[UPDATE] clercjr – VRS Fraud ARCHIVES

clerc jr

THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — [UPDATE: clercjr aka Dan Foster dies. See below.] Sadly, clercjr, a trustworthy tracker of all federal cases of VRS fraud has decided to end his blog due to health reasons.

This comprehensive tracking by clercjr clearly was time consuming to do and he has suggested that people save what they need in the event that his blog disappears from the net.  I have decided to archive many of his posts in on this page for future reference.

Please note that I may report on some new developments in newer posts, but I am not going to update anything on this page. This page is accurate as of clercjr’s last update on May 9, 2012. Any new developments since that date will NOT be reported on this page.


UPDATE — June 11, 2012: From clercjr’s website:

Dan Foster (clercjr) has passed away

Dan never liked discussing medical matters in public so he isn’t about to start now, but passed away due to long illness with serious complications towards the end. That’s all he has authorized me to release.

Dan says it’s been a pleasure writing for you and also knowing various people including his family, long-time friends, and associates, all of which he appreciates.”

Robert Hansen
Longtime trusted friend of Dan’s and a former work colleague


[The following is an edited version of clercjr’s last post.]

VRS case: Blog Closing

9 05 2012

Well, dear reader, the time has come to think about closing at least the VRS part of this blog due to poor health. Still in hospital but out of the ICU and no longer spitting or vomiting pure blood. Body is failing and doctors thinks I might have weeks to a few months remaining.

Guess we’ll see, eh? 🙂 A most interesting experience even if nasty. I will try my best to answer questions as long as I have internet access, time, and energy. This blog may disappear from DeafRead’s feed aggregation if or when I request it.

I doubt I can cover the July 10th sentencing so keep an eye on iDeafNews, other bloggers elsewhere, or perhaps guest bloggers here.

. . .

Back to the VRS cases: I left various documents, case numbers, NJ court pacer website link and info on how to set up a PACER account. So if interested, follow other good sources or PACER. Grab anything you want to keep since I’m not sure if or when the website would disappear. For now, probably only personal non-VRS posts will continue for a bit.

It has been my pleasure in writing to serve and educate you as well as answer public and private questions or comments to the best of my ability. Keep the fire to learn ongoing!


–clercjr, site owner and moderator, aka Daniel S. Foster (clercjr@clercjr.com)

Source: http://clercjr.wordpress.com/

Categories: Everything else

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

54 replies

  1. VRS case: Sentenced to…
    12 03 2012

    VRS defendants’ final case outcome:


    John T.C. Yeh — 108 months in a minimum security Federal Prison Camp (FPC), 3 years of post-prison supervised release (similar to parole supervision), $20 million restitution to be paid to the U.S. Government. He was given credit for time he briefly spent in a Maryland jail over a pre-trial parole violation (which was later dismissed when the state case was dropped).

    U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) inmate locator website currently says his release date is estimated to be October 14, 2019 (this can change over time), inmate register number 50807-037, serving time at FPC Schuylkill (PA).

    Sentenced on November 30, 2011 and reported to prison on January 30, 2012.


    Joseph Yeh — 55 months in a FPC, 3 years of supervised release, $20 million restitution.

    BOP estimates release date to be January 26, 2016, register number 50806-037, serving time at FPC Schuylkill.

    Sentenced on November 30, 2011 and reported to prison on January 30, 2012.


    Viable, Inc. — $20 million restitution.

    Sentenced on November 30, 2011.


    Kathleen Valle — All charges dropped after successfully completing a Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) program offered by Pre-Trial Services and the prosecutors (and agreed to by the defense and the court).

    Charges dropped on December 6, 2011.


    Larry Berke — 24 months in a FPC, 3 years of supervised release, $2.5 million restitution.

    BOP has no release date estimate at this time, register number 81281-208. He will serve his prison sentence at FPC Florence (Colorado).

    Sentenced on December 19, 2011, and initially scheduled to report to prison on January 30, 2012 but delayed until February 20, 2012. Then delayed again to April 23, 2012. Then delayed a third (and final) time to August 23, 2012.


    Kim E. Hawkins — 5 years probation with special conditions (including one year of home confiinement and electronic location monitoring), $2.5 million restitution, supervised by the local U.S. Probation Office serving Nevada.

    Sentenced on January 10, 2012.


    Lisa Goetz — 5 years probation with special conditions (including one year of home confinement and electronic location monitoring), $2.5 million restitution.

    Sentenced on January 27, 2012.


    Nathan Zfati — 5 years probation with special conditions, $2.5 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 14, 2012.


    Tamara Frankel — 1 year probation with no special conditions, $1 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 15, 2012.


    Jessica Bacallao — 5 years probation with a special condition (including 1 year home confinement with location monitoring), $2.5 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 20, 2012.


    Wanda Hutchinson — 5 years probation with a special condition (including 1 year home confinement with location monitoring), $2.5 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 20, 2012.


    Donald Tropp — 5 years probation with a special condition (including 1 year home confinement with location monitoring), $2.5 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 21, 2012.


    David Simmons — 1 year probation with no special conditions, $1 million restitution.

    Sentenced on March 21, 2012.


    Dary Berke — 5 years probation with a special condition (including 1 year home confinement with location monitoring), $1 million restitution.

    Sentenced on April 3, 2012.


    Last updated: 04/23/2012

  2. VRS case list
    31 12 2011

    Case List:

    (Note: terminated means the case has been fully closed by the court)

    3:09-cr-00810-JAP is for all 5 ICSD defendants
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-1 is for Yosbel Buscaron
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-2 is for Lazaro Fernandez
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-3 is for Wanda Hutchinson (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-4 is for Jessica Bacallao (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-5 is for Kathleen Valle (terminated)

    3:09-cr-00811-JAP is for all 6 DHIS defendants
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-1 is for Irma Azrelyant
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-2 is for Joshua Finkle
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-3 is for Nathan Zfati (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-4 is for Oksana Strusa
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-5 is for Alfia Iskandarova
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-6 is for Hennadii Holovkin

    3:09-cr-00856-JAP is for all 5 Viable defendants
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-1 is for John T.C. Yeh (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-2 is for Joseph Yeh (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-3 is for Anthony Mowl
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-4 is for Donald Tropp (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-5 is for Viable Communications, Inc (terminated)

    3:09-cr-00857-JAP is for all 5 Master/KL/Mascom defendants
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-1 is for Kim E. Hawkins (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-2 is for Larry Berke (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-3 is for Dary Berke (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-4 is for Lisa Goetz (terminated)
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-5 is for David Simmons (terminated)

    3:09-cr-00858-JAP is for all 3 Viable contractor/subcontractor defendants
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-1 is for Benjamin Pena
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-2 is for Robert Z. Rubeck
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-3 is for Tamara Frankel (terminated)

    3:09-cr-00859-JAP is for all 3 Deaf Studio 29 defendants
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-1 is for Marc Velasquez Verson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-2 is for Ellen Thompson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-3 is for Doris Martinez

    3:11-cr-00861-JAP is for all 2 Bonheyo & Bonheyo LLC defendants
    3:11-cr-00861-JAP-1 is for Bridget Bonheyo
    3:11-cr-00861-JAP-2 is for Jerome Bonheyo

    Updated: 03/26/2012

  3. Want to get public federal court documents or case info?
    24 06 2011

    This ONLY applies to federal courts. Some people were wondering how I got case information and documents — a very popular question! Here’s how to do it in 18 easy steps:

    1. Sign up for a federal PACER account (open to the public). You’ll need a credit card or debit card and be willing to pay 8 cents per page for a document. To sign up, click here.

    2. Once your PACER account is ready, you will get an email with your assigned login username and password. Might have to wait one business day? (So probably not created during evenings, federal holidays, or weekends.)

    P.S. SAVE your PACER username and password! It may be impossible to get back if you lose it because of their security policies. I suggest printing out the email you get and keep it in a safe place.

    3. Go to the federal court in NJ’s document website (because the case is held in NJ) — click here. Each court has a different link to login to their document website.

    4. Click on the document filing system link at the court’s website and fill out your username and password in bottom left area. Leave client code blank since that’s for lawyers and their staff to bill clients. Click on ‘Login’. You will be logged in.

    5. Click on ‘Query’ (upper left corner) link.

    6. You will need to know case numbers for each case you want information or documents from, but they are:

    3:9-cr-810 (Buscaron, Fernandez, Hutchinson, Bacallao, Valle)
    3:9-cr-811 (Azrelyant, Finkle, Zfati, Strusa, Iskandarova, Holovkin)
    3:9-cr-856 (John Yeh, Joseph Yeh, Mowl, Tropp, Viable, Inc.)
    3:9-cr-857 (Kim E. Hawkins, L. Berke, D. Berke, Goetz, Simmons)
    3:9-cr-858 (Pena, Rubeck, Frankel)
    3:9-cr-859 (Velasquez Verson, Thompson, Martinez)
    3:11-cr-861 (Bridget Bonheyo, Jerome Bonheyo)

    7. Example: we want to see information about Buscaron and others’ cases. That is case number 3:9-cr-810. So in Query window, ‘Case Number’ box, type in: 3:9-cr-810

    (3: means 3rd Circuit Court system which includes NJ, 9 means case opened in 2009, cr means criminal case, then 810 means 810th case opened that year in the 3rd circuit court system.)

    8. Click on ‘Find This Case’

    9. Click on the checkbox next to the first case listed (Buscaron et al). That will select all sub-cases of each individual defendant in the case.

    10. Click on ‘Run Query’ button at bottom of page.

    11. Click on ‘Docket Report’

    12. Click on checkboxes for ‘Parties and counsel’ AND ‘Terminated parties’. You want to TURN OFF both! It will save you from having to scroll down through pages of information you don’t care about. If you want to see information about a closed case, then keep ‘Terminated parties’ checkbox checked.

    13. Click on ‘Run Report’

    14. Now you will see a list of all case events in a table. Read this list to see case updates. List is in chronological order — from oldest to most recent date.

    15. If you wanted to see most recent updates, go to the bottom of the page. Right now, the most recent case event is sentencing scheduled for Buscaron and Fernandez.

    16. If you wanted to see (for example) Wanda Hutchinson’s plea agreement document, go up the list until you see a web link with number ’71′ in second column. Click on it.

    17. It will warn you that it is 9 pages so it will cost you 72 cents to download it. If you still want it anyway and am willing to pay, then click on ‘View Document’. (If you don’t want to download it, just press on the back arrow button twice to get back to the case status list.)

    18. You will either download the document and then you have to open it to read it. Or the document will appear in a window — then you need to save it to avoid downloading it again in the future.

    That’s it! 🙂 Also, there are no private documents provided by the system for public accounts like yours. Some documents are sealed by the court for privacy or security reasons, and there will be no download link for them. Court personnel (judges, court staff, prosecutors, lawyers, etc.) has access to the full list of all case documents.

    So there are no privacy concerns about any document you download — they are all public information and the federal courts allows you to distribute these documents freely to anyone or on any website.

  4. VRS case sentencing hearing schedule
    31 12 2011

    All times Eastern and in Trenton, NJ. Keep in mind the court often reschedules at the last minute

    Joshua Finkle ====== July 10, 2012 at 10am
    Irma Azrelyant ====== July 10, 2012 at 11am
    Oksana Strusa ====== July 10, 2012 at 11:45am


    Awaiting sentencing date being set upon completion of the Pre-Sentencing Investigation Report (PSR):

    Anthony Mowl

    Yosbel Buscaron, Lazaro Fernandez

    Hennadii Holovkin

    Benjamin Pena, Robert Z. Rubeck

    Marc Velasquez Verson, Ellen Thompson, Doris Martinez

    NOTE: Alfia Iskandarova will be sentenced once she is cleared by her doctor for travel — no earlier than April 20, 2012.


    Last updated: 04/27/2012

  5. [NOTE: THESE LINKS DO NOT WORK. This list is provided as a historical record. You can obtain all of these documents with a PACER account.

    VRS case documents
    31 12 2011


    Case 3:09-cr-00810 (ICSD defendants: Yosbel Buscaron, Lazaro Fernandez, Wanda Hutchinson, Jessica Bacallao, Kathleen Valle)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-buscaron-indictment

    Valle’s dismissal order: vrs-valle-dismissal-order

    Bacallao’s PSR report objection: bacallao-psr-objection

    Bacallao’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-bacallao-sentencing-summary

    Bacallao’s sentencing order: vrs-bacallao-sentencing-order

    Hutchinson’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-hutchinson-sentencing-summary

    Hutchinson’s sentencing order: vrs-hutchinson-sentencing-order


    Case 3:09-cr-00811 (DHIS defendants: Irma Azrelyant, Joshua Finkle, Nathan Zfati, Oksana Strusa, Alfia Iskandarova, Hennadii Holovkin)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-azrelyant-indictment

    Zfati’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-zfati-sentencing-summary

    Zfati’s sentencing order: vrs-zfati-sentencing-order


    Case 3:09-cr-00856 (Viable, Inc. defendants: John T.C. Yeh, Joseph Yeh, Anthony Mowl, Donald Tropp, Viable Communications, Inc.)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-yeh-indictment

    John T.C. Yeh’s plea agreement: yeh-plea-agreement

    John T.C. Yeh’s sentencing hearing summary: john-yeh-sentencing-summary

    John T.C. Yeh’s sentencing order: vrs-john-yeh-sentencing-order

    Joseph Yeh’s sentencing hearing summary: joseph-yeh-sentencing-summary

    Joseph Yeh’s sentencing order: vrs-joseph-yeh-sentencing-order

    Viable, Inc.’s sentencing hearing summary: viable-sentencing-summary

    Viable, Inc.’s sentencing order: vrs-viable-sentencing-order

    Tropp’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-tropp-sentencing-summary

    Tropp’s sentencing order: vrs-tropp-sentencing-order


    Case 3:09-cr-00857 (Master/KL/Mascom defendants: Kim E. Hawkins, Larry Berke, Dary Berke, Lisa Goetz, David Simmons)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-hawkins-indictment

    L. Berke’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-berke-sentencing-summary

    L. Berke’s sentencing order: vrs-berke-sentencing-order

    L. Berke’s request for delay in reporting to prison: vrs-berke-delay-request

    L. Berke’s second request for prison reporting date change approved: vrs-berke-delay-approved

    L. Berke’s third request (from lawyer) for prison reporting date change approval: vrs-berke-delay3-request1

    L. Berke’s third request (from himself, detailing reasons why necessary) for prison reporting date change approval: vrs-berke-delay3-request1a

    L. Berke’s third request for prison reporting date change approved: vrs-berke-delay3-approved

    Hawkins’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-hawkins-sentencing-summary

    Hawkins’s sentencing order: vrs-hawkins-sentencing-order

    Goetz’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-goetz-sentencing-summary

    Goetz’s sentencing order: vrs-goetz-sentencing-order

    Simmons’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-simmons-sentencing-summary

    Simmons’s sentencing order: vrs-simmons-sentencing-order

    D. Berke’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-dberke-sentencing-summary

    D. Berke’s sentencing order: vrs-dberke-sentencing-order


    Case 3:09-cr-00858 (Viable contractor/subcontractor defendants: Benjamin Pena, Robert Z. Rubeck, Tamara Frankel)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-pena-indictment

    Cancelled arrest warrant request for Pena: vrs-pena-cancel-arrest

    Frankel’s sentencing hearing summary: vrs-frankel-sentencing-summary

    Frankel’s sentencing order: vrs-frankel-sentencing-order


    Case 3:09-cr-00859 (Deaf Studio 29 defendants: Marc Velasquez Verson, Ellen Thompson, Doris Martinez)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-velasquez-indictment


    Case 3:11-cr-00861 (Bonheyo & Bonheyo LLC defendants: Bridget Bonheyo, Jerome Bonheyo)

    Indictment (all defendants): vrs-bonheyo-indictment

    Additional information (as of 12/20/2011) for all defendants: vrs-bonheyo-newinfo

    NOTE: the additional information document above is an edited copy of the original for special reasons explained in the blog post.

    Bonheyos’ request to continue (postpone) trial to July 2012 — but Judge Pisano rescheduled for June 20, 2012 (which likely will change again in the future prior to that date): request to continue trial


    General information:

    Criminologist Joel A. Sickler’s report to the court on behalf of John T.C. Yeh regarding lack of federal prison ADA accommodations: vrs-sickler-report


    Last updated: 04/27/2012

  6. VRS case: Quick update for three cases
    27 04 2012

    The Bonheyos requested a continuance (delay) of trial to July 2012, citing time needed for the discovery process by both sides as well as to continue plea negotiations. Judge Pisano rescheduled trial to June 20, 2012 but that is likely to change again when we’re closer to the new date. I posted the approval document at the ‘VRS case documents’ link.

    Also, at the ‘VRS case documents’ link, I posted Larry Berke’s (and his lawyer’s) request document for the third delay in reporting to prison (which was approved for August 23, 2012 but without further extensions in the future) which details the reasons. I have some misgivings about posting Mr. Berke’s public document but will allow it here for now. I’m not going to discuss the reasons he listed, however. It does confirm prison will be in Florence, Colorado. Judge Pisano, at sentencing, specified it be at the FPC (federal prison camp).

    Finally, Joshua Finkle, Irma Azrelyant, and Oksana Strusa had their sentencing hearings rescheduled to the morning of July 10, 2012, at 10am, 11am, and 11:45am Eastern in Trenton, respectively. Sentencing scheduling page has been updated to reflect this recent change. We’ll see if it changes again when we get closer to July 10.

  7. VRS case: Larry Berke’s prison reporting date change
    23 04 2012

    On April 13, 2012, Larry Berke’s lawyer Hal K. Haveson (of law firm Haveson & Otis) submitted a request to the court asking for a third delay in reporting to prison.

    Originally, Mr. Berke was scheduled to report to prison in Florence, Colorado no later than today (April 23, 2012) at noon Colorado time. He requested another delay of at least three months. Judge Pisano granted the request on April 17, allowing him to report to prison no later than August 23, 2012 at noon Colorado time instead but warned that this would be the final extension.

    It is likely that if Mr. Berke does not show up at prison by then, Judge Pisano may potentially issue an arrest warrant to have him taken into custody and then order the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) transport him to prison at government expense.

    Mr. Berke listed five reasons in the latest request — one related to his mother’s health, saying doctors do not expect her to live past July or August 2012 and is being transferred to hospice care. One related to being near to and providing support for his children and wife. Several related to personal medical issues that he’d like to resolve before going to prison.

    There are conflicting statements from both Mr. Haveson and Mr. Berke in court documents about exactly which part of the Florence prison Mr. Berke is scheduled for, but it seems most probable it would be FPC (Federal Prison Camp) part of the Florence complex given the short length of sentence, disability needs, and nonviolent crimes committed.

    And so the saga continues.

  8. VRS case: Dary Berke sentenced
    3 04 2012

    Today, federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Dary Berke to 5 years of probation with a special condition (including one year of home confinement and location monitoring), no fine, and must pay back $1 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud).

    Judge Pisano also approved a defense motion for Dary Berke to begin his home confinement on June 1, 2012.

    I contacted Dary Berke’s defense attorney, Joshua L. Markowitz (of law firm Markowitz Gravelle, LLP) seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from Mr. Markowitz, I will update this blog post with it. Through a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson, the USDOJ declined to comment.

    On an unrelated note: I added a link to iDeafNews under the ‘Important VRS Case Information’ links area on the right column of the screen. Also, many thanks to Lexie Cannes and others who credited this blog at various times regarding the VRS case coverage.

    • I truly believe that all the VRS abuser are liars with their health condition. Irma went to her son s wedding when she belong in jail and serving her time for stealing from the FCC. Just because they are deaf they shouldn’t have special accommodation. They all committed the crime and they knew exactly what they were doing. Judge Pisano need to stop this procrasination with the VRS abusers.

  9. VRS case: Wanda Hutchinson sentenced
    26 03 2012

    On March 20, 2012, District Judge Joel A. Pisano gave Wanda Hutchinson the same sentence he handed down to co-defendant Jessica Bacallao: 5 years of probation with a special condition (including one year of home confinement and location monitoring), no fine, and must jointly pay back $2.5 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud).

    I contacted Ms. Hutchinson’s defense attorney, Anthony G. Simonetti, and Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Alex Berlin, seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from either person, I will update this blog post. with it

    Of note: 13 of the original 27 VRS defendants has now been sentenced, with 14 more remaining. 4 has been scheduled for their sentencing hearings — one next week and three in five weeks from today. Not much has been mentioned regarding the Bonheyo case in court records other than the defense attorney continuing negotiations of some kind (possibly plea agreement negotiations?).

    Errata: Ms. Bacallao received five years of probation, not one — but will spend one year of the five in the location monitoring program (which requires home confinement). clercjr regrets the error in reporting and apologizes.

  10. VRS case: Donald Tropp and David Simmons sentenced (Update #1)
    21 03 2012

    During two brief hearings in a Trenton federal courtroom this morning, District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Donald Tropp to 5 years of probation with a special condition and must pay back $2.5 million in restitution.

    Judge Pisano also sentenced David Simmons to 1 year of probation, no special conditions, and must pay back $1 million in restitution.

    For both defendants, all charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud), and they also waived their right to appeal the sentence imposed.

    I contacted prosecutor Alexander Berlin (who represented the U.S. government in place of prosecutor Robert A. Zink), Mr. Tropp’s defense attorney, Arun Lavine (of law firm Nerwinski, Dember & Fox, LLC), and Mr. Simmons’s defense attorney, Jerome A. Ballarotto, seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from any of them, I will update this blog post with it.

    Credit given to iDeafNews for first reporting the news, including Mr. Tropp’s special condition being one year of home confinement. Also credit given to an anonymous source who notified me of iDeafNews’s reporting. Information was verified by public court records.

    Update #1: U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Laura Sweeney responded, declining to comment beyond what is already in public court records. I have asked for clarification as to if that also applies to the remaining 14 defendants yet to be sentenced. I have not heard back from either defense attorneys so it would appear they, too, declined to comment.

    Not unexpected since throughout the entire process to date, only a single defense attorney has commented on behalf of his client, with all others (both the USDOJ and other defense attornneys) declining comment.

  11. VRS case: Jessica Bacallao sentenced (Update #1)
    20 03 2012

    During a brief 15-minute hearing in a Trenton courtroom this afternoon, federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Jessica Bacallao to 5 years of probation with special conditions, no fine, and must jointly pay back $2.5 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud). Ms. Bacallao also waived her right to appeal the sentence imposed.

    Ms. Bacallao’s defense attorney, Donald I. Bierman, petitioned the court asking the one year of probation be made ‘nunc pro tunc’ (a special legal term) made retroactive to January 21, 2010 when the defendant signed the proffer agreement with the prosecution and started cooperating with them providing extensive assistance. The request was denied; had it been granted, Ms. Bacallao would have had officially completed probation a year later and not need to serve it now.

    I contacted Mr. Bierman and prosecutor Robert A. Zink seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from either person, I will update this blog post with it.

    On an unrelated note, it appears co-defendant Wanda Hutchinson’s sentencing hearing may have been rescheduled to a later date and time. If so, public court records do not show when it has been rescheduled for.

    Update #1: I apparently spoke too soon regarding Ms. Hutchinson who was indeed sentenced the same day. The court posted information shortly after my last check. Basically, Ms. Hutchinson received the same sentence as Ms. Bacallao.

    Ms. Bacallao received five years of probation, not one — but will spend one year of the five in the location monitoring program (which requires home confinement). clercjr regrets the error in reporting and apologizes.

  12. VRS case: Tamara Frankel sentenced
    15 03 2012

    During a brief hearing in a Trenton federal courtroom this morning, District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Tamara Frankel to 1 year of probation with no special conditions and must pay back $1 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud). Ms. Frankel also waived her right to appeal the sentence imposed.

    I contacted prosecutor Robert A. Zink and Ms. Frankel’s defense attorney, Anthony C. Mack (of law firm Mack & Gil, LLC), seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from either person, I will update this blog post with it.

    On an unrelated note, Joshua Finkle, Irma Azrelyant, and Oksana Strusa’s sentencing hearings were rescheduled to May 2, 2012.

  13. VRS case: Nathan Zfati sentenced
    14 03 2012

    During a brief 15-minute hearing in a Trenton courtroom this morning, federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Nathan Zfati to 5 years of probation with special conditions, no fine, and must pay back $2.5 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud). Mr. Zfati also waived his right to appeal the sentence imposed.

    I contacted prosecutor Robert A. Zink and Mr. Zfati’s defense attorney, Michael A. Armstrong, seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from either person, I will update this blog post with it.

    In case readers were wondering why I didn’t have this sentencing hearing on the schedule, it is because the court does not always list sentencing hearing date/time on the case docket. All involved parties are aware of the latest schedule but usually is unpublicized unless the court notes it on the case docket or is mentioned in a public filing.

    On an unrelated note, Dary Berke’s sentencing hearing was rescheduled to April 3, 2012 at 11am Eastern.

    • Natan got no money. They should have send him back to Israel and lose his American citizenship. He was coach by Irma to lies. Irma s daughter should be brought up on charges and the same goes for Jason Yeh. They fiancially benefit from the VRS fraud. This procrasination is wasting tax $$$$. DHIS should never be allow to serve the deaf community. Joshua Finkle went along with this matter because Irma make all the decision when it s come to money. I can’t wait for them to serve their time in jail.

  14. What is pro hac vice? (Bonheyos’ lawyer)
    1 03 2012

    Today (March 1, 2012), the NJ court clerk received a letter from Bonheyos’ lawyer Frederick R. Petti (based in Arizona) requesting permission from Judge Joel A. Pisano to be added to the case in a special way called ‘pro hac vice’.

    Let me explain a few things first. Normally, to represent a client in federal district court (let’s say, NJ district court in this case), you must be a member of the district court’s bar and in good standing (not disbarred or suspended).

    To be a member of a district court’s bar, you normally have to first be a member of the state’s bar association in good standing. That means you have to be a member of the state of NJ bar before you can fill out an application form to be a member of the federal district court of NJ bar.

    Since Mr. Petti is not a member of the NJ state bar, he cannot be a member of the NJ federal court bar, either, and that means he normally couldn’t represent a client in NJ district court.

    To work around this issue, there is a special procedure. Number one, the client has to have a ‘local attorney’ who is a member of both bar associations — which is probably why they have Thomas J. Pryor (based in New Jersey) representing them as their “local counsel”.

    The second part of this special procedure is for Mr. Petti to request permission from Judge Pisano to be added to the case “pro hac vice”, which means “just this one time”. In other words, if Judge Pisano approves the request (very likely), Mr. Petti will then be allowed to represent Bonheyos as the lead attorney in NJ district court.

  15. Rolling the legal dice: proffer agreement for Bacallao (Update #1)
    27 02 2012

    This post may be of interest to readers who follows legal strategy – interested in hearing more about real life use of proffers? If so, read on.

    On Monday February 20, 2012, defendant Jessica Bacallao’s lawyer, Donald I. Bierman (of law firm WNF Law, P.L.) accidentally submitted a sentencing memorandum as a motion to the public court docket for the case.

    A court clerk noticed this and suggested he refile it, but left the document for public viewing unless ordered by the court to remove it. It gives us some insight into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ actions in this case.

    A sentencing memo is basically a packet of documents that normally is meant for the judge to read and consider. The first part of this memo was Mr. Bierman making a case for reducing Ms. Bacallao’s sentence from a potential 51 month prison sentence (as recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, aka USSG) to probation plus any special conditions deemed appropriate by the court.

    (He requested probation, saying both of her parents are deaf and she is a key caregiver — financial, interpreting, amongst other things. Also pointed out she had done much to improve herself post-arrest through education and work.)

    Second part is a series of documents that serves as Exhibit A, B, etc. A and B were proffer terms and agreement signed by both sides. The other exhibits were Ms. Bacallao’s unofficial college transcript and also letters of character reference from several family members and an employer.

    Because this post is a focus on proffers and also because I have some privacy concerns, I have uploaded an edited PDF document containing Mr. Bierman’s letter to the judge and exhibits A and B (the proffer stuff) only. It is what I am most comfortable with regarding how to handle this situation.

    If you want the full, unedited document, you will need to obtain a PACER account and retrieve it (docket document number 81 for case 3:09-cr-00810). You can learn how to set up a PACER account by clicking on ‘How to get court records’ (underneath ‘IMPORTANT VRS CASE INFORMATION’ section on the right side of this blog).

    Back to proffers. They are also known in legal circles as “Queen for a Day”. It’s basically when a defendant (and their lawyer) agrees to meet with the prosecution to reveal some of the defendant’s “cards” (while the prosecution doesn’t have to reveal any of their own cards) by disclosing some information that could be helpful to the prosecution.

    It gives the prosecution a taste of what they might get — and also a taste of how to beat the defendant on the stand during a trial.

    This is a risky move for a defendant because they are not guaranteed anything from the prosecution and they give up some of their “cards” by revealing them to the prosecution. For some defendants, their lawyers thinks it’s still worth a chance to roll the dice and hope it works out.

    Apparently it didn’t quite work out in Ms. Bacallao’s case as Mr. Bierman said that despite cooperating and offering extensive assistance (with a prosecutor even remarking it had been very helpful), the prosecution so far has declined to submit a recommendation to the court for a reduced sentence.

    In other words, Ms. Bacallao and her lawyer rolled the dice, cooperated, and ended up with nothing. Not a criticism of their legal strategy, just merely pointing out some of the risks of a proffer agreement.

    Will Ms. Bacallao receive prison? It seems unlikely since court documents suggests she was a low-level defendant rather than a ringleader and doesn’t have a prior criminal history.

    So the odds are probably good that Judge Joel A. Pisano would sentence her to probation and restitution but unless something explicit is in writing regarding legal matters, you just can’t assume anything.

    That’s likely why Mr. Bierman is making a strong plea to the judge to consider probation based on the law and on what other defendants has received — along with Ms. Bacallao’s extensive cooperation with the prosecution so early in the case (January 2010; remember, the VRS arrests were in late November 2009).

    The sentencing memo is basically a defendant’s last big chance to influence a judge’s sentencing decision prior to the sentencing hearing.

    (The defendant will be given a chance to speak during the sentencing hearing which could potentially have some weight but generally, the sentence will have been already decided by the judge prior to the hearing.)

    Ms. Bacallao’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday March 20, 2012 at 10am Eastern in Trenton.

    Update #1: As promised, here’s the edited sentencing memo with the proffer documents: vrs-bacallao-sentencing-memo-edited

  16. VRS case: Bonheyo and Larry Berke case updates (Update #2)
    15 02 2012

    On Friday February 10, 2012, lawyer Thomas J. Pryor of the law firm Stark & Stark (based in Princeton, NJ) filed a notice of appearance with the NJ court on behalf of both Bonheyos. He was retained, meaning they secured his services (as previously reported by iDeafNews) rather than being a court-appointed attorney.

    On Monday February 13, 2012, Larry Berke’s lawyer, Hal K. Haveson (of the law firm Haveson & Otis), filed a motion with the court requesting a second delay in reporting to prison and also requested a change from a prison sentence to home confinement with electronic location monitoring. (He was originally sentenced to prison with reporting date being January 30, 2012 until Judge Pisano agreed to change it to February 20, 2012.)

    Currently, Mr. Berke is expected to report to prison on February 20, 2012, but he has requested a delay to April 23, 2012. He cited two factors: the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has not yet notified him of which facility to report to and with time drawing so near, he needs a little lead time to make suitable travel arrangements.

    Additionally, he cited his 86 year old mother’s sudden decline in health post-sentencing due to an incurable illness and needing time to make suitable arrangements for her care in the event he reports to prison.

    Mr. Berke also requested the court consider converting his sentence from prison to home confinement with electronic location monitoring (i.e. GPS tracking ankle bracelet monitored by the local U.S. Probation Office) so that he would be in a better position to handle his mother’s medical care. He also pointed out that his co-defendant, Kim E. Hawkins, had received this instead of prison.

    Federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano has three basic choices here: 1) He can approve the proposed order in full (example: no prison, instead use home confinement with location tracking), 2) He can partially approve it and partially deny it (example: no home confinement but allowing a delay in reporting to prison), or 3) He can reject it in full (example: nothing’s changed, report to prison on February 20th).

    Court records do not yet show what Judge Pisano has decided. It is likely that the BOP will be consulted to verify the claim made before a decision is reached. No timeline for a decision but it is possible it will be sometime this week because of the fast-approaching February 20th deadline for reporting to prison.

    Update #1: On Thursday February 16, 2012, Judge Pisano ordered an extension of Mr. Berke’s self-reporting date to prison to Monday April 23, 2012 at noon. No further comment was made in court records.

    Update #2: On Friday February 17, 2012, the Bonheyos’ court-recognized lawyer Thomas J. Pryor filed a notice of appearance with the NJ district court saying that Frederick R. Petti (of law firm Petti and Briones, PLLC) would be the lead (primary) attorney representing them.

    Mr. Petti’s law firm is based in Phoenix, Arizona. It is unclear exactly what the relationship is between Stark & Stark and Petti & Briones is but they are apparently working together in some manner to represent the two defendants.

    Mr. Petti served nearly 10 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA — meaning he is a former U.S. Department of Justice federal prosecutor) with another 10 years of law experience and currently specializes in white collar criminal defense against federal prosecution.

  17. VRS case: Yehs sent to a different prison
    31 01 2012

    The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Inmate Locator website shows both Yehs are now incarcerated at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, PA. Judge Pisano had agreed with the defense request to recommend FPC Cumberland (MD) to the BOP for placement but the BOP still has the final say in actual assigned location.

    Sometimes a prison is full or a prison may not have a program (e.g. RDAP) needed by an incoming inmate so they will send the inmate to a different prison. The BOP tries to keep an inmate in a prison within their ‘home region’.

    Why? It makes it easier (though it can still be challenging for some families involving 6-20 hour driving to for a limited amount of time on specific days once in a while) for families and friends to maintain “face to face” contact as a morale booster, reduce chances of inmate snapping in prison from mental stress, and increases odds of a successful re-integration back into the community post-release (which helps reduce the recividism rate).

    It is not clear if the Yehs are actually at the FCI portion (medium security) of Schuylkill or the FPC (minimum security) next to the FCI. I contacted the BOP requesting clarification but they gave an answer that essentially amounted to a non-response.

    Either way, they’re somewhere on the grounds of FCI Schuylkill undergoing a two week Admission & Orientation (A&O) program to learn about prison life, policies, procedures, and to also be evaluated for medical and psychological issues.

    Sometimes the BOP will then transfer an inmate to a different prison after the A&O process has ended. Other times, the inmate will remain at the same place.

    Here’s the BOP Inmate Locator website, updated daily, with the inmate’s officially registered name and their ‘register number’ (aka “inmate number”). You can do a simple search for ‘John’ ‘Yeh’, don’t have to fill out any other information. Same idea for Joseph Yeh or any other incarcerated defendant:


    It does not have an estimated date of release for John TC Yeh yet, but says Joseph Yeh may be released on January 26, 2016.

    I expect other defendants sentenced to prison to serve in the region where they reside. For example, if the defendant lived in the southwest, he/she would be sent to a prison in that region.

    One last thing: 8 defendants will be sentenced on March 20, 21, and 22 in Trenton. Unless the court reschedules these at the last minute, by end of day on March 22, 16 of 27 of the original VRS defendants will have been sentenced with 11 remaining. The remaining defendants has not had their sentencing hearings scheduled yet due to waiting on the Pre-Sentencing investigation Report (PSR).

    Credit for notification of the change of Yehs’ location goes to a source who wishes to remain anonymous. Thanks!

  18. VRS case: Bonheyos’ arraignment
    27 01 2012

    This morning (Friday January 27, 2012), in a federal district court in Trenton, NJ, Judge Joel A. Pisano held a 20 minute arraignment hearing for both Bonheyos. This is basically the beginning of the court case process for the defendants. Routine matters were covered such as bond (bail) arrangements, pre-trial supervision, charges read (they waived this), basic information about their rights, and things like that. They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    A schedule of events between the arraignment and the jury trial (March 2, 2012 at 9:30am Eastern in Trenton) was drawn up. But the reality is that multiple steps in the process will likely be “continued” (court language meaning ‘rescheduled’) or rescheduled

    In the federal criminal justice system, it is normal for a case to take about a year to go from arraignment to trial; sometimes a little less, but even longer is not unheard of, either. So I would not assume the trial will occur in early March. Maybe by late this year or early next?

    Court records shows they do not yet have an assigned (or hired) lawyer for each defendant for the case. They were represented by a temporary court-appointed lawyer (Daniel P. D’Alessandro, Esq.) for today’s arraignment hearing only (to ensure their rights were protected).

    A lower-ranking judge called a magistrate judge handles basic, trivial, and routine matters often at the beginning of a case to help free up the district judge to focus on bigger issues or other cases. Magistrate Judge Lois H. Goodman took care of the bond arrangement so they could be released on bail. She required only $50,000 unsecured bail which is a promise to forfeit $50,000 worth of assets if they don’t show up for a court, but do not actually need to provide a deposit or in full up front.

    I will upload the hearing documents sometime next week as an update to this post.

  19. VRS case: Lisa Goetz sentenced
    27 01 2012

    This morning, in a brief half hour hearing in a Trenton courtroom, federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Lisa Goetz to 5 years of probation with special conditions, no fine, and must pay back $2.5 million in restitution. All charges were dropped except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud).

    The brief summary of the sentencing hearing: vrs-goetz-sentencing-summary

    I contacted prosecutor Robert A. Zink and Ms. Goetz’s defense attorney, Charles Waldron, seeking public comment. If or when I receive one from either person, I will update this blog post with it.

    As a side note, Larry Berke’s prison reporting date was recently changed from Monday January 30, 2012 to February 20, 2012. Dary Berke’s sentencing hearing was rescheduled to March 21, 2012 at 11am Eastern in Trenton. David Simmons’s sentencing hearing was rescheduled to March 21, 2012 at 10:30am Eastern. (All sentencing hearings are done in Trenton for the VRS cases.)

    The court has not yet published the sentencing order for Ms. Goetz so I don’t yet know any other in-depth information such as special conditions for probation, but will post it when I see it and can upload it here in an update to this post.

    However, iDeafNews presented by the capable Seth Gerlis, appears to have been present at the hearing today and has disclosed more details. Thanks, iDaafNews!

  20. VRS case: Arrest warrant to be issued for Benjamin Pena (Update #2)
    12 01 2012

    On January 10, 2012, Judge Joel A. Pisano directed the probation department to issue a memo explaining the situation and draw up an arrest warrant for Benjamin Pena due to finding Mr. Pena having violated the terms of his pre-sentencing probation conditions. Details behind the violation(s) are unknown at this time.

    It is a serious situation since typically, if you violate pre-sentencing probation supervision in a federal criminal case, you are likely going to be sitting in jail until at least the sentencing hearing.

    Since it was Judge Pisano who ordered the arrest warrant paperwork be prepared, it seems very unlikely he would consider any condition granting any further pre-sentencing freedom for Mr. Pena.

    Once the arrest warrant is signed by Judge Pisano, either Mr. Pena then will have to self-surrender or a federal law enforcement officer (often either a FBI agent or U.S. Marshal) will take him into custody, bring him in front of either a magistrate judge or Judge Pisano, and then see what the judge will further order.

    Update #1: On Friday January 13, 2012, the U.S. Probation Officer (David Haneke) informed Judge Pisano in a letter that Mr. Pena had emailed him saying he was now willing to fully cooperate including meeting for a pre-sentencing investigation. So the probation officer requested the court cancel the arrest warrant.

    Judge Pisano agreed to this request and also notified the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) to ensure they were aware of the latest update. The arrest warrant has been cancelled.

    Update #2: U.S. Probation Officer David Haneke’s letter to Judge Joel A. Pisano requesting the arrest warrant be cancelled, with the judge signing it, saying ‘So ordered’: vrs-pena-cancel-arrest

  21. VRS case: Kim E. Hawkins sentenced (Update #2)
    10 01 2012

    This morning in court during an hour-and-half sentencing hearing, federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced VRS fraud case defendant Kim E. Hawkins to 5 years of probation with special conditions attached and restitution of $2.5 million to be repaid.

    I contacted prosecutor Robert A. Zink and Hawkins’ defense attorney, Stacy Biancamano, requesting comment suitable for publication. As of publication time, I have not yet received any comment but will update this post later if or when I receive one from either person.

    Update #1: Hawkins was assigned standard probation conditions plus three special conditions added:

    Home confinement for 12 months under supervision of the U.S. Probation Office (USPO)
    Mental health treatment for personal issues including gambling
    Cannot open new lines of credit or incur new debt without advance permission of the USPO first

    All charges except for count #4 (conspiracy to commit mail fraud) were dropped.

    Hawkins was sentenced only on that one remaining count, as is common with sentences handed down so far — and also true of terms of plea agreements with remaining convicted defendants who hasn’t yet been sentenced.

    Update #2: Documents from the sentencing hearing are here.

    Sentencing hearing summary: vrs-hawkins-sentencing-summary

    Sentencing order: vrs-hawkins-sentencing-order

  22. ATTENTION: Bonheyo arraignment rescheduled
    5 01 2012

    I just wanted to warn because some people from MD/DC area were interested in attending the arraignment hearing for the Bonheyos. It has been rescheduled by the court — moved from Tuesday January 10, 2012 to Friday January 27 at 10:30am. Still the same courtroom in Trenton.

    After that hearing, I will be seeking comment from the Bonheyos’ lawyers (once the court record shows they have lawyers assigned to the case). Right now, it is blank and odds are good they will be requesting court-appointed lawyers at the arraignment hearing, given the self-declared state of their finances.

    A question: does anyone know what year Bridget Bonheyo earned her Masters in Deaf Education from the University of Texas or under what name? (I.e. what was the maiden name?)

    I have not yet been able to verify this detail through the UT’s Office of the Registrar’s degree verification record system. If you have information, you can either post a public comment here or email me privately at clercjr@clercjr.com. I keep private emails confidential. Thanks!

    Credit and thanks to a commenter for bringing the degree discrepancy to my attention.

  23. Obtaining court documents can be expensive!
    4 01 2012

    I talked with Judge Pisano’s court reporter, JoAnne M. Caruso, on the phone yesterday morning and found out that she charges $1.20 per page for a copy of completed transcripts. She estimated Benjamin Pena’s 3 day trial would be about 500 to 600 pages of trial transcript — about $600 to $720!

    She also estimated John T.C. Yeh’s 3 hour sentencing hearing would be about 150 pages — about $180.

    If these numbers sounds high, that’s actually low! It’s about 1/3 the cost of a normal original transcript, and about 1/9 the cost of a rush, expedited transcript. So it could have easily cost thousands of dollars. And now you know one of the reasons why legal fees charged by a trial lawyer, especially if an appeal is involved, are so high!

    Transcripts are copyrighted by and is the intellectual property of the person who prepared them — in this case, Ms. Caruso. The court actually pays her for a copy of it. So while the hearings were open to the public, the transcript is generally not a document that is given out for free to the public (with a specific exception where you can view them on a computer terminal at the court for a limited period of time).

    She has a strict rule: if you buy a transcript, you CANNOT post it anywhere, email it to anyone else, or copy it for others. You can show it to others, summarize or quote from it, read it, but that’s it. She has that legal right to impose these restrictions because she is the copyright owner and could sue you for loss of income and damages if you violate these rules.

    If you’re still interested in a transcript (trial, sentencing, etc.), you will need to call her at her office directly at 908-334-2472 to make arrangements to purchase a copy with a check. You would need to know the case number, name of case and defendant, type of hearing, approximate date if known. And, of course, you’ll also need a big checkbook and wallet. 🙂

    Another commenter asked about financial affidavits for other defendants in another case and couldn’t find it online via PACER so I double and triple checked. I’ve seen financial affidavits for several defendants but most aren’t published online or included in the stack of “Rule 5″ (of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedures rulebook) documents sent between court of initial appearance to the New Jersey court where the case was opened with an indictment.

    It would seem that in most cases, the courts won’t (for whatever reason) publish the financial affidavits while some will. It just varies. It may still be possible to get a copy of the “missing” financial affidavits directly from the court where it was filed (court of initial appearance) if you call or write them to ask but that’s not guaranteed. Contacting the court clerk’s office (in the court of initial appearance) is probably your best bet if interested in asking. The court website will have contact information.

    Even though the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law, it makes certain exceptions such as not applying to federal courts. So you can’t use a FOIA request to obtain information from a federal district court for this kind of thing even though it’s public information. That leaves asking the court real nicely and hoping for the best.

  24. Minor VRS case updates (Update #1)
    4 01 2012

    The Yehs requested a three week delay in reporting to federal prison for personal reasons, which was granted by Judge Pisano and received no objections from the prosecution or any other parties. So now they will report to Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Cumberland [MD] at noon Eastern on January 31 30, 2012.

    The only other case update involves the Bonheyo case where yesterday (January 3, 2012), a new prosecutor applied for permission to represent the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in prosecuting the case.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Robert A. Zink is still the lead prosecutor and on the case but now we have Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) Ryan S. Faulconer joining the case once Judge Pisano officially approves the request. It is not known why Mr. Faulconer is on the case; either he is serving as a backup prosecutor or will be taking the lead role to free up Mr. Zink to focus on other cases.

    Mr. Faulconer is a young up-and-coming trial attorney at the DOJ; graduated from the University of Virginia Law School in 2008 and entered the DOJ through the Attorney General’s Honors Program.

    A SAUSA position is usually unpaid and usually lasts about a year but gives the person valuable work experience and a foot in the door for further consideration for an AUSA (paid) opening. SAUSAs also works under supervision of an AUSA as well.

    You can see a picture of SAUSA/Trial Attorney (Criminial Division, Fraud Section) Faulconer and a brief biography here: Ryan S. Faulconer bio

    Update #1: The court originally scheduled the Yehs to report to prison on January 31, 2012 but then later the same day, the court changed it to January 30, 2012.

  25. Interesting new information about Bonheyo case (Update #1)
    29 12 2011

    I obtained more information about the Bonheyo case from public court records, including the arrest warrants and financial affidavits, which I’ve put up at end of this post. The numbers in the financial affidavits doesn’t seem to add up or make much sense. I’ll explain why in a bit.

    A correction: Only Jerome Bonheyo obtained a federal public defender with Magistrate Judge William Connelly’s permission. It is not clear if Bridget Bonheyo requested one, but she was represented at the initial arraignment hearing in Maryland, and will have an opportunity to request a NJ federal public defender in January 2012 if she so chooses. She does have the option of hiring a private lawyer if she can afford it.

    On December 15, 2011, a federal grand jury in Trenton true billed (approved) the indictment against the Bonheyos. The very same day, prosecutors filed it with the NJ court. The next day, the NJ court (Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni) issued an arrest warrant for both defendants ordering any U.S. Marshal and any authorized U.S. Officer (any federal law enforcement personnel with powers of arrest) to arrest them.

    On December 19, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Julie S. Lenkart arrested both at their home in Frederick, Maryland and brought them to MD federal district court for an initial arraignment in a 45 minute hearing before Magistrate Judge William Connelly who granted them release on personal recognizance or unsecured bond (meaning, they didn’t have to raise money to be bailed) with a number of standard release conditions for defendants awaiting trial.

    The most interesting part of the document are the financial affidavits filled out by the Bonheyos because the numbers just doesn’t quite make much sense.

    Let’s start with Mr. Bonheyo’s financial affidavit first. He states he is presently employed by the Brookings Institution, a prestigious Washington, D.C. “think tank”, earning $57,000 per month (which would be $684,000 per year).

    Yet he requested a federal public defender, which requires the judge to agree that he is financially broke. How can you be broke when you make $57,000 a month with very few debt listed? (About $4,000/mo worth of recurring debt was listed; no mortgage since it’s a rented home.)

    Additionally, out of $684,000, he indicated he paid only $38,500 in taxes. That’s a mighty nice tax bracket to be in!

    As for Mrs. Bonheyo’s financial affidavit, she says she is currently unemployed. So I’m not sure how that squares with her role with SportsMX. Lists no cash in any bank accounts — unusual; not even a joint checking account that’s common for husband and wife? Lists only income as $2,300 from SSID in the past 12 months. Receiving SSID seems unusual when she’s married to a person making $57,000 per month.

    NOTE: The document I posted here is edited, and not a straight copy of the original. Why? Because:

    The original document includes the indictment which is many pages and I’ve already provided a higher quality copy of it separately in a recent post so you’re not missing anything without this duplicated here. If you want to read the indictment: http://clercjr.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/vrs-bonheyo-indictment.pdf
    The original document includes date of birth and social security numbers of both defendants; I don’t want to risk facilitating identity theft based on publically posting this information
    More importantly, I erased the names, age, and home street address of the minor children as I don’t wish to put them at any risk

    Edited copy of the court records document: vrs-bonheyo-newinfo

    Update #1: I would like to clarify that it is possible some numbers were mistakenly reported as being monthly but are actually yearly figures such sa Mr. Bonheyo’s salary and Mrs. Bonheyo’s SSDI earnings may have been monthly rather than annual. I don’t know for certain that (mistaken reporting of numbers) is the case, though, only that it is possible.

    If this is true, then both defendants would appear to easily qualify for court-appointed public federal defenders.

    I normally do not publish people’s financial figures (income, debt) but this is public information and I felt it was pertinent as this came from defendants accused of a financial crime. The money trail is one of the things that is of interest, particularly since the indictment alleges the loss due to fraud being $2.5 million.

  26. VRS case update: Many defendants sentencing postponed
    21 12 2011

    Sentencing has been indefinitely postponed for many defendants until the court receives the PSR (Pre-Sentencing Report) from Pre-Trial Services. Then the court will set dates. Affected defendants:

    Buscaron, Fernandez, Hutchinson, Bacallao, Azrelyant, Finkle, Zfati, Strusa, Iskandarova, Holovkin, Pena, Rubeck, Frankel.

    Previously, most defendants had a scheduled sentencing date. This came up just yesterday. Additionally, prosecutor Robert A. Zink withdrew from several cases (but stayed on for others). Could something big be going on? One wonders — we’ll probably find out at some point.

    Also, a commenter requested I post a copy of the original indictment for every VRS case in the interests of full disclosure — not a problem since they are public court documents. It’s how a court case officially begins and is usually the first document and docket report entry for every case.

    The indictment is a legal document outlying the U.S. government’s allegations of specific wrongdoings against specific defendants, and approved by a federal grand jury — the approval is called a “true bill”. (If the grand jury rejected the government’s evidence, they would “no bill” it and the indictment is dead.)

    Case number 3:09-cr-00810-JAP indictment against ICSD defendants Yosbel Buscaron, Lazaro Fernandez, Wanda Hutchinson, Jessica Bacallao, and Kathleen Valle. Indictment: vrs-buscaron-indictment

    Case number 3:09-cr-00811-JAP indictment against DHIS defendants Irma Azrelyant, Joshua Finkle, Nathan Zfati, Oksana Strusa, Alfia Iskandarova, and Hennadii Holovkin. Indictment: vrs-azrelyant-indictment

    Case number 3:09-cr-00856-JAP indictment against Viable defendants John T.C. Yeh, Joseph Yeh, Anthony Mowl, Donald Tropp, and Viable Communications, Inc. Indictment: vrs-yeh-indictment

    Case number 3:09-cr-00857-JAP indictment against Master Communications/KL Communications/Mascom LLC defendants Kim E. Hawkins, Larry Berke, Dary Berke, Lisa Goetz, and David Simmons. Indictment: vrs-hawkins-indictment

    Case number 3:09-cr-00858-JAP indictment against Viable consultant/subcontractor defendants Benjamin Pena, Robert Z. Rubeck, and Tamara Frankel. Indictment: vrs-pena-indictment

    Case number 3:09-cr-00859-JAP indictment against Deaf Studio 29 defendants Marc Velasquez Verson, Ellen Thompson, and Doris Martinez. Indictment: vrs-velasquez-indictment

    Case number 3:11-cr-00861-JAP indictment against Bonheyo & Bonheyo, LLC defendants Bridget Bonheyo and Jerome Bonheyo. Indictment: vrs-bonheyo-indictment

  27. MAJOR UPDATE: New VRS fraud case opened!
    20 12 2011

    On December 15, a federal grand jury indicted (accused) a Frederick, MD-based contractor company named Bonheyo & Bonheyo, LLC’s CEO Bridget Bonheyo and CFO Jerome (“Jerry”) Bonheyo of VRS fraud. This was filed under seal until unsealed yesterday when they made their initial appearance in Maryland federal district court in front of Magistrate Judge William Connelly.

    The first appearance is just to read the charges to them and see if they can afford a lawyer or if they want to request a federal public defender assigned to them. (They both requested a public defender which was granted by the magistrate judge after they submitted a financial assets disclosure form.)

    Bail conditions are also set at the initial appearance, too. Just routine first appearance matters, nothing unusual.

    The case in Maryland district court was then closed today and transferred to the New Jersey district court under Judge Pisano, New Jersey court case number 3:11-cr-00861-JAP.

    They are essentially being accused of similar charges as other VRS fraud case contractors.

    The indictment alleges they also participated in extensive pressure of their employees to spend at least 80% of their work time to generate bogus calls (or their paycheck would be docked) and provided instructions on how to bypass being blocked. When they decided to close their business, they also were said to have participated in an extensive cover-up through intentional and ordered destruction of evidence of wrongdoing.

    They will be arraigned again in New Jersey on January 10, 2012 at 11am in front of Judge Pisano. Why a second time? First is just to get them “into the court system” and aware of charges and their basic rights, even if they don’t reside in New Jersey. But then the NJ hearing is to ensure they have a lawyer representing them who is licensed in New Jersey to practice in the federal District Court there. So their initial federal public defenders will most likely change from Maryland-based defenders to New Jersey area-based defenders.

  28. VRS case update: Larry Berke sentenced to federal prison (Update #2)
    20 12 2011

    Yesterday (December 19, 2011), federal District Judge Joel A. Pisano sentenced Larry Berke to 24 months in federal prison on a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud — all others were dismissed, a $2.5 million fine, and a $100 special asseessment fee during an hour-long sentencing hearing.

    Judge Pisano allowed Mr. Berke to remain free on bail until he self-reports to prison on January 30, 2012 at noon.

    Post-prison, he will serve a three year supervised release (parole supervision) with similar standard conditions as for the Yehs. Likewise, he also got similar recommendations from the judge to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on disability accommodations.

    I am still working to see if I can obtain comment from either the prosecutor or defendant’s attorney and will update this post if I get any from either person.

    In an interesting twist, court records indicates that the prosecutor, Robert A. Zink, is now no longer involved with any of the Kim E. Hawkins (Master Communications/KL Communications/Mascom LLC) related cases. It is unclear to me at this time if this means that Mr. Zink is leaving all the VRS cases to be replaced with another U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) prosecutor or if he is just leaving these particular cases but not the rest of the VRS cases.

    We’ll have to wait and see on that one. But it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened; the original prosecutor was Brigham Q. Cannon who left the USDOJ for private practice earlier this year and was replaced by Mr. Zink.

    Update #1: A commenter requested I post public documents of Mr. Berke’s sentencing, so I’ve attached them here. Judge Pisano’s sentencing order: vrs-berke-sentencing-order and the one-page court summary of the sentencing hearing: vrs-berke-sentencing-summary

    Update #2: Larry Berke requested a change of reporting to prison from January 30, 2012 to February 20, 2012 so he could make travel logistics work out for being present at Lisa Goetz’s sentencing hearing this morning (January 27, 2012). Judge Pisano approved the request.

    Request: vrs-berke-delay-request

    Approval: vrs-berke-delay-approved

  29. Ahh-ha! clercjr’s real identity unmasked!
    12 12 2011

    Who is clercjr? Answer revealed in the final sentence of this post!

    SHHHH! Don’t tell clercjr I wrote this expose on him! 😉

    clercjr was born profoundly deaf on a cold afternoon in Massachusetts on October 20, 1974, due to Waardenburg Syndrome. He has never truly heard sound unless it was louder than maybe 120 decibels and low frequency (good example: bass-like music through big subwoofer amplifiers. Boomboxes, baby!).

    He attended a mix of deaf and hearing schools for most of his life. But as a child, he mostly grew up in a mainstreamed environment. First grade, all day at a deaf school in Delaware. That mix shifted gradually until it was almost all day at a hearing school (also in Delaware) with a period at the deaf school. So in a sense, he got the best of both worlds from each. Despite the higher quality education in the hearing schools, he felt lonely being apart from his Deaf culture and also feeling like a mere “number” (one of so many students in a classroom).

    Dang you, AT&T, for dropping out on my Internet access while typing this up!

    Anyway. So, for high school, his beloved parents realized that his deaf school would not be able to provide the quality education he needed (example: nothing beyond Algebra) and yet didn’t want to subject him to a hearing high school where he might feel lost in the mass of 1,500+ students and 30-40 per classroom.

    So they sent a young clercjr to a wonderful all-Deaf school, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf on the Gallaudet University campus.

    This was his first real close-up exposure to the beautiful language of ASL (American Sign Language). Previously, all clercjr had known was Signed English, and he attracted a lot of mocking fun at his expense from less understanding peers who had grown up with ASL.

    Boy, clercjr sure was waaaaay behind on knowing anything significant about Deaf culture, history, language, and whatnot. He quickly scrambled to correct that issue. 😉 (Though he’s still always learning, even to this day.)

    MSSD is a wonderful school, as is the rest of Gallaudet University. He always firmly believed that, even to this day, despite his bad situation.

    He did a lot of good things, but also made some bad choices and one of them involved postal mail theft when he was 15 years old, which resulted in many, many years of tears and heartache for clercjr — and his victims. When confronted by the school and federal U.S. Postal inspectors, he quickly admited to everything.

    Unfortunately, by then, the damage was done. Serious damage in trust and integrity. There was simply no way clercjr could have continued his attendance at MSSD with death threats directly issued to his face.

    Whose fault was this? clercjr’s, of course. Nobody else to blame. Just him. He accepted full responsibility. You can see the story on the issue on the front page of the MSSD’s school newspaper (Telegraph Hill News, aka THN) for perhaps the May 1991 edition?

    clercjr knows why the ‘theft’ occurs and how it came around, but it would be pointless to discuss it in a public forum. The focus should instead be on helping the victims recover.

    A few found out the hard way through this process that their loved ones (girlfriends and others) had lied about sending them mail. For one person, it was how he found out his girlfriend no longer liked men and preferred women. Very, very painful discovery for the victim.

    For another, he found out a promised check had never even been mailed at all. clercjr had his activities scrutinized by the school administration, Gallaudet University’s elite detective “Spider” (Wylie Myers, former Metropolitan D.C. Police Detective) — danged good at his job, U.S. Postal Inspectors (two), and possibly others.

    clercjr during a tough interrogation (one of several), specifically requested the authorities check all of his bank accounts (school, home, etc) and other records to prove no money was taken because he knew none was ever taken.

    clercjr was eventually cleared from any further prosecution as the school had recovered everything, the feds didn’t see any need to pursue the case. But the agony of waiting months to find out this was a very unbearable strain, both for clercjr and his beloved parents.

    So, within several days of physically leaving MSSD for good, clercjr and his parents decided to formally file for withdrawal from the school. It looks better on one’s record than expulsion. More importantly, it gives all (both sides — clercjr and family plus the school and its staff, students, etc) a chance to recover.

    MSSD, months later, very kindly extended an invitation to have clercjr re-enroll. But by that point, it would have been for just his senior year. Not worth the upheaval to change schools by that point. (Though clercjr did indeed much appreciated the kind offer.)

    Besides, clercjr didn’t want to even risk causing any further issues with his classmates by being back on campus. He would have been forever a dark horse. No, thanks.

    So he turned his focus on turning the bad into good. Worked really hard at his old school, even though people (students, staff, AND administrators) were talking behind his back about his MSSD indiscretion, because he had something to prove: he could still do good!

    He did, I think. Graduated at the top of his class and willingly shared the honor of being co-valedictorian with his best childhood friend.

    Then after school, he went on to college, met lots of interesting people, set up a supercomputer, learned to fly a Cessna 152, talked with flight attendants in the back of the jet day before 9/11 on a trip to Alaska, convinced Pittsburgh Airport security to call a ground control tower manager to give him and his friend a personal tour, and 101 other things.

    More importantly, he spent his life trying his best to do right for others. Why was that so important to him? Because he knew he had done wrong before, paid the price, and is still paying it even over 20 years later — but winces, bites lips, and accepts it.

    clercjr very much appreciates his former MSSD classmate (and later an interim principal of MSSD! Yay!), Myra Yanke, for doing a fair and balanced piece on his situation for the THN piece in 1991.

    He had been waken up from a deep afternoon slumber (tired by the long bus ride home) by his mother saying ‘Myra’s on the phone’ ‘Myra who?’ ’Myra Yanke’ ‘OH!’ so he quickly woke up and bolted up two floors to the TDD and agreed to do the interview, even though it was about a negative matter.

    Why? Because he had met Myra as a freshman at MSSD and she had done great stuff with interviews — interesting, thoughtful, fair, balanced, accurate.

    She had a superb homework assignment turned in involving an interview with the MSSD cafeteria supervisor. AWESOME stuff! clercjr quickly took note of that even though he didn’t say a thing. You’d think asking about menu planning was boring — until you read Myra’s work. 🙂 Very insightful!

    Had it been anyone other than Myra calling, I think he’d have told his mother “Aw, mom, don’t know who that’s calling” and gone back to bed. 🙂

    Well, after MSSD and college, he found his calling in the world of work, enjoyed travelling all over the U.S. and world, met many more people, tutored some folks, wrote blog posts, heavy research on various subjects, learned how to fly airplanes, and tons, tons more of stuff.

    But that whole MSSD situation still weighs heavily on clercjr’s mind. It is one of the reasons — thanks to Myra’s superb piece in the THN article — that he insists on a reasonably fair, accurate, and balanced piece to blog posts. Even for VRS cases where the community long ago convicted all 27 defendants in their mind.

    Understandable, but he thinks that even those who pleaded guilty still deserves a chance to have their say in a reasonably unbiased way. Fair enough. clercjr should know, after all!

    If you want to contact him privately, drop him a note at clercjr@clercjr.com. He can’t promise a response but he will at least read all emails. He also reads all public comments, too, of course.

    He is very ill now with multiple serious health issues, and uncertain of his outcome. So his blog posts might slow down or stop. But he will try his best to continue.

    Who is this strange, mysterious disciple of Laurent Clerc?

  30. VRS case — Kathleen Valle charges to be dropped (Update #1)
    12 12 2011

    On December 6, 2011, according to a court document, prosecutor Robert Zink said Kathleen Valle had successfully completed her Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) program so he petitioned the court to have all charges dropped. It now only needs Judge Pisano’s signature to make it official, which appears to be a mere formality.

    Two days later, Donald Tropp’s sentencing was delayed indefinitely. They are waiting for the prosecution to order Pre-Trial Services (PTS) complete Tropp’s Pre-Sentencing Report (PSR). So no new sentencing date yet.

    It might be a while since PTS typically needs a minimum of about six weeks (or more) to do research into a defendant’s background for preparing the PSR.

    Update #1: Anthony Mowl’s sentencing was also delayed indefinitely for the same reason. No new date either, but probably sometime in early 2012.

    Also, Judge Pisano formally signed off on the order to drop all charges against Valle according to public court records yesterday (December 12, 2011). It’s a done deal — Valle is now the only one of 27 defendants to walk away without any charges at all.

  31. More information about Yehs and Viable outcome
    2 12 2011

    I contacted all three lawyers: John Yeh’s lawyer (Paul F. Kemp), Joseph Yeh’s lawyer (Stanley Reed), and Viable’s lawyer (Timothy Sullivan).

    As of publication time, only Mr. Kemp had graciously agreed to provide a public comment on behalf of John Yeh:

    I believe that my client was shown to be a very good person who made a mistake for which he accepted full responsibility. Judge Pisano made findings to this effect on Wednesday. This case occurred in an area where FCC regulation was either unclear or non-existent.

    John is a pioneer for the deaf American population and continues to be. He will suffer disproportionately in prison as a deaf person, and for that reason and because of his exemplary prior record, the judge sentenced him well below the Guidelines level.

    For that, we are grateful. But his sentence is still a great hardship for him and his family. We are appreciative of the great support John and Joseph continue to receive from their many supporters.

    If I hear back from either Mr. Reed or Mr. Sullivan later, I will update this post with their comments. In other news from the sentencing hearings:

    – Yehs’ cases were marked ‘closed’ in court records yesterday. Viable’s case is still open even though they’ve been sentenced.

    – Yesterday, prosecutors requested Judge Pisano add a requirement to his sentencing order for Viable, Inc. to forfeit assets to satisfy the $20 million fine

    – Judge Pisano’s special recommendations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding Yehs’ incarceration were:

    1. BOP be made aware of their deafness and provide suitable accommodations
    2. BOP place them in a prison that is ADA-compliant
    3. BOP place them specifically at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Cumberland’s Federal Prison Camp (FPC) so they could both serve at the same facility and to be near their family members.

    FPC Cumberland is in western MD, 130 miles NW of Washington, D.C. Within reasonable driving distance for their families. Some families has to drive 6-8 or even as much as 20 hours to see their loved ones for a short visit!

    A FCI is a medium security prison but FPC is minimum security prison. They are often next to each other in a Federal Correctional Complex (FCC)

    For example, FCC Florence (Colorado) has a FCI, FPC, and ADX (administrative maximum security where convicted terrorists or worst of the worst are incarcerated)

    A long list of standard post-release supervised parole conditions were attached. Some of the conditions includes:

    – Can’t associate with other felons
    – Can’t consume excessive alcohol or any illegal drugs
    – Can’t own any firearms or weapons
    – Must stay within the judicial district unless travel permission granted by the Probation Officer
    – Must allow the probation officer to enter and look around the residence
    – Must consent to provide a DNA sample
    – Can’t commit a crime at any level during supervised release
    – Can’t become a law enforcement informer without court permission
    – Must notify the U.S. Probation Office (USPO) of any police stop (questioning or arrest)
    – Must notify the USPO and court of any moving violations, even a speeding ticket and definitely court appearances for these violations
    – Must provide complete information on ALL financial records, spending, debts, assets, tax returns, etc. to the probation officer, including any updates
    – Must sign paperwork allowing the U.S. Probation Office to view all of his financial records

    – Must provide monthly financial statements

    – Can’t open (or maintain) any new financial accounts (e.g. bank, brokerage, etc) without the permission of the U.S. Probation Office.

    This also includes for any existing financial accounts not mentioned in the PSR

    (No hidden offshore bank accounts allowed!)

    I suspect these financial asset reporting requirements is to avoid hiding of financial assets that could otherwise be used for paying off the $20 million fine

    – Judge Pisano specifically excluded Yeh from mandatory regular drug testing during supervised release but he is still to take any random surprise drug testing the probation officer orders.

    – If Yeh hasn’t repaid $20 million by the time he is released from prison, he will have to set up a payment plan within 30 days of release at a bare minimum of $500/month.

    – Restitution is to be paid directly to the FCC.

    – Attached to the report was an interesting letter to the court by an expert court consultant familiar with disability accommodations in the federal prison system. The consultant pointed out how poorly deaf inmates are treated. It’s interesting reading.

    I will post these documents Monday December 5th in an update to this post.

    Don’t forget, that’s also the morning when Valle will have all charges formally dropped, so expect another post on that once I have confirmation from the hearing.

  32. Court hands down stiff sentences to Yehs and Viable (Update #1)
    30 11 2011

    Today, Judge Pisano sentenced John Yeh to 108 months in federal prison with 3 years of post-prison supervised release (aka parole supervision). He was given credit for the time he spent in a Maryland jail earlier this year before state charges were dropped over an unrelated matter.

    Joseph Yeh was sentenced to 55 months in federal prison with 3 years of supervised release.

    In a surprise move, Viable changed their plea to guilty on only one count; the government dropped all other counts. Judge Pisano also waived a pre-sentencing report (PSR) for Viable. He put them on one year of probation.

    For each of the 3 defendants above, Judge Pisano also ordered them to pay $20 million. So, yep, that’s $60 million total. Will the U.S. government ever see most of that money back? I doubt it, but it’s probably to serve as a deterrent to prevent anyone else from ever thinking about trying a scam like this in the future after seeing how stiff the consequences for this one were.

    Judge Pisano agreed to send special recommendations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for the Yehs. Not all judges do that, but some will. The BOP is not required to follow Judge Pisano’s special recommendations (other than the sentencing length and conditions) but they generally will try to honor the requests if possible.

    A common special recommendation is to specify the convicts be imprisoned somewhere relatively near their family if possible so that it’s easier for their family and friends to provide support during their incarceration through face-to-face visits. Other recommendations might include special diet, medication, segregation (or not).

    Both Yehs will report to the same federal prison (Judge Pisano agreed to recommend to the BOP that they be placed at Federal Prison Camp Cumberland in western MD, 130 miles NW of Washington, D.C. so they could be near their families for visits) on January 11, 2012 at noon.

    Once they are entered in the “prison system”, they will have an inmate number and a special mailing address. I will post this information when I see it on the BOP’s inmate locator website.

    Judge Pisano agreed to continue their bail, which means they are free on bail for now, until they report to prison. Some judges will revoke bail upon sentencing to jail or prison, but I’m guessing he gave them a little time to enjoy holidays with family and friends and to get their affairs in order.

    Next hearing will be Kathleen Valle’s on Monday December 5th where the court will formally drop all charges against her due to successful completion of the Pre-Trial Diversion program.

    Unless rescheduled, there should be two more days of sentencing hearings in December then more in January through June 2012.

    After today’s events, the final numbers:

    25 defendants pleaded guilty

    1 convicted at trial

    1 pleaded guilty but will have all charges dropped

    Update #1: There were 3 sentencing hearings yesterday. One for John Yeh (lawyer: Paul Kemp) — 3 hours, one for Joseph Yeh (lawyer: Stanley Reed) — 1.5 hour, and one for Viable, Inc. (lawyer: Timothy Sullivan). — 15 minutes.

    Each defendant were ordered to pay $20 million, as you can see in the court’s public summary document (only one page) of each hearing. (Click on the links below to read them.)




  33. New updates to VRS cases
    29 11 2011

    There was a sealed motion (not available to the public) filed in court today involving the Yehs and property asset (which could include money, property, etc) forfeiture to the U.S. government, but this will be discussed in court tomorrow (Wednesday November 30) at 9am Eastern.

    Sentencing for Velasquez Verson, Thompson, and Martinez were rescheduled to June 5, 2012 at 10am.

    Sentencing for Rubeck and Frankel was rescheduled to January 31, 2012 at 1pm.

    No explanation was given for the rescheduling.

  34. Bacallao objects to pre-sentencing report
    28 11 2011

    About two weeks ago, VRS case defendant Jessica Bacallao’s lawyer filed an objection to the prosecution’s prepared Presentence Investigation Report (also known as Pre-Sentencing Report, PSR).

    It is very important for federal defendants to clear up any errors or inaccuracies in the PSR because once it is finalized by the court, it generally cannot be changed. It is a federal convict’s MOST important single document and is also used to guide the judge’s sentencing decision.

    The PSR is a private document so I have not seen it, but the objection is a public document that refers to various specific sections of the PSR.

    Bacallao essentially objects to being called a manager or anyone of authority at the call center, and says she was merely following orders from higher-ups.

    Despite her lawyer saying she is not trying to minimize her role, that’s exactly how it came across when I read the objection. It’s a double edged sword in taking this position — it has the potential to lessen penalties … or… it could make Judge Pisano think she was trying to dodge responsibility and true acceptance and risk imposing a harsher sentence.

    Still, the fact is, a defendant (even one who has pleaded guilty) has a legal right to object to a PSR through the judicial process. The judge will ultimately decide whether or not to accept the objection for amending the PSR.

    She also feels it unfair that the total loss (to be repaid back) was spread across Buscaron, Fernandez, Hutchinson, and Bacallao but not including Kathleen Valle (who will have her charges dropped next week). She feels that Valle, having been involved, should also be responsible for paying her share.

    Her lawyer also correctly points out that federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, not mandatory, and suggests probation might be an appropriate remedy. However, the sentencing guidelines can also be increased if the judge feels it appropriate — which the lawyer acknowledged.

    It doesn’t hurt to try and ask for probation, anyway, though. Nothing to lose by trying.

    Alternatively, the lawyer suggested if probation isn’t possible then perhaps a sentence of house arrest? Seems like he’s trying everything he can do to keep her out of jail or significant financial penalties.

    Lawyer is trying to safeguard his client’s best interests; if he didn’t, he could be accused of professional incompetence.

    If you’d like to read the objection document, click here: bacallao-psr-objection

    That’s all for now.

  35. What happens before sentencing?
    18 11 2011

    It depends, but if it involves a defendant with a guilty plea, there is a special step in the legal process that happens days before sentencing.

    The prosecution gets together with the defendant and his/her lawyer to review a special document the prosecutors prepared, called a sentencing memorandum. This is a private meeting, not in a courtroom with a judge. But I have already read the memo since it is a public document that was filed with the court’s public website. It’s only a few pages and a list of various facts and fact-based allegations of actions of the defendant. No surprises here — no new information that you haven’t heard before about this case.

    What the heck is a sentencing memorandum? Simple. It’s a list of facts and evidence the prosecutors would have used against the defendant had the case actually proceeded to trial. During the sentencing hearing, the prosecutors will read the document out loud to have it entered into the court record, and the defendant will agree that the facts presented are accurate.

    In other words, not much “wiggle room” for the defendant to later claim the facts were wrong or twisted against them because they agreed to them.

    I thought I’d mention it because court records recently said Joseph Yeh and the prosecutors stipulated (agreed) to change the schedule for when this briefing (discussion) would happen. I’m not yet sure if this means Joseph’s sentencing will be delayed or not — we will have to wait and see.

    The court website said:

    11/09/2011 CLERK’S NOTE as to JOSEPH YEH: The parties stipulated to new sentencing memorandum briefing schedule. The government’s opposition is due 11/15/2011 and defense reply is due 11/28/2011. (gxh) (Entered: 11/09/2011)

    Comments : Leave a Comment »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases
    More VRS cases sentencing rescheduled
    21 10 2011

    Three days ago, the court rescheduled 6 defendants’ sentencing dates (Azrelyant, Finkle, Strusa and Zfati, Iskandarova, Holovkin).

    New sentencing schedule (all times Eastern) is now:

    John Yeh, Joseph Yeh: November 30, 2011 at 9:30am
    Rubeck, Frankel: November 30, 2011 at 10am
    Mowl, Tropp: December 14, 2011 at 10am
    Hawkins, L.Berke: December 19, 2011 at 10am
    D. Berke, Goetz, Simmons: January 19, 2012 at 10am
    Azrelyant, Finkle, Strusa: January 30, 2012 at 10am
    Pena: January 31, 2012 at 9:30am
    Zfati, Iskandarova, Holovkin: February 23, 2012 at 10am
    Buscaron, Fernandez: February 28, 2012 at 10am
    Velasquez Verson, Thompson: April 2, 2012 at 10am

    Still possible the court might reschedule again in the future so sit tight and see see.

    Also, we are about six weeks away from the first sentencing hearings for four defendants (November 30, 2011). I think each hearing will be short, possibly 15-20 minutes?

    The judge offers defendants a chance to speak before the judge imposes a sentence — last chance for defendants to apologize or throw themselves at the mercy of the court.

    After the judge imposes the sentence, he will usually make some comments that explains some of the reasons why they were sentenced that way (lightly, harshly, etc).

    Good experience to attend a federal court sentencing hearing if you’ve never been to one. There will be interpreters for the defendants but you can usually see the interpreters signing from the public seating area so you wouldn’t be lost following the hearing.

    If you attend a sentencing, dress nicely, don’t bring phone/pager/laptop/camera into the courtroom, and keep eyes open and learn about how the American justice system works at the federal level.

    I am unable to attend any sentencing hearing in person due to other commitments but will continue to read public documents filed online at the court’s website and post information here.

    Comments : 5 Comments »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases
    Court rescheduled sentencing hearings again
    21 09 2011

    No surprise — expected it. Yesterday, the court rescheduled 3 more sentencing hearings.

    D. Berke, Goetz, Simmons are now scheduled for January 19, 2012 at 10am.

    So the current sentencing schedule is (all times Eastern):

    John Yeh, Joseph Yeh: November 30, 2011 at 9:30am
    Rubeck, Frankel: November 30, 2011 at 10am
    Mowl, Tropp: December 14, 2011 at 10am
    Azrelyant, Finkle, Strusa, Hawkins, L.Berke: December 19, 2011 at 10am
    D. Berke, Goetz, Simmons January 19, 2012 at 10am
    Zfati, Iskandarova, Holovkin: January 30, 2012 at 10am
    Pena: January 31, 2012 at 9:30am
    Buscaron, Fernandez: February 28, 2012 at 10am
    Velasquez Verson, Thompson: April 2, 2012 at 10am

    The court possibly may have rescheduled the three defedants so they could sentence the Yehs first. Nothing is set in stone or finalized until the morning of each hearing when they actually do it. So still possible for more scheduling changes in the future. See see.

    Comments : 3 Comments »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases
    Doris Martinez agreed to plead guilty
    13 09 2011

    Doris Martinez’s trial was scheduled for September 19, 2011. But on September 12, her lawyer submitted a change of plea to guilty after they were able to reach a plea agreement with the prosecutors. I know her lawyer said a while ago that plea negotiations failed but it sounds like he kept trying anyway because of the risk for a stiffer sentence for his client if convicted at trial.

    Martinez’s plea agreement says her actions caused a loss of between $2.5 million to $7 million, and requires her to allow the government to seize ill-gotten money or assets.

    The court has not officially approved the plea agreement or set up a change of plea hearing but that usually is a mere formality. Judge Pisano has not rejected any defendant’s plea agreement or change of plea so far in any of the cases. The plea agreements are very much similar to each other.

    That leaves only one more defendant to either plead guilty or go to trial: Viable, Inc. No date has been scheduled for that from what I can see in public court records.

    Still no information on when Hutchinson and Bacallao’s sentencing dates are, and no other new news in any of the VRS cases lately.

    Unless the court reschedules, the first few sentencing hearings (D. Berke, Goetz, Simmons) will be on November 10, 2011. Yehs and Rubeck, Frankel will be on November 30, 2011.

    Comments : Leave a Comment »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases


    Important VRS case information
    Blog comment policy
    BOP (federal prison) inmate locator
    Case numbers and defendants
    How to get public court records
    Sentenced to…
    Upcoming sentencing hearing schedule
    VRS case documents
    Interesting stuff I found
    Cornell Law School website for looking up federal law and rules
    FBI Flash notice form
    FBI NCIC national crime information computer system
    Judge Pisano’s Wikipedia entry
    PACER login for NJ (federal) District Court documents
    U.S. Dept of Justice announcement of arrests
    You have the right to remain silent…

  36. Pre-Sentencing Report is VERY important!
    27 07 2011

    The Pre-Sentencing Report (PSR) is a special document prepared by Pre-Trial Services (PTS) before sentencing but after a defendant has been convicted in federal court.

    There are two versions of the PSR: one is given to the defendant and his/her lawyer to review for errors. The other version is the same thing but with secret recommendations for sentencing length and conditions, given to the judge to consider. The prosecutor also reviews the PSR as well.

    The judge uses the PSR as a major weight for deciding the defendant’s sentence. Judge Pisano can still add harsher consequences or impose lesser sanctions, but the PSR is a major starting point.

    Also, if a defendant is sent to federal prison, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) uses this document to determine where to place the defendant, what kind of medical needs he/she has (if any), special needs, religious needs, if counseling is required, if the defendant is eligible for a special program that removes one year of a prison sentence if the PSR says the defendant has a known susbstance abuse issue and willingly participates in a rehabilitation program in prison.

    NOTE: I’m not saying John Yeh will be sentenced to prison — only Judge Pisano knows — but I am explaining how it could affect prison, probation, and other situations. Even if the defendant is not sent to prison, the PSR still does a lot to determine probation rules and any other penalties (for example: huge fines, asset seizure, etc).

    It is the MOST important single document for a convicted federal defendant! It is like his or her special ‘bible’ for “the system”.

    John Yeh’s lawyer, Paul Kemp, just filed a request for an extension of the comment period to August 8 because his PSR is 82 pages long and they got it at the very last minute. Not enough time to review and submit corrections prior to the original sentencing date of July 27, 2011 (today).

    That’s why his sentencing hearing was moved to September 2011; the prosecution agreed to the defendant’s request so Judge Pisano is likely to sign an order allowing this scheduling change.

    Once the court approves the final version (including corrections), the defendant generally cannot make any further changes to it. So there is only ONE chance to get it right.

    No, I have not seen the PSR. It is generally a confidential document read only by the parties that needs to know — the judge, PTS, prosecution, defendant (and his/her lawyers). I know it is 82 pages long because Paul Kemp mentioned that number in the public court filing issued today.

    No other significant case updates recently.

  37. I’m NOT out to get your friend!
    1 07 2011

    I would like to explain a few things. I am NOT interested in editorializing about good or bad things (for most part) regarding the Viable VRS fraud cases. I believe everyone is already aware about the allegations (and has opinions) so I don’t feel it’s necessary to rehash them on my blog.

    I believe some things should remain private and I have deliberately suppressed certain information that I felt were too personal or was not relevant for my blog. So, no, this is not a gossip column — sorry to disappoint some people. 🙂

    I am not making a judgement, for the most part. I generally believe that should remain with the defendants (if pleading guilty) or with the jury and Judge Joel A. Pisano (if taking it to trial).

    I do not have a vendetta against John Yeh or any of the other 26 defendants. Again, my only interest is in showing how the federal court system process works and explaining them to the Deaf community. I get tired when hearies accuse Deafies of being ignorant and ill-informed, so I am doing my part to make sure we are well-educated as a public service to the Deaf community.

    Nothing to do with the crab theory. Who knows, I could potentially end up in court some day as a defendant facing some future charges for totally unrelated things — and guaranteed, the community would discuss my case in public, full of facts and mistaken rumors. That’s just how it works. I know firsthand because I already went through an ordeal like that once, many years ago. My fault, so I got to deal with the consequences. Not complaining. Accept, deal, move on.

    That’s it: my agenda is informing and educating. I am sorry if some people feel I am being prejudicial to certain defendants — that is not my intention. That is why I have been careful to write about the VRS case events in a neutral tone and based on facts that can be publically checked and verified. I would be happy to explain or show where I got any of my public information if you are curious about specific things.

    I already published a step-by-step post on how to access federal PACER public information (court documents) if you want to see where I am getting the raw information. I already paid several hundred dollars and many hours of my time over 2 years reading ALL the available public court documents and doing additional research, all for YOUR benefit!

    My blog is not a place to discuss guilt or innocence. That is best saved for your blog or other people’s blogs — or better yet, in court by lawyers. The simple fact is:

    23 defendants already pleaded guilty. No way they are innocent because they told the judge under oath that, yes, they were guilty.
    1 defendant was convicted by a jury after a trial.
    1 defendant pleaded guilty but will likely have charges dropped in December.
    2 defendants could still be innocent; they will go to trial soon (separate trials). See see…

    So it is hard to argue 25 of 27 defendants were innocent. 2 of 27 — maybe; we’ll see what happens at trial in the next few months. Remember, considered innocent unless either pleaded guilty or convicted at trial by a jury.

    The defendants might personally be great people, but I am not here to make that kind of judgement. Their families and friends will know of the good things they did in their lives, and some people will criticize the defendants. That’s just how life works. I’m not getting involved in judging people. You can do that somewhere else if you really want to discuss defendants being innocent or guilty.

    I have not posted in a few days because no significant case updates has occurred. But I will post again when something happens that’s noteworthy.

    I plan to end blogging about the VRS cases when sentencing and any appeals are fully exhausted. That will not happen until perhaps sometime next year, but this should become less frequent as each convicted defendant is sentenced every few weeks between July 27, 2011 and April 2, 2012.

    Thanks for understanding. Keep on asking any on-topic questions regarding the cases or processes, and I’ll try my best to answer them.

  38. John Yeh ordered released from jail
    23 06 2011

    Today, federal Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert ordered Yeh to be released from jail with the original bond conditions PLUS two new ones after both sides agreed to the release conditions:

    1) Yeh must provide a full accounting (list) of all assets owned by Viable to the prosecutors by Monday July 5.

    2) Yeh must get permission from the prosecutors BEFORE doing anything with assets valued at $500 or greater or any assets belonging to Viable.

    I suspect these two new rules has something to do with avoiding the whole state charges situation Yeh was in (before they were dismissed) for the future.

    I do not know exactly when he will be released from jail because it takes a while to process the paperwork by jail staff for release. It could be today… it could be tomorrow… but it is going to be very soon, if not already done by now.

    To read the release order (it’s very short), click here: yeh-release-terms

  39. False information about John Yeh sentence
    22 06 2011

    Last month, someone claimed to have information “from a reliable source” that John Yeh would be serving 18 years in prison due to 3 years on each of 6 charges, served consecutively. Not so.

    Yeh’s plea agreement, signed by himself, his lawyer, and the federal prosecutor says the government will recommend up to 3 years of federal probation for only ONE charge — the other 5 were dropped.

    “Supervised release” means federal probation (no prison). The agreement also says he cannot appeal, agrees to restitution (paying back money) and forfeiture (gov’t seizes his assets) so the government can try to recover some of the money lost in the fraud. Yeh still can get a prison term.

    Proof? Read the plea agreement filed in court last year here: yeh-plea-agreement

    Look at the last paragraph on first page. It says: “[…] the Government will move to dismiss Counts 1-3 and 5-6 of the indictment.” (That leaves only count #4, which he will be sentenced for.)

    Third paragraph on second page says: “[…] (2) must order the defendant to pay restitution […]” and “[…] (5) must order forfeiture […]“. Also says: “[…] (6) may require the defendant to serve a term of supervised release of not more than three years […]“

    On fourth page, it says: “[…] the defendant waive certain rights to file an appeal […] after sentencing […]“

    The prosecutor’s signature is on page 5 and Yeh’s (and his lawyer’s) signature is on page 6. It is a legally binding agreement between the two sides, but the judge still has the final say: he still could revise the sentence and send Yeh to prison anyway.

    But most of the time, the judge will follow the plea agreement terms for sentencing. We won’t know for sure what sentence Yeh will receive until his sentencing by Judge Pisano on July 27, 2011. The prosecutor cannot promise a specific sentence, only merely recommend it to the judge who will take it under consideration.

    UPDATE: a blogger made a comment (thanks!), pointing out that imprisonment is still a possibility. Supervised release would occur AFTER any imprisonment sentence. Frankly, if you’ve been involved in stealing tens? of millions of dollars from the federal government as a ringleader, it’s a pretty good bet jail time is very possible.

    The vlogger who reported the 18 year sentence was probably trying to be helpful, but his source seems to be unreliable if it was not Judge Pisano himself. 🙂

  40. John Yeh: state charges dropped, release from jail soon
    21 06 2011

    Interesting news from court today.

    State of Maryland dropped all state charges against John Yeh because he owns the property alleged to have been stolen and they felt they couldn’t prove theft.

    Federal Magistrate Judge Arpert earlier said that if Maryland drops charges, he will allow John Yeh to leave jail with the same original bond conditions. Since Maryland dropped charges, Yeh’s lawyer Paul Kemp filed a motion in federal district court to have John Yeh’s bond status re-reviewed to get him out of jail.

    Yeh is still at risk of being sent to federal prison at or after his sentencing on July 23 27, 2011. (It was originally set for July 27, but the court documents Kemp filed today says July 23.)

    UPDATE: I suspect July 23 is a simple error since that’s a Saturday! 🙂 So I will stick with the July 27 date.

    Also, I wanted to clarify that Yeh has NOT left jail yet. He needs to wait until Judge Arpert schedules a bond review hearing where Judge Arpert can ask the prosecution if they object. (The prosecution is not expected to object.) Then Judge Arpert can make it official, to have Yeh released from jail. This is expected to occur sometime very soon.

    UPDATE #2: If you want to see Yeh’s lawyer Paul Kemp’s document filed with federal court and the email from the Maryland state prosecutor announcing dropping of state charges, click here: yeh-MD-charges-dropped.

  41. FBI Flash notice (How John Yeh ended up in jail)
    18 06 2011

    When the VRS fraud defendants were arrested in 2009, Magistrate Judge Arpert agreed to let them out on bail if they agreed to be supervised by Pre-Trial Services (PTS). PTS is basically like probation/parole supervision, but only for prior to sentencing.

    PTS had rules: no new arrests, no unauthorized travel, and other conditions. They also required the defendants to agree to fill out FBI form I-12, better known as a FBI Flash notice. Defendant doesn’t agree? Then defendant gets to sit in jail instead. Their choice. Everybody agreed to fill out the I-12 so they could stay out of jail while waiting for trial or sentencing.

    If a defendant is arrested for any reason (state or federal charges, it doesn’t matter), when the arrest record is put into the FBI’s national crime computer system called the NCIC (National Crime Information Center), the FBI will notify interested agencies such as PTS about the arrest.

    That way, a defendant can’t simply hide the arrest from PTS. Well, when John Yeh was arrested on Maryland state charges a few months ago, and was added to the NCIC, it notified PTS. PTS then asked Judge Arpert to set up a bail revocation hearing. Yeh showed up then in a brief 20 minute hearing, was thrown in jail without bail due to his arrest on state charges (which violated his pre-trial supervision rules).

    You can see what a FBI I-12 Flash notice form looks like by clicking here.

    States puts their arrest information into the NCIC. When you are stopped by police (for example: pulled over for speeding), the first thing police will do is search for you in the NCIC system to see if you have any outstanding warrants for your arrest or have other information they need to know about you. They do this check before they even step out of the police car for the police officer’s safety. (Why? If the NCIC says you are a dangerous fugitive, a single police officer may stay in their car and immediately call for backup units to avoid being shot.)

    If you are arrested, the information will go to both the local law enforcement agency (arresting agency, state database, etc.) AND into the NCIC. Once it is in the NCIC, it usually stays there forever unless the agency who added the NCIC record later removes it.

    The NCIC also has information on stolen property, guns, other stolen stuff, fugitives, immigration violations, suspected terrorists, protection orders, and many other things. It helps law enforcement do their jobs safely, protect people, and recover stolen property.

    For more information on the NCIC, click here.

  42. How were the VRS fraud cases born in the federal court system?
    8 06 2011

    A possible crime is committed by a defendant (or by many).

    This comes to attention of the federal authorities.

    Authorities then starts an initial investigation to figure out basic facts, often jointly with other federal agencies. This may involve “interviews” with suspects (who are not yet officially accused of wrongdoing).

    Once completed, the initial investigation information is given to the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) to decide if they want to prosecute the case.

    If the AUSA decides it is worth prosecuting, then (not always but sometimes filed first) the AUSA files a sworn complaint with a federal judge with basic case facts and supporting evidence, explaining what crime happened, what laws were broken. The judge then decides if there is sufficient reasonable evidence to issue an arrest warrant.

    Sometimes the AUSA sends information to a federal grand jury at a secret indictment hearing and asks them to indict (officially accuse) the defendant if they believe the evidence is strong. At least 12 grand jury members MUST vote to indict. This is usually sealed to avoid notifying defendants they are about to be prosecuted and flee the country.

    If a grand jury indictment is issued (which I think occurred in this case, but I will have to recheck early case documents again), the AUSA can add this to the complaint presented to the judge.

    Well, once the judge issues an arrest warrant, federal law enforcement agents goes and picks up the defendants. This happened on November 19, 2009 with a national round-up of 26 defendants. (The 27th is a company, not a human being that can be handcuffed! 🙂 )

    The VRS fraud defendants’ indictment and arrest warrants were sealed until after the FBI agents and USPIS inspectors picked them up to maintain surprise. A few days later, the documents were unsealed and I saw them on PACER (CM/ECF document system). Sealing documents is sometimes done for other reasons such as confidential issues or to prevent harm to a witness.

    Within a day or two, the defendants makes their first appearance in front of a federal magistrate judge for a detention hearing. The judge decides if the defendant is not a high flee risk (or does not involve a sexual or violent crime) and can be released. The judge also determines amount of bail or bond and conditions the defendants must follow.

    This initial appearance can also include the arraignment where the judge reads out the charge(s) against the defendants and explains some basic things to them so they understand what they are accused of and their important legal options.

    Now the case gets underway in the court. For many defendants, this process (starting here) takes at least one year, sometimes more, to go to trial. There is a lot of back-and-forth motions (requests) filed by defense attorneys and prosecutors. The judge acts as a referee to decide if a motion will be granted or denied.

    For example, a defense lawyer may file a motion asking for the court’s permission to let a defendant take a holiday with his or her family at a specific place on a specific date(s). If the AUSA already agreed to this privately, the AUSA will say “Your Honor, no objections to the motion.” The judge will usually agree with the motion if it is reasonable and straightforward, like these simple requests.

    Most motions filed by defense lawyers were agreed to by the prosecutors and signed by the judge because they were about simple, routine matters like travel.

    What happens if the prosecutors objects? Well, the judge can then either hold a hearing to hear more from both sides before making his decision. Or maybe the judge says a hearing is not necessary because he already has all information in documents that he needs to make a decision.

    Other more significant kinds of motions involves motions to suppress evidence – blocking the prosecutor from introducing it into the case against the defendant. Or a motion for discovery to get a copy of the government’s evidence against the defendant.

    Now what? The defendant, with advice of his or her lawyer, will have to decide if they want to fight it by going to trial or try to negotiate a plea with reduced consequences.

    If everyone agrees to a guilty plea then the defendant signs a plea agreement with the prosecutors, presents it to the judge at a change of plea hearing. The judge asks the defendant if it was because they were truly guilty and not because being pressured, and if the facts were correct? If the defendant says yes, and the judge agrees with the negotiated consequences, he will approve it. Usually you can’t appeal a guilty plea.

    If the defendant prefers to go to trial and see if his luck is good, then eventually the judge, defense lawyer, and the AUSA will have a pre-trial conference. It’s a meeting where the two sides agrees on what facts they both agree with — judge then removes these agreed-upon legal issues from the trial.

    The trial is only to discuss issues that both sides disagree with. This saves time and lets the jury (or judge) focus on what are the important issues.

    Then the trial starts. Both sides makes their opening statement,, presents evidence and any witnesses, a closing statement and rebuttal, then lets the jury decide (if it was a jury trial. The defendant has a right to request a jury trial if he prefers otherwise the judge will decide if guilty or not guilty).

    After the trial, the defendant has 10 days to file an appeal with the appropriate federal appellate court. If they do not appeal within this time, then they can’t appeal to anyone in the future (for this case). I don’t remember seeing any documents saying Pena appealed to the 3rd Circuit appellate court so I think he’s stuck with the conviction. Viable hasn’t had their trial yet so we’ll see what happens.

    That’s basically how a federal case is born and grows through the federal court system. 🙂 It can be an enormously expensive legal bill and is usually at least 1-2 years of intense mental and physical strain for the defendant and their loved ones.

  43. Case Update #2 (Sentencing coming soon!)
    6 06 2011

    An exact date has not yet been scheduled, but one of the defendants’ lawyers mentioned in a court document today that they expected sentencing to happen sometime in August 2011.

    UPDATE: I have been informed that John Yeh’s sentencing in the federal case is scheduled for Wednesday July 27, 2011 in Trenton, NJ. I have not seen this in filed court documents in that case so far but a source connected to Mr. Yeh confirmed that, and it appears to be legitimate.

    UPDATE #2: Correction — I did see Mr. Yeh’s sentencing noted in a court document filed on March 25, 2011. It says sentencing was set for July 27, 2011 sometime between 9am and 3pm in Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in Trenton. I had not mentioned this earlier because for about one year, sentencing has been repeatedly postponed in all VRS fraud cases so I could not be sure this was it for real this time. But since the source with close knowledge of Mr. Yeh confirmed it, I think it’s a done deal.

    We’re almost at the end of the whole situation. My impression is the Court may sentence all convicted defendants at the same time for reasons of efficiency and cost. Excluding Kathleen Valle who is on Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) and anyone that might be found to be not guilty in the last two cases left.

    Intriguingly, the lawyer misspelled the federal prosecutor’s last name (which has only four letters in it) and also called him ADA (Assistant District Attorney).

    In federal district court, the prosecutors are usually the AUSA (Assistant U.S. Attorney) or in relatively rare cases, the U.S. attorney representing the United States federal government.

    The lawyer then called him ASA… not quite… the prosecutor is not representing a state. It’s AUSA. Oops?

    The lawyer in question may want to consider correcting his errors before it steams the prosecutor. 🙂 It’s minor stuff, but one really doesn’t want to be making multiple preventable mistakes in a federal case.

  44. The luckiest defendant in the nation? Kathleen Valle
    5 06 2011

    She got the BIGGEST break when Pre-Trial Services (PTS), Judge Pisano, and prosecutors agreed to allow her to apply for Pre-Trial Diversion (PTD) which results in all charges being dismissed if you complete PTD successfully.

    Do you know how rare that is? According to a U.S. federal court newsletter issued last June:

    “Of the 98,244 pretrial services cases activated nationwide in FY2008, 1,426 were PTD cases.”

    That’s right! Only 1.4% of all federal cases in 2008 in the entire nation qualified for PTD!!!! The only other way to get charges off is to apply for a pardon by the President of the United States of America.

    That’s EVEN more rare. In President Obama’s first 2 1/2 years, he has approved only 9 pardons in a nation with over 300 million people! The average President of the United States may issue only a few hundred pardons during their presidential career. There are literally millions of convicted federal felons so the odds of getting a pardon is just about impossible.

    Most of them also had to wait many years before applying to prove to the USDOJ (which filters pardon applications before passing credible ones to the White House for further review) the defendant is truly a rehabilitated person. So Kathleen Valle is one of the luckiest people in the world for getting PTD.

    Now she just cannot afford to be arrested for any reason between now and end of PTD, and must fully comply with all terms of the PTD agreement (which includes testifying against others if a VRS fraud case goes to trial). But I think she’ll be fine and successfully complete PTD — only has to live with PTD for six months, with it ending in early November and then a court hearing in early December to officially dismiss all charges.

    In the ’60s and the ’70s, there was a big push to use the court system to rehabilitate a lot of first-time offenders for non-violent crimes. So PTD was much more commonly given out then. But ever since Congress shifted to being tough on convicted federal felons, PTD has almost disappeared as a common option for sentencing.

    Further reinforced by related things such as Congress’s 1994 update of the Crime Act where states would get more federal funding only if they passed state laws to force imprisoned felons to serve at least 85% of their sentence — this is called ‘Truth In Sentencing’. 35 states and the District of Columbia has adopted this stricter federal standard.

    In other words, getting tough on convicted felons. Longer prison stays, fewer PTD offers. Sounds good on paper but some states are struggling to finance prisons’ operational needs and finance building more prisons to hold a larger inmate population. It’s a conversation that continues to this day between state residents, states, and Congress. I only wanted to provide the background information; that is all.

  45. How do I “read” the case numbers?
    5 06 2011

    3:09-cr-00859-JAP is for all 3 Deaf Studio 29 defendants
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-1 is for Marc Velasquez Verson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-2 is for Ellen Thompson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-3 is for Doris Martinez

    What the above means is:

    3: is 3rd Circuit federal district court. The 3rd Circuit is responsible for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware federal district courts. You can see this from a cool national map showing various circuits.

    09- means the case was filed in that specific circuit in year 2009.

    cr- means it’s a criminal case. Civil case (not criminal) would be cv- and bankruptcy cases would be bk-.

    00859- means it was the 859th case filed in that circuit that year. Whew! Large caseload!

    JAP- is the initials of the District Judge responsible for the case: Judge Joel A. Pisano.

    If it has a number at the end such as -1 or -2 (etc…), then it refers to a SPECIFIC defendant. If no number at the end, then the case refers to ALL defendants.

    For example, -JAP means all 3 defendants, but -JAP-2 means only the case involving Ellen Thompson.

    At the district court’s CM/ECF document system, I can bring up all information (including public documents) about a case just by specifying a shortcut: 3:9-859 instead of having to type out the whole case number.

    Hope this helps remove some of the mystery about the federal court system. 🙂

  46. Who are the key people involved in the federal cases?
    5 06 2011

    You already know about the defendants. But who else has been involved?

    Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents investigating the cases before charges were brought. This also included the interviews (or as most people call it, interrogations) of suspects.

    The case unfolded after someone brought to the FCC’s attention about reimbursement payment discrepancies (they were getting unusually large all of a sudden) involving VRS companies and their contractors. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) was involved in investigating this unusual discrepancy, coordinating with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) since there were allegations of mail fraud involved, and the FBI.

    In fact, the arrests on November 19, 2009 nationally was done by teams of FBI agents and USPIS inspectors.

    Each federal agency has their own OIG which has the authority to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at their agency without the agency having the authority to suppress it. It’s a very useful and transparent investigative mechanism as it makes any occasional agency cover-ups rare (though a cover-up didn’t happen here as the FCC was fully committed to assist with prosecution of the defendants).

    U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ or USDOJ), Criminal Division, Fraud Section in Washington, D.C. is the office where the prosecutors work.

    Several different interpreters but a name that pops up often is Anna Steckel who is a Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID)-certified CSC and SC:L interpreter. In other words, the defendants were provided quality interpreting services, which makes it harder for any successful claim of not understanding the judicial proceedings.

    The 27 defendants’ lawyers. I’m not going to list them because many defendants has had at least one lawyer change during the cases. I think all except for two? defendants (John Yeh and Viable, Inc. separately) requested the court assign them a lawyer due to declaring personal bankruptcy. This is allowed by the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), so court-ordered public defender lawyers are often called CJA appointments.

    CJA lawyers are licensed to practice law in their state’s federal district court and are usually private lawyers at law firms that applied to accept CJA cases during a two year rotation period at rates the court set for their fees.

    The prosecutors. Their boss is Hank Bond Walthers — I saw his name and signature on various court documents. The original lead prosecutor was Brigham Q. Cannon who left the DOJ in early 2011 to go into private practice at a legal firm in Washington, D.C. His replacement lead prosecutor was Robert Zink. Occasionally the lead prosecutor can’t make it so another prosecutor takes their place for a court hearing or handling documents.

    The magistrate judge, which is a judge that takes care of routine matters such as the initial arraignment (where charges are read out), setting bond and bond conditions (restrictions, amount of bond, etc). The MJ clears up the routine paperwork so that the “real” judge, the federal District Judge can focus on more substantial things related to the case.

    The MJ is a judge that is hired by the DJ and is paid from the DJ’s office budget. The DJ is a judge nominated by the President of the United States of America and then confirmed by the Senate after the Senate Judiciary Committee has vetted them first.

    The DJ has the job for life unless he or she resigns or is impeached and removed by Congress (which has happened a few times). That’s how Congress fires really bad federal judges, but it’s not a real problem because in U.S. history, only 15 federal district judges has ever been impeached by Congress (the House of Representatives) and only 9 has been removed from office by the Senate.

    Magistrate Judge in New Jersey: Douglas E. Arpert.

    District Judge in New Jersey: Joel A. Pisano. He is the “big cheese” in this entire situation and acts as a referee between the prosecutors and the defense counsel to ensure both sides are treated fairly.

    Judge Pisano’s court deputy: Dana Sledge, who helps carry out the Judge’s orders and assists with his requests and needs.

    Court reporter: Joanne M. Caruso. There are two ways to get a court transcript: show up at the courthouse in Trenton, NJ and request to view the public court documents for the cases at no charge. Or you can contact Caruso and pay her directly for a copy of the transcripts at maybe $3-$4 per page? Can get expensive fast!

    The U.S. Marshals Service who made arrangements for transportation of one of the defendants from her home in Florida to attend court in New Jersey for the change of plea (to guilty) hearing. Judge Pisano approved payment of the USMS transportation since the defendant said she was indigent and could not afford the costs of getting to court. The USMS did not feel it was necessary to actually have marshals accompany the defendant as it was a voluntary ‘surrender’ planned in advance by all parties involved.

    Pre-Trial Services are the people who each defendant is required to report to and follow their bail restrictions. PTS keeps an eye on each defendant and can report any bail violation to the MJ who can schedule a bail violation hearing and potentially throw the defendant in jail. That has already happened, with John Yeh due to his arrest on Maryland state charges of serious theft involving things valued between $10,000 to $100,000.

    After either a guilty plea or conviction at trial, PTS are the people who does a background investigation into each defendant and prepares the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT Pre-Sentencing Report (PSR) with recommendations about punishment to the judge. The judge still makes the final decision on the consequences.

    Comments : Leave a Comment »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases
    Case Update #1
    5 06 2011

    Basic information about all the cases:

    3:09-cr-00856-JAP is for all 5 Viable defendants
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-1 is for John T.C. Yeh
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-2 is for Joseph Yeh
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-3 is for Anthony Mowl
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-4 is for Donald Tropp
    3:09-cr-00856-JAP-5 is for Viable Communications, Inc.

    Summary: all except for Viable has pleaded guilty. Viable is likely to go to trial very soon.

    3:09-cr-00857-JAP is for all 5 Master/KL/Mascom defendants
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-1 is for Kim E. Hawkins
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-2 is for Larry Berke
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-3 is for Dary Berke
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-4 is for Lisa Goetz
    3:09-cr-00857-JAP-5 is for David Simmons

    Summary: all has pleaded guilty.

    3:09-cr-00811-JAP is for all 6 DHIS defendants
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-1 is for Irma Azrelyant
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-2 is for Joshua Finkle
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-3 is for Nathan Zfati
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-4 is for Oksana Strusa
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-5 is for Alfia Iskandarova
    3:09-cr-00811-JAP-6 is for Hennadii Holovkin

    Summary: all has pleaded guilty.

    3:09-cr-00810-JAP is for all 5 ICSD defendants
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-1 is for Yosbel Buscaron
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-2 is for Lazaro Fernandez
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-3 is for Wanda Hutchinson
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-4 is for Jessica Bacallao
    3:09-cr-00810-JAP-5 is for Kathleen Valle

    Summary: all has pleaded guilty but Kathleen Valle is the only defendant to get a lucky break: pre-trial diversion. If she completes 6 months of PTD then all charges against her will be dropped at a December 5, 2011 court hearing.

    3:09-cr-00858-JAP is for all 3 Viable-Arizona defendants
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-1 is for Ben Pena
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-2 is for Zach Rubeck
    3:09-cr-00858-JAP-3 is for Tamara Frankel

    Summary: all except for Ben Pena has pleaded guilty. Pena chose to go to trial and was convicted by the jury.

    3:09-cr-00859-JAP is for all 3 Deaf Studio 29 defendants
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-1 is for Marc Velasquez Verson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-2 is for Ellen Thompson
    3:09-cr-00859-JAP-3 is for Doris Martinez

    Summary: all except for Doris Martinez has pleaded guilty. Martinez’s trial is scheduled for Monday June 6, 2011 unless either she puts in a last minute guilty plea or her lawyer (or the prosecutors) requests a delay in the trial to allow for more time with plea negotiations.


    Another way of looking at it:

    – 23 defendants pleaded guilty to date
    – 1 defendant to have charges dropped by end of year (Valle)
    – 1 defendant convicted at trial (Pena)
    – 1 defendant still in plea negotiations with prosecutors (Martinez)
    – 1 defendant going to trial (Viable)

    Comments : Leave a Comment »

    Categories : Viable VRS fraud cases
    Hello! Hallo! Dia duit! Sholem aleikhem! Hola! Privet!
    5 06 2011

    The Eagle has landed!

    Well… no. 🙂 But wanted to say hi before I jump into the large VRS fraud cases. I’ve been reading all public federal court papers on all cases ever since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrests in November 2009.

    Why, oh why, am I writing about the cases? Because 99.9% of people have never seen how a federal case is born and then develop in federal court. So the entire process is mysterious to most people, but I have a better understanding thanks to following the SCO cases on Groklaw.com for years. Let’s see if maybe I can help make the mystery go *poof*! 🙂

    FYI: I knew one of the defendants well but haven’t talked to this person in 15 years. So I believe I can be neutral and fair, and wish this individual (and others) the best of luck. I am NOT involved in any of the cases and do not have any special access, only public court documents from the PACER federal court document clearinghouse system that anyone can download.

    My #1 rule is simple: facts only, no rumors nor innuendo. Gonna stick to the facts with some basic analysis and explanations because I don’t want to be sued by 27 lawyers for defamation or libel. 🙂

    Enough babbling! Onwards! 🙂

  47. I am going to set the fact with thing. Joshua and Irma premediated everything happen in there office. Second of all justice have done nothing if you are ask me. They stole the tax payers $$$$. Home confinement is a gift because they have freedom to stay home. They should seize all their asset. Trust me they hidden all there $$$. Irma bought a condo in Jersey City. They didnt hurt her fiancially because she own property in Israel and Joshua hide his $ under his parent or his wife parent name.

    I truly want them to suffer because they done more harm to others than good to others. Irma is a compulsive liar that make me want to throw up. I still wonder why they never brought Jason Yeh to court. I think Judge Pisano need to wake up and be realistic that these deaf people shouldn’t be given freedom for the crime they committed.

    Sincerely yours,

    Shaka Zulu

  48. A bit off topic, but I’ll bite. No, coding isn’t required for WP blogs. I’d suggest starting out by keeping it simple then adding features later. No need to overwhelm yourself right out of the gate. Good luck.

  49. Heya! I hope you do not mind but I decided to post your weblog: http://lexiecannes.
    wordpress.com/2012/05/30/clercjr-vrs-fraud-archives/ to my online
    directory website. I used, “[UPDATE] clercjr” as your weblog title.
    I hope this is alright with you. However, if you’d like me to change the title or remove it completely, e-mail me at tysonzhang@t-online.de. Thanks.

  50. The trial was a joke. Nothing got resolve from the deaf cronies who stole the money. The judge was a total joke and he waste of my time going to trial. Irma and Joshua didn’t lose the right to service the deaf community. I work for both of these asshole. I told them they will face karma. I have no faith in our government. They should never get social security or be allow to service the deaf community.

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