Leader of Violent West Baltimore Gang Sentenced to Life in Prison for Federal Racketeering and Drug Conspiracy Charges, Including Murders and Witness Intimidation

A Baltimore, Maryland man was sentenced today to life in prison for conspiring to participate in a violent racketeering enterprise known as Trained To Go (TTG).  The racketeering conspiracy included eight murders, drug trafficking, and witness intimidation. 

The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI Baltimore Field Office; Acting Commissioner Michael Harrison of the Baltimore Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division;  Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don A. Hibbert of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Baltimore District Office; Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

Montana Barronette, aka Tana, and Tanner, 23, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake for the District of Maryland to serve life in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.  The racketeering conspiracy included eight murders – six committed by Barronette – as well as drug trafficking and witness intimidation.  Barronette and his co-defendants were also convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, marijuana, and cocaine.  A federal jury convicted Barronette and seven co-defendants on Oct. 31, 2018. 

“From 2010 to 2017, Montana Barronette was known as the number one trigger puller in Baltimore and the leader of the vicious Trained To Go gang that terrorized the streets of West Baltimore, committing murders – including six by Barronette himself – shootings, armed robberies, drug dealing, and witness intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “Today’s sentence brings Barronette’s murderous career to an end – and brings some measure of justice to his many victims.  I commend our prosecutors, as well as our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, for their tireless pursuit of justice against this violent gang.”

“Montana Barronette was the leader of one of the most violent gangs operating in Baltimore City and personally participated in at least six murders,” said U.S. Attorney Hur. “As a result of today’s sentence justice has been served for his victims and their families.  Federal, state and local law enforcement will continue to work together to remove armed, violent criminals from our neighborhoods and bring them to justice in the federal system, which has no parole—ever.”

“This case represents the epitome of law enforcement agencies working together to target and dismantle violent street gangs that threaten the safety and stability of our neighborhoods,” said FBI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Johnson.  “The citizens of Baltimore City and Maryland have the FBI’s commitment that we will work with our local, state and federal partners to attack these dealers and remove violent criminals from their neighborhoods.”

According to the evidence presented at their 24-day trial, Barronette and his co-defendants are all members of TTG, a criminal organization which operated in the Sandtown neighborhood of West Baltimore, whose members engaged in drug distribution and acts of violence including murder, armed robbery, and witness intimidation.  As part of the conspiracy, each defendant agreed that a conspirator would commit at least two acts of racketeering activity for TTG. 

The evidence at trial showed that Barronette and co-defendant Terrell Sivells served as the leadership for TTG.  Members and associates of TTG sold heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and worked to defend their exclusive right to control who sold narcotics in TTG territory.  In addition to coordinating the distribution of heroin, Barronette also coordinated with a criminal group known as the “Young Go Getters,” and others to engage in murder-for-hire schemes on behalf of TTG.

Specifically, the evidence proved that between May 20, 2010 and Jan. 9, 2017, Barronette, his co-defendants, and other members of TTG committed acts of violence, including nine murders, shootings, armed robbery, and witness intimidation.  The violent acts were intended to further the gang’s activities, protect the gang’s drug territory, and maintain and increase a member’s position within the organization.  Murders were committed in retaliation for individuals robbing TTG members of drugs and drug proceeds, or while TTG members robbed others of their drugs and drug proceeds, as well as in murder-for-hire schemes.  Further, the defendants engaged in witness intimidation through violence or threats of violence, to prevent individuals from cooperating with law enforcement.

The following defendants, all of Baltimore, were also convicted after trial and face a maximum sentence of life in prison on the racketeering and drug conspiracies:

Terrell Sivells, aka Rell, 27;

John Harrison, aka Binkie, 28;

Taurus Tillman, aka Tash, 29;

Linton Broughton, aka Marty, 25;

Dennis Pulley, aka Denmo, 31;

Brandon Wilson, aka Ali, 24; and

Timothy Floyd, aka Tim Rod, age 28.

Pulley and Wilson each also face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for being felons in possession of a firearm; and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, and up to life in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.  Tillman and Sivells also face up to 20 years in prison for distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin.  The defendants remain detained.

Three other TTG members, all of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty.  Brandon Bazemore, aka Man Man, 25, pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy, including three murders and an attempted murder, as well as to the drug conspiracy and was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.  Co-defendants Hisaun Chatman, 31, and James Woodfolk, 20, pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy and were each sentenced to five years in prison, to be served concurrent to the state sentence each is currently serving. 

Co-defendant Roger Taylor, of Baltimore, is still a fugitive.  Anyone who may have information on the whereabouts of Roger Taylor is asked to contact the FBI Baltimore Field office at (410) 265-8080.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI Baltimore Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force, which includes FBI special agents and task force officers from the Baltimore, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County Police Departments.  FBI Baltimore Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force is responsible for identifying and targeting the most violent gangs in the Baltimore metropolitan area, to address gang violence and the associated homicides in Baltimore.  The vision of the program is to use federal racketeering statutes to disrupt and dismantle significant violent criminal threats and criminal enterprises affecting the safety and well-being of our citizens and our communities. 

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.               

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation was conducted by the FBI, Baltimore Police Department, ATF, DEA, Anne Arundel County Police Department and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.  The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Hanley formerly of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Gardner and Christopher J. Romano of the District of Maryland.

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Author: February 15, 2019

Michigan Patient Recruiter Pleads Guilty in $1.2 Million Kickback Scheme

A Michigan woman pleaded guilty today for her role as a patient recruiter in a scheme involving approximately $1.2 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for home health care procured through the payment of kickbacks.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Timothy Slater of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

Ghalia Savaya, 50, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program before U.S. District Judge David Lawson of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Sentencing has been scheduled for May 30 before Judge Lawson.

Savaya was indicted in June 2018.  As part of her guilty plea, Savaya admitted that, from approximately April 2015 to approximately Nov. 2017, she received illegal kickbacks in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries to Franklin Health Care LLC of Troy, Michigan, which billed Medicare for claims procured through these illegal kickbacks.  Medicare paid over $1.25 million for claims related to beneficiaries referred by Savaya, which included claims for beneficiaries who were not eligible to receive home health care services.

The FBI and HHS-OIG investigated the case, which was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.  Trial Attorneys Howard Locker and Steven Scott of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which is part of a joint initiative between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 14 strike forces operating in 23 districts, has charged nearly 4,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $14 billion.

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Author: February 15, 2019

Chinese National Sentenced to Prison for Selling Counterfeit Computer Parts

A Beijing, China man was sentenced today to 54 months in federal prison for directing the shipment of counterfeit computer-networking equipment into the Southern District of Texas.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas made the announcement.

Ruiyang Li, 40, was sentenced today to serve 54 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr.  The court reserved the determination of restitution to the victims of Li’s trademark counterfeiting—including Cisco Systems Inc., The Hewlett-Packard Company and Intel Corporation—until a later date.  Because Li is not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to be deported after serving his prison sentence.

From at least 2007 until in or about June 2017, Li directed the shipment of counterfeit computer-networking equipment into the Southern District of Texas, first when selling to a retailer in Magnolia, Texas, and eventually when selling to law enforcement acting in an undercover capacity.  Over this time period, Li sold counterfeit networking products through several business entities, often hiding behind layers of personal and corporate aliases to evade detection by law enforcement.  Li also used various means to conceal his unlawful conduct, including by sending and receiving payments using accounts that did not appear connected, at least publicly, to companies trafficking in illicit products.  Li and his customers would also agree to mislabel packages, break up shipments into separate components, alter destination addresses and use multiple forwarding companies based in the United States.  These methods, in Li’s mind, made shipping counterfeit parts “safer,” which in practice meant delaying or complicating detection by U.S. authorities.

State and local governments rely on complex computer networking technology, including the transceivers and other parts that were trafficked in this case, to manage critical data and operations.  This same technology is also prominent in banks, hospitals, air traffic control installations, power plants and other essential infrastructure.  Because counterfeit parts are often not subject to stringent manufacturing requirements, they present a significant health and safety risk to communities across the United States.  

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, with significant assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The case was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman.

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Author: February 15, 2019

Nebraska Man Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography

A Nebraska man pleaded guilty today to producing child pornography in 2016, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Kelly of the District of Nebraska.

Steven R. Carlson, 38, of Omaha, Nebraska, pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography before U.S. District Court Judge Robert F. Rossiter Jr. of the District of Nebraska.  Sentencing is set for May 10, 2019.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, in May 2016, Carlson filmed himself engaging in forcible, sexual acts with a 13-year-old, nonverbal minor child.  A search warrant executed on Carlson’s residence resulted in the discovery of hundreds of images of child pornography involving minors as young as infants and toddlers.                  

The FBI Cyber Crimes Task Force is investigating this case.  Trial Attorney William M. Grady of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Norris of the District of Nebraska are prosecuting the case.

This investigation is a part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

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Author: February 15, 2019

Dallas Tax Return Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Tax Returns

A tax return preparer operating in Irving, Texas, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States and to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas. 

According to documents and information provided to the court, Francisco Ventura owned and operated several tax preparation businesses located in Irving from at least 2012 through at least 2015. During 2014, Ventura ran a tax return preparation business named AJJ Tax and More, along with a second preparation business named Uptown Multi Services, which he co-owned with his co-defendant Mario Melendez.

From November 2013 and continuing through May 2014, Ventura conspired with Melendez and others to prepare fraudulent federal income tax returns, and he personally prepared individual income tax returns for clients that included false education credits and Schedule C expenses. Ventura also taught training classes for new tax return preparers during which he instructed employees how to prepare fraudulent tax returns in order to maximize client refunds. Ventura is responsible for attempting to cause over $8.3 million of tax loss to the United States.

Sentencing for Ventura is scheduled for June 14, 2019. Ventura faces a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and three years in prison for the aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return count, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. Melendez pleaded guilty in November 2018 to conspiring to defraud the United States and to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, and is awaiting sentencing.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Trial Attorney Alexander Effendi of the Tax Division and Assistant United States Attorney Melanie Smith, who are prosecuting this case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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Author: February 15, 2019

William P. Barr Confirmed As 85th Attorney General of the United States

Today, William P. Barr was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the 85th Attorney General of the United States. Following the vote, President Donald J. Trump participated in the swearing-in of Mr. Barr during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House, where U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office. Mr. Barr’s wife, his three daughters and their spouses, and his grandchildren attended the ceremony. Mr. Barr joins John Crittenden (1841 and 1850-1853) as one of only two people in U.S. history to serve twice as Attorney General.

Mr. Barr is rejoining the Department of Justice where he previously served as the 77th Attorney General of the United States from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. Mr. Barr also served as the Deputy Attorney General from 1990 to 1991 and as the Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel from 1989 to 1990. While serving at the Department, Mr. Barr helped create programs and strategies to reduce violent crime and was responsible for establishing new enforcement policies in a number of areas including financial institutions, civil rights, and antitrust merger guidelines. Mr. Barr also led the Department’s response to the Savings & Loan crisis; oversaw the investigation of the Pan Am 103 bombing; directed the successful response to the Talladega prison uprising and hostage taking; and coordinated counter-terrorism activities during the First Gulf War.

Most recently, Mr. Barr served as Of Counsel at Kirkland & Ellis. Before his work at Kirkland & Ellis, he served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel for GTE Corporation from 1994 until 2000 and as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon from 2000 to 2008.

Mr. Barr served as a law clerk under Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and from 1982 to 1983, served on the White House Domestic Policy Staff under President Ronald Reagan. He received his A.B. in government in 1971 and his M.A. in government and Chinese studies in 1973, both from Columbia University. From 1973 to 1977, Mr. Barr served in the Central Intelligence Agency before receiving his J.D. with highest honors from George Washington University Law School in 1977.

The Department of Justice welcomes back Attorney General Barr and looks forward to his leadership in upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of all Americans.

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Author: February 14, 2019

New Orleans Man Sentenced for Hate Crime in Shooting of Three African-American Men Attempting to Evacuate After Hurricane Katrina

Roland J. Bourgeois Jr., 55, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release on charges that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he shot at three young African-American men because of their race as the men attempted to evacuate New Orleans, announced Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Peter G. Strasser; and FBI New Orleans Division Special Agent in Charge Eric J. Rommal.

“Today’s sentencing brings closure to this race-motivated shooting that occurred over 13 years ago, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband.  “This sentence sends a clear message to those who attempt to divide our community with violence and fear that the Department of Justice will work tirelessly to prosecute perpetrators of hate-motivated violence.” 

“Upholding the civil rights of our citizens is one of the most important duties of the Department of Justice.  This sentencing clearly demonstrates the tenacity of law enforcement to hold individuals responsible for their actions, despite the passage of time,” said U.S. Attorney Strasser. “Hurricane Katrina was a tragic chapter in the history of our city.  Hopefully this plea brings some measure of finality to those directly affected by this crime and to this great city that endured so much in the days following this calamity.”

Eric Rommal, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge stated: “Justice is blind, but she is also patient.  Mr. Bourgeois’ cowardly, unprovoked, and racially based violent acts were unjustly carried out upon his victims over a decade ago, leaving the victims, their families, and our community torn by hate.  We hope his sentencing will help the healing process and serve notice that violence especially borne from hate, will never be tolerated and the FBI remains committed to upholding the Constitution and protecting civil rights.”

According to documents filed in connection with the plea, shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Bourgeois and other white male residents of the Algiers Point neighborhood agreed that they would use force to keep out African Americans from their neighborhood. They moved fallen trees to barricade the streets near their homes and started armed patrols of the neighborhood.

On Sept. 1, 2005, three young African-American men – D.H., M.A., and C.C. – walked to Algiers Point in an effort to reach the ferry landing, a site that state and federal agencies were using as an evacuation point. When the three men crossed a barricade constructed by Bourgeois and others, Bourgeois opened fire with a shotgun, wounding all three men. After the men fled, Bourgeois boasted that he had “got one” and pledged to “kill that [racial slur]” if the man had survived.  Bourgeois warned one of his neighbors: “Anything coming up this street darker than a brown paper bag is getting shot.”

The prosecution of this matter was delayed because the defendant was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial after being charged in July 2010. The defendant’s competency was evaluated six different times between 2010 and 2018. After he was declared competent in 2018, Bourgeois pleaded guilty in October 2018.

The FBI conducted the investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Jared Fishman and Trial Attorney Mary J. Hahn of the Civil Rights Division, and Assistant United States Attorney David Howard Sinkman of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

For more information about Department of Justice’s work to combat and prevent hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes: a one-stop portal with links to Department of Justice hate crimes resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other organizations and individuals.

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Author: February 14, 2019

United States Files False Claims Act Lawsuit in Connection With MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility Contract

The Department of Justice announced today that the United States has filed suit against CB&I AREVA MOX Services LLC (MOX Services) and Wise Services Inc. under the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act in connection with a contract between MOX Services and the National Nuclear Security Administration relating to the design and operation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the NNSA Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina.  MOX Services is a South Carolina Limited Liability Corporation with headquarters in Aiken, South Carolina.  Wise Services, which subcontracted with MOX Services, is an Ohio corporation with headquarters in Dayton, Ohio.  

Under the MOX Contract, MOX Services agreed to design, build, operate (and ultimately decommission) the MFFF. The MFFF is designed to transform weapons-grade plutonium into mixed oxide fuel rods that may be irradiated in commercial nuclear power plants.  In performing the MOX Contract, MOX Services entered into a series of subcontracts with Wise Services between 2008 and 2016. Each of these subcontracts provided for Wise Services to supply labor, materials, equipment, and supervision for unplanned construction activities (e.g. general labor, plumbing, electrical, carpentry) deemed necessary to support MOX Services’ efforts at the MFFF.   

The government’s complaint alleges that Wise Services falsely claimed reimbursement under its subcontracts with MOX Services for construction materials that did not exist, and that in turn MOX Services knowingly submitted $6.4 million in claims to NNSA for the fraudulent charges submitted by Wise Services.  The complaint further alleges that Wise Services’ Senior Site Representative Phillip Thompson paid kickbacks to MOX Services officials with responsibility for the subcontracts to improperly obtain favorable treatment from MOX Services.  On Feb. 27, 2017, Mr. Thompson entered a guilty plea on charges of conspiring to commit theft of government funds. 

“Government contractors who line their bank accounts by receiving kickbacks or submitting fraudulent claims undermine the public’s trust in government programs and operations,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to vigorously pursue those who misuse taxpayer funds.” 

“Through rigorous enforcement of the False Claims Act, the Department of Justice protects taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Lydon.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina will continue to hold accountable government contractors who seek to fraudulently achieve profits at the expense of the American taxpayer.”

“The Department of Energy Office of Inspector General remains committed to ensuring the integrity of the Department’s contractors and subcontractors,” said Teri L. Donaldson, Department of Energy Inspector General. “We take allegations of false claims, overbilling, and kickbacks very seriously and will aggressively investigate these matters to protect the Department and the American taxpayers. We appreciate the efforts of the DOJ in pursuing these allegations and will continue our collaboration with the DOJ to investigate those who seek to defraud Department programs.”

This matter was investigated by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General. The claims asserted in this action are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

The lawsuit is captioned United States v. CB&I AREVA MOX Services, LLC, et al.(D.S.C).

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Author: February 14, 2019

One American and One Chinese National Indicted in Tennessee for Conspiracy to Commit Theft of Trade Secrets and Wire Fraud

A grand jury sitting in Greeneville, Tennessee has returned an indictment against Xiaorong You, a/k/a Shannon You, 56, of Lansing, Michigan, and Liu Xiangchen, 61, of Shandong Province, China for conspiracy to steal trade secrets related to formulations for bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coatings.  You was also indicted on seven counts of theft of trade secrets and one count of wire fraud.

Assistant Attorney General National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee, FBI Executive Assistant Director for the National Security Branch Jay Tabb, and Special Agent in Charge Troy Sowers of the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office made the announcement.

“The conduct alleged in today’s indictment exemplifies the rob, replicate and replace approach to technological development,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Xiaorong You is accused of an egregious, premediated theft and transfer of trade secrets worth more than $100 million for the purpose of setting up a Chinese company that would compete with the American companies from which the trade secrets were stolen.  Unfortunately, China continues to use its national programs, like the ‘Thousand Talents,’ to solicit and reward the theft of our nation’s trade secrets and intellectual property, but the Justice Department will continue to prioritize investigations like these, to ensure that China understands that this criminal conduct is not an acceptable business or economic development practice.” 

“Our office is committed to working closely with our federal, state and local partners to identify and prosecute those who engage in illegal and deceptive practices to steal trade secret and protected information from companies who spend millions of dollars to develop it,” said U.S. Attorney Overbey.  “Not only can theft of this information be potentially devastating to our American companies, it could also pose a threat to our overall national and economic security.”

“The facts laid out in this indictment show the conspirators engaged in blatant criminal activity,” said Executive Assistant Director Tabb.  “They didn’t stop at going after technical secrets belonging to just one company.  They allegedly targeted multiple companies and made off with trade secrets at an estimated value of almost 120 million dollars.  As this case demonstrates, the FBI is determined to do everything possible to bring to justice those who try to steal secrets belonging to American companies.”

“As this indictment highlights, theft of trade secrets from American companies is an emerging economic threat, even here in East Tennessee,” said Special Agent in Charge Sowers.  “The tireless work of our agents and prosecutors in this case underscores the FBI’s commitment to protecting American ingenuity.”

The BPA-free trade secrets allegedly stolen by these individuals belonged to multiple owners and cost an estimated total of at least $119,600,000 to develop.  Until recently, bisphenol-A (BPA) was used to coat the inside of cans and other food and beverage containers to help minimize flavor loss, and prevent the container from corroding or reacting with the food or beverage contained therein.  However, due to the discovered potential harmful effects of BPA, companies began searching for BPA-free alternatives. These alternatives are difficult and expensive to develop.

From December 2012 through Aug. 31, 2017, You was employed as Principal Engineer for Global Research by a company in Atlanta, which had agreements with numerous companies to conduct research and development, testing, analysis and review of various BPA-free technologies.  Due to her extensive education and experience with BPA and BPA-free coating technologies, she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secrets belonging to the various owners.  From approximately September 2017 through June 2018, You was employed as a packaging application development manager for a company in Kingsport, Tennessee, where she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secrets belonging to that company.

Details of the conspiracy are included in the indictment on file with the U.S. District Court.  The indictment alleges that You, Liu, and a third co-conspirator formulated a plan in which You would exploit her employment with the two American employers to steal trade secrets and provide the information for the economic benefit of trade secrets the Chinese company that Liu managed, which would manufacture and profit from products developed using the stolen trade secrets.  In exchange, Liu would cause the Chinese company to reward You for her theft, by helping her receive the Thousand Talent and another financial award, based on the trade secrets she stole, and by giving You an ownership share of a new company that would “own” the stolen trade secrets in China.  The conspirators also agreed to compete with U.S. and foreign companies, including some of the owners of the stolen stolen trade secrets, in China and elsewhere, by selling products designed, developed and manufactured using the stolen trade secrets.

The charges contained in this indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Eastern District of Tennessee and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

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Author: February 14, 2019

Dark Web Trafficker Convicted of Drug Importation Conspiracy

Christopher Bantli pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a conspiracy to import fentanyl into the United States, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Adolphus P. Wright of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Miami Field Division.

Bantli, 39, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the District of Columbia.  Bantli had been extradited to the United States from Canada following his indictment in the District of Columbia.  According to court records, beginning in or around Nov. 2015 and continuing through Sept. 8, 2016, Bantli advertised, distributed, and imported controlled substances, including powerful fentanyl analogues and synthetic opiates, through the encrypted website AlphaBay.  Bantli accepted virtual currency such as Bitcoin as payment for the illegal substances, and used Canadian and U.S. mail to distribute the illicit substances to consumers.  To assist with his distribution enterprise, Bantli used his apartment in Calgary, Canada, as a drug laboratory and de facto fulfillment center for the orders placed on his AlphaBay profile.  Bantli’s apartment contained a pill press, packaging, cutting agents, as well as the controlled substances themselves.

Bantli will be sentenced on May 29 before Judge Berman Jackson.

The case was investigated by the DEA, in cooperation with Canadian law enforcement authorities.  The U.S. Marshals Service provided critical assistance in Bantli’s extradition.  The U.S. Department of Justice thanks the Government of Canada for its assistance in this case, in particular the Calgary Police Service Cybercrime Support Team.  This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

Trial Attorneys Anthony Aminoff and Kaitlin Sahni of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) are prosecuting the case. Trial Attorney Brian Nicholson of the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in bringing Bantli to the United States and procuring foreign evidence during the investigation. 


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Author: February 13, 2019