Tag: guilty

Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms


United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.

In November 2019, Meleski was charged by Indictment for his scheme to defraud the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

To perpetrate the scheme, Meleski faked serving in the U.S. military, specifically the Navy SEALs, and falsely represented that he had been a Prisoner of War, in order to secure healthcare benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) worth over $300,000.

Due to his false representation as a POW, the defendant received healthcare from the VA in Priority Group 3, effectively receiving healthcare before other deserving military service members.


Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA

In reality, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military.

Meleski also filed for monetary compensation from the VA for PTSD he supposedly suffered during an armed conflict in Beirut in which he rescued injured service members. In his application for disability benefits for PTSD, Meleski falsely represented that he had been awarded the Silver Star for heroic actions during his time as a Navy SEAL.

Again, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military and of course was never awarded any service medals. Meleski also submitted another application to the VA for monetary compensation in which he included obituaries of actual Navy SEALs alongside whom he had supposedly served.

In short, he traded on the actions of true heroes in an attempt to bolster his false application for monetary benefits.

The defendant also filed for disability benefits from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) for injuries he claimed to have received during his time in the service.

Meleski falsely testified under oath in connection with an SSA Disability proceeding.

After being arrested for fraud, it was discovered that the defendant had also engaged in aiding and abetting the straw purchase of two separate firearms; he also pleaded guilty to this conduct.

“Meleski faked a record as a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Everything about this case is profoundly offensive. Our veterans fought for the freedoms we hold dear, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. But holding individuals like Meleski accountable for their crimes is one small way that we can honor our veterans’ service.”

The case was investigated by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Megan Curran.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms

Berkeley County woman admits to willful retention of top secret national defense documents and international parental kidnapping


Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, has admitted to unlawfully retaining a document containing national defense information and committing international parental kidnapping, Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney William J. Powell for the Northern District of West Virginia announced.

Shirley, 46, pled guilty to one count of “Willful Retention of National Defense Information” and one count of “International Parental Kidnapping.” 

Shirley admitted to unlawfully retaining a National Security Agency (NSA) document containing information classified at the TOP SECRET/SECRET COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION (“TS/SCI”) level relating to the national defense that outlines intelligence information regarding a foreign government’s military and political issues. 

Shirley also admitted to removing her child, of whom she was the non-custodial parent, to Mexico with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of the custodial father’s parental rights.

“When Shirley took classified information from her work with the Intelligence Community and later fled to Mexico, she violated the confidence placed in her by the American people,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “She doubled down on this betrayal when she sought to offer classified information to the Russian government.  We are grateful for our law enforcement partners’ timely work to locate and arrest the defendant in Mexico.  Given Shirley’s troubling conduct after fleeing the United States, the damage to national security could have been far greater had law enforcement not acted swiftly.  Shirley will now be held accountable for betraying the trust of the American people.”

“High level security clearance requires a commensurate level of trust.  Shirley breached that trust and attempted to put our country at risk.  National security is one of our highest priorities and always will be.  Shirley will now face the consequences of her actions,” said William J. Powell.

“Federal government employees and contractors with high level security clearances pledge to protect classified information from foreign adversaries. It’s an essential responsibility in guarding our country’s national security,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “Ms. Shirley had a duty to safeguard classified information. Instead, she chose to break the law and trust placed in her and made plans to pass national defense information to Russian officials, which could have put our citizens at risk. The FBI does not take these violations lightly and will work to hold wrongdoers accountable to keep our country safe.”

Shirley served on active duty with the United States Air Force, and in August 1994, the Air Force granted Shirley her first TS/SCI security clearance. 

After leaving active duty, Shirley served in the United States Air Force Reserves and later in the United States Navy Reserves. 

While serving in the Air Force, she worked on assignments with the NSA. 

From May 2001 to August 2012, Shirley held various positions with the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, and at least five different cleared defense contractors. 

In connection with these positions, Shirley held TOP SECRET/SCI security clearances at various times.

In July 2019, Shirley took her six-year-old daughter to Mexico with the intent to make contact with representatives of the Government of Russia to request resettlement in a country that would not extradite her to the United States. 

Shirley took with her to Mexico national defense information, which she had unlawfully retained. 

While in Mexico, Shirley prepared a written message to Russian Government officials, referencing “an urgent need” to have “items shipped from the USA related to [her] life’s work before they are seized and destroyed.”

On Aug. 13, 2019, the United States Marshals Service and Mexican law enforcement located Shirley and her daughter at a hotel in Mexico City.  Mexican authorities arrested Shirley pursuant to an arrest warrant the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) had obtained on a charge of concealment of a minor from a custodian.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) subsequently executed search warrants on numerous of Shirley’s electronic devices, including devices she took to Mexico in July 2019 and devices the FBI seized from her Martinsburg storage unit in August 2019. 

Pursuant to the search of the storage unit, the FBI located the NSA document underlying the Willful Retention of National Defense Information offense. 

In addition, pursuant to searches of the electronic devices, the FBI found an Office of Naval Intelligence PowerPoint presentation containing information classified at the SECRET level and messages Shirley had drafted to Russian Government officials while in Mexico, the latter of which the Central Intelligence Agency has determined to include information classified at the SECRET level.

Shirley faces up to ten years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000 for the national security charge and up to three years of incarceration and fine of up to $250,000 for the kidnapping charge. 

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Lara K. Omps-Botteicher and Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon with the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, National Security Division, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government. 

The FBI and WVSP investigated.  The Webster County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of the case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Berkeley County woman admits to willful retention of top secret national defense documents and international parental kidnapping

Mother of San Bernardino Shooter Agrees to Plead Guilty to Destroying Evidence Related to Her Son’s 2015 Terrorist Attack


The mother of Syed Rizwan Farook, the male shooter in 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal criminal charge of intending to impede a federal criminal investigation by shredding a map her son generated in connection with the attack.

Rafia Sultana Shareef, a.k.a. Rafia Farook, 66, of Corona, has agreed to plead guilty to a one-count information charging her with alteration, destruction, and mutilation of records. The criminal information and related plea agreement were filed Monday in United States District Court in Riverside, and the documents became publicly available on Tuesday.

Shareef is scheduled to make her initial appearance in federal court in Riverside on March 16.

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According to her plea agreement, on December 2, 2015, Shareef was living at a Redlands residence she shared with her son and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, and her grandchild. At approximately 8 a.m. on that day, Farook and Malik left the family home and left their infant child with Shareef, falsely telling her that they were going to a medical appointment.

Instead, Farook and Malik drove a black SUV that Farook had rented a few days earlier to the Inland Regional Center (IRC) in San Bernardino. Farook entered the IRC alone, while Malik waited inside the SUV, which was parked at the IRC parking lot. Farook placed a bag containing a bomb in a conference room where his coworkers were holding an event. After some time, Farook and Malik left the IRC, then returned at approximately 10:58 a.m. dressed in black tactical gear.

Approaching the IRC on foot from the exterior, Farook and Malik opened fire using high-powered firearms on individuals outside and inside the venue, killing 14 people and wounding at least 22 others. At approximately 11:01 a.m., Farook and Malik departed the IRC and began driving around San Bernardino. A few hours later, Farook and Malik engaged in a firefight with law enforcement officers that resulted in the wounding of one policeman and their own deaths.

Sometime between 11:43 a.m. and 3:06 p.m., while Shareef was still at her home, she learned that law enforcement had identified her son as a suspect in the IRC attack, the plea agreement states. In the presence of family members that afternoon, Shareef expressed her belief that her son and daughter-in-law had perpetrated the IRC attack, according to the plea agreement.

Prior to leaving the family home with her infant grandchild at 3:41 p.m., Shareef went into her son’s bedroom, grabbed at least one document that appeared to be a map, and fed it into a shredder, according to the plea agreement. Shareef admitted that she knew her son had produced the document, and she believed it was directly related to his planning of the IRC attack.

Once she pleads guilty to the felony charge, Shareef will face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in federal prison, but the plea agreement contemplates a sentence of no more than 18 months.

This matter was investigated by the FBI. This case stems from the broader investigation of the San Bernardino attack by members of the Inland Empire Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes the FBI; the San Bernardino Police Department; the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Homeland Security Investigations; the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office; the Chino Police Department; the Redlands Police Department; the Ontario Police Department; the Corona Police Department; and the Riverside Police Department.

The case against Shareef is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher D. Grigg, Chief of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section; Melanie Sartoris of the General Crimes Section; and Julius J. Nam of the Criminal Appeals Section. Justice Department Trial Attorneys Alicia Cook and C. Alexandria Bogle of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section provided substantial support.

Justice.gov (March, 2020) Mother of San Bernardino Shooter Agrees to Plead Guilty to Destroying Evidence Related to Her Son’s 2015 Terrorist Attack

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Former DIA Employee Pleads Guilty to Leaking Classified National Defense Information to Journalists


An employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) pleaded guilty today to charges related to his disclosure of classified national defense information (NDI) to two journalists in 2018 and 2019.

“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk.  The government takes these breaches seriously and will use all the resources at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute those who jeopardize the safety of this country and its citizens.”

“Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with Top Secret information related to the national defense of our country,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Frese violated that trust, the oath he swore to uphold, and engaged in felonious conduct at the expense of our country. This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those similarly entrusted with National Defense Information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.”

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“Mr. Frese violated his sworn oath to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States by using his access to the United States’ most sensitive information and steal state secrets for nothing more than personal gain,” said Robert Wells, Acting Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “The men and women of the FBI who investigated this case swore the same oath but unlike Mr. Frese, they chose to uphold it. I am proud of the work they did to hold Mr. Frese accountable for his actions.”

“By disseminating the same classified information he had pledged to protect, Henry Kyle Frese put the US and our national defense equities in danger,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “The US Government and the American public depend on trusted government employees to keep such information out of the hands of our adversaries, who could use it to cause us harm.  The FBI’s counterintelligence mission is to protect our country’s information and secrets in order to safeguard our future; and the men and women of the FBI will continue to work hard to preserve that information.”

According to court documents, Henry Kyle Frese, 31, of Alexandria, was employed by DIA as a counterterrorism analyst from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance. United States government agencies have confirmed that in the spring and summer of 2018, News Outlet 1 published eight articles, all authored by the same journalist (Journalist 1) that contained classified NDI that related to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapons systems.

These articles contained classified intelligence from five intelligence reports (the Compromised Intelligence Reports) made available to appropriately cleared recipients in the first half of 2018. The topic of all of these initial five Compromised Intelligence Reports – foreign countries’ weapons systems – was outside the scope of Frese’s job duties as an analyst covering CT topics. The media articles, and the intelligence reporting from which they were derived, both contained information that is classified up to the TS//SCI level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security. The intelligence reporting was marked as such.

According to court documents, Frese and Journalist 1 lived together at the same residential address from January 2018 to November 2018. Throughout 2018 and 2019, Frese and Journalist 1 “followed” each other on Twitter, and on at least two occasions Frese re-Tweeted Journalist 1’s Tweets announcing the publications of articles containing NDI classified at the Top Secret level.

In or about April of 2018, Journalist 1 introduced Frese to a second journalist (Journalist 2).  Subsequently, Frese began texting and speaking with Journalist 2 by telephone. Between mid-2018 and late September 2019, Frese orally transmitted NDI classified at the Top Secret level to Journalist 1 on 12 separate occasions, and orally transmitted NDI classified at the Secret level to Journalist 1 on at least four occasions.

Frese knew the information was classified at the Secret and Top Secret levels because the intelligence products from which he had learned the classified information had visible classification markings as to the classification level of the information, and the intelligence products accessed by Frese were stored on secure, classified government information systems.

In relation to one of the 12 times Frese orally transmitted Top Secret NDI to Journalist 1, in or about mid-April to early May 2018, Frese accessed an intelligence report unrelated to his job duties on multiple occasions, which contained NDI classified at the Top Secret//SCI level (Intelligence Report l). A week after Frese accessed Intelligence Report 1 for the second time, Frese received an April 27, 2018 Twitter Direct Message (DM) from Journalist 1 asking whether Frese would be willing to speak with Journalist 2. Frese stated that he was “down” to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 “progress.” During the same April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Journalist 1 indicated that a certain United States military official told Journalist 2 that the official was not aware of the subject matter discussed in Intelligence Report 1. Frese characterized the official’s denial as “weird” and commented on the source of information contained within Intelligence Report 1.

Several days after the April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Frese searched on a classified United States government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1. A few hours after searching for terms related to the topic of Intelligence Report l, Frese spoke by telephone with Journalist 1, and several hours later he spoke by telephone with Journalist 2.  Immediately after the call with Journalist 2, Journalist 1 called Frese. During at least one of the calls with Journalist 1 and Journalist 2, Frese orally passed Top Secret NDI derived from Intelligence Report 1. Approximately 30 minutes after Frese spoke with the two journalists, Journalist 1 published an article (Article 1) which contained Top Secret NDI, orally communicated by Frese and derived from Intelligence Report 1 classified at the Top Secret//SCI level.

On at least 30 separate occasions in 2018, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems for information regarding the classified topics he discussed with Journalists 1 and 2. On multiple occasions in 2018 and 2019, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems because of specific requests for information from Journalists 1 and 2.

Additionally, between early 2018 and October 2019, Frese communicated with an employee of an overseas CT consulting group (Consultant 1) via social media. On at least two occasions, Frese transmitted classified NDI related to CT topics to Consultant 1, using a social media site’s direct messaging feature.

Frese pleaded guilty to the willful transmission of Top Secret national defense information, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on June 18, 2020, at 9:30 am. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Neil Hammerstrom and Danya E. Atiyeh, and Trial Attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Justice.gov (February, 2020) Former DIA Employee Pleads Guilty to Leaking Classified National Defense Information to Journalists

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Chicago Woman Found Guilty for Role in $7 Million Scheme to Defraud Medicare


A federal jury found a Chicago woman guilty on Friday for her role in a scheme to defraud Medicare of approximately $7 million between 2011 and 2017.

After a four-day trial, Angelita Newton, 42, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.   Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 13, 2020 before U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall of the Northern District of Illinois, who presided over the trial. 

According to evidence presented at trial, from approximately 2011 to 2017, Newton worked at Care Specialists, a home health company based in Chicago, Illinois, and owned by Ferdinand Echavia, 46, and Ma Luisa Echavia, 44, both of Chicago.  Newton was the Echavias’ employee and personal assistant.  In that role, Newton conspired with the Echavias and others to submit claims to Medicare for unnecessary home health services for unqualified patients or for visits that did not happen as billed, the evidence showed. 

Newton created and completed visit notes and other documents purporting to reflect nursing services purportedly rendered by Ferdinand Echavia with the knowledge that he was not actually providing the services.  Newton was aware that Ferdinand Echavia was making cash payments to patients, which Newton knew to be illegal, the evidence showed.

The evidence at trial showed that between 2011 and 2017, Medicare paid Care Specialists approximately $7 million for home health care services. 

Three other defendants have been charged in connection with the fraud at Care Specialists.  Ferdinand Echavia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud on Jan. 28, 2020, and is awaiting sentencing.  Ma Luisa Echavia pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud on Jan. 29, 2020, and is awaiting sentencing.  A former nurse at Care Specialists, Reginald Onate, 31, of Aurora, Illinois, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and is awaiting sentencing. 

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This case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG.  Trial Attorneys Leslie S. Garthwaite and Patrick Mott of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  Former Trial Attorney Jessica Collins of the Fraud Section previously handled the prosecution.   

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois, Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the United States Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Chicago Division Office made the announcement.

The Fraud Section leads the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.  Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which maintains 15 strike forces operating in 24 districts, has charged more than 4,200 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Justice.gov (February, 2020) Chicago Woman Found Guilty for Role in $7 Million Scheme to Defraud Medicare

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