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Archive for February, 2009

Departing Kansas City U.S. Atty. Remembered for His Visual Aids

U.S. Atty. John Wood/doj photo

U.S. Atty. John Wood/doj photo

He came into the job when the Justice Department was embroiled in controversy. But he managed to navigate in the job with skill.

By Mark Morris
Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY — John F. Wood loves visual aids.

If he left one lasting impression during his 22-month tenure as U.S. attorney in Kansas City, it was of him standing at a news conference, pointing to a map or chart that, depending on the case, showed how:

•Chinese women were trafficked into Johnson County massage parlors.

•Illegally obtained tax refunds traveled from bank accounts in Kansas City to Kenya.

•Contributions to a Columbia nonprofit purportedly supported a terrorist-linked orphanage in Pakistan.

•Raw materials from China allegedly contributed to an illegal scheme to make and sell anabolic steroids in the U.S.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Terrorism Suspect Going to U.S. Court (Washington Post)

FBI to Resume Digging in New York for Mobster Bodies

When you don’t succeed, dig dig again. Yes, the FBI is returning to East Farmingdale to dig again for mobster bodies. The FBI went digging at the site last year after getting information that the land was used as a mobster burial site. Agents ended up unearthing the body of Colombo family underboss William Cutolo.


BY ROBERT E. KESSLER
Newsday

FBI agents plan to return to an apparent mob cemetery in East Farmingdale on Monday to try to uncover two more bodies they believe were buried there by hit men, an FBI spokesman said late Friday.

The renewed excavation plans come after two leaders of the Colombo organized crime family were sentenced Friday to life in prison for the murder of a rival whose body was uncovered there in October.

Alphonse Persico, the acting boss of the Colombo family, and John DeRoss, a ranking capo, showed no emotion as federal Judge Joanna Seybert in Central Islip sentenced them for the 1999 murder of William Cutolo, once the family’s underboss.

Prosecutors said Persico and DeRoss had Cutolo murdered, because they feared he would take over.

For Full Story

Senate Dems Push for More Money For FBI to Fight Fraud

With the shift of resources to terrorism, the FBI has fallen far short of its mission in dealing with all types of fraud, including mortgage fraud. This added money could help.

By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
Seattle P-I
Senate Democrats, mindful that the FBI lacks resources to adequately address the nation’s mortgage meltdown, are pushing a measure to give the agency $75 million to fight financial industry crime.

The sum, to be considered by the Senate as part of the economic stimulus package, would fund at least 165 new agents pointed toward stopping “mortgage fraud, predatory lending, financial fraud and market manipulation.”

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration transferred at least 2,400 agents from FBI crime squads to counterterrorism units and did not replace them. The result was a precipitous drop in the number of criminal prosecutions around the country, the Seattle P-I has reported in a two-year investigative series.
For Full Story

Washington State Gov’s Confidante Jenny Durkan Recommended For U.S. Atty. Post

Jenny Durkan

Jenny Durkan

When it comes to getting the nod for U.S. Attorney, it helps to know a governor. Jenny Durkan has figured that one out.

By Mike Carter and Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times
SEATTLE — Jenny Durkan, a prominent Seattle defense attorney and longtime friend and confidante of Gov. Chris Gregoire, has been recommended to the White House as the next U.S. attorney for Western Washington.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent Durkan’s name to the White House for consideration as the top federal law-enforcement officer for the district, a recommendation endorsed by fellow Democrat Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Durkan would replace Jeff Sullivan, who was appointed by the district’s federal judges after John McKay was fired in 2006 in a politically motivated purge that led to congressional hearings and the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
For Full Story

Homeland Report Says TSA Needs More Inspectors To Assure Safety For Mass Transit

Mass transit in America has always seemed incredibly vulnerable to a terrorist incident. This report confirms that. Now let’s see what is done to address the problem before something happens.

By EILEEN SULLIVAN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The agency responsible for transportation security has too few inspectors to make sure rail and mass transit employees are doing enough to guard against terrorists, a government report says.

The report by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, due out Friday, says the Transportation Security Administration’s request for 102 more inspectors is insufficient to get the job done right.

The review of TSA’s inspection program, obtained by The Associated Press, was conducted between last year February and July.

The TSA has 175 inspectors assigned to assess transportation security for bus and mass transit systems, and many were hired without any experience with mass transit systems, the report said.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Fed Judge Gives Big-Time Ex-Chicago Pol Probation; Ignores Prosecution Plea For Prison Time

Edward "Fast Eddy" Vrdolyak

Edward

“Fast Eddy” as Edward Vrdolyak was known, got a big break. Prosecutors wanted him to go to prison.  The judge thought the case was a matter of “overkill”. U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald was none too happy, saying he strongly disagreed with the judge’s sentencing.

By Jeff Coen
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — It was supposed to be the day of reckoning for former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, the day he at last got sent to prison for an inside deal after what some say was a career built on them.

Instead, Chicago witnessed what seemed like another “Fast Eddie” moment.

Despite being on an undercover recording discussing a plan to collect a bogus finder’s fee in a corrupt real estate sale and pleading guilty last year, Vrdolyak, 71, won’t be spending a single day behind bars. A federal judge who said he thought the prosecution’s case was “serious overkill” rejected a call for a sentence of 3½ years in prison and gave Vrdolyak 5 years of probation Thursday.

Only after U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur left the courtroom did the solemn look on Vrdolyak’s face crack into his trademark grin while he shook hands and hugged family and friends.
For Full Story

Fed Judge Once Again Orders Detroit Reporter to Testify in Suit by Ex-Prosecutor

David AshenfelterThe battle between an ex-prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter continues in the Motown. The question is: How many more delays will the judge tolerate?

BY JIM SCHAEFER and JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter, who previously refused a court order to identify his sources in a 2004 article, has been ordered to testify once more in the case of a former federal prosecutor who is suing the U.S. Justice Department.

Ashenfelter, 60, (in photo) refused to answer questions in a December deposition, citing, among other things, his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Ashenfelter and lawyers for the Free Press have argued that he could face prosecution if he identifies who in the Justice Department leaked word that Richard Convertino was the subject of an internal probe for his handling of a 2003 Detroit terrorism trial.

At a hearing earlier this month, Justice Department lawyers told U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland they could not rule out a prosecution relating to the release of private government information.

Cleland, in an opinion expressing skepticism, on Thursday ordered Ashenfelter to clarify under oath why he fears prosecution, so the judge may decide for himself if the fears are valid.
For Full Story

Wounded Buffalo FBI Agent Shot By Colleague is Identified

The upside is the agent lived; the downside he was shot and by a fellow agent. Both painful and embarrassing to the FBI. Authorities say it was the result of an accidental gun discharge.

By Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel
NEWS STAFF REPORTERS
BUFFALO — When 300 cops hit the streets of Buffalo early Thursday morning, they knew they were going after suspected members of a dangerous drug gang, some of whom could be armed and violent.

As it turned out, the most dangerous weapon was one accidentally fired by one of law enforcement’s own.

The accidental shooting of Peter Orchard, a decorated veteran FBI agent, marred a massive drug raid that was described by law enforcement officials as a strike against a “major group of dangerous drug traffickers.”

It was at least the third local incident since 2005 in which something went terribly wrong during a drug raid. In one of those previous raids a man was killed, and in the other a woman was severely burned.

For Full Story