Criminal Justice News

Monday, July 30, 2012

New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force provides tools to law enforcement

Click photo for screen-resolution image SCOTIA, N.Y. (7/30/12) - The New York National Guard's Counterdrug Task Force provides specialized tools to law enforcement combating drug trafficking, including the Rapiscan system - a truck mounted x-ray - which enables law enforcement agencies to search for hidden drug compartments in seized vehicles.

A drug trafficker speeds his way up the New York Thruway. Ten pounds of marijuana are hidden in a compartment below his seat. He's nervous. He presses the gas pedal. He looks over his shoulder -- flashing lights.
And now he's in trouble.

He opens his window and the policeman notices a strong scent wafting from the car. But from where? The car is held for further analysis. The police officer calls for support.

And the New York Counterdrug Task Force answers.

Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Brian Gillis, who manages the scanners and other equipment at Counterdrug, estimates his unit is called to help law enforcement find hidden drug compartments 30 to 40 times a year.

The goal is to gather evidence, to find and identify narcotics -- all of the narcotics, no matter how cleverly hidden. Counterdrug offers several specialized tools to agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Defense, the Albany Police Department, and others.

Counterdrug offers these tools to law enforcement agencies at no cost, Army National Guard Col. Michael J. Sloma, New York Counterdrug coordinator, said.

"We have certain types of specialized equipment that we lend out to law enforcement agencies to help them fight drug trafficking in our communities," Sloma said.

"This allows smaller police departments to focus their budgets on their own needs," Sloma said, "while still having access to expensive and specialized equipment such as helicopters, night vision goggles and drug detection tools, all operated by experts with military skills and training."

One of the tools Counterdrug offers is the Rapiscan, which can scan entire vehicles, and another is the Itemiser, which uses ion technology to identify the trace remnants of narcotics, explosives and other substances.

Depending on the circumstances, these two tools can be at a site within an hour. Once there, Counterdrug personnel provide instruction on how to use the Rapiscan and the Itemiser. Their role is to be technical advisers - it's the police who do the policework.

"We're stewards of this equipment," Sloma said. "We make sure it's maintained and assessable, and we get it to where it's needed."

In the past, Gillis, said the Rapiscan has been used to break cases open. He recalls how once, during a double homicide investigation, investigators were unable to find the murder weapon. Then they scanned the suspect's car: they found a hidden compartment with two guns, cell phones and cash. One of those guns was the murder weapon.
The investigators got the conviction.

The Itemiser, too, helps law enforcement take drugs off New York's streets. The Itemiser has the size and appearance of an office printer. Gillis takes a flat swab and runs it across a $20 bill. He inserts the swab into a slot in the machine. Within seconds, the machine makes its analysis: no trace of drugs here.

He runs a swab against a chair was once exposed to heroin. He inserts the swab into the machine -- a positive.
Here's how it works: the Itemiser superheats each swab. Each substance reacts in a different way to this process. The Itemiser runs the results through a database. If the reaction matches that of an illegal substance, it will inform its operators within seconds. Gillis says it has a two percent false positive rate.

Tools such as the Itemiser are available to help law enforcement gather evidence and confirm suspicions, says Gillis. "If they suspect, this is how they can confirm," he says.

Gillis stresses that Counterdrug does not directly arrest or keep any information on individuals. Instead, Counterdrug provides tools such as the Rapiscan and Itemiser to help law enforcement focus on what they do best: apprehending the bad guys.

Kazakhstani National Sentenced to 27 Months in Prison for Money Laundering

WASHINGTON – Daniyar Zhaxalyk, 26, a citizen of Kazakhstan who entered the United States on a student visa, was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for his role in a sophisticated stock fraud scheme that caused more than $400,000 in losses, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Kenneth Magidson.
 
Zhaxalyk was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. in the Southern District of Texas. In addition to his prison term, Zhaxalyk was ordered to pay $221,925 in restitution. Zhaxalyk will be deported from the United States upon the completion of his sentence.

According to court documents, Zhaxalyk agreed to launder funds generated in a sophisticated “hack and dump” stock scheme that caused more than $400,000 in losses. The indictment charges that Zhaxalyk’s co-conspirators illegally accessed brokerage accounts to engage in a stock fraud scheme in which the compromised accounts were used to purchase borrowed shares of stock at above-market prices from the defendants’ personal brokerage accounts. Zhaxalyk’s co-conspirators then repurchased the borrowed shares at the considerably lower market price, returned the borrowed shares to the stock lender, and claimed as profit the difference between the market price and the inflated price paid by the compromised victim accounts.

A co-defendant, Alexey Li, also a citizen of Kazakhstan who entered the United States on a student visa, previously pleaded guilty in Houston on March 2, 2012, and was sentenced to three months in prison and ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution. Two other defendants remain at large.

This case was investigated by the St. Louis, San Francisco and Houston offices of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Ethan Arenson of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McIntyre of the Southern District of Texas.

German Subsidiary of TRW Automotive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Price Fixing on Automobile Parts Installed in U.S. Cars

Company Agrees to Pay $5.1 Million Criminal Fine

WASHINGTON – TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, a Koblenz, Germany-based subsidiary of U.S.-based TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., has agreed to plead guilty for its involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels sold to two German automobile manufacturers, and installed in cars sold in the United States , the Department of Justice announced today. This is the second case filed relating to occupant safety systems sold to auto manufacturers as part of the department’s ongoing antitrust auto parts investigation.
TRW Deutschland has agreed to pay a $5.1 million criminal fine and to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation. The plea agreement is subject to court approval.
“By agreeing to fix the prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels, the conspirators eliminated competition for occupant safety parts in cars sold to U.S. consumers,” said Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “As a result of the division’s close work with its law enforcement partners, more than $785 million in criminal fines have been imposed in this ongoing investigation.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, TRW Deutschland engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for, and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels sold to automakers in the United States and elsewhere.
According to court documents, the defendant’s involvement in the conspiracy to fix prices of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels lasted from January 2008 until at least June 2011. The department said that the TRW Automotive subsidiary and its co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing, during meetings and conversations, to allocate the supply of seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels and sold the occupant safety parts at noncompetitive prices to automakers in the United States and elsewhere.
Including TRW Deutschland, seven companies and 10 individuals have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry. Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd, DENSO Corp., Yazaki Corp., G.S. Electech Inc., Fujikura Ltd. and Autoliv Inc. pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a total of more than $785 million in criminal fines. Additionally, seven of the individuals – Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata, Tetsuya Ukai, Tsuneaki Hanamura, Ryoki Kawai, Shigeru Ogawa and Hisamitsu Takada – have been sentenced to pay criminal fines and to serve jail sentences ranging from a year and a day to two years each. Makoto Hattori and Norihiro Imai have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Kazuhiko Kashimoto is scheduled to plead guilty on Aug. 22, 2012.
TRW Deutschland is charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations. 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.
Today’s prosecution arose from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit. Anyone with information concerning the focus of this investigation is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section at 202-307-6694, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm, or call the FBI’s Detroit Field Office at 313-965-2323.

Justice Department Announces Agreement to Address and Prevent the Sexual Assault of Students in Allentown, Pa., Schools

The Department of Justice and the Allentown, Pa., School District today filed a proposed consent decree addressing multiple complaints of sexual assault of students at Central Elementary School. The comprehensive consent decree resolves allegations that six- and seven-year-old students were sexually assaulted by another student in the boys’ bathrooms at Central Elementary School during the 2003–2004 school year.
In July 2009, the department intervened in a lawsuit filed by several of those students against the district and conducted an extensive investigation. The department alleged that sexual assaults occurred on at least five separate occasions and that the district was made aware of each incident immediately after it occurred. The department alleged that despite this notice, the district did not take appropriate action, and in some circumstances took no action, to prevent the harassment from recurring.
Furthermore, the department alleged that both before and after the sexual harassment of the students, the district failed to adopt and implement adequate and effective sexual harassment policies and procedure as required by federal la w; had the district adopted and implemented such policies and procedures, the district would have prevented the continued sexual assault of students. The department seeks thorough protections for Allentown students as required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based harassment, including the sexual assault of students, in public and other schools that receive federal financial assistance.
“The sexual assault of students in elementary schools cannot be tolerated. It must be stopped. The impact on the educational experience and life of a young child is devastating.” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Parents are entitled to know that their children will be safe in school every day. We appreciate the steps the Allentown school district has agreed to take to address this matter and to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students moving forward.”
“Protecting our youngest and most vulnerable citizens from sexual assault will always be a top priority,” said Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “We are hopeful that with this consent decree, we can forever close this very sad and disturbing chapter in the history of the Allentown School District.”
The department and the district worked collaboratively to draft the consent decree to ensure the safety and well-being of all students in the district. The consent decree will remain in effect for a minimum of three years. If the consent decree is approved by the court, the district will:
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for addressing and preventing sexual harassment in all district schools;
  • Retain an expert consultant in the area of student-on-student harassment to draft and implement a sexual harassment policy and procedures;
  • Provide training to administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents on sex-based harassment;
  • Select qualified district and school-based equity coordinators to ensure proper implementation of the district’s harassment policies and procedures and compliance with Title IX, including prompt investigation, resolution and reporting of sexual harassment complaints and allegations;
  • Create procedures for identifying, monitoring, and supervising students with a confirmed history of sexual harassment toward other students;
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures for communicating with outside agencies, such as police, hospital and child protection agencies, of allegations of sexual harassment in the district; and
  • Submit annual compliance reports to the department.

Friday, July 27, 2012

NEW ORLEANS WOMAN SENTENCED FOR MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS DURING THE PURCHASE OF FIREARMS

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – IRNA LACAYO, age 29, a resident of New Orleans, was sentenced today in federal court by U. S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. to serve six (6) months in home confinement, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten. In addition to the sentence of home confinement, Judge Duval ordered that LACAYO be placed on two (2) years of probation, during which time the defendant will be under federal supervision and risks an additional term of imprisonment should she violate any terms of her probation.

According to court documents, on March 8, 2012, LACAYO, pled guilty to four counts of an indictment admitting that between November 2008 and March 2010, she knowingly made false and fictitious written statements to licensed firearms dealers during the purchase of six firearms.

The case was investigated by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) and the ATF. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Joe La Rocca and Robert Weir.

Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Gang Member Sentenced to Serve 10 Years in Prison for Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering

An Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) gang member from Houston was sentenced today to serve 10 years in prison for his role in an aggravated assault that took place in Tomball, Texas, in September 2008, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.

David Harlow, 43, aka “Bam Bam,” was found guilty at trial on March 21, 2012, of racketeering aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit racketeering aggravated assault for his role in the severe beating of a prospective ABT member. Harlow was convicted on two counts and sentenced to serve 36 months on count one and 120 months on count two, to run concurrently. In addition to the prison term, Harlow was also sentenced to pay a $2,000 fine by senior U.S. District Court Judge Ewing Werlein Jr.
According to court documents, Harlow was a member of the ABT, a powerful race-based, state-wide organization that operated inside and outside of state and federal prisons throughout the United States. The ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960s. According to court documents, previously, the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism. Over time, the ABT has expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.
According to court documents, the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as “direct orders.”
According to court documents, Harlow, along with 11 fellow ABT gang members, participated in the beating of a prospective ABT member at the home of another ABT gang leader, Steven Walter Cooke, 48, aka “Stainless,” in Tomball, on Sept. 22, 2008. The ABT prospect, who sustained serious bodily injury, was beaten by ABT gang members because he violated ABT rules of conduct.
The remaining 11 co-defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the assault.
This case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force consisting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Texas Ranger Division – Texas Department of Public Safety; the Walker County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; the Montgomery County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department; the Houston Police Department-Gang Division; the Tomball Police Department; the Texas Department of Criminal JusticeInspector General; and the Harris County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by David Karpel of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman of the Southern District of Texas.

HOGSETT ANNOUNCES INDICTMENT OF FOUR ON FEDERAL DRUG, FIREARMS CHARGES

INDIANAPOLIS– Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today the return of a seven-count indictment of four central Indianahttp://www.projectsafechildhood.gov. residents for a variety of federal drug and firearms offenses. The indictment describes a regional drug trafficking conspiracy, and alleges that the defendants played various roles in the illegal trafficking of assault rifles and other weapons from Indiana to a Mexican-based drug cartel.

"The allegations in this indictment describe individuals engaged in a deadly trade – importing dangerous drugs into Indiana, and exporting deadly firearms south of the border," Hogsett said. "Our office has made a commitment to combat organized crime in this state, and this prosecution represents another important step toward that goal."

The indictment alleges that from at least 2009, Hermion Torres acted as an organizer and leader of a marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine trafficking organization that operated throughout Southern Indiana, Western Kentucky, and elsewhere. It is alleged that Torres obtained the drugs from sources in Texas and Mexico, which were then brought to Indiana for distribution by Torres and others.

The indictment further alleges an international firearms trafficking conspiracy in which Torres, a convicted felon unable to legally purchase firearms, would solicit individuals to acquire weapons on his behalf. This practice is commonly known as making a "straw purchase," and the indictment alleges that Torres compensated these individuals by trading money and/or drugs for the firearms.

Following the straw purchases, it is alleged that Torres arranged for the firearms to be transported to members of the "Gulf Cartel" in Texas and Mexico. The Gulf Cartel, also known as the "Cartel Del Golfo," is an international criminal organization responsible for armed, violent drug trafficking and other criminal activities in Mexico and the United States. Members of the "Gulf Cartel" have been known to be heavily armed, and often use guns in connection with their criminal activities, which in the past have included kidnapping, murder, robbery, and extortion.

All told, the indictment alleges that Torres engaged in the straw purchase of at least 15 rifles and 29 assault rifles at various federally licensed firearms dealers in Greenwood, Plainfield, and Indianapolis. These weapons were then allegedly transported to Texas, and on to Mexico. In one instance, law enforcement officers in Texas recovered a duffel bag on the banks of the Rio Grande River that contained assault rifles, other firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and an improvised explosive device. A number of firearms recovered at the scene have been traced back to purchases allegedly orchestrated by Torres.

The individuals named in the indictment include the following, with their alleged offenses listed below:
Hermion Torres, a/k/a "Bear" or "Oso," age 35, of Seymour
Drug conspiracy; Firearms trafficking conspiracy; Felon in possession of a firearm; Firearm straw purchase (three counts)
David Lane, age 40, of Columbus
Firearm straw purchase (two counts); Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute
Regina Compton, age 40, of Columbus
Firearm straw purchase (two counts)
Christopher Baker, age 37, of Franklin
Firearm straw purchase

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew P. Brookman, who is prosecuting the case for the government, Torres faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if found guilty on the drug conspiracy charge, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Torres also faces up to 5 years in prison if found guilty of the firearms trafficking conspiracy charge. Each count of being a felon in possession of a firearm carries with it a maximum sentence of 10 years and a possible $250,000 fine. The straw purchase charges similarly carry a 10 year maximum sentence. Lane's methamphetamine possession charge has a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison if he is found guilty, with a maximum penalty of life.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

New York Distributor of Prepaid Phone Cards Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

Goher Yaqoob, a resident of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York to tax evasion, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced.
According to court records, Yaqoob, who sold prepaid phone cards through a distributorship business he owned, admitted that he filed a false individual income tax return and attempted to evade his income taxes for tax year 2002 by underreporting his income. Yaqoob admitted that his criminal conduct caused a tax loss of at least $147,323 between calendar years 2000 and 2003.
Yaqoob faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, who is presiding over the matter, set a sentencing date of Dec. 7, 2012.
The case was investigated by IRS - Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jorge Almonte and Jeffrey B. Bender of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NEW LEADER FOR ATF HOUSTON FIELD DIVISION

Melvin King Takes Over as Agency Head in South Texas

Melvin D. King, Jr. has reported to Houston as the new Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Houston Field Division which encompasses all of Southern Texas. Mr. King brings 27 years of law enforcement experience to Houston. In his tenure with ATF, King has investigated the entire range of crimes under ATF’s jurisdiction and has held numerous positions in the field and in headquarters.

King began his law enforcement career with the U.S. Secret Service in 1985. In 1988, King was hired by ATF and was assigned to the Washington Field Division, Richmond Field Office. While in Richmond, King was one of the founding members of "Project Exile," a firearms violence reduction strategy that has been adopted by over 100 cities throughout the country.

King was promoted in 1999 to the Resident Agent in Charge of the Camden Field Office and then assigned to ATF Headquarters Legislative Affairs Office in 2003. In 2004 he was assigned to Internal Affairs, Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations and was promoted to Assistant Special Agent in Charge in 2006. In 2007, King was selected as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Field Division, Columbia Office where he supervised law enforcement groups in South and North Carolina.

"I am happy to be here in South Texas and under my leadership we will continue the ATF mission to reduce violent crime and stop firearms trafficking to criminals both domestically and internationally," said King. "I plan to continue to work closely with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. Another one of my priorities will be to partner with the firearms and explosives dealers in South Texas as we conduct our mission to regulate the industry."

Admitted Associate of New England La Cosa Nostra Sentenced to Prison for Participation in Hobbs Act Extortion Conspiracy

Albino Folcarelli is 7th Defendant to Plead Guilty and be Sentenced to Federal Prison for Alleged Extortion of Protection Payments from Rhode Island Businesses and Individuals by Organized Crime
 
Albino “Albie” Folcarelli, 54, of Johnston, R.I., an admitted associate of the New England La Cosa Nostra (NELCN), was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I., today to serve 84 months in federal prison for his participation in an extortion conspiracy to extort $25,000 from a Rhode Island individual by using implied threats of violence, including visits to the individual’s place of employment and home.
U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith also sentenced Folcarelli to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term and to pay $25,000 in restitution to be paid jointly and severally with co-defendants Raymond R. “Scarface” Jenkins and Edward “Eddy” Lato. Folcarelli pleaded guilty on May 4, 2012, to one count of Hobbs Act extortion.
Folcarelli admitted to participating in an extortion conspiracy with Lato, 65, an admitted NELCN capo, and Jenkins, 47. Lato, who also pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to shakedown Rhode Island adult entertainment business for protection money, is serving a sentence of 108 months in federal prison. Jenkins is serving a sentence of 37 months in prison.
Folcarelli’s sentence was announced by Peter F. Neronha, United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Richard Deslauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Office; Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police; and Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare.
Folcarelli, Lato and Jenkins are among seven Rhode Island men convicted and sentenced for crimes involving racketeering and extortion, which allegedly extorted protection payments from several adult entertainment businesses and individuals in Rhode Island during the past two decades. Admitted NELCN crime boss Luigi “Louie” Manocchio, 85, is currently serving a 66 month sentence in federal prison; Alfred “Chippy” Scivola, 72, an admitted NELCN member, is serving a 46 month sentence in prison; Richard Bonifiglia, 58, an admitted NELCN associate, is serving an 84 month sentence in prison; and Thomas Iafrate, an admitted NELCN associate, is currently serving a 30 month sentence in prison.
An eighth defendant named in a second superseding indictment, Theodore Cardillo, 69, has entered a plea of not guilty to three counts each of RICO conspiracy and extortion conspiracy. He is detained while awaiting trial.

A third superseding indictment returned in this matter returned on April 24, 2012, charges Anthony L. Dinunzio, 53, of East Boston, Mass., the alleged acting leader of the NELCN, with one count each of racketeering and extortion, and five counts of travel in aid of racketeering. A not guilty plea was entered on April 25, 2012. Dinunzio is detained while awaiting trial.
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Business Litigation Website


The Adishian Law Group website is one of the most interesting I have reviewed.   The biography of the founder of the law group, Christopher M. Adishian, says that he is “tech-savvy.”  He website supports that claim.  Not only is it well designed, easy to navigate and filled with useful content, it is well integrated with a variety of social media.   Moreover, the content is well mapped out and the structure of the website is thoughtful, making information easy to locate. 

The core practice areas listed on the website – corporate law, employment law and real estate law generally fall under the category of business litigation.  When browsing through the website you can go to the web resources and will find a large number of useful links to information pertaining to the section.  As an example, the Corporate and Business Law section gives you access to everything from the California Department of Corporations to the United States Patent Office.

 Additionally, the law firm’s website gives some of the most comprehensive examples of the type of legal work they do and you (or I) may need.  As an example, if you go to the Breach of Employment Contract section, the website gives you information on what that type of case might consist of and then offers the reader the opportunity to submit their case online.   The online case submission page is creative, convenient and well thought out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Co-Owners of Houston-Area Durable Medical Equipment Company Sentenced to Prison for Role in $1.18 Million Medicare Fraud

Each Defendant to Serve 87 Months in Prison

WASHINGTON – The former co-owners of a Houston-area durable medical equipment (DME) company were sentenced today in Houston to each serve 87 months in prison for their participation in a $1.18 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Clifford Ubani, 54, and Princewill Njoku, 53, the former co-owners of Family Healthcare Services, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller in the Southern District of Texas in Houston. In addition to their prison terms, each was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $566,451 in restitution jointly and severally with their co-defendants. In September and October 2010, respectively, Ubani and Njoku pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

In June 2011, Ubani and Njoku were each sentenced to serve 108 months in prison for their roles in a separate $5.2 million home health care fraud scheme. Today’s sentences and the previously imposed sentences will be served concurrently.

According to court documents and other evidence presented to the court, Family, a Houston DME company, purported to provide medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. According to court documents, Ubani paid co-conspirators to recruit Medicare beneficiaries for the purpose of Family filing claims with Medicare for DME that was medically unnecessary or not provided. In particular, Family would bill Medicare for unnecessary medical orthotic braces that were marketed as “arthritis kits” or “ortho kits.” The co-conspirators would then falsify documents to support the fraudulent payments from Medicare.

Ubani and Njoku are the third and fourth defendants sentenced in connection with this scheme. One other defendant, Michelle Turner, awaits sentencing following her February 2012 conviction after a one-week jury trial.

The sentences were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent-In-Charge Stephen L. Morris of the FBI’s Houston Field Office; Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Fields of the Dallas Regional Office of HHS’s Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU).
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Charles D. Reed and Deputy Chief Sam S. Sheldon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI, HHS-OIG, Texas OAG-MFCU and the Federal Railroad Retirement Board-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,330 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

Serial Arsonist Found Guilty of Starting Three Fires

A convicted arsonist was found guilty by a jury today, after a seven-day trial in federal court in Cedar Rapids, of starting three fires, one of which injured a firefighter.

Shawn Gant, age 40, from West Union, Iowa, was convicted of three counts of arson. The verdict was returned this afternoon following about two and one-half hours of jury deliberations.

The evidence at trial showed that, on July 5, 2009, Gant set fire to a rental home in Independence, Iowa, where he had been staying with friends. On October 10, 2009, Gant set on fire to a rental home in Fayette, Iowa, occupied by the mother of Gant's child. On May 7, 2010, Gant set fire to his apartment located in the West Charles Mall building in Oelwein, Iowa. The fire, stoked by strong winds, grew out of control and destroyed the entire building, along with an adjoining building. While attempting to suppress the fire, a firefighter suffered minor injuries when a flash-over occurred.
In 2002, Gant was previously convicted of two counts of arson in the Iowa District Court for Winneshiek County. Gant also admitted starting a car fire in Decorah in 2002, and an apartment fire in Oelwein in 2004. The apartment fire destroyed a building.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Gant remains in custody, having been convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in April 2011 for sending a text message to a former girlfriend threatening to burn down her home. Gant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 17 years' imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 80 years' imprisonment, a $750,000 fine, $300 in special assessments, and 15 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys C.J. Williams and Anthony Morfitt. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, the police departments and fire departments for the cities of Calmar, Decorah, Fayette, Independence, Oelwein, and St. Lucas, and the Bucanan County Sheriff's Office.

Court file information is available at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl. The case file number is 11-CR-2042.

SAN ANTONIO FIREARMS STRAW PURCHASING/TRAFFICKING RINGLEADER SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON

United States Attorney Robert Pitman, Special Agent in Charge Melvin D. King, Jr., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge Jerry Robinette, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio announced that in Del Rio, 27-year-old Marino Castro, Jr. of San Antonio, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release in connection with a firearms straw purchasing and trafficking scheme.

"This case illustrates the federal government's commitment to stem the tide of firearms being illegally smuggled into Mexico, where they are frequently employed in the violent drug trade. The message here is that if you smuggle firearms or assist smugglers in obtaining firearms illegally, you are not only morally responsible for how these firearms are being used to commit atrocious crimes in Mexico, but you will face severe consequences under the law," stated United States Attorney Robert Pitman.

On December 2, 2010, Castro pleaded guilty to one count of smuggling goods, namely firearms, from the United States and one count of felon in possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Castro's convicted felon status stems from a 2009 illegal alien transportation conviction in Del Rio where he received a 9-month federal prison sentence.

According to court records, the defendants, under the direction of ringleaders Castro and 33-year-old Edward Levar Davis of Eagle Pass, TX, conspired to illegally purchase firearms from San Antonio area firearms dealers. Once retrieved from straw purchasers, Castro and Davis admittedly arranged to transport the firearms to a staging location in Eagle Pass where they were to be smuggled into Mexico to members of the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization. Between May 2010 and August 2010, authorities intercepted five different shipments attributed to this trafficking cell and seized over 200 firearms, including handguns, AK-47 and AR15-style assault rifles and one .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle.

"This significant sentence is very rewarding to the agents in HSI and ATF who invested so much effort to investigate this case, and ultimately bring Marino Castro to justice," said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge for HSI in San Antonio. "This case further illustrates the close partnership between both agencies who significantly contributed to preventing hundreds of rifles and handguns from reaching violent criminal organizations and prosecuting those who were responsible."

Castro is the last of 21 defendants convicted in this scheme to be sentenced to federal prison. Other prison sentences range from 12 months to 168 months.

"This last sentencing is a further example of what is accomplished when law enforcement agencies work in partnership. As a result of this partnership and ATF's mission to prevent violent crime, criminals were denied the tools of their trade thus saving lives," stated Special Agent in Charge Melvin D. King, Jr., ATF, Houston Field Division.

This case was investigated by agents with the ATF and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) with assistance from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Seal and Mike Galdo prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

Father and Son Sentenced for Straw Purchasing

MCALLEN, Texas – A father and son involved in making false statements on ATF forms 4473 in the acquisition of firearms from federal firearms licensees (FFL) will now be serving prison terms, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Heriberto Caballero Jr., 28, and Heriberto Gutierrez Caballero Sr., 47, both of Weslaco, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in the acquisition of firearms from FFLs, commonly referred to as straw purchasing, on Jan. 5, 2012, and March 5, 2012, respectively.

Today, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Caballero Jr. and Sr. to 46 and 37 months in federal prison, respectively, each to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. The guideline range for sentencing was enhanced as it was determined they had been involved not only in the trafficking of firearms, but that they should have had reason to believe the firearms were going to be used or possessed in connection with another felony offense, specifically the unlawful export of the firearms to Mexico.

ATF agents began their investigation after receiving multiple sales reports for handguns purchased by both of the Caballeros men. Caballero Jr. admitted to straw purchasing six firearms and recruiting his father, Caballero Sr., who purchased seven firearms.

At sentencing, Caballero Sr. was held responsible for purchasing the seven firearms while Caballero Jr. was held responsible for 13 firearms since he recruited his father and was, therefore, responsible for all of their purchases.
Both defendants have been on detained since the time of their arrest where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The investigation was conducted by the ATF and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.

Two Southern California Men Each Sentenced to 60 Months in Prison for Their Roles in a Nationwide Breach of Credit and Debit Card Terminals at Michaels Stores Inc.

Defendants Possessed 952 Blank Gold and Silver Credit Card-like Cards Re-Encoded with Stolen Bank Account and Personal Identification Numbers
 
WASHINGTON – Two southern California men were sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland for their roles in a scheme to defraud nearly 1,000 debit card holders by using stolen bank account information to withdraw money from ATMs, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Andrew C. Adelmann of the U.S. Secret Service’s San Francisco Field Office.

Eduard Arakelyan, 21, and Arman Vardanyan, 23, were each sentenced yesterday to serve 36 months in prison on bank fraud and conspiracy charges, and an additional, consecutive 24 months in prison for the identity theft charge. In addition, upon release from prison Arakelyan and Vardanyan were ordered to serve five years of supervised release and to pay $42,043 in restitution.

Arakelyan and Vardanyan were each charged in a criminal information filed on March 5, 2012, in the U.S. District Court in Oakland, with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. On March 20, 2012, Arakelyan and Vardanyan pleaded guilty to these crimes in Oakland and U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken pronounced the sentences.

“These sentences send a clear message that if you take part in a fraud scheme that cheats consumers out of their hard earned money, you will pay a significant price,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “No matter the sophistication or size of the scheme, we are determined to bring to justice those who engage in these kinds of frauds.”

“By employing an identity theft and bank fraud scheme, the defendants in this case attempted to make a fast buck at the expense of hard-working, law abiding citizens. Instead, they discovered a cold hard truth – crime does not pay,” said U.S. Attorney Haag. “Hopefully, the sentences in this case will serve as a deterrent to individuals who may be considering a similar scheme – you will be caught and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“This case represents a clear example of the successful cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to aggressively investigate and hold accountable criminal organizations and individuals who target our financial payment systems,” said Special Agent in Charge Adelmann.

Arakelyan and Vardanyan admitted that in or about July 2011, they participated in a scheme to defraud bank account holders and financial institutions by obtaining 952 stolen bank cards and traveling to Northern California to withdraw from ATMs as much money as possible using these stolen bank accounts. According to court documents, Arakelyan and Vardanyan possessed two loaded firearms, a GPS device pre-programmed with ATM locations and eight mobile telephones, all to further their scheme.

The information charged that these stolen cards were linked to a 2011 theft of a reported 94,000 debit and credit card account numbers from customers buying goods at 84 Michaels Stores Inc. stores across the United States. The perpetrators of that security breach replaced about 84 authentic personal identification number pads, used by the stores to process debit and credit card purchases, with fraudulent pads from which they downloaded customers’ banking information. After this breach, financial institutions reported tens of thousands of incidents of fraudulent activity linked to customers who had visited the affected Michaels stores. Arakelyan and Vardanyan are among those who executed one aspect of this scheme.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Paul Rosen of the Fraud Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Weber of the Northern District of California. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service San Francisco field office and the Pleasant Hill, Calif., Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service Los Angeles and Chicago field offices, as well as the Glendale, Calif. Police Department.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

SPARTA ARSONIST SENTENCED TO FIVE YEARS IN PRISON

Madison, Wis. – John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, announced that Bradford White, 38, of Sparta, Wis., was sentenced on July 20 by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb to five years in prison without parole for arson. White pleaded guilty to this charge on May 22, 2012.

On December 10, 2011, there was a fire at Fast Eddies Liquor and Convenience store in Sparta. A surveillance video showed a vehicle backing into the store, breaking the window. White got out of the car, entered the store, and using liquor as an accelerant, set the store on fire.

The charges against White were the result of an investigation conducted by the Sparta Police Department; Monroe County Sheriff's Office; ATF; and Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, State Fire Marshal's Office. The prosecution of the case has been handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Justice Department Announces Consent Decree with City of New Orleans to Resolve Allegations of Unlawful Misconduct by New Orleans Police Department

Negotiated Agreement Concludes Two-Year Investigation and Begins Federal Court Oversight of Police Department Reform

The Department of Justice announced today that the United States has entered into a comprehensive, cooperative consent decree with the city of New Orleans to resolve allegations of unlawful police misconduct by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). The filing of the consent decree in federal court in New Orleans continues the process of reforming the NOPD and begins federal court oversight of that reform to ensure effective and constitutional policing in New Orleans.
“Today’s action represents a critical step forward. It reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to the highest standards of fairness and professionalism and underscores our determination to work alongside our law enforcement partners to protect not only the safety – but the essential civil rights – of everyone in this country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
The consent decree requires NOPD to make broad changes in policies and practices related to use of force; stops, searches and arrests; custodial interrogations; photographic line-ups; preventing discriminatory policing; community engagement; recruitment; training; officer assistance and support; performance evaluations and promotions; supervision; misconduct investigations; and NOPD’s system of secondary employment, also known as paid details.
The agreement also requires more transparency by NOPD, encourages greater civilian oversight and increases community interaction and partnerships. The agreement requires close and comprehensive oversight by a court appointed monitoring team, which will periodically submit public reports regarding NOPD’s progress. The consent decree will remain in effect until the city demonstrates it has complied with its provisions for two years, or until the monitor’s assessment of the agreement’s outcome measures demonstrates sustained and continuing improvement in constitutional policing.
“The consent decree, which is unprecedented in scope and nature, is designed to ensure that comprehensive, sustainable reforms are made in the New Orleans Police Department,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. “We will continue our partnership with Mayor Landrieu, the police department and the community to ensure that the critical reforms are achieved.”
“This groundbreaking agreement represents a critical milestone in the recovery of New Orleans and a victory for our city, its police department and most of all its citizens,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Jim Letten. “The consent decree will serve as a blueprint for the New Orleans Police Department, so that it may become a world class police department – one which will be more effective in protecting its citizens against all threats and dangers.
The consent decree is the product of the United States’ civil pattern or practice investigation of NOPD, which began in May 2010 and resulted in a comprehensive report in which the department found that NOPD engages in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and other federal laws. The Justice Department’s investigation found a pattern or practice of excessive force, including stops, searches and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The investigation also found evidence of discriminatory policing based on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. This civil pattern or practice investigation was separate from the numerous federal criminal civil rights prosecutions of NOPD officers during this time period.

The Justice Department’s civil pattern or practice investigation was informed by 12 experts on police practices, including a number of current and former police professionals. The investigation included numerous onsite visits and observations of police-community interactions, including interviews with New Orleans officials, NOPD command staff, supervisors and police officers. Additionally, the department’s investigation reviewed more than 36,000 pages of documents and held interviews with residents, community groups and other stakeholders.

The investigation was conducted in accordance with the police misconduct provision (Section 14141) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA), the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under Section 14141 of VCCLEA, the Justice Department has the authority to file civil suits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern or practice of misconduct. The department also has the authority under the Safe Streets Act and Title VI to file suit against law enforcement agencies that engage in discrimination if they receive federal funds.
 
The city of New Orleans and NOPD cooperated throughout the investigation, from inviting the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to conduct the investigation, to agreeing to enter a consent decree at its conclusion. For the past several months, New Orleans and the department have been negotiating this consent decree, designed to serve as a blueprint for reforming NOPD. NOPD’s implementation of the agreement will be overseen by the federal court, including a court-approved monitor to be jointly selected by the city and the United States. 
 
The Civil Rights Division currently has more active police pattern or practice investigations of law enforcement agencies than any other time in the division’s history. Increasingly, these investigations, including the New Orleans Police Department investigation, are initiated at the request of the law enforcement agency itself.

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the NOBLE Annual Conference

Thank you, Assistant Chief Bryant, for those kind words; for your leadership as First National Vice President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; and – most of all – for your exemplary service to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police over the past three and a half decades. I’d like to congratulate you on your upcoming installation as NOBLE’s next President. And I’d particularly like to thank President Ship, Interim Executive Director Akers – and NOBLE’s entire executive board and staff for their stewardship of this organization’s critical mission, and for all they’ve done to bring us together for this important annual training conference and exhibition.
As a result of your leadership, especially in recent years, NOBLE has made great strides in expanding its reach – and rallying new allies, supporters, and partners to the cause of ensuring equity, accountability, and fairness in the administration of justice – for communities both large and small – across the country. As the “conscience of law enforcement,” you’ve consistently lent your collective voice – and played an indispensable advocacy role – in advancing opportunity and promoting diversity at every level. As public servants on the front lines of our nation’s struggle against crime and violence, you’ve proven your dedication to the highest standards of integrity – and your commitment to the citizens you’ve sworn to protect. And – in the sacrifices you make every day you wear the badge; the threats you face as you work to ensure public safety; and the selfless actions you routinely take to improve – and even save – the lives of those around you – you’ve demonstrated a relentless drive not merely to make arrests or facilitate successful prosecutions – but to achieve, as this organization always has, “justice by action.”
That’s why it’s such a privilege to be with you this afternoon in Little Rock – and a pleasure to be among so many old friends, close colleagues – and, of course, all of this year’s distinguished award winners and scholarship recipients. I am honored to join NOBLE members from across the country in congratulating each one of you, and celebrating your remarkable achievements. And I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in this room for your service to the American people, your engagement with one another, and – especially – your steadfast partnership with our nation’s Department of Justice, as we move to confront the challenges – and seize the possibilities – that lie ahead. On a personal note, I want to say thanks – this organization and its members have had my back, in recent weeks and always.
This conference presents an important chance to explore new ideas, to share knowledge and expertise, and to formulate recommendations on what each of us can do to improve the relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. It’s an occasion for reflecting on the progress that NOBLE has helped to bring about over the last three and a half decades, and seeking ways to carry these efforts into the future. And it’s a time to recommit ourselves to the fundamental promise that has always animated America’s law enforcement professionals – the promise enshrined not just in this organization’s mission, but in our nation’s founding documents: the pursuit of “equal justice under law.”
This was the singular ideal that – more than half a century ago, just a short distance from where we gather today – led a group of nine courageous African-American students to brave bigotry and threats of violence in order to realize the spirit of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board decision, and integrate Little Rock Central High School. It was the driving force behind the efforts of pioneers and ordinary citizens alike, who, throughout the last century – here in Arkansas and across the country – risked and too often gave their lives to ensure civil rights, and equal protection, for every American – regardless of race, creed, or color. And it was the shared vision that – in 1976 – brought together a group of concerned, frustrated, but ultimately hopeful law enforcement executives, and drove them to found an organization that would strive to translate their beliefs – and their values – into concrete action.
Since that moment, NOBLE has helped lead the fight to protect the American people from crime and violence, to secure our communities, and to make certain that all citizens have the chance to improve their lives and fulfill their dreams. From its earliest days, this organization has been a force for innovation in increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement practices, while calling attention to the needs of those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Over the years, you’ve worked tirelessly to expand community outreach and training, to provide mentoring and scholarship opportunities for our nation’s young people, and to secure the rights of the most vulnerable among us.
I know I speak for my colleagues and counterparts at every level of the Justice Department – and across the Obama Administration – when I say I’m profoundly grateful for the contributions you’ve made – and the innovations you champion on a daily basis. Despite the many obstacles – and historic budget challenges – we’ve all faced in recent years, law enforcement executives have proven your capacity for positive results, and your ability to stretch every precious taxpayer dollar.
There’s no question that NOBLE has much to be proud of. Yet we must also recognize that – for all the progress we’ve made, and despite the extraordinary work that so many of the people in this room are leading – troubling inequalities persist, significant challenges remain, and crime – particularly violent crime – continues to afflict too many communities and steals too many young lives. That’s why – in addition to celebrating all that you have achieved in the last year – this afternoon, I’m here to reaffirm the Justice Department’s commitment – and my own – to encouraging diversity across your ranks, protecting your safety, and supporting and strengthening your work in every way possible.
For me, this work has always been much more than a professional obligation. It is a personal priority. As Attorney General, and as the brother of a retired Port Authority officer, I’ve come to understand the sacrifice, and the valor, that characterizes the work of our law enforcement leaders. I’ve witnessed the tremendous impact that your efforts can have. And I am proud of all that my colleagues and I are doing to provide the support that so many departments desperately need – and of our efforts not only to keep officers on the beat, and help them do their jobs more effectively – but even to expand law enforcement employment opportunities for veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of this Administration’s commitment to get Americans back to work – and the President’s determination to stand with military service members and returning veterans – I am pleased to report that, since 2009, the Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS – Hiring Program has awarded a total of $1.5 billion to create or protect 7,000 jobs in local law enforcement. This year alone, the Justice Department will distribute over $111 million in grants to save or create jobs for roughly 800 officers across America – including nearly 200 who will be saved from layoffs, and more than 600 military veterans who will be hired as new law enforcement officers.
Through this type of direct assistance – and thanks to other funding streams made available under flagship grant programs like Byrne-JAG – we’re working comprehensively to save jobs, to help close budget gaps, and to expand access to the resources you need. When it comes to issues like procedural justice, we’re shining a light on the latest cutting-edge research. We understand – as all of you do – that public confidence in the fairness of law enforcement activities and operations can increase the likelihood that community members will accept legal outcomes, comply with the law, and even assist in investigations. That’s why we’re making efforts to highlight effective community outreach efforts – and to help local officials ensure that all Americans are treated fairly in the eyes of the law.
It’s also why we’re striving to promote the kinds of evidence-based strategies, programs, and information-sharing tools that can enable authorities at all levels to analyze and share the practices best suited to addressing specific crime problems. Through our Officer Safety Working Group – an initiative led by the Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the COPS Office – we’re providing a platform for studying crime trends and disseminating critical information among policemen and women on the front lines. We’re making it easier to target crime “hot spots,” neutralize threats, and identify suspects before making contact. And – as I announced just yesterday – in cities like Philadelphia and Oakland, we’re demonstrating our ability to “surge” federal resources in response to alarming increases in local homicide rates – and working with local leaders to build capacity, gather and analyze intelligence, and even help plan and execute sophisticated law enforcement operations.
Beyond these efforts, the Department also has taken a lead role in increasing officer safety by administering a groundbreaking program known as the VALOR Initiative – which was launched in 2010, and is designed to help prevent violence against law enforcement officers and increase officer resilience and survivability by providing training in techniques for identifying, approaching, preventing, encountering, and neutralizing violent confrontations – including ambush-style assaults. Since its inception, more than 5,200 law enforcement professionals have received VALOR training in 33 sessions nationwide. As a result, it’s clear that the Department’s commitment to turn back the tide of violence – and meet increased threats with renewed vigilance – has quite simply never been stronger.
For over a decade, our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program has been providing equipment that’s critical in preventing injuries and fatalities among policemen and women – and the National Institute of Justice has helped ensure that this equipment meets the highest industry standards. Last year alone, we awarded more than $24 million to help nearly 5,000 different jurisdictions purchase more than 188,000 protective vests. And these investments are already proving their worth. Throughout 2011 – and in the first six months of this year – the lives of at least 47 law enforcement and correctional officers were saved by bullet- and stab-resistant vests. At last count, 24 of those individuals were wearing protective vests purchased – in part – by federal funds administered through this program.
Block by block, city by city, and department by department – we’ve shown that, together, we can make a powerful difference. Despite extraordinary budget constraints and increasing demands, NOBLE members have proven that it’s possible to do more with less. Through deeper engagement with the Department of Justice, and in close partnership with a wide range of federal, state, local, and tribal stakeholders across the country, I’m confident that NOBLE will continue to lead the way in devising and implementing new approaches for combating violent crime, keeping criminals off the streets, and reducing illegal gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled activity.
Of course, none of this ever has been – or ever will be – easy. And as we come together today, there’s no question that many of the challenges we face are unique – and even unprecedented. There’s no denying that evolving threats, and unforeseen obstacles, will continue to throw up roadblocks to our continued success.
But, especially this afternoon – as we look toward the future we must build; as we recommit ourselves to the ideals that have always guided this organization; and as we lift up the enduring principles that underlie our criminal justice system, drive our pursuit of equal justice, and once rallied this community, and this nation, around those brave “Little Rock Nine” – I firmly believe there’s no goal that’s beyond our reach, and no achievement that can elude our grasp. I am deeply grateful for your continuing dedication to public service and civic engagement. I am honored to count each of you as a colleague – and a critical partner – in taking our joint efforts to a new level. And if, as they say, what’s past is prologue – then I am certain that there’s good reason for confidence in where your efforts must – and surely will – lead us in the months and years ahead.
Once again, thank you for all that you do – and for the opportunity to be with you this afternoon. I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Philadelphia Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Announcement Press Conference

 
Philadelphia ~ Monday, July 23, 2012
Thank you, Mayor Nutter – and good afternoon, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be back at City Hall today – and an honor to join with United States Attorney Memeger, District Attorney Williams, and Commissioner Ramsey – along with leaders from the FBI, ATF, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service – in announcing the latest steps that our nation’s Department of Justice is taking to support – and to strengthen – the critical work of our law enforcement partners here in Philadelphia.
Despite the fact that the national violent crime rate has continued its downward trend, a number of major cities across the country – including Philadelphia – have experienced alarming increases in the number of homicides over the past year. In response, the Department of Justice has developed a new initiative – known as the Violent Crime Reduction Partnership – to help target federal resources to areas in need of additional support.
Early last month, more than 50 federal law enforcement officials – including agents, investigators, and intelligence analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the United States Marshals Service; and representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division – began a four-month “surge” of federal law enforcement resources in order to prevent and combat violent and drug-related crime across the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
In close collaboration with Mayor Nutter, District Attorney Williams, Commissioner Ramsey, and the dedicated men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department, these federal leaders will help to build capacity, enhance training, coordinate community outreach efforts, bolster intelligence analysis capabilities, and help plan and execute sophisticated criminal investigations and prosecutions. They will spearhead efforts to make the most of precious taxpayer resources – and to strengthen high-priority enforcement activities in neighborhoods that are plagued by crime and violence.
Already, our agents have helped apprehend dangerous fugitives, investigate armed robberies, gather and process valuable intelligence, and bring criminals to justice. They’ve deployed new, state-of-the-art equipment to support ballistics identification in gun-related crimes. And in the coming months – as they continue to work alongside, and reinforce relationships with, key local partners like many of the leaders in this room – their activities will help to refine an innovative public safety approach that is beginning to show signs of tremendous promise.
Earlier this year, ATF personnel completed a similar fourth-month “surge” in Oakland, California, which Oakland Police Department officials have credited with contributing to a significant reduction in crime. The Justice Department is currently examining ways to provide this type of targeted assistance and relief to other metropolitan areas, as needed. And we’re actively seeking to learn from the successes we’ve had, to build on the track record we’ve established, and to continue to make good on our commitment to local law enforcement.
Especially in this time of economic and budgetary challenges – when police departments and other agencies at every level of government have been called upon to confront growing demands with increasingly limited resources – the need for cooperation and coordination among all relevant authorities has never been more clear.
Fortunately – for today’s Justice Department, and for the entire Obama Administration – helping to close these gaps, improve public safety, and stand with every member of the “thin blue line” remains a top priority.
From last month’s announcement – right here in Philadelphia – of more than $111 million in COPS Hiring Program grant awards to save or create jobs for approximately 800 officers – including more than $3 million for this city to hire 25 new officers – to our efforts to better understand and address the threats that law enforcement officers face every day – I’m proud to report that our dedication to ensuring the safety, and the success, of America’s law enforcement officers has never been stronger.
Today’s announcement underscores this fact – and reaffirms our resolve to work with indispensible allies like Mayor Nutter, D.A. Williams, and Commissioner Ramsey to make the progress we need – and that the American people deserve. I’d like to thank each of them – along with the brave men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department, and all of the federal agents, investigators, attorneys, analysts, and support staff on the front lines of this work – for leading our efforts to keep our communities safe and our neighborhoods secure.
Now, it’s my privilege to turn things over to another key partner in this work – my good friend, United States Attorney Memeger.

Las Vegas Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

Charles C. LoBello, a Nevada-licensed attorney who practices business and personal injury law in Las Vegas, pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of tax evasion, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today. U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan presided over the plea hearing.
On June 22, 2010, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against LoBello, charging him with five counts of tax evasion and five counts of filing false personal income tax returns, for the tax years 2001 through 2005.
According to court documents, LoBello concealed over $900,000 in income from the United States, intentionally gave incomplete information to his bookkeeper and tax return preparer, and used personal checking accounts to hide large checks he received as legal fees. In the plea agreement, LoBello admitted that for the years 2001 through 2005 he owed an additional $260,625 in income taxes.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 23, 2012. LoBello faces a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. According to the plea agreement, LoBello has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $260,625 to the IRS, which represents his unpaid personal income tax liability for 2001 through 2005. He also agreed to pay all applicable interest and penalties on that tax liability.
Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, thanked special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, assisting IRS revenue agents, and Tax Division Trial Attorneys Thomas W. Flynn, John P. Scully and Dennis R. Kihm, who prosecuted the case.

Starr County, Texas, Sheriff’s Deputy Arrested and Detained on Bribery, Extortion and Drug Charges

A Deputy Sheriff for the Starr County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office has been ordered detained by a federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Texas on charges of conspiracy, federal programs bribery, extortion and drug possession with intent to distribute, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Nazario Solis III, 34, of Rio Grande City, Texas, was ordered detained yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos in McAllen, Texas. Solis was arrested on July 12, 2012, on charges contained in an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas.
The indictment charges Solis with one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and extortion, one count of federal programs bribery, one count of extortion, one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and one count of attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The indictment also charges Jason Michael Munsell, a Deputy Sheriff with the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and extortion, one count of federal programs bribery and one count of extortion. Munsell, 26, surrendered to the FBI in McAllen on July 17, 2012, and was released on bond the following day.
According to the indictment, from approximately March 2011 to approximately April 2011, Solis and Munsell accepted approximately $1,500 total in cash payments from the operator of a gambling business in Starr County in exchange for providing warning of law enforcement activity involving the gambling business. The indictment further alleges that Solis and Munsell were recorded confirming that they had provided such notice about a law enforcement raid on at least one occasion in March 2011, allowing the business to remove money and employees that might otherwise have been arrested.
Solis is also charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute less than fifty kilograms of marijuana in approximately April 2011.
The indictment also charges Solis with attempting to distribute three kilograms of cocaine and cash in exchange for semi-automatic and fully-automatic firearms. The indictment alleges that Solis engaged in extensive negotiations with another individual to obtain the firearms, which Solis intended to send to his “boss” in Mexico. However, the individual with whom Solis engaged in negotiations was an undercover law enforcement agent, and no actual firearms were sent to Solis. The indictment alleges that Solis was recorded stating, “My boss likes the 308 [rifle] … he likes the M-4s [rifle] and the 223 [rifle].” The indictment further alleges that Solis preferred semi-automatic rifles, complaining that fully-automatic rifles used “too much ammo.” Solis allegedly stated, “We kill one bird and we shoot seven times. That’s not, that’s not very good mathematics.”
Solis faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for each conspiracy charge; 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for each charge of extortion and federal programs bribery; five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for the marijuana distribution charge; and five to 40 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for the attempted cocaine distribution charge.
Munsell faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for the conspiracy charge and 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for each charge of extortion and federal programs bribery.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter Mason and Anthony J. Phillips of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force in McAllen, which is comprised of U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Internal Affairs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General and the Texas Rangers. The Drug Enforcement Administration Houston Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also participated in the investigation.

Balancing the Scales Amid Foreclosure Crisis

On February 9, 2012, the Justice Department announced that the federal government and 49 state attorneys general reached a $25 billion agreement with the five largest mortgage servicers in America, to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. While the majority of the settlement funds will go to various forms of relief provided directly to borrowers, $2.5 billion may be used by state governments to fund foreclosure prevention services including housing counselors, legal aid and other similar public programs as determined by the state attorneys general.

These funds may also be used to compensate states for losses resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the mortgage servicers, which might include forgone state and local tax revenues, and increased costs for police, maintenance and other services required to deal with the impact on neighborhoods of abandoned properties.

The Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ), has been working with foreclosure mediation program and court administrators, researchers, advocates, and representatives from government agencies and the lending community to support mediation and legal services to stem the foreclosure tide.

This spring, ATJ, along with representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Counseling Program, briefed state attorney general offices on the value of foreclosure mediation programs, where a neutral third-party (often, but not necessarily employed by a court) helps facilitate negotiations between a lender and homeowner as they attempt to reach agreement, as well as legal assistance and housing counseling that can help avoid preventable foreclosures and assist homeowners affected by mortgage default to understand their options to regain their housing and financial stability.

Since the date of the settlement, a number of states have made plans to use a portion of the settlement funds to implement funding initiatives geared toward increasing support for services that assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan of Illinois and Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan have both announced plans to allocate settlement funds to state foreclosure prevention programs, including legal assistance. Attorney General Madigan, at an April forum on the “State of Legal Assistance” co-sponsored by the White House and the Legal Services Corporation, said:
“[W]e need to give homeowners a fighting chance to save their homes from foreclosure. The best way we can help is by providing distressed borrowers with legal representation to ensure they have an advocate to fight for them in the courtroom and that they will be treated fairly in the process.”
Illinois is dedicating at least $20 million in funding from the settlement to legal counseling programs that help borrowers who are currently underwater or facing foreclosure. In Michigan, Attorney General Schuette is backing legislation that would direct $20 million in funds from the settlement to foreclosure counseling and legal aid services for homeowners.
These states are not alone. Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina has committed over $30 million to provide housing counselors and legal services to distressed homeowners. Attorney General Dustin McDaniels of Arkansas plans to direct $3 million of the settlement funds to the Arkansas’ Access to Justice Commission, and to two University of Arkansas law school clinics that provide legal aid and assistance to low-income residents.

“Maryland has led the nation in its swift response to the foreclosure crisis,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. In May, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and Governor O’Malley announced that $14.8 million from the settlement will be used for both housing counseling and legal aid assistance programs. “This plan sticks to the spirit and the letter of the settlement by using these resources to help the Marylanders most affected by the housing crisis. As a result, all Marylanders will benefit,” said Gansler. And Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts created a new program, HomeCorps, funded by settlement funds. HomeCorps will provide direct legal representation to distressed borrowers through local civil legal aid attorneys.

Attorney Generals in Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee have also announced plans to use settlement dollars to fund programs for low and moderate income residents that include counseling support, legal services, and hotline support referral services.

The foreclosure settlement is providing much-needed relief to homeowners across the nation. ATJ seeks to continue to promote state efforts to use discretionary funds to further the goals of the settlement by providing support for services that are critical to helping keep homeowners at risk of foreclosure in their homes.