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.
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
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
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]
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A suspended Taylor Elementary gym teacher, accused of smoking pot in the school, has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession.
Luke Lloyd of Fairfax, Va. entered the plea Tuesday morning before Arlington General District Court Judge Frances O’Brien. He was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail, with 20 days suspended. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, pay a $500 fine and complete substance abuse treatment, we’re told.
Lloyd began serving the net ten day sentence on Friday. Most first-time marijuana offenders walk free, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said her office pushed for a stiffer sentence.
“It’s typical for a first time possession of marijuana case to result in a deferred disposition,” Stamos said. “My office, however, argued against such an outcome given the particular facts of this case. Those facts include what appears to have been a rather steady course of use, at times at the school, that we learned about from an anonymous tip to ACPD.”
A second Taylor P.E. teacher nabbed by police, Michael Diaddigo, was also facing possession of marijuana charges, which have since been dropped. Stamos, however, said charges against Diaddigo are expected to be filed soon in Arlington County Circuit Court, which typically handles more serious criminal cases. Stamos declined to elaborate on the charges, since the case is pending.
Lloyd and Diaddigo were both suspended without pay by Arlington Public Schools “pending the outcome of the legal case,” a spokesman said. So far, there is no word on Lloyd’s employment status following the plea. A third Taylor P.E. teacher who was accused of smoking marijuana at the school is currently on administrative leave.
According to documents filed in federal court, Andrew Lee Thompson II, aka “Slim,” 34, of Florida, brought the girl to Arlington after meeting her in Arizona.
While in Arlington, a security guard called police after seeing multiple men go in and out of two rooms at a hotel, identified by WUSA 9 as the Best Western on S. Glebe Road near I-395.
“When law enforcement investigated, they found evidence of prostitution related activity in the hotel rooms and recovered the minor victim,” said a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “After arresting Thompson, law enforcement found tattoos on his body bragging about his pimping activities, including on his arm and across his chest.”
Thompson also trafficked the girl in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and elsewhere in Virginia for prostitution dates, then collected the money. Thompson worked alongside two co-defendants, Delberta McKenzie and Rachel Robillard, prosecutors say, using prostitution ads posted online.
Thompson faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. He will be sentenced on February 9, 2018.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced the guilty plea with Arlington County Police Chief Jay Farr and Andrew Vale, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
A co-owner of the former Caffe Aficionado in Rosslyn has pleaded guilty to charges connected to what prosecutors said was a multi-year credit card fraud scheme.
Clark Donat is scheduled to be sentenced next month after pleading guilty in June to a long list of charges: credit card fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, identity theft, credit card forgery, credit card theft, conspiracy to commit credit card theft and conspiracy to commit identity theft.
His former business partner in the cafe, Adiam Berhane, is scheduled to face a jury trial starting Jan. 30, 2018.
According to prosecutors, Donat and Berhane started using the cafe’s point-of-sale system to fraudulently charge gift cards — purchased with stolen credit cards — in June of 2013, before the cafe even opened. The stolen credit card information was bought off the “dark web” and used to manufacture fake credit cards, which were then used to buy gift cards and other items, prosecutors say.
In all, according to prosecutors, the cafe recorded about $1 million in revenue between 2013 and the police raid in October 2016, $450,000 of which was attributable to “gift cards almost entirely purchased with stolen credit card information.”
Counterfeit cards were also used to buy goods at various stores, including TJ Maxx and REI, which were then returned and credited to one of the defendant’s legitimate credit cards, prosecutors allege. A few days before the raid, prosecutors say, the pair used a stolen credit card to pay for a $1,200 large group brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown.
Before the alleged fraud was revealed, Caffe Aficionado garnered rave reviews for its hand-crafted coffee and espresso drinks. A local food critic even called it “one of the finest coffee shops in the area.”
“We’re really happy with it,” Berhane said of the positive reviews. “I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard.”
Donat is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17 in Arlington Circuit Court.
Federal prosecutors announced the plea deal early Tuesday afternoon. The defendant, 28-year-old Anthony Medrano, now faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced in August.
From a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia:
An Arlington man pleaded guilty today to willfully receiving a firearm while under indictment in Virginia state court.
According to the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement and other court records, Anthony Fernandez Medrano, 28, was indicted in Virginia state court in 2015 for possessing cocaine, a schedule II controlled substance. While still under indictment, and not lawfully able to purchase or possess firearms, Fernandez Medrano sought and purchased guns from a private party seller and signed bills of sale confirming the purchases.
Fernandez Medrano faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when sentenced on August 11. 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.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Michael B. Boxler, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Smith III is prosecuting the case.
Woman Hit By SUV on Route 50 — A woman was struck and critically injured by an SUV while crossing Route 50 at Fillmore Street during Monday’s evening rush hour. The victim is expected to survive; lanes were closed while police investigated the crash. Nearby residents say the intersection is dangerous and accident-prone. [WUSA9, Twitter]
House Fire in Arlington View — There was an unusual house fire last night in the Arlington View neighborhood near Hoffman-Boston Elementary. A house’s gas meter caught fire, spreading flames into the home’s basement. The blaze was quickly extinguished, sparing the home from major damage. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
Man Pleads Guilty in Hot Car Case — The man who accidentally left a friend’s two-year-old child in the backseat of a car, causing the toddler’s death, has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Daiquan Fields was sentenced to a net six months in jail, time he had already served since the April incident, and is now on supervised probation. [NBC Washington]
Bonnie Black Murder Case Begins — The estranged husband of slain south Arlington mom Bonnie Black is now on trial for her murder. The trial of David Black started with opening statements on Monday; this morning witnesses for the prosecution are expected to be called. [WJLA]
Crystal City Post Office Moving — The post office along Crystal Drive in Crystal City is moving a few blocks down the road. The existing post office will be closed Thursday and Friday and the new post office, at 2180 Crystal Drive, will open Monday, Oct. 31. [Patch]
High Praise for Ambar — New Clarendon restaurant Ambar, which opened this month in the former Boulevard Woodgrill space, may get an indirect boost from TripAdvisor rankings. Ambar’s original Capitol Hill location is listed as the top-ranked D.C. area restaurant on TripAdvisor. [Washingtonian]
Amputee Athlete Visits Students — “Ghanian athlete and activist Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah recently visited with Arlington students to share his message that physical disabilities should not stop individuals from achieving their destiny.” [InsideNova]
Home Prices Declining? — For the past two months, the median home sale price in Arlington has declined year-over-year. For September the median sale price was $515,000, down 10 percent compared to one year earlier. [WTOP]
Record Absentee Voting Expected — The total number of absentee ballots cast in Arlington is expected to reach 43,000 this year, smashing the county’s previous record of 35,000 in 2008. Arlington’s elections office hired “considerable extra staff” this year to meet voter demand. [Arlington County]
Va. Voter Registration Extended — To make up for a system failure before the Virginia’s voter registration deadline, a federal judge has ordered registration be extended through midnight tonight. [Politico]
Budget Guidance Anticipates Gap — County officials are projecting a $5.4 million funding gap for Arlington’s FY 2018 budget. That assumes a 2 percent growth in revenue, a 2.9 percent growth in expenditures, service levels remaining unchanged and the tax rate remaining at $0.991 per $100, which the county notes is the lowest rate in Northern Virginia. [Arlington County]
Local Man Competing in Maccabiah Games — David Ostroff, an Arlington resident, has been chosen to represent the United States on the 35+ Masters basketball team in the 20th World Maccabiah Game in Israel next summer. Ostroff is currently raising money for his sponsorship. [Maccabi USA]
Note: Photo (above) does not imply sponsorship or endorsement.
Vornado Reveals Big Plans for Crystal City — Vornado, the preeminent property owner in Crystal City, has filed preliminary plans to overhaul a number of its properties in the community. The plans include big changes to the Shops at 1750 retail space, near the entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, and a new multiplex cinema. [Washington Business Journal]
Lyft to Open Regional HQ in Crystal City — Ride hailing app company Lyft is planning to invest $350,000 to open a new regional headquarters in Crystal City, creating 32 jobs locally. “Lyft is thrilled to open our new office in the emerging innovation center of Crystal City,” said Steve Taylor, the company’s general manager for the D.C. area. “We’re extremely pleased by the warm welcome we have received from Governor McAuliffe, and state and county officials.” [Washington Post]
Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Attack on Law Firm Partner — Alecia Schmuhl has pleaded guilty in the vicious 2014 attack on Leo Fisher and his wife Susan Duncan. Prosecutors say Schmuhl and her husband took the couple hostage, slit Fisher’s throat and stabbed Duncan as part of a revenge plot after she was fired by Fisher from the Arlington-based firm of Bean Kinney & Korman. Fisher and Duncan survived the attack. [Washington Post]
Nominations Open for James B. Hunter Award — Arlington County is accepting nominees for the 2016 James B. Hunter Award. The award, named after a former Arlington County Board member, “goes to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and business establishments that promote cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Billy Buck
Two men arrested for a shooting outside the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall have been sentenced after entering plea agreements.
Reginald Dana is slated to serve three years in prison after entering an Alford plea for attempted malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Calvin Pelzer will serve a year in jail after pleading guilty to felony eluding and accessory after the fact, according to prosecutors.
The December 2015 shooting was described as a road rage incident at the exit of the mall’s parking garage. Police say Dana fired a gunshot in the air out of frustration with a driver who was having problems using a credit card at one of the gates. Pelzer, the driver, then sped away and tried to elude police who gave chase on I-395. The chase ended near 3rd and F Street NW in D.C., after the two suspects bailed out and started running.
Both men were both 21 years old and D.C. residents at the time of their arrest.
Melvin Perez-Bonilla was arrested in October and charged in connection to a string of sexual assaults in 2015.
Prosecutors say Perez-Bonilla attacked a 25-year-old woman while she was walking home alone in the Clarendon area early in the morning of July 25, 2015. On the evening Sept. 29, 2015, he attacked a 23-year-old woman who was walking home near Washington-Lee High School.
Perez-Bonilla was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with 13 years suspended. He will be placed on the sex offender registry and will be deported upon serving his sentence, according to a press release.
“The Special Victims Unit and Tactical Unit’s efforts and a strong partnership with the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office have resulted in a predator being removed from the streets.” said Deputy Chief Daniel Murray, who heads ACPD’s Criminal Investigations Division. “These horrible offenses and attacks on our community will be relentlessly pursued by our detectives.”
Another sexual assault suspect, Santos Efrain Vasquez-Lopez, is set to go before a grand jury on April 25, according to police.
The full press release from the Arlington County Police Department, after the jump.
A 19 year-old subject was sentenced on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in the Arlington County Circuit Court to 20 years in prison, with all but 7 years suspended, for his role in multiple sexual assault incidents.
Theophani K. Stamos, Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney and M. Jay Farr, Arlington County’s Chief of Police made the announcement following the court appearance.
The initial attack occurred on July 25, 2015 in the 1900 block of N. Scott Street at approximately 1:20 a.m. as the 25 year-old female victim was walking alone in the Clarendon area. A second attack occurred on September 29, 2015 in the 1200 block of N. Quincy Street at approximately 10:20 p.m. as the 23 year-old female victim was walking home. Police were able to confirm the subject’s involvement using DNA analysis.
Melvin Perez-Bonilla was taken into custody in October 2015 and charged with two counts of abduction with the intent to defile. He was denied bond and has been held in the Arlington County Detention Facility. Perez-Bonilla pled guilty on April 13 and was sentenced to 20 years with 13 years suspended. After his release, Perez-Bonilla will be listed on the sex offender registry and will be deported upon serving his sentence.
Arlington County Deputy Chief Daniel J. Murray, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division said, “The Special Victims Unit and Tactical Unit’s efforts and a strong partnership with the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office have resulted in a predator being removed from the streets.” He added, “these horrible offenses and attacks on our community will be relentlessly pursued by our detectives.”
Detective R. Icolari was the lead detective and the case was prosecuted by Commonwealth Attorney Cari Steele.
Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Alexandria resident Obayedul Hoque conspired with managers at a number of Subway stores and a gas station he owned to keep some $6.5 million in sales off the books between 2008 and 2013. Hoque’s company dodged between $1.5 and $3.5 million in federal taxes as a result of the conspiracy, prosecutors said.
Among the seven Subway locations Hoque owned in Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. is the shop at 3000 10th Street N. in Clarendon. That store has remained open. Hoque also owned a Shell station on Duke Street in Alexandria.
Hoque pleaded guilty today and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 13. The full press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after the jump.
Photo via Google Maps
Obayedul Hoque, 49, of Alexandria, pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Hoque owned and operated a gas station in Alexandria called Skyhill Shell and multiple Subway restaurant franchises in Alexandria, Arlington, and Washington, D.C. Hoque admitted that between 2008 and 2014, he and his co-conspirators, who were managers of some of the Subway franchises and the gas station, conspired to defraud the United States for the purpose of obstructing the IRS in the ascertainment and collection of individual and corporate income taxes. Hoque and his co-conspirators did not deposit all of the gas station or the Subway franchises’ gross receipts into the corporate or partnership bank accounts. Instead, Hoque and the managers retained a portion of the gross receipts for their personal benefit and failed to report those funds to the IRS. For the Subway franchises that had no co-conspirator managers, Hoque retained all of the unreported gross receipts for himself.
For the period of 2008 through 2013, point of sales records for the Subway franchises reflected total sales of $20,805,667. However, Hoque and his co-conspirators provided false monthly sales figures to the accounting firm to prepare the Subway entities’ tax returns. As a result, Hoque and his co-conspirators caused false corporate and partnership tax returns to be filed for the Subway franchises, which reported sales of only $14,377,696. Hoque and a co-conspirator also caused false corporate tax returns to be filed on behalf of Skyhill Shell. For some years, some of the entities did not file tax returns with the IRS. Hoque also filed false individual income tax returns with the IRS. Hoque admitted that his conduct caused a tax loss to the IRS of between $1.5 million and $3.5 million.
Hoque faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when sentenced on May 13, 2016. As part of his plea agreement, Hoque agreed to pay restitution to the IRS for tax liabilities for the years 2008 through 2013. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Caroline D. Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye is prosecuting the case along with Assistant Chief Caryn Finley and Trial Attorney Kimberly Shartar of the Tax Division.
Arlington Loses Lowest Unemployment Crown — Arlington’s years-long streak of having the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia has ended. In November Falls Church had the lowest jobless rate, at 3 percent, to 3.1 percent for Arlington. Statewide, Virginia’s unemployment rate fell from 4.8 percent in October to 4.5 percent in November. [InsideNova]
Arlington Man Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking — Arlington resident Anthony Tatum, 36, has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering and other related crimes, according to federal prosecutors.Tatum and a co-conspirator were accused of distributing cocaine and heroin, primarily in Maryland. Tatum, who agreed to forfeit $108 million in cash, vehicles, jewelry and other items, reportedly lived in a Pentagon City apartment building. [Patch]
Pinkberry to Close? — The future of Arlington’s Pinkberry frozen yogurt store is uncertain. The local Pinkberry franchisee has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. The franchisee, which has stores in D.C., National Harbor, Clarendon and elsewhere in Northern Virginia, cited debts of more than $1.2 million in the filing. Those debts include $44,121 in back taxes owed to Arlington County. [Washington Business Journal]
Wardian Sets New Record — Arlington resident Michael Wardian, 40, has set a new world record for the fastest indoor 50K. Wardian covered the distance in 3:06:07 at a 200-meter indoor track in Hagerstown, Md. That shatters his former world record, of 3:12:13, set at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington. [Herald-Mail]
Arlington Native Releases Music Video — Arlington-born rapper C-Luv has released a new music video for his track “Grind.” The video features scenes shot around Arlington, including in a skatepark, Wakefield High School and in the Nauck neighborhood. [YouTube – NSFW]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick