Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Changes at Prosecutor’s Office — Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has announced a reorganization of her office to implement a “vertical prosecution” model. The new structure “requires that one prosecutor be assigned to each case from start to finish; it permits the assigned attorney to work early and closely with law enforcement, victims, witnesses, and defense attorneys.” The office has also recently stopped its courtroom involvement with certain types of minor traffic offenses. [Press Release, Twitter]

Man Pleads Guilty to Arlington Carjacking — “A Washington, D.C. man pleaded guilty today to his role in an armed robbery and carjacking that led to a high-speed police chase and resulted in injuries to two police officers. According to court documents, Jovan Doir Johnson, 30, together with another individual, obtained a stolen vehicle at gunpoint in Arlington and then used it to rob a 7-Eleven in Lorton.” [Dept. of Justice]

Board Approves CIP, Bond Referenda — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to adopt a scaled-down $277.5 million one-year Capital Improvement Plan that focuses on continuing or completing projects already underway and beginning a 10-year program to improve the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood resiliency… In a related action, the Board unanimously approved bond referenda totaling $144.454 million to be put before the voters on the November ballot.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]

Board to Hold Closed COVID Meeting — “Notice is hereby given that the County Board of Arlington Co., VA, on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 5:30pm, or as soon thereafter as matters may be heard, in accordance with and for the purposes authorized by law will meet to discuss matters related to the County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]

Pandemic May Cause Hunger Crisis — “Up to a quarter of a million people in the Washington area could be thrown into hunger because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by the Capital Area Food Bank, even as the amount of donated food and the number of distribution sites plummet precipitously.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

Special County Board Meeting Planned — On Thursday at 6 p.m., the Arlington County Board “will hold a special meeting for a listening session on racial justice, systemic racism and policing. The County Board special meeting will be conducted using electronic means.” [Arlington County]

County Commissions Still Mostly Inactive — “Faced with a growing rebellion over the lack of meetings by Arlington government advisory panels, County Board members and top staff on June 13 offered (slightly defensive) apologies – but not much of a roadmap forward. Board members were responding to a June 9 letter sent to them by 25 chairs of advisory groups, complaining that the local government has been lagging in re-starting meetings that largely have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March.” [InsideNova]

Pandemic Affects College Plans — From a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday: “The struggle extends to those already in college who are laboring to pay tuition and are weighed down by debt like 20-year-old Katherine Trejo of Arlington, Virginia. The daughter of a single mom from Bolivia, Katherine was supposed to graduate from George Mason next year. She is the first person in her family to attend college.” [CBS News]

Summer School Registration Underway — “Registration for distance learning secondary summer school is underway. Elementary students who qualify to participate in the Elementary Summer Learning Program will automatically be registered by APS.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Guilty Plea in Case Involving Arlington Company — “A former Arlington business executive pleaded guilty today to embezzling nearly $8 million that was intended to settle claims by children who alleged they were victims of medical malpractice. According to court documents, Joseph E. Gargan, 59, of Round Hill, was the Chief Executive Office of the Pension Company, Inc., an Arlington business that would execute settlement agreements entered into between civil litigants.” [Dept. of Justice]

ARLnow Operating Remotely — Since the first confirmed local coronavirus case in March, ARLnow’s employees have been working from home. We plan to continue working remotely until 2021, and may continue to have most employees work remotely most of the time after that. [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

HQ2’s Employee Count Keeps Growing — “Amazon.com Inc.’s Arlington headquarters seems to get larger by the week. At latest count, there are just shy of 715 employees in leased office spaces in Crystal City and about 125 pending starts.” [Washington Business Journal]

MS-13 Members Plead Guilty to Shooting — “Two MS-13 members pleaded guilty today to their respective roles in a December 2018 shooting and stabbing that occurred in Four Mile Run Park on the border of Alexandria and Arlington. According to court documents, Juan Francisco Rivera-Pineda, 25, and Jefferson Noe Amaya, 24, both Alexandria residents… confronted the victim in the park, shooting him in the throat and arm, and stabbing him in the back. The victim was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery and survived.” [USDOJ]

Pentagon Suspect Was Out on Bail — “Matthew Richardson, who is facing charges in Arlington, Va., after police say he tried to blow up a car in a Pentagon parking lot, was released from the Washington County jail in December after The Bail Project posted his bond.” [Arkansas Democrat Gazette]

Vaping Is Prevalent in Arlington Schools — “Sneaking doses from e-cigarettes or, ‘juuling,’ has emerged as ‘the No. 1 offender at Arlington Public Schools,’ according to substance abuse counselor Jenny Sexton, speaking at the Feb. 12 exploration of the hot topic at the Arlington Committee of 100… It’s a tricky discipline challenge, said Sexton, who is “stretched thin” counseling populations at 24 elementary schools and two Arlington middle schools.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Strong Primary Absentee Voting Turnout — “Former Arlington County, VA Treasurer Frank O’Leary: ‘A new record has been set in Arlington for absentee voting in a Presidential primary. In fact, over the last seven days an amazing 1,722 absentee votes have occurred – 61 percent in person.'” [Blue Virginia, Twitter]

Beyer Campaigning for Mayor Pete — “As Pete Buttigieg struggles for momentum going into the South Carolina Democratic primary and Super Tuesday, two members of Congress from the Washington region are traveling the country to promote his presidential campaign. Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) were early endorsers of the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who they say has the personal story and calm demeanor to unite a nation divided by Donald Trump’s presidency.” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Another School Boundary Process Coming — “It might go well, or it might be the civic-engagement equivalent of a bloodbath. But either way, Arlington school leaders are about to embark on a new round of rejiggering elementary-school boundaries.” [InsideNova]

Fire Station 8 Contract Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $16.1 million construction contract and a concept design for a new, energy-efficient, four-bay station to replace the obsolete Fire Station No. 8 at 4845 Lee Highway. The new fire station will better serve the community while honoring Fire Station No. 8’s long history.” [Arlington County]

Local Man Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Violations — “An Arlington political consultant who served as the treasurer of multiple Political Action Committees (PACs) pleaded guilty today to lying to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) about approximately $32,500 in payments of PAC money that he directed to himself and a close friend.” [Press Release]

Run With a Running Legend FridayUpdated at 2:45 p.m. — “Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon – wearing bib number 261 – and is the founder of the global non-profit 261 Fearless, will be in Arlington this Friday to run with the 261 Fearless Club DC Metro/VA. The short, easy run will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. It is free and open to the public; all are invited.” [Press Release]

ACPD Celebrates Accreditation — “The Arlington County Police Department has received its Initial Accreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC). The announcement comes following an intensive on-site assessment, which took place in April 2019.” [Arlington County]

Notable Local Candidate Endorsements — The website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed a number of Arlington candidates, including Del. Alfonso Lopez for the 49th House of Delegates district, Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol for County Board, and Parisa Dehghani-Tafti for Commonwealth’s Attorney. Additionally, Cristol has endorsed Dehghani-Tafti. [Greater Greater Washington, Twitter]

Photos by Verónica Colón/Twitter, Sandra P., Bill Colton, Arlington County Fire Department/Twitter, and Susan C.

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A pharmacy owner with stores in Arlington and Alexandria has been sentenced to four years behind bars for falsifying insurance claims and illegally dispensing opioids.

Latif Mohamed Chowdhury, 29, was sentenced to prison on Friday after law enforcement accused him of running a get rich quick scheme by billing insurance companies for prescriptions he never filled, and in some cases, were never prescribed by a doctor to the patient. Officials say Chowdhury, who did not have a pharmacy license, dispensed medications and billed insurance companies at his two pharmacies between August 2015 and February 2016 using identities he had stolen from licensed pharmacists.

“Chowdhury blithely violated his position of trust,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement last week.

Federal prosecutors said Chowdhury pocketed $500,000 from his fraudulent billing and illegally dispensed “a significant number” of opioid and other medications.

Officials also said in the course of their investigation they found Chowdhury had given opioids to seven-year-old children “outside the usual course of professional practice.”

While searching one of the pharmacies, officials said they found Chowdhury had left a loaded Colt .38 revolver on one of the store’s shelves.

The Arlington pharmacy (called ACP-2) was located at 611 S. Carlin Springs Road, at the Virginia Hospital Center campus that is being acquired by Arlington County in a land swap. The Alexandria pharmacy (ACP-1) was located at 8330 Richmond Highway.

“Although one of Chowdhury’s family members owned ACP-2, Chowdhury in fact operated, managed, directed, and controlled ACP-2 from in or around January 2015 through in or around February 2016. ACP-2 was shut down for business in March 2016,” Matthew Nestopoulos, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told ARLnow.

On his LinkedIn, Chowdhury listed experience working in information technology — including eight months at the Pentagon — before leaving the field and opening the two pharmacists.

“In 2013 I began to venture towards opening a business and work alongside my career to grow Alexandria Care Pharmacy which has now been successfully operating for two years,” he wrote.

His most recent post included a call to hire “full-time background investigators” for a new business venture.

“We are committed to protecting the public and the people of Virginia,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division. “We will continue to track down and bring to justice criminals who are fueling the opiate crisis at every level including pill writers, pill fillers, and drug dealers in the area.”

Friday’s sentencing came after Chowdhury pled guilty in July.

Flickr photo by Joe Gratz

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An Arlington man previously convicted of a pair of bank robberies in Alexandria is facing more jail time.

Budder Khan, now 29, pleaded guilty today to robbing two pawn shops in Falls Church, federal prosecutors announced. Khan could face decades in prison for the pawn shop robberies, which took place in 2014 and 2015.

Khan was dubbed the “Ball Cap Bandit” due to the hats he wore during a series of local bank robberies in 2016.

More from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:

An Arlington man pleaded guilty today to robbing two Falls Church pawn shops of nearly $800,000 in jewelry and watches.

According to court documents, in July 2014, Budder Khan, 29, entered Route 50 Gold and Jewelry Exchange, forced the store’s employees to the ground using what appeared to be a real firearm, smashed the business’s glass display cases and took jewelry and watches worth over $650,000. Later, in April 2015, Khan entered Top Pawn, again used what appeared to be a real firearm to frighten the store’s employees, smashed the business’s glass display cases and stole jewelry and watches worth over $143,000.

Khan pleaded guilty to two counts of interference with commerce by robbery and faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison when sentenced on December 6. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI WFO’s Violent Crime Safe Streets Task Force which is composed of Special Agents of the FBI, along with Detectives from the Fairfax County Police, the Prince William County Police, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, the Arlington County Police, the Alexandria City Police, the Leesburg Police, Vienna Police Department, Herndon Police Department, Fairfax City Police, Falls Church Police Department, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and in partnership with the ATF, USMS, HSI, and other federal agencies. This task force focuses on investigating the most egregious and violent criminal enterprises and actors operating in the Capital Region.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Timothy M. Dunham, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, and Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr., Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander E. Blanchard is prosecuting the case.

Flickr photo by Joe Gratz

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Arlington resident Todd Hitt, the founder of Falls Church-based Kiddar Capital, has pleaded guilty to a massive, Ponzi-like fraud scheme.

Federal prosecutors say Hitt, “solicited approximately $30 million from investors for a variety of real estate and venture capital investments,” but used much of the money “for personal spending to support an extravagant lifestyle and new investor’s funds used to pay off old investors.”

“Hitt’s fraudulent conduct resulted in investor losses of approximately $20 million,” said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Before his October arrest by the FBI, Hitt was developing a new company headquarters in Falls Church. A member of a prominent local commercial real estate family, Hitt made headlines as a young housing developer in the 1990s for clashing with Arlington neighbors while building what residents dubbed “McMansions.”

More on the guilty plea, and Hitt’s future sentencing, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

An Arlington man pleaded guilty today to orchestrating eight fraud schemes that resulted in total losses of approximately $20 million.

According to court documents, Todd Elliott Hitt, 54, solicited approximately $30 million from investors for a variety of real estate and venture capital investments in the Washington, D.C. area from 2014 through August 2018. The investments included Hitt’s solicitation of approximately $17 million from investors in order to purchase a five-story office building adjacent to a planned future stop on the Silver Line in Herndon. Hitt made false statements and material omissions to investors by failing to disclose that a significant portion of the monies raised were commingled with other unrelated investment projects, used for personal spending to support an extravagant lifestyle and new investor’s funds used to pay off old investors in a Ponzi-like scheme. Hitt’s fraudulent conduct resulted in investor losses of approximately $20 million.

Hitt pleaded guilty to a charge of securities fraud in and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $5 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark D. Lytle is prosecuting the case.

Photo via YouTube

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A Clarendon gym owner will now spend years behind bars, after admitting that he tried to buy large quantities of cocaine from undercover police officers.

Pascal Laporte, the owner of Clarendon Fitness, has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges alleging that he tried to buy and then distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. Laporte will now face anywhere between five and 40 years in prison, according to documents filed in federal court.

Federal prosecutors first charged Laporte back in late August, claiming that he unwittingly spoke with a police informant for close to a year as he looked to find a supplier to sell him hundreds of kilograms of cocaine on an ongoing basis.

The informant eventually arranged a drug deal with Laporte in the parking lot of the Arlington Traditional School in fall 2017, and he subsequently mentioned that he hoped to provide associates in Florida and South Carolina with drugs for distribution. He was arrested in a Tysons-area hotel, when he attempted to exchange $45,000 for drugs in a deal with two police officers posing as Mexican gang members.

Laporte founded the Clarendon gym, located at 2907 Wilson Blvd, back in 2010.

The terms of his plea agreement stipulate he’ll have to hand over the $45,000 in cash he brought to his meeting with police officers to the federal government, in addition to a 2011 Jeep Wrangler he used to conduct these drug transactions.

Laporte is set to be sentenced on Jan. 25 in federal court.

Meanwhile, a video featuring Laporte is still displayed prominently on the Clarendon Fitness website.

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A Washington, D.C. man is now facing 23 years behind bars, after pleading guilty to shooting and killing a man at a party in Williamsburg last year.

Jason Allen Johnson, 39, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and two gun charges on Tuesday (July 31), averting the need for a trial previously set for September.

Investigators believe Johnson got into an argument with 23-year-old Michael Gray of Manassas on Feb. 17, 2017 while the pair attended a party at a home on the 6300 block of 29th Street N., not far from Bishop O’Connell High School. Police believe Johnson then shot Gray, who later died of his injuries at a nearby hospital.

Johnson managed to flee the scene before police arrived, and he was only arrested in October after he was caught shoplifting in New York City. He was initially charged with first degree murder, before pleading to a lesser charge this week.

“Mr. Gray tragically lost his life to a senseless act of violence by Jason Allen Johnson,” Arlington County Deputy Police Chief Daniel Murray wrote in a statement. “This sentence is a result of the commitment of our detectives to continue to pursue this case and hold Johnson accountable for his actions, despite fleeing from the commonwealth. Although nothing will return the victim to his family, we hope this sentence will provide closure to the victim’s family knowing that this violent criminal will be behind bars for a significant amount of time.”

Photo courtesy of Arlington County Police

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Morning Notes

Woman Pleads Guilty to Oxycodone Conspiracy — A former medical assistant at doctor’s offices in Arlington and Alexandria has pleaded guilty “for her role in leading a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone,” according to federal prosecutors. “From 2011 through December 2017, [Louise] Edwards stole blank prescription pads and electronically-generated fraudulent prescriptions using a medical recordkeeping system… Edwards facilitated the fraudulent filling of at least 353 prescriptions, totaling 42,360 pills of 30 milligram oxycodone.” [Alexandria News, Patch]

Elected Officials Support Striking Workers — Local elected officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and state Sen. Barbara Favola, are scheduled to meet this morning with Didlake Inc. employees who work at the Army National Guard Readiness Center on S. George Mason Drive. The employees are on strike after the company refused to recognize their vote to join a union.

Thousands Attend RFK Memorial at ANC — Thousands of people attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Speakers at the memorial included Rep. John Lewis, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and former President Bill Clinton. Country music star Kenny Chesney played a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” [Associated Press]

Meeting Space Coming to Rosslyn — “Meeting and event space provider Convene has inked a deal to open a new location high atop the CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn, where it plans to join the building’s namesake tenant as early as October. The New York-based company has signed a 14.5-year sublease for 35,000 square feet from Gartner Inc., CEB’s parent company, at 1201 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Sun Gazette Endorses de Ferranti — The Arlington Sun Gazette has endorsed Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary, which will be held this coming Tuesday. However, the paper has little good to say about him, instead opining that he and fellow candidate Chanda Choun lack “deep roots in the community and, we fear, each has yet to develop an ingrained grasp of local issues to provide a viable challenge to the very plugged-in incumbent [John Vihstadt].” [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD

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Morning Notes

ACFD Battles Kitchen Fire — Arlington County firefighters last night extinguished a kitchen fire in an apartment building on the 1900 block of N. Calvert Street, just north of Lee Highway and east of Spout Run. No injuries were reported. [Twitter, Twitter]

Taylor P.E. Teacher Pleads to Drug Charge — A second former P.E. teacher at Taylor Elementary School has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a drug bust in December. Michael Diaddigo, 28, will reportedly “serve 1 of a 12-months jail sentence if he follows probation, which includes a $500 fine and substance abuse treatment.” [Twitter]

Central Place Bus Tunnel Still Closed — “A bus tunnel in Rosslyn critical to many commuters — which Metro said more than a year ago would open in days — remains closed due to outstanding construction concerns, WTOP has learned.” [WTOP]

Lanes Closures in Crystal City Tonight — The lanes of certain roads around Crystal City will be closed for about two hours tonight to accommodate the first of the annual Crystal City 5K Friday races. [Arlington County]

Residential Parking Permit Applications — “It is now time to renew your Residential Permit Parking Program permits and passes for the new program fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. Remember enforcement continues throughout the year, so new passes/permits must be displayed by July 1st, 2018.” [Arlington County]

Actor Says No to WJLA Interview — Amy Schumer has turned down an interview with Arlington-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) because it is owned by Sinclair, the broadcast station owner under fire for making its anchors read a script denouncing “biased and false news” from other outlets. [Buzzfeed]

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