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Archive for May 8th, 2009

Calif. Woman Pleads Guilty to Selling Endangered Sea Turtle Guitar Picks

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

A hawksbill sea turtle, an endangered species

By Brian Schott
ticklethewire.com
China has a well-known taste for trading in strange and exotic animal parts. Bear bile. Rhinoceros horn. But endangered sea turtle guitar picks?

Qing Song, a Santa Rosa, Calif., woman, pleaded guilty Wednesday in San Francisco federal court  to violating the Lacey Act by importing from China guitar picks and turtle shells of the hawksbill sea turtle.

Song admitted to selling just 50 of the offending plectrums,  but was found in possession of 900 of them when authorities got wind of her unusual business, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Hawksbill sea turtles are one of seven sea turtle species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act or international treaty, according to the release. Hawksbills are rated as critically endangered – one step above being considered extinct in the wild, according to the World Conservation Union’s rankings of endangered species.

Right after pleading guilty, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer sentenced Song to  10 months of home confinement and a $2,000 fine. She also received received three years probation and was ordered not to sell sea turtle parts, including guitar picks or instruments made of sea turtles, according to the release.

Tomato Industry “Ripe” with Fraud: Former Sales Broker Convicted in Fed Court of Bribery

The former purchasing director for Nabisco had steered contracts for tomatoes to SK Foods at inflated prices in exchange for bribes. SK Foods had formerly been in trouble for lying about the quality of potentially mold-filled shipments of tomato.Fresh tomatoe Maybe these people should face a firing squad armed with moldy  tomatoes.

By Denny Walsh
Sacramento Bee

The national scandal of corruption in the food industry unfolding in Sacramento federal court claimed another corporate executive Tuesday with a guilty plea to fraud charges by a former purchasing chief of two industry giants.

Robert C. Turner Jr., who was purchasing director for Nabisco Inc., and later for B&G Foods Inc., admitted accepting $65,000 in bribe payments from Randall Lee Rahal, a former sales broker and director of SK Foods LP.

Nabisco, a manufacturer, distributor, and seller of cookies, snacks and other products, and B&G, a multinational manufacturer, seller and distributor of a wide array of food products, are both based in New Jersey.

Monterey-based SK Foods is one of the nation’s largest growers of tomatoes and processors of tomato products. It has plants in Williams, 50 miles north of Sacramento, and Lemoore, south of Fresno.

For Full Story

FBI to Pay $879,550 For Scientific Review of Deadly Anthrax Case

Suspect Bruce Ivins

Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Nine months after the real suspect in the anthrax killings committed suicide, there are still plenty unanswered questions as to why the FBI let its top investigator on the case focus for so long on the wrong guy, Steven Hatfill, even after some investigators and prosecutors expressed serious skepticism internally.

Now the FBI has agreed to pay the National Academy of Sciences $879,550 to review the case. Unfortunately,  some of the perplexing questions  about the investigation won’t be answered in this 15-month review, according to the New York Time’s Scott Shane.

The review, Shane writes “won’t assess the bureau’s detective work or its conclusion that an Army microbiologist, Bruce E. Ivins, sent the deadly letters in 2001.” Ivins committed suicide last summer before authorities could file charges in the case.

Instead, Shane writes: “The academy panel will review genetic fingerprinting that led agents to Dr. Ivins’s Maryland laboratory, as well as clues to how and where the anthrax was grown and dried.”

The money for the research on the case is far short of the $5.82 million the government agreed to pay scientist Steven Hatfill last June to settle his lawsuit, which alleged that the FBI and Justice Department ruined his reputation and career after publicly naming him a “person of interest”.

Some remain skeptical that Ivins sent the letters.

A Number of Women Landing Top Spots at Homeland Security

Dep. Sec. Jane Holl Lute

Dep. Sec. Jane Holl Lute

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Though law enforcement is still often considered a “boys club”, women are landing a number of top spots at the Department of Homeland Security.

Rich Cooper, a columnist for Security DeBrief, has compiled an impressive list of woman holding top spots besides Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“While I’ve not gone through the other Cabinet Departments to compare how many women are in some of their most senior leadership positions, at DHS the facts speak for themselves,” Cooper writes.

Here’s the list he compiled:
Janet Napolitano, Secretary, DHS
Janet Lute, Deputy Secretary, DHS
Jan Lesher, Chief of Staff for Operations
Elaine Duke, Under Secretary for Management
Vice Admiral Vivien S. Crea, Vice Commandant of the United States Coast Guard
Dr. Tara O’Toole, Under Secretary for Science & Technology, DHS (nominee)
Juliette Kayyem Assistant Secretary, Office of Intergovernmental Programs
Gale Rossides, (Acting) Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
Chani W. Wiggins, Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs
Sue Ramanathan, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs
Connie Patrick, Director, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)
Mary Ellen Callahan, Chief Privacy Officer
Dora Schriro, Special Advisor on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Detention & Removal

Justice Dept. Public Integrity Unit Needs New Shot of Integrity and Rehab

A.G. Eric Holder

A.G. Eric Holder

It might be just a little ironic that the integrity of the Public Integrity Unit is on shaky ground these days.  This once elite unit has taken a beating of late and the Atty. General knows he’s got a lot of work to do to turn things around.

By CHARLIE SAVAGE
New York Times
WASHINGTON – A week after shutting down the criminal case against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska because it had been botched by prosecutors, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. delivered a pep talk to Justice Department lawyers.

The latest on President Obama, the new administration and other news from Washington and around the nation. Join the discussion.

“I’m here to tell you personally that I’ve got your back,” Mr. Holder told prosecutors in the department’s Public Integrity Section, an elite unit charged with pursuing corruption charges against public officials. He called them “among the finest lawyers in the entire government,” promised them more resources and vowed not to back off from “prosecuting the tough cases when warranted because of the criticism we’re getting right now.”

Despite Mr. Holder’s gesture of reassurance last month, recalled by someone present, the public integrity unit, once the pride of the Justice Department, is badly in need of rehabilitation, according to current and former officials.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Grand Jury Probing Whether Philly Cop Helped Tip Drug Kingpin About ATF Raid

These type of breaches undermine the integrity of the system and reminds us that the this type of corruption just doesn’t happen south of the border.
philly-map
By John Shiffman and George Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writers
PHILADELPHIA — Hours before ATF agents raided his home and arrested him in 2005, Philadelphia drug kingpin Alton “Ace Capone” Coles got a phone call from a friend in California warning that “the feds were coming.”

Federal authorities now believe the friend’s source for that tip was a Philadelphia police detective.

The detective, Richard “Rickie” Durham, was working with a 200-member task force that was poised to execute a series of raids that would take down Coles and most of his top associates on Aug. 10, 2005, capping one of the most significant drug investigations in recent Philadelphia history.

Durham, 43, is now the target of a federal grand jury investigation, sources said.

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