Friday, December 28, 2012

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracy Charges

BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Will Johnson, 31, of League City, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, kilograms of cocaine and to money laundering conspiracy. Johnson was arrested along with 17 others in August 2010 for narcotics trafficking. The drug conspiracy charge against Johnson carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison up to life, a $5,000,000 fine, or both; and the money laundering conspiracy carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Catherine Baumgarten, who is handling the case, stated that Johnson, originally from the city of Buffalo, obtained kilograms of cocaine in Houston and then utilized others to distribute that cocaine in the Buffalo and elsewhere in the Western New York. In July 2010, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at locations including an apartment leased by Johnson in Missouri City, Texas, and his residence located in League City, Texas. Agents seized cocaine and plastic wrappers consistent with the packaging of kilograms of cocaine, $55,000, one .44 caliber loaded handgun, and boxes of assorted rounds of ammunition.
The investigation further revealed that Johnson deposited and transferred funds generated as a result of his drug trafficking through and to financial institutions, such as when he paid approximately $13,000 to a used car lot in Buffalo to purchase a 2004 Escalade motor vehicle. Johnson also arranged to have cash deposits of $20,000 into bank accounts, which thereafter were used as a down payment for his residence in League City, Texas.
As part of the plea, Johnson agreed to forfeit $203,000 in drug proceeds, including $57,000 seized by law enforcement officers in the state of Texas in July 2010, along with a firearm and various ammunition.
The plea is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell, New York Field Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christopher M. Piehota; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero; the Niagara County Drug Task Force, under the direction of Sheriff James Votour, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Toni Weirauch; and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Transit Police, under the direction of Chief George Gast.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 10, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Skretny.

Kamiah Man Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

COEUR D’ALENE—Nicholas P. Allman, 22, of Kamiah, Idaho, was arraigned yesterday in United States District Court on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Allman was indicted on November 15, 2012, by a federal grand jury sitting in Boise. His trial has been set for February 19, 2013, before Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.
The indictment alleges that on October 29, 2011, Allman was driving recklessly and under the influence of alcohol on Harris Ridge Road, which is located on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. The indictment alleges that because Allman failed to keep his vehicle on the roadway, a passenger, James Oatman Jr., was killed when the vehicle wrecked.
If convicted, Allman faces up to eight years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Idaho State Police, and Nez Perce Tribal Police.
An indictment is a means of charging a person with criminal activity. It is not evidence. The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Beloit Man Sentenced for Distributing Heroin

MADISON, WI—John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Antwon Taylor, 20, Beloit, Wisconsin, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Conley to 36 months in federal prison, to be followed by 36 months’ supervised release, for distributing heroin. Taylor was charged with four counts of distributing heroin in the Beloit area in January through July 2011. Taylor pleaded guilty to one of the counts on October 23, 2012.
At the sentencing, Judge Conley noted the dangerousness and negative impact upon the community that heroin distribution presents. However, Judge Conley determined that Taylor deserved a sentence below the 57-71 months called for by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines based, in part, on Taylor’s lack of any prior criminal record and his youth.
The charges against Antwon Taylor were the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, which consists of the Beloit Police Department, Rock County Sheriff’s Office, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Anderson.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Local Pharmacist Guilty of Filling Hundreds of Fraudulent Oxycodone Prescriptions

TAMPA—A federal jury yesterday found Emmanuel I. Mekowulu (56, Tampa) guilty of conspiring with other persons to knowingly and intentionally distribute and dispense a controlled substance, primarily Oxycodone, outside of a legitimate medical purpose and not in the usual course of professional practice. Mekowulu faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. As part of the sentence, he will also forfeit his Florida Department of Health Pharmacist License and the DEA Registration and Florida Department of Health Pharmacy License for Felky Rx LLC, which were used to commit or facilitate the offense.
Mekowulu was indicted on April 26, 2012. His sentencing is scheduled for March 11, 2013.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, in June 2008 through March 2009, Mekowulu was a pharmacist and the owner of Felky Pharmacy located on North Florida Avenue in Tampa, Florida. During that same time period, Troy Wubbena was a physician’s assistant and owner and operator of the Neurology & Pain Center clinics located in Tampa, Lakeland, Sarasota, Orlando, and Jacksonville. Brett Ridenour was an employee of the clinics. Together, and with others, the conspirators used hundreds of blank prescriptions that were pre-signed and filled by Dr. Jeffrey Friedlander (co-owner of the clinic) for large quantities of oxycodone. The prescriptions included the names of over 60 persons, many of them patients and employees of the clinics who did not need or receive the oxycodone and were unaware that the prescriptions were written in their names. The illegal prescriptions were filled at Felky Pharmacy. Over the nearly 10-month period, Wubbena and Ridenour presented over 340 fraudulent prescriptions to Mekowulu. Mekowulu filled the prescriptions without verification or questioning their validity. Through this scheme, nearly 50,000 pills of oxycodone were later sold in the Tampa Bay area.
Wubbena and Ridenour, who testified against Mekowulu at trial, previously pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in the conspiracy. Wubbena was sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison. Ridenour was sentenced to serve five years’ imprisonment. Friedlander pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy in March 2010. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
This case was investigated by and the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathy J. M. Peluso.

Clinical Director for Miami-Based Health Care Clinic Sentenced to Prison for Role in $50 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON—A former clinical director for Biscayne Milieu, a Miami-based mental-health clinic, was sentenced today to 100 months in prison for his participation in a Medicare fraud scheme involving the submission of more than $50 million in fraudulent billings to Medicare, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office.
Rafael Alalu, 47, of Miami, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. in the Southern District of Florida. Alalu was convicted on August 24, 2012, of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and two substantive counts of health care fraud, following a two-month jury trial. The evidence at trial showed that Alalu participated in treating ineligible patients, concealing that fact by falsifying patient files and writing fraudulent group therapy notes and instructing others to do the same. In addition to the prison term, Alalu was ordered to pay more than $5.6 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-defendants.
Various owners, doctors, managers, therapists, patient brokers, and other employees of Biscayne Milieu have also been charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering, and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in September 2011 and May 2012. Biscayne Milieu, its owners, and more than 25 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Antonio and Jorge Macli and Sandra Huarte—the owners and operators of Biscayne Milieu—and Dr. Gary Kushner—its medical director—were each convicted at trial of various offenses and are scheduled for sentencing in March 2013.
According to the evidence at trial, the defendants and their co-conspirators caused the submission of over $50 million dollars in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare through Biscayne Milieu, which purportedly operated a partial hospitalization program (PHP)—a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. Instead, the defendants devised a scheme in which they paid patient recruiters to refer ineligible Medicare beneficiaries to Biscayne Milieu for services that were never provided. Many of the patients admitted to Biscayne Milieu were not eligible for PHP because they were chronic substance abusers, suffered from severe dementia and would not benefit from group therapy, or had no mental health diagnosis but were seeking exemptions for their U.S. citizenship applications. The evidence at trial showed that once these ineligible patients were admitted to Biscayne Milieu, Alalu and others concealed the fraud by falsifying patients’ group therapy notes to reflect legitimate PHP treatment that was never provided and directed others to do so.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Davis and Marlene Rodriguez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and by Trial Attorney James V. Hayes of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case was investigated by the FBI with the assistance of HHS-OIG and was brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to

Leader of Criminal Enterprise Sentenced to 220 Months in Prison

SAN FRANCISCO—Cuong Mach Binh Tieu was sentenced yesterday to 220 months in prison for his leadership role in a large-scale racketeering and narcotics conspiracy, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
“The four-year investigation by the FBI, DEA, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control, and the IRS that gave rise to this case was a model of federal and state law enforcement cooperation,” said U.S. Attorney Haag. “The lengthy sentence handed down by Judge Breyer should send a strong message to those who would participate, structure, and lead organized criminal enterprises in our communities.”
Tieu, 42, of Hercules, California, was originally charged along with 14 other individuals following the March 2, 2011 execution of a series of arrest and search warrants across Northern California, including searches at Oaks Card Club in Emeryville, California, and Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno, California. Along with Tieu, the indictment charged other members of the criminal enterprise, including drug dealers, drug couriers, loan sharks, and casino employees. Tieu’s close associate, Skyler Chang, was previously sentenced to 144 months in prison by Judge Breyer for his role in trafficking methamphetamine and ephedrine for the organization.
On June 19, 2012, Tieu pleaded guilty to 10 felony counts, including conspiracy to conduct the affairs of a racketeer influenced corrupt organization (RICO), conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and ecstasy, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The investigation revealed that Tieu served as a leader for a criminal enterprise that regularly used the cash drawers at both Oaks Card Club and Artichoke Joe’s Casino to finance illegal activity, primarily drug purchases. On June 30, 2009, Tieu used $30,000 from Oaks Card Club to purchase 25 kilograms of ephedrine, which he intended to use to manufacture methamphetamine and ecstasy. In addition to drug trafficking, Tieu’s criminal organization worked with casino employees to openly engage in loansharking on the floor with both casinos. The loan sharks regularly charged 10 percent interest a week for the loans distributed in the casinos.
The sentence was handed down by United States District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer. Judge Breyer also sentenced Tieu to a five-year period of supervised release and a $1,000 special assessment.
Aaron Wegner and Robert Rees are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case, with the assistance of paralegal Michelle Alter and legal technicians Erica Doerr and Marina Ponomarchuk. The prosecution is the result of an investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, who worked together with the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The investigation was conducted and funded in part by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a multi-agency task force that coordinates long-term narcotics trafficking investigations.

Doctor Who Supplied Oxycodone Ring Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 36 Months in Prison

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Diana Williamson, a doctor who supplied an oxycodone trafficking organization with fake prescriptions that were filled using Medicaid dollars, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 36 months in prison. Williamson pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud on March 8, 2012. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated, “Like heroin, oxycodone is a powerful, highly addictive, and potentially lethal drug. In the proper hands, it can play an important role in pain management, but Diana Williamson saw an opportunity to profit from the drug’s popularity with recreational users. By writing bogus prescriptions that were filled using Medicaid dollars, she not only engaged in drug trafficking and fraud, she also endangered users at risk of becoming addicts and harming themselves through drug abuse. She violated the central tenet of being a doctor—to first do no harm—and cheated an already strapped Medicaid system out of almost a million dollars.”
According to the Indictment and other court documents, as well as statements made during proceedings in the case:
Between September 2009 and August 2010, Williamson, a Manhattan-based primary care physician, wrote oxycodone prescriptions to patients who had no legitimate need for the medication. Co-defendant Lenny Hernandez recruited individuals to obtain oxycodone prescriptions from Williamson, helped the individuals fill the prescriptions, and arranged to resell the oxycodone to third parties. According to records obtained from the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, over the course of the conspiracy Medicaid reimbursed nearly $1,000,000 in drug expenses attributable to the oxycodone prescriptions Williamson prescribed. Analysis of patient prescription data and surveillance during the course of the investigation established that approximately 11,000 oxycodone pills were obtained through health care fraud and distributed by members of the conspiracy.
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In addition to the prison term, Judge Preska sentenced Williamson, 56, of Manhattan, to three years of supervised release. The defendant was also ordered to pay a fine of $17,500 and restitution and forfeiture in the amount of $301,360.
All eight of Williamson’s co-defendants have pled guilty and have been sentenced. Hernandez, who helped Williamson run this oxycodone ring, was sentenced by Judge Preska to 87 months in prison.
Mr. Bharara thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York City Police Department, the New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General, and the New York City Human Resources Administration for their assistance in the case.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin Anderson and Shane T. Stansbury are in charge of the prosecution.