Federal Grand Jury in Austin Indicts Three On Racketeering and Fraud Charges in Connection with the Attempted Capital Murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek
Friday, September 23, 2016
A federal grand jury in Austin has indicted three individuals, including 28-year-old Chimene Hamilton Onyeri of Houston, for their roles in fraud and racketeering schemes that involved the attempted capital murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek in November of last year.
That announcement was made today by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge William Cotter; Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo; Travis County Criminal District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg; United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division; and, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Cynthia Marble, Houston Division.
An 11-count indictment, unsealed in Austin today, charges Onyeri, 26-year-old Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, TX and 24-year-old Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrera, LA, with one count of conspiracy to participate in an enterprise engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and, one count of aggravated identity theft. Onyeri is also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud; an additional count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and, six additional counts of aggravated identity theft.
The indictment alleges that from January 2012 to November 2015, Onyeri and others carried out various fraudulent schemes for financial gain in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas. The racketeering enterprise is alleged to have engaged in mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud and money laundering as well as offenses involving murder.
According to the indictment, the defendants carried out a wire fraud scheme whereby they used debit card readers, or “skimmers,” and cameras placed on ATMs to steal personal identification information (PII) from, and identify PIN #’s used by, unsuspecting individuals. The defendants then used the stolen PII and debit card PIN #’s to “cash out,” or deplete, those bank accounts.
The indictment also alleges that from December 2011 to November 2013, Onyeri and others carried out a credit card skimming scheme whereby they captured unsuspecting individuals’ credit card information at various restaurants and retail stores. They would then transfer the stolen information onto gift cards and subsequently use those gift cards to purchase retail items or money orders which could then be sold or converted to cash.
The indictment further alleges that Onyeri and others were involved in a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) scheme. Onyeri and others used stolen PII to create and file fraudulent income tax returns seeking refunds. Once the refund checks were mailed, Onyeri and others would use the checks to open up bank accounts and then access the fraudulently obtained funds through cash or ATM withdrawals. The indictment also alleges that Onyeri bribed bank employees to create false bank accounts to facilitate access to the funds and agreed to pay $1,500 to an individual who he believed was a U.S. Postal Letter Carrier in exchange for intercepting mailed income tax refund checks.
According to the indictment, when the existence of the criminal enterprise was threatened, the defendants responded with violence. The indictment alleges that on the night of November 6, 2015, the defendants attempted to murder State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, whom Onyeri believed was going to sentence him to prison, by shooting Judge Kocurek while she sat in her car outside her home in Austin. As a result of the incident, Kocurek suffered serious bodily injury from multiple gunshots and resulting shrapnel.
“This multi-agency investigation uncovered a diabolical scheme that went from multi-faceted fraud to an attempt on the life of a State judicial officer,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. “I commend the extraordinary efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dayna Blazey, and the agents of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Austin Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service who brought this case to indictment.”
“A violent attack against a judge doesn't just threaten our justice system; it's an assault to the bedrock of our democracy which upholds the laws protecting our freedom. This case should send a strong message to those who threaten or harm members of our judiciary; the FBI will work day and night, with our law enforcement partners, to ensure they are held accountable for their actions,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs.
“Once again, this investigation proves that greed knows no bounds,” said William J. Cotter, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge for the San Antonio Field Office. “What began as a seemingly small financial crime grew into an organization willing to use violent acts to shield their financial fraud schemes from discovery. IRS-CI Special Agents used financial tracing techniques to assist in unraveling the complex web of violence and fraud."
“The Postal Inspection Service has sought for hundreds of years those who use the Postal Service for illegal gain,” said U. S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez. “This investigation was an excellent example of a partnership between law enforcement agencies working together to bring down this fraud conspiracy. I fully commend the hard work and countless hours put forth which resulted in bringing these individuals to justice.”
Upon conviction, the defendants face up to life in federal prison for the RICO conspiracy charge; up to 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud charge; and, a mandatory two years in federal prison for each aggravated identity theft charge.
Yesterday, authorities arrested Scott in New Orleans. Scott remains in federal custody pending transfer to the Western District of Texas. Burgin remains a fugitive and should be considered armed and dangerous. Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of Burgin. If you have information about him or his whereabouts, please call the Crime Stoppers tip line at 713-222-TIPS (8477) or the FBI San Antonio Field Office at 210-225-6741. Tips may also be submitted to the FBI online at https://tips.fbi.gov/. Onyeri has remained in custody since his arrest on May 18, 2016, on unrelated state charges.
“In coordination with federal authorities, and as a result of the overlapping issues presented in these prosecutions, Dayna Blazey, a Travis County Assistant District Attorney, has been cross-designated as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in order to assist with the federal prosecution of this important case. This office will continue to work with federal authorities until all prosecutions are concluded,” stated Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
This case is being investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, United States Secret Service, Austin Police Department and the Travis County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in (Calcasieu Parish) Lake Charles, Louisiana; Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office; United States Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Louisiana; the United States Marshals Service; Travis County Sheriff’s Office; and, the Houston Police Department have also provided valuable assistance during this investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Gregg N. Sofer and Special Assistant United States Attorney Dayna Blazey are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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