Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge William F. Jung has sentenced Ralph Puglisi (60, Palm Harbor) to 10 years in federal prison for mail fraud. As part of his sentence, the court also ordered Puglisi to pay full restitution in the amount of $12,860,744.07 to the University of South Florida and entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $12,800,000, the proceeds of his mail fraud scheme. Puglisi had pleaded guilty on August 26, 2021.

According to court documents, Puglisi was employed as an accounting manager for the University of South Florida’s University Medical Services Association (UMSA). In this position, he was involved in overseeing the administration of UMSA’s credit cards. Beginning in or around June 2014, and continuing through November 2019, Puglisi defrauded UMSA by using several of that entity’s credit cards to make $12,860,744.07 in unauthorized charges for his own benefit, including rent payments, extensive home renovations, travel, chartered yachts, and contributions to women affiliated with an interactive adult website. Puglisi exploited his position as accounting manager to make false journal entries in records that created the illusion that his charges were related to UMSA’s business operations.

This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay G. Trezevant and Julie Simonsen.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Alexander M.M. Uballez, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, announced that Evan Haceesa was charged with murder in Indian Country. Haceesa, 30, of Nageezi, New Mexico, and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, appeared for a preliminary and detention hearing on Sept. 23 and will remain in custody pending trial, which has not been scheduled.

As alleged in a criminal complaint, on Aug. 28, Haceesa attacked his girlfriend, identified as Jane Doe, at his residence in Nageezi on the Navajo Nation. Haceesa allegedly punched Jane Doe in the face until she lost consciousness and kicked her several times. Upon arriving at the home, a Navajo Police Department officer responding to a report of domestic violence found the victim unclothed and unresponsive, lying in a wheelbarrow outside the house.

Jane Doe was transported to the San Juan Regional Medical Center for treatment. She initially was diagnosed with a fractured nose, bruising, scratches, bowel lacerations and bleeding in the bowels. Computed Tomography (CT) scans revealed blood and air in Jane Doe’s abdomen, a perforated intestine, bleeding around the intestines, a bilateral nose fracture and partially collapsed lungs.

On Sept. 8, Jane Doe died of her injuries.

A complaint is only an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Haceesa faces life in prison.

The Farmington Resident Agency of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Navajo Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Matthew McGinley is prosecuting the case.

# # #

ARIZONA—The FBI Phoenix Field Office wants to educate the public about the dangers of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) swapping by criminals to steal money from virtual currency accounts.

How the scam works—Criminals first identify a victim who is likely to own large amounts of digital currency and obtain their phone number and mobile carrier. They then socially engineer a customer service representative to port the victim’s phone number to a SIM card and phone in their control.

Once they obtain control, they will change the passwords to all accounts (email, cloud storage, and social media accounts) by using the password resets. Criminals can defeat any SMS-based or mobile two-factor authentication on any accounts with control of the victim’s phone number, and then steal the currency.

The FBI suggests these tips to protect you and your digital currency:

  • Protect your personal and financial information. Don’t advertise your phone number, address, or financial assets, including ownership or investment of cryptocurrency, on social media sites.
  • Take precautions giving your mobile account information to representatives over the phone. Verify the call by dialing the customer service line of your mobile carrier or place a note on your account that changes must be done in person.
  • Use strong multi-factor authentication methods such as biometrics, physical security tokens, or standalone authentication applications to access online accounts.
  • Do not store passwords, usernames, or other information for easy login on mobile device applications.

If you believe you are a victim of SIM swapping, contact your mobile carrier, change all passwords, and contact your financial institution. Then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623) 466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

For more information on SIM swapping, visit: https://www.ic3.gov/Media/Y2022/PSA220208

            WASHINGTON – A man from Maine was found guilty in the District of Columbia today of felony and misdemeanor charges for his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach. His actions and the actions of others disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election.

            Kyle Fitzsimons, 39, of Lebanon, Maine, was found guilty of a total of 11 charges, including seven felonies. The verdict, announced today, followed a bench trial that took place in the District of Columbia last month before the Honorable Rudolph Contreras.

            According to the government’s evidence, on Jan. 6, 2021, between 3:45 and 4:30 p.m., Fitzsimons was illegally on the Capitol grounds and among a crowd of rioters confronting law enforcement officers at the tunnel area of the Lower West Terrace of the Capitol Building. He was wearing a white butcher’s jacket and a fur pelt and carrying an unstrung bow. While in that area, Fitzsimons committed five assaults against law enforcement officers over an approximately five- minute span.

            First, Fitzsimons hurled an unstrung bow like a spear at the group of law enforcement officers. The object hit an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in the ballistic helmet and bounced off. Fitzsimons reached for and made forcible contact with an MPD detective immediately before another rioter sprayed him with a chemical agent. Fitzsimons also tried to pull a fallen officer into the mob. A sergeant from the U.S. Capitol Police tried to protect the fallen officer, and Fitzsimons grappled with him, pulling on his shield and shoulder strap, causing injuries to the sergeant’s shoulder that necessitated surgery.

SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Darryl Elliott, age 36, of Sunbury, Pennsylvania, Steven Pierro, age 34, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, and Heather Carper, age 34, of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, were indicted on September 20, 2022, by a federal grand jury and charged with the distribution of controlled substances resulting in death.

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, the indictment charges Elliott, Pierro, and Carper of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine within the Middle District of Pennsylvania, resulting in an overdose death that occurred in Lewisburg, Union County.

The charges stem from a joint investigation involving the FBI in Williamsport, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Sunbury Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and fentanyl.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.

This case was also part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

ATEST Urges California’s Governor to Sign Bill Regulating Foreign Labor Recruitment

Terry FitzPatrick

California has often been a human rights trendsetter, and Governor Gavin Newsom has an opportunity this month to extend safeguards for temporary migrant workers who are too easily exploited in forced labor, debt bondage and other forms of severe labor abuses..

The State Assembly has passed AB 364, which ATEST has endorsed, to broaden protections for foreign workers to include California’s vast agricultural industries. The measure is now on the governor’s desk for signature.

Ensuring that California comprehensively protects temporary migrant workers is imperative because consistent federal oversight and regulations are lacking. Unscrupulous labor recruiters and employers often act with impunity in this underregulated sector. The COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on the importance of immigrant and non-immigrant foreign workers to our economies, especially in agriculture and all along our food supply chains. We cannot deem such workers as “essential” and “heroes”, and then not provide them with protections and safeguards in the workplace and in migration systems. While ATEST continues to work with Congress to enact nationwide protections, action by individual states is vital. 

The governor’s signature can help correct the power imbalance between temporary foreign workers and contractors who bring them into the country. This structural inequity results in extreme labor exploitation, including documented cases of human trafficking.

California can take a major step to provide desperately needed worker protection and set an example for other states to follow.

ATEST is a U.S.-based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. We advocate for lasting solutions to prevent forced labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for victims and empower survivors with tools for recovery.