Ex-USG Employee Pleads Guilty: 24 Women, Six Countries, 487 Videos/Images in a 14 Year Crime Spree

 

In October 2020, we blogged about the notorious case involving ex-USG employee Brian Jeffrey Raymond (see Ex-USG Employee Brian Jeffrey Raymond, Called an “Experienced Sexual Predator,” Ordered Removed to D.C. Oct 28. 2020).  We did a follow-up post in March 2021 (USA v. Raymond: Court Issues Protective Order Pertaining to Classified Information). Court records do not identify Raymond’s agency employer, and no agency has claimed him! Public records only say that he was an employee of the U.S. government.
On July 23, USDOJ announced that “a California man pleaded guilty today to sexual abuse and admitted to the abusive sexual contact of numerous women, as well as photographing and recording dozens of nude and partially nude women without their consent during his career as a U.S. government employee.”
According to court records, Raymond accepted a plea deal on May 27, 2021, one day before the plea offer was set to expire.  The plea agreement was entered into court on July 23, 2021. Also on July 23, Raymond waived his right to trial by jury. The USG and Raymond also agreed to a Statement of Offense:

“These facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offense; they are being submitted to demonstrate that sufficient facts exist that the defendant committed the offenses to which he is pleading guilty: Sexual Abuse of AV-7 and AV-9, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2242(2), and transportation of obscene material, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1462.

Some notable items in the Statement of Offense:

#1. Between on or about August 21, 2018 and June 1, 2020, Raymond, now 45 years old, was a U.S. government employee working at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Mexico. During that time, Raymond lived in an apartment assigned to him by the U.S. government. Raymond’s residence in Mexico City has been leased by the U.S. government since April 2013 for use by U.S. personnel assigned to diplomatic, consular, military, and other U.S. government missions in Mexico City. The U.S. government currently maintains a nine-year lease of the property. This residence falls within the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction (““SMTJ”) of the United States, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 7(9).

2. On May 31, 2020, there was an incident at Raymond’s embassy-leased residence in Mexico City.During an interview with law enforcement on June 2, 2020, Raymond stated that he had sexual intercourse with an adult woman, hereinafter referred to as AV-1, on May 31 and that it was consensual. AV-1 was interviewed and reported that she has no memory of the incident and did not consent to sexual intercourse with Raymond. After the May 31, 2020 incident, law enforcement executed several premises and device search warrants, including but not limited to search warrants for Raymond’s phones, laptops, tablets, thumb drives, and memory cards, Raymond’s Mexico City residence, his parents’ residence in La Mesa, California, Tinder and other social media accounts, email accounts, and his iCloud account.

4, Agents found approximately 487 videos and images of unconscious women in various states of undress on multiple devices belonging to Raymond and in his iCloud account.

6. Through its investigation, law enforcement learned that from 2006 to 2020, while working as a U.S. government employee, Raymond recorded and/or photographed at least 24 unconscious nude or partially nude women (AV-2 through AV-25).

7.  Raymond discussed having sex with AV-7 with a friend via text message the following day.

9. In March 2020, approximately two months before his interaction with AV-7, Raymond also texted the same friend mentioned above about having sexual intercourse with AV-9. AV-9 is a resident of Mexico and primarily a Spanish speaker. He texted the same friend that he had to pay for an Uber for AV-9 and expressed that it was annoying but ultimately worthwhile because he was able to have sex with her. 

Item #11 in the Statement of Offense includes a chart that depicts the victims, the number of photos/videos, locations, dates, and example of the obscene depiction of victims.  In addition to victims AV-7 and AV-9, the list of victims include 18 other individuals. Locations include California, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., as well as Mexico and “Countries 3, 4, 5, and 6 [are] known to the government and to the defendant.”
Item #14 in the Statement of Offense notes:

“Raymond stipulates and agrees that from 2006 until 2020, including on the dates listed on the chart above, he recorded and/or photographed at least 24 unconscious and nude or partially nude women, some of whom are not mentioned in this plea agreement or statement of facts, and that during the same time frame, he touched the breasts, buttocks, groin area, and/or genitalia of numerous women, some of whom he recorded and/or photographed and some of whom are mentioned in this agreement. Raymond engaged in this conduct while the women were incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct. The women who have been interviewed reported commonalities in their contact with Raymond, including Raymond’s provision and/or preparation of alcoholic beverages and their subsequent memory loss. None of the women consented to being touched while unconscious and/or asleep, and none of them consented to Raymond’s photographing and recording of them in that state.”

The Plea Agreement says:

” …a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2242(2) carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; a fine of $250,000; a term of supervised release of at least 5 years but not more than life, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(k); mandatory restitution under 18 U.S.C. § 3663A; and an obligation to pay any applicable interest or penalties on fines and restitution not timely made.

Your client understands that a violation of of 18 U.S.C. § 1462 carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment; a fine of $250,000; a term of supervised release of at least one year but not more than three years, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3559; restitution under 18 U.S.C.§ 3663; and an obligation to pay any applicable interest or penalties on fines and restitution not timely made.

Your client also understands that the court shall impose mandatory restitution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2248, which restitution amount shall reflect the defendant’s relative role in the causal process that underlies the victims’ losses.”

Under Additional Charges:

“In consideration of your client’s guilty plea to the above offense(s), your client will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office or the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section for the conduct relating to victims AV-1 through AV-26 that is described in the Statement of Offense. This office has consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and understands that it will also not bring charges for that conduct. Additionally, if your client’s guilty plea to Counts One, Two, and Three of the Information is accepted by the Court, and provided the plea is not later withdrawn, no charges related to the inducement and/or transportation of AV-15 or the transportation of obscene material will be brought against the defendant by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

Moreover, provided the plea is accepted and not later withdrawn to Counts One, Two, and Three, no charges relating to the inducement of AV-2 or the transportation of obscene material will be brought by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, and no charges relating to the inducement of AV-17 or the transportation of obscene material will be brought by the Northern District of Illinois. This agreement does not preclude any U.S. Attorney’s Office for bringing charges against your client for criminal conduct that is distinct from that set forth in the Statement of Facts. For example, if the investigation later revealed that your client had been engaged in sexual activity with a minor and/or involved in commercial sex acts or money laundering, this agreement would not preclude a prosecution for those crimes.”

Under Restitution:

“Your client understands that the Court has an obligation to determine whether, and in what amount, mandatory restitution applies in this case under 18 U.S.C. § 3663A and 18 U.S.C. § 2248 at the time of sentencing.

The Court shall order restitution to every identifiable victim of your client’s offenses. Your client agrees to pay restitution in the amount of $10,000 per victim to AV-1 through AV- 26, provided they are identified at or before the time of sentencing. Furthermore, your client
agrees that, for purposes of this plea, AV-1 through AV-26 are all victims of the offense and are entitled to the same rights as victims so designated under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (“CVRA”), to include the right to be reasonably heard at the sentencing hearing and the right to full and timely restitution. See 18 U.S.C. § 3771. By agreeing to this, your client is not acknowledging that each of these victims would be a victim of a federal offense, nor is your client agreeing that these victims would be so designated should this case go to trial. Similarly,
by agreeing to the terms of this plea, the Government does not concede that federal offenses do not exist for these victims, nor does it concede that the victims would not be victims under the CVRA should this case go to trial. In addition, your client agrees to pay restitution to any other victim that he recorded/photographed nude while that victim was unconscious, provided that victim is identified at or before the time of sentencing, and further agrees that they are crime victims in this case and entitled to the rights as victims so designated under the CVRA. Your client understands that these victims still maintain a right to request a larger amount of restitution from the Court, and that the agreed upon payment to each victim is the minimum amount due.”

The Plea Agreement includes a sex offender registration requirement for the remainder of Raymond’s life “…. client is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, and to keep the registration current in jurisdictions where your client resides, where your client is employed and where your client is a student.”
The Plea Agreement notes that the Government’s proposed estimated Sentencing Guidelines range is 262-327 months (the “Estimated Guidelines Range’). The Defendant’s proposed estimated Sentencing Guidelines range is 135-168 months.  So potentially anywhere between 11 years and 27 years.
A similar case to this in 2011 involved Andrew Warren, 43, a former official with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  That case involved charges of abusive sexual contact and unlawful use of cocaine while possessing a firearm. The sexual assault occurred at a US Embassy property in Algeria, and involved one victim. Warren was sentenced to 65 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release following his prison term (see Former CIA Station Chief to Algeria Gets 65 Months for Sexual Assault on Embassy Property).
Via USDOJ: If you believe you have been a victim, have information about Raymond or know of someone who may have information about Raymond, the FBI requests that you fill out this secure, online questionnaire, email FBI at ReportingBJR@fbi.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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Charges Unsealed Against Former Chadian Ambassador and DCM to U.S. For Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

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On May 24, the Justice Department unsealed charges against two diplomats from Chad who were previously assigned to WashDC and Canada for international bribery and money laundering scheme.
Excerpt from DOJ’s announcement:

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. was unsealed on May 20, 2021, charging the Republic of Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and Chad’s former Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States and Canada with soliciting and accepting a $2 million bribe from a Canadian start-up energy company, and conspiring to launder the bribe payment in order to conceal its true nature.

According to court documents, Mahamoud Adam Bechir and Youssouf Hamid Takane engaged in this scheme between August 2009 and July 2014, while serving as diplomats based out of the Embassy of Chad located in Washington, D.C. According to the indictment, Bechir and Takane demanded the bribe from the Canadian start-up energy company in exchange for a promise to misuse their official positions and their influence with the government of Chad to assist the start-up energy company in obtaining oil rights in Chad. Naeem Tyab, a citizen of Canada and founding shareholder of the start-up energy company, who served as a director of the company from 2009 through 2011, is also charged in the indictment for allegedly arranging for the bribe to be paid to Bechir’s wife, co-defendant Nouracham Bechir Niam, via a sham contract for consulting services that she never actually provided. In addition to the $2 million bribe payment, the start-up energy company also issued shares in the company to Niam, to Takane’s wife, and to a third Chadian individual, as part of the bribe, according to the indictment.
[…]
All four defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and Bechir, Takane, and Niam are also charged with money laundering, each of which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Niam and Tyab are also charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, which carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The indictment in this case was returned by the grand jury in February 2019. Tyab was arrested in the Southern District of New York on Feb. 9, 2019, and subsequently, on April 30, 2019, he entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. As part of his guilty plea, Tyab agreed to forfeit criminal proceeds of approximately $27 million. The Honorable Richard J. Leon will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The remaining three defendants remain at large.
[…]
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Read here in full.

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U.S. Seizes Domain Names Used in Spear-Phishing Campaign With Mimicked @USAID Emails

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Via USDOJ:
Justice Department Announces Court-Authorized Seizure of Domain Names Used in Furtherance of Spear-Phishing Campaign Posing as U.S. Agency for International Development

On or about May 25, malicious actors commenced a wide-scale spear-phishing campaign leveraging a compromised USAID account at an identified mass email marketing company. Specifically, the compromised account was used to send spear-phishing emails, purporting to be from USAID email accounts and containing a “special alert,” to thousands of email accounts at over one hundred entities.

Upon a recipient clicking on a spear-phishing email’s hyperlink, the victim computer was directed to download malware from a sub-domain of theyardservice[.]com. Using that initial foothold, the actors then downloaded the Cobalt Strike tool to maintain persistent presence and possibly deploy additional tools or malware to the victim’s network. The actors’ instance of the Cobalt Strike tool received C2 communications via other subdomains of theyardservice[.]com, as well as the domain worldhomeoutlet[.]com. It was those two domains that the Department seized pursuant to the court’s seizure order.
[…]
On May 28, pursuant to court orders issued in the Eastern District of Virginia, the United States seized two command-and-control (C2) and malware distribution domains used in recent spear-phishing activity that mimicked email communications from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This malicious activity was the subject of a May 27 Microsoft security alert, titled “New sophisticated email-based attack from Nobelium,” and a May 28 FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency joint cybersecurity advisory.

The Department’s seizure of the two domains was aimed at disrupting the malicious actors’ follow-on exploitation of victims, as well as identifying compromised victims. However, the actors may have deployed additional backdoor accesses between the time of the initial compromises and last week’s seizures.

 

SDNY Charges @StateDept Contractor in Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Schemes, Then There’s “Insider-1” at OBO

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On May 28, 2021, USDOJ/Southern District of New York announced the arrest of SINA MOAYEDI, the owner of a construction company on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of bribery of a public official. According to the announcement, “Sina Moayedi allegedly paid lucrative bribes to a State Department insider in exchange for confidential bidding information, and fraudulently induced the State Department to pay his company approximately $100 million.” Excerpt from the announcement:

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Sina Moayedi made misrepresentations about his employees’ qualifications and his company’s ownership in order to induce the State Department into awarding approximately $100 million in lucrative construction contracts to Moayedi’s company, Montage, Inc.  Moayedi also allegedly cultivated a State Department insider, and paid the insider lucrative bribes in exchange for confidential State Department bidding information.  Moayedi must now be held accountable for his alleged brazen fraud on the government.”

Special Agent in Charge Michael Speckhardt said:  “As alleged, the defendant’s scheme to undermine the Department’s procurement process for personal gain caught up with him today and he will now be held accountable.  His alleged actions not only hurt other legitimate businesses competing for awards, but also damage the public’s trust in the effective and efficient utilization of taxpayer money.”

According to allegations in the Complaint[1]:

Montage, Inc. (“Montage”) is a U.S.-based business that is primarily involved in worldwide Government construction projects, including embassies, military posts, consulates, and similar overseas properties owned and operated by the United States Government.  Montage has performed over $220 million in contracting work for the U.S. Government, including for the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Since 2014, Montage appears to have focused primarily on competing for and obtaining contracts with the State Department.  During that period, the State Department has awarded Montage approximately six overseas U.S. Embassy/Consulate construction project contracts totaling $100 million, in locales such as Ecuador, Spain, Sudan, the Czech Republic, and Bermuda.  The founder of Montage is SINA MOAYEDI.

Montage engaged in at least two fraud schemes.  The first scheme alleges that, from approximately 2014 to September 2020, MOAYEDI and Montage lied that it was a female-owned business in order to secure unmerited advantages in the bidding process.  By way of context, it is advantageous to a company, when bidding for federal government contracts, to be majority-owned by an individual from a socially or economically disadvantaged community.  In fact, certain contracts (or portions of contracts) are “set aside” for – i.e., only available to – such companies.  MOAYEDI and Montage repeatedly represented falsely in submissions to the State Department that Montage was female-owned, or female-owned and minority-owned, in order falsely to induce the State Department to award Montage lucrative construction contracts.  In actuality, MOAYEDI repeatedly lied about Montage being a female-owned business, and indeed, MOAYEDI controls Montage and makes all material decisions on Montage’s behalf.  As MOAYEDI revealed to a bank that inquired about Montage’s ownership status, “I am the sole owner and president of Montage and have always been.”  Montage and MOAYEDI also repeatedly misrepresented, and significantly overstated, the qualifications of Montage employees.  MOAYEDI made these misrepresentations in order to, among other things, meet State Department and contractual requirements for minimum experience in certain key positions.

The second scheme charged in the Complaint is a bribery scheme during at least 2016 and 2017.  Insider-1 is employed in the State Department’s Overseas Building Operations (“OBO”), which, according to OBO’s website, “directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad.”  Specifically, Insider-1 works for the State Department’s OBO Project Development and Coordination Division, European division.  
[…]
MOAYEDI, 66, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is charged with one count of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum potential prison sentence of 20 years, and one count of bribery of a public official, which carries a maximum potential prison sentence of 15 years.  
[…]
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Download U.S. v Sina Moayedi complaint (21 mag 5598).pdf
Excerpt from complaint:

15. Based on my review of State Department records, I am aware that between approximately 2014 and 2017, Montage was awarded six U.S. embassy/consulate construction projects with the State Department, worth a total of approximately $100 million.
[…]
26. Based on information derived from witness interviews, I reviewed resumes submitted by Montage for various State Department projects. Department requirements referenced in the contract specify certain levels of experience in order to serve as “key personnel” (i.e., personnel whom the State Department has deemed critical to the safe, successful, and timely completion of a project).
[…]
In the course of my review, I identified numerous deficiencies regarding the resumes of key personnel submitted to the State Department for the Guayaquil, Ecuador project.

a. For example, Montage submitted an individual for the key role of Project Controls Engineer and Site Health Project Manager. In the claimed experience for this individual, it stated that he was employed at Montage since 2008 and had “inspected emergency egress and life/safety issues” and conducted “inspections of asbestos containment.” In fact, this individual had only been employed at Montage for approximately one year, and served in an office staff capacity, performing none of those duties.
[…]
[O]ne Montage employee’s resume claimed that he had earned a bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and also claimed years of full-time complex work in the construction field in various capacities over several years. Neither representation was true. In fact, this individual testified at a deposition that they did not graduate; and this individual’s SF-86 security clearance application noted that this individual had actually sold meat as a door-to-door salesman, was a landscaper, and built swimming pools for several years during the period that they had claimed years of full-time complex work in the construction field.
[…]
39. I am aware, from my personal participation, that a judicially authorized search warrant was executed at the residence of Insider-1, on or about May 20, 2021. On that date, Insider-1 was informed, in substance, that she was not in custody, she was free to go, and she was not required to speak with law enforcement agents. She then participated in a voluntary interview with myself and an SDNY Special Agent on her back porch, and she made the following statements, in substance and part:

a. At first, Insider-1 claimed to have sold a large green rug to SINA MOAYEDI, the defendant, for about $60,000, but she said that the payment for the rug came from MOAYEDI’s friend.

Read more here.
The Daily Beast has identified the OBO insider in their May 27 report as well as provided the link to the Salehi Search Warrant; she has not been charged.
The document is 145 pages, the allegations spans many years and the government appears to be looking at multiple embassy projects.  The project in Guayaquil, Ecuador gets top mention. The search warrant executed includes “Records and information relating to forged submittals for the Guayaquil Consulate Project in Ecuador, and other State Department or other Government construction projects” and “Records and information that constitute evidence concerning persons who either (i) collaborated, conspired, or assisted (knowingly or unknowingly) the commission of the criminal activity under investigation; or (ii) communicated with MOAYEDI or other MONTAGE employees about matters relating to the criminal activity under investigation, including records that help reveal their whereabouts.”

Related news:

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Indictments For Alleged Large-Scale Visa Fraud Employment Scheme

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On April 20, USDOJ announced the indictment of two businesses and nine of their officers and managers for an alleged large-scale visa fraud employment scheme. Excerpt from the announcement:

An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia has been unsealed charging two businesses and nine of their officers and managers located across the country for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and commit various fraud and criminal immigration offenses for profit.

According to court documents, Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC; Educational World, Inc.; Karen Makaryan, 42, Sargis Makaryan, 42, and Samvel Nikoghosyan, 40, of Destrehan, La.; Artur Grigoryan, 38, of Biloxi, Miss.; Armen Ayrapetyan, 37, of Duluth, Ga.; Jason Hill, 28, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Fremie Balbastro, 49, of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, of North Port, Fla., were charged in a 36-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on April 8. Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, including encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, alien harboring, transporting aliens, and visa fraud.  Each defendant also was charged with substantive counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, alien harboring, and transportation of aliens. In addition, Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC; Karen Makaryan; Sargis Makaryan; Samvel Nikoghosyan; Artur Grigoryan; Armen Ayrapetyan; Fremie Balbastro; and Jason Hill were also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.

“The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in an expansive conspiracy to enrich themselves by exploiting both the immigration system and noncitizen workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Systemic fraud and abuse of U.S. visa programs and processes designed to protect American workers and businesses will not be tolerated, and offenders will be held accountable.”
[…]
“The Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange,” said Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Robert Smolich of the U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations. “When bad actors corrupt these programs for personal gain, it not only diminishes an important tool of diplomacy, it harms the thousands of individuals who participate in these programs hoping to gain skills and experience to make a better life. Today we took a step forward in restoring integrity back to those programs.”

“These defendants’ alleged scheme to game the immigration system and defraud the government has backfired and they will now be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Georgia and Alabama. “Schemes like this not only exploit the noncitizen workers involved, they also damage the other legitimate businesses in the community. Protecting the integrity of the visa program and immigration system is vital to the security of our nation.”
[…]
Individual defendants have made their initial court appearances and the arraignment of all defendants will be scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin W. Cheesbro of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. If convicted, the individual defendants face maximum potential statutory penalties of five years in prison on the count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States; 10 years in prison on the counts of encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, alien harboring, and transportation of aliens; and 20 years in prison on the counts of wire fraud conspiracy and substantive wire fraud. The organizational defendants are subject to a maximum fine on each count of conviction of $500,000 or twice the gross amount of gain or loss resulting from the offense. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General is investigating the case with assistance provided by HSI and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Trial Attorneys Frank Rangoussis and John-Alex Romano of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alejandro V. Pascual IV of the Southern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Read the full announcement here.

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Ex-FSO Indicted For Concealing Information in Background Investigation

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On April 2, the Department of Justice announced the indictment of a former State Department employee, a Foreign Service officer for “intentionally concealing information on his SF-86 background investigation questionnaires and in interviews with State Department background investigators.”
Congressional record indicates that a Paul M. Guertin of RI was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by voice vote on October 21, 2011  for his appointment as Foreign Service Officer of Class Four, Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.
 Via USDOJ: Former State Department Employee Indicted for Concealing Information in Background Investigation

Paul Michael Guertin (“Guertin”), 40, of Arizona and former resident of Washington, DC, was indicted on March 29, 2021 by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for wire fraud and obstructing an official proceeding. The indictment was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Special Agent in Charge Elisabeth Heller, of the U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General.

Guertin was a Foreign Service Officer who served on multiple State Department assignments, including overseas postings to U.S. diplomatic missions in Shanghai, China and Islamabad, Pakistan, and a posting to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at State Department headquarters in Washington, DC. As a condition of his employment, Guertin was required to apply for and maintain a Top Secret security clearance.  According to the indictment, Guertin intentionally concealed information on his SF-86 background investigation questionnaires and in interviews with State Department background investigators. He withheld information about several categories of conduct, including an undisclosed sexual relationship with a Chinese national, whose U.S. visa application was adjudicated by Guertin while he was serving as a consular officer in Shanghai, China; undisclosed gambling debts; and an undisclosed $225,000 loan from two Chinese nationals, who were directed by Guertin to provide $45,000 of the initial disbursement in the form of cash in $100 bills.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Brown and Thomas Gillice, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Chad Byron.

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SF-86 form clearly states under Penalties for Inaccurate or False Statements that “the U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5) years imprisonment.”
According to the indictment, the Grand Jury was sworn in on January 28, 2021. The indictment includes two offenses: Count One: 18 U.S.C. § 1343: (Wire fraud); Count Two: 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) (Obstructing an official proceeding) plus Forfeiture: 18 U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(C); 28 U.S.C. § 2461(c); 21 U.S.C. § 853(p) according to the court filing. Grand juries are composed of 16 to 23 citizens, who hear a wide range of criminal cases and decide whether there is evidence to justify indictments sought by federal prosecutors. To return an indictment, a minimum of 12 members of a grand jury must find probable cause.
Excerpts below from the indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

3. During his tenure as a Foreign Service Officer, GUERTIN served on multiple State Department assignments abroad, including postings to diplomatic missions in Shanghai, China and Islamabad, Pakistan. GUERTIN also served at State Department headquarters in the District of
Columbia in the Bureau of Intelligence & Research (“INR”), the State Department’s intelligence office. GUERTIN was later assigned to language training in Taipei, Taiwan.

9. In connection with his initial employment with the State Department and periodic re-investigations, GUERTIN signed and submitted SF-86 forms on or about September 27, 2005; November 19, 2010; and April 3, 2016.

The indictment cites Guertin’s “undisclosed conduct” that includes Undisclosed Romantic Relationship with Chinese National Whose U.S. Visa Application GUERTIN Adjudicated; Undisclosed Financial Problems Due to Gambling; and Undisclosed $225,000 Loan Agreement with Two Chinese Nationals, Collateralized by GUERTIN’s House. The indictment also cites some electronic communication.

15. In or about June 2008, GUERTIN conducted a visa application interview with CHINESE NATIONAL 1 in his capacity as a consular officer at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, China. On or about June 11, 2008, GUERTIN favorably adjudicated CHINESE NATIONAL 1’s application for a U.S. visa.

16. Two days later, on or about June 13, 2008, GUERTIN sent CHINESE NATIONAL1 an e-mail stating: “I gave you an interview a few days ago here in Shanghai, and thought you were very cute and interesting! 🙂 Was wondering if you’d be interested in going out for dinner or a bite to eat sometime.” GUERTIN initiated a personal and sexual relationship with CHINESE NATIONAL 1 that lasted through at least in or about July 2009.

26. On or about July 13, 2015, GUERTIN sent an e-mail to an associate requesting an emergency loan of $10,000 in order to pay down his gambling debts in advance of his security clearance re-investigation. GUERTIN stated: “I desperately need 10 dimes to get my [stuff] in order and pass a security clearance review to hold onto my job.” GUERTIN further explained: “Every 5 years the State Dept. does a security clearance re-investigation, and mine is coming up in 3 months, and they’re for sure going to see that my credit score dropped hard from the last time they checked. That will cause them to get suspicious, and then they’ll search my bank account transactions and find all the gambling related [stuff]. . . . [t]hey’1l send me home from Taiwan and if they revoke my security clearance I’Il lose my job within 6 months.”

30. On or about April 15, 2015, GUERTIN directed CHINESE NATIONAL 2 and CHINESE NATIONAL 3 to meet him at a location in the District of Columbia for the purpose of withdrawing $45,000 in cash from their bank account for a further disbursement of the $225,000 loan. GUERTIN instructed them: “Also please ask the bank manager to give you as much as possible of the money in $100 bills so it’s not so ridiculously bulky to carry around and deposit, thx!”

The indictment does not indicate what happened in August 2017 when his employment apparently ended. It is also not clear when and for how long was he posted at INR.
The indictment does not explain Guertin’s relationship with the two Chinese nationals only referred to as Chinese National 2 and Chinese National 3.  Guertin was posted in Shanghai in 2008 which would have been a two-year tour. The loan agreement with the two Chinese nationals allegedly occurred in April 2015. We should learn more if  this case progresses in court.
USA v. Guertin was assigned to Judge Trevor N. McFadden in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. As this article notes, an indictment is not a statement of guilt — it is only a determination that enough evidence exists to move forward with charges. The defendant will have an opportunity to enter a plea. As of this writing, no initial appearance has been noted in court, and no plea has been entered.

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Former FS Employee and Spouse Sentenced For Counterfeit Goods Trafficking

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On December 20, 2019, we blogged this: @StateDept Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy Seoul.  On March 18, 2021, USDOJ announced that the former employee and his spouse were sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit goods through e-commerce accounts operated from State Department computers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Below via USDOJ:

Former State Department Employee Sentenced to Prison for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy

A former U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were sentenced today for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit goods through e-commerce accounts operated from State Department computers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 54, and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods on Dec. 20. 2020. Thompson Jr. was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Zhang was sentenced to three years of supervised release, the first eight months of which will consist of home confinement. Thompson Jr. and Zhang were also ordered to forfeit a combined total of $229,302.
According to court documents, Thompson Jr. was an Information Programs Officer employed by the Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Republic of Korea, a position that required him to maintain a security clearance. Zhang resided with him in Seoul. Between September 2017 and December 2019, Thompson Jr. and Zhang sold counterfeit goods on a variety of e-commerce platforms. Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer at the embassy to create numerous e-commerce accounts, including additional accounts under aliases to continue the conspiracy and avoid detection after several e-commerce platforms suspended the couple’s other accounts for fraudulent activity. Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon. Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon; and Assistant Director Ricardo Colón of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.
The case was investigated by the DSS Office of Special Investigations with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon.

 


 

 

Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick Expelled From Vanuatu After US Embassy Papua New Guinea’s Request

 

Via USDOJ:
Inigo Philbrick Defrauded Investors and Lenders Out Of More Than $20 Million In Connection With Works by Notable Contemporary Artists

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint in Manhattan federal court charging INIGO PHILBRICK, an art dealer specializing in post-war and contemporary fine art, with galleries in London, United Kingdom, and Miami, Florida, with engaging in a multi-year scheme to defraud various individuals and entities in order to finance his art business.  In total, PHILBRICK allegedly fraudulently obtained more than $20 million as a result of the scheme.

Federal law enforcement agents took PHILBRICK into custody yesterday in Vanuatu, after Vanuatu authorities expelled PHILBRICK from Vanuatu at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea in light of the charges in the Complaint.  PHILBRICK was then transported to Guam, where he is expected to be presented in federal court on June 15, 2020.     

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who misled art collectors, investors, and lenders out of more than $20 million.  You can’t sell more than 100 percent ownership in a single piece of art, which Philbrick allegedly did, among other scams.  When his schemes began to unravel, Philbrick allegedly fled the country.  Now he is in U.S. custody and facing justice.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Mr. Philbrick allegedly sought out high-dollar art investors, sold pieces he didn’t own, and played games with millions of dollars in other people’s money.  The game ended when investors began wondering where their money went.  Hats off to the FBI NY Joint Major Theft Task Force/Art Crime Team who worked diligently to track down Mr. Philbrick and bring him back to the U.S., where, if convicted, he might have to trade in his jet-set life for a drab federal prison cell.”
[…]
PHILBRICK, 33, a U.S. citizen previously residing in London, United Kingdom, and a fugitive since October 2019, was charged in the Complaint with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.  The wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.  The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.
[…]
To report information related to this case, please contact the FBI’s Art Crime Team at NYArtCrime@fbi.gov.

The allegations in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Read the full statement here.
The Complaint was unsealed on June 12 in Manhattan federal court.

 

Contractor Resolves Charges Relating to Fraud on GSA Contract to Modernize the Harry S. Truman Building

 

Via USDOJ:
Government Contractor Resolves Charges Relating to Fraud on General Services Administration Contract to Modernize State Department Building

Alutiiq International Solutions LLC (AIS), a subsidiary of Afognak Native Corporation (Afognak) and an Alaskan Native Corporation, within the meaning of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, that performs construction work on government contracts, has entered into a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) and has agreed to pay over $1.25 million to resolve the Justice Department’s investigation into a kickback and fraud scheme perpetrated by a former AIS manager on a U.S. Government contract administered by the General Services Administration (GSA), announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

As part of the NPA, AIS has agreed to pay $1,259,444 in victim compensation payments to the GSA.  Under the terms of the NPA, AIS and its parent company, Afognak, have agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation and prosecution of individuals, and to report to the department evidence of allegations of violations of U.S. fraud, anti-corruption, procurement integrity, and anti-kickback laws.  Afognak and AIS also agreed to enhance their compliance program and internal controls, where necessary and appropriate, to ensure they are designed to detect and deter, among other things, fraud and kickbacks in connection with U.S. federal government contracts.

According to AIS’s admissions contained in the NPA, beginning in or around June 2010, the AIS project manager assigned to a multi-million dollar GSA contract to modernize the Harry S. Truman Federal Building in Washington, D.C., began receiving kickbacks from a subcontractor on the project in exchange for steering work to the subcontractor.  These kickbacks initially were paid in the form of meals, vacations, and other things of value but, by 2015, the AIS project manager began demanding cash kickbacks equivalent to 10 percent of the value of contract modifications that were being awarded to the subcontractor.  At the same time, the AIS project manager billed the GSA for services purportedly provided by an on-site superintendent when there was no superintendent on site.  The AIS project manager’s false and fraudulent billings caused the GSA to pay $568,800 to AIS that it should not have paid.  Additionally, when making contract modification requests to the GSA, the AIS project manager illegally inflated the estimated costs that AIS received from its subcontractor, resulting in $690,644 in monies paid by GSA to AIS.
[….]

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging the AIS project manager, Elmer Baker, with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act, and four counts of wire fraud, in May 2019.  Trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 7, 2020, before U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Read the full statement here. Download AIS Non-Prosecution Agreement

@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Gets 87 Months in Prison For Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is the conclusion to the court case of a State Department contracting official charged with bribery and procurement fraud (see @StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud; @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud).  On February 14, 2020, USDOJ announced that the former contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino was sentenced to 87 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised released.
Via USDOJ:
State Department Contracting Officer Sentenced to Prison for Bribery and Procurement Fraud Scheme=

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was sentenced today to 87 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release after he was convicted of 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Marc Meyer of the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Zaldy N. Sabino, 60, of Fort Washington, Maryland, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady after Sabino’s conviction on Oct. 4, 2019.  In addition to his term of imprisonment, Sabino was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

According to the evidence at trial, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $521,862.93 in cash payments from the Turkish owner while Sabino supervised multi-million dollar construction contracts awarded to the Turkish owner’s business partners and while Sabino made over a half million dollars in structured cash deposits into his personal bank accounts.  Sabino concealed his unlawful relationship by, among other things, making false statements on financial disclosure forms and during his background reinvestigation.

The Department of State’s Office of Inspector General, led by Steve A. Linick, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.