U.S. Attorney's Office - District of Oregon
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News Releases
U.S. Attorney Statement on the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) - 02/14/19

The decision to withdraw the Portland Police Bureau from the Joint Terrorism Task Force is a mistake that defies logic. It’s disappointing that in spite of the overwhelming evidence presented of JTTF successes in Oregon and across the nation, a majority of the city council chose a politically-expedient broadside against the federal government over the safety and well-being of their constituents. The law enforcement community’s duty and commitment to ensuring public safety and protecting civil rights will not be deterred by the politics of the moment.

-- Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon

Jury Convicts San Diego Man of Traveling to Portland for Sex with Minor - 02/13/19

EUGENE, Ore.—A federal jury found David George Hopkins, 60, of San Diego, California, guilty today for traveling with the intent to engage in sex with a minor and other related charges.

“This case is another example of the extraordinary lengths some will go in an attempt to victimize children,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “It is also an example of the dogged determination of federal law enforcement to intercept individuals who seek to victimize children. I hope this conviction will serve as a warning to would-be child predators who believe they can pursue minors online without consequences.”

“Today’s conviction started with one person who was so concerned that she reported her disturbing interactions with Mr. Hopkins to law enforcement. Her willingness to step forward was critical to our ability to protect children from this predator. I would ask anyone with such information in the future to contact the nearest FBI office or submit tips online at https://tips.fbi.gov,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.

According to court documents and information shared at trial, on June 9, 2017, Hopkins traveled from San Diego to Portland, Oregon believing he would be able to have sex with a 13-year-old girl named Paula along with her mother, Norma, and her mother’s friend, Ana, with whom he had been chatting online. Unbeknownst to Hopkins, he had been chatting with an FBI Special Agent acting as both Norma and Paula, and with a person using the alias Ana.

Hopkins and Ana began chatting online in 2012, and during one of the conversations, Hopkins raised the topic of having sex with a minor female in Peru and sent Ana a photo of what was purportedly him receiving oral sex from a minor.

In February 2017, Hopkins again contacted Ana and they began communicating using Skype and Facebook. In their first few conversations after reconnecting, Hopkins disclosed more details about his sexual relations with a minor in Peru. He also claimed to have had similar illicit contact with a minor in Panama. Hopkins later wrote, “did it bother u i [sic] had sex with young girls?” Hopkins did not present his conduct as a fantasy and Ana did not believe it was.

Concerned by the information shared with her, Ana reported Hopkins to the Eugene Police Department who referred the matter to the FBI. In March 2017, Ana met with an FBI Special Agent and agreed to cooperate with an investigation of Hopkins.

Ana continued chatting with Hopkins and their conversations grew increasingly more detailed and graphic as Hopkins shared information about his claimed past sexual experiences with minors and his desire to continue such behavior. In one conversation, Ana mentioned her fictitious Peruvian friend Norma. Hopkins asked if they could all have sex together. Ana also mentioned that Norma had a daughter named Paula. Hopkins also expressed an interest in having sex with Paula.

Ana told Hopkins that Norma had agreed to let him have sex with Paula. Shortly thereafter, Hopkins began communicating directly with Norma, the FBI Special Agent. The conversation quickly turned sexual and they discussed Hopkins flying to Oregon. In subsequent conversations, Hopkins began asking Norma about having sex with Paula, and, later, began communicating online directly with Paula. Hopkins chatted with Paula about having sex with her, describing in detail what he wanted to do.

In June 2017, Hopkins flew from San Diego to Portland with intent to engage in sexual conduct with Paula. He was met and arrested by the FBI at Portland International Airport upon his arrival. Hopkins claims of abusing children have not been corroborated.

In an indictment returned on June 20, 2018, a federal grand jury in Eugene charged Hopkins with one count each of attempting to use a minor to produce a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, attempting to coerce or entice a minor, traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and transferring of obscene material to a minor.

Hopkins will be sentenced on May 23, 2019, by U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.

This case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Eugene Police Department. It was prosecuted by Amy Potter and Jeff Sweet, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to call the FBI at (503) 224-4181 or submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov.

# # #

Attached Media Files: VERDICT-Hopkins-Final.pdf
Heppner Physician Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion - 02/13/19

PORTLAND, Ore.—On February 12, 2019, Kenneth Wenberg, 72, a medical doctor from Heppner, Oregon, pleaded guilty to a single count of tax evasion. The government demonstrated it could prove Dr. Wenberg failed to report income resulting in a tax loss of approximately $187,000.

According to court documents, Dr. Wenberg created nominee entities to hide assets and income he personally earned while serving as a physician at the Morrow County Health District (MCHD) and Urgent Health Care Center (UHCC) in Heppner. Dr. Wenberg instructed MDHD and UHCC to make payments for services he performed directly to sham entities to avoid income tax liabilities. Dr. Wenberg opened numerous bank accounts and purchased real property in the names of his nominee entities. He also paid for his and his family’s personal living expenses out of the nominee accounts. Dr. Wenberg failed to report his income to the IRS, despite knowing he owed taxes.

Wenberg faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. He will be sentenced on June 6, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez.

As part of the plea agreement, Wenberg has agreed to pay restitution to the IRS in the full amount of the tax loss as determined by the court after sentencing.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and is being prosecuted by Clemon D. Ashley and Seth D. Uram, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and IRS-CI remind Oregonians that tax day is Monday, April 15, 2019. For tips to assist taxpayers in choosing a reputable tax professional or preparing their own taxes, visit the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/help-resources.

# # #

Attached Media Files: CHANGE_OF_PLEA-Wenberg-Final.pdf
Oregon Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crime for Threatening Shooting Spree at Eugene Church - 02/12/19

EUGENE, Ore.—Benjamin Jaramillo Hernandez, 69, of Eugene, pleaded guilty today to a federal hate crime and illegal possession of ammunition charge arising from a series of progressively more threatening and violent actions targeting St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene in September 2018. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams for the District of Oregon and Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon of the FBI in Oregon made the announcement.

“The Civil Rights Division stands firm in the belief that all people should be able to live their lives free from threats of violence,” said Assistant Attorney General Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to uphold the rights of individuals who are victimized for exercising their religious beliefs and prosecute those who seek to violate those rights.”

“Hate crime laws protect fundamental American values including the free expression of religion. Today’s guilty plea reaffirms the basic principle that no one should live in fear because of their faith,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Our office will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes, pursuing justice for all victims.”

“Threatening violent action strikes at the heart of our fundamental right as Americans to live, work and worship without fear. Working with the community and our local law enforcement partners, we will always find strength in our shared values of keeping everyone safe regardless of race, religion or political belief,” said Special Agent in Charge Cannon.

According to court documents, on September 9, 2018, Hernandez was escorted from St. Mary property following an angry outburst during the sacrament of communion. Five days later, on September 14, a church employee reported to the Eugene Police Department that someone had dispensed pepper spray on the exterior door handles and through the mail slot of the St. Mary office front door. Employees reported burning sensations in their fingers and respiratory distress. A Eugene police officer and FBI agent identified Hernandez in church surveillance footage as the person responsible for both incidents.

On September 16, 2018, Hernandez was again spotted near St. Mary. A witness saw Hernandez across the street from the church when he stopped near the Eugene Public Library and shouted at the witness, “I’ve got something for you right here,” while pointing to a bag he was carrying.

A few days later, on September 20, St. Mary employees reported finding a threatening note and seven 10mm Sig hollow point bullets left in the office. The note threatened the church with “2 MP5s w/ 50 rounds each,” a type of submachine gun. The note concluded: “Eugene is going on the [expletive] map.”

A Eugene police officer again reviewed church surveillance footage and identified Hernandez as the individual who dropped off the note and bullets. On September 21, 2018, Eugene Police arrested Hernandez at the Eugene Public Library and charged him with second degree intimidation, second degree criminal mischief and two counts of second degree criminal trespass. During a search of Hernadez’s person, officers located a partially empty can of pepper spray, three .410 shotgun shells and thirteen 10mm Sig hollow point bullets.

Hernandez was charged by criminal information with one count each of obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs and felon in possession of ammunition.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the hate crime conviction, and 10 years in prison for the unlawful possession of ammunition. Hernandez will be sentenced on May 22, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.

This case was investigated by the Eugene Police Department and the FBI and is being prosecuted by Gavin W. Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, and Cameron Bell, Trial Attorney for the Civil Rights Division.

For more information about DOJ’s work to combat and prevent hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes: a one-stop portal with links to DOJ hate crimes resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other organizations and individuals.

# # #

Madras Woman Pleads Guilty to Stealing Social Security Payments from Disabled Adults - 02/12/19

EUGENE, Ore.—Tayva Tucker, 41, of Madras, Oregon, pleaded guilty today to one count of theft of government funds for stealing nearly $40,000 in Social Security payments from ten mentally disabled adults.

According to court documents, beginning in March 2014, Tucker was employed by a social services organization in Madras where she oversaw outreach to mentally disabled clients as part of the organization’s mental health program. As part of her work, Tucker assumed representative payee duties for some her disabled clients’ Title II and Title XVI Social Security benefits. A representative payee is appointed when the beneficiary is incapable of managing his or her benefits. As a representative payee, Tucker was required to use the Social Security payments for the current and future needs of her clients.

In the summer of 2016, an organizational audit uncovered unusual movement of funds between various client accounts, as well as funds transferred from client accounts to Tucker. When confronted, Tucker admitted to taking clients’ Social Security benefits for her personal use. An investigation revealed that Tucker had stolen $39,277 from 10 victims.

Tucker faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. She will be sentenced on April 25, 2019 before U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken.

As part of the plea agreement, Tucker has agreed to pay $39,277 in restitution.

This case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Gavin W. Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

# # #

Attached Media Files: CHANGE_OF_PLEA-Tucker_Final.pdf
Jury Convicts Former President of Oregon Foster Care Agency on Theft, Money Laundering and Tax Evasion Charges - 02/07/19

PORTLAND, Ore.—A federal jury found Mary Holden Ayala, 59, of Portland, guilty today of stealing nearly $1 million from an Oregon foster care agency, money laundering and filing false personal income tax returns.

From at least 2008 to 2015, Ayala, a longtime Portland resident, served as the President, Executive Director and primary agent of Give Us This Day (GUTD), a private foster care agency and residential program for youth.

“Children in foster care rely heavily on the agency to which they are entrusted and these agencies are responsible for protecting and caring for them. Mary Holden Ayala grossly neglected her duties and selfishly stole from children in need,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “This prosecution demonstrates our firm commitment to protecting the integrity of federally-funded social service programs.”

“Abuse, drug addiction and violent crime can force children into a foster care system that is supposed to give them a second chance at a better life. One person's greed can corrupt that system, though, leading to victimization of these vulnerable kids. Help stop such victimization and strengthen important institutions by reporting public corruption when you see it,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.

“Mary Ayala’s theft of nearly $1 million was nothing short of stealing food and shelter from the most vulnerable of our population,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy Burrus, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Seattle Field Office. “Instead of ensuring the children entrusted to her care were properly clothed and fed, Ayala used the money for luxury home renovations, a pilot for a reality show, extensive travel to luxury resorts, music recording studio, luxury shoes and purses. Her final act of contempt was to attempt to hide the stolen money by filing federal tax returns without declaring the stolen funds.”

“Ms. Ayala’s crimes are disturbing: she embezzled money meant to assist foster care children and their families,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to investigate such greed-fueled fraud schemes.”

According to court documents, since its inception in 1979, GUTD was primarily funded by the Oregon state and federal government for foster care services including hiring and screening foster parents for community placements, compensating foster parents for services and placing foster children in residential or group homes. GUTD federal funding originated from the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and was administrated by ODHS.

From 2009 through 2015, Ayala exercised sole and complete control over GUTD finances. No other GUTD employee or board member had access to the organization’s bank accounts or statements during this time. With no internal controls in place, Ayala wrote checks, used the GUTD debit card and withdrew cash at will, using the organization’s bank accounts as her own.

Ayala used the money stolen from GUTD to pay her mortgage, remodel her home and fund other retail, travel and transportation expenses. Additionally, she used the money to fund other, non-GUTD business ventures including a media company and Big Mary’s, a fish and ribs restaurant in Portland, and to purchase and flip a commercial property.

In total, Ayala stole nearly $1 million from GUTD. As a result, her employees, foster parents and foster children in GUTD’s care suffered tremendously. GUTD residential center and house managers complained about a lack of basic necessities, including but not limited to food, toiletries and cleaning supplies.

In 2015, the day after Ayala resigned her position at GUTD, she filed five false federal income tax returns for tax years 2009 through 2013. Shortly thereafter, she filed a sixth false return for tax year 2014. Ayala failed to file a tax return in 2015.

In a superseding indictment returned on May 3, 2017, a federal grand jury in Portland charged Ayala with five counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, one count of concealment of money laundering, one count of failure to file a personal federal tax return and two counts each of engaging in monetary transactions with criminally derived property and filing a false personal federal tax return. The government dropped the concealment of money laundering charge prior to trial.

Ayala will be sentenced on May 29, 2019 by U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez.

The government has seized more than $450,000 in criminally-derived proceeds from Ayala that it will seek to forfeit by court order post sentencing.

This case was investigated by the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and IRS-Criminal Investigation. It was prosecuted by Donna Maddux, Clemon Ashley and Julia Jarrett, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.

# # #

Attached Media Files: U.S. v. Ayala - Exhibit #311
Sandy Child Molester Sentenced to Over 18 Years in Federal Prison for Online Enticement and Child Pornography Offenses - 02/04/19

PORTLAND, Ore.—Larry Lewis Hudson, 46, of Sandy, Oregon, was sentenced today to 220 months in federal prison for the attempted enticement of children online and possession and distribution of child pornography. Upon completion of his prison sentence, Hudson will be on supervised release for 20 years, during which he will be subject to stringent conditions of supervision, including a requirements that he participate in and complete sex offender treatment, and that he register as a sex offender.

“This defendant has now been convicted twice for exploiting and abusing children,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “His first prison sentence was not enough to deter him from victimizing more children. This 18-year sentence will do just that—protect our most vulnerable community members from a known predator.”

According to court documents, Hudson’s crimes were identified by independent law enforcement investigations conducted by agencies in four different states.

The earliest began in July 2015, when a father in Louisiana reported that a person using the name “Brian Johnson” had exchanged sexually explicit messages with and received at least one explicit photo from his 13-year-old daughter using the Kik Messenger mobile application. Later, in January 2016, a mother in Illinois called police after learning that her developmentally disabled 16-year-old daughter had sent explicit images of herself to “Brian Johnson” using Kik. In March 2016, a detective in Arizona who was posing online as a 15-year-old girl was contacted by “Brian Johnson” who claimed to be a 22-year-old living in Sandy. A few days after that exchange, “Brian Johnson” contacted an investigator in Texas posing online as a 14-year-old girl from Georgia. Hudson was later identified as the person calling himself Brian Johnson.

During online exchanges with the two detectives, Hudson repeatedly engaged in sexually explicit conversations, sent them child pornography and asked them if they would engage in the depicted sex acts with him. He asked them for explicit images of themselves, told the detective in Arizona that he planned to move there and asked if she would get together with him to have sex.

On March 29, 2017, FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at Hudson’s residence in Sandy. They seized a number of electronic devices including two cell phones. A forensic examination of the phones revealed 49 explicit images depicting children engaged in sexual acts with adults, including many of the images Hudson sent to the detectives. Hudson later admitted to using the “Brian Johnson” alias and sending sexually-explicit materials to minors.

Hudson pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted online enticement of a minor, distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography on July 17, 2018.

In December 2000, Hudson was convicted in Clackamas County Circuit Court of unlawful sexual penetration with a foreign object and first degree sexual abuse after repeatedly molesting a girl under 12 over a seven month period. Hudson was sentenced to and served three years in prison. His prison sentence was followed by a 10-year term of post-prison supervision during which he repeatedly violated his supervision conditions.

The FBI investigated this case. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gary Y. Sussman, Project Safe Childhood Coordinator for the District of Oregon.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

The FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF) conducts sexual exploitation investigations – many of them undercover – in coordination with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The Portland FBI’s CETF consists of agents and task force officers from the Beaverton Police Department, Portland Police Bureau, Tigard Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. The FBI’s CETF is committed to locating and arresting those who prey on children as well as recovering underage victims of sex trafficking and child exploitation.

Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to call the FBI at (503) 224-4181 or submit a tip online at www.fbi.gov/tips.

# # #

Attached Media Files: PDF Release
ICYMI: Shutdown Updates from Federal Court in Oregon - 02/01/19

PORTLAND. Ore.—During the recent lapse in appropriations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was required to curtail some operations pursuant to applicable law and policy. Nevertheless, the office continued to fulfill its law enforcement responsibilities by prosecuting criminal cases. Below is a summary of notable case events that occurred during the shutdown:

U.S. v. Hediger

On January 23, 2019, Pamela S. Hediger, 55, of Corvallis, Oregon, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for tax evasion and money laundering. Hediger was also ordered to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution.

According to court documents, between 2010 and 2017, Hediger was an attorney, president, and managing shareholder of a law firm in Corvallis. Hediger focused on personal injury cases and independently managed her own client relationships. During her association with the firm, Hediger systematically embezzled funds from the firm’s client trust and business operating accounts, both of which she had signing authority over. The embezzled funds came from insurance proceeds payable to Hediger’s clients.

Hediger failed to file income tax returns on nearly $2.2 million between 2011 and 2017, evading more than $471,000 in taxes due. Hediger previously pleaded guilty to one count each of attempting to evade or defeat taxes and engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from specific unlawful criminal activity on November 6, 2018.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and prosecuted by Claire M. Fay, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Smith

On January 15, 2019, Victor William Smith, Jr., 45, of Warm Springs, Oregon, was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for assaulting two Warm Springs Tribal Police detectives serving a deputized federal task force officers. Smith was also ordered to pay $8,305 in restitution.

According to court documents, on June 8, 2017, Smith forcibly assaulted the officers by attempting to run them down with his pickup truck. The officers ultimately apprehended Smith and found a stolen Remington shotgun in his truck. Smith admitted to knowingly possessing the stolen firearm at the time of his arrest.

Smith previously pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon on a federal officer and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Warm Springs Tribal Police Department and prosecuted by Benjamin Tolkoff, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Britton

On January 23, 2019, Shane Britton, 43, of Pendleton, Oregon, was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to pay $1,803 in restitution for abusive sexual contact on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, in June 2016, Britton was staying at a residence shared by the victim and her mother on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The victim and her mother are both enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Britton is not a tribal member.

During his stay, Britton subjected the victim to a series of unwanted and progressively more invasive physical encounters. In a recorded interview, Britton initially denied the allegation of abusive sexual contact, but later admitted he inappropriately touched the victim. Britton eventually told law enforcement officers that “in no way shape or form did [the victim] do anything wrong or provoke” his abusive conduct.

A federal jury in Portland convicted Britton on one count of abusive sexual contact on October 18, 2018.

The FBI investigated this case in partnership with the Umatilla Tribal Police Department. It was prosecuted by Jennifer Martin and Natalie Wight, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Stevens et al.

On January 8, 2019, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Ronnie Stevens aka Tim Ephrem, 49, and Tina Ephrem aka Lisa Ann Peterson, 43, both of Portland, with wire fraud.

The indictment alleges that between September 2016 and December 2018, the couple conspired with one another to defraud an elderly couple, Adult Victim 1 (AV1) and Adult Victim 2 (AV2), of both money and property.

The scheme began in September 2016 when AV1 offered a commercial trailer for sale at his business. Stevens told AV1 that he brokered vehicle sales and could sell the trailer in exchange for a cut of the profit. Stevens did not sell the trailer, but quickly ingratiated himself with AV1 who later described him as “humble and honest” but “down on his luck.” Stevens told AV1 that he supported a wife and teenage daughter, and that he suffered with health issues.

Stevens later approached AV1 with an alleged lucrative investment opportunity. Stevens claimed that a friend named Tammy Ward was set to inherit an estate valued in excess of $100 million from her recently deceased father, but could not come up with the fees and legal costs necessary to release the state. Stevens told AV1 that if AV1 could advance the funds to release the estate, AV1 would be given title to valuable classic cars and vans that were part of the estate.

AV1 gave Stevens approximately $15,000 in cash followed by $25,000 in cash two weeks later. The payments escalated over time as Stevens told AV1 various stories about delays and increased costs associated with the release of the estate. As part of the conspiracy, AV1 and AV2 both spoke to a woman on the phone who claimed to be Tammy Ward. Investigators later revealed this person to by Tina Ephrem. Between 2016 and 2018, Stevens placed more than 5,000 outgoing calls to AV1 and AV2.

Stevens and Ephrem collected more than $1.5 million from AV1 and AV2 over the course of the conspiracy, spending the proceeds on utility bills, restaurants, cigars, retail purchases and travel to locations including Hawaii, Anaheim, California, Las Vegas, Nevada and Spirit Mountain Lodge in Grand Ronde, Oregon.

Stevens and Ephrem were arrested on January 11, 2019. They made their initial appearances in federal court the same day and were ordered detained pending a five-day jury trial beginning on March 12, 2019.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Donna Brecker Maddux, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. v. Newman

On January 15, 2019, Steven Wayne Newman, 50, of Hillsboro, Oregon, was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for distributing child pornography.

According to court documents, in October 2016, an FBI task force officer identified an IP address offering to share files containing child pornography via the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing network. The officer downloaded ten files from a computer at that IP address, four of which depicted prepubescent children engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults and with each other. The IP address was later traced to Newman’s home in Hillsboro.

The FBI was not the only law enforcement agency investigating Newman’s IP address. Investigators from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the Albany Police Department, and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office also downloaded child pornography from a computer at the same address. A Linn County Sheriff’s Office detective downloaded 247 files containing a total of 91 videos and 426 images of child pornography.

On January 20, 2017, FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at Newman’s home. They seized a laptop and external hard drive, both of which contained contraband material. Agents found 212 videos and 665 images depicting the sexual exploitation of children. Newman’s BitTorrent file sharing software had been run 272 times, most recently on the day prior to the search warrant.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF), the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the Albany Police Department, and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Gary Y. Sussman, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Gregory

On January 22, 2019, Rodney Paul Gregory, 64, of Lebanon, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering for his role in various online romance scams.

According to court documents, between May 2017 and January 2019, Gregory acted as a money mule for online romance scams. As part of the scheme, unknown co-conspirators would target individuals through online dating. These co-conspirators would impersonate military or civilian personnel working overseas, pretending they needed funds for foreign taxes, travel costs, or other false representations. Victims would wire money based on these false statements.

Instead of wiring the money directly overseas, victims were asked to wire money to bank accounts in the U.S. Gregory incorporated companies and opened numerous business bank accounts in order to receive these wires transfers from victims. Upon receipt of the wire, Gregory would send the money to overseas bank accounts.

On May 11, 2017, federal agents interviewed Gregory and he claimed he was not aware that the funds wired to his accounts were the proceeds of fraud. He claimed he did the work as a result of promises of love from the woman he met on an online dating website. Following his interview with investigators, Gregory continued to open new business bank accounts using fraudulent information, continued receiving wires from victims and continued wiring the victim’s money overseas. Between the May interview and the end of August 2017, Gregory wired or otherwise withdrew over $200,000 in fraudulent proceeds.

Gregory faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years’ supervised release. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Gregory agreed to pay restitution in full to his victims as ordered by the court at sentencing. He will be sentenced on April 4, 2019.

This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Gavin W. Bruce, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Burkleo

On January 23, 2019, Bud O’Neil Burkleo, 36, of Warrenton, Oregon pleaded guilty to four counts of communicating a false distress message and one count of making a false statement.

According to court documents, Burkleo made four hoax distress calls to the U.S. Coast Guard between April and November of 2016. In response to each call, the Coast Guard dispatched rescue personnel in an attempt to protect life and property. Burkleo also lied to federal investigators.

Burkleo will be sentenced on May 13, 2019.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and prosecuted by Paul T. Maloney, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

U.S. v. Ugwa

On November 14, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a 14-count indictment charging Bob Ibenne Ugwa, 49, of Portland, with seven counts each of cyberstalking and anonymous telecommunications harassment.

The indictment alleges that, between 2003 and 2018, Ugwa used an interstate electronic communication service to engage in conduct reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress and made telephone calls without disclosing his identity with the intent to abuse, threaten, and harass seven different individuals.

Each charge of cyberstalking under 18 U.S.C. § 2261A(2)(B) and anonymous telecommunications harassment under 47 U.S.C. § 223(a)(1)(C) is punishable by up to five and two years in prison, respectively.

Ugwa was detained pending trial. A three-day jury trial is scheduled to begin on March 26, 2019.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Hannah D. Horsley, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

# # #

Attached Media Files: ICYMI-Release-Final.pdf
Superseding Indictment Adds Four Defendants to Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club Racketeering Conspiracy - 01/31/19

Club’s National President Among Those Charged in Conspiracy

PORTLAND. Ore.—A federal grand jury has returned a five-count superseding indictment charging six members and associates of the Gypsy Joker Outlaw Motorcycle Club (GJOMC) for racketeering, kidnapping and murder.

The superseding indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon; Special Agent in Charge Darek Pleasants of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive’s (ATF) Seattle Field Division; and Chief of Police Danielle Outlaw of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).

GJOMC National President Kenneth Earl Hause, 61, of Aumsville, Oregon; Mark Leroy Dencklau, 58, of Woodburn, Oregon; Earl Deverle Fisher, 48, of Gresham, Oregon; Ryan Anthony Negrinelli, 36, of Gresham; Joseph Duane Folkerts, 61, of Battleground, Washington; and a sixth unnamed defendant are charged, as members and associates of the GJOMC, with conspiring to conduct and participate in the activities of a racketeering enterprise.

Additionally, Dencklau, Fisher, Negrinelli, Folkerts and the unnamed defendant are charged with murder in aid of racketeering; kidnapping in aid of racketeering, resulting in death; kidnapping resulting in death; and conspiracy to commit kidnapping, resulting in death for the June 30 to July 1, 2015 kidnapping and murder of Robert Huggins, a former GJOMC member and resident of southeast Portland, for the purpose of maintaining and increasing their positions in the GJOMC criminal enterprise.

 “According to the indictment, since at least 2003, the Gypsy Jokers have engaged in a wide range of crimes, including kidnapping, murder, drug dealing, robbery, extortion, and witness tampering,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “Thanks to the efforts of ATF, the Portland Police Department, and federal prosecutors, we will work hard to hold accountable the leaders and members of this brutal and highly organized gang for their alleged crimes.”

“Kenneth Hause is the leader of a criminal organization that, through its many chapters and support clubs, has sowed violence and intimidation throughout the Pacific Northwest. This is an organization whose members and associates pride themselves on living outside the law and use kidnapping, assault, murder and other forms of violence to extend and maintain their power. Kenneth Hause and his co-defendants will soon face the consequences of their crimes thanks to a seamless partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies,” said U.S. Attorney Williams.

“This is a continuation of ATF’s operations against the Gypsy Joker Outlaw Motorcycle Club for racketeering, kidnapping and murder,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Pleasants. “As president of a criminal organization, Mr. Hause put the community at risk and showed contempt for law and order. It is among ATF’s core commitments to protect the public from violent criminals such as these Gypsy Jokers.”

“The Portland Police Bureau is proud to be a part of this cooperative effort,” said Chief Outlaw. “Violent crime deeply affects our community. By working with our partners, we can utilize a collective group of strategies and tactics to investigate and apprehend those responsible for committing violent acts or profiting from people’s fear through extortion and intimidation.”

According to the superseding indictment, the GJOMC preserves, promotes and protects its power, territory and profits through violence and intimidation and enriches its members through extortion, robbery and the distribution of narcotics. The organization is known for using fear through its members and associates as a tactic for establishing and maintaining its power. The GJOMC oversees several “support clubs” in Oregon and Washington, including the Road Brothers Northwest Motorcycle Club, Solutions Motorcycle Club, Northwest Veterans Motorcycle Club, High-Side Riders, and the Freedom Fellowship Motorcycle Club.

Dencklau, Fisher and Tiler Evan Pribbernow, 37, of Portland were first charged in a four-count indictment unsealed in July 2018. Pribbernow pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to conduct and participate in the activities of a racketeering enterprise on November 7, 2018. Dencklau and Fisher are detained pending trial.

In addition to the criminal charges brought against the named defendants, the government is seeking forfeiture of a property located in Salem, Oregon used as a GJOMC clubhouse.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case was investigated by the PPB and ATF, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Clark County, Washington Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon State Police, and the Oregon and Washington State Crime Labs. Leah K. Bolstad and Steven T. Mygrant, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon, are prosecuting the case with Rebecca A. Staton, Trial Attorney for the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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.

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ICYMI: Oregon Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Sexually Abusing Children at Orphanage in Cambodia - 01/30/19

EUGENE, Ore.—On January 18, 2019, Daniel Stephen Johnson, 40, of Coos Bay, Oregon, was sentenced to life in federal prison for repeatedly sexually abusing children who lived at an orphanage operated by the defendant in Cambodia.

In a jury trial ending on May 16, 2018, Johnson was convicted on six counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place and one count each of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and aggravated sexual assault with a child. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison on each count of illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, 30 years for traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and life in prison for aggravated sexual assault with children. The sentences for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place will run consecutively.

According to court documents and information shared during trial, between November 2005 and his arrest in December 2013, Johnson systematically and repeatedly molested children who lived at an unlicensed orphanage he started and ran in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Johnson funded the orphanage by soliciting donations from church groups in Oregon, California, Texas and elsewhere. Ten Cambodian victims—who ranged in age from seven to 18 years old at the time of abuse—have disclosed Johnson’s abuse or attempted abuse.

Victims described a pattern of molestation that includes, among other things, Johnson making them perform oral sex on him and anally raping them. Multiple victims said they were, on numerous occasions, awoken to Johnson abusing them. Following the abuse, Johnson would sometimes provide his impoverished victims with small amounts of money or food. On one occasion, Johnson gave a victim the equivalent of $2.50 in Cambodian currency.

In 2013, a warrant was issued for Johnson’s arrest on an unrelated case by officials in Lincoln County, Oregon. Local law enforcement officers worked with the FBI to locate Johnson overseas. The FBI in turn worked with the U.S. Department of State to revoke Johnson’s passport based on the Oregon warrant. Through the work of the FBI, Action Pour Les Enfants, a non-governmental organization dedicated to ending child sexual abuse and exploitation in Cambodia, and the Cambodian National Police (CNP), Johnson was located in Phnom Penh.

On December 9, 2013, CNP arrested Johnson. Based on disclosures made by children at the orphanage, Cambodian officials charged Johnson and detained him pending trial. In May 2014, Johnson was convicted by a Cambodian judge of performing indecent acts on one or more children at the orphanage and sentenced to a year in prison. Following his release from prison, Johnson was escorted back to the U.S. by the FBI.

Based on the sexual-abuse allegations against him, the FBI undertook a lengthy investigation of Johnson. During the course of their investigation, agents interviewed more than a dozen children and adults who had resided at the orphanage. Many of the interviews were audio- and video-taped and, in several instances, conducted in Cambodia by trained child-forensic interviewers. Some victims were interviewed multiple times before disclosing Johnson’s abuse.

Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury in Eugene, Oregon on December 20, 2014 on one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. Seven additional charges were added by superseding indictment on May 17, 2017.

While in custody awaiting trial, Johnson made multiple efforts to tamper with witnesses and obstruct justice. Johnson contacted his victims online, encouraging them to lie and offering money and gifts. One message, sent via his relative’s Facebook account to an adult in Cambodia, discussed visiting a victim’s family and encouraging them to convince the victim to retract their statement, potentially in exchange for $10,000. Another message explains the need for a victim to say they were under duress and “pushed by police” to thumbprint a document.    

This case was investigated by the FBI with the assistance of the Toledo, Oregon Police Department. It was prosecuted by Jeffrey S. Sweet and Ravi Sinha, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon, and Lauren E. Britsch, Trial Attorney for the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. Amy E. Potter, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, assisted with the prosecution.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice and led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

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