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In SDNY Murky Mag Court Rhino Horn Arraignment of Kampala Man But Case Sealed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 13 – While many even most cases in the Magistrates Court of the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York are sealed, on June 13 SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey L. Berman announced the indictment of four citizens of African nations for trafficking in rhino horn, elephant ivory and heroin into New York and that one of them, a Liberian named "Kampala Man," had earlier in the day been arraigned in the Magistrates Court. But even an hour later, the case file or docket for 19-cr-338 said "This case is under seal." Why?

   The announcement said, "Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, David Bernhardt, the United States Secretary of the Interior, and Christopher T. Tersigni, the Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), announced today that MOAZU KROMAH, a/k/a “Ayoub,” a/k/a “Ayuba,” a/k/a “Kampala Man,” AMARA CHERIF, a/k/a “Bamba Issiaka,” MANSUR MOHAMED SURUR, a/k/a “Mansour,” and ABDI HUSSEIN AHMED, a/k/a “Abu Khadi,” were charged in an indictment for participating in a conspiracy to traffic in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both protected wildlife species, valued at more than $7 million that involved the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than approximately 100 elephants.  In addition, KROMAH, CHERIF, and SURUR were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and SURUR and AHMED were charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin.  KROMAH, a citizen of Liberia, was arrested in Uganda on June 12, 2019, and expelled to the United States.  He was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker earlier today and detained.  CHERIF, a citizen of Guinea, was arrested in Senegal on June 7, 2019, and remains in custody in Senegal pending a process through which his extradition, deportation or other lawful removal to the United States is being considered by Senegalese authorities.  SURUR and AHMED, both citizens of Kenya, remain fugitives.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods.                

According to allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:     KROMAH, CHERIF, SURUR, and AHMED were members of a transnational criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Uganda and surrounding countries that was engaged in the large-scale trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both protected wildlife species.  Trade involving endangered or threatened species violates several U.S. laws, as well as international treaties implemented by certain U.S. laws.                

From at least in or about December 2012 through at least in or about May 2019, KROMAH, CHERIF, SURUR, and AHMED conspired to transport, distribute, sell, and smuggle at least approximately 190 kilograms of rhinoceros horns and at least approximately 10 tons of elephant ivory from or involving various countries in East Africa, including Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania, to buyers located in the United States and countries in Southeast Asia.  Such weights of rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory are estimated to have involved the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than approximately 100 elephants.  In total, the estimated average retail value of the rhinoceros horn involved in the conspiracy was at least approximately $3.4 million, and the estimated average retail value of the elephant ivory involved in the conspiracy was at least approximately $4 million.                 Typically, the defendants exported and agreed to export the rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory for delivery to foreign buyers, including those represented to be in Manhattan, in packaging that concealed the rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory in, among other things, pieces of art such as African masks and statues.  The defendants received and deposited payments from foreign customers that were sent in the form of international wire transfers, some which were sent through U.S. financial institutions, and paid in cash.                 On a number of occasions, KROMAH, SURUR, and AHMED met with a confidential source (“CS-1”), both together and separately, concerning potential purchases of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.  During these meetings and at other times via phone calls and an electronic messaging application, CS-1 discussed with KROMAH, SURUR, and AHMED, in substance and in part, the terms of the sale, including the price, weight, or size of the rhinoceros horns, payment, destination, and delivery options.  CS-1 also discussed with CHERIF via phone calls and electronic messages, in substance and in part, the terms of the sales, as well as how to send payment for the rhinoceros horns from a United States bank account located in Manhattan." Inner City Press will follow this.

 On June 12 Alberto Carrasco a/k/a Moreno came through, charged with agreeing to sell a kilo of heroin in The Bronx.

   The Complaint, 19-MAG-5567, has the DEA's Mark Hadzewycz recounting that on June 3 Confidential Source-1 spoke with Carrasco or Moreno then met him on June 5 on Washington Avenue in The Bronx. CS-1 was showing a "six pack" photo array afterward and picked up Moreno. On June 11 on Lorillard Place they met again, agreeing to the sale of heroin in what the complaint calls a Bronx Shopping Center.

 Carrasco or Moreno in fact brought the drugs, or a weighed bag, from a "particular multifamily home in Mamaroneck, NY."  It was 1.17 kilograms of heroin. He has been detained, with Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker writing on the order additional reason: pending order of protection, strength of evidence including results of search of D's premises." His lawyer is CJA Kelly Sharkey; this; his preliminary hearing is set for June 26. Inner City Press, occupied at that time with a rogue cop's sentencing, aims to be there.

The day before on June 11 a man charged with Social Security fraud in Nebraska was brought by U.S. Marshals before Judge Parker, at the end of the day.

  Judge Parker's Deputy, following a best practice, read out not only the defendant's name, Colbert, but also a number, 19-MAG-5552. An hour after the proceeding, still nothing. Then the Rule 5(c)(3) affidavit, by Deputy Marshal Eric Kushi. It refers to a criminal case number 19 Cr. 3041.

 The defendant has two names: Justin Alexander Colbert, and Nicholas Ryan Hanshaw.

 The Assistant U.S. Attorney referred to an order- it sounded like a sealing order, which is done too frequently, but turned out by 8 pm to be UNsealing - drafted by a colleague seemingly Rushmi Bhaskaran, and Judge Parker said whatever it was it would be signed. (To her credit, she did not grant the baseless request to exclude time until Colbert's slated appearance at the Lincoln, Nebraska courthouse on June 26 before a Judge John Gerard.)

  Colbert or his family have the funds to travel back for that appearance, and perhaps back to New York after that. His Federal Defender, Ian Marcus Amelkin along with an FD intern arranged for Colbert to get a Metrocard. He was released on his own signature of a $20,000 bond, to be signed by June 25 by his mother as well. And that was it. For now. Inner City Press was the only media in the Mag Court and is continuing to dig into all this. Watch this site, @InnerCityPress and the new @SDNYLIVE.

A defendant was released with reporting "only by phone or web, no home visits" in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York's Magistrates Court as the last case of the week of Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.

  Why could Pre-Trial Services not conduct any home visit? If it it because the defendant - murkily announced as Miguel (Tobias?) Mendez is a cooperating witness, why do it in open court? How to justify remanding some, compared to this?

  There is no Miguel Mendez as a defendant in PACER; the Assistant US Attorneys on June 7 were whispering as if part of a conspiracy themselves. Where is the accountability? Where is the transparency?

The next hearing for Bryan Pivnick is July 1.  Inner City Press and @SDNYLIVE will be there.


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