U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash.
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Spokane Man Sentenced to 17 Years for Receipt of Child Pornography While on Federal Supervision - 05/31/23

Spokane, WA – On May 30, 2023, U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rossana Malouf Peterson sentenced Christopher Gary Carlson, 50, of Spokane, Washington, to 180 months in federal prison for Receipt of Child Pornography, followed by an additional 24 months in prison for violating a previously imposed term of supervised release. Judge Peterson also ordered Carlson to pay $24,000 in restitution to his victims and to a lifetime of federal supervision upon release from prison.

According to information disclosed in court proceedings, this was Carlson’s third time being sentenced for child pornography crimes. His first conviction was in 2007, for which he was ordered to serve 12 months and a day in a state prison. His second child pornography conviction was in 2014, for which Judge Peterson sentenced Carlson to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release. Undeterred by these prior terms of incarceration, Carlson used a smartphone to download and view child pornography just a month after his recent release from federal prison. The smartphone was discovered in July 2022, when a U.S. Probation Officer conducted a home visit at Carlson’s residence. When the FBI obtained a federal warrant to search the phone, FBI agents located 198 images and 63 videos of child pornography on Carlson’s device. 

“Today’s 17-year sentence sends a powerful reminder to Mr. Carlson and others like him: Crimes that exploit the most vulnerable among us cannot, and will not, be tolerated,” stated United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref. “Time and again, Mr. Carlson returned to the internet to view and collect depictions of a child’s most horrific experiences. Yet, just as swiftly as Mr. Carlson collected these images and videos depicting this incredible harm, U.S. Probation and the FBI responded, preventing Mr. Carlson from victimizing hundreds if not thousands more minor children.” 

United States Attorney Waldref continued, “As a result of the seamless partnership between the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office, Mr. Carlson was again brought to justice, and our communities are safer and stronger, especially for young children. I’m especially grateful for the incredible work by Assistant United States Attorney Ann Wick. Cases such as this demonstrate AUSA Wick’s relentless dedication to pursuing justice.” 

This case was investigated by the Spokane Resident Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Ann T. Wick, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. 


Spokane Resident Pleads Guilty to Fraudulently Obtaining More than $360,000 in COVID-19 Relief Funding - 05/31/23

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Marisa Beck, age 40, of Spokane, pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $360,000 in COVID-19 relief funding intended for endangered small businesses.  United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke accepted Ms. Beck’s guilty plea and set sentencing for September 27, 2023, at 11 a.m., in Spokane.  This conviction is the eighth felony conviction announced by the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force, which launched in 2022.   

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses. One such program, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provided forgivable loans to eligible small businesses to retain jobs and maintain payroll during the pandemic.  Another program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low-interest bridge funding for small businesses placed at risk during the pandemic. 

“COVID-19 relief programs quickly ran out of money due to the number of businesses that requested funding, meaning that struggling, deserving small businesses were not able to obtain critically needed funding to keep their businesses afloat during the shutdowns and disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “We created the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because it is critical to the strength and safety of our communities that we all work together to combat pandemic-related fraud and bring much-needed accountability to these programs.  The Strike Force works to ensure that limited resources are used to protect our local small businesses and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.” 

In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) OIG, Department of Labor OIG, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and others. Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments and convictions, and have recovered millions of dollars in penalties and restitution for the public. 

In the plea agreement accepted by the court, and in information disclosed during court proceedings, Ms. Beck admitted to fraudulently obtaining $368,829 in PPP and EIDL funding for three purported businesses: Cyra Solar LLC, Beck N’ Call Landscape, LLC, and Value in People Consulting, LLC. Ms. Beck admitted that these entities were not eligible for CARES Act funding because Beck N’ Call Landscape and Cyra Solar were not active businesses as of February 2020, and because she submitted false and fraudulent payroll, revenue, and other information associated with the three purported businesses in order to fraudulently obtain CARES Act funding. 

“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by VA OIG,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.” 

The charges to which Beck pled carries a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison.  The cases were investigated by the Eastern Washington COVID Fraud Strike Force, and in particular by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Spokane Resident Office, with investigative assistance and support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Spokane Resident Agency, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, Western Regional Office, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division, Seattle Field Office.  Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene are prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.  

Case No. 2:23-cr-00055-MKD

United States Attorney's Office Awarded Several New Prosecutor and Support-Staff Positions, Including Additional Resources to Prosecute Violent Crime in Indian Country - 05/24/23

Spokane, WA: U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref, the chief federal law enforcement officer for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that her office has received authorization and funding from the Department of Justice to hire seven new full-time Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) and two full-time support staff.  The new positions – which will be spread throughout the District’s three offices in Spokane, Yakima, and Richland – will be dedicated to combating terrorism, fraud, drug trafficking, and violent crime, including in Indian Country. The U.S. Department of Justice allocated these positions to U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country from funding approved in last year’s federal budget.   

“We are excited for these additional resources to further our mission to build safer and stronger communities in Eastern Washington,” U.S. Attorney Waldref said. “In the next month, we will have, for the first time ever, full-time AUSAs serving in our Richland branch office. With the addition of the nine new positions announced today, we will be able to further enhance our efforts to protect neighborhoods, families, and communities in the Tri-Cities, Spokane, Yakima, and throughout our beautiful district.”

U.S. Attorney Waldref continued, “With these new positions, we will have forty AUSAs serving in the Eastern District of Washington. This means that our team – which includes attorneys, critical support positions, administrative officers, victim witness advocates, forfeiture personnel, etc. – will grow to approximately ninety civil servants dedicated to DOJ’s mission to seek justice for all.” 

“We’re especially grateful to have additional resources devoted to the important work we do in Indian Country, where we prosecute major crimes arising on the District’s four reservations – the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Spokane Tribe, and the Kalispel Tribe. In fact, one of the AUSA positions is specifically devoted to cases involving Missing and Murdered Indigenous People. We recognize that indigenous communities suffer violence, especially domestic violence, at much higher rates than many other demographics. We are committed to addressing violent crimes in Indian country and elsewhere and holding perpetrators accountable.” 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington currently has more than thirty AUSAs serving in its Criminal and Civil Divisions in Spokane, Yakima, and Richland. The hiring process for the new positions is already underway and additional listings will be posted in the coming weeks. All of the Office’s openings will be made available at http://www.usajobs.gov.

U.S. Marshals Locate 225 Missing Children in 16 Locations Across the United States During "Operation We Will Find You" - 05/24/23

Spokane, WA – Today the United States Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) announced that the USMS, along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), working with several state and local agencies in 16 federal judicial districts, led a 10-week national operation resulting in the recovery or safe location of 225 endangered missing children.

Operation We Will Find You is one of the first nationwide missing children operations focused specifically on geographical areas with high clusters of critically missing children. In total, the operation resulted in the recovery of 169 children and the safe location of 56 more children. During the operation, the USMS referred 28 cases to law enforcement agencies for further investigation of alleged crimes such as drugs and weapons possession, sex trafficking, and failures to register as a sex offender. 

During the operation, 42 children were located outside the city where they went missing, and 10 were found outside of the United States. The youngest child recovered was just 6 months old. While approximately 85 percent of the cases involved endangered runaways, approximately 9 percent involved family abductions. Approximately 40 of the cases involved allegations of reporting sex trafficking. 

Operation We Will Find You also had a direct impact on the Eastern District of Washington.  It total, the operation investigated more than 20 cases arising from our District.  These cases involved allegations of endangered missing children, runaways, and children abducted by non-custodial parents. Of these, 16 children were recovered. Additionally, the USMS arrested a Top 15 Most Wanted couple, who fled to Mexico from the Eastern District of Washington with their children. Each of the recovered children was safely reunited with family in Washington State. 

“I commend law enforcement for locating so many missing children from our district and across the country,” stated U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref.  “I am grateful for the leadership of the U.S. Marshals Service and their dedication to apprehending fugitives and reuniting the most vulnerable among us with their families.  Our communities are safer and stronger as a result of the great service demonstrated through the joint efforts by the U.S. Marshals and their Federal, State, Local, and Tribal partners.”   

United States Marshal Craig Thayer stated, “Reuniting missing children with loved ones and connecting them with appropriate services is a mission in which the United States Marshals Service takes great pride. The specialized skillset that the U.S. Marshals Service provides to our Local, State, and Tribal partners in locating and recovering missing, and oftentimes exploited children, provides these children a second chance for a better childhood by being reunited with their loved ones and connected with other necessary help.” 

A number of Federal, State, Local, and Tribal agencies participated with the USMS in “Operation We Will Find You.” These agencies included the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Confederated Tribes Bands of Yakama Nation Police Department, Ephrata Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Moses Lake Police Department, Othello Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Washington Department of Child Youth and Families, Washington Department of Corrections and Yakima Police Department.

Kennewick Man Sentenced to 151 Months for Drug Trafficking in the Tri-Cities: - 05/23/23

Active Gang Member Was in Possession of a Loaded Firearm at the Time of His Arrest

Richland, Washington – On May 22, 2023, United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke sentenced Jose Oliva, 37, to over 12 years in federal prison after his guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. Oliva also will serve 5 years of federal supervision after he is released from federal custody. 

According to information disclosed in court documents and during court proceedings, the DEA Tri-Cities Resident Office in collaboration with Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force identified Oliva as a supplier and part of a drug trafficking organization operating in the Tri-Cities, WA area. Oliva was brokering pound-level quantities of methamphetamine for the organization, which were routinely distributed in the Eastern District of Washington.

In July of 2022, Oliva had agreed to meet a confidential source to deliver a pound of methamphetamine, as well as fentanyl-laced pills. After confirming Oliva’s presence at the arranged meeting location, agents moved in to make the arrest.  Oliva immediately fled on foot while in possession of a loaded firearm and distribution quantities of fentanyl-laced pills, which he attempted to discard while in flight from law enforcement. Oliva did not escape and was placed under arrest thereafter.

Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, stated “Removing dangerous narcotics from our community is critical to protecting our families and building stronger and safer neighborhoods. I am grateful for the joint efforts of state, local, and federal law enforcement to identify Mr. Oliva’s drug trafficking activities and to prevent him from further distributing this poison in our community. I also commend Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Van Marter for her leadership of federal drug prosecutions in the Tri-Cities that benefit the public safety of Eastern Washington.” 

“We are grateful for working with all of our partners in this investigation. Our efforts removed an individual from our communities who distributed deadly narcotics and possessed a dangerous firearm,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division. “We will continue in any way we can to keep our communities safe and healthy.”

This case was investigated by the DEA Tri-Cities Resident Office, the Tri-City METRO Drug Task Force, United States Border Patrol, Richland Police Department, Kennewick Police Department, Pasco Police Department, West Richland Police Department, and the Benton County Sherriff’s Office. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Van Marter.