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Airplane in flight (via John McArthur/Unsplash)

(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) A man from Miami, Florida, pleaded guilty today to assaulting a flight attendant and interfering with the crew on a plane that was headed to Dulles International Airport in October, federal prosecutors announced.

Cherruy Loghan Sevilla, 24, exhibited “erratic and disruptive behavior” during a United Airlines flight from Miami to Dulles on Oct. 4, at one point preventing a flight attendant from getting to her jump seat and groping her, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said.

From the news release:

About an hour into the flight, Sevilla began to exhibit disruptive and erratic behavior, including wandering around the plane, running up and down the aisle, clapping loudly near the cockpit, and yelling obscenities. Sevilla refused to remain seated and laid on the floor in the aisle of the plane, preventing a flight attendant from walking up the aisle to her jump seat to prepare for landing. Suddenly, the defendant jumped up and lunged at this flight attendant, grabbing and twisting her right breast. A passenger, another flight attendant, and an onboard law enforcement officer attempted to pull the defendant off and subdue him. The defendant resisted and, in the struggle, twisted the arm of the second flight attendant.

As USA Today reported in October, the man told agents at the FBI office in Dulles that he took psilocybin — a psychedelic drug also known as “magic mushrooms” — before boarding the plane in Miami, according to an affidavit.

“This was not the first time Sevilla had consumed Psilocybin, and Sevilla said that he was not totally surprised he acted this way after consuming it,” an FBI agent wrote in the affidavit. “Sevilla stated that he was sorry for his actions.”

Sevilla has been scheduled for a sentencing hearing on April 21. He could face up to 20 years in prison, though federal crimes are typically sentenced for lower than the maximum penalties, according to the Department of Justice.

Stories of unruly and combative fliers have multiplied in recent years, as air travel has recovered from the initial months of the pandemic.

Though incidents have declined since March 2022, last year still had 823 reports of unruly passengers — the second-most recorded by the Federal Aviation Administration, behind only the 1,099 incidents reported in 2021.

Photo via John McArthur/Unsplash

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U.S. Attorneys Office in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A Herndon man could face up to 15 years in prison for the production of child pornography, according to authorities.

Vincent Joseph Sarikey, 34, appeared in court yesterday (Monday) for allegations that he attempted to groom minors, pushed them record themselves partaking in sexual activities, and engaged in “sexually exploit discussions” with at least two people who identified themselves as minors, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Sarikey faces at least 15 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are usually less than maximum penalties.

Authorities believe the suspect encouraged at least two minors to produce sexually explicit materials and send them to him. Sarikey then allegedly provided the pictures to another individual who shared an interest in the minors, according to court documents.

Authorities say they found “hundreds of images and video of child sexual abuse material” on Sarikey’s electronic devices.

“These exchanges took place on several social media platforms, including Telegram, Twitter, and Discord under the monikers “John Lugne,” “@JLugne,” and “triadus#9325,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its news release.

The FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force investigated the issue. It’s charged with bringing federal charges against individuals who engage in human trafficking or the exploitation of children.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Justice Department logo (via DOJ)

A 29-year-old man from Mount Vernon could face life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting a teen for sexual purposes, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.

Apipat Vutipawat pleaded guilty last Thursday (Nov. 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to charges that, from May 29, 2020 through June 2, 2020, he transported an unidentified minor from Virginia to Pennsylvania “with the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to the Observer-Reporter, Vutipawat was arrested on May 14, 2020 in Pennsylvania’s Richhill Township after police found him in a vehicle with a 14-year-old girl who said he was her boyfriend. He had allegedly met the girl through a dating app and faced multiple local assault charges.

Vutipawat pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault in Washington County Court and was sentenced to over three years in prison on Jan. 14, according to court records.

Vutipawat was indicted on three federal charges in March 2021, including traveling with the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.

With his guilty plea, he faces a total sentence between at least 10 years and life in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, or both, according to the DOJ.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 16, 2023.

“Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant,” the DOJ news release said. “Pending sentencing, Vutipawat remains detained.”

The department says the case was part of its national Project Safe Childhood initiative, which started in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Fairfax County Police Department joined the investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

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A construction worker on a house building frame (via Josh Olalde on Unsplash)

(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) A 57-year-old contractor from Centreville could face up to two decades in jail for using his custom home building company to defraud McLean homeowners.

Pedro Felipe Valdes Sanchez pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding “several couples” who hired his company to build or remodel their houses in and around McLean, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced.

Unfolding from at least May 2017 through April 2018, the scheme saw Valdes take money from customers who believed he would use it to perform contracted work on their properties, according to the Department of Justice:

In the end, Valdes performed minimal work on these customers’ homes, sometimes only demolishing the existing residence on the customers’ property. Valdes also convinced one customer to lend him money by misrepresenting his company’s financial situation. He sometimes used client funds for personal expenses and routinely used funds from one client to fund another client’s projects.

Valdes targeted three couples, according to court documents, the DOJ told FFXnow.

Valdes’s plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema and announced by U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber and FBI Washington Field Office Special Agent in Charge Wayne Jacobs.

Valdes could be given a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

“Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” the DOJ said in its news release.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 14, 2023.

Photo via Josh Olalde on Unsplash

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Holmes Run Stream Valley Park (via Google Maps)

Five MS-13 members have been sentenced to life in prison yesterday for kidnapping and killing two teens at Annandale’s Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in 2016.

Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera were each handed six terms of life imprisonment as well as two 120-month terms by U.S. District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr., the Justice Department announced yesterday.

A federal jury convicted the men in July for the brutal murders of a 17-year-old Falls Church resident — identified by prosecutors by the initials E.E.E.M. — on Aug. 18, 2016 and a 14-year-old Alexandria resident, identified as S.A.A.T., on Sept. 26, 2016.

“This is a profoundly disturbing case involving gang members taking the lives of young members of our community,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “We are proud to work with our federal partners on cases like this to keep Fairfax County and surrounding communities safe.”

Ranging in age from 24 to 31, the men attacked and stabbed E.E.E.M. over 100 times after meeting him at Holmes Run park, because they “erroneously suspected” that he was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

On the night of August 28, 2016, the gang lured E.E.E.M. to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterwards, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.

Prosecutors say S.A.A.T. was killed in a similar manner based on an unfounded suspicion that he was a police informant:

The gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.

Police didn’t find the remains of the two teens until March 2017 after they received a tip that prompted a two-day search of the area, according to news reports at the time. The park was also the site of murders by different MS-13 members in 2013.

The five men sentenced yesterday were all convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity, conspiracy to kidnap, murder in aid of racketeering activity, and kidnapping resulting in death.

There was a total of 17 defendants in the case, including nine people who pleaded guilty before the trial earlier this year, according to the DOJ.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Jessica Aber called the life sentences a “fitting” response to “appallingly violent murders” that resulted in “wrecked families and fear-stricken communities.”

“They will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families,” Aber said in a statement.

Image via Google Maps

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A model house with a magnifying glass and piggy bank in the background (via Photo by Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash)

A couple in Merrifield have been sentenced to prison for using the wife’s real estate job to steal people’s identities.

Caprice Foster, 51, and Marcus Foster, 33, took personal identifying information from at least nine people and used it to “buy a luxury vehicle, lease high-end residences, and obtain loans and credit,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said Friday (Oct. 14).

The information was primarily obtained through Caprice Foster’s work as a real estate agent and timeshare salesperson, per the news release:

To carry out their fraud scheme, the Fosters created numerous false identification documents in other people’s names, including social security cards and driver’s licenses, and they also fabricated tax and employment documents in their victims’ names. The Fosters opened fraudulent bank accounts using stolen identities and deposited stolen and altered checks into these accounts. The Fosters also incorporated a business that they used in furtherance of the fraud. Mr. Foster even impersonated victims in state court eviction proceedings to prolong the Fosters’ stay in residences they fraudulently leased.

Caprice Foster was sentenced to 80 months in prison, while Marcus has been sentenced to 58 months.

According to the Department of Justice, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis joined prosecutors at the sentencing announcement, along with officials from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Photo via Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

An Alexandria man was convicted earlier this month in connection with a series of armed gas station and convenience store robberies in Herndon.

Rashawn Perkins, 28, allegedly wore a ski mask and used a firearm during four robberies over five weeks, according to court documents.

“The evidence established that Perkins robbed a 7-Eleven on December 30, 2021 and a Sunoco on January 19, 2022. The evidence further proved that on February 5, 2022, Perkins returned to both locations and robbed them at gunpoint again,” the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a Sept. 23 release.

According to court documents, Perkins — who previously had been convicted of three felony offenses — threw a firearm out of his bedroom window when the Fairfax County Police Department executed a search warrant for his home.

“Evidence at the trial established that this was the same firearm Perkins used to commit several of the robberies,” the release said.

Perkins faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 28 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment when sentenced on Jan. 12, 2023.

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The U.S. District Court in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A 22-year-old man from Alexandria will serve over two years in prison for a fatal, single-car crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway that involved speeding, alcohol and drug use, the Department of Justice announced last week.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Samuel Meyer was driving south on the GW Parkway on May 31, 2020 when he lost control of his Toyota Tacoma truck around 5:45 p.m. near Mount Vernon Circle.

“As the road curves, Meyer lost control of his truck, left the roadway, and crashed into the woods next to the travel lanes,” prosecutors said. “The truck crashed with such force that the skin of the passenger side of the vehicle was peeled off entirely, and the front passenger door of the vehicle was embedded into a tree a short distance from where the truck came to a stop.”

A front-seat passenger identified as 19-year-old Michael Cunningham later died at a hospital from “blunt trauma injuries to his head, neck, trunk, and extremities.” Meyer and a passenger in the vehicle’s back seat were also treated for minor injuries.

An electronic data recorder in the vehicle indicated Meyer was driving over 85 mph in a 35-mph zone when he crashed. Alcohol and other drugs were also found in his system, according to the news release:

About three and a half hours after the crash, blood samples were taken from Meyer. An analysis showed that Meyer’s blood alcohol content was .09 g/100 mL, still above the legal limit hours after the crash. Also present in Meyer’s blood were benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite of cocaine; THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana; and cocaethylene, which is formed by the liver when cocaine and alcohol coexist in the blood.

Prosecutors say an investigation determined that Meyer made no attempt to brake and instead had his foot on the accelerator in the five seconds prior to impact, despite suggestions to slow down from the truck’s passengers.

Meyer pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced by a federal judge on Friday (Sept. 16) to 30 months in prison, according to court records.

Photo via Google Maps

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Headphones with mic by a laptop (via Petr Macháček/Unsplash)

A 33-year-old man from McLean will go to prison for three years after participating in a scam involving technical support call centers, Department of Justice prosecutors announced on Friday (June 3).

Bruhaspaty Prasad “conspired with several other individuals” to defraud more than 1,300 people, most of them elderly, out of $1.6 million between April 2016 and September 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to the news release, Prasad collaborated with people in India on a scheme where he created several businesses that claimed to offer technical support:

The defendant’s co-conspirators contacted the victims through unsolicited telephone calls and pop-up notifications on their computers claiming, in part, that the victims needed assistance to remove malware from their computers. In other instances, the call center employees pretended to be associated with companies like Amazon and Microsoft and falsely led the victims to believe that there were issues with their online accounts. The victims were duped into signing contracts for technical support services that were never rendered. Once the victims agreed to pay for services, they were frequently contacted again for additional services and charged additional fees.

In addition to creating the fraudulent tech support companies, Prasad opened three businesses in Virginia that served as recipients for the scheme’s proceeds, “a significant portion” of which was sent to his co-conspirators in India.

“Prasad continued operating these businesses and obtaining victims’ funds even after personally receiving several complaints and negative online reviews,” the DOJ said. “Rather than closing the business entirely, Prasad continued to open businesses to allow the fraud scheme to proceed.”

According to the prosecutors’ office, Amazon provided “substantial assistance” to investigators. Court records show that the case was filed on March 7, and Prasad was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

Photo via Petr Macháček/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Reston Town Center set up for last weekend’s Tephra ICA Arts Festival (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

What to Know About Monkeypox — “More monkeypox cases have been reported in the United States since the first illness was reported in Massachusetts last week. But there’s no need for Virginia residents to panic, health officials say as they learn more about how the viral disease is spread.” [Patch]

County to Talk About Youth Mental Health Issues and Drug Use — “As a parent, our kids’ wellbeing is my top priority. Today, the Board supported my motion to convene a roundtable with reps from [Department of Family Services], our Opioid Task Force, clinical pros, the BOS and school board to directly tackle youth mental health & substance use.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

McLean Woman Settles Fraud Case — A McLean resident has agreed to pay $107,347 to settle allegations that she falsified information to obtain two Paycheck Protection Program loans, totaling $42,601, federal prosecutors said yesterday (Tuesday). The Justice Department prosecuted the woman as part of its efforts to crack down on fraud related to COVID-19 relief funds. [DOJ]

Arlington Doughnut Shop Plans Tysons Kitchen — “Good Company Doughnuts & Café has inked a lease for roughly 5,000 square feet at 8524-G Tyco Road…for a kitchen commissary, where it will produce and assemble its products for off-site retail sale…Good Company hopes to have the commissary operating by the end of 2022, [co-owner Charles] Kachadoorian said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Introduces Navigation App to Help Blind Riders — “Metro has partnered with Waymap, a new UK-based start-up, to bring the technology to the Brookland, Silver Spring, and Braddock Road Metro stations…The app will be available in at least 30 Metro train and nearly 1,000 bus stops by September; the entire system is scheduled to be brought online by early 2023.” [DCist]

Cybersecurity Company Moves Within Tysons — “Codehunter…relocated from 1660 International Drive to 1775 Greensboro Station Pl. and expanded their corporate headquarters. Codehunter, represented by Timothy Jacobs and Edward Saa, needed to expand their office footprint due to business growth while also needed to re-strategize their office footprint to support their hybrid work model.” [CityBiz]

New School Board Student Representative Chosen — “Michele Togbe, a junior at South County High School, has been elected by the countywide Student Advisory Council (SAC) to serve a one-year term as student representative to the Fairfax County School Board, beginning July 1…Togbe has three main focuses as student representative: transparency within students’ voices, furthering civic education, and maintaining an equitable lens.” [FCPS]

Local Students Relax with Yarn — “About a dozen third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders gather at lunch several times a week at Little Run ES to knit and loom together. The program was initially launched as an after-school effort paid for with Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief aid, or ESSER III funding.” [FCPS]

It’s Wednesday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 56. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

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