On Friday, May 13, eight members of the Alexandria Police Department were recognized at the 2011 U.S. Attorney’s Public Safety Awards for their collaborative work with other local and federal law enforcement agencies.
United States v. Charles Kargbo
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Fahey and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Sharfstein
Victor Castro, Special Agent
Arlington County PD
Darien Cupka, Detective
Scott Linder, Sergeant
Richard Clagett, Sergeant
Keith Spencer, Officer
Robert Parker , Officer
Aaron Tingle, Corporal
Hermes Molina, Officer
Kathryn Wardle, Officer
Erik Einbinder , Officer
Alex Varaklis, Officer
Steven Proud, Corporal
Aviv Bercovicz, Officer
Elicio Pilco, Sergeant
Alexandria City PD
Christopher Whelan, Detective
Fairfax County PD
Aniello DeSantis, Detective
Prince William County PD
Joseph Medwar, Detective
Montgomery County PD
Mark Hayden, Detective
In the summer of 2009 a group of conspirators committed a series of robberies and attempted robberies in Northern Virginia and Maryland. In each robbery and attempted robbery, the robber wore a disguise purchased from a costume shop. The conspirators robbed check cashing and convenience stores and attempted to rob a couple of banks. During one of the robberies, the robber fired a shot, nearly hitting the victim of the robbery.
In a joint effort, members of the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery County Police Departments shared information and resources in an effort to identify the suspects and link the crimes together through their common characteristics. Once one of the robbers was identified, the officers were able to conduct surveillance and catch him and another of his conspirators in the act of stealing a license plate they intended to use in a future robbery.
One of the conspirators pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 years and another was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 15 years. Without the collaborative efforts of these law enforcement agencies, these robbers would not have been apprehended.
United States v. Natosha Moore
AUSA Paul Nathanson
U.S. Secret Service
Brent Hardie, Special Agent
Jared Stahl, Special Agent
Alexandria City PD
Ed Abell, Detective
Moore was the office manager of a small business in Alexandria and defrauded her employer out of more than $400,000 through unauthorized corporate credit card purchases, forged checks, and forged wire transfers directly from company accounts to her personal account. Her fraudulent purchases included a Pontiac GTO, a Chevrolet Suburban, an Infiniti G35, a Chevrolet Traverse, a Toyota Avalon, a Chrysler 300, her destination wedding in Jamaica, jewelry, electronics, and other travel.
Due to the outstanding work of Special Agent Hardie, the case agent; Detective Abell, who initiated the investigation; and Special Agent Stahl, who offered invaluable assistance, Moore ultimately pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. The agents spent substantial time with the victims, financial institutions, auto dealers, and other merchants collecting voluminous evidence and meticulously organizing it in a usable and compelling fashion. They analyzed nearly a thousand fraudulent American Express transactions. And they executed search and asset seizure warrants at Moore’s residence, successfully seizing whatever fruits of the fraud remained and forfeiting those items to the victims.
This was an outrageous, wide-ranging case of fraud, and the agents did a fantastic job investigating all aspects of it.
United States v. Latrenda Fleming
AUSA Paul Nathanson
David Hoffmaster, Detective, Alexandria PD
Bukhari Abdulbarr, Special Agent, U.S. Secret Service
Fleming is a lifelong fraudster. She is in her mid-30s, and since 1992, has been arrested 30 times and convicted eight times for identity-theft-related criminal activity. She pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a counterfeit check scheme she perpetrated from at least February 2008 across four states and causing nearly $250,000 in losses.
Fleming was caught in the act of attempting to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit check and a stolen driver’s license by an Alexandria Police Officer at a local CVS. Over a short couple-month period following that arrest, Detective Hoffmaster and Special Agent Abdulbarr were able to tie Fleming to thousands of fraudulent transactions and seven different stolen identities and build a case file with substantial surveillance footage showing Fleming passing counterfeit checks using each of those identities.
Because of the agents’ hard work and ability to so quickly amass such significant evidence that Fleming was much more than a petty fraudster, the case was promptly brought over for federal prosecution, and the investigation was largely complete by the time Fleming showed up for her state preliminary hearing and was arrested at the Alexandria courthouse on a federal warrant.
She has been detained ever since and pleaded guilty pre-indictment after being presented with the overwhelming evidence of her guilt.
United States v. Adolfo Amaya Portillo, et al.
AUSAs Ronald Walutes, Morris Parker, and Zachary Terwilliger
Alexandria City PD
Thomas Durkin, Detective
Richard Baer, Special Agent
Daniel Hinton, Special Agent
On July 29, 2009, MS-13 members Adolfo Amaya Portillo and Eris Arguera, along with Alcides Umana, murdered Claros Luna on Manor Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Luna had transported a prostitute from Maryland to northern Virginia to meet clients. Posing as potential customers, Portillo and Arguera telephoned Luna to arrange a date with the prostitute. When Luna and the prostitute arrived at an apartment building on Manor Street, Portillo, Arguera, and Umana demanded “rent” or extortion payments from Luna. When Luna refused, the three men robbed Luna and the prostitute inside Luna’s vehicle. During the robbery, Portillo and Arguera were each armed with a handgun and Luna was armed with a knife. Portillo and Arguera fatally shot Luna in the chest and head. The prostitute was left unharmed seated in the rear of Luna’s vehicle.
The Alexandria Police Department responded to the murder scene and soon identified potential suspects. The investigation was aided by information obtained during a wire intercept of Portillo’s telephone by the FBI. This joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alexandria Police Department resulted in the successful prosecution of all three men on charges of Hobbs Act robbery and using a firearm during a crime of violence causing death.
Umana was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. Arguera was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment. Portillo was sentenced to 40 years of imprisonment.
United States v. Terrell Roberson
AUSAs Michael E. Rich and Kathleen M. Kahoe
Robert Hickman, Detective, Alexandria PD
This case arose from a string of four armed carjackings, two committed in Prince George’s County, Md., and two in Alexandria, Va. In each case, the robber brandished a firearm at his victims in order to persuade them to part with their vehicles and in each case he drove the stolen vehicles from one state to the other soon after taking them. On each occasion the defendant, who was 21 years old, had with him his 15-year-old girlfriend.
Roberson took the first car at night, on October 29, 2009, at gunpoint from a young woman in PG County and drove to an apartment complex off of Seminary Road in Alexandria. There he again used his gun to take a Toyota from a PTO employee. He and the 15-year-old then drove back to Maryland, and Roberson drove the Toyota around Oxon Hill and Temple Hills until November 6, when he crashed it into a tree while under the influence of alcohol. Police recovered the car, and found a necklace with the name “Rel,” Roberson’s nickname, in the car. The next day Roberson, again at gunpoint, took another Toyota from a young woman in Temple Hills. According to the 15-year-old, Roberson then picked her up in that stolen car, drove again to Alexandria, where he - again at gunpoint - stole a Chrysler from a man in Cameron Station and again drove back to Oxon Hill, where he was arrested in the car later that day. None of the victims could identify Roberson, as he wore a mask or scarf over his face, but all remembered his shoulder-length “dreadlocks.”
This was a challenging case, and Detective Hickman did an outstanding job of linking circumstantial evidence together to corroborate the 15-year-old’s testimony. He also testified at the trial.
United States v. Arthur Bernard Taper
SAUSA Kondi Kleinman and AUSA Gene Rossi
Nicholas J. Phend, Special Agent
Alexandria City PD
Patrick Taylor, Officer
Seth Weinstein, Officer
Michael Dunkwu, Officer
From April 2008 through April 2010, Arthur Bernard Taper participated in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. He acquired OxyContin tablets from pharmacies using false prescriptions and then sold the pills on the street for $30-50 per pill (80 mg OxyContin), knowing that some of the people to whom he was selling pills were redistributing them in Manassas, Virginia. In July 2010, at the very end of the conspiracy, Mr. Taper attempted to have a prostitute fill a fraudulent prescription at a pharmacy in Alexandria.
After an alert pharmacist called authorities, Alexandria Police Department Officers Taylor, Weinstein, and Dunkwu arrived at the scene and eventually arrested Mr. Taper. Taper pled guilty to possession of heroin and prescription fraud in state court and thought that would be the end of the matter. However, FBI Special Agent Nick Phend had been working the case and provided this office with enough evidence to bring federal charges against Mr. Taper. Among other things, Agent Phend supervised three controlled buys, two of which took place in January 2010; the third took place in early April 2010. During trial prep, Agent Phend tracked down false prescriptions and numerous other items that Gene and I used at trial. He was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. This was his first trial. His testimony was incredibly powerful. The three Alexandria officers also were incredibly gracious during trial prep. They met with us upon fairly short notice, and two testified. Their testimony was key to demonstrating that Taper’s actions were not confined to just D.C., where the three controlled buys took place.
The jury deliberated fewer than two hours before returning a guilty verdict. Mr. Taper was ultimately sentenced to 120 months in prison.
United States v. Christopher Mahin
AUSA Zachary Terwilliger and SAUSA Paul Rosen
Richard Sandoval, Detective, Alexandria City PD
In the spring of 2010, Christopher Mahin physically attacked his wife and verbally berated her for over thirty minutes. Mahin, who had previously served in the military, told his wife, along with many other insults and threats, that he could seriously injure her without leaving any evidence. The episode of abuse came to a head when Mahin put his hands around his wife’s throat, but she successfully struggled out of his grasp.
Following this incident, Mahin’s wife successfully petitioned the City of Alexandria for a protective order. The terms of the protective order prohibited Mahin from possessing a firearm, having any contact with his wife, and barred him from the marital home. Just hours after the protective order was imposed, Mahin was located at Sharpshooter’s Small Arms range firing a .40 caliber Glock Semiautomatic handgun. After leaving the firing range, Mahin slipped his firing range membership card underneath his wife’s door.
Detective Richard Sandoval of the Alexandria Police Department, who had arrested Mahin for the underlying state assault and battery charge, took it upon himself to pursue Mahin’s violations to the fullest extent of the law. The state protective order had not deterred Mahin from threatening his wife and Detective Sandoval refused to accept the status quo. Despite never having brought a federal case, Detective Sandoval worked tirelessly to put together an airtight federal firearms case against Mahin. Through the course of the federal proceedings, Detective Sandoval testified expertly at three separate detention hearings, a motions hearing, and eventually at trial. In addition, Detective Sandoval had to negotiate complicated victim/witness issues regarding Mahin’s wife. Detective Sandoval made the victim’s safety his top priority.
Thanks to Detective Sandoval’s conscientious and thorough case preparation, the United States secured a conviction on all counts at trial.
United States v. Mirwais Mohamadi
AUSA's Michael Ben’Ary and Ronald L. Walutes, Jr.
Fairfax County PD
Thomas Lawn, Detective
Alexandria City PD
Brian Fromm, K-9 Officer
Robert Hickman, Detective
Thomas Buckley, Detective
Alexandria Sheriff’s Department
George Burnham, Investigator
Fairfax Sheriff’s Department
Brian Johnston, Lieutenant
Victor Castro, Special Agent
US Marshal’s Service
Tony Nelson, SDUSM
Wade Hepburn, SDUSM
Mirwais Mohamadi, was convicted by a jury of armed robbery, using a firearm in a crime of violence, felon in passion, witness tampering, and soliciting to commit murder for hire.
The 28 year-old defendant hired a Craig’s list prostitute in Alexandria, Va., whom he later took bar hopping in Washington, D.C., where he robbed her at gun point. He then hailed a taxicab to return to Alexandria before his girlfriend, a stripper, got home from work. Rather than pay the taxi driver, Mohamadi also robbed him at gunpoint. When originally charged by the state, Mohamadi tried to hire inmates in both the Fairfax and Alexandria jails to kill the taxi cab driver. When those efforts to murder the witness failed, Mohamadi prepared his girlfriend to testify falsely at the state trial, which she did, causing a hung jury.
Mohamadi had been incarcerated or under the supervision of the criminal justice system since he was 15 years old, when he started committing armed robberies in Northern Virginia. The public was terrorized by this defendant for over a decade. Mohamadi always thought he could beat the criminal justice system. He was wrong because of the work of these law enforcement officers.
First, the Sheriff’s Departments in both Alexandria and Fairfax are to be commended for alerting the police to the efforts to kill a witness and also for facilitating subsequent enforcement operations, including wiring an inmate inside the jail. Ultimately these efforts captured the defendant on tape urging cooperating inmates to murder the taxi cab driver and explaining how he acquired the witnesses’ home address from his defense investigator.
When the case was removed to federal court, the U.S. Marshal Service removed Mohamadi’s mail, telephone and visitation privileges to ensure witness safety. When challenged, the federal judge noted he thought the conditions of confinement entirely justified and appropriate. The officers, detectives and federal agent dealt with and overcame a number of challenges resulting from witnesses, which included two prostitutes, one stripper and several inmates.
Finally, the taxi cab driver, Gebru Haile, reminds us all why we do this work. Mr. Haile is an immigrant who kept coming to court when asked. His fellow cab drivers told him to drop the charges and stop wasting his time. But Mr. Haile, whose father told him justice was worth the effort, ignored their advice and came to court. He testified twice in the state, at the preliminary hearing and trial and a third time in federal court. He also made the time to review the transcripts and tape recordings of his prior testimony and 911 call.
Mr. Haile did not come to sentencing, but he made sure the man who robbed him was held accountable despite that man’s efforts to intimidate this man. Mr. Haile is the reason we all do this work. He reminds us all of the great value of justice.