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Newark City Council Member Pleads Guilty in Bribery Scheme – NBC New York

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A Newark city council member pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with an associate to shake down companies seeking development and construction projects in the city, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Joseph McCallum Jr. admitted participating in a scheme between 2017 and 2020 that included a $16,000 bribe from a contracting company and a $25,000 bribe and kickback from a developer’s company. He pleaded guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud and one count of filing a fraudulent tax return.

The 66-year-old McCallum is an Air Force veteran and Newark native who has worked as a substance abuse counselor for the Veterans Administration and was elected to the Newark council in 2014, according to his biography on the council website.

McCallum has continued to serve on the council since he was charged in Oct. 2020, and his picture remained on the council’s website Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear when he would resign or who would assume his seat. A message was left with Mayor Ras Baraka’s office.

At the time McCallum was charged, consultant Malik Frederick, named by the U.S. attorney’s office as a co-conspirator, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

According to prosecutors, Frederick took money from the companies in exchange for providing access to McCallum, who used his position on the council and as a member of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, later renamed Invest Newark, to help their efforts.

The maximum prison sentence for honest services fraud is 20 years; the maximum sentence for tax return fraud is three years. McCallum is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21.

“Mr. McCallum has been a tremendous asset and advocate for the citizens of the city of Newark and his hard work in support of the city he loves will never be taken away,” Raymond Hamlin, an attorney representing McCallum, said in an email. “He has taken responsibility for his actions and looks forward to an opportunity in the future to continue supporting this great city and the citizens who call this their home.”


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Minnesota Man Mark Miller Moves Toward Possible Guilty Plea in Shell Company Hijack Case, Court Filing Reveals – NBC New York

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  • A Minnesota man criminally charged with committing securities fraud by hijacking dormant shell companies has taken a step that suggests he will plead guilty, a new court filing revealed.
  • The lawyer for Mark Miller told a judge he will waive pretrial motions and will request a change of plea hearing date.
  • MIller is one of three men charged by federal prosecutors with an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2019 in which they purportedly used fake resignation letters to seize control of four shell companies.

A Minnesota man criminally charged with committing securities fraud by hijacking dormant shell companies has taken a step that suggests he will plead guilty, a new court filing revealed.

A lawyer for the man, Mark Miller, told a judge in a letter filed Tuesday that Miller will not submit pre-trial motions in his criminal case, and asked to be excused from a scheduled hearing on such motions next week in Minnesota federal court.

Miller’s lawyer said in his letter he would contact Judge Kate Menendez’s chambers “for a change of plea hearing date.” The attorney also said he met with Miller to discuss a “plea offer” from prosecutors in the case.

Pre-trial motions are routinely filed by criminal defendants who plan to go to trial.

Miller, a 43-year-old general contractor who lives in the town of Breezy Point, previously pleaded not guilty in his case.

The fact that his lawyer plans to seek a “change of plea hearing” suggests Miller will change that plea to guilty.

The attorney, Robert Lengeling, did not immediately return requests for comment from CNBC.

Miller is one of three men charged by federal prosecutors in June with an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2019 in which they purportedly used fake resignation letters to seize control of four shell companies. Prosecutors allege that the men then used the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR public filing system and bogus press releases to fraudulently “pump up” share prices by claiming new business opportunities.

The four shell companies targeted by the alleged conspiracy were Digitiliti, Encompass Holdings, Bell Buckle Holdings and Utilicraft Aerospace Industries.

A civil lawsuit filed against Miller in June by the Securities and Exchange Commission accuses him of a fraudulent scheme targeting “at least seven inactive penny-stock companies … by hijacking five of the companies.”

A lawyer for one of Miller’s co-defendants, Christopher James Rajkaran, on Wednesday notified the judge that Rajkaran also will not submit pre-trial motions.

The judge then cancelled the Sept. 15 motions hearings set for Miller and Rajkaran.

A third defendant, Saeid Jaberian, is still pursuing pre-trial motions in the case.

Jaberian’s lawyer said in a court filing in late August that he wants Jaberian to be tried separately from Miller and Rajkaran.

The lawyer said that “at a future trial, Jaberian’s defense will require asserting that Miller tricked him” into unwittingly participating in a scheme to hijack a dormant shell company.

Prosecutors are opposing that request to have Jaberian tried separately.

Miller, Rajkaran and Jaberian are charged with 15 criminal counts of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud.

Lawyers of Rajkaran and Jaberian did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiries about whether the defendants will move toward changing their pleas as Miller appears to have done.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNBC previously reported that Miller had also attempted to seize control of a Florida penny-stock company, New World Gold, which is not named as having been one of his alleged targets in either the criminal case or a civil case filed by the SEC.

Miller had submitted a new motion in the lawsuit to take New World Gold just one day before being indicted in federal court.

He later dropped the lawsuit less than two weeks after CNBC reported his involvement with New World Gold.

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Rudy Giuliani Associate Igor Fruman Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Foreign Campaign Contributions – NBC New York

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  • Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty to soliciting foreign campaign contributions in a New York federal court Friday.
  • The plea comes nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.
  • Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up dirt about President Joe Biden in Ukraine.
  • Giuliani, who has acted as Trump’s personal attorney, also faces an ongoing criminal investigation.

NEW YORK — Igor Fruman, a former associate of embattled lawyer Rudy Giuliani, pleaded guilty Friday to soliciting campaign contributions from a foreign national, nearly two years after being charged with crimes that included making illegal donations to a pro-Trump political action campaign.

Fruman and his business partner Lev Parnas, a co-defendant in the same case, had worked with Giuliani in an effort to dig up damaging information about President Joe Biden in Ukraine when Biden had emerged as a leading challenger to then-President Donald Trump.

The change-of-plea hearing in Manhattan federal court came as Giuliani, who has acted as Trump’s personal attorney, faces an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Giuliani, who denies any wrongdoing, served two terms as mayor of New York after heading that same prosecutors’ office for years.

The Ukraine-born Fruman was originally charged with 10 crimes.

But in court Friday, he agreed to plead guilty only to a single count related to soliciting U.S. campaign contributions from a foreign national as part of what prosecutors said was a bid to get state-issued recreational marijuana business licenses for a cannabis venture that ultimately never got off the ground.

Fruman said the money was solicited from a foreign businessman who was interested in investing in the cannabis company that Fruman and others were pursuing.

The campaign donations were earmarked for government officials, both Republican and Democrat, in states moving to legalize marijuana.

“I deeply regret my actions and apologize to the court and the United States government for this conduct,” Fruman told Judge J. Paul Oetken, after admitting that he had known such campaign donations from foreigners were illegal under American law.

Protest against Donald Trump by Rise and Resist outside the U.S. District Court in New York, September 10. 2021.

Kevin Breuninger | CNBC

Protest against Donald Trump by Rise and Resist outside the U.S. District Court in New York, September 10. 2021.

Fruman’s plea came in an agreement with prosecutors that led to the other charges being dropped, but he has not agreed to a deal that would compel him to cooperate with federal prosecutors in any ongoing investigation.

His sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 21, and he remains free on bond. The plea agreement stipulates that federal sentencing guidelines suggest that Fruman receive a prison term of between three years and three years and 10 months.

But Oetken is not bound by those guidelines.

Fruman’s lawyer Todd Blanche declined to answer questions from reporters as he left the courthouse with Fruman in lower Manhattan after the plea hearing.

In a statement to CNBC Friday evening, Blanche said that Fruman “is not cooperating with the government and has determined that this is the fairest and best way to put the past two years of his life behind him.”

“He intends to continue to work hard, as he has his entire life, and raise his family in this country that he loves,” Blanche’s statement said.

Parnas and a third defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, who have both pleaded not guilty, are scheduled to go on trial in the same courthouse on Oct. 12 for charges related to allegedly using straw campaign donors to obscure the source of donated money, and soliciting campaign contributions from foreigners.

A fourth defendant, David Correia, pleaded guilty last October to misleading investors in a company he had started with Parnas, a firm called Fraud Guarantee.

Both men were accused of using more than $2 million in investor money on personal expenses instead of the business.

Giuliani received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from Fraud Guarantee.

At his guilty plea, Correia admitted lying to federal election officials about the source of a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump PAC. Instead of coming from a natural gas firm, as Correia claimed, the money actually had come from a mortgage granted to Fruman.

Correia, who likewise had no cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors, in February was sentenced to one year in prison.


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Lawyer Who Allegedly Advised Clinton Campaign Charged With Lying to FBI in Tip About Possible Trump-Russia Bank Link – NBC New York

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  • A lawyer who allegedly advised the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was indicted Thursday on a charge of lying to the FBI.
  • Federal prosecutors say Michael Sussmann, then a partner at Perkins Coie, lied when he offered a tip that year about a possible secret electronic channel between former President Donald Trump’s company and a Russian bank.
  • The charge against Sussmann was filed as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of a prior probe by the FBI and former special counsel Robert Mueller into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

A lawyer who allegedly advised the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign was indicted Thursday on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors say Michael Sussmann, then a partner at law firm Perkins Coie, lied when he offered a tip that same year about the possible secret electronic channel between former President Donald Trump’s company and a Russian bank.

The charge against Sussmann was filed as part of special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of a prior probe by the FBI and former special counsel Robert Mueller into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Then-Attorney General William Barr put Durham in charge of the investigation in early 2019 after Trump had railed about the Russia inquiry for several years.

Sussmann, a 57-year-old former federal prosecutor, has reportedly denied working for the Clinton campaign. He is accused in the indictment of lying to the FBI’s general counsel during a September 2016 meeting by falsely stating he was not representing any legal client as he relayed the information about a possible electronic link between the Trump Organization and the Alfa Bank.

“In fact, Sussmann assembled and conveyed the allegations to the FBI on behalf of at least two clients, including a U.S. technology executive and the Clinton Presidential Campaign,” Durham’s office said in a statement announcing the indictment by a Washington, D.C., federal court grand jury.

The indictment says that beginning in July 2016, Sussmann worked with the tech executive, other cyber-researchers, and an American investigative firm to assemble data and documents that Sussman later gave the FBI and media.

“The technology executive, for his part, exploited his access to non-public data at multiple internet companies and enlisted the assistance of researchers at a U.S.-based university who were receiving and analyzing internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract designed to identify the perpetrators of malicious cyber-attacks and protect U.S. national security,” Durham’s office said.

The indictment charges that those researchers mined that data “to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ that would tie then-presidential candidate Donald Trump to Russia, and which the executive believed would please certain ‘VIPs,'” Durham’s office said.

Sussmann, his law firm and the technology executive also allegedly coordinated with members of Clinton’s campaign in those efforts, according to the indictment.

Durham’s office noted in its statement that after getting Sussmann’s tip, “The FBI ultimately determined that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations of a secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and the Russia-based bank.”

Sussmann is due to appear in court as soon as Friday.

His profile page on the Perkins Coie website delivered a “page not found” message to viewers Thursday.

A Perkin Coie spokesman in an email to CNBC later Thursday said, “In light of the Special Counsel’s action today, Michael Sussmann, who has been on leave from the firm, offered his resignation from the firm in order to focus on his legal defense, and the firm accepted it.”

Sussmann’s lawyers, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth of Latham & Watkins, in a statement said, “Michael Sussmann was indicted today because of politics, not facts.”

“The Special Counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge,” the defense attorneys said. “This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution.”

The lawyers said that Sussman, who has dedicated his career to national security and cyber security, “met with FBI General Counsel James Baker on behalf of a cyber expert client to inform him that a major news organization was about to run a story about cyber connections between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization and to give him a copy of the information on which that story was based.”

“Mr. Sussmann met with Mr. Baker because he and his client believed that the information raised national security concerns,” the lawyers said. “Stripped of its political bluster, innuendo, and irrelevant details, what is striking about the allegations in the indictment is how few of them actually relate to the charge the Special Counsel chose to bring.”

They added that Durham is “bringing a false statement charge based on an oral statement allegedly made five years ago to a single witness that is unrecorded and unobserved by anyone else.”

“The Department of Justice would ordinarily never bring such a baseless case,” the lawyers said. “Nor can the Special Counsel ever prove that any of this mattered. Regardless of who Mr. Sussmann’s clients were, or even if he had no clients at all, none of that would have mattered.”

— CNBC’s Michael Calia contributed to this report.


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