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Archive for May 6th, 2009

Miami-Dade County DEA Office Moves to Upscale Burbs

weston-fla-map

Some say the move is a wise one, but others say the location is too far removed from prisons and courts and reality.

By Vanessa Blum
South Florida Sun Sentinel
WESTON, Fla. – There’s a newcomer to Weston–one that’s moved in this month with an arsenal of weaponry, stocks of illegal narcotics and plenty of accommodations for drug traffickers.

This upscale Broward community, a tidy suburban scape of palm-lined thoroughfares, corporate campuses, and gated residential enclaves, has a surprising new resident– the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

After three decades in Miami-Dade County, the venerable drug-fighting agency has been evicted from its Doral headquarters, which is being converted to a city center.

Like many real estate decisions, the relocation is driven by practical considerations like affordable rent, sufficient parking and easy access to South Florida’s highways.

But the federal agency’s move north also mirrors the new geography of South Florida’s drug trade–a map that is no longer Miami-centric but has spread to the suburbs of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

For Full Story

Inspector Gen. Report Says FBI Still Slow to Update Terror Watch List

I.G. Glen Fine

I.G. Glenn Fine

The FBI issued a statement Wednesday saying it has implemented measures to address all 16 recommendations by the Inspector General “which are all now resolved” and it remains “committed to improving our watchlist policy and practices”.

The Inspector General Report saw it differently by concluding: “Nevertheless, the FBI’s own review and our work in this audit indicate that weaknesses continue to exist, that significant improvements are still necessary, and that it is too early to tell whether the deficiencies identified in this audit have been fully addressed.”

By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — The FBI is slow to update the national terror suspect watchlist — and the lapses pose real risks to U.S. security, a Justice Department audit has found.

A report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, Glenn Fine, found 12 terror suspects who were either not watchlisted or were slow to be added to the list may have traveled into or out of the United States during the period when they were not placed on the list.

The watchlist, which is used to screen people entering the U.S. and by local law enforcement, contains more than 1.1 million names.

In 15 percent of the cases auditors reviewed, subjects were not nominated to the watchlist, contrary to FBI policy.

In some instances, people with names matching subjects who were not watchlisted — or who were not put on the list in a timely fashion — attempted to cross U.S. borders during the period their names were not placed on the list by the FBI, according to the report.

For Full Story

Read Full Report

Virginia Official Says Feds Probing Hackers and Theft of Health Data Info and Ransom Demand

computer-photoUnless we want to see these types of attacks become even more popular, state and federal authorities  need to beef up their cyber defenses – and fast.

By Brian Krebs
Washington Post

Hackers last week broke into a Virginia state Web site used by pharmacists to track prescription drug abuse. They deleted records on more than 8 million patients and replaced the site’s homepage with a ransom note demanding $10 million for the return of the records, according to a posting on Wikileaks.org, an online clearinghouse for leaked documents.

Wikileaks reports that the Web site for the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program was defaced last week with a message claiming that the database of prescriptions had been bundled into an encrypted, password-protected file.

Wikileaks has published a copy of the ransom note left in place of the PMP home page, a message that claims the state of Virginia would need to pay the demand in order to gain access to a password needed to unlock those records:

“I have your [expletive] In *my* possession, right now, are 8,257,378 patient records and a total of 35,548,087 prescriptions. Also, I made an encrypted backup and deleted the original. Unfortunately for Virginia, their backups seem to have gone missing, too. Uhoh :(For $10 million, I will gladly send along the password.”

For Full Story

Feds Charge Man With Smuggling Songbirds in Pant Leg on Vietnam Flight to U.S.

Now this one tops them all.  A federal affidavit says an airport inspector asked Mr. Dong to lift up a pant leg and “noticed bird feathers and droppings on Dong’s socks.” That was probably a good indication that something was wrong. Or at least that he needed to change his socks. Four of the birds were magpie robins  like the one pictured in photo to the right.

photo by lcsd.gov.vhk

photo by lcsd.gov.vhk

By Raquel Maria Dillon
Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – A man was charged Tuesday with smuggling songbirds into the United States by hiding more than a dozen of them in an elaborate, custom-tailored pair of leggings during a flight from Vietnam to Los Angeles.

Sony Dong, 46, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March after an inspector spotted bird feathers and droppings on his socks and tail feathers peeking out from under his pants, prosecutors said.

“He had fashioned these special cloth devices to hold the birds,” said U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek. “They were secured by cloth wrappings and attached to his calves with buttons.”

For Full Story

Read Federal Affidavit

Ex-Assist. U.S. Atty Pleads Guilty in Prostitution Ring

hooker1

Former federal prosecutor Paul Bergrin found that he could run a $1,000 an hour escort service and charge more than an attorney does. Now he’s paying for it.

Daniel Wise
New York Law Journal

More than two years after being accused of operating a Manhattan-based call-girl ring, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney was allowed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts under a deal that resulted in no jail time.

Paul Bergrin, 53, who was a solo practitioner when he was indicted in 2007, faced a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years if convicted on the top count against him, first-degree money laundering. In all, he was charged with six felonies and two misdemeanors.

Bergrin, a former prosecutor for Essex County and for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, was accused of taking over the operation of a $1,000-an-hour escort service called NY Confidential after its manager, Jason Itzler, was arrested in January, 2005.

Bergrin was also accused of falsely telling the New Jersey Parole Board that Itzler, who was his client, had worked for him as a paralegal in a case where Bergrin was defending a soldier accused of committing abuses at the Abu Graib prison in Iraq.

For Full Story

Feds Lining Up Ex-Gov Blago’s Ex-Allies to Bury Him in Trial

Allies one day, enemies the next. That’s the lesson ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich is learning as the government lines up witnesses to try and bury him during trial.

By Jeff Coen
Tribune reporter

CHICAGO — Several onetime allies of for
Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich in better times

mer Gov. Rod Blagojevich have already lined up as government witnesses against him, and another close friend and confidant could be next.

Sources familiar with the case said Christopher Kelly has had preliminary discussions with prosecutors about possibly cooperating, but he has not yet agreed to do so.

As Kelly weighs his future, his lawyers asked a federal judge Tuesday to delay his sentencing until October. Kelly, 50, a wealthy roofing company owner, pleaded guilty in January to tax-fraud charges for concealing his use of corporate funds to cover gambling debts. U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo is considering the request.

Prosecutors have ratcheted up pressure on Kelly, hitting him with two additional charges since he pleaded guilty to the tax offenses. He was charged with taking part in a kickback scheme to rip off United and American Airlines at O’Hare International Airport.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Mexican Drug Cartel Threatening to Take on U.S. Law Enforcement

Joaquin Guzman

Joaquin Guzman

As if we needed more evidence of the threat the Mexican cartels pose to the United States, here’s the latest. Don’t be surprised to see more DEA agents in Mexico and possibly other U.S. personnel from other agencies– and even the military.

By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
SELLS, Ariz. — The reputed head of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel is threatening a more aggressive stance against competitors and law enforcement north of the border, instructing associates to use deadly force, if needed, to protect increasingly contested trafficking operations, authorities said.

Such a move by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted fugitive, would mark a turn from the cartel’s previous position of largely avoiding violent confrontations in the U.S. — either with law enforcement officers or rival traffickers.

Police and federal agents in Arizona said they had recently received at least two law enforcement alerts focused on Guzman’s reported orders that his smugglers should “use their weapons to defend their loads at all costs.”