Senior MARTA Executive Sentenced to Federal Prison

State & National

SENIOR MARTA EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON

FOR CAUSING MARTA TO PAY $500,000 FOR WORK NEVER PERFORMED

ATLANTA – Former MARTA Senior Director of Operations Joseph J. Erves has been sentenced to two years, nine months in federal prison for orchestrating a false invoicing scheme that resulted in MARTA paying more than $500,000 for maintenance work that was never performed and for then funneling most of that money into his personal bank accounts.

“Given his executive management position, it is clear that MARTA placed great trust and faith in Erves,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Unfortunately, instead of serving the public interest and taking his civic duty seriously, Erves chose to indulge his desire for money and a fancy car.  His quest for personal enrichment has earned him this sentence and time to reflect on his dishonesty.”

“The vast majority of public servants are honest and dedicated people who strive to do the right thing for their constituents and their communities. Unfortunately there are a few, like Mr. Erves, who are only concerned about themselves,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “His actions hit at the heart of government and erode public confidence. That’s why the FBI makes public corruption our top criminal priority.”

“Mr. Erves dishonored his position and violated the trust of the Authority and the communities we serve,” said MARTA Police Chief Wanda Dunham.  “This sentence is proof that no one is above the law. The MARTA Police Department continues to take these types of crimes seriously and we will aggressively pursue criminal prosecution.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”) is the principal public transportation operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area, providing fixed rail and bus service to more than 500,000 passengers per weekday. Formed in 1965, MARTA is a multi-county governmental agency with a 2016 annual budget of more than $880 million.

From 1993 to 2017, Erves worked for MARTA, ultimately serving as its Senior Director of Operations.  In that position, Erves oversaw the maintenance of all MARTA buses and rail cars and had the authority to approve payments of up to $10,000 to vendors for work performed on behalf of MARTA.

Beginning in 2010, Erves retained three different vendors purportedly to perform maintenance projects for MARTA, including repairing brake testing equipment and fixing various MARTA tools and equipment.  From approximately June 2010 to December 2016, Erves had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors for more than 40 maintenance projects for which no work was performed.

Erves then used the false invoices as bases to authorize payments to the three vendors.  In many cases, Erves personally approved payments to the vendors knowing that the vendors had not performed any work for MARTA.

After receiving payment, the three vendors funneled most of the money they received from MARTA into Erves’s personal bank accounts.  Subsequently, Erves used the money deposited into his accounts to pay personal expenses, such as multiple purchases at high-end department stores and the purchase of a Porsche 911.  Based on Erves’s authority and representations, MARTA paid the three vendors more than $500,000 for maintenance projects where no work was actually performed.

Joseph J. Erves, 53, of Lithonia, Georgia, has been sentenced to two years, nine months in federal prison, and ordered to pay $522,825.45 in restitution.  On August 24, 2017, Erves pleaded guilty to one count of Federal Program Theft.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the MARTA Police Department are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Alison Prout are prosecuting the case.

For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Jonesboro Man Sentenced To Prison For Distributing Child Pornography

State & National

JONESBORO MAN SENTENCED TO PRISON

FOR DISTRIBUTING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

ATLANTA – Kenneth Shipp has been sentenced to eight years, one month in prison for distributing child pornography.  The defendant had hundreds of thousands of photographs and thousands of videos at his residence, which he shared on peer-to-peer websites.

“Kenneth Shipp’s collection of child pornography is the largest of anyone ever prosecuted in this district,” said U. S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “It is abhorrent that someone could derive gratification from the sexual abuse of children, and the amount that Shipp possessed is staggering.  We will continue to work with federal and state law enforcement partners to find those who trade and collect child pornography and bring them to justice.”

“The outcome of this case should serve as a warning to others we will aggressively investigate and bring to justice those who would prey on our most vulnerable population,” said ICE-HSI Atlanta Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Wiest.  “HSI continues working closely with our federal and state partners to ensure we identify and arrest the perpetrators of these vile crimes.”

          According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: in February 2016, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“ICE-HSI”) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (“GBI”) were investigating persons who were using peer-to-peer programs to trade images and videos of child pornography. The agents were able to download a video from a computer that showed young boys being sexually abused.  Information that they obtained while downloading the video revealed that it came from a computer at a house in Jonesboro, Georgia.

          Agents with ICE-HSI obtained a federal search warrant for a house in Jonesboro, and carried out a search on May 9, 2016.  There, agents found numerous computers, laptops, television monitors, thumb drives and other electronic devices, all containing child pornography.  A subsequent examination of those devices showed that Shipp had 447,268 images and 19,395 videos.  Specifically, he had more than 60 terabytes of child pornography.

          Kenneth Shipp, 58, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has been sentenced to eight years, one months in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.  Shipp was convicted of these charges on October 5, 2017, after he pleaded guilty.

          This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

          Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul R. Jones prosecuted the case.

This case is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood.  In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices around the country, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

For further information, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Sex Traffickers Will Target Atlanta During National Championship Game Weekend

State & National

SEX TRAFFICKERS WILL TARGET ATLANTA

DURING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME WEEKEND

          ATLANTA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, along with our law enforcement partners, are encouraging both citizens and visitors to be aware of the possibility of sex trafficking during the festivities happening in and around Atlanta this weekend and into next week.  In short, if you believe it might be, tell someone.

          “Sex traffickers are despicable people, and they use events like the National Championship game to ply their trade,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “These types of events draw large crowds of revelers, and sex traffickers often seek to exploit these types of opportunities. We need everyone’s help in identifying those being trafficked for sex, and in bringing the traffickers to justice.”

          Many times those who are being trafficked are homeless, runaway, or abandoned children, but it is not limited to these groups.  Traffickers also seek out at-risk individuals, i.e. those individuals suffering from sexual/physical abuse, or dependency, while also exploiting women and children from other countries – typically from impoverished nations.

          There are some signs that people should be aware of which may indicate someone is being held against their will and trafficked for sex:

  • They do not hold their own identity or travel documents;
  • They appear to suffer from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade and frighten the individual;
  • They have a trafficker or pimp who controls all their money – the victim will have very little or no pocket money;
  • They are extremely nervous, especially if the victim’s “translator” is  their trafficker; and
  • They are not allowed to move about by themselves and have little understanding of where they are.

Victims may also lack personal items, possessions, or luggage.  They may not have a cell phone or calling card.  Most may also lack private space – a trafficker or an enforcer is always present.  They most likely will not possess financial records or identification documents, or have any knowledge about how to get around in a community.

The penalties for sex-trafficking are substantial, but can only be enforced with the help of aware citizens.  If you wish to report a potential sex-trafficking incident please contact the FBI at (770) 216-3000.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division ishttp://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Multiple Guilty Pleas Expose Ability Of Drug Cartels

State & National

MULTIPLE GUILTY PLEAS EXPOSE ABILITY OF DRUG CARTELS

TO LAUNDER DRUG PROCEEDS THROUGH MONEY REMITTERS

ATLANTA – The last of nine Atlanta-based defendants charged with laundering drug money to Mexico through metro-Atlanta area money remitters has pleaded guilty, concluding a three-year long federal investigation targeting professional money launderers that exposed the ability of drug cartels to launder their illicit proceeds through money remittance companies.

“This investigation revealed how drug cartels use remittance companies to fuel their criminal enterprises,” said U. S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Money remitters have strict rules to follow.  When employees make a decision to ignore those rules, both the employee and money remitter businesses can face prosecution.”

“This case demonstrates the commitment of HSI and our law enforcement partners to dismantle and bring to justice those involved with trying to circumvent our financial laws and help launder illegal drug proceeds,” said ICE HSI Atlanta Acting Special Gregory Wiest.

“Drug cartels are constantly looking for conduits like money service businesses to launder their illicit drug proceeds back to Mexico. We work to dismantle drug organizations by cutting off the money flow back to Mexico, this makes it harder for the drug cartels to operate,” said James Dorsey, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to target these money laundering experts by working jointly with our law enforcement partners.”

          According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: In 2014, federal law enforcement agents began investigating individuals in the metro-Atlanta area that were suspected of laundering drug proceeds to Mexico.  Federal agents utilized cooperating sources to infiltrate these individuals’ networks and determined that the money launderers were frequently using small businesses to send drug proceeds to Mexico.  These small businesses offered “money remittance services,” which allow customers to wire funds to individuals in other countries without using traditional bank accounts.

Investigators determined that managers and employees of a number of metro-Atlanta remitters were knowingly helping the money launderers send drug proceeds to Mexico.  During the course of this investigation, cooperating sources and an undercover law enforcement officer brought drug proceeds or money that was represented as coming from drug sales to different remitters.  In exchange for a kickback, managers and employees of nine different remitters agreed to launder the funds to Mexico by breaking the transactions into smaller amounts and by listing fake sender names, addresses, and telephone numbers.  The investigation revealed that nine metro-Atlanta remitters transmitted more than $40 million over a roughly four-year timeframe.  The resulting guilty pleas in this case made clear that the bulk of this money came from the sale of illegal narcotics.

Several of the defendants who pleaded guilty actually served as the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (“BSA/AML”) compliance officers for their respective stores and were responsible for detecting and reporting these types of illicit financial transactions.  Instead, these defendants used their anti-money laundering training to help the drug proceeds flow to Mexico undetected.

The recorded undercover transactions that took place during the operation exposed how willing many remitters were to help their customers secretly send drug proceeds to Mexico.  One defendant, who served as a store manager and BSA/AML compliance officer, even gave an undercover officer tips on where to sell drugs in Atlanta.  Another defendant, who also served as a store manager and BSA/AML compliance officer, offered to provide a cooperating source help on obtaining fake identifications so that drug proceeds could be transmitted to Mexico undetected.

The following individuals have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering and are awaiting sentencing:

  • Oscar Gustavo Perez-Bernal, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/AML compliance officer at La Tienda and Cocina Linda Vista, which were both located in Chamblee, Georgia.
  • Itzayana Guadalupe Perez-Bernal, a/k/a Lupe, 24, of Norcross, Georgia, was an employee at La Tienda.
  • Norma Dominguez, 57, of Atlanta, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/AML compliance officer at La Veracruzana, which was located in Chamblee, Georgia.
  • Norma Carrera, 39, of Atlanta, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/AML compliance officer at Hilos y Estambres Teresita, which was located in Chamblee, Georgia.
  • Victor Perez, 31, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/AML compliance officer at Intercargo, which had offices in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Marietta, Georgia.
  • Merli Sandy Tejeda-Bermudez, a/k/a Jorhley Adadlay-Bermudez, 30, of Duluth, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/compliance officer at Mundo Cargo and RR Latinas, which were both located in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Daniel Castaneda-Garcia, 32, of Atlanta, Georgia, was the manager and BSA/AML compliance officer at Taqueria el Dany, which was located in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
  • Lidia Pineda-Altamarino, a/k/a Lily, 33, of Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Additionally, Susan Fiorella Ayala-Chavez, a/k/a Pitus, 30, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering and has been sentenced to three years, one month in federal prison.  Ayala-Chavez was an employee at the Rainforest Chevron gas station in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

          This case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.  The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia State Patrol, and Powder Springs Police Department provided valuable assistance throughout the course of the investigation.

          Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas J. Krepp and Alison B. Prout are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section provided significant assistance.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Former Cox Communications Vice President Pleads Guilty To Conspiring To Embezzle Millions Of Dollars

State & National

ATLANTA – Janet West, a former Cox Communications vice president, has pleaded guilty to her part in an embezzlement scheme that cost the company millions of dollars.

“West defrauded a company that trusted her judgment as a vice president,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “The temptation to steal via a credit card may be appealing.  This defendant wishes she had thought twice about the potential outcome.”

“This case should be an example that no matter your position, you cannot profit illegally or take advantage of your status in the company you were entrusted to work for,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to making cases like this a strong deterrent to greed’s temptation.”

          According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: West was Cox Communications’ Vice President in charge of Nationwide Field Marketing for the company’s plan to bring Gigabit speed connections to markets throughout the United States.  Beginning in 2011, West began directing her assistant to make payments on the assistant’s corporate credit card to a third party company for supposed marketing services.  In reality, a significant portion of these services never actually occurred and the majority of these funds were actually secretly being transferred back to the defendant.  West repeatedly signed false conflict of interest certifications with Cox Communications that failed to disclose the payments she was making to herself.

          West caused Cox to make payments totaling $2.4 million to this third party, most of which was then sent back to her.  The defendant then used the embezzled funds for her own personal benefit, including making payments on two houses she owned in Arizona.  Pursuant to the plea agreement in this case, West agreed to forfeit her interests in both of these houses.

          Sentencing for Janet West, 47, of Paradise Valley, Arizona, is scheduled for March 12, 2018, at 10:30 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg.

          This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

          Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Krepp and Kelly K. Connors are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Sixteen US Postal Service Workers Charged

Press Release

Two Men Sentenced for Child Pornography Crimes

Press Release

Senior MARTA Executive Pleads Guilty to False Invoice Scam

State & National

United States Attorney John A. Horn

Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga

  CONTACT:

Bob Page, PAO

404-581-6016

SENIOR MARTA EXECUTIVE PLEADS GUILTY TO FALSE INVOICE SCAM

CAUSING MARTA TO PAY $500,000 FOR WORK NEVER PERFORMED

 

ATLANTA – Joseph J. Erves, MARTA’s former Senior Director of Operations, has pleaded guilty in federal court to orchestrating a false invoice scheme that resulted in MARTA paying more than $500,000 for maintenance work that was never performed and for funneling most of the money back into his personal bank accounts.

“Erves was entrusted to use taxpayer dollars to operate MARTA effectively and responsibly,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn.  “His theft of $500,000 in MARTA funds was a blatant display of his desire for self-enrichment at the expense of the public interest.”

According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”) is the principal public transportation operator in the Atlanta metropolitan area, providing fixed rail and bus service to more than 500,000 passengers per weekday. Formed in 1965, MARTA is a multi-county governmental agency with a 2016 annual budget of more than $880 million.

From 1993 to 2017, Erves worked for MARTA, ultimately serving as its Senior Director of Operations. In that position, Erves oversaw the maintenance of all of MARTA’s buses and rail cars and had the authority to approve payments up to $10,000 to vendors for work performed on behalf of MARTA.

Beginning in or about 2010, Erves retained three different vendors purportedly to perform maintenance projects for MARTA, including repairing brake testing equipment and fixing various MARTA tools and equipment. From approximately June 2010 to December 2016, Erves had fake invoices prepared on behalf of the three vendors for more than 40 maintenance projects for which no work was performed.

Erves then used the false invoices as bases to authorize payments to the three vendors. In many cases, Erves personally approved payments to the vendors knowing that the vendors had not performed any work for MARTA.

After being paid, the three vendors funneled most of the money received from MARTA into Erves’s personal bank accounts. Subsequently, Erves used the money deposited into his accounts to pay personal expenses, such as multiple purchases at high-end department stores and the purchase of a Porsche 911. Based on Erves’s authority and representations, MARTA paid the three vendors more than $500,000 for maintenance projects where no worked was actually performed.

On August 24, 2017, Erves, 52, of Lithonia, Georgia, was charged via criminal information with one count of Federal Program Theft. Erves has pleaded guilty to the information.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the MARTA Police Department are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey W. Davis and Alison Prout are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office atUSAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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