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September 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: U.S. Attorney

Man Who Shot at N. Va. Military Installations Pleads Guilty

By Allan Lengel

A 23-year-old man who caused a stir by shooting at military installations in Northern Virginia in late 2010, pleaded guilty Thursday in Alexandria, Va. fed court to damaging more than $100,000 in property and firearms violations.

Yonathan Melaku, 23, of Alexandria, Va., was involved in five separate shootings at military installations in northern Virginia between October and November 2010 and attempting to damage veterans’ memorials at Arlington National Cemetery. No one was injured in the shootings.

Sentencing is set for April 27.

“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride in a statement. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings and secure this conviction today.”

According to the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Melaku admitted that he carried out a series of five shootings from Oct. 17, 2010, through Nov. 2, 2010, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (twice), the Pentagon, a Marine Corps recruiting sub-station in Chantilly, Va., and a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, Va.

Each shooting took place late at night or early in the morning and involved multiple 9mm rounds fired at each building. The cost for repairs at the facilities exceeded $100,000.

Authorities said that Melaku admitted that during the second shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, he set up a video camera within the interior of his vehicle to record the shooting incident.

Authorities said the video shows Melaku repeatedly firing a handgun out the passenger-side window, and he narrates the incident on the video and states, among other things: “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked” and at the conclusion of multiple shots exclaiming “Allahu Akbar” repeatedly.

Round 2: Newark Feds Go for Retrial of Ex-Fed Prosecutor

By Allan Lengel

Round two is coming in the epic battle between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ex-federal prosecutor Paul Bergrin, a high-profile  Newark defense attorney who was accused of orchestrating a 2004 murder of an FBI witness in a case in which he had a client.

The first round, for all practical purposes, went to Bergrin, after the jury deadlocked the day before Thanksgiving on the charges and the judge declared a mistrial.

Newark U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay sent a letter dated Dec. 1 to U.S. District Judge William J. Martini stating:

“The Government formally requests to try the balance of the Second Superseding Indictment (Counts 1 through 11 and 14 through 33) on January 4, 2012, though it will not oppose a request to sever the tax counts (Counts 27 through 33). Further, the Government will not oppose any reasonable continuance Mr. Bergrin may need to prepare for trial.”

The government has also theorized that Bergrin allegedly orchestrated the hit of a witness to cover up the fact that he was allegedly supplying cocaine to drug gangs.

U.S. Atty and Secret Service Take Lead in Sex Scandal Involving Syracuse Basketball Coach

By Allan Lengel

The feds are taking the lead in the high-profile probe into child sex allegations involving Syracuse University associate men’s basketball coach Bernie Fine, who was fired Sunday, the Post Standard reported.

The paper reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse and the U.S. Secret Service are taking the lead in the case against the 65-year-old coach.

The paper attributed the information to Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who is involved in the probe as well.

“I’ve been in close contact with the U.S. Attorney,” Fitzpatrick said, according to the Post Stardard. “All of last week, we discussed the case. The lead agency in investigating is the Secret Service under the direction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, assisted by the Syracuse Police Department.”

“We’re acting in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. I’m not doing anything without checking with them,” he added.

Investigators are looking into allegations that Fine sexually abused several boys.


20 Charged in Chicago-Mexico Drug Network, Ties to Zetas Drug Cartel

The logo of the Los Zetas Cartel/baltimore city paper

By Danny Fenster

The tentacles of the Mexican cartels can be found throughout the U.S.

The latest: 20 defendants — five of them suspected members of a Chicago cell of the violent Zetas Mexican drug cartel — were charged in major drug indictment in Chicago following a joint FBI-DEA investigation, Chicago’s US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office announced Wednesday.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $12.4 million in cash and about 250 kilograms or more than 500 pounds of cocaine during 2010 in the Chicago area.

Arrests were made on Tuesday in Chicago and Laredo, Tex. Along with the Tuesday arrests, an additional $480,000 in cash and two kilograms of heroin were also seized.

“The extensive cash seizures made during the course of this investigation illustrates how lucrative the illicit drug trade can be,” said Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago Office in a statement. “Combined with the apparent presence of the Zetas in the Chicago area, the charges announced today should serve as a wake-up call to law enforcement throughout the state.”

Five of the defendants in the case remain at large.



Ex-Az U.S. Atty Drops Family of Slain Border Agent, Citing Govt. Attempts to Link Him to Gun Walking Cases

Paul K. Charlton/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel

The overspill from ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious is touching plenty folks.

The lastest: Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who has been representing the family of Brian Terry, the border patrol agent in Arizona who was killed by gunfire last December. The family has been considering legal action against the government ever since it was learned that two guns from Fast and Furious were recovered at the murder scene.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that Charlton, who served as Arizona U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007,  has decided to stop representing the parents “because of what he called an effort by the Justice Department to link him to disgraced gun-running investigations.”

Under Fast and Furious, ATF encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to “straw purchasers” or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to Mexico. ATF lost track of many of the weapons, some which surfaced at crime scenes.

“But in early October, allegations of allowing this so-called ‘gun walking’ crept closer to Charlton himself,” the Arizona Daily Star reported. “The Associated Press reported the existence of a previous ATF investigation in Arizona that had also allowed guns into Mexico. This Tucson-based investigation, Operation Wide Receiver, had begun in early 2006 while Charlton was U.S. attorney.”

To read more click here.


Ex-Fed Prosecutor Assigned Rare Anonymous Jury in His Murder Trial

By Danny Fenster has reported preveiously on Paul Bergrin, the “swaggering ex-federal prosecutor … who authorites say became the go-to defense attorney for Newark street gangs.” Bergin “dodged one bullet” in charges of running an escort service of a client of his previously, receiving a sentence of time served.

But now the fed court trying him for allegations of orchestrating a 2004  murder of a witness against  a client of his, has taken the unusual step of selecting an anonymous jury, something only reserved in a mob or major drug trafficking case, reports Reuters. Trial begins Monday in Newark. The judge agreed withhold the names of the jurors.

Though US Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to seek the death penalty against Bergrin, as we’ve written, Bergrin does face life in prison if convicted.

The feds say they have their reasons for an anonymous jury.

Paul Bergrin/photo News12 New Jersey

“During pre-trial proceedings, prosecutors argued that safety and privacy concerns demanded that potential jurors remain anonymous,” reads the Reuters report. U.S. District Judge William Martini agreed to withhold jurors’ names and their employers at an August 30 hearing. Anonymity in such situations is usually granted for a prescribed period of time, the report says, although Judge Martini did not define the length of the juror’s anonymity.

“Part of it is the judge wanting to have the jurors as free of concern for their own personal safety and security as they possibly can be,” said Cornell Law professor Valerie Hans, a specialist in jury issues, told Reuters.

“There are circumstances where the jury names are not released ever, but in most cases fervor and high passion about the case fades rather quickly once the case is over,” said Dick Carelli, spokesman for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, according to Reuters.

Bergrin is being charged with orchestrating the murder of a confidential witness in a federal drug case against a client of his. He is representing himself with the help of court-appointed attorney Lawrence Lustberg. Bergrin, who has already pleaded guilty, “has already been severely restricted in his physical movements around the courtroom, and has been threatened with an electric shock if he violates those restrictions,” according to Reuters.

The charges are part of a larger 33-count indictment, including allegations of racketeering and other crimes that make Bergrin “no different than a street gangster,” according to New Jersey US Attorney’s Office press release.

The move for anonymity has some of the defense worried.

“If the jurors know that their names are being kept anonymous, and that it is not the usual practice, then the jurors might sense danger, which works against the interest of the defendant,” said Alan Zegas, a past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, and currently of the Law Offices of Alan L. Zegas in Chatham, New Jersey, according to Reuters.

To read more click here.

NY US Atty. Preet Bharara Takes on the Cabs


By Allan Lengel

Let’s hope this doesn’t make it tougher for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to hail a cab.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Attorney is taking on the cab industry in the city.

The Times reports that his office is concerned about the lack of wheelchair-accessible cabs in New York, a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He’s urging a federal judge to address the problem and support a lawsuit brought against the city in January by several disability rights groups,the Times reported.

The Times noted that “it is unusual for the United States attorney to formally present a position on a pending lawsuit.”

But the paper reported that Bharara in a letter to the judge wrote that the federal government had “a strong interest in this matter” and urged him to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that it was it was “untenable” for the city to remain in violation of the disabilities act, the paper reported.

To read more click here.


Nine More Charged in Scheme to Defraud Holocaust Victims Fund of Tens of Millions of Dollars

FBI's Janet Fedarcyk/fbi file photo

By Danny Fenster

The massive scandal to rip off a charitable Holocaust fund designed to benefit victims who were persecuted by the Nazis, continued to unravel in N.Y.  on Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced the arrest of eight more people for being part of  a plot to defraud the fund out of  $57.3 million. A ninth person charged is expected to surrender voluntarily.

Five of those arrested are former employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which administered the charitable programs. The five were charged with knowingly approving nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in the payout to unqualified applicants, in exchange for kickbacks. Since prosecution began in the case, a total of 30 people have been charged in connection with the scheme.

The latest folks charged in the case include: Henry Gordin; Genrikh Kolontyrskiy; Viktor Levin; Ella Voskresenskiy; Zlata Blavatnik; Pyotr Blavatnik; Yevgeniya Abramovich; Asya Galindo; and Lana Kagan, the ninth who is expected to surrender voluntarily.

“These defendants had a hand in fabricating, filing, or processing nearly 5,000 fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants,” Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the N.Y. FBI said in a statement. Claims Conference funds have been drained of $57 million meant for Holocaust victims, and a large portion of the diverted money went into the pockets of corrupt insiders. These were people hired to give who conspired to take.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara added:  “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust. With today’s charges, we have now identified 30 people who allegedly exploited a fund that is as symbolically important as it is necessary to its beneficiaries. We again thank the Claims Conference for their outstanding ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme.”

 Read press release