Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year


Watertown Man Sentenced for his role in “Operation Black Widow”



United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Watertown, South Dakota, man convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance was sentenced on December 29, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier.  Patricio Rodriguez Pena, age 56, was sentenced to 180 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.  Pena was indicted for Conspiracy to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine by a federal grand jury on July 9, 2013. He pled guilty to the offense on October 6, 2014.

Pena’s indictment was a result of Operation Black Widow, an extensive multi-year investigation into a wide variety of alleged criminal activity. The investigation resulted in nearly a dozen indictments for drug trafficking and firearm offenses.  For his part in the Operation, Pena provided at least 500 grams, but not more than 1.5 kilograms, of “ice” methamphetamine (at least 80% purity) to  various co-conspirators to distribute in South Dakota and elsewhere.

The investigation was led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). ATF received significant assistance from other law enforcement agencies, including the Watertown Police Department, the Codington County Sheriff, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Haak prosecuted the case.

Pena was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Statement from Attorney General Holder on Yearly Law Enforcement Officer Fatality Statistics


The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund today released preliminary fatality statistics for 2014.  The data in the report shows that 126 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty this year.  The report further showed that in 2014, 50 officers were killed by firearms, 49 officers were killed in traffic-related incidents, and 27 officers died due to other causes including 24 who suffered from job-related illnesses—such as heart attacks—while performing their duties.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the following statement today:

"These troubling statistics underscore the very real dangers that America's brave law enforcement officers face every time they put on their uniforms.  Each loss is both tragic and unacceptable -- a beloved father, mother, son, or daughter who never came home to their loved ones.

"That's why, over the last six years, my colleagues and I have taken action to support these courageous men and women.  As we speak, the Justice Department continues its efforts to empower local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement personnel to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible.  In 2011, I created an Officer Safety Working Group in response to concerns about violence directed at law enforcement.   The department is currently funding thorough analysis of 2014 officer fatalities, including ambushes of law enforcement and other incidents, so we can mitigate risks in the future.  And through groundbreaking initiatives like VALOR, we are providing cutting-edge training to help prevent violence against law enforcement, to improve officer resilience, and to increase survivability during violent encounters.

"Through our Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, we're helping to provide lifesaving equipment to those who serve on the front lines.  And through the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program, we're offering our strongest support to our brave officers and their loved ones in the toughest of times.

"Going forward, this unshakeable commitment to those who serve will continue to guide our efforts to improve 21st-century policing and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they protect.

"I have always been proud to support these selfless public servants.  All Americans owe our courageous law enforcement personnel a tremendous debt of gratitude for their patriotic service, for their often-unheralded sacrifices, and for the dangers they routinely face in the name of public safety."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Identifying new law enforcement tools to enhance asset tracing and recovery focus of INTERPOL meeting



UNITED NATIONS, New York – Identifying new mechanisms to assist law enforcement efforts in identifying and seizing criminal assets was the focus of an INTERPOL meeting at the United Nations headquarters.

During the three-day (17 – 19 December) working group meeting some 90 experts from 32 countries and six international organizations, including a number of UN agencies, the International Criminal Court and the World Bank, discussed the creation of operational tools through which INTERPOL could assist in asset tracing and recovery.

Organized by the INTERPOL General Secretariat in cooperation with the US National Central Bureau in Washington DC, the aim of the second session of the Expert Working Group on the Identification, Location and Seizure of Assets was to provide practitioners with new insight and instruments to enhance law enforcement and judicial cooperation.

Headed by chairman Ambassador Eugenio María Curia and Joël Sollier, INTERPOL General Counsel, the group recommended the creation of a new INTERPOL notice to locate, identify and obtain information on, seize or freeze criminal assets in compliance with national and international laws and obligations, supported by the establishment of an operational database.

The experts also recommended further consideration of developing mechanisms to simplify and expedite the transmission of mutual legal assistance requests using the secured INTERPOL communications channel (e-MLA). Rapid law enforcement action is particularly important to bridge the gap between lengthy legal assistance procedures and the high speed at which criminals move and hide proceeds.

With studies showing less than 10 percent of all criminal gains are being recovered, one of the key drivers behind the creation of the expert working group is to increase the number of criminal assets being frozen, confiscated for the benefit of society or given back to original owners.

The working group session was addressed by New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton who highlighted the important role of asset recovery in daily police work.

The meeting, attended by three INTERPOL Executive Committee members, Vice President for the Americas, Alan Bersin and Delegates for Europe, Filippo Dispenza and Alexander Prokopchuk, followed the recent briefing to the UN Security Council by INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

In his address to the Security Council, Mr Stock emphasized INTERPOL’s important role in providing assistance for the implementation of UN sanctions, and highlighted the work of the expert working group in supporting the coordination of international law enforcement efforts in asset tracing and freezing.