Austin, Texas, USA: A federal judge In Austin today sentenced 31-year-old Chimene Hamilton Onyeri to life in federal prison for his leadership role in carrying out fraud and racketeering schemes that involved the attempted capital murder of State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek in November of 2015.
That announcement was made by U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore; FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Goss, Houston Field Office; Austin Police Chief Brian Manley; and, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, Houston Division.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ordered Onyeri to pay $178,374.41 restitution.
“Today’s life sentence for Mr. Onyeri was about more than obtaining a measure of justice for Judge Kocurek—although we certainly did that. It was also about safeguarding the integrity of our judicial system. This office, along with our federal, state, and local law-enforcement partners, will be absolutely relentless in pursuing those who attack or threaten judges or court staff. Impartial, fearless judges are key to the rule of law. Today the rule of law was vindicated,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.
On April 26, 2018, a jury convicted Onyeri of one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of aggravated identity theft, and six counts of witness tampering.
Evidence presented during trial revealed that from January 2012 to November 2015, Onyeri, 28-year-old Marcellus Antoine Burgin of Cypress, TX, and 26-year-old Rasul Kareem Scott of Marrero, LA, all conspired to commit various fraudulent schemes for financial gain in Austin, Houston, the state of Louisiana and surrounding areas. Schemes included converting stolen debit card numbers obtained from skimming devices into cash, and Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF), through the use of the U.S. Mail. Their racketeering enterprise involved mail fraud, bribery of a public official, wire fraud, document fraud, access device fraud, money laundering and attempted murder.
According to testimony, when the existence of the criminal enterprise was threatened, Onyeri responded with violence. On the night of November 6, 2015, Onyeri attempted to murder State District Court Judge Julie Kocurek, whom Onyeri believed was going to sentence him to prison, by shooting Judge Kocurek while she sat in her car outside her home in Austin. As a result of the incident, Kocurek suffered serious bodily injury from multiple gunshots and resulting shrapnel.
Testimony also revealed that in September 2016, Onyeri attempted to contact six witnesses by smuggling a note out of the Travis County Jail and corruptly persuade them not to talk about Onyeri’s criminal activities to investigators in this case.
“I have watched Judge Kocurek and her family handle this ordeal with courage and grace. At long last, they see justice,” stated Travis County District Attorney Moore. “I commend Dayna Blazey from my office and AUSA Gregg Sofer, along with the host of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, for their tireless efforts to reach this conclusion.”
“Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to those who threaten, injure or kill members of the judiciary – you will not escape the consequences of your actions. Justice will be served and you will be held accountable,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “It was an honor and privilege to work with Austin Police Department, and our law enforcement partners, to bring justice for a brave jurist and dedicated public servant whose life was changed forever by the defendant’s brazen and violent actions.
“Today’s sentencing proves that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with our local, state, and federal partners, will vigorously pursue individuals that attempt to circumvent justice,” stated USPIS Inspector in Charge Gonzalez.
“Thank you to all of our state, local and federal partners that helped bring justice for Judge Julie Kocurek against Chimene Hamilton Onyeri,” said APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon. “We respect the jury verdict in this case and the Court’s sentencing decision today. We hope Onyeri’s sentence continues to bring healing to Judge Kocurek and her family.”
Burgin and Scott both entered guilty pleas prior to jury selection. Burgin and Scott each pleaded guilty to the RICO conspiracy charge. Both remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing scheduled for sentencing at 9:00am on November 13, 2018, in Austin before Judge Yeakel.
The FBI, IRS-CI, USPIS, U.S. Secret Service, Austin Police Department and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office investigated this case. The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in (Calcasieu Parish) Lake Charles, Louisiana; Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office; U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Louisiana; the U.S. Marshals Service; Travis County Sheriff’s Office; and, the Houston Police Department provided valuable assistance during this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg N. Sofer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dayna L. Blazey of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
EARLIER : Chimene Onyeri Found Guilty In Judge Julie Kocurek Shooting Trial
A federal jury, Thursday, found Chimene Onyeri guilty of all 17 counts in a theft and fraud case, including a racketeering charge linked to the attempted murder of Travis County State District Judge Julie Kocurek.
Onyeri, 30, will be sentenced Aug. 17 by U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel. He faces up to life in prison without parole for the judge’s shooting.
The jury deliberated for four hours over Wednesday and Thursday.
Chimene Onyeri admitted to shooting Judge Julie Kocurek in 2015 in the driveway outside her West Austin home. Kocurek was severely injured, losing a finger and suffering several other permanent injuries. However, she has returned to the bench.
During the prosecution’s questioning he told the court he felt the judge didn’t respect him during a hearing for another case.
In closing arguments, prosecutors and the defense stressed the importance of the first charge in the 17-count indictment, which accuses Onyeri of participating in a racketeering enterprise. If the jury convicts, they then can decide if the judge’s shooting is related to the enterprise. Onyeri testified that he had intended only to damage Kocurek’s car in November 2015 when he fired four rounds through the window and was surprised to learn later that the judge was in the vehicle.
But prosecutors presented a different theory for the shooting, saying that the money and benefits Onyeri received from stealing credit and debit card numbers would have dried up had Kocurek gone through with a threat to send him to prison on a probation violation.
The special sentencing allegation in the judge’s shooting carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
Onyeri also faces one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, six counts of tampering with a witness and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.