December 2019 – Yamel Guevara Tamayo, 36, of Miami, was sentenced Friday, December 20, 2019 to 63 months in prison for his role in serving as a money mule, and recruiter of more than 15 additional money mules, in an international money laundering operation for business email compromise (BEC) and other cyber-schemes. According to the court record, from November 2016 through June 2019, Tamayo, together with co-conspirators Roda Taher a/k/a “Rezi,” and others participated in a scheme to help steal more than $1.5 million dollars from individual and corporate victims, which proceeds were later laundered. The scheme involved recruiting “money mules,” including Tamayo, who allowed their respective names and personal identifying information to be used by co-conspirators to incorporate a sham business through the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations, under such mule’s name. As part of the scheme, a mule would then open bank accounts at multiple banks in the name of his or her shell company. Several mules, including Tamayo, later recruited and managed new money mules. To date, more than 200 money mules and money mule recruiters have been identified as part of this international money laundering network. A related cyberattack aspect of the scheme involved the creation, by co-conspirators, of email addresses that mimicked, but differed slightly from, legitimate email addresses of supervisory employees at various companies. The conspirators used these deceptive email addresses to send emails that appeared to be requests for payment of legitimate invoices or debts owed by the victims. The victims were deceived into transferring funds by wire into the bank accounts opened by the money mules and controlled by Tamayo and the co-conspirators. After the victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, Tamayo, under the direction of other conspirators, quickly debited thousands of dollars from the accounts through in-person withdrawals, ATM withdrawals, and debit card purchases. Tamayo and co-conspirators also rapidly transferred victims’ funds to foreign bank accounts that co-conspirators controlled as soon as the funds came in. Tamayo and other co-conspirators kept a fraction of the proceeds as payment after doing so. Tamayo’s role expanded over time. He ultimately recruited more than fifteen individuals to participate as mules in the money laundering scheme, serving as their manager and directing them to open new accounts. His involvement in the scheme lasted until in or around June 2019. In total, Tamayo and his mules intended to launder more than $1.4 million dollars, and succeeded in laundering more than $700,000 before banks were able to freeze and claw back some of the funds due to suspected fraud.
May 2019 – Two Miami-Dade County, Florida residents were charged with participating in a scheme to fraudulently obtain Hurricane Harvey disaster-relief funds. Fredna Frederic, 27, and Courtney Lillie Gillis, 28, both of Miami-Dade County, have been charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud (Case No. 19-20290-CR-Gayles/Otazo-Reyes). If convicted Frederic and Gillis face up to 20 years in prison for the offenses, fines and a term of supervised release. According to the indictment, after Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston, Texas area, a humanitarian organization made disaster-relief funds available to residents of the affected area. These funds were dispensed by a number of companies, including a national retailer headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. In order to qualify for these relief funds, an individual had to enter the names, addresses, and dates of birth of individuals who resided in the affected area. Once this information was verified, the individual would receive a reference code that could be redeemed for a $400 payment at a national retailer. The indictment alleges, that in order to execute the scheme, Frederic and Gillis’s co-conspirators applied for Hurricane Harvey disaster relief funds by falsely and fraudulently using the names, addresses, and dates of birth of individuals who resided in the disaster-relief area to obtain reference codes. It is alleged that, as part of the scheme, Frederic contacted Gillis, who was an employee of the national retail store where reference codes could be redeemed, and offered Gillis a kickback if she processed the reference codes. It is further alleged that, on approximately fifteen occasions, Frederic provided those reference codes to Gillis, who then entered these reference codes into the retailer’s computer system and then issued payments of $400 per code to Frederic and her co-conspirators.
May 2019 – Three Palm Beach County residents have been charged with orchestrating a $3.6 million investment fraud scheme. T. Jonathan Turner, a/k/a Jon Barri Brothers, 52, of Wellington, Florida, Norman M. Strell, 73, of Wellington, Florida and Scott P. Strochak, 57, of Boynton Beach, Florida were charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 15 substantive wire fraud counts (Case No. 19-80073-CR-Rosenberg). Today, Turner was arraigned and Strell had his initial appearance. According to allegations in the court record, including those contained in the indictment and previously filed criminal complaint, Turner was the Vice Chairman, President and Chief Operations Officer of Castleberry Financial Services Group. Castleberry falsely promoted itself to investors as a leading Alternative Investments Manager with a history of deploying almost $800 million in capital across the balance sheets of leading local businesses. In addition, contrary to its representation that it managed separate funds, Castleberry pooled investor funds in one bank account that was controlled by Turner and co-conspirator Strell. Turner, Strell and Strochak promoted the sale of Castleberry’s securities through materials and solicitations that falsely represented that the company’s investor proceeds were fully bonded and insured and would be invested in real estate and distressed businesses to generate profits from which investor returns would be paid. In addition, they lured individuals to invest money in Castleberry’s securities offerings by falsely touting Turner’s prior financial industry experience and educational achievements, while failing to disclose his prior felony convictions for fraud related offenses. In fact, Castleberry did not make any significant income generating investments. Instead, Turner and his co-conspirators misused and misappropriated investor funds to pay for their own personal expenses, transfer money into their own bank accounts, accounts of entities they controlled and those of family members. The court record alleges that as a result of the fraudulent scheme, 15 investor victims lost more than $3.6 million.
May 2019 – A Weston resident was sentenced today to federal prison for two bank robberies and an attempted carjacking. David Brasher, 36, of Weston, Florida, pled guilty on February 22, 2019, to two counts of bank robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2113(a) and one count of attempted carjacking, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2119(1). U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas sentenced Brasher to a total of 66 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Brasher was also ordered to pay a total of $18,826 in restitution. According to the court record, including the agreed upon factual proffer, on October 30, 2018, Brasher, robbed a teller at a Wells Fargo Bank in Sunrise, Florida. Brasher gave the teller a note demanding money and stating he had a bomb. Brasher raised his shirt and displayed what the teller believed was the handle of a handgun. Brasher fled the bank with $18,613. On November 6, 2018, Brasher robbed a teller at a Bank of America in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Brasher gave the teller a note demanding money and stating he had a bomb and a gun. Brasher fled the bank with $2,815. On November 6, 2018, about four hours after the Bank of America robbery, Brasher approached a woman and her minor daughter in a parking lot in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Brasher raised a beer bottle, demanded the keys to the woman’s car, and said he would kill her if she refused. The woman yelled for help and her husband, who was a short distance away, ran to her aide, punching Brasher in his head. Brasher then fled on foot.