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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MASSAGE PARLOR OPERATOR CONVICTED OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:
January 30, 2012
“CHICAGO – A federal jury today convicted Alex Campbell, 45, a northwest Chicago suburban massage parlor owner, of various federal crimes including sex-trafficking, forced labor, harboring illegal aliens, confiscating passports to further forced labor and extortion involving four foreign women whom he mentally and physically abused while forcing them to work for him between July 2008 and January 2010.  Campbell was found guilty of three counts each of forced labor, harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and confiscating passports and other immigration documents to force the victims to work, and one count each of sex trafficking by force and extortion. The jury deliberated approximately two to three hours beginning last Thursday afternoon following a three-week trial in U.S. District Court.  The trial showed that Campbell, who formerly operated the Day and Night Spa on Northwest Highway in Mt. Prospect, Ill., used violence and threats of violence to force three women from the Ukraine and one from Belarus to work for him without pay and, at times, little to no subsistence.

Campbell, also known as “Dave” and “Daddy,”  formerly of Glenview, Ill., remains in federal custody without bond and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life on the sex-trafficking count alone, as well as prison terms ranging from a maximum of 5 to 20 years on each of the remaining counts.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman scheduled a hearing on post-trial motions for April 19, 2012.  No date was immediately set for sentencing.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to bringing human traffickers to justice and to protecting the victims of modern-day slavery,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “These crimes against the individual rights of the most vulnerable members of our society will not be tolerated in the United States.”

“I commend the prosecutors and investigators for their dedication and teamwork in working with the victims to bring this case to trial and achieve a successful result,” said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

“Forced labor and sex trafficking preys upon vulnerable women and is tantamount to modern-day slavery,” said Gary J. Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago.  “The jury has vindicated the rights of four women who suffered mental and physical abuse, sexual exploitation, extortion and threats of deportation, all so Alex Campbell could make a profit.  HSI is at the forefront of the government's fight against human trafficking.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this serious crime.”

All four victims testified as government witnesses at trial, as well as co-defendant, Danielle John, 25, who pleaded guilty before trial to two counts of harboring illegal aliens for financial gain and is also awaiting sentencing.

The testimony and evidence showed that Campbell recruited and groomed foreign women without legal status in the United States to become part of his “Family,” which he claimed was an international organization that would provide them with support.  He offered them jobs in his massage parlor, a place to live, assistance with immigration and lured each of them to enter into a romantic relationship with him. After gaining their trust, he forced the victims to get tattooed with his moniker, which he said made them his property and allowed him to stop paying them.  At the same time, he acquired the women’s passports and visas.  The women were forced to work long hours every day and do as Campbell instructed them, and they were beaten and punished if they disobeyed him.

Trial testimony established that Campbell confiscated passports and identity documents from three of the victims, as well as harbored and transported them to ensure their continued labor.  Campbell forced one victim to engage in commercial sex acts with customers at various other massage parlors, but not at the Day and Night Spa, which testimony showed he operated “cleanly” to avoid problems with law enforcement. He extorted another victim to pay him more than $25,000 to leave the “Family” by threatening to send a sexually-explicit video recording to her parents in Belarus.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation, which was coordinated by the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force.  The task force, together with the Salvation Army Family and Community Services STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, operate a toll-free hotline, (877) 606-3158, which victims of trafficking or those with information about human trafficking can call for assistance.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane MacArthur and Steven Grimes and Special Litigation Counsel John Richmond of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.”

EPA ANNOUNCES $9.8 MILLION IN NATIONWIDE GRANTS TO PROTECT SWIMMERS


The following excerpt is from the EPA website:
"WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will provide $9.8 million in grants to 38 states, territories and tribes to help protect the health of swimmers at America’s beaches. The agency also launched an improved website for beach advisories and closings, which will allow the public to more quickly and easily access the most current water quality and pollution testing information for more than 6,000 U.S. beaches.
The website, called BEACON, has the capability to update as frequently as every two hours based on new data provided by states, territories and tribes. Users will have access to mapped location data for beaches and water monitoring stations, monitoring results for various pollutants such as bacteria and algae, and data on public notification of beach water quality advisories and closures. For the first time, users can also access reports that combine notifications and water quality monitoring data. The enhanced system also uses enhanced map navigation and report display tools.
The majority of beach advisories and closures in the United States are due to water test results indicating bacterial contamination, which can make people sick. Bacterial contamination comes from a variety of sources. Some examples are sewer overflows, untreated stormwater runoff, boating wastes, wildlife and pet waste, and malfunctioning septic systems.
During each swimming season, state and local health and environmental protection agencies monitor the quality of water at the nation’s beaches. When bacteria levels in the water are too high, these agencies notify the public by posting beach warnings or closing the beach.
The grants will help local authorities monitor beach water quality and notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming.
This is the 12th year that EPA is providing beach grant funds, bringing the total amount EPA has made available to nearly $111 million. As a result, the number of monitored beaches has more than tripled to
more than 3,600 in 2010. Grant applications must be received within 60 days of publication of EPA’s notice in the Federal Register. EPA expects to award the grants later this year."

CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE MAKES STATEMENT


Congressman Dave Camp is the Congressional Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means.  The following excerpt is from Congressman Camp’s website:

“Camp Opening Statement: Meeting of the H.R. 3630 Conference CommitteeTuesday, January 24, 2012

This may be our first public meeting, but the work of this conference committee has been ongoing since the end of last year.  I know members have spoken often and studied the issues.

I would also note and thank the staff for their due diligence leading up to this public meeting.  As a result of their efforts, every member has before them a side-by-side comparison of the House bill and the Senate bill.  From those two documents, one prepared by the Joint Tax Committee and one prepared by the Congressional Research Service, we can clearly see the positions of each Chamber and the differences we must work together to resolve.  

As I review these tables, the biggest issue I see is that the House, and only the House, has put forward a plan to extend for one year the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance benefits and payments to doctors treating our nation’s seniors and those enrolled in Medicare.  

The Senate’s position gets us through February.  This has left every working American wondering not only what their taxes will be next year – after the current marginal income tax rates expire – but also what their payroll taxes will be in less than 40 days.  

Doctors treating Medicare patients are wondering what their reimbursements will be.  Even more importantly, the seniors who rely on these doctors for critical medical care are left wondering who, if anyone, will treat them in March.  

And, the unemployed are wondering if there will be benefits for them, while hardworking taxpayers are wondering if Washington will ever get serious about helping people get the training and education they need to get back to work instead of just handing out more unemployment checks.  

In the last few years, extensions of the unemployment program have already added nearly $200 billion to our debt.  Continuing unemployment benefits through the end of January 2013, as the House bill did, costs about another $30 billion.  

All told, the policies before us will cost roughly $160 billion.  

And, that is the second biggest issue we have before us – paying for these programs. I would be remiss if I did not point out that unless we find a way to pay for these programs, we will be forced to borrow even more money from places like China – creating an even larger debt dragging our economy down.  

Non-partisan experts have testified that because our debt is already so large, it is weakening our economy and hurting job creation.  The result is roughly 1 million fewer jobs for American families.  

The third and final issue I want to point out today relates back to the first.  The House legislation includes a number of critical reforms, job-creating provisions and bipartisan measures to offset all of the spending.   The Senate bill contains none of the reforms and only one additional job provision – Keystone, which the President has already rejected.
The House bill reformed the unemployment program to focus it more on getting people the training and education they need to get back to work, not just handing out checks.
The House bill included a pay freeze for Members of Congress and civilian federal workers.
The House bill put an end to welfare benefits being accessed at ATMs located in casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs.  The Senate bill did not.
The House bill protected Social Security by reducing overpayments.
The House bill included a provision that saves taxpayers $9 billion by cracking down on fraud and abuse that is known to exist in a refundable tax credit program.
The House bill provided for economic growth and job creation in the high-tech industry through spectrum auctions.
The House bill cut taxes to promote business investment and hiring.
So, these are the three big issues I see before this conference committee:
The Senate bill extended programs for only 2 months, when the American people need, expect and deserve at least one-year;
The Senate bill, unlike the House bill, provides no indication of how the Senators would pay for a longer-term extension; and
The Senate bill contains straight extensions of these programs without any needed reforms and has no additional measures to help get Americans back to work.
The differences in the positions between the House and the Senate are further complicated by the fact that the Senate version is now currently law as a result of the passage of H.R. 3765.  Thus, under House procedures the scope of conference is effectively the House bill.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.  I am confident that if every member of this conference committee is committed to finding a solution, we can and will do it.”

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION : GLOBAL WARMING AFFECTS FLOWERS


The following excerpt is from the National Science Foundation website:

January 27, 2012
“Climate change is on your porch and in your backyard and living room--anywhere you bedeck with flowering plants.

Global warming affects favorite flowers of garden and vase. This is true of plants around the world, including the proteas and the pelargoniums native to South Africa.
Pelargoniums are wild ancestors of common geraniums. Proteas, with their vase-shaped bracts surrounding pencil-thin flowers, look like brightly-colored sea anemones.
During the Northern Hemisphere's winter, summer comes to South Africa and proteas and pelargoniums bloom in riotous color. On steep, rocky slopes, their red and pink flowers dot the hillsides.

"As one of the most diverse plant groups in South Africa, the pelargoniums have a variety well beyond what's available at even the largest U.S. nursery," says Carl Schlichting, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut who specializes in these flowering plants.

But pelargoniums and proteas such as the king protea, which measures 12 inches across and is the national flower of South Africa, are under fire. Some will become extinct. Some already have.

In a region where average temperatures have significantly warmed over the past 30 years, South Africa's--if not the world's--most unusual flowers are besieged.
In response, they're moving uphill to cooler or wetter spots. When will they run out of room? No one knows for sure. But time is of the essence in learning about this ecosystem, says Schlichting.

Despite centuries of discovery, most of the planet's biodiversity remains unknown. The scale of that unrecognized biodiversity is a vital question, scientists believe, given its rapid and permanent loss around the globe.

To respond to the need for more knowledge and a better understanding of Earth's biodiversity, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded 25 grants in its Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign.

The effort is part of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative.
Schlichting and colleagues comprise one of the research teams funded.
"By establishing networks of interdisciplinary, globally-engaged scientists, Dimensions of Biodiversity will have a lasting effect on biodiversity science," says John Wingfield, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences. "It has the potential to transform the way we conduct biological research in this arena."

The Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is important, believes Wingfield, because assessing the living diversity of Earth is not as straightforward as simply listing species.
The campaign is transforming how the role and scope of life on Earth is described and understood, he says.

It promotes novel, integrated approaches to identifying and comprehending the evolutionary and ecological significance of biodiversity in today's changing environment and in the geologic past.

"Dimensions of Biodiversity is accelerating the pace of biodiversity research and discovery, and it enables scientists to think at grand scales," says Joann Roskoski, NSF deputy assistant director for Biological Sciences.

"Collaborative teams have formed to tackle some of the big questions using novel and integrative techniques," she says. "Taxonomists are talking to geneticists; geneticists to ecologists; and ecologists to taxonomists. This is not business as usual."
With the loss of Earth's biodiversity, biologists have found, links in the web of life that provide ecosystem services are being lost; an understanding of the history and future of the living world is being forfeited; and beneficial discoveries in the domains of food, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals and bio-inspired innovation are being eliminated.
That reality has stimulated the NSF awards, co-funded by NSF's Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences.

"Dimensions may accomplish in 10 years what, with a piecemeal approach, would have taken 50 years--a half-century we can no longer wait," says Roskoski.
Proteas are the keystone species of South Africa's Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest but, biologists say, the richest of Earth's six plant kingdoms.

The Cape Floral Kingdom is the size of a postage stamp, comparatively speaking. It has the highest plant biodiversity, however, of anywhere on the planet.
About 9,000 plant species, 70 percent of which live nowhere else, are found there in what's called the fynbos ecosystem. Just to the north lies another, yet more diverse, desert-like ecosystem, the succulent karoo.”


FEMA REPORTS OVER $500 MILLION SPENT IN PA ON HURRICANES IRENE AND LEE ASSISTANCE


The following excerpt is from an e-mail sent out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency: 

"HARRISBURG, Pa. - More than one-half billion dollars in federal assistance to date is supporting the commonwealth's recovery from Irene and Lee, announced officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
As of Jan. 29, disaster assistance included:
  • $138 million Individual Assistance grants approved;
    • $124.9 million in housing assistance including temporary housing, home repairs, and personal property losses and
    • $12.8 million in dental, medical, and funeral costs and other serious disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance
  • $90,336,700 in low-interest disaster loans approved by the SBA
  • $267,678,133 in National Flood Insurance Program claims
  • $642,018 in Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • $8,944,049 in Public Assistance grants obligated
Additional aid though is forthcoming: Public Assistance (PA) grants are now being obligated to repair or replace taxpayer-owned infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, utilities, schools, and similar facilities. There are an estimated 6,000 projects from among 1,900 applicants that could result in additional federal funding of more than $200 million.
"Pennsylvanians have taken the important first steps toward renewing their lives and property," said FEMA's Federal Coordinating Officer Thomas J. McCool. "Much more though remains to be done. It will be a very long time before the effects of Irene and Lee are forgotten."

NASA LAUNCHES SPACE KNOWLEDGE GAME ON FACEBOOK


The following excerpt is from the NASA website:
WASHINGTON -- NASA has launched its first multi-player online game to 
test players' knowledge of the space program. Who was the first 
American to walk in space? Who launched the first liquid-fueled 
rocket? These are only a few of the questions players can answer in 
Space Race Blastoff. 

Available on Facebook, Space Race Blastoff tests players' knowledge of 
NASA history, technology, science and pop culture. Players who 
correctly answer questions earn virtual badges depicting NASA 
astronauts, spacecraft and celestial objects. Players also earn 
points they can use to obtain additional badges to complete sets and 
earn premium badges. 

"Space Race Blastoff opens NASA's history and research to a wide new 
audience of people accustomed to using social media," said David 
Weaver, NASA's associate administrator for communications. "Space 
experts and novices will learn new things about how exploration 
continues to impact our world." 

NASA chose to make the game available through Facebook to take 
advantage of the social media site's large audience and enable 
players to compete against others. Individuals also can play solo 
games. 

Once in the game, players choose an avatar and answer 10 
multiple-choice questions. Each correct answer earns 100 points, with 
a 20-point bonus to the player who answers first. The winner advances 
to the bonus round to answer one additional question for more points. 

Correctly answering the bonus question earns the player a badge. 

Space Race Blastoff was developed by Scott Hanger, Todd Powell and 
Jamie Noguchi of NASA's Internet Services Group in the Office of 
Communications. Play the game now at: 

http://apps.facebook.com/spacerace 

GOOGLE + HANGOUT AT THE WHITEHOUSE





President Obama participates in a Google+ Hangout at the White House. (Official White House Photo, Pete Souza)
Yesterday, President Obama sat down for a discussion with a group of Americans from across the country in a Google+ Hangout. It was the first online conversation to happen at the White House in real time -- ever. 

The above photo and information were from a White House e-mial.

CFTC SETTLES FRAUD CHARGES WITH CENTURION GLOBAL CAPITAL MANAGEMENT LLC.


The following excerpt is from the CFTC website:

January 23, 2012
“Washington, DC - The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed and simultaneously settled charges against Timothy Michael Murphy of Redding, Conn., and his New York-based company, Centurion Global Capital Management LLC (CGCM), for fraudulently soliciting at least 40 customers to participate in a commodity pool.

The CFTC’s order requires Murphy and CGCM jointly and severally to pay both a $140,000 civil monetary penalty and restitution of $220,000. The order also permanently prohibits CGCM and prohibits Murphy for a five-year period from trading on a CFTC-registered entity and from registering or seeking exemption from CFTC registration.

The order finds that between about May 2009 and January 2010, CGCM, through Murphy, used a promotional sheet to solicit participants for their commodity pool, Centurion Multi-Strategy LP, that Murphy knew contained false and/or misleading information regarding the trading performance history of one of the two Commodity Trading Advisors that were to trade the pool’s futures accounts. Murphy sent and/or caused this fraudulent promotional sheet to be sent by email and other means to at least 40 pool participants, the order finds. From about September 2009 through July 2010, Murphy received approximately $220,000 from CGCM from the fees and commissions generated by the Centurion pool, according to the order. The Centurion pool was liquidated in or about July 2010, and the remaining funds were returned to pool participants, the order further finds.

The CFTC thanks the National Futures Association (NFA) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) for their assistance.
CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Joseph Rosenberg, Mark A. Picard, Sheila Marhamati, Philip Rix, Steven I. Ringer, Lenel Hickson, Stephen J. Obie, and Vincent A. McGonagle.”

MILITARY RECRUITER PLEADS GUILTY IN FRAUDULENT RECRUITING SCHEME


January 26, 2012
“A U.S. military recruiter pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to obtain approximately $190,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses from various U.S. military components and their contractor, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Sergeant First Class Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas, was indicted on Sept. 13, 2011, along with former Specialist Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; former Corporal Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio; former Staff Sergeant Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas; Specialist Paul Escobar, 31, of San Antonio; and Specialist Richard Garcia Jr., 28, of San Antonio.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, between approximately 2005 and 2008, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserves and the National Guard Bureau entered into contracts with Document and Packaging Broker Inc., to administer recruiting bonus programs designed to offer monetary incentives to U.S. soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military. In addition, the Army managed its own recruiting programs that offered bonuses to soldiers who referred other individuals to join the Army or the Army Reserves.

Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person he referred to join the U.S. military. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payments in the form of direct deposits and pre-paid debit card payments.

According to court documents, Torres-Alvarez has served as an active duty Army recruiter since August 2005. Torres-Alvarez admitted that he provided certain co-conspirators with the names and Social Security numbers of at least 15 potential soldiers in exchange for a total of at least $10,000 in payments. Torres-Alvarez also admitted that he understood at the time that his co-conspirators planned to use this information to obtain recruiting bonuses by falsely claiming credit for referring these potential soldiers to join the U.S. military.

Through the scheme, Torres-Alvarez’s co-conspirators allegedly obtained a total of at least approximately $190,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 25, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio.

The case against Torres-Alvarez arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio area engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses, which, to date, has led to charges against seven individuals.

On Jan. 28, 2010, Sergeant Ernest Gonzales, 50, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to court documents, Gonzales admitted to participating in the fraudulent bonus scheme. Gonzales has not yet been sentenced.

On Nov. 3, 2011, Castro pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  According to court documents, Castro admitted that he participated in the scheme to defraud the Army’s recruiting bonus programs of at least approximately $164,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. Castro has not yet been sentenced.

The case against Aves, Bibb, Escobar and Garcia is scheduled for trial on April 23, 2012, in San Antonio. These defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr. and Brian A. Lichter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA WANTS EGYPT TO LIFT TRAVEL BAN


Panetta Asks Egypt to Lift U.S. Citizen Travel Ban
The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense American Forces Press Service:

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
01/30/2012 12:50 PM CST

"WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2012 - In a weekend call to Egyptian Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta applauded recent elections, asked him to help in lifting a travel ban on U.S. citizens and expressed concern over restrictions on nongovernmental organizations, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said this morning.

The secretary also reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt military relationship and congratulated the Egyptian people on completing the People's Assembly elections and on a safe and successful Jan. 25 anniversary observance of the popular uprising against the regime of long-time leader Hosni Mubarak.
Tantawi is chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military group that took power Feb. 11 in the wake of the revolt.

"In a discussion covering a range of topics," Little said, "the secretary asked that Field Marshal Tantawi take steps to lift the travel ban on American citizens wishing to leave Egypt, and expressed concern over restrictions placed on [nongovernmental organizations] operating in Egypt."

At the State Department on Jan. 26, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said several U.S. citizens working at some international nongovernmental organizations in Cairo "have been questioned by judges in Egypt and ... are currently not being allowed to depart Egypt in connection with the government's investigation of NGOs."
The State Department, she added, is "working on four or five specific cases at the moment of folks who have tried to leave [Egypt] and have had difficulties," including some who have gone to the airport and not been allowed to board aircraft.
"We are urging the government of Egypt to lift these restrictions immediately and allow folks to come home as soon as possible," Nuland said, "and we are hopeful that this issue [soon] will be resolved."
She declined to name the U.S. citizens, but said their passports had not been confiscated and they were "not in jail or otherwise detained."

The problems with international and Egyptian nongovernmental organizations began in December, when Egyptian police raided the organizations, confiscating property and interrogating staff members, she said.
"On a daily basis, our embassy is working with the Egyptian government," Nuland said, adding that the issue has been raised at the presidential level and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been "very actively engaged."

On Jan. 20, President Barack Obama called Tantawi to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and Egypt and to underscore U.S. support for Egypt's transition to democracy.

During the call, White House officials said, Obama reinforced the need to uphold universal principles and emphasized the important role that civil society, including nongovernmental organizations, have in a democratic society.

Obama underscored that nongovernmental organizations should be able to operate freely.
This is not just about nongovernmental organizations, the State Department spokeswoman said. "It's also about the right of Egyptians and Egyptian civil society to operate freely and to support their democratic process through nongovernmental organizations."

Nuland added, "We need to keep working on this and keep raising it until it's fixed."

CONTRACT MILITARY RECRUITER PLEADS GUILTY TO OBTAINING FRAUDULENT RECRUITING BONUSES


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

Monday, January 30, 2011
“WASHINGTON – A former soldier who also served as a contract military recruiter pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to obtain more than $200,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses from various U.S. military components and their contractor, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Former Staff Sergeant Grant E. Bibb, 40, of Eagle Pass, Texas, was indicted on Sept. 13, 2011, along with former Specialist Xavier Aves, 40, of San Antonio; former Corporal Christopher Castro, 30, of San Antonio; Sergeant First Class Jesus Torres-Alvarez, 31, of El Paso, Texas; Specialist Paul Escobar, 31, of San Antonio; and Specialist Richard Garcia Jr., 28, of San Antonio.

According to court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Grant E. Bibb served in the Army National Guard from approximately January 2003 until July 2007.  Bibb served in the Army Reserves from approximately October 2007 until November 2010.  Bibb also served as a contract military recruiter from December 2007 until April 2009.

According to court documents, between approximately 2005 and 2008, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserves and the National Guard Bureau entered into contracts with Document and Packaging Broker Inc., to administer recruiting bonus programs designed to offer monetary incentives to U.S. soldiers who referred others to join the U.S. military. In addition, the Army managed its own recruiting programs to offer bonuses to soldiers who referred other individuals to join the Army or the Army Reserves.

Through these recruiting programs, a participating soldier could receive up to $2,000 in bonus payments for every person he referred to join the U.S. military. Based on certain milestones achieved by the referred soldier, a participating soldier would receive payments in the form of direct deposits and pre-paid debit card payments.

Bibb admitted that, between approximately September 2007 and February 2010, he participated with others in a scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses. Bibb admitted that he paid certain active duty recruiters and another individual for the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers.   Bibb also admitted that he used this information to claim that he was responsible for referring certain potential soldiers to join the military, when in fact he did not refer them to join.   As a result of his fraudulent representations, Bibb personally received a total of approximately $35,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses. In addition, Bibb admitted that he and certain active duty recruiters helped U.S. soldiers establish online accounts to enable the soldiers to participate in the fraudulent bonus scheme.

Bibb admitted that, in total, he and his co-conspirators obtained at least approximately $205,000 in fraudulent recruiting bonuses.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 25, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio.

The case against Bibb arises from an investigation involving allegations that former and current military recruiters and U.S. soldiers in the San Antonio area engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to obtain fraudulent recruiting bonuses.   To date, the investigation has led to charges against seven individuals, four of whom have pleaded guilty.

On Jan. 28, 2010, Sergeant Ernest Gonzales, 50, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the scheme.   Gonzales has not yet been sentenced.

On Nov. 3, 2011, Castro pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.   According to court documents, Castro admitted that he participated with others in the scheme to defraud the Army’s recruiting bonus programs.   Castro has not yet been sentenced.

On Jan. 26, 2012, Torres-Alvarez pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Biery to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.   According to court documents, Torres-Alvarez, an active duty recruiter, admitted that he sold the names and Social Security numbers of potential soldiers to others involved in the scheme.   Torres-Alvarez has not yet been sentenced.

The case against Bibb’s co-defendants – Aves, Escobar and Garcia – is scheduled for trial on April 23, 2012, in San Antonio.   These defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya Jr. and Brian A. Lichter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by agents from the San Antonio Fraud Resident Agency of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.”

MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO RIGGING BIDS IN FORECLOSURE AUCTIONS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice Website:

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A real estate investor pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to conspiring to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions held in San Joaquin County, Calif., Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, and Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, announced.

Kenneth A. Swanger pleaded guilty to conspiring with a group of real estate speculators who agreed not to bid against each other at certain public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County. The primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition and to obtain selected real estate offered at San Joaquin County public foreclosure auctions at noncompetitive prices, the department said in court papers.

According to the court documents, after the conspirators’ designated bidder bought a property at a public auction, they would hold a second, private auction, at which each participating conspirator would bid the amount above the public auction price he or she was willing to pay. The conspirator who bid the highest amount at the end of the private auction won the property. The difference between the price at the public auction and that at the second auction was the group’s illicit profit. The illicit profit was divided among the conspirators in payoffs. According to his plea agreement, Swanger participated in the scheme beginning in or about June 2009 until in or about October 2009.
To date, nine individuals, including Swanger, have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in connection with the investigation. They are: Anthony B. Ghio; John R. Vanzetti; Theodore B. Hutz; Richard W. Northcutt; Yama Marifat; Gregory L. Jackson; Walter Daniel Olmstead; and Robert Rose. In addition, four other investors, Wiley C. Chandler, Andrew B. Katakis, Donald M. Parker and Anthony B. Joachim, and one auctioneer, W. Theodore Longley, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on Dec. 7, 2011.

“This type of illegal scheme undermines the transparency and integrity of the competitive market for residential real estate. Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that the Department of Justice does not tolerate anticompetitive conduct that harms consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Pozen. “The Antitrust Division will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to prosecute the perpetrators of anticompetitive schemes in public real estate foreclosure auctions in the Sacramento area and into northern California.”
“The Department of Justice is bringing greater scrutiny to auctions of foreclosed properties as part of our effort to root out fraud in the real estate industry in all its forms,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “The days when a few players could rig these auctions for their own benefit are ending.”

Swanger pleaded guilty to bid rigging, a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. Swanger also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

These charges arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation of fraud and bidding irregularities in certain real estate auctions in San Joaquin County. The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, the FBI’s Sacramento Division and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Trial attorneys Anna Pletcher and Tai Milder from the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg are prosecuting the case.”
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DR. JAMES BENDER DISCUSSES NEW MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR SERVICE MEMBERS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Defense website:

FRONTLINE PSYCH WITH DOC BENDER:  2012 DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT PUTS FOCUS ON MENTAL HEALTH
“Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

Hello. Last month, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a blueprint for how the government will manage this year’s defense budget. The bill contained several new provisions focusing on service members and their mental health.
One provision provides that service members will receive a one-on-one evaluation/interview within 120 days of being deployed and a re-evaluation within 180 days of redeployment. Service members exposed to operational risk factors (direct combat, traumatic experiences, etc.) should receive at least two more evaluations within 30 months by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed social worker. These evaluations are meant to identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal tendencies and other behavioral health conditions to determine which service members need additional care and treatment.
Additional mental health provisions in the act include:
Yellow Ribbon events for reserve component members will provide access and education about different outreach programs available. Also, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program will be reviewed for its effectiveness.
Commanders who order mental health evaluations for those in their command are specifically required to eliminate perceived stigma associated with receiving mental health care and promote the use of such services on par with other medical care. The act also prohibits commanders from using a mental health evaluation as retribution for whistleblowing.
Reserve component members on weekend drill will have free access to mental health services
Retention bonuses for psychologists to remain in the military
It’s obvious to me after reading the act (not all of it; that would take forever), greater attention will be given to reduce stigma that often prevents service members from seeking help for psychological and behavioral concerns, putting them at greater risk for PTSD and other combat-related conditions. It’s good to know that our lawmakers and the president recognize the importance of military mental health and that increasing access to mental health services will make our military stronger.”
Thanks for reading. Stay safe and I’ll write again next month."


Sunday, January 29, 2012

U.S. MARINE ACHIEVES WORLD RECORD FOR MOST COMPLETED LEGO SETS


The following picture and excerpt is from a Department of Defense:

Marine Corps Capt. Kyle Ugone achieved the world record for the most completed Lego sets in a private collection with 1,091 sets. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Diamant  


01/26/2012 08:43 AM CST
By Marine Corps Cpl. Aaron Diamant
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz., Jan. 26, 2012 - While many have a hobby, few have the drive and dedication to turn that hobby into a world record. But Marine Corps Capt. Kyle Ugone not only has that drive, but also the certificate declaring him as the Guinness world record holder for the most completed Lego sets in a private collection, with an astonishing 1,091 sets.

While his record officially stands at 1,091, Ugone actually has 1,251 sets. But some did not count toward the record because they are reproductions or don't have the original instructions, Ugone explained.
His vast collection started small and at a young age, but has grown in size and number, including one set that contains more than 5,000 individual pieces.

"I got my first set as a gift when I was 5 years old," Ugone said. "It's a windmill, and I still have it today. From there, I kept getting more and more sets."

Rooms in his Yuma home look as if they belong in a Lego Land theme park, containing hundreds of completed Lego sets separated by genre, such as space, trains, castles and "Star Wars" sets, displayed on tables and shelves.

Lego is a line of construction toys consisting of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, mini-figures and various other parts.

Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways to form vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can be taken apart to make other objects.
The toys originated in the 1940s in Denmark and have achieved international appeal, with an extensive subculture that supports Lego-themed movies, games, video games, competitions and five amusement parks.
It wasn't until 2009, when Ugone was talking to other Lego enthusiasts online, that he decided to go for the world record.

"I was talking to a guy who said he wanted to build every set Lego has ever made," Ugone said. There are more than 5,000 sets, he added, some of which are extremely rare and others available only in certain areas.
Ugone contacted officials at the Guinness Book of World Records and found that no such record existed. He was told he would need at least 500 sets to claim a record.
"At the time, I had about 600 to 700 sets, but I wanted more," Ugone said. "So I spent a lot of time scouring the Internet to purchase more sets and build them."


After a Lego expert visited Ugone's home to verify his plethora of building-block masterpieces, 1,091 of his 1,251 sets were authenticated for the record, earning him the title as the man with the most.
Now, Ugone is slowly taking the sets apart for storage to regain some of the square footage in his home. He's taking a break from collecting Lego sets, planning instead to focus more of his attention on restoring a classic muscle car."




CARTOON: CALVIN THE CONFUSED HOUND

                              Calvin the Confused Hound Hunts for Cherry Trees.  Look, He's got one!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

HSS SAYS INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CAN IMPROVE TRANSITIONS FOR DISCHARGE PARTIENTS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Health and Human Services website:

“The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology today announced a Discharge Follow-Up Appointment care transitions challenge – the second as part of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Investing in Innovation (i2) Initiative.  With the support of Health 2.0 and Partnership for Patients, ONC launched the Discharge Follow-Up Appointment challenge in support of ONC’s Investing in Innovation (i2) program.

The i2 Initiative is a bold new effort to spur innovations in health IT.  The program utilizes prizes and challenges to facilitate innovation and obtain solutions to intractable health IT problems.  Aligned with the Obama administration’s innovation agenda, i2 is the first federal program to operate under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.

Today’s challenge aims to stimulate the use of simple, information technology-enabled processes and tools to make transitions easier and safer for patients, caregivers and providers, particularly when a patient is discharged from a hospital.  The first health IT challenge, Ensuring Safe Transitions from Hospital toHome , called upon developers to create a web-based application that could empower patients and caregivers to better navigate and manage a transition from a hospital.

This latest challenge was announced during today’s Care Innovations Summit. The Summit is co-hosted by the ONC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the West Wireless Health Institute and Health Affairs to call attention to importance of care transitions and address the gaps in care coordination with a focus on better care and better health at a lower cost.

The scheduling of follow-up appointments and post-discharge testing before leaving the hospital helps ensure safer and more effective transitions.  Unfortunately, most patients across the country continue to leave the hospital without confirmed appointments and many providers remain frustrated by a highly manual and unreliable system.  The Discharge Follow-Up Appointment challenge will focus on promoting effective care transitions.

“This challenge is an enormous opportunity for software developers to develop solutions, and pursue models that can be adopted across a community,” said Farzad Mostashari, M.D., Sc.M., national coordinator for health information technology.  “Scheduling post-discharge follow-up appointments is critical, but not easy for patients or providers and we’re excited by the possibilities that will stem from this challenge.”
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Friday, January 27, 2012

CHILD PORN BULLETIN BOARD WEB HOST GOES TO PRISON


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

January 25, 2012
“WASHINGTON – The lead administrator and the web host of an online child pornography bulletin board were sentenced today to 120 and 97 months in prison, respectively, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore; and Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) – Washington Division.

George Sell, 70, of Cumberland, Md., and Terry Lee Nolley, 47, of Silver Spring, Md., were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. in Greenbelt, Md. Sell and Nolley also were each ordered to serve lifetime terms of supervised release.

Sell and Nolley previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport child pornography. Nolley also pleaded guilty to destruction of records in a federal investigation.

According to court documents, from December 2006 through August 2008, Sell, Nolley and others conspired to operate “Country Lounge,” a secure web-based bulletin board dedicated to trading images of child pornography. Members could join this group only upon invitation and after approval by the group’s administrators, including Sell. To obtain access to “Country Lounge,” a member was required to have a username and password. Members were instructed by a specific set of rules and guidelines on how to post images via “Country Lounge” to avoid detection from law enforcement. As of August 2008, 142 members belonged to the bulletin board, which was hosted on computer servers in Virginia and Texas. In October 2008, “Country Lounge” was seized by law enforcement authorities.

From December 2006 through July 2008, Sell was the “root administrator” and day-to-day manager of Country Lounge, while Nolley agreed to host the bulletin board on computer servers maintained by him in Silver Spring.

According to court documents, Sell conspired with other individuals to take control of “Country Lounge” from its former owner and administrator, directed the creation and operation of a new “Country Lounge,” and received technical advice and assistance from co-conspirators to obtain his goal of creating and operating the new “Country Lounge.” Sell directed the daily management of “Country Lounge,” including direction over its layout and content, membership and the “rules” of the board. In addition to hosting the board, Nolley assisted Sell with the creation and maintenance of “Country Lounge.” After July 2008, Nolley transferred his web-hosting responsibilities to other co-conspirators, but continued as a “Country Lounge” member.

In November 2009, federal agents from ICE-HSI executed a search warrant on Sell’s residence and removed two computer hard drives. A forensic review of these items found them to contain multiple images of child pornography, many of which were obtained from “Country Lounge.”

In November 2009, federal agents interviewed Nolley and instructed him not to remove anything from his residence. Later that day, agents executed a search warrant at Nolley’s home and recovered several electronic devices. Nolley admitted that between the interview and the execution of the search warrant, he disposed of four additional hard drives believed to contain child pornography. Specifically, Nolley admitted that he left his home with the four hard drives, took steps to evade law enforcement and threw the hard drives into woods at the side of the road in an effort to impede the federal investigation.
                                             
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

CONSPIRATORS ALLEGEDLY USED DECEASED TAXPAYERS TO RECEIVE TAX REFUNDS


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

January 25, 2011
“A 10-count indictment was unsealed today charging six people with various offenses related to a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of at least $1.7 million in fraudulently obtained tax returns, often filed in the names of recently deceased taxpayers, the Justice Department and IRS announced today.

According to the indictment, between April 15, 2009, to at least August 2011, Muaad Salem, Fahim Sulieman, Hanan Widdi, Najeh Widdi, Hazem Woodi and Daxesj Patel and other unknown co-conspirators allegedly defrauded the United States by filing false and fraudulent tax returns, many in the names of recently deceased taxpayers, and directing refunds to controlled locations in the state of Florida.

The indictment further alleges that the U.S. Treasury checks generated by the false and fraudulent returns would then be sent by the U.S. mail to co-conspirators in Ohio who would sell and distribute the checks for negotiation at various businesses and banking institutions.

“The theft of anyone’s identity is a serious offense, but stealing the identities of the recently departed to defraud all the other taxpayers is particularly egregious,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

“Identity theft that leads to tax fraud threatens both individual U.S. citizens and the U.S. government,” said John A. DiCicco, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Tax Division. “The Justice Department and the IRS will continue to cooperate in investigating and prosecuting these crimes to the fullest extent of the law. In our technology-driven society, this simply must be a top priority.”

  The six are also charged with three counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft. In addition to the other charges, Patel is separately charged with two counts of making a false claim against the United States and with making a false statement to law enforcement officials investigating the crimes.
“The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities in order to file false returns,” said Steven Miller, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. “Our cooperative work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office will help protect taxpayers in Northern Ohio from being victimized by identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible.”

“This case is an example of the FBI and IRS working together to aggressively pursue and investigate those organized criminal enterprises that commit identity theft and fraudulent activities in the United States costing the taxpayers of this country millions of dollars,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

“IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating refund fraud and identity theft a top priority,” stated Darryl Williams, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “Filing fraudulent tax returns in the names of other individuals may result in significant harm to those individuals whose identities were stolen, as well as a monetary loss against the U.S. Treasury.”
Mail fraud is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; conspiracy to defraud the United States is punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years; conspiracy to commit mail fraud, making a false claim against the United States and making a false statement are each punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison; aggravated identity theft is punishable by a mandatory sentence of two years incarceration to follow conviction on any other offense.

Defendants also face a fine of up to $250,000 for each count of conviction.
The case was presented to the grand jury by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary D. Arbeznik following investigation by the Cleveland Division of the FBI, the IRS – Criminal Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Service.  
    
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

NASA'S SUOMI NPP SATELLITE TAKES PICTURE OF HOME WORLD





A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed 'Suomi NPP' on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin. Suomi NPP is NASA's next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth. Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring 

SEC ALLEGES SECURITIES INFLATION AT NOW BANKRUPT COMPANY


The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 25, 2012
“On January 25, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) filed a civil injunctive action against a former senior vice president and a vendor of InPhonic, Inc., a now-bankrupt online retailer of cellular phones that was headquartered in Washington, D.C. According to the Commission’s complaint, from late 2005 through early 2007, Len A. Familant, then an InPhonic senior vice president, and Paul V. Greene, president of telephone supplier Americas Premiere Corporation (“APC”), engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving a series of “round-trip transactions” to artificially inflate InPhonic’s financial results.

The Commission’s complaint, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, alleges:
After the end of the third quarter of 2005 and each quarter in 2006, but before InPhonic reported its financial results, Familant obtained a total of almost $10 million in sham credits from APC and Greene. Familant and Greene entered into an unwritten, undisclosed agreement that InPhonic would repay APC by purchasing cellular telephones and repair services from APC at inflated prices and by paying for fake repairs.

InPhonic improperly recorded the false credits from APC as a decrease in cost of goods sold. InPhonic subsequently made repayments to APC in the form of overpayments for cellular telephones, repair services and fake repairs.

The round-trip scheme agreed to and implemented by Familant and Greene resulted in material understatements of InPhonic’s net loss (between 7% and 55%) in quarterly and annual filings with the Commission and material overstatements of InPhonic’s adjusted EBITDA in earnings releases from 2005-2007.

Familant and Greene concealed the fraudulent round-trip scheme. For instance, together they identified particular telephone models APC could provide to InPhonic at inflated prices without raising suspicion.

Greene hid the round-trip scheme from InPhonic’s independent auditors even after APC’s accountant had informed Greene that APC’s sham credit transactions with InPhonic were illegal.

Familant encouraged APC to hide its billing for phony services after Familant learned that APC’s accountant had told Greene, “[w]e cannot do that. That is fraud. . . .”

In October 2007, as InPhonic’s business was failing and after APC had been unable to fully recoup the credits, Greene sent an email to himself outlining a proposed lawsuit against InPhonic. Greene referred to “the fake credits that were negotiated with INPC that they were using to hit certain quarterly numbers.”
Greene is charged with violating, and aiding and abetting InPhonic’s and Familant’s violations, of the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c). Greene is also charged with violating the books and records provision of Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1, and with aiding and abetting InPhonic’s violations of the reporting and books and records provisions of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction, disgorgement, civil penalties and prejudgment interest against Greene.

Familant has agreed to settle the Commission’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations against him. Familant has consented to a final judgment enjoining him from violating the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c), and the books and records provision of Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1, and from aiding and abetting InPhonic’s violations of the reporting and books and records provisions of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13. Familant also has agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty and to be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company. The proposed settlement with Familant is subject to the approval of the District Court.”

FORMER OCEAN BANK EXECUTIVE PLEADS GUILTY TO BRIBERY AND TAX FRAUD




The following excerpt  is from the Department of Justice website:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
"WASHINGTON – A former executive of Miami-based Ocean Bank pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Miami to participating in a scheme to accept bribes and to failing to report the income on federal income tax returns, the Department of Justice announced.

Danilo P. Perez, a former vice president of Ocean Bank, pleaded guilty today to felony charges filed on Jan. 18, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Miami. The charges against Perez stem from his accepting nearly $500,000 in cash and other items from unnamed co-conspirators in connection with his supervision of certain unnamed customer business with the bank.

According to court documents, as vice president, Perez generally oversaw Ocean Bank’s lending relationships with corporate customers of the bank.   The department said that beginning in or about February 2001 and continuing thereafter through on or about April 25, 2007, Perez accepted bribes, including payments for expensive watches, Super Bowl Tickets and other items for his personal use, as well as substantial amounts of cash. Perez accepted the payments intending to be rewarded and influenced in connection with his role in approving Ocean Bank’s issuance of letters of credit, loans and overdraft privileges to his co-conspirators. The court documents also show that he failed to report income from the bribes for the tax years 2005, 2006 and 2007, resulting in lost tax revenue of approximately $91,000 to the federal government.

Perez was charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit or demand money and other things of value to influence an employee of a financial institution and three counts of tax offenses. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine. The tax charges each carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison and $250,000 fine. The maximum fine for each count may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine."

WOMAN ARRESTED FOR ABUSING AND NEGLECTING HER MOTHER


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Marshals website: 

Albuquerque, NM – On January 23, 2012, United States Marshals arrested Penelope Wronski, 54, for failing to appear in court on charges of Abuse and Neglect Resulting in Death. The charge stems from a June 2010 incident where Wronski failed to care for her elderly mother resulting in her mother’s death. Wronski was arrested in the 11000 block on Montgomery NE and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Annually, investigations carried out by the U.S. Marshals result in the apprehension of approximately 34,000 federal fugitives. More federal fugitives are arrested by Marshals than all other federal agencies combined. The task force objective is to seek out and arrest all Violent Offenders. Last year, U.S. Marshals task forces across the country arrested more than 27,000 state and local fugitives on felony charges.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PRESIDENTIAL CONGRESSIONAL ADDRESS 2012

"Last night, President Obama gave his 3rd State of the Union Address to Congress. The President laid out his blueprint for an economy that’s built to last -- an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values."




The above excerpt and picture are from the White House website and an e-mail:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ALABAMA GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE INDICTED FOR IDENTITY THEFT AND TAX FRAUD


The following excerpt is from the U.S. Department of Justice website:

“Monday, January 23, 2012State of Alabama Employee Indicted for Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Allegedly Used Stolen Information to Defraud the IRS of Tax Refunds

Natacia Webster was arrested today as part of a federal crackdown on identity theft and tax refund fraud. A federal grand jury in Montgomery, Ala., returned an indictment on Jan. 19, 2012, charging Webster, an employee of the state of Alabama, with several charges arising out of her theft of identity information from government databases, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today. The 15-count indictment charges Webster with conspiracy to defraud the government, wire fraud, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, in 2011, Webster obtained identity information during her employment with the state of Alabama and provided that information to co-conspirator Melinda Clayton, who used the stolen identities to file false tax returns fraudulently claiming tax refunds.  The refunds were directed to bank accounts and debit cards controlled by the conspirators.  Clayton and several others were indicted in April 2011. Clayton has since pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing.

“My office will continue to work with the IRS to vigorously prosecute those people who steal an innocent person identity, just to file a false tax return and steal the tax refunds,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama George L. Beck. “These criminals need to be punished for the harm they cause to the person whose identity is stolen and the harm they cause to U.S. taxpayer.”

“The Justice Department is committed to working with the IRS to investigate, prosecute, and punish those who commit identity theft to obtain tax refunds illegally,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

“The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities in order to file false returns,” said Steven Miller, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. “Our cooperative work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tax Division will help protect taxpayers in Alabama from being victimized by identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible.”
                                                                     
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Webster faces a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 5 years in prison for each computer fraud count and a mandatory two-year sentence for each aggravated identity theft count. She is also subject to fines and mandatory restitution if convicted.    
         
The case was investigated by special agents of the IRS - Criminal Investigation. Tax Division trial attorneys Jason H. Poole and Michael Boteler and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown are prosecuting the case.”


A FORMER CIA OFFICER CHARGED FOR DISCLOSURES


The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

“ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, was charged today with repeatedly disclosing classified information to journalists, including the name of a covert CIA officer and information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities, Justice Department officials announced.

The charges result from an investigation that was triggered by a classified defense filing in January 2009, which contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, and, in part, by the discovery in the spring of 2009 of photographs of certain government employees and contractors in the materials of high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The investigation revealed that on multiple occasions, one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou is alleged to have illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator, and that this information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel. There are no allegations of criminal activity by any members of the defense team for the detainees.

Kiriakou, 47, of Arlington, Va., was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, serving at headquarters and in various classified overseas assignments. He is scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson in federal court in Alexandria.

Kiriakou was charged with one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act for allegedly illegally disclosing the identity of a covert officer and two counts of violating the Espionage Act for allegedly illegally disclosing national defense information to individuals not authorized to receive it. Kiriakou was also charged with one count of making false statements for allegedly lying to the Publications Review Board of the CIA in an unsuccessful attempt to trick the CIA into allowing him to include classified information in a book he was seeking to publish.

The four-count criminal complaint, which was filed today in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Kiriakou made illegal disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified operations to two journalists on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009. In one case, revealing the employee’s name as a CIA officer disclosed classified information as the employee was and remains covert (identified in the complaint as “Covert Officer A”).   In the second case, Kiriakou allegedly disclosed the name and contact information of an employee, identified in the complaint as “Officer B,” whose participation in an operation to capture and question terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002 was then classified. Kiriakou’s alleged disclosures occurred prior to a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times disclosing Officer B’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.

“Safeguarding classified information, including the identities of CIA officers involved in sensitive operations, is critical to keeping our intelligence officers safe and protecting our national security,”   said Attorney General Eric Holder.   “Today’s charges reinforce the Justice Department’s commitment to hold accountable anyone who would violate the solemn duty not to disclose such sensitive information.”

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, who was appointed Special Attorney in 2010 to supervise the investigation, said, “I want to thank the Washington Field Office of the FBI and the team of attorneys assigned to this matter for their hard work and dedication to tracing the sources of the leaks of classified information.”   Mr. Fitzgerald announced the charges with James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI, and they thanked the CIA for its very substantial assistance in the investigation, as well as the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for its significant assistance.

“Protecting the identities of America’s covert operatives is one of the most important responsibilities of those who are entrusted with roles in our nation’s intelligence community. The FBI and our intelligence community partners work diligently to hold accountable those who violate that special trust,” said Mr. McJunkin.

The CIA filed a crimes report with the Justice Department on March 19, 2009, prior to the discovery of the photographs and after reviewing the Jan. 19, 2009, classified filing by defense counsel for certain detainees with the military commission then responsible for adjudicating charges. The defense filing contained information relating to the identities and activities of covert government personnel, but prior to Jan. 19, 2009, there had been no authorized disclosure to defense counsel of the classified information. The Justice Department’s National Security Division, working with the FBI, began the investigation. To avoid the risk of encountering a conflict of interest because of the pending prosecutions of some of the high-value detainees, Mr. Fitzgerald was assigned to supervise the investigation conducted by a team of attorneys from the Southern District of New York, the Northern District of Illinois and the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division who were not involved in pending prosecutions of the detainees.

According to the complaint affidavit, the investigation determined that no laws were broken by the defense team as no law prohibited defense counsel from filing a classified document under seal outlining for a court classified information they had learned during the course of their investigation. Regarding the 32 pages of photographs that were taken or obtained by the defense team and provided to the detainees, the investigation found no evidence the defense attorneys transmitting the photographs were aware of, much less disclosed, the identities of the persons depicted in particular photographs and no evidence that the defense team disclosed other classified matters associated with certain of those individuals to the detainees. The defense team did not take photographs of persons known or believed to be current covert officers. Rather, defense counsel, using a technique known as a double-blind photo lineup, provided photograph spreads of unidentified individuals to their clients to determine whether they recognized anyone who may have participated in questioning them. No law or military commission order expressly prohibited defense counsel from providing their clients with these photo spreads.

Further investigation, based in part on emails recovered from judicially-authorized search warrants served on two email accounts associated with Kiriakou, allegedly revealed that:
Kiriakou disclosed to Journalist A the name of Covert Officer A and the fact that Covert Officer A was involved in a particular classified operation. The journalist then provided the defense investigator with the full name of the covert CIA employee;
Kiriakou disclosed or confirmed to Journalists A, B and C the then-classified information that Officer B participated in the Abu Zubaydah   operation and provided two of those journalists with contact information for Officer B, including a personal email address. One of the journalists subsequently provided the defense investigator with Officer B’s home telephone number, which the investigator used to identify and photograph Officer B; and
Kiriakou lied to the CIA regarding the existence and use of a classified technique, referred to as a “magic box,” in an unsuccessful effort to trick the CIA into allowing him to publish information about the classified technique in a book.
Upon joining the CIA in 1990 and on multiple occasions in following years, Kiriakou signed secrecy and non-disclosure agreements not to disclose classified information to unauthorized individuals.

Regarding Covert Officer A, the affidavit details a series of email communications between Kiriakou and Journalist A in July and August 2008. In an exchange of emails on July 11, 2008, Kiriakou allegedly illegally confirmed for Journalist A that Covert Officer A, whose first name only was exchanged at that point, was “the team leader on [specific operation].” On Aug. 18, 2008, Journalist A sent Kiriakou an email asking if Kiriakou could pick out Covert Officer A’s last name from a list of names Journalist A provided in the email. On Aug. 19, 2008, Kiriakou allegedly passed the last name of Covert Officer A to Journalist A by email, stating “It came to me last night.” Covert Officer A’s last name had not been on the list provided by Journalist A. Later that same day, approximately two hours later, Journalist A sent an email to the defense investigator that contained Covert Officer A’s full name. Neither Journalist A, nor any other journalist to the government’s knowledge, has published the name of Covert Officer A.

At the time of Kiriakou’s allegedly unauthorized disclosures to Journalist A, the identification of Covert Officer A as “the team leader on [specific operation]” was classified at the Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) level because it revealed both Covert Officer A’s identity and his association with the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) Program relating to the capture, detention and questioning of terrorism subjects. The defense investigator was able to identify Covert Officer A only after receiving the email from Journalist A, and both Covert Officer A’s name and association with the RDI Program were included in the January 2009 classified defense filing. The defense investigator told the government that he understood from the circumstances that Covert Officer A was a covert employee and, accordingly, did not take his photograph. No photograph of Covert Officer A was recovered from the detainees at Guantanamo.

In a recorded interview last Thursday, FBI agents told Kiriakou that Covert Officer A’s name was included in the classified defense filing. The affidavit states Kiriakou said, among other things, “How the heck did they get him? . . . [First name of Covert Officer A] was always undercover. His entire career was undercover.”   Kiriakou further stated that he never provided Covert Officer A’s name or any other information about Covert Officer A to any journalist and stated “Once they get the names, I mean this is scary.”

Regarding Officer B, the affidavit states that he worked overseas with Kiriakou on an operation to locate and capture Abu Zubaydah, and Officer B’s association with the RDI Program and the Abu Zubaydah operation in particular were classified until that information was recently declassified to allow the prosecution of Kiriakou to proceed.

In June 2008, The New York Times published an article by Journalist B entitled “Inside the Interrogation of a 9/11 Mastermind,” which publicly identified Officer B and reported his alleged role in the capture and questioning of Abu Zubaydah – facts which were then classified. The article attributed other information to Kiriakou as a source, but did not identify the source(s) who disclosed or confirmed Officer B’s identity. The charges allege that at various times prior to publication of the article, Kiriakou provided Journalist B with personal information regarding Officer B, knowing that Journalist B was seeking to identify and locate Officer B. In doing so, Kiriakou allegedly confirmed classified information that Officer B was involved in the Abu Zubaydah operation. For example, Kiriakou allegedly emailed Officer B’s phone number and personal email address to Journalist B, who attempted to contact Officer B via his personal email in April and May 2008. Officer B had provided his personal email address to Kiriakou, but not to Journalist B or any other journalist. Subsequently, Kiriakou allegedly revealed classified information by confirming for Journalist B additional information that an individual with Officer B’s name, who was associated with particular contact information that Journalist B had found on a website, was located in Pakistan in March 2002, which was where and when the Abu Zubaydah operation took place.

After The New York Times article was published, Kiriakou sent several emails denying that he was the source for information regarding Officer B, while, at the same time, allegedly lying about the number and nature of his contacts with Journalist B. For example, in an email dated June 30, 2008, Kiriakou told Officer B that Kiriakou had spoken to the newspaper’s ombudsman after the article was published and said that the use of Officer B’s name was “despicable and unnecessary” and could put Officer B in danger. Kiriakou also denied that he had cooperated with the article and claimed that he had declined to talk to Journalist B, except to say that he believed the article absolutely should not mention Officer B’s name. “[W]hile it might not be illegal to name you, it would certainly be immoral,” Kiriakou wrote to Officer B, according to the affidavit.

From at least November 2007 through November 2008, Kiriakou allegedly provided Journalist A with Officer B’s personal contact information and disclosed to Journalist A classified information revealing Officer B’s association with the RDI Program. Just as Journalist A had disclosed to the defense investigator classified information that Kiriakou allegedly imparted about Covert Officer A, Journalist A, in turn, provided the defense investigator information that Kiriakou had disclosed about Officer B. For example, in an email dated April 10, 2008, Journalist A provided the defense investigator with Officer B’s home phone number, which, in light of Officer B’s common surname, allowed the investigator to quickly and accurately identify Officer B and photograph him. Both Officer B’s name and his association with the RDI Program were included in the January 2009 classified defense filing, and four photographs of Officer B were among the photos recovered at Guantanamo.

In the same recorded interview with FBI agents last week, Kiriakou said he “absolutely” considered Officer B’s association with the Abu Zubaydah operation classified, the affidavit states. Kiriakou also denied providing any contact information for Officer B or Officer B’s association with the Abu Zubaydah operation to Journalists A and B prior to publication of the June 2008 New York Times article. When specifically asked whether he had anything to do with providing Officer B’s name or other information about Officer B to Journalist B prior to the article, Kiriakou stated “Heavens no.”

As background, the affidavit states that sometime prior to May 22, 2007, Kiriakou disclosed to Journalist C classified information regarding Officer B’s association with Abu Zubaydah operation, apparently while collaborating on a preliminary book proposal. A footnote states that Journalist C is not the coauthor of the book Kiriakou eventually published.

Prior to publication of his book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror, Kiriakou submitted a draft manuscript in July 2008 to the CIA’s Publication Review Board (PRB). In an attempt to trick the CIA into allowing him to publish information regarding a classified investigative technique, Kiriakou allegedly lied to the PRB by falsely claiming that the technique was fictional and that he had never heard of it before. In fact, according to a transcript of a recorded interview conducted in August 2007 to assist Kiriakou’s coauthor in drafting the book, Kiriakou described the technique, which he referred to as the “magic box,” and told his coauthor that the CIA had used the technique in the Abu Zubaydah   operation. The technique was also disclosed in the June 2008 New York Times article and referred to as a “magic box.”

In his submission letter to the PRB, Kiriakou flagged the reference to a device called a “magic box,” stating he had read about it in the newspaper article but added that the information was “clearly fabricated,” as he was unaware of and had used no such device. The affidavit contains the contents of an August 2008 email that Kiriakou sent his coauthor admitting that he lied to the PRB in an attempt to include classified information in the book. The PRB subsequently informed Kiriakou that the draft manuscript contained classified information that he could not use, and information regarding the technique that Kiriakou included in the manuscript remained classified until it was recently declassified to allow Kiriakou’s prosecution to proceed.
         
Upon conviction, the count charging illegal disclosure of Covert Officer A’s identity to a person not authorized to receive classified information carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, which must be imposed consecutively to any other prison term; the two counts charging violations of the Espionage Act each carry a maximum term of 10 years in prison; and making false statements carries a maximum prison term of five years. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

A complaint contains only allegations and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The government is being represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Iris Lan (Southern District of New York) and Mark E. Schneider (Northern District of Illinois), and Justice Department trial attorney Ryan Fayhee of the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Owings (Eastern District of Virginia) will assist in the matter under local court rules.”