Month: December 2014

Local Businessman Convicted of Transporting, Sexually Assaulting Female Employee

Henri De Sola Morris, 67, president and chief executive officer of Solid Software Solutions LLC, which does business as Edible Software Inc., has been convicted of transportation, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. After hearing opening statements in a trial that began in Houston yesterday, Morris elected to enter a guilty plea today.

Morris, a naturalized U.S. citizen residing in Houston, admitted that on or about May 8, 2011, he traveled in interstate commerce and committed, and attempted to commit, the drug-facilitated sexual assault of a female employee. That victim was present in the courtroom today as Morris acknowledged his guilt before U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon.
According to opening statements presented by the prosecution, several women relayed similar experiences of being in compromising situations with Morris after he provided each woman with a drugged alcoholic beverage he had prepared. Each woman reported instances of memory loss that followed the encounter consistent with being administered drugs. The women also reported unwanted contact with Morris, according to the opening remarks. The women all worked for Morris at one time and had taken business trips with him at his request to various states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Some of those women were also present in court today.
The plea agreement indicates that on one of those trips, Morris gave a female employee an alcoholic drink which he had drugged with Ambien. She recalled the drink being extremely strong and soon feeling inexplicitly “very intoxicated.” The victim recalled having their picture taken in a restaurant, but then nothing until awakening the next morning on her bed in her hotel room. At that time, she saw Morris standing over her naked body and taking pictures with his cell phone. She also had scratches on each of her hips and bruises on her arm. During a later conversation with the victim, Morris admitted he was “lonely.”
The photos Morris had taken of the woman were later recovered on a thumb drive found in his possession during the execution of a search warrant at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Feb. 27, 2012. Also discovered at that time were three Jack Daniel’s bottles containing a clear liquid inconsistent with the appearance of whiskey. The search also resulted in the discovery of drugs, some of which were later identified as benzodiazipams, that a toxicologist has indicated can cause physical impairment and memory loss especially when mixed with alcohol as well as several tablets of the erectile dysfunction drugs commercially-known as Viagra and Cialis.
The Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SFT) defines drug-facilitated sexual assault (DFSA) as “when a person is subjected to nonconsensual sexual acts while they are incapacitated or unconscious due to the effect(s) of ethanol, a drug and/or other intoxicating substance and are therefore prevented from resisting and/or unable to consent.” Typical symptoms of DFSA are drowsiness, dizziness, loss of muscle control, slurred speech, decreased inhibitions, memory loss or impairment, loss of consciousness and vomiting. The SFT compiled a list of drugs, in addition to ethanol, as known to have been associated with DFSA. The drugs found on Morris at IAH are all on that list.
Morris faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine and will also be ordered to register as a sex offender. Following any sentence imposed, Morris will also be on supervised release for a minimum of five years and potentially for the remainder of his life. Judge Harmon has set sentencing for Feb. 27, 2015. Morris, who was previously on bond but later detained after violating his conditions of release, will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The case was investigated by the FBI—Houston Division Violent Crime Task Force, comprised of agents and officers from the FBI, Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration laboratory in Dallas and the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sherri Zack and Suzanne Elmilady are prosecuting the case.

Houston Man Charged in Large-Scale Interstate Transportation of Stolen Goods Operation

Wassim Hassan Elsaleh, aka Sam Saleh, has been charged in a conspiracy to traffic in the interstate transportation of stolen goods, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Elsalah, 36, is a legal permanent resident from Lebanon who resides in Houston.

The six-count superceding indictment was returned under seal Nov. 19, and unsealed today upon his arrest. He made his initial appearance today and is set for a counsel determination hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy tomorrow at 10 a.m.

The indictment alleges Elsaleh is a “fence” in the Houston area that receives stolen merchandise from “boosters” and sells to various businesses. A “booster” is a criminal who steals goods and merchandise not for personal use but for re-sale to a “fence” for a fraction of its retail value. A “fence” is a person who receives stolen goods and merchandise from “boosters” and others. The “fence” then allegedly re-sells the stolen goods and merchandise to third parties for a profit. The goods often include, but are not limited to, over-the-counter medication (OTC) and infant formulas from retail stores. OTC is medicine that does not require a prescription and includes non-prescription personal hygiene products that can be readily sold in a secondary market as well as items such as Prilosec, Zantac, Claritin and Mucinex.

The charges allege that boosters would steal OTC and infant formulas from pharmacies and retail stores, such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, H-E-B and Kroger, among others. According to the indictment, one or more conspirators would buy stolen merchandise from several traveling booster crews that usually consisted of undocumented aliens from Mexico, Central and South America and then attempt to profit from their sale of stolen merchandise to others. Boosters were allegedly paid in cash in order to aid in concealing the nature of the alleged criminal activity. The indictment alleges the conspiracy ran from on or about April 10, 2012, through May 31.

Elsaleh was the owner and registered agent of Payless Wholesale and Discount Wholesale L.L.C., and Titanium Trading L.L.C., respectively located at 3612 MangumNo. 106 and 2121 Brittmoore Road No. 1800 in Houston, according to the indictment. Elsaleh allegedly used the Mangum and Brittmoore locations as the warehouses for storing, repackaging and shipping the stolen goods received from the boosters.

Once Elsaleh received the OTC and stolen infant formula, co-conspirators would remove the retailers’ security labels markings and stickers to disguise the true origin of the infant formulas so it would be easier to sell and more profitable for the business, according to the charges. When the merchandise was received at the warehouses, Elsaleh would allegedly direct employees to sort, repackage and ship stolen infant formulas out-of-state wholesalers. Elsaleh allegedly sold the merchandise to co-conspirators and direct the payment to be made via wire transfer to bank accounts.

The indictment further charges that If discovered by law enforcement, Elsaleh would shut down the current working warehouse, and re-open the warehouse at another location. On Feb. 14, 2013, Payless Wholesale shut down operations and Titanium Trading later opened in Dec. 2013, according to the allegations.

If convicted of the conspiracy, Elsalah faces up to five years in federal prison, while each underlying count carries a possible 10 years upon conviction. All charges could also result in a possible maximum $250,000 fine.

This matter was investigated by the FBI, Houston Police Department-Major Offenders Division and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office with the cooperation of CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, Mead Johnson and Abbott Nutrition. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Suzanne Elmilady and Joe Magliolo.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

HCSO STREET RACING INITIATIVE NETS 7 ARRESTS

Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputies conducted a street racing initiative this past weekend in west Harris County, resulting in the arrest of seven individuals; six others were issued traffic citations.

The operation, which was held around the area of I-10 West and SH-99, was in response to citizen complaints and known criminal activity by HCSO deputies.

Arrested were:

alvarez, bryan 080591 espinosa, alvaro 021996 navarro, jose 012685 olah, dominic 050495 parham, ronald 070997 ricart, richardo 011590 clendennen, joshua 100989

Alvaro Espinosa, 18; Bryan Javier Alvarez, 23; Richardo Ricart, 24; Ronald Parham, 17; Joshua Clendennen, 25; Dominic Olah, 19; and Jose Navarro, 29.

Six other drivers were issued citations for various other traffic offenses. Street racing is a class B misdemeanor, with maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine, 180 days in jail and driver’s license suspension. Repeat offenders can be charged with a second degree felony, which could result in up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In street racing, passengers can be punished as severely as the driver. Spectators can also be fined. The crime also becomes a felony if the street racing results in serious bodily injury or death.

UPDATE: Suspect Arrested, Charged in Child’s Death at 10110 Club Creek

 

The Houston Police Department arrested a woman charged in the death of a child found at 10110 Club Creek about 5:50 p.m. on June 10.

The suspect, Amber Keyes, 35, is charged with injury to a child-serious bodily injury in the 176th State District Court, according to HPD.

keyed
Charging instrument. Click to enlarge

Keyes is charged in the death of her 9-year-old daughter Ayahna Comb.

“Neighbors became concerned after not seeing Ayahna, known to live at the above address, for several months,” HPD Homicide Division Sergeant C. Hassig and Officers I. Ulloa and T. Ferguson reported. “A concerned neighbor entered the residence through an unlocked door and found the child wrapped in blankets in the kitchen. HFD paramedics responded to the scene and pronounced the girl deceased.”

Further investigation identified Keyes as being involved in Ayahna’s death and she was arrested on Tuesday without incident.

 

Investigation into dead man found at 900 Bagby

 

The investigation into a man found deceased in the 900 block of Bagby about 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday is pending autopsy results by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

The identity of the man, 50, is pending notification to family members, according to the Houston Police Department.

“HPD officers responded to a report of a victim, a homeless man, found deceased near an underpass at the above address,” HPD Homicide Division Sergeants M. Brady and J. Burton reported. “There were no visible signs of trauma.”

The investigation is continuing.

Fatal Traffic Accident at 5100 Bissonnet

The Houston Police Department is investigating a fatal traffic accident that occurred Tuesday at 5100 Bissonnet about 11:45 a.m..

The identity of the deceased male is pending verification by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

“An HPD officer in a marked patrol vehicle was pursuing a robbery suspect driving a gray Chevrolet Impala westbound on Bissonnet into the City of Bellaire,” HPD Vehicular Crimes Division Sergeant G. Hall and Officer C. Semien reporte. “At the intersection of South Rice, the suspect ran a red light and struck a white Honda Pilot. The suspect’s vehicle then struck a pedestrian walk sign, palm trees and a parked car before it crashed into the corner of a Starbucks shop.”

The suspect was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. The female driver of the Honda sustained minor injuries. A male patron of the Starbucks suffered minor injuries when he was hit with flying glass and debris. He drove himself to a doctor to be treated.

As is customary when a suspect dies in the presence of officers, this incident is being investigated by the HPD Internal Affairs Division.

Campaign Manager Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Buy Votes in Donna School Board Election

A campaign manager pleaded guilty today for agreeing with others to pay voters to vote in a Donna school board election, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Five campaign workers have already pleaded guilty to vote-buying in this election.

Francisco “Frankie” Garcia, 47, of Donna, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to buy votes and one count of vote-buying, all during the Nov. 2012 general election.
According to a factual basis read with Garcia’s plea, a general election was held on or about Nov. 6, 2012, in Donna, which included candidates for the presidential election, as well as candidates for various state, county and local offices, including members of the Donna School Board. Garcia worked as a campaign manager for four school board candidates, and he and others agreed to pay voters with cash and cocaine to vote for those candidates.
Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 24, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.