeit to the government more than $60,000 in cash that he admits are “proceeds of illegal activity.”
“While exploiting his patients’ addictions for his own personal gain, Cham laundered tens of thousands of dollars in cash and money orders through bank accounts held in fake business names such as Good Life 2 LLC. The good life Cham created for himself was fueled by a callous disregard for his patients’ well-being,” stated R. Damon Rowe, Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation contributes our financial expertise in an effort to stop criminals who profit from the illegal trade of dangerous narcotics and take away any financial benefit they receive from their criminal activity.”
SANTA ANA, CALIF.
A federal grand jury indicted an Orange County man involved in a $6 million scam that bilked investors who were promised profits from the resale of tickets to Super Bowl and World Cup ticket, according to officials.
Seyed Reza Ali Fazeli, 49, a professional poker player who resides in Aliso Viejo, was named in a two-count indictment returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury, officials stated.
If convicted of the two charges in the indictment, Fazeli is facing up to 40 years in federal prison, according to authorities.
Fazeli was arrested in this case by the FBI on Feb. 14.
During a court hearing the next day, he was released on a $120,000 bond and was ordered to appear in federal court on March 26 to be arraigned.
The indictment alleges that Fazeli ran a Las Vegas-based ticket business called Summit Entertainment, which also operated under the names onlinetickets.com and pacertickets.com.
From May 2016 through at least May 2017, Fazeli solicited investors in Orange County, Houston and Las Vegas, Nevada to send about $6.2 million to Summit to purchase tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl and the 2018 World Cup.
Fazeli allegedly told investors that Summit would resell the tickets at a substantial profit and share the proceeds with the investors.
Investors wired more than $6 million to Summit to purchase tickets for last year’s Super Bowl, but after the event Fazeli failed to provide any profit distribution to investors, according to the indictment.
Fazeli allegedly falsely told the victims that the ticket sales did not go well because the NFL prohibited their resale and that he was working on a settlement with the NFL, according to officials.
According to court documents, Fazeli never purchased large amounts of Super Bowl or World Cup tickets as promised.
Instead, he used the money for gambling expenses at the Aria and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas and for personal expenses.
The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
If he were to be convicted of the two charges in the indictment, Fazeli would face a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Raul Ernesto Landaverde-Giron, aka Humilde and Decente, of Silver Spring, Maryland, of racketeering, including murder, according to officials.
Landaverde-Giron is a member of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
He was also found guilty of murder in aid of racketeering; conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and murder resulting from the discharging of a firearm during a crime of violence.
According to the indictment, MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador.
Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Frederick County, Maryland.
MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang.
One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. MS-13 imposes “greenlights,” or orders to be killed, on members or associates who betray the gang by cooperating with law enforcement or violating significant gang rules.
According to evidence during a three-week trial, from at least 2012 through at least 2016, MS-13 members planned and committed numerous crimes, including murders and attempted murders in Prince George’s County and Frederick County.
Gang members also extorted owners of illegal businesses, among other crimes. Landaverde-Giron was a member of the MS-13 Normandie Locos Salvatrucha Clique.
Trial evidence showed that on Nov. 30, 2013, Landaverde-Giron, along with two other Normandie Clique members, murdered an individual in Frederick, Maryland, who had fled El Salvador to escape a greenlight imposed by MS-13 members in El Salvador.
After a co-conspirator recognized the victim in Frederick, Normandie Clique members called an MS-13 leader in prison in El Salvador to confirm the green light was still in effect.
A co-conspirator then lured the victim to a wooded area in Frederick, where he shot the victim in the head and Landaverde-Giron and another co-conspirator stabbed the victim in the face and neck.
Landaverde-Giron was promoted within the Normandie Clique for his participation in this murder.
He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte scheduled sentencing for June 13.
In addition to this conviction, five of the seven defendants charged in this case have previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.
A federal judge sentenced Thomas Wheeler, 33, a former Hattiesburg, Mississippi, police officer, to for drug dealing, according to officials.
U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate also fined Wheeler $1,500 fine.
Wheeler admitted attempting to possess 50 kilograms or more of marijuana with the intent to distribute, officials said.
On August 8, 2015, a Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper stopped a commercial truck exiting Interstate 20 in Warren County. After observing suspicious activity, a police dog was walked around the vehicle and alerted on the truck.
The Trooper obtained consent from Elijah Moore, the driver of the truck, to search the vehicle.
Upon searching the truck, officers found 8 duffle bags containing bricks of marijuana.
Subsequently, Moore admitted that he obtained the marijuana from El Paso, Texas, and was transporting it to Mississippi in order to distribute it within the state.
Moore also stated that he had exited the ramp to meet his grandson, Thomas Wheeler. Moore stated that Wheeler had agreed to unload the duffle bags of marijuana and transport them to Seminary, Mississippi, to be picked up by Moore at a later date.
Wheeler was an off-duty Hattiesburg police officer at the time.
Elijah Moore subsequently pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and was sentenced on March 2, 2017, to more than eight years in federal prison and a $1,500 fine, officials stated.
At the time of the stop of Moore, agents saw a maroon Chevrolet SUV with a Covington County license plate parked on the off-ramp on which Moore’s truck was stopped.
Moments after the stop, the maroon Chevrolet left the area on Interstate 20 heading towards Jackson. A traffic stop was later conducted on the maroon Chevrolet and the sole occupant of the vehicle was identified as Thomas Wheeler.
Wheeler admitted that he had come to the location to obtain the marijuana from Moore and that Moore would pick the marijuana up from Wheeler later. Wheeler also admitted to having picked up another load of marijuana from Moore and paid $3,000.00, according to officials.
A federal grand jury indicted South Los Angeles woman who describes herself on social media as “The Most Hated Hoe in LA” on federal sex trafficking charges that include allegations that she used the internet to solicit two minor victims to engage in prostitution, officials announced Tuesday.
Melanie Denae Williams, 22, who uses the moniker “Pretty Hoe” on several social media platforms, was named in a five-count indictment returned Tuesday.
The indictment specifically alleges one count of sex trafficking an adult by force, fraud, or coercion; two counts of sex trafficking of a minor; and two counts of enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution.
Williams has been held without bond in a federal jail since she was taken into custody on Feb. 7 as a result of a criminal complaint (she was initially arrested by local authorities on December 24).
The affidavit in support of the complaint outlines allegations that Williams abused a woman she had recruited through social media to work as a prostitute.
In one incident, the indictment alleges that Williams ordered the victim to strip off her clothes, and then Williams threw bleach on the woman and beat her with her hands and a broomstick, according to the affidavit.
The indictment makes new allegations of sex trafficking involving two minor females.
The defendant is innocent unless proven guilty.
If convicted of any of the charges in the indictment, Williams would face a potential life sentence.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced terrorist Muhanad Mahmoud al Farekh, 32, of Houston, to 45 years following his Sept. 29 trial, according to officials.
He was convicted of multiple offenses covering seven years of terrorist conduct, including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb a government facility and providing material support to al-Qaeda, according to officials.
“Farekh, a citizen of this country, turned his back on America by joining al-Qaeda and trying to kill American soldiers in a bomb attack on a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.” stated U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue of New York. “This case demonstrates that we will do everything in our power to ensure that those who seek to harm our country and our armed forces will be brought to justice.” Mr. Donoghue extended his grateful appreciation to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which comprises a large number of federal, state, and local agencies from the region.
The evidence in the trial indicated that in March 2007, Farekh and two co-conspirators, all of whom were students at the University of Manitoba, departed Canada for Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces overseas.
Before traveling overseas, Farekh and his co-conspirators watched video recordings encouraging violent jihad, listened to jihadist lectures by now-deceased al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaqi, and came to embrace a violent, extremist view of Islam.
Farekh and his co-conspirators traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an area in the northern part of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is home to al-Qaeda’s base of operations, where they joined and received training from al-Qaeda.
Taking advantage of his familiarity with the West, Farekh became a member of, and ultimately ascended to, a leadership role within al-Qaeda’s external operations group, which specialized in planning and executing attacks against the U.S. and its Western allies.
In January 2009, Farekh helped to build a vehicle-borne, improvised explosive device (VBIED) that was used in an attack on Forward Operating Base Chapman (FOB Chapman), a U.S. military installation that served as the base for the U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team in Khost, Afghanistan.
On January 19, 2009, two explosives-laden vehicles approached the fence line of FOB Chapman, according to authorities.
At the gate, the first vehicle, a pickup-sized truck, exploded after its operator detonated the VBIED. The second vehicle, a truck that was carrying approximately 7,500 pounds of explosives, became stuck in the blast crater caused by the first explosion.
The driver abandoned his vehicle without detonating the VBIED, and was shot and killed by local security personnel.
The initial detonation of the first vehicle injured one U.S. serviceman and numerous Afghan nationals, officials said.
Forensic technicians recovered 18 latent fingerprints that were determined to be a match to Farekh from adhesive packing tape used to bind together the explosive materials of the second, undetonated VBIED, according to officials.