A break in the Hoerig case?


There are two Brazilian citizens in the Trumbull County jail facing possible federal criminal charges.

There’s an American citizen in a prison in Brazil who should be returned to Trumbull County to stand trial for the murder of her husband, but has been on the lam for a decade.

A prisoner swap is suggested.

But why should authorities in Brazil care that two of their citizens may end up in the federal penitentiary in the U.S. for a long time?

The answer lies in the crimes they are accused of committing.

A federal grand jury is considering charges against Felipe Pena, 27, and Antonio Oliveira-Neto, 26, on allegations of possessing ATM skimming devices.

Such devices are used to steal credit-card information from people using ATMs or other electronic readers.

It is noteworthy that Brazil has been designated a major hub for financially motivated Ecrime threat activity, according to a research study on the website FireEye.

“Brazilian threat actors are targeting domestic and foreign entities and individuals, with frequent targeting of U.S. assets,” the report contends.

In other words, the two Brazilians in the Trumbull County jail could well be part of a global criminal network operating out of Brazil.

And given the level of corruption in the South American country and the influence criminal organizations exert over government officials, it’s a safe bet that no one in a position of authority wants to see a full-blown trial in the United States.

Aggravated murder

Thus, Brazilian authorities could be amenable to a trade: the two men accused of using the skimmers at the West Liberty Street Cortland Bank for Claudia Hoerig, who has been indicted by a Trumbull County grand jury of aggravated murder with a gun specification in the 2007 death of her husband, Karl Hoerig.

Karl’s body was found in their Newton Falls home. He had been shot.

Claudia fled to her native Brazil before her husband’s body was discovered and has successfully fought all attempts by Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins to have her returned to stand trial.

Mrs. Hoerig’s freedom in her native land came to an end last year when the Brazilian Supreme Court stripped her of her Brazilian citizenship because she also holds American citizenship as a result of her marriage to Karl Hoerig.

The court also voted to extradite her to the United States, but said she should be spared the death penalty or life in prison if she’s found guilty.

Prosecutor Watkins, who has been unrelenting in his pursuit of Claudia, has made it clear that the aggravated murder charges against her do not add up to a death-penalty case.

Thus, there’s nothing to stop the accused murderer from being expelled from Brazil, and yet she remains beyond Watkins’ reach.

Now, however, the Trumbull County prosecutor has a bargaining chip.

Although the two Brazilian men face federal charges, the U.S. Justice Department should have no qualms about a prisoner exchange. After all, their crimes pale in comparison to the murder of a genuine American hero.

Indeed, Karl Hoerig was still serving his country as a member of the 910th Airlift Wing at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township when he was shot.

Republican President Donald J. Trump, who has been quick to criticize his predecessors for being too wishy-washy in their dealings with America’s allies and trading partners, has completed a year in office and has done nothing to hasten Claudia Hoerig’s extradition.

Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on the promise to “Make America Great Again” and to put the interests of Americans first, must know that the longer the accused killer of an American serviceman remains in Brazil, the more he opens himself up to criticism.

All he has to do is place a telephone call to Brazilian President Michel Temer and offer to send the two accused criminals from Brazil back home in return for Claudia being shipped to Trumbull County.

Brazilian authorities have every reason not to want the case of the ATM skimming to go to trial. Faced with the prospect of spending time in a U.S. prison, Pena and Oliveira-Neto would undoubtedly want to cut a deal – a lesser sentence in return for information about the extent of the eCrime operation in the U.S.

Last August, another Brazilian national was indicted in federal court in Boston in connection with using gift cards to withdraw over $6,000 from bank accounts that did not belong to him.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, Hellison Benazi de Souza, 37, was indicted on one count of using counterfeit access devices (debit cards); one count of possessing 15 or more counterfeit access devices (debit cards); three counts of possessing device-making equipment (skimming devices installed on ATMs in Maiden and Saugus); one count of illegal transactions with an access device (other persons’ debit cards); and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

In the Trumbull County case, the two Brazilian nationals were found with 280 gift cards, blank credit cards and blank debit cards, as well as $139,000 divided into $5,000 stacks.

One of the suspect’s cell phones contained pictures of Western Union receipts of money that had been wired to Brazil.

There’s the proof of this being more than just a bunch of foreign nations breaking the law in America.

Money is going back to Brazil, which means there are people there who certainly wouldn’t want to be identified in a trial, especially if the network includes government officials.

President Trump’s Justice Department can accomplish what the U.S. State Department has been unable to do: secure the return of accused killer Claudia Hoerig to Trumbull County to stand trial.

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