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Cooperating Witness Smuggled Drugs Into GEO Private Prison But US Attorney Continued Deal

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 12 – Back in March 2019 for weeks the trial of US v. Latique Johnson et al plodded along in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York courtroom of Judge Paul G. Gardephe. As Inner City Press the only media in that courtroom then as now reported, on March 20 a defense lawyer was giving his summation, waving around a rifle in the court. His client was found guilty.

 On September 12 before Judge Gardephe things got even crazier. One of the government's cooperating witnesses at trial, Rayshaun Jones, came up for sentencing with the government seeking to reward him with a 5K1.1 letter.

 But even after he signed his cooperation agreement, Rayshaun Jones smuggled drugs into the GEO private prison and sold them to other inmates. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not rip up his plea agreement.

  Judge Gardephe said in his nine years as a prosecutor and eleven years since as a judge, Jones is the worst cooperator he has seen. He sentenced him to eleven years, but as his lawyer Mr. Donaldson pointed out, that really means only four, since he's already served 78 months in GEO.

  He's being given an opportunity to propose where he wants to spend the next four years. Inner City Press is often ordered out of SDNY courtroom for the benefit of cooperators. But whose covering up the deals the government makes with them, and allows them to violate? We'll have more on this. More on Patreon here.

   Back in March Inner City Press, while the Latique Johnson jury was out, asked him if there had been any jury notes. He said yes, but that was it. Requests to be informed when the jury came back were unavailable, despite talk of general deterrence. Now on March 28, about March 27, this: "LATIQUE JOHNSON, a/k/a “La Brim,” a/k/a “Straight 2 Business,” a/k/a “Breezy,” a/k/a “Boss Dog,” BRANDON GREEN, a/k/a “Light,” a/k/a “Moneywell,” and DONNELL MURRAY, a/k/a “Don P,” were found guilty yesterday of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics trafficking conspiracy, and firearms offenses in connection with their membership in the “Blood Hound Brims” (“BHB”), a violent street and prison gang that operated in New York City, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.  In addition, JOHNSON and MURRAY were found guilty of committing assault in aid of racketeering for a 2012 shooting at a fast food restaurant in the Bronx involving an AK-47 firearm.  JOHNSON was found guilty of attempted murder in aid of racketeering for ordering a 2012 shooting of rival gang members in the Bronx.  The convictions followed a five-week trial before the Honorable Paul G. Gardephe.  U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Latique Johnson, Brandon Green, and Donnell Murray were leaders of the Blood Hound Brims, a ruthless gang, and were responsible for extensive narcotics trafficking and terrible violence.  They now stand convicted of their crimes, and will no longer be able to inflict harm on the people of this city.”  According to court documents and the evidence at trial:  BHB was a criminal enterprise that operated principally in the greater New York area, from 2005 to 2016.  BHB was a faction of the Bloods street gang, which operates nationwide, and is under the New York Blood Brim Army (“NYBBA”).  The BHB operated within and around various locations in New York, including New York City, Westchester County, Elmira, and in Pennsylvania, as well as within and outside federal and state penal systems.  The BHB used a hierarchical structure that was organized, in part, by geography, including New York City, and that was maintained, in part, through the payment of dues.  The founder and leader of the Gang was JOHNSON, and other members and associates of the BHB referred to JOHNSON as the “Godfather.”  The Gang was divided into several “pedigrees,” each of which had its own leadership structure which was approved by JOHNSON.  Other leadership positions included, among others, treasurers who collected dues from members of a particular pedigree, and individuals who performed security and disciplinary functions for the pedigree.  In addition to JOHNSON, GREEN, and MURRAY all held leadership positions within the Gang at different times.  Members of the BHB had regular meetings, sometimes called “pow wows” or “9-11s,” at which members were required to pay dues.  Some of the meetings were among members of a particular pedigree, and other meetings were for all members of the Enterprise.  Word of the meetings was disseminated via text message, word-of-mouth, and flyers.  The BHB’s business, including rivalries with other gangs, shootings, the arrest of gang members, guns, and drugs, was regularly discussed at these meetings.  “Kitty dues” – money that paid for commissary funds, lawyers, guns, and drugs, and that served as tribute to JOHNSON – were collected at these meetings.  The BHB maintained its own rules and constitution that new members were required to learn.  Members of the BHB also used code words and secret phrases to communicate with each other both while in prison and on the street in order to avoid detection by law enforcement.  One of the BHB’s principal objectives was to sell cocaine base, commonly known as “crack cocaine,” powder cocaine, and heroin, which members and associates of the BHB sold throughout the greater New York area and in Pennsylvania.   Members and associates of the BHB engaged in multiple acts of violence against rival gangs.  These acts of violence included assaults and attempted murders, and were committed to protect the Gang’s drug territory, to retaliate against members of rival gangs who had encroached on the territory controlled by the BHB, and to otherwise promote the standing and reputation of the Gang vis-à-vis rival gangs.  These acts of violence also included assaults and attempted murders against members and associates of the BHB itself, as part of internal power struggles within the Gang.  For example, on January 28, 2012, in the Bronx, New York, JOHNSON, aided and abetted by MURRAY, used an AK-47 assault rifle to fire into a restaurant where rival gang members were gathered, injuring two individuals who survived the shooting.  The violence continued in fall of 2012 when JOHNSON ordered the shooting of two other members of a rival gang, who survived." Back on March 22 the courtroom was quiet with six in the audience and the defense lawyers - but not prosecutors - waiting. Inner City Press stopped in and waited, since neither the government nor administration will commit to announcing when the jury comes back. The public has spent much money on this prosecution; the government called it a proceeding of interest. But where are the exhibits? Where is the commitment to notice? What of general deterrence, if it comes to that? Back on March 20 the lawyer asked, Do you think you could stuff this rifle in your pants? And get in the back of a taxi? It's ludicrous. He also mocked a proffered jailhouse confession -- "who does that?" -- and emphasized that government witness Rosario had access to discovery in the case. You've read the book, now you can tell the story, the defense lawyer snarked, telling you jury, You won't lend these witnesses fifty dollars, why should you believe them? The rifle appeared again, (mis) described as a "baby AK" in connection with the "chicken spot shooting." At day's end on March 18, the defense had asked for a ruling on a cryptic note among the 3500 material: "Prince shot  Box kills = beef b/t egp and brims."  Judge Gardephe asked the lawyers, That's some gangster or gang? Well, yes: East Gangster Bloods and bloodhound brims, was the answer, all leading to a shoot out on White Plains Road in The Bronx. Judge Gardephe said, Let the jury decide what it means, if as the government says it's two incidents (Prince being shot and Box being killed) or at the defense surmises, Prince shooting Box to death. Judge Gardephe said he will rule on March 19 on the phone calls Latique Johnson the defendant wants to offer.  The case began with a sealed indictment, signed by Preet Bharara in 2016, alleging the use of a firearm for a drug dealing conspiracy in The Bronx. Preet has moved on, but the trial continues. On March 15 there was talk of sour diesel marijuana packed in vacuum sealed bags, BWM car keys and digital scales. Judge Gardephe said he would not be comfortable with a witness saying he thought the Facebook photo showed marijuana; the relative attributability of Instagram and Facebook pages was discussed, although the companies are commonly owned. During the trial the jury has only sat 9:30 to 2:30; next week it will shift to a full shift to 5 pm if Judge Gardephe has his way. Inner City Press will be there - watch this site. Back on March 8 a shooting in The Bronx in October 2018 was the subject of an ill-attended SDNY conference. Jerome Jackson is described as in a white t-shirt with silver handgun on 2 October 2018 on Freeman Street - but in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Kevin Castel he was in jail house blues and shackles. His lawyer Julia Gatto questioned whether the NYPD detectives who questioned Jackson about the shooting were in fact part of a joint task force with the Feds - no, Karin Potlock for the government said, and on that basis no suppression - and questioned probable cause. There will be a hearing on that on April Fools Day and Inner City Press aims to be there. The case is US v. Jackson, 18 CR 760. A week before on March 1 when Statue of Liberty climber Patricia Okoumou appeared in the SDNY , it was to face revocation of bail for more recent climbs, all to protest the separation of immigrant families. SDNY Judge Gorenstein did not revoke bail but imposed house arrest. He jibed that it appeared Ms. Okoumou could only support herself by donations garnered by climbing. Afterward Inner City Press asked her lawyer Ron Kuby about this argument. He said the judge has it precisely wrong, or in reverse: she raised money because she is an activist, she is not an actively in order to make money. Ms. Okoumou raised her fist, and headed to Staten Island. Photos here. Inner City Press, which interviewed Okoumou on December 5 just after another SDNY decision, in the Patrick Ho / CEFC China Energy UN bribery case, headed out and streamed this Periscope, and this Q&A, with more to come, on this case and others. How guns eject shell casings was the subject of expert testimony in a Bronx gang trial on February 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before Judge Robert W. Sweet, an ATF agent traced a bullet back to Illinois; under cross examination he said a shell casing might eject feet rather than yards unless it bounced on something. Then testimony went back to 2007, a 14-year old with a gun heading from the Millbrook projects to the Mitchell Houses. The defense asked for a mistrial when the name of a second gang was introduced; the prosecution shot back (so to speak) that it came from photos on the defendant's own Facebook page. And so it goes in trials these days. Back on February 25 a prison sentence of life plus five years was imposed for a Bronx murder by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon on February 25. She presided over the trial in which Stiven Siri-Reynoso was convicted of, among other things, murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Jessica White, a 28 year old mother of three, in the Bronx in 2016. Jessica White's mother was in the court room; she was greeted by Judge McMahon but declined to speak before sentencing. Siri-Reynoso was representing himself by this point, with a back-up counsel by his side. Judge McMahon told him, "You're a very smart man... a tough guy, a calculating person... You are a coward, sent a child to do it for you... Your emissary shot the wrong person, a lovely lady... It was a vicious, evil attack against the good people of that neighborhood." When she imposed the life plus five sentence, a woman on the Jessica White side of the courtroom cried out, yes Ma'am, put the animal away! Later, after Siri-Reynoso ended asking how he can get more documents about the case, a woman on his side of the courtroom said, "No te preocupes, muchacho, Dios sabe lo que hace" - don't worry, God knows what he is doing. But does He? Earlier on February 25 when the government tried to defend its 2018 change of policy or practice on Special Immigrant Juvenile status in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl had many questions about the change. He asked, are you saying that all the decisions before 2018 were just wrong, under a policy in place but not implemented at the time? In the overflow courtroom 15C the largely young audience laughed, as the government lawyer tried to say it wasn't a change of policy but rather an agency interpretation of the statute. Shouldn't there have been notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act? The government said the argument proffered for this was about the Freedom of Information Act (on which, as Inner City Press has noted, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has similarly reversed its policy 180 degrees without justification). SDNY Judge Koeltl demanded t know if the government is arguing that no juvenile court in New York, California (and maybe Texas for other reasons he said) is empowered to grant relief. The answer was far from clear - but where the ruling is going does seem so. Watch this site. The Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press has requested records relating to the Fed's role with response due in 20 working days - watch this site. In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money.  The Philippines returned $14.54 million in November 2016, so $66.46 million has yet to be retrieved. Now defendant RCBC Bank of the Philippines has hired the Quinn Emanuel law firm to defend it, and it already fighting back in words. RCBC’s lead counsel on the SDNY case, Tai-Heng Cheng, said:  “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled PR campaign disguised as a lawsuit. Based on what we have heard this suit is completely baseless. If the Bank of Bangladesh was serious about recovering the money, they would have pursued their claims three years ago and not wait until days before the statute of limitations. Not only are the allegations false, they don’t have the right to file here since none of the defendants are in the US." But it seems the funds were transferred to and through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And as Inner City Press reported in the US v. Patrick Ho case last year, the wiring of funds through New York can confer jurisdiction. Inner City Press will be covering this case. The first paragraph of the 103 page complaint reads, "This litigation involves a massive, multi-year conspiracy to carry out one of the largest banks heists in modern history right here in New York City. On February 4, 2016, thieves reached into a bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and stole approximately $101 million (out of the nearly $1 billion they attempted to steal). The bank account was held for the benefit of Bangladesh Bank, which is Bangladesh’s Central Bank. Bangladesh Bank has had a 45-year banking relationship under which it has placed its international reserves with the New York Fed. The New York Fed is a critical component of the United States’ central banking system and its link to the international financial system." Bangladesh's lawyers on the case are "COZEN O’CONNOR John J. Sullivan, Esq.  Jesse Loffler, Esq. Yehudah Gordon, Esq." We'll have more on this.

Debaprasad Debnath, a general manager at the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Director Mohammad Abdur Rab and Account and Budgeting Department General Manager Zakir Hossain all left Dhaka to head to New York, for the filing of the lawsuit, which Inner City Press will be following.

They say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which on January 29 was instructed by the US State Department to allow Juan Guaido to access Venezuelan accounts, will be helping its Bangladeshi counterpart to get to the bottom of the hack.  Those eyed include Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC and some of its officials, and Philrem Service Corporation, casino owners and beneficiaries. Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, is with them to file the case.

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.


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