Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Examining the Effects of Environmental Degradation on the Optical Properties of Manufactured Fibers of Natural Origin

Authors: Kelly M. Brinsko, M.S., Sebastian B. Sparenga, M.S., Meggan B. King, B.Sc.

Synthetic fibers derived from naturally derived biological polymers are used in textiles and clothing. Such fibers are referred to as Manufactured Fibers of Natural Origin, or MFNOs.
These fibers include viscose rayon, azlon, and polylactic acid (PLA), among others. With the production of manufactured fibers of natural origin increasing in recent years, these fibers are likely to become more common in regular case work in the forensic science laboratory. However, little is known about the changes occurring in their optical and physical properties as an effect of moisture, sunlight exposure, and exposure to various temperatures.

This study investigated the effects of such degradation on three types of MFNOs: viscose rayon, azlon, and PLA. These fibers, often proclaimed by manufacturers as being biodegradable, were expected to show the most change compared to synthetic fibers, such as polyester or nylon.
Fabric swatches representing each fiber type were exposed to freshwater, saltwater, heat, cold, ultraviolet light, and composter conditions and assessed every six to eight weeks for two years for changes in optical properties, infrared spectra, solubility, and melting-point behavior.
The study found that except for complete degradation, no significant changes were observed in the optical properties, infrared spectra, solubility, or melting points of any of the fibers in any of the environments for the duration of the experiment.

Morphological changes, however, were observed in two PLA swatches and two viscose swatches exposed to UV light, as well as one azlon fabric submerged in either freshwater or saltwater. All viscose swatches in the composter and water environments eventually deteriorated completely.
These results indicate that forensic fiber comparison can be conducted on such fibers exposed to different environments, while highlighting possible explanations for some observed morphological differences.

Check Casher Indicted for Role in Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Scheme

A federal grand jury sitting in Macon, Georgia returned an indictment against a Columbus, Georgia resident on Nov. 9, which was unsealed today, for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud conspiracy, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and U.S. Attorney G.F. Peterman III for the Middle District of Georgia.

According to the indictment, throughout 2013, Shade Bakare cashed fraudulently obtained tax refund checks at the request of several individuals, including co-conspirators Tracy and Dameisha Mitchell, in exchange for a fee.  Bakare endorsed several of the checks, and cashed many of the checks at Big O’s Package Store located in Columbus, Georgia.  Bakare provided the cash, minus the fee she charged, to Dameisha Mitchell and others.  In addition to cashing these refund checks, Bakare filed fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities. Bakare obtained an Electronic Filing Identification Number from co-conspirator Danielle Wallace and used it to file fraudulent tax returns.  Bakare directed the tax refunds to financial institutions which issued the refunds via check.  Bakare and others cashed those checks at various locations, including Big O’s Package Store.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted, Bakare faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, 10 years in prison for each theft of public funds count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft.  Bakare also faces a period of supervised release and monetary penalties.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Peterman commended special agents of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorney Michael C. Boteler of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin Hyde of the Middle District of Georgia, who are prosecuting the case.

Employee of Biofuel Feedstock Company Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

An employee of a New Jersey feedstock collector and processor pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in a scheme to alter and destroy documents following the company’s receipt of a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of Ohio.

William Letona, 49, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King for the Southern District of Ohio, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman for the Southern District of Ohio and Acting Special Agent in Charge John Gauthier of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Enforcement Program in Ohio.

Letona admitted to conspiring with others to obstruct a grand jury investigating the fraudulent generation of EPA renewable fuels credits (RIN credits) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax credits connected to the purported production of renewable fuel.  Specifically, documents were falsified and destroyed in order to hide the fact that fuel purchased from a broker by Letona’s employer, Unity Fuels, was sold back to the broker as “Recycled Vegetable Oil Blend.”  This maneuver enabled RIN credits and IRS credits to be claimed multiple times on the same material.

“Lies and deceit intended to thwart federal investigations will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden.  “This case demonstrates that the Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who act dishonestly in responding to federal Grand Jury subpoenas.”

Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison. U.S. District Judge James L. Graham will determine Letona’s sentence following a pre-sentence investigation by the court.

Assistant Attorney General Cruden and Acting U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the cooperative investigation by law enforcement, including the IRS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as Department of Justice Trial Attorney Adam Cullman, Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy Korzenik and Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Marous, who represented the United States in this case.