Criminal Justice News

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Leader of Jewelry Theft Ring Pleads Guilty in Virginia to Racketeering Conspiracy

The leader of a violent and highly sophisticated jewelry theft ring pleaded guilty today for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride; and James Newman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division.

Alexander Cuadros-Garcia, aka “Alex,” “Brujo,” “Aleto” and “Manuel Gonzalez”, 37, of Richmond, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy Miller in the Eastern District of Virginia, Newport News Division, to racketeering conspiracy.

According to court documents, Cuadros-Garcia led an organized criminal group that stole more than $4.6 million in jewelry from victims in Virginia and at least six other states.  In March 2012, Cuadros-Garcia was charged along with seven other individuals who were members of the Richmond-based ring that regularly conducted lengthy surveillance on jewelry stores to identify vulnerable individuals and then follow their targets back to the individuals’ hotel or home.

In most of the robberies, several men would suddenly appear as the victims approached or entered their car, punch out the car’s windows, threaten the victims at knife-point and steal the victims’ merchandise.  In addition, the robbers would puncture the victims’ car tires and steal their cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit or apprehension.  After a successful robbery, members of the ring would travel to New York to sell the merchandise to businessmen, who coordinated re-selling the stolen property or melting it down for future use.

At sentencing, scheduled for June 19, 2013, Cuadros-Garcia faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
 Cuadros-Garcia’s co-defendants Raul Antonio Escobar-Martinez, William Leandro Herrera-Bohorquez and Juanita Diaz previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the theft ring.  Escobar-Martinez and Herrera-Bohorquez were sentenced on March 7 and March 14, 2013, respectively, to serve 87 months in prison.

 The investigation of this case was led by the ATF’s Washington Field Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the police departments in Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Henrico County, Chesterfield, Prince William County and Fairfax County in Virginia, along with the Virginia State Police; the Baltimore County, Md., Police Department; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the New York City Police Department; and the police departments in Rutherford, N.J., and Gwinnett County, Ga.; and the Morris County, N.J. Prosecutor’s Office.
 Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome M. Maiatico of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

Smart Policing Initiative: A Strategic Approach



The Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) is a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)-sponsored initiative that supports law enforcement agencies in building evidence-based, data-driven law enforcement tactics and strategies that are effective, efficient and economical. SPI represents a strategic approach aimed at bringing more science into day-to-day operations by leveraging innovative practices in analysis, technology and evidence-based practices. The initiative’s goal is to improve policing performance and effectiveness while containing costs. To date, 33 local law enforcement agencies have received SPI grants to work with research partners to develop and document solutions, best practices and lessons learned. 

For more information, visit http://www.smartpolicinginitiative.com/background

Sponsored by The Best Leadership Book

Five Things Law Enforcement Executives Can Do to Make a Difference



The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) announces the results of years of research, distilling evidence-based practices that can make a difference into a single list, “Five Things Law Enforcement Executives Can Do to Make a Difference.”
Former NIJ director John Laub and current Police Foundation president (and former NIJ visiting fellow) Jim Bueermann have developed this list, defined as follows:
  • Crime is rarely random; patrols shouldn't be either. Focusing on small geographic locations and times when crimes occur and targeting specific, high-impact repeat offenders can decrease crime.
  • Quality is more important than speed. In most cases, thorough investigations, problem solving and careful forensic evidence collection contribute more to arresting suspects than shaving a few seconds off initial response times.
  • DNA works for property crimes, too. Collecting and using DNA evidence substantially increases the likelihood of solving property crimes - leading to twice as many arrests and twice as many cases being accepted for prosecution than in non-DNA investigations.
  • In police work, perceptions matter. When people see the police as fair, lawful and respectful, officers are safer and citizens are more likely to obey the law and comply with police orders.
  • Officer safety and wellness should be a priority. Safety training, certain shift lengths and using body armor prevents injuries and saves lives.
To learn more, visit http://nij.gov/five-things/

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U.S. Marshals Task Force Ends Manhunt for Attempted Homicide Suspect



Cleveland, OH – Last night at approximately 11:30 P.M., the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force (NOVFTF) arrested Anthony Dowell, age 30, after a manhunt that lasted almost five months. Dowell was wanted by the Shaker Heights Police Department for attempted homicide. It is alleged that on Oct. 28, 2012, Dowell shot his friend after a night at the Horseshoe Casino. The incident happened near Kemper Rd. and Larchmere Rd. in Shaker Heights. After the victim was shot, he ran to an RTA bus. Dowell attempted to enter the bus but the driver refused to let Dowell on board. Dowell then fled the area. On Nov. 30th, of last year the Shaker Heights Police Department reached out to the NOVFTF and asked for their assistance in locating and apprehending Dowell.

Yesterday, members of the NOVFTF developed information that Dowell was staying at a home near the 3200 block of E. 130th St. in Cleveland. Task force members responded to the address and set up a perimeter around the home. Officers knocked on the door and after several minutes Dowell surrendered without incident. Dowell was transported to the Shaker Heights Police Department after his arrest.

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott said, “This is another great example of how our task force member’s hard work and diligence pays off. This sends a message to all those that try and flee from justice that we will always get our man.”

Anyone with information concerning any wanted fugitive can contact the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force at 1-866-4WANTED (1-866-492-6833). You may also anonymously text in a tip by texting the keyword "WANTED" and your tip to TIP411 (847411), or you can send a web tip at the following webpage http://www.usmarshals.gov/district/oh-n/index.html. Reward money is available and tipsters may remain anonymous.

The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force – Cleveland Division is composed of the following federal, state and local agencies: U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cleveland Police Department, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department, Euclid Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Linndale Village Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service and the Westlake Police Department.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Task Force Leverages Partnerships in Counterdrug Fight

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 – With fewer dollars and fewer ships and aircraft to patrol cocaine traffickers’ transit routes, Joint Interagency Task Force South is adopting innovative new approaches to its counterdrug mission and leveraging partnerships across the interagency and with regional nations, its deputy director told American Forces Press Service.

The task force’s mission goes on, despite the increasing challenges of sequestration, Air Force Brig. Gen Steve DePalmer said during a phone interview from the organization’s headquarters in Key West, Fla.
And despite more cuts expected to come -- primarily in force reductions and surface assets -- DePalmer said, interagency and regional partnerships built over the 24 years since JIATF South stood up as Joint Task Force 4 are bearing fruit.

The task force’s staff, he said, includes members of every military service, various federal law enforcement entities, the intelligence community and their counterparts from 13 partner nations.

“That’s the beauty of JIATF South. We are held up as the gold standard of interagency cooperation, so there are other non-DOD agencies with other assets to bring to this fight,” DePalmer said. “And as the resources are cut, we actually find ourselves getting closer and closer in cooperation and coordination with the U.S. organizations, as well as with our partner nations.”

The Coast Guard, despite its own reductions, continues to provide forces and ships in support of the mission, and other organizations within the Homeland Security and Justice departments are maintaining their contributions to the highest degree possible, DePalmer reported.

In addition, regional neighbors are stepping up, demonstrating a level of experience, credibility and confidence that DePalmer said they’ve gained during the past two decades of partnership with the United States.

DePalmer noted the Colombian air force and navy as particularly strong partners, but said other regional nations have made big strides, participating in two-thirds of last year’s drug interdictions.

“What they may lack in resources and equipment, they don’t lack in experience and they don’t lack in professionalism,” he said.

Meanwhile, the task force’s staff has turned to creative ways to make up for fewer air and maritime assets.
For example, they’ve tapped a government research lab to use an aircraft it’s testing to support counterdrug operations. “This is a chance for them to test with real experience and a real operation, so it’s a win-win for both of our organizations,” DePalmer said.

They’re exploring ways to increase the effectiveness of every patrol conducted, and ensuring all are driven by credible intelligence. “So despite reductions, the processes of gathering information and sources and determining where these shipments are coming from and when is continuing full steam ahead,” he said.
And to help make up for fewer patrols, JIATF South is putting more emphasis on other counterdrug efforts that don’t require air and sea assets: monitoring container ship movements and policing traffickers’ financial networks.

As the budget squeeze tightens, DePalmer acknowledged that the counterdrug mission will suffer. Already, JIATF South’s drug seizures are down 15 percent from last year -- a particularly successful one for the task force, with more than 152 metric tons of cocaine seized.

“Ship presence is extremely important, and every ship that we don’t have means a certain amount of cocaine that we won’t be able to take off the water,” DePalmer said. “So we will be watching that very closely with the impact of sequestration.”

The task force will work closely with its partners as time goes on “to see what they can no longer bring to the table,” he said, and to offset those losses as much as possible.

If there’s one organization up to that challenge, DePalmer said, it’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. Every member of the task force recognizes their role in what he called a “righteous fight” against drug trafficking and its devastating effect on every nation it transits through or supplies.

“Who doesn’t want to take highly addictive drugs off the street?” DePalmer said. “This is stuff that does bad things to you and your family and your community. So I think everyone is still enthusiastic, and we are pressing forward.”

Justice Department Selects Three Domestic Violence Courts to Serve as Resources to Specialized Courts Nationwide

Courts in Idaho, New York and Texas Will Offer Peer-to-Peer Support to Improve Responses to Domestic Violence 
 
The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) today announced a new Mentor Court Initiative to support criminal and civil domestic violence courts across the country.

“Specialized domestic violence courts play a vital role in our efforts to end violence against women,” said Bea Hanson, Acting Director of OVW. “Providing courts with the resources they need to safely and quickly intervene in cases of intimate partner violence not only saves lives, but sends a message to offenders that reducing domestic violence is a priority for our justice system.”

OVW selected courts in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ada County, Idaho, and Dallas with years of experience honing strategies that enhance offender accountability and improve victim safety. These well-established programs will serve as role models and disseminate proven strategies. Each court will receive $66,000 for a 24-month project.
Successful domestic violence courts process cases more efficiently, increase offender compliance, impose enhanced penalties, and achieve higher rates of conviction. There are now over 200 domestic violence courts in the United States. These courts require training and support, which is particularly effective when provided by peers. 

As mentors, the three courts will share their expertise by hosting site visits and linking courts with peers facing similar challenges. They will help other domestic violence courts implement best practices, improve procedures, replicate relevant programming, and build the overall capacity of state court systems to respond effectively to these difficult cases.

The Mentor Court Initiative builds on OVW’s commitment to strengthening the court response to domestic violence. Since 2010, OVW has awarded over $10 million to court systems via the Court Training and Improvements Grant Program (Courts Program). The Courts Program supports judicial education and the specialized court planning and implementation integral to creating a collaborative and effective response to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The three courts chosen for the Mentor Court Initiative applied to an open solicitation and were reviewed based on the criteria set forth in the solicitation.  The chosen courts are geographically diverse and have each developed and implemented different models that reflect the needs of their communities:

The Brooklyn Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV) hears misdemeanor criminal domestic violence cases as well as related family law and divorce cases in a high-volume urban setting. Since its inception in 2003, the Brooklyn IDV Court has disposed of over 19,000 cases involving 3,008 families in Kings County, NY, which has a population of 2.5 million. Located directly adjacent to the Brooklyn Family Justice Center, the Brooklyn IDV Court is able to work closely with the Kings County District Attorney’s specialized domestic violence bureau and connect victims with 25 on-site government agencies and community-based organizations.

The Ada County Domestic Violence Court has responded to misdemeanor criminal domestic violence cases since 2006. Located in Boise, Idaho, the court handles more than 300 active cases a year, using intense supervised probation, post-sentence judicial monitoring, specialized offender assessment and treatment, and comprehensive case planning. Ada County’s Domestic Violence Court will serve as an example for mid-size and rural communities that often face a distinct set of challenges when developing and operating specialized courts.

County Criminal Court #10 in Dallas was the first specialized domestic violence court in the state of Texas, opening in 1996. Dallas County is home to 2.4 million people, and includes diverse municipalities ranging from densely populated urban areas to smaller suburbs. County Criminal Court #10 focuses on high-risk offenders, assigning them to a separate probation docket with enhanced judicial monitoring and compliance. A strong partnership with the Department of Probation has increased supervision of these high-risk offenders.

OVW, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, provides leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and subsequent legislation.  Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. In addition to overseeing 22 federal grant programs, OVW often undertakes initiatives in response to special needs identified by communities facing acute challenges. More information is available at www.ovw.usdoj.gov.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Killer and Escapee Captured in California

Washington, D.C. – A convicted killer and prison escapee who was added to the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted fugitive list just 11 days ago was arrested Monday in California.

Two alert Los Angeles police officers arrested Keana Barnes after they came across her near the area known as Skid Row. After initially refusing to identify herself, Barnes confessed her identity and said she was wanted for escaping from a Louisiana prison.

Her arrest ends a multi-agency, nationwide search for the convicted killer who escaped from the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in January. Barnes was discovered missing and prison officials found broken glass from the window in her cell. Barnes was serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted on two counts of manslaughter in 2002.

“The apprehension of Keana Barnes bodes well for the safety and security of our citizenry. I am personally gratified by the effort put forth by the entire law enforcement community in securing her arrest,” said U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison, Middle District of Louisiana. “Movies often portray running from the law as a glamorous, carefree adventure – the truth of the matter is nothing can be more stressful. I have no doubt the pressure applied by the U.S. Marshals made her life extremely difficult from the minute she ran to the minute she was caught.”

Barnes has a criminal history dating back to 1999 with prior convictions for aggravated assault, battery, theft and manslaughter. In March 2002, she was arrested by the New Orleans Police Department for fatally stabbing her victim 17 times. One year later in March 2003, pending the outcome of her murder trial, Barnes shot and killed a man while he slept in a New Orleans apartment.

“An extremely violent criminal history landed Barnes on our 15 Most Wanted list,” Assistant Director for Investigative Operations William D. Snelson said. “Thanks to the tenacity of our criminal investigators and Los Angeles Police Department’s quick action, law enforcement has taken another dangerous fugitive off the streets.”

"I would like to thank all local, state and federal law enforcement authorities for their valuable assistance in the search for and capture of offender Keana Barnes, especially the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service," said Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Correction Secretary Jimmy Le Blanc. "The Department of Corrections will bring Barnes back to Louisiana as soon as the court allow

ISAF Deputy Details Final Afghan Security Transition


By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2013 – With the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan shifting from combat to support later this spring, the ISAF deputy commander briefed reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels today on progress and the hard work that remains.

The Afghan national security forces’ assumption of the operational lead across Afghanistan will coincide with the fifth and last “tranche,” or geographic area, of transition in the country. If NATO and the Afghans approve, the transition will be implemented starting this summer.

The last tranche includes areas along the eastern front and down into Kandahar and parts of Helmand province -- areas that are the Pashtun heart of the insurgency and are expected to be most violent, said Lt. Gen. Nick Carter of the British army, ISAF’s deputy commander and the United Kingdom’s national contingent commander in Afghanistan.

From the moment the springtime announcement is made, he added, the Afghan army and police “effectively will have the security lead at the national level.”

With that, the general said, ISAF “will place our effort very much on the basis of train, advise, assist and support. The support piece is important because, as we stand at the moment, there are certain capabilities the Afghans still require us to supply for them.” These include air power, aviation, medical evacuation, some logistics support, countering improvised explosive devices, intelligence support and some help with command and control, he added.

“Those are important supporting capabilities, without which I think the Afghans would find life quite difficult at the moment,” Carter observed.

This summer, in its work with Afghan forces, ISAF will build on the concept of layered security that Carter said brings together many Afghan security force capabilities on the ground at the provincial and regional levels, producing an outcome that “is rather greater than the sum of the parts.”

“It’s our goal come this autumn that we should be able to look back with the Afghan security forces having managed the period of high operational tempo that generally comes in the summer,” he added, “and look back with some confidence on what they’ve achieved.”

This will set the stage for successful handling by the Afghan forces of Afghanistan’s presidential elections, now set for April 2014, he said.

In terms of capabilities, Carter called the Afghan forces’ success at the tactical level “impressive” and said the trick is to sustain that success “at the levels above and connecting that tactical success at provincial level up to and out to [the Afghan capital of] Kabul and to the ministerial level.”

Most attention over the next 18 months must be paid to connecting the provincial and local levels back to Kabul, he added. “The notion of ministry development, both in the [Ministry of Defense] and the Ministry of Interior, is important,” Carter said. “We’re applying some attention to that, … because it’s only through having the proper processes in place that some of the capabilities the Afghans will need in terms of logistics, command and control, and the ability to share intelligence will be transmitted down to the lower level.”

Progress at the brigade level also is encouraging, the general said. Media reports last summer said only one of 26 Afghan army brigades was capable of operating independently, hesaid, adding that the number has increased to five out of 26, and 16 of 26 are effective with advisors. “At that rate of progression, I think we can be confident that come 2014, the majority of our Afghan brigades will be able to operate independently,” Carter said.

In the Afghan forces’ fight against the insurgency, the general described those adversaries as confused at a strategic level.

“I believe that it is much harder for [the insurgents] to persuade Afghans to fight Afghans, and much easier to claim jihad if they’re focusing on coalition troops than Afghans,” Carter noted.

The general said other “confusing” behavior includes Pakistan’s release from prison over the past three months of Taliban officials and fighters, and the opening of an office in Doha, Qatar, for negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban. Such behavior, he said, is “causing the insurgency to have to think quite hard about its political approach.”

Afghanistan itself has “leapt forward in technological terms,” Carter said, since his first tour there in 2002.

“Some 40 percent of Afghans have the use of mobile phones now, and there are some 6 million Internet subscribers,” he said. “[And] a fourth-generation fiber-optic cable is now being laid around Afghanistan that will provide extreme bandwidth and connectivity to all Afghans.”

A transport network based on the Highway 1 ring road is 90 percent complete, he said, and 45 percent of Afghans now live in secure urban areas. Nine million Afghan children attend school, and 40 percent of them are female. The nation also has 200,000 teachers and 40,000 educational centers.

“Compare that to the 1990s, when there were only 650 schools in the country,” Carter said. “And when you look at access to health care and the fact that maternal mortality is down some 80 percent during the course of the last 10 years, I think you have a very different country. And it’s a country that the insurgency is having to think very carefully about how it re-engages with in political terms.”
At the same time, the general said, there should be no doubt that the insurgents are capable of executing deadly attacks.

“Two complex attacks that have taken place in the last 24 to 36 hours are indicators of that: one in Helmand and one in Jalalabad,” he said. “[The insurgents] also have the capability to attack Kabul and to mount spectacular attacks against government institutions and people in Kabul.”

The insurgents also have the capacity through coercion to apply the insider threat, “which we’ve come to know well during the course of the last 18 months or so,” Carter said.

“The plain fact is that it will be a political solution that will ultimately remove that capability,” he told reporters.

Though his view is optimistic, the general said, “I’m in no doubt that we’ve got two very important years ahead of us. 2013 will create the conditions for, we hope, a successful political transition in 2014, and that will be the basis on which so much of our effort over the last 10 to 11 years will be judged.”

If he had a concern, Carter said, it would involve the notion of Afghan confidence.

“Unless we’re careful, Afghans will think and do think that the end of 2014 will be like 1991,” Carter said, referring to the idea that the United States was perceived at that time to have walked away from Afghanistan.
“It’s very important that we continue to bolster Afghan confidence and to make them feel genuinely that 2014 is simply a waypoint into the decade of transformation,” the general added.