Today, October 13, the Department of Justice announced it has charged more than 14,200 defendants with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, despite the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on the criminal justice process. These cases have been a Department priority since November 2019 when Attorney General William P. Barr announced his commitment to investigating, prosecuting, and combatting gun crimes as a critical part of the Department’s anti-violent crime strategy. These firearms-related charges are the result of the critical law enforcement partnership between United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, led by Acting Director Regina Lombardo, who has made firearms-related investigations a priority.
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General Barr. “By preventing firearms from falling into the hands of individuals who are prohibited from having them, we can stop violent crime before it happens. Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms. Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners.”
“Protecting the public from violent crime involving firearms is at the core of ATF’s mission,” commented ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo. “Every day the men and women of ATF pursue and investigate those who use firearms to commit violent crimes in our communities, many of whom are prohibited from possessing firearms from previous convictions. ATF, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the nation, is committed to bringing these offenders to justice for their egregious and violent criminal acts.”
“Across the district we strive daily to bring impactful firearm cases and reduce violence in our communities. Recently we have redoubled our efforts to partner with the Roanoke City Police Department and federal law enforcement to share intelligence and adopt firearms cases, when possible, in the Roanoke Valley,” Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar said today. “In far Southwest Virginia, we are partnering with the Virginia State Police and ATF to target those individuals engaging in the business of selling firearms without a license. These important cases remove individuals who directly cause violence or put guns in the hands of those that do. We could not bring these cases without the close partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement, but we particularly recognize the good work of ATF, who are at the forefront of this fight.”
Of the more than 14,200 cases charged, 79 defendants have been charged in the Western District of Virginia, announced Acting United States Attorney Bubar.
Notable cases recently prosecuted in the Western District of Virginia include a number of prosecutions of felons illegally possessing firearms, straw purchases, and selling stolen firearms.
In August 2020, Luis Castano was sentenced to 96 months in prison after being convicted of illegal possession of a firearm by convicted felon. Castano, who was arrested after being pulled over for driving erratically, was found to be in possession of a Bushmaster, AR-style rifle. The rifle had a loaded, large capacity magazine containing 61 rounds of ammunition, with one round in the chamber.
In July 2020, John Webb was sentenced to 42 months in prison after being convicted of selling stolen firearms. Webb, a convicted felon, admitted to breaking into the home of a neighbor and stealing two shotguns, two rifles, and cash. Webb then took the stolen guns to Wytheville, Virginia where he sold them at a pawnshop.
In July 2020, Robert Joseph and Harold Gaines were sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to illegally possess firearms. Joseph was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. Gaines received a 48-month sentence.
According to court documents, Gaines paid Joseph to supply him with particular firearms and Joseph, in turn recruited, and directed, straw purchasers to obtain firearms from gun stores in the Western District of Virginia. Joseph then delivered the weapons to Gaines in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Gaines subsequently sold those weapons to others. Joseph obtained approximately 40 firearms for Gaines during the course of the conspiracy. Both Joseph and Gaines are convicted felons and are prohibited from legally possessing firearms
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess a firearm if you fall into one of nine prohibited categories including being a felon, illegal alien, or unlawful user of a controlled substance. Further, it is unlawful to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or violent crime. It is also illegal to purchase – or even to attempt to illegally purchase – firearms if the buyer is a prohibited person or illegally purchasing a firearm on behalf of others. Lying on ATF Form 4473, which is used to lawfully purchase a firearm, is also a federal offense. The Department is committed to prosecuting these firearms offenses as well as using all modern technologies available to law enforcement such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, known as NIBIN, to promote gun crime intelligence. Keeping illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals will continue to be a priority of the Department of Justice and we will use all appropriate, available means to keep the law abiding people of this country safe from gun crime.
For more information on the lawful purchasing of firearms, please click here.
Suboxone manufacturer Indivior’s former chief executive officer sentenced to jail time in connection with drug safety claims
Shaun Thaxter, the former chief executive officer of Indivior PLC, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Abingdon to 6 months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and forfeit $500,000. Thaxter pleaded guilty to a one-count misdemeanor information on June 30, 2020, for his role in causing the introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded shipments of the opioid drug Suboxone Film, a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar announced the sentence today.
Thaxter served as Indivior’s top executive from 2009 until shortly before his guilty plea. This includes the time period prior to December 2014 when Indivior was known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. When Indivior was known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, it was a subsidiary of British conglomerate Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB Group). RB Group paid $1.4 billion in 2019 to resolve its liability to the United States related to the marketing of Suboxone. On July 24, 2020, an Indivior subsidiary called Indivior Solutions pleaded guilty to a one-count felony information for false statements related to health care matters, and together with Indivior, agreed to pay an additional $600 million to resolve liability to the United States related to the marketing of Suboxone. On August 26, 2020, Indivior’s former medical director, Timothy Baxter, pleaded guilty to a one-count misdemeanor information for a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act related to the marketing of Suboxone. Indivior Solutions and Baxter have not yet been sentenced.
Suboxone Film is a drug product approved for use by recovering opioid addicts to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms while they undergo treatment. Suboxone’s active ingredient, buprenorphine, is a powerful and addictive opioid. Thaxter was charged in connection with Indivior’s misrepresentations regarding the safety of Suboxone Film.
“While Thaxter served for years as Indivior’s chief executive, he was in a position to ensure that doctors, patients, and insurers were dealt with honestly,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “Instead, Thaxter failed to prevent efforts to build profits through misleading safety claims, which led to millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains for Indivior. As the Court recognized today, this sentence should serve as a deterrence to other pharmaceutical executives. Today’s sentencing is also the product of years of work and could not have happened without the close federal and state law enforcement partnerships, for which we are grateful.”
“Families and communities across the Commonwealth continue to feel the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. “Opioid manufacturers and their executive leadership must be held accountable for taking advantage of this country’s opioid crisis and putting profits over people. I want to thank my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for their terrific work on this case as well as our local, state, and federal partners for their continued partnership on these cases.”
“Misrepresentations made about the drug, while Thaxter ran the company, misled MassHealth about the potential risk of accidental opioid exposure. It is inexcusable to willfully disregard requirements that treatment medications be prescribed carefully in order to protect patient health and safety,” said Elton Malone, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “With our law enforcement partners, we will continue investigating and bringing to justice those placing profits over patients in government healthcare programs.”
“Opioid addiction is a significant public health crisis and addressing opioid abuse continues to be one of FDA’s top priorities. Misleading information about relative product benefits undermines efforts to provide affordable treatment to those suffering from opioid addiction,” said Judy McMeekin, Pharm.D., Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those whose schemes jeopardize public health and put Americans at risk.”
“The U.S. Postal Service spends billions of dollars per year in workers compensation and health care-related costs, most of which are legitimate,” said Kenneth Cleevely, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Field Office for the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General. “However, when medical providers or companies choose to flout the rules and profit illegally, special agents with the USPS OIG will work with our law enforcement partners to hold them responsible. To report fraud or other criminal activity involving the Postal Service, contact USPS OIG special agents at www.uspsoig.gov or 888-USPS-OIG.”’
According to court documents, Thaxter had authority over Indivior’s marketing and sales of Suboxone Film which, along with other Suboxone products, generated nearly all the company’s revenue. In 2012, Thaxter oversaw and encouraged Indivior’s efforts to secure formulary coverage for Suboxone Film from the Massachusetts Medicaid agency called MassHealth. Thaxter asked Indivior employees under his direction to devise a strategy to win preferred drug status for Suboxone Film and counteract a non-opioid competitor MassHealth was considering for opioid-addiction treatment. Certain Indivior employees subsequently shared false and misleading safety information with MassHealth officials about Suboxone Film’s risk of accidental pediatric exposure. Two months after receiving that false and misleading information, MassHealth announced it would provide access to Suboxone Film for Medicaid patients with children under the age of six.
The criminal cases against Thaxter, Indivior, and Baxter are being prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia and the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, including Albert P. Mayer, Randy Ramseyer, Kristin L. Gray, Joseph S. Hall, Janine M. Myatt, Garth W. Huston, Carol Wallack, Charles J. Biro, and Matthew J. Lash. The criminal investigation of Thaxter was handled by the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations; United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General.
Texas man sentenced on cyberstalking, making interstate threats
Editor’s note: this case relates to the spring of 2018 death of Apple Mountain 16-year-old Sarah Rose Genari, which was ruled a suicide. As previously reported, O’Dell had bragged online of being responsible for the girl’s death and then began threatening her family members under assumed social media aliases. Related Article
HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Adrian Raul O’Dell, an Odessa, Texas man, who had an online relationship with a juvenile female in the Western District of Virginia and later cyberstalked and made online threats to the girl’s family following her suicide, was sentenced today to 41 months in federal prison. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division made the announcement today.
O’Dell, 20, was charged in October of 2019 and arrested the following month at his home in Texas. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to two counts of cyberstalking and one count of making interstate threats.
“In today’s increasingly virtual world, where we live, work and learn online, this sentence demonstrates that if anyone uses these platforms to cyberstalk, harass and threaten others, we will hold them accountable,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “The FBI and Warren County Sheriff’s Office did an outstanding job in finding Mr. O’Dell and bringing him to justice in Virginia for his abhorrent actions. My office sends its deepest condolences to the family in this case, who lost a loved one, and hope they find some solace knowing justice was served.”
“The FBI is fully committed to investigating all forms of child exploitation, cyberstalking and online threats. We will pursue those responsible and bring them to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the family through these difficult times.”
According to court documents, between September 2017 and around March 2018, O’Dell had an online relationship with a 16-year-old girl who lived in Linden, Virginia. In May 2018, following an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that the girl died by suicide in a wooded area near her home.
From June 2018 through June 2019, O’Dell, using a variety of false email and online personas, took credit for her suicide. The defendant then sent threatening and intimidating messages to her family members and friends that placed them in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily harm. In addition, these messages attempted to cause friends and family members substantial emotional distress. The defendant sent certain of these messages in violation of a protective order.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Kate Rumsey is prosecuting the case for the United States.
Three local men and juvenile charged with abduction by force, simple assault or battery by mob
On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department arrested four individuals for their involvement in an October 5th incident. Trevor James Lee Sutphin, 19, Hugo Orlando Nunez II, 22, and Luis Henrique Jose, 22, of Front Royal were charged with § 18.2-47 Abduction by Force and § 18.2-42 Simple Assault or Battery by Mob. An identified juvenile suspect also faces the same charges.
The charges are a result of an investigation that began when a recorded video surfaced of a visibly shaken adult male victim. During the video recording, the victim was forced to apologize to several people. Upon further investigation, it was determined the male was lured to an apartment within the Town of Front Royal where he was allegedly threatened and assaulted. The video was shared repeatedly on Snapchat.
The three adult suspects were arrested without incident and transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where they were held without bond. Their first court appearance was scheduled for October 20, 2020, at 10:00 am in Warren County General District Court. The juvenile suspect charges will be heard in the Warren County Juvenile Court.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with further information is asked to contact the Front Royal Police Detective Sergeant J.M. Winner at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Front Royal man charged for embezzlement and possession of a controlled substance
On October 9, 2020, Front Royal Police arrested Barrington Allen Moore, 31, of Front Royal, for felony embezzlement and felony possession of a controlled substance. The alleged embezzlement occurred at Kentucky Fried Chicken, located at 807 John Marshall Highway. An investigation determined that over $1,000 had been stolen from the business between August and September of 2020.
Upon his arrest, a search of Moore’s person was conducted, and detectives located two bags of white powder reported by Moore to be “Molly”, a scheduled 1 narcotic. Moore was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he is currently held on a $1,500 bond. A court date for these offenses is set for November 10, 2020, at 10:00 AM, in Warren County General District Court.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with further information is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective L.J. Waller at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
Shooting on Jackson Street
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, at approximately 8:40 pm, the Front Royal Police Department responded to a report of a shooting in the 100 block of W. Jackson Street. When officers arrived at the scene, they encountered a male, identified as Clarence Sheppard, 40, of Front Royal, with gunshot wounds to both legs. Sheppard disclosed that he was shot upon exiting his vehicle. The victim was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Winchester Medical Center, where he received treatment for serious but non-life-threatening injuries. He has since been released from the hospital.
Witnesses stated there were possibly three male suspects all wearing hoodies to conceal their identity. Two of the suspects wore black hoodies and the third suspect wore a white hoodie with striped pants and white shoes. Officers searched the area and a subject was briefly detained in the 500 block of Virginia Avenue whose clothing matched the description given by witnesses.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective D.L. Fogle at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two sentenced for roles in Maryland-to-Virginia heroin pipeline that resulted in fatal overdose
Two individuals connected with a heroin trafficking conspiracy that brought heroin from Maryland into Shenandoah County, Virginia, and caused one fatal and one non-fatal overdose were sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and Jesse Fong, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Field Office made the announcement today.
James Harold Lichliter, 52, of Mauretown, Va., was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison. In a separate hearing, Jonathan Dale Neice, 42, of Woodstock, Va., was sentenced to 132 months incarceration.
Both Lichliter and Neice previously pleaded guilty to one count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute resulting in the death of J.H. and the serious bodily injury of J.W. Co-defendants Craig Kidwell, Norma Kidwell, and Stacy Allen Marston are awaiting sentencing.
“The scourge of heroin is a deadly killer that does not discriminate. This office will do all it can to stem the tide and prosecute anyone who participates in its distribution in our communities,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar said today. “We will use all available resources and continue to closely partner with federal, state and local law enforcement to hold drug dealers like Lichliter and Neice, who seek to profit from this treacherous epidemic, responsible for their actions.”
According to court documents, beginning around June 2017 a Maryland-based drug-trafficking network began selling controlled substances to Virginia-based drug traffickers, who, in turn, transported those drugs to Shenandoah County for redistribution.
Defendants Craig Kidwell and his wife Norma Kidwell repeatedly traveled from their home in Shenandoah County to Maryland to obtain heroin from the Maryland-based drug-trafficking organization. At times, the heroin Craig Kidwell and Norma Kidwell obtained from their Maryland-based source was mixed with other drugs, such as fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl.
After obtaining heroin, Craig Kidwell and Norma Kidwell transported the drugs back to Shenandoah County where the drugs were redistributed to others, including, but not limited to, co-defendants Lichliter, Marston, and Neice, who redistributed the drugs to others around Shenandoah County.
As a direct result of the defendants’ drug distribution activities, two overdoses occurred, one of which resulted in the death of victim J.H.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, and Woodstock Police Department with the assistance of the Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.