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Summary of recent cases brought by the US Attorney in Northern District of Illinois: September 15, 2022

Here is a brief summary of recent cases brought by the US Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois.

Chicago Journal
Chicago Journal
| 14 min read
Summary of recent cases brought by the US Attorney in Northern District of Illinois: September 15, 2022

Two Men Charged in Federal Court with Violent Carjackings in Chicago Suburbs

August 19, 2022

CHICAGO — A federal grand jury indicted two men on carjacking charges in connection with the violent thefts of vehicles in the north suburbs of Chicago.

EDSON RESENDEZ and MAVERICK CELA forcibly took vehicles in Morton Grove, Ill., and Skokie, Ill., according to an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The indictment charges Resendez, 21, and Cela, 21, both of Chicago, with one count of conspiracy to commit carjackings and two counts of carjacking. Resendez also faces an additional count of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

Resendez was arrested and pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in federal court. A detention hearing was set for Aug. 23, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey T. Gilbert.

Cela is currently in the custody of the state of Illinois. His arraignment in federal court has not yet been scheduled.

According to the indictment, Resendez and Cela took a Chevrolet Sonic from a victim in Morton Grove on Sept. 11, 2020. Cela later disposed of the vehicle by lighting it on fire in the 6200 block of North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, the indictment states.

On Sept. 13, 2020, Resendez and Cela took a Lexus GS350 from a victim in Skokie, the indictment states. The pair later disposed of the vehicle in the 4800 block of South Hermitage Avenue in Chicago, the charges allege.

Each carjacking count is punishable by up to 15 years in federal prison. The firearm count against Resendez carries a minimum prison sentence of seven years and a maximum of life, which must be served consecutively to the sentence imposed for the carjacking offense. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years.

Man Sentenced to Nearly Four Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Loaded Gun on Chicago Street

August 22, 2022

CHICAGO — A man has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun during an altercation on a Chicago street.

JULIAN ALMANZA, 22, of Chicago, illegally possessed the gun on the afternoon of Jan. 14, 2021, in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. At one point during the altercation Almanza stood in the middle of a street and pointed the gun at multiple individuals. When Chicago Police officers began arriving on the scene, Almanza slid the firearm under a truck. The officers quickly discovered the gun, which was equipped with an extended magazine and loaded with 25 rounds of ammunition.

Almanza had previously been convicted of two firearm felonies in state court and was not legally allowed to possess the gun. He was on parole for the more recent firearm offense at the time of the federal charge.

Almanza pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal charge of illegal possession of a firearm. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee imposed a 44-month prison sentence Thursday after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.

Rockford Woman Sentenced to 18 Months in Federal Prison for Straw Purchasing Firearms

August 23, 2022

ROCKFORD — A Rockford woman has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms.

KIANA MARTIN, 30, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard in Rockford.

Martin pleaded guilty on May 18, 2022, to misrepresenting to federally licensed firearms dealers that she was the actual transferee or buyer of firearms when, in fact, she was not the actual transferee or buyer of the firearms. In a plea agreement, Martin admitted that on multiple dates she knowingly made false and fictitious written statements to the firearms dealers in connection with the acquisition of firearms, and then transferred those firearms to known felons who could not legally purchase them.

DeKalb Resident Sentenced to Three Years in Federal Prison for Bringing Undocumented Workers to the U.S. for Private Financial Gain

August 24, 2022

ROCKFORD — A DeKalb, Ill., resident was sentenced to three years in federal prison for bringing undocumented workers to the United States for commercial advantage and private financial gain.

U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard imposed the sentence on LUIS ALFREDO DELACRUZ, 53, after a hearing in federal court in Rockford.

Delacruz admitted in a plea agreement earlier this year that on Nov. 1, 2015, he knowingly brought an alien to the U.S. to work at Delacruz’s business, Alfredo’s Iron Works in Cortland, Ill. Delacruz admitted that he paid a smuggling fee to another individual to bring the worker into the country. Once the worker started working for Delacruz’s business, Delacruz deducted the smuggling fee from the worker’s paychecks, referring to it as an “employee loan repayment.”

Investigating agents who executed a search warrant at Delacruz’s business found in a desk drawer fraudulent identification documents for an additional ten undocumented workers. In all, Delacruz admitted that he smuggled at least two people into the U.S. on at least four separate occasions.

Federal Jury Convicts Man of Committing Murder to Maintain and Increase Position in Chicago Street Gang

August 30, 2022

CHICAGO — A federal jury convicted a man of committing murder to maintain and increase his position in a violent Chicago street gang.

PIERRE ROBINSON, 29, of Chicago, was found guilty of committing murder in aid of racketeering. The jury returned its verdict on Aug. 25, 2022, after a four-day trial in U.S. District in Chicago. The conviction is punishable by a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison. U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr., set sentencing for Feb. 8, 2023.

Evidence at trial revealed that Robinson murdered Glenn Houston, Jr., on Dec. 23, 2014, for the purpose of maintaining and increasing Robinson’s position in the Evans Mob street gang. Robinson shot Houston, 23, multiple times inside a store in the 400 block of East 79th Street in the Chatham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The Evans Mob, also known as “GuttaGang,” is a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in narcotics trafficking and committed acts of violence, including murder, attempted murder, and assault, to acquire and preserve the gang’s territory on the South Side of Chicago. Members of the Evans Mob used social media to publicly claim responsibility for their acts of violence, taunt rival gang members, and took steps to prevent law enforcement’s detection of its criminal activities.

Firearms Trafficker Sentenced to Ten Years in Federal Prison for Unlawfully Dealing Handguns and “Switch” Devices in Chicago Area

August 30, 2022

CHICAGO — A federal judge has sentenced a Chicago-area firearms trafficker to ten years in prison for unlawfully dealing handguns and “switch” devices capable of converting semi-automatic firearms into machine guns.

In September 2020, LEONARD D. JOHNSON supplied at least four “switch” devices, also known as “Glock switches,” to an individual who later sold them to a confidential informant and an undercover law enforcement officer. The individual and Johnson then split the proceeds. In December 2020, law enforcement executed a court-authorized search of Johnson’s residence in Robbins, Ill., and discovered 117 “switch” devices and three handguns that had been converted into machine guns, as well as another handgun, a silencer, three extended magazines, and ammunition.

Johnson was arrested in December 2020 on a federal firearm charge. He violated his conditions of pre-trial release while continuing to traffic firearms in 2021. He later fled to Georgia, where he was arrested in March 2022.

Johnson, also known as “Scrap,” 34, pleaded guilty in June 2022 to one count of unlawfully dealing firearms and one count of illegal possession of a machine gun. U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall imposed the ten-year prison sentence on Aug. 25, 2022.

“Defendant was a prolific machine gun dealer in the Chicago area,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles W. Mulaney argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Glock switches are a prevalent danger in this community that have no purpose other than to inflict maximum damage on enemies and any innocent bystanders who get caught in the spray of bullets.”

Rockford Man Sentenced to More than Five Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Firearm “Switch” Devices

September 1, 2022

ROCKFORD — A Rockford man has been sentenced to five and a half years in federal prison for illegally possessing firearm “switch” devices.

JAVAUGHN A. HIXSON, 23, possessed and sold four of the devices, also known as “Glock switches,” in Rockford from October to December of 2020. Each conversion device is designed and intended to convert a firearm into a machine gun capable of automatically firing more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger.

Hixson also illegally possessed a loaded handgun with an extended magazine. On Jan. 4, 2021, Hixson was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by the Rockford Police Department. Hixson ran from the officers and tossed the gun into the snow. Hixson had previously been convicted of a felony weapons offense and was prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.

Hixson pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of illegally possessing machine guns and one count of illegally possessing the firearm.

U.S. District Judge Iain D. Johnston imposed the 66-month prison sentence on Aug. 25, 2022, after a hearing in federal court in Rockford. In a written sentencing order, Judge Johnston stated, “The sole and exclusive purpose of Glock switches, which are easily manufactured, is to convert an already dangerous firearm into an extremely dangerous machinegun. The dangerousness manifests itself not only in the sheer number of bullets that can be emptied from the magazine in the blink of an eye but also in the resulting lack of control of the firearm when discharging it. The damage a machinegun can inflict is enormous. The damage — intended and unintended — a handheld machinegun can inflict is just as great. This offense involved 9 Glock switches, some of which Mr. Hixson sold believing they would be resold to others.”

Grundy County Man Sentenced to More than 12 Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Firearms and Explosive Devices

September 2, 2022

CHICAGO — A Grundy County man has been sentenced to 12 and a half years in federal prison for illegally possessing firearms and explosive devices.

JOHN FEENEY possessed two handguns, three explosives, multiple magazines of ammunition, and drug paraphernalia on Jan. 25, 2020, in Morris, Ill. The explosives included a 4-inch diameter cardboard aerial shell containing perchlorate explosives and black powder; a 2-inch diameter cardboard aerial shell containing perchlorate explosives; and a 2-inch diameter cardboard aerial shell secured to a plastic cup and containing metal Phillips-head bits, copper wire, and perchlorate explosives. During a dispute a day earlier, Feeney used one of the firearms to shoot at an individual, striking the individual’s vehicle. Feeney had previously been convicted of a felony offense in state court and was prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm or explosive.

Feeney, 32, of Minooka, Ill., pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year to one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of illegal possession of an explosive during the commission of a felony. U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso imposed the 150-month prison sentence on Wednesday.

Consultant Pleads Guilty to Providing Bribes to Public Officials to Benefit Clients

September 2, 2022

CHICAGO — A consultant pleaded guilty in federal court to offering and providing bribes to public officials in an effort to benefit his clients.

ROBERTO CALDERO, 69, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger set sentencing for Dec. 15, 2022.

Caldero admitted in a plea agreement that in 2016 he offered and arranged for bribes to be provided to a City of Chicago alderman and a Chicago Public Schools employee in exchange for them taking official actions to benefit Caldero’s clients, who were seeking a custodial services contract at CPS, an honorary street name designation in Chicago, and the renaming of a parcel of property believed to be a Chicago Park District park. The benefits Caldero offered the CPS employee included the prospect of future employment, champagne, discounted event space for a family event, and admission to an annual benefit for a museum. To influence the alderman, Caldero arranged for campaign contributions to be made to political organizations affiliated with the alderman or his ward. Unbeknownst to Caldero, the alderman was cooperating with the FBI.

Man Sentenced to More than Five Years in Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Loaded Gun and Engaging in Covid-Relief Fraud

September 6, 2022

CHICAGO — A man has been sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded handgun in Chicago and fraudulently obtaining a small business loan under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.

TYJUAN LIGHTHALL illegally possessed the gun on Jan. 17, 2019, while riding in a vehicle in the Rogers Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The gun, which Lighthall had unlawfully purchased from an individual in Indiana for $400, was equipped with an extended magazine capable of holding more than fifteen rounds of ammunition. As a previously convicted felon, Lighthall was not legally allowed to possess a firearm.

Lighthall was free on bond in the firearm case when he engaged in the Covid-relief fraud. In April 2021, Lighthall applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, which was a source of relief for small businesses under the CARES Act. A PPP loan allowed the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend a certain amount of the loan on essential expenses, such as payroll, rent, and utilities. Lighthall fraudulently represented to a lender that he was the sole proprietor of a business called “Tyjaun Lighthall,” which purportedly did business under the name “Infinite 5 Creations LLC.” Lighthall submitted the fraudulent application knowing that this business did not exist. After the loan application was approved, the lender deposited $20,833 in Lighthall’s bank account.

Lighthall, 25, of Chicago, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal firearm charge and admitted in a plea agreement that he also engaged in the PPP fraud. U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis imposed a 63-month prison sentence on Sept. 1, 2022, after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.

Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving Covid-19 is encouraged to report it to the Department of Justice by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or filing a complaint online at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Freeport Man Sentenced to 17 Years in Federal Prison for Sexual Exploitation of Minors He Met Online

September 9, 2022

ROCKFORD — A Freeport, Ill. resident was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison for traveling to Iowa to engage in sexual conduct with a minor he met online.

ERICH BRINKMEIER, 27, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and one count of commission by a registered sex offender of a felony offense involving a minor. U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard in Rockford ordered that the prison term be followed by a lifetime of court-supervised release.

Brinkmeier admitted in a plea agreement that in October 2019 he traveled from Illinois to Iowa to engage in sexual conduct with a 14-year-old minor he met online. Brinkmeier was a registered sex offender and was required under Illinois law to comply with the Illinois Sex Offender Registry.

Brinkmeier also admitted to contacting another minor victim online and coercing her to send Brinkmeier sexually explicit images of herself.

Man Sentenced to 41 Years in Federal Prison for Multiple Armed Robberies in Rockford

September 12, 2022

ROCKFORD — A man was sentenced to 41 years in federal prison in connection with a series of violent retail-store robberies in Rockford.

In the fall of 2015, RICKEY CLAYBRON and his co-conspirators carried out three violent robberies and one attempted robbery, using firearms to terrorize store clerks and patrons while stealing cigarettes and cash. Claybron or his co-conspirators physically assaulted, restrained, and shot at some of the store employees, wounding one of them.

A federal jury last year convicted Claybron, 36, of Rockford, on conspiracy, robbery, and firearm charges. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Iain D. Johnston in Rockford ordered Claybron to pay $10,280.75 in restitution.

Two co-conspirators – DEANDRE R. HAYWOOD and DARNELL LEAVY, both of Rockford – pleaded guilty prior to Claybron’s trial. Haywood was sentenced last year to 26 and a half years in federal prison, while Leavy was sentenced in 2019 to eleven and a half years.

According to evidence presented at Claybron’s trial, the three robberies and one attempted robbery occurred within a three-week period:

  • Oct. 28, 2015: H&A Tobacco, 1623 Broadway in Rockford. Claybron pointed a gun at a clerk and ordered the clerk and a customer to get on the ground. Cash and multiple cartons of cigarettes were stolen from the store, along with the clerk’s personal belongings.
  • Nov. 2, 2015: Advance Auto, 3019 Auburn St. in Rockford. A store employee was ordered at gunpoint to lay on the ground while another employee was ordered to open the cash registers. One employee was struck in the side of the face with a gun and later shot at when he ran from the store. The robbers stole cash from the store and from one of the employees.
  • Nov. 5, 2015: Zake Convenience, 824 7th St. in Rockford. In this attempted robbery, Claybron pointed a gun at store clerks and reached behind a partition. When Claybron was unable to gain access to the cash register, he and the other robbers fled the store.
  • Nov. 13, 2015: Shell Express, 3003 11th St. in Rockford. Claybron pointed a sawed-off shotgun at customers while Haywood pointed a gun at store employees and grabbed cigarettes and cash from the registers. Haywood then shot one of the employees in the back while Claybron struck an employee in the head with the shotgun.

Federal Indictment Charges Chicago Man With Illegally Possessing Cocaine and Handguns

September 15, 2022

CHICAGO — A federal grand jury has indicted a Chicago man for allegedly illegally possessing cocaine and two semiautomatic handguns in the city last month.

An indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago charges SEAN DWYER, 51, with conspiracy, drug, and firearm offenses. The charges allege that Dwyer illegally possessed cocaine at two locations on the South Side of Chicago. Federal law enforcement conducted a court-authorized search on Aug. 17, 2022, and discovered cocaine and the two firearms, as well as more than $85,000 in cash. Dwyer was previously convicted of multiple felonies in state court and was prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.

The federal charges against Dwyer carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a maximum of life. Dwyer pleaded not guilty today during his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole in Chicago. Dwyer is currently in federal custody and a detention hearing is set for Monday.

The indictment also charges BRIDGETT MASSEY, 35, of Chicago, with conspiracy and drug possession. Massey pleaded not guilty today during her arraignment before Judge Cole. She was ordered released from custody on a personal recognizance bond.

Federal Judge Sentences Rockford Man to More Than 7 Years in Prison for Illegally Possessing Loaded Gun

September 15, 2022

ROCKFORD — A Rockford man was sentenced today to seven and a half years in federal prison for illegally possessing a loaded semi-automatic handgun.

SHAZARIYAH F. HIBBETT, 33, illegally possessed the gun on Oct. 27, 2020. Hibbett was a passenger in a vehicle that Rockford Police officers attempted to stop. The driver of the vehicle drove from officers at a high rate of speed, eventually stopping in a residential area. Hibbett got out of the passenger side and immediately discarded the handgun outside of the vehicle. He then fled on foot before being apprehended by police a few blocks away.

Hibbett pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of illegal possession of a firearm. He had previously been convicted of multiple felony offenses and was prohibited by federal law from possessing a gun.

U.S. District Judge Iain D. Johnston imposed the 90-month sentence after a hearing in federal court in Rockford.


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