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Federal Government
Jacksonville Man Indicted On Child Porn Charges PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Donna Martinez   
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 09:01
A Federal grand jury in Raleigh has returned a twelve-count indictment charging Morgan Jeffrey Shepard, age 32, of Jacksonville, North Carolina, with one count of producing child pornography, three counts of enticing a minor to engage in a sexual activity, seven counts of receipt of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.
The indictment alleges that beginning in or around September 2016, and continuing through in or around November 2016, Shepard persuaded and enticed a minor victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating child pornography. During the same dates, he is alleged to have enticed the same minor victim to engage in sexual activity that constituted sexual exploitation of a child under North Carolina state law.
The indictment alleges that between April 23 and April 27, 2018, Shepard enticed two additional minor victims to engage in criminal sexual activity. It further alleges that beginning at a time unknown and ending on July 13, 2017, SHEPARD received at least seven images containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Lastly, the indictment alleges that on July 13, 2017, Shepard was found to be in possession of digital media containing images and videos involving minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
If convicted of these charges, She would face a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment. He also would face up to a lifetime of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
This case is part of the Project Safe Childhood initiative, a national program aimed at ensuring that criminals exploiting children are effectively prosecuted by making full use of all available law enforcement resources at every level. For more information about this important national initiative, go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wilmington Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Jake D. Pugh is prosecuting the case for the government.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 July 2019 10:15
Federal Funding Released For Hurricane Victim Jobs Program PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 23 July 2019 09:33

Governor Cooper announced additional federal funding is available for the temporary employment program that helps North Carolinians get back to work in areas affected by Hurricane Florence.

The new funds, totaling $3.1 million, are part of a Disaster Recovery Dislocated Worker Grant that the U.S. Department of Labor initially awarded to the N.C. Department of Commerce in late September 2018, not long after Hurricane Florence devastated the state. The Commerce Department’s Workforce Solutions division requested the grant and administers the program in partnership with local Workforce Development Boards.

“North Carolina has made great progress since Hurricane Florence hit, but many areas are still recovering,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland said. “This temporary employment program is an important tool that allows us to match people who need work with organizations that need workers.”

The additional funding will address the immediate needs for workers in the hardest-hit counties: Robeson, Bladen, Hoke, Scotland and Richmond, all of which are served by the Lumber River Workforce Development Board. Funding will also be available to other eligible areas with identified continuing recovery needs.

Through the federal grant, residents of eligible counties are employed in jobs that support either clean-up and recovery from storm damage or humanitarian assistance to people in the affected areas. As of the end of June, the program has supported 516 workers. Their employers must be either nonprofits or government agencies, and they can employ participants in this program for up to 12 months. Worksites must generally be on either public property or land owned by not-for-profit agencies.

Workers who lost jobs directly due to Hurricane Florence are not the only residents who may be eligible to participate in the program. Some may be eligible after being unemployed for 13 or more weeks, or after being dislocated due to a business closure or layoff.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 July 2019 09:37
Senate Passes Bill to Ensure Federal Funds During State Budget Impasse PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Donna Martinez   
Tuesday, 23 July 2019 09:30
Tthe North Carolina Senate Passed House Bill 961  to ensure authorization of federal funds while the state is operating on a $23.8 billion continuing budget. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued the following statement: 
"The Senate has now passed legislation to ensure that ongoing federal funds are not held up during the state budget impasse. We hope that Governor Cooper will drop his Medicaid expansion ultimatum and negotiate a full budget that delivers on important priorities across the state."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 July 2019 08:53
31 Charged In Cigarette Smuggling Operation Based In North Carolina PDF Print E-mail
Federal Government
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 23 July 2019 09:15
RALEIGH – Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced today that on June 19, 2019, a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of North Carolina returned a sealed, eight-count indictment charging 31 individuals and one business entity with a scheme to defraud the federal government, the State of North Carolina, the State of New York and the Commonwealth of Virginia, of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the sale of cigarettes.
This investigation, entitled Operation Southern Lights, is an effort to end large scale tax fraud and to hold these defendants accountable for the millions in lost tax revenue as the result of their illegal scheme. The individuals charged are:
• Justin Brent Freeman, 36
• Malek Hamoud Alsaidi, 40
• Ibrahim Ahmed Alsaidi, 43
• Sadek Dahan Shahbain, 38
• Ayed Yahya Ali Alsham, 37
• Alshami Yahya Ali Alshami, 35
• Mohamed Hafed Abdou, 39
• Mohamed E Ould El Bechir, 43
• Akram Ali Amer, 32
• Mohamed Yeslem Ould Izid Bih, 40
• Mohammed Saaid Darweesh, 30
• El Hassen Hamadi, 42
• Musheer Mohammed Hezam Al Naqeb, 21
• Ali Mohammed Mashli Al Qadhi, 41
• Mohamed Mounir, 39
• Aied Awad Shibli, 50
• Shibli Abu Issa Shibli, 51
• Manar Mohammed Talal-Mustafa, 40
• Mohammed Nael Mahmou Khalayfa, 28
• Saleh Mohammed Abdeljawad, 39
• Kaid Mohamed Addailam, 32
• Amr Mousa Alhalemi, 22
• Ahmed Khalayfa, 21
• Rawhi Abdel Jabbar Khams Awad, 62
• Ali Aied Shibli, 26
• Amchad Rawhi Khamis Awad, 31
• Wachdi Rawchi Khamis Awad, 33
• Abdallahi Mohamed Elhafedh, 43
• Ahmed Elhoussein, 54
• Dedde Cheikh, 39
• Arafat A. I. Abuhammoud, 34
In Count One, the grand jury alleges that the 31 individuals and the one business entity listed in the indictment, had been engaged in a conspiracy, beginning in 2018 and continuing until at least the time the indictment was returned, to ship, transport, receive, possess, sell, distribute and purchase cigarettes, in quantities exceeding 10,000 cigarettes (as required by the relevant statute), which bore no evidence of the payment of applicable State or local cigarette taxes in the state and locality where they were found. The object of the conspiracy was to profit from the purchase of cigarettes with cash in North Carolina, drive those cigarettes to the northeast, and sell them without paying the applicable sales tax. This is all alleged to be in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2342 (a) (which prohibits the trafficking in contraband cigarettes and smokeless tobacco) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, the general conspiracy statute.
It is alleged in the indictment that members of the conspiracy would repeatedly purchase large quantities of cigarettes from Justin Brent Freeman, age 37, of Hope Mills, North Carolina, through a business he operated named Freeco, Inc. in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as well as from other cigarette wholesalers in Fayetteville, Raleigh and Goldsboro, and then transport those qualities of cigarettes to storage locations for future shipment to New York City. After purchasing the cigarettes from Freeman and Freeco, Inc., or from one of the other retailers, members of the conspiracy would then prepare for transporting the cigarettes to the Northeast by using a full size van or rental truck and cross into the Commonwealth of Virginia and travel to either Richmond or Alexandria. In Virginia, the cigarettes would be transferred to another member of the conspiracy who would continue the transportation to Syracuse, New York. There, additional members of the conspiracy would transfer the cigarettes to an as yet unknown individual for transportation and distribution in the New York City area.
Counts Two through Seven allege six specific instances where the individual named in those counts (and who were part of the conspiracy charged in Count One) knowingly shipped, transported, received and possessed contraband cigarettes (in amounts greater than 10,000) which bore no evidence of the payment of applicable state cigarette taxes in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Each of these instances is alleged to be in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2342(a), as well.
Last, Count Eight alleges that all 32 defendants – the 31 individuals and Freeco, Inc. – were engaged in a conspiracy to launder money in violation of Title 18,
United States Code, Section 1956(h). In this count, the grand jury alleges that members of the conspiracy (a) conducted and attempted to conduct financial transaction affecting interstate commerce which involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, that is, cigarette trafficking, with the intent to further the goals of that crime, and that they knew that the property involved in the crime was in fact the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity; and (b) that, again, while they conducted or attempted to conduct the specified unlawful activity – again, cigarette trafficking – that the transactions were designed in whole or in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds of the unlawful activity. So, in sum, the money laundering conspiracy count alleges that the members of the conspiracy were trying to either further the goals of the crime or to conceal the crime by using the proceeds of the crime in some way, or do both those things.
If convicted of Count One, the general conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes, each defendant faces up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000 or both; if convicted of Counts Two through Seven, each defendant named therein faces up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000, or twice the gain obtained, whichever is greater, or both; and, if the defendants are convicted of money laundering as alleged in Count Eight, they each face up to 20 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or both.
In addition, the grand jury included a forfeiture notice in the indictment. That section of the indictment provides notice to each defendant that the items of property listed in that notice, and any other property which is the proceeds of or involved in the crime, is forfeitable to the United States. The forfeiture notice conservatively calculates the gross proceeds of the crimes alleged in the indictment at $12,322.943 and designates that amount as forfeitable to the United States as well.
The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations. An Indictment is a formal written accusation originating with the United States Attorney and issued by a grand jury against a party charged with a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, United States Marshals Service, Robseson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.

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