Two East Tennessee counties are now on board to join a growing and fast-moving national effort to use federal racketeering laws to hold drug makers, distributors and dispensers accountable for creating and fostering the opioid epidemic in the United States, records show.
Government leaders in Campbell and Scott Counties have authorized the filing of lawsuits in U.S. District Court against the firms that make, distribute and dispense opiate prescription painkillers.
The law firm Jessee & Jessee filed the first such legal action in the federal Eastern District of Tennessee on behalf of Campbell County earlier this year. The law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Taylor & Knight filed a similar action on behalf of Scott County late last week.
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland was arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud Friday for allegedly defrauding investors with his disastrous music festival that left hundreds of well-heeled millennials stranded in the Bahamas and millions of dollars in investments and ticket sales unaccounted for.
McFarland, the 26-year-old CEO of Magnises, a concierge company, and Fyre Media, an app to book performing artists for private events, will spend the night in jail. He is expected to be arraigned before a judge on Saturday, Joon Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
“As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster,” Joon said. “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes.”
Prosecutors allege McFarland began the criminal scheme in late 2016, right around the time he announced the Fyre Festival through a well-orchestrated marketing campaign involving hundreds of so-called Instagram “influencers,” including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin.
According to the criminal complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, McFarland lied to at least two investors about how much the company was worth, eventually inducing them to invest around $1.2 million in the festival based on assertions that Fyre was making millions of dollars in revenue. In fact, prosecutors say, the company had earned only $60,000 over the past year.
McFarland also allegedly doctored a stock ownership statement to convince one of those unnamed investors that he held more than $2.5 million in shares in an unnamed company to use as collateral in the deal.
Though the complaint doesn’t specifically list the stock or the investor, a brokerage statement purporting to show McFarland as the owner of $2,565,079.18 in Facebook stock is listed as an exhibit in a civil suit filed by investor Oleg Itkin, who gave McFarland a $700,000 loan. Prosecutors say McFarland did own shares of Facebook stock — but only about $1,400 worth.
It’s not clear who is representing McFarland, who was dropped by his legal team Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP, on Wednesday. Michael Levine, a Westchester attorney, is listed as McFarland’s incoming attorney in a signed affidavit in the Itkin case. But reached by phone Friday night, Levine denied any involvement in the criminal case and said he was merely involved in the civil case as local counsel for a California firm which he declined to name.
Here’s a promotional video for the ill-fated Fyre Festival, which was canceled soon after it began in April:
Cover: Billy McFarland and Carol Mac attend The 23rd Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit & Auction at The Watermill Center on July 30, 2016 in Water Mill, NY. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via G Images)
Sourced From – https://news.vice.com/story/fyre-festival-founder-arrested-and-charged-with-wire-fraud
There, indeed, was an FBI wiretap involving Russians at Trump Tower.
But it was not placed at the behest of Barack Obama and the target was not the Trump campaign of 2016. For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower.
The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” Tokhtakhounov was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.
Five months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a “red notice” for Tokhtakhounov, the fugitive appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Moscow Miss Universe pageant. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.
“He is a major player,” said Mike Gaeta, the FBI agent who led the 2013 FBI investigation of Tokhtakhounov and his alleged mafia money laundering and gambling ring, in a 2014 interview with ABC News. “He is prominent, he has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.”
Gaeta, who ran the FBI’s Eurasian Organized Crime unit of the FBI’s New York office told ABC News at the time that federal agents were closely tracking Tokhtakhounov, whose Russian ring was suspected of moving more than $50 million in illegal money into the United States.
“Because of his status, we have kept tabs on is activities, and particularly as his activities truly enter New York city,” Gaeta said. “Their money was ultimately laundered from Russia, Ukraine and other locations through Cyprus banks and shell companies based in Cyprus, and then ultimately here to the United States.”
The FBI investigation did not implicate Trump. But Trump Tower was under close watch. Some of the Russian mafia figures worked out of the 63rd floor unit in the iconic skyscraper –- just three floors below Trump’s penthouse residence — running what prosecutors called an “international money laundering, sports gambling and extortion ring.”
The Trump building was home to one of the top men in the alleged ring, Vadim Trincher who pleaded guilty to racketeering and received a five-year prison term. He is due to be released in July.
“Everything was moving in and out of there,” said former FBI official Rich Frankel, now an ABC News consultant.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s decision Monday came as jury selection is getting underway in the federal trial after a three-week delay. Jury selection was initially scheduled to begin earlier this month, but it was abruptly postponed after last-minute questions arose about Roof’s ability to understand the proceedings and assist in his own defense.
There were other sealed filings over the weekend in the case, which may have reflected debate about Roof’s request to represent himself. It is unclear how his decision to represent himself could affect the timetable for the trial, which is expected to last months. Gergel is expected to issue a written order later Monday, according to the Justice Department.
Full Article – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/11/28/accused-charleston-church-shooter-will-represent-himself-at-federal-hate-crimes-trial/?utm_term=.00c98046192b
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More people charged with federal crimes in Utah could get treatment instead of prison under a new program designed to prevent repeat offenses by addressing the reasons why they commit crimes.
The program is aimed at defendants without long criminal histories or those struggling with substance abuse. People would have to plead guilty to charges before they enter the program. Participation is voluntary, and getting into the program is expected to be competitive.
If they complete the requirements successfully, defendants could see charges dismissed, or they could be put on probation rather than be sent to prison. People who fail will be sentenced under terms they agreed to before entering the program.
The program was designed by a team that included federal prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation agents and judges. It was approved this summer, and officials are expected to meet this month to select the first eight to 12 participants.
“I’m not talking about giving a break to the kingpins,” said U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber. “I’m talking about people on the fringe who … have a heroin addiction, have a meth addiction, and they’re just trying to get to their next fix.”
Defendants who are picked will be separated into two groups, one for people with little to no criminal history accused of crimes like credit card fraud or minor narcotics offenses.
The second group will be people whose behavior appears to be motivated by drug and alcohol problems facing allegations like mail theft or bank robberies not involving a gun. Some of them will likely have criminal histories.
The program will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby. The defendants will be closely supervised and have to make regular appearances before the team of court authorities as well as being required to complete treatment for things like substance abuse, mental illness or education.
Their participation will last one to two years.
Huber said repeat offenders are costly for the court system and the community.
“If I don’t have to, I don’t want to prosecute someone two and three times over. That’s really a big investment of taxpayer resources on a problem that’s kind of a revolving door,” he said.
While Utah state courts have had a similar system for years, it’s a relatively concept in the federal system.
“The federal system has always been seen as very harsh,” said Greg Petersen, the probation officer in the fledgling program. “This is an opportunity for those people who are charged with federal crimes to get a little bit of a second chance.”
When it came to naming the program, Huber wanted something that would be a positive message in acronym form, so they came up with Utah Alternatives to Conviction Track or U-ACT.
As the court team put together the framework, they studied a similar program in federal court in California.
Some defendants won’t be eligible for the program, including those facing child pornography charges, people deeply involved with major fraud or narcotics distribution, those who could be deported or people accused of specific violent acts.