DHS Blue Campaign Announces Partnership with American Airlines

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new industry partnership between the DHS Blue Campaign – the unified voice for DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new industry partnership between the DHS Blue Campaign – the unified voice for DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking – and American Airlines.

January is also recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. While the fight to combat human trafficking exists year-round, January provides an opportunity to reaffirm shared commitment to end this heinous crime.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign is excited about its partnership with American Airlines. The airline provides human trafficking awareness training to nearly 60,000 team members, including flight attendants, pilots and customer service team members. This partnership is an invaluable opportunity to educate the public about the crime of human trafficking, how to recognize the indicators of trafficking when it happens, and what they can do to report it,” said Trent Frazier, Executive Director of the Office of Campaigns and Academic Engagement.

Through the partnership, American and the Blue Campaign will work together to raise awareness of human trafficking by sharing awareness materials, engaging in events and public awareness campaigns, and amplifying a shared anti-trafficking message

“We’re proud to fortify our company’s efforts to combat human trafficking by joining up with the Blue Campaign,” said Nate Gatten, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for American. “With the force of partnership, we know we can better raise awareness and more effectively prevent human trafficking ― an awful crime that happens all too often and affects far too many. American is eager to contribute to a solution in any way we can, and we’re looking forward to being involved with this unified, respected initiative.”

In addition to building vital partnerships which enhance public awareness efforts, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently released its first-of-its-kind Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation. Importantly, this document articulates the Department’s priorities over the next five years to more effectively and efficiently combat the growing threat of these illicit activities to our Homeland.

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New York Attorney Sentenced for Fraud Scheme

Prominent Lawyer Stole Millions from Client Estates

Albany-area families had every reason to trust attorney Albert Hessberg III with their wills and estates. A partner at a major law firm for decades, Hessberg came from a prominent family and had deep ties to the community.

But when some families of Hessberg’s clients tried to access trust funds after their relatives’ deaths, Hessberg gave them the run-around. He encouraged them to be patient, saying he needed more time to handle complex estates. He accused them of being greedy and pitted family members against each other.

Eventually, one client’s family member grew suspicious enough to alert his law firm, which, in turn, brought in the FBI.

Investigators soon learned that Hessberg had stolen more than $2 million from his clients over a period of 12 years.

Financial documents backed up what the victim told investigators. 

After poring through Hessberg’s records, investigators discovered the fraud went back more than a decade. He had stolen from at least 15 trusts during that time. There were numerous victims, since many trusts had multiple beneficiaries.

FBI agents spoke to one victim who tried to access his deceased parents’ trust. He needed the funds to pay for medical care for his sister who had cancer. Hessberg used delay tactics, and the sister died before the family received any money. 

If Hessberg had disbursed the funds, the sister may have been able to pursue other cancer treatment options, the victim told the FBI.

“She had a medical necessity for this money. The parents set this money aside for their children years ago,” said Special Agent Vinesh Manglavil, who investigated this case out of the FBI’s Albany Field Office. “The victim passed away and never got the treatment she could have had. That’s when we knew there was a real emotional impact in this case, not just financial.”

Hessberg used the money to pay for his own high-end living expenses, like vacations, country club fees, and his children’s tuition and weddings.

He got away with it for years because of his reputation and personal relationships with the families who were his clients. He’d even inherited many of his clients from his father, who was a lawyer at the same firm.

“A lot of the victims did not know their rights to these funds that their parents and grandparents had set up for them,” Manglavil said. “They trusted this attorney to navigate the legal system for them, and he abused their trust and the personal relationships.”

In May, Hessberg pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return. He was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison in November.

The victims were able to recoup some of their lost funds. Hessberg’s brother-in-law, singer James Taylor, and his sister, Caroline “Kim” Taylor, agreed to pay the $1.7 million court-ordered restitution that Hessberg owed his victims.

While much of the money was recouped, the emotional turmoil remains for Hessberg’s victims. In the victim impact statements given to the judge in this case, victims described shattered dreams and damaged family relationships stemming from Hessberg’s crimes.

“Hessberg intentionally misled us, over a period of many years, and intentionally planted seeds of distrust among our family members by varying the stories he told each of us,” one victim wrote in an impact statement. The victim went on to say that Hessberg was “portraying himself as a reliable authority figure and casting us as ‘greedy grandchildren.’

For the FBI investigators, bringing some closure to the victims was the key focus of this case.

“We wanted justice to be served for these victims,” said FBI Special Agent Christopher Murphy, who also worked on the case. “Anyone could find themselves in a similar situation, and we just wanted to make them whole as best we could. Hopefully, the justice system did that for them.”

Owner Of Frederick Payroll Processing Business Sentenced To 48 Months In Federal Prison For Defrauding Victims Of More Than $1.6 Million

U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III on Thursday sentenced David Richison, age 64, of Frederick, Maryland, to 48 months in federal prison for wire fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return.

Used Funds from Clients’ Tax Escrow Account to Pay Personal Expenses

U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III on Thursday sentenced David Richison, age 64, of Frederick, Maryland, to 48 months in federal prison for wire fraud and aiding in the filing of a false tax return.  Richison, who owned and operated a payroll processing business, took funds from his clients’ tax escrow account and used them to pay his own personal expenses.  Judge Russell also ordered restitution and forfeiture in the amount of the victims’ full loss, which will be determined after a restitution hearing.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Timothy M. Dunham of the Criminal Division of the FBI Washington Field Office.

“After years of deceiving his clients for his own personal benefit, Richison is now feeling the consequences of his despicable actions,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson.  “We will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office to pursue justice of those who violate our tax laws, especially those who commit fraud at the expense of others.”

According to his plea agreement, Richison owned and operated a Frederick-based payroll processing business, Period Financial, doing business as Period Payroll.  Period Payroll provided payroll processing and payroll tax payment services to businesses in Maryland and Virginia, using special software specifically designed by Richison.  In addition to printing paychecks for client employees, Period Payroll was responsible for calculating the employment taxes owed to federal and state taxing authorities by the client companies and those companies’ employees, as well as preparing and filing the client companies’ employment tax returns. 

Period Payroll clients entrusted Richison with the authority to remove funds directly from their bank accounts to pay their federal and state taxes, as well as to pay fees to Period Payroll.  Richison’s practice was to send the clients a copy of the tax return to be filed and an accounting of the funds to be removed from their accounts and subsequently paid over.  Funds removed from client accounts were placed into an escrow account, which Richison used to make electronic payments to the IRS, generating a unique number for each wire sent on behalf of a client.

Richison admitted that from at least 2012 through 2014, the tax forms prepared and filed by Richison on behalf of Period Payroll clients properly reported the amount of taxes owed, but a corresponding amount of tax deposits was not made with the IRS.  Richison began taking money from the client escrow fund to pay for his own personal and business-related expenses, such as legal fees, rather than paying those funds to the IRS, as he represented to his clients.

For example, in July 2012, Richison transferred $53,000 from the client escrow account to his personal attorney to pay legal fees.  Over the course of 2013 and 2014, the frequency with which Richison failed to pay over client funds to the IRS increased.  When clients received notices from the IRS that their employment taxes had not been paid, Richison provided false explanations for the missed payments and falsely promised to make the payments and cover the penalties and interest. 

To further conceal the scheme, Richison used one client’s escrowed funds to pay another client’s debt, penalties, and interest, without informing either client that he was doing so.  In addition, Richison sent e-mails to clients falsely stating that he had made payments to the IRS on their behalf and provided as proof the wire numbers of transfers that he had made on behalf of other clients.  Between approximately February 2013 and December 2014, Richison used approximately $598,365 of client escrow funds to make payments to the IRS to cover the penalties and interest his clients had accrued in order to conceal the fraud and continue to deceive his clients into thinking that Period Payroll was solvent.

By the end of 2014, there were insufficient funds in the client escrow account to cover the mounting debts and Richison closed Period Payroll.  By that time, the difference between the amount taken from clients and reported to have been paid to the IRS per the tax returns filed on behalf of clients, and the actual payments made as required by those returns totaled at least $1,622,481.56.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI Washington Field Office for its work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney, who prosecuted the case.

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