Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Updates on Operation Legend

At a press conference in Kansas City, Missouri, today, US Attorney General William P. Barr announced updates on Operation Legend.


At a press conference in Kansas City, Missouri, today, US Attorney General William P. Barr announced updates on Operation Legend.

Since the operation’s launch, there have been more than 1,000 arrests, including defendants who have been charged in state and local courts. Of those arrests, approximately 217 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

These numbers exclude Indianapolis, whose operation was just announced last Friday. In addition, nearly 400 firearms have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Attorney General launched the operation on July 8, 2020, as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime.

The initiative is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. 

Launched first in Kansas City, MO., on July 8, 2020, the operation was expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, 2020, to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020, to St. Louis and Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020, and to Indianapolis on Aug. 14, 2020. A breakdown of the federal charges in each district, with the exception of Indianapolis, is below.

Kansas City, MO.

Forty-three defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.  In addition to the federal charges, the operation has led to the arrests of 17 state defendants on homicide charges.

  • 20 defendants have been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
  • 17 defendants have been charged with drug trafficking;
  • Four defendants have been charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm;
  • Six defendants have been charged with being in possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Four defendants have been charged with being in possession of a firearm in furtherance of violent crime;
  • One defendant has been charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition;
  • Three defendants have been charged with armed robbery;
  • One defendant has been charged with carjacking; and
  • One defendant has been charged with arson.

Chicago, Ill.

Sixty-one defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.

  • 34 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses;
  • 26 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • One defendant has been charged with possession of machine gun;
  • One defendant has been charged with illegally dealing firearms without a license;
  • One defendant has been charged with the illegal sale of firearm to prohibited person; and
  • One defendant has been charged with bank fraud.

Albuquerque, NM.

Sixteen defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.

  • Six defendants have been charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances;
  • Four defendants have been charged with distribution of controlled substances;
  • Six defendants have been charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance;
  • Four defendants have been charged with being in possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Eight defendants have been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
  • One defendant has been charged with being in possession of a stolen firearm;
  • Two defendants have been charged with Hobbs Act violations; and
  • One defendant has been charged with carjacking.

Cleveland, OH.

Thirty-two defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.  Two defendants remain fugitives.

  • 22 defendants have been charged with federal drug trafficking charges;
  • Nine defendants have been charged with federal firearms violations; and
  • One defendant had been charged with carjacking.

Detroit, MI.

Twenty-two defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.

  • 14 defendants have been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
  • Two defendants have been charged with possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances;
  • Two defendants have been charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Three defendants have been charged with receipt of a firearm while under indictment;
  • Four defendants have been charged with making false statement to a licensed firearm dealer; and
  • Two defendants have been charged with carjacking.

Milwaukee, WI.

Eleven defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.  In addition, thus far, 28 firearms have been seized.

  • Eight defendants have been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm;
  • Five defendants have been charged with possession with intent to distribute narcotics;
  • Four defendants have been charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Two defendants have been charged with making false statements to a licensed firearm dealer;
  • One defendant has been charged with possession of a firearm while being an unlawful user of narcotics;
  • One defendant has been charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition; and
  • One defendant has been charged with distribution of narcotics.

St. Louis, MO.

Twenty-five defendants have been charged with federal crimes, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.

  • One defendant has been charged with drug trafficking and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime following the USMS’s execution of a state arrest warrant;
  • One defendant has been charged with robbery of an item effecting interstate commerce and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence following an joint ATF, SLMPD-initiated undercover operation targeting a known shooter;
  • One defendant has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm following ATF’s execution of a federal search warrant directed towards the residence of a suspected murderer;
  • 21 defendants have been charged with drug trafficking offenses; and
  • One defendant has been charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Memphis, Tenn.

Seven defendants have been charged with federal offenses, with some defendants charged with multiple offenses.

  • One defendant has been charged with being an alien in possession of a firearm while illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  • One defendant, who lives in Memphis, was charged in an out-of-district federal case with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine;
  • Two defendants have been charged with being unlawful users of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and making a material false statement when acquiring a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL); and
  • Two cases remain under seal, but the charges are as follows:
    • One defendant has been charged with bank robbery
    • Two defendants charged with theft from an FFL.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (August 2020) Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Updates on Operation Legend at Press Conference in Kansas City, Missouri

Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage

Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).


Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, was arrested on Aug. 14, 2020, on a charge that he conspired with a relative of his who also was a former CIA officer to communicate classified information up to the Top Secret level to intelligence officials of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

The Criminal Complaint containing the charge was unsealed on Friday.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji M. Price, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division Alan E. Kohler Jr., and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office Eli S. Miranda made the announcement.

“The trail of Chinese espionage is long and, sadly, strewn with former American intelligence officers who betrayed their colleagues, their country and its liberal democratic values to support an authoritarian communist regime,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “This betrayal is never worth it.  Whether immediately, or many years after they thought they got away with it, we will find these traitors and we will bring them to justice.  To the Chinese intelligence services, these individuals are expendable.  To us, they are sad but urgent reminders of the need to stay vigilant.”

 “The charges announced today are a sobering reminder to our communities in Hawaii of the constant threat posed by those who seek to jeopardize our nation’s security through acts of espionage,” said U.S. Attorney Price. “Of particular concern are the criminal acts of those who served in our nation’s intelligence community, but then choose to betray their former colleagues and the nation-at large by divulging classified national defense information to China. My office will continue to tenaciously pursue espionage cases.”

“This serious act of espionage is another example in a long string of illicit activities that the​People’s Republic of China is conducting within and against the United States,” said Alan E. Kohler Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.  “This case demonstrates that no matter the length or difficulty of the investigation, the men and women of the FBI will work tirelessly to protect our national security from the threat posed by Chinese intelligence services.  Let it be known that anyone who violates a position of trust to betray the United States will face justice, no matter how many years it takes to bring their crimes to light.”

“These cases are very complicated and take years if not decades to bring to a conclusion,” said Eli Miranda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Division.  “I could not be more proud of the work done by the men and women of the FBI’s Honolulu Division in pursuing this case. Their dedication is a reminder that the FBI will never waiver when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of our nation.”

Ma is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Hong Kong.

According to court documents, Ma began working for the CIA in 1982, maintained a Top Secret clearance, and signed numerous non-disclosure agreements in which he acknowledged his responsibility and ongoing duty to protect U.S. government secrets during his tenure at CIA.  Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China before arriving in Hawaii in 2001.

According to court documents, Ma and his relative (identified as co-conspirator #1) conspired with each other and multiple PRC intelligence officials to communicate classified national defense information over the course of a decade. 

The scheme began with three days of meetings in Hong Kong in March 2001 during which the two former CIA officers provided information to the foreign intelligence service about the CIA’s personnel, operations, and methods of concealing communications. 

Part of the meeting was captured on videotape, including a portion where Ma can be seen receiving and counting $50,000 in cash for the secrets they provided.

The court documents further allege that after Ma moved to Hawaii, he sought employment with the FBI in order to once again gain access to classified U.S. government information which he could in turn provide to his PRC handlers.

In 2004, the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office hired Ma as a contract linguist tasked with reviewing and translating Chinese language documents. 

Over the following six years, Ma regularly copied, photographed and stole documents that displayed U.S. classification markings such as “SECRET.” 

Ma took some of the stolen documents and images with him on his frequent trips to China with the intent to provide them to his handlers.  Ma often returned from China with thousands of dollars in cash and expensive gifts, such as a new set of golf clubs.

According to court documents, in spring 2019, over the course of two in-person meetings, Ma confirmed his espionage activities to an FBI undercover employee Ma believed was a representative of the PRC intelligence service, and accepted $2,000 in cash from the FBI undercover as “small token” of appreciation for Ma’s assistance to China.  Ma also offered to once again work for the PRC intelligence service. 

On August 12, 2020, during a meeting with an FBI undercover employee before arrest, Ma again accepted money for his past espionage activities, expressed his willingness to continue to help the Chinese government, and stated that he wanted “the motherland” to succeed.

Ma will make his initial appearance before a federal judge tomorrow in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.  He is charged with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to aid a foreign government and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. 

The maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  In the event Ma is convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Honolulu and Los Angeles Field Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson and Trial Attorneys Scott Claffee and Steve Marzen of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (August 2020) Former CIA Officer Arrested and Charged with Espionage

DEA Reports Significant Increase in Counterfeit Pills in Minnesota

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents from the Minneapolis/St. Paul District Office are reporting a significant increase in counterfeit pills entering Minnesota from drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in California, Arizona and Mexico.


Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents from the Minneapolis/St. Paul District Office are reporting a significant increase in counterfeit pills entering Minnesota from drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in California, Arizona and Mexico.

In Minnesota, agents have recovered approximately 46,000 counterfeit pills during the first seven months of 2020, nearly four times the amount seized in all of 2019.  Agents note that the counterfeit pill trend took off in Minnesota in 2018, with pill numbers increasing each year.

Counterfeit pain pills and sedatives are flooding the illegal drug market and causing a significant number of fatal overdose deaths. 

These dangerous substances contain fentanyl, a powerful opioid 100 times more potent than morphine. Supplied by Mexican drug cartels, or coming directly from China, these pills look identical to legitimate medications such as hydrocodone, Xanax or other medications often prescribed for pain or anxiety.

Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide in 2019, DEA found that 27 percent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

“There is no quality control in these counterfeit pills,” Omaha Division Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter Jr., said.  “Drug trafficking organizations do not employ scientists or use professional laboratories to create these deadly pills and therefore they cannot create the safe chemical mixtures that their legitimate pharmaceutical counterparts do.  A lethal dosage of fentanyl is two milligrams, equivalent in size to a few grains of salt, as compared to a lethal dose of heroin at 30 milligrams. Each time someone takes a counterfeit pain pill, they are playing Russian roulette with their life.” 

Minnesota’s counterfeit pills are primarily sourced from Mexico, with traffickers bringing loads across the Southwest Border into Arizona and California before making their way to Minneapolis. Counterfeit pills have been hidden among coffee beans and candy in an attempt to camouflage the product in transport and have been smuggled underneath cars in strong magnetic boxes.

Additionally, agents are seeing more counterfeit pills being shipped through mail services, with Minneapolis investigators recently seizing a 4,000 count pill load with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service.

“If a doctor didn’t prescribe it, or if the pill isn’t coming from a pharmacy, it’s very likely counterfeit,” Salter said. “Mexican cartels are purchasing fentanyl and its analogs and setting up huge operations to manufacture these dangerous products.”

The most common counterfeit pill found in Minnesota is an illicit substitute for oxycodone, known as M30’s for its markings. It is important to note that there is no concern of counterfeit pills entering the legitimate prescription supply chain. 

Counterfeit pills are sold on the black market, either on the street by drug dealers or on the dark web.

As with other illicit drugs, agents have tied counterfeit pills back to gangs and violent crimes.

“We have documented events where opposing gangs are fighting for drug distribution territory,” Salter said. “As a result, gang members have been either shot or killed. The drug business and violence go hand-in-hand.”

The prices of counterfeit pills vary, with distributors in Arizona and California, selling a single pill for $4.  In Minnesota, the same pill can sell for upwards of $30, or $1 per milligram.  Agents have reported seeing prices as high as $100 a pill on Native Reservations.

“Please educate your high school and college-age kids on the extreme dangers of counterfeit medications,” Salter said. “Too often, the overdose victims are young and are not prior drug abusers.  They went to a party and someone offered them a pill to relax them – then they died.  Too many American parents have had to bury their children as a result of drug overdose.”

Minnesota is one of five states in the DEA Omaha Division including Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

Blogs to Follow:

DEA.gov (August 2020) DEA Reports Significant Increase in Counterfeit Pills in Minnesota

ICE removes Honduran man wanted for murder

On July 31, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers removed an unlawfully present Honduran man wanted by Honduran law enforcement authorities for murder.


On July 31, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers removed an unlawfully present Honduran man wanted by Honduran law enforcement authorities for murder.

Saudiel Doblado Carias, 28, was removed to Honduras on an ICE Air charter where he was handed over to Honduran authorities.

Officers from the ERO Washington, D.C. field office arrested Doblado March 10 at his home near Charlottesville, Virginia. Doblado entered the U.S. in 2013 near Mission, Texas, and an immigration judge ordered his removal April 15, 2015, after he did not appear for his immigration hearing.

On Sept. 25, 2015, the Honduran government issued an arrest warrant for Doblado for murder.

ICE has removed hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens, some of whom fall under the category of high-profile removals, since the agency was established in March 2003.

“ICE is committed to removing fugitive aliens charged with crimes in their home countries so they may face justice,” said Acting Washington Field Office Director Lyle Boelens. “We are grateful to our law enforcement partners at home and abroad for their assistance in our shared public safety mission.”

High-profile removals include those who are wanted for a crime in another country, such as murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug offenses, alien smuggling, fraud or theft. Others include persons who are national security risks, such as suspected terrorists, those involved in counter-proliferation crimes or those on the terrorist watch list and/or the no-fly list, along with human rights or war crimes violators.

ICE removed or returned 267,000 aliens in fiscal year 2019. In FY 2019, 86 percent of ERO’s administrative arrests consisted of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.

ICE is focused on removing public safety threats, such as convicted criminal aliens and gang members, as well as individuals who have violated our nation’s immigration laws, including those who illegally reentered the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges.

Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives are urged to contact ICE by calling the ICE Tip Line at 1 (866) 347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing ICE’s online tip form.

Blogs to Follow:

ICE.gov (August 2020) ICE removes Honduran man wanted for murder

Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter Hack

The Northern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced on Friday that three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.


The Northern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced on Friday that three individuals have been charged today for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack that occurred on July 15, 2020.

Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, of Bognor Regis, in the United Kingdom, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.

Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.

The third defendant is a juvenile.  With exceptions that do not apply to this case, juvenile proceedings in federal court are sealed to protect the identity of the juvenile.  Pursuant to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, the Justice Department has referred the individual to the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida.

Twitter Hack Charging Announcement – Northern District of California, U.S. Attorney’s Office

“The hackers allegedly compromised over 100 social media accounts and scammed both the account users and others who sent money based on their fraudulent solicitations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “The rapid investigation of this conduct is a testament to the expertise of our investigators, our commitment to responding quickly to cyber-attacks, and the close relationships we have built with law enforcement partners throughout the world.”

 “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California.  “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.  Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it.  In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”

“Upon opening an investigation into this attack, our investigators worked quickly to determine who was responsible and to locate those individuals,” said San Francisco FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. “While investigations into cyber breaches can sometimes take years, our investigators were able to bring these hackers into custody in a matter of weeks. Regardless of how long it takes us to identify hackers, we will follow the evidence to where it leads us and ultimately hold those responsible for cyber intrusions accountable for their actions. Cyber criminals will not find sanctuary behind their keyboards.”

“Weeks ago, one of the world’s most prolific social media platforms came under attack.  Various political leaders, celebrities, and influencers were virtually held hostage as their accounts were hacked,” said Kelly R. Jackson, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge of the Washington D.C. Field Office.  “The public was confused, and everyone wanted answers.  We can now start answering those questions thanks to the work of IRS-CI cyber-crime experts and our law enforcement partners. Washington DC Field Office Cyber Crimes Unit analyzed the blockchain and de-anonymized bitcoin transactions allowing for the identification of two different hackers. This case serves as a great example of how following the money, international collaboration, and public-private partnerships can work to successfully take down a perceived anonymous criminal enterprise. Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, IRS-CI will continue to follow the money and unravel complex financial transactions.”

“Today’s announcement proves that cybercriminals can no longer hide behind perceived global anonymity,” said Thomas Edwards, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, San Francisco Field Office. “The Secret Service remains committed to pursuing those responsible for cyber-enabled fraud and will continue to hold cyber criminals accountable for their actions.  This investigation is a testament to the strong partnerships between the Secret Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the IRS, as well as our state, local and international law enforcement partners.”

“Our identities and reputations are sacred. We will continue to aggressively defend and protect individuals, companies, and other entities from new-age cyber-fraud, especially those who scheme to hack, defraud and wreak havoc on U.S. citizens across the country,” said Caroline O’Brien Buster, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Orlando Field Office. “The Secret Service believes that building trusted partnerships between the private sector and all levels of law enforcement is the proven model for success. I commend the exceptional work conducted by our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office who worked diligently to hold these defendants accountable.”

As alleged in the complaints, the Twitter attack consisted of a combination of technical breaches and social engineering.  The result of the Twitter hack was the compromise of approximately 130 Twitter accounts pertaining to politicians, celebrities, and musicians.

The hackers are alleged to have created a scam bitcoin account, to have hacked into Twitter VIP accounts, to have sent solicitations from the Twitter VIP accounts with a false promise to double any bitcoin deposits made to the scam account, and then to have stolen the bitcoin that victims deposited into the scam account.  As alleged in the complaints, the scam bitcoin account received more than 400 transfers worth more than $100,000. 

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco Division, with assistance from the IRS-Criminal Investigation Cyber Unit; the U.S. Secret Service, San Francisco and Headquarters; the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and their REACT task force and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Adrienne Rose of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Frentzen and Andrew Dawson of the Northern District of California.

Additional assistance has been provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida; the State Attorney for the 13th Judicial District in Tampa, Florida; the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Organized Crime and Gang Section; the United Kingdom’s Central Authority and National Crime Agency; Chainalysis and Excygent.

The allegations of a criminal complaint are merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Three Individuals Charged for Alleged Roles in Twitter Hack