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Archive for April 7th, 2010

FBI Arrests S.F. Man for Threatening Calls to Speaker Nancy Pelosi

house photo

house photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — The FBI arrested a San Francisco man this afternoon for allegedly making dozens of threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over health care reform, the latest in the backlash against lawmakers who supported the legislation.

Gregory Giusti, 48, was arrested around 12:15 p.m. and was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Patti Hansen, a spokeswoman for the FBI in San Francisco, told AOL News.

Hansen said the charges were under seal, and, therefore, she could not comment on them.

“We take threats against elected officials very seriously,” she said.

To read more click here.

Key FBI Official Arthur Cummings Retiring: Head of FBI Memphis Office Coming to Washington

nsb_logo_med
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON —    A key FBI official,  Arthur M. Cummings II, executive assistant director for the FBI’s National Security Branch at headquarters– which includes weapons of mass destruction, counterintelligence and counterterrorism — is retiring soon to work for a financial institution in Connecticut.

Cummings, who has been an agent for 22-years, had served in his latest position since January 2008. Over the years, he held a number of posts in the FBI including special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Branch at the Washington field office.  He is former Navy Seal and speaks Mandarin Chinese.  His replacement has not been announced.

In other developments in the FBI, Memphis’ top FBI agent My Harrison, who has headed the office for the past five years,  is moving to Washington to take over as as deputy assistant director for the FBI’s Security Division, which includes FBI background checks and building security, authorities said. Her replacement in Memphis has not been announced.

The Ghost of Crooked Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Rears its Head: Another Guilty Plea

Jack Ambramoff/ msnbc

Jack Ambramoff/ msnbc

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The ghost of crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff continues to rear its head in this town which once treated him as a king — that is before he became radioactive and went off to prison.

The latest came Wednesday when Horace M. Cooper, 44, of Lorton, Va., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to taking gifts from lobbyists Abramoff and Neil G. Volz, who had clients with business before the Department of Labor where Cooper was chief of staff for Employment Standards Administration from 2002 to 2005.

Cooper admitted concealing the gifts — sports and concert tickets and dinners — from the Labor ethics officials and his supervisors.

Authorities say Cooper also admitted that he lied to the FBI and a grand jury about the gifts and his relationship with the lobbyists. He faces up to one year in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine when sentenced.

To date, 19 people including lobbyists and public officials have pleaded guilty, were convicted or are awaiting trial in connection with the shady activities of Abramoff and his associates, the Justice Department said.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services fraud and tax evasion and is serving a four year sentence. Volz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and was sentenced in 2007 to tow years probation.

Calif. Woman Gets 7 Years in Huge TV Auction Art Scam

Pablo Picasso probably would not have been flattered.

Pablo Picasso probably would not have been flattered.

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not in the art world — particularly when it means duping unsuspecting collectors.

Kristine Eubanks, 52, of La Canada, Calif., was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to seven years in prison for selling through a televised auction fake art by such legends as Picasso, Dali and Chagall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess, during sentencing, called the multimillion-dollar fraud scheme “audacious in its scope” and “blatantly illegal.”

Kristine Eubanks, 52, is serving time for what a judge called an “audacious” scheme to sell forged pieces of art like this fake Marc Chagall painting.

Authorities charged that the scam was run through a company called Fine Art Treasures Gallery, which operated an art auction on Friday and Saturday nights on DirectTV and the Dish Network from 2002 to 2006.

To read more click here.

Big Names Like Catherine Zeta-Jones Submit Letters to Fed Judge on Behalf of Actor Mike Douglas’ Son in DEA Case

Letter from Catherine Zeta-Jones

Letter from Catherine Zeta-Jones

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Convicted drug dealer Cameron Douglas, son of actor Mike Douglas and grandson of Kirk Douglas, has rounded up plenty star power to try and convince a federal judge to go easy on him at sentencing on April 14 in New York.

Cameron’s grandfather Kirk Doulgas, his step-mother Catherine Zeta-Jones and NBA legend Pat Riley submitted letters to the judge on Cameron’s behalf, asking for leniency. The letters were filed in federal court.

In January, Douglas, 31,  pleaded guilty to selling large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine while staying at Hotel Gansevoort, a trendy Manhattan hotel. He was busted by the DEA.

Letter from Kirk Douglas

Letter from Kirk Douglas

In the court filings,  Zeta-Jones told the sentencing judge Richard M. Berman in a handwritten letter that her stepson had a “disease” with drug abuse and is a “caring, considerate, worthy human being, but never the less, the disease, that for years, he has tried to combat did take over again. What is wrong, is wrong, but may all these positive attributes prevail, so that a facility that he is positioned in will help rehabilitate him.”

Grandfather Kirk Douglas wrote :

“Cameron was always a pleasant guy who cared for others. It was a surprise to me when he got in trouble. It wasn’t a surprise to me to find out that Cameron had natural talent as an actor. I remember when he played a part in the movie with Michael and me. He was a natural. We were so proud.

“I am convinced that Cameron could be a fine actor and a person that cares for others. I hope I can see that happen before I die. I love Cameron.”

Number of Nightmare Stories on “No Fly List” Likely to Rise

The U.S. is expanding the “no fly list” in response to the attempted bombing on Christmas Day to improve security. The downside is there’s likely to be a growing number of nightmare stories like the one Rahinah Ibrahim experienced. Unfortunately, there’s too many already.

noflylist

By Mike McIntire
New York Times

Rahinah Ibrahim, a Stanford University doctoral student, arrived at San Francisco International Airport with her 14-year-old daughter for a 9 a.m. flight home to Malaysia. She asked for a wheelchair, having recently had a hysterectomy.

Instead, when a ticket agent found her name on the no-fly list, Ms. Ibrahim was handcuffed, searched and jailed amid a flurry of phone calls involving the local police, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security. Two hours after her flight left, Ms. Ibrahim was released without explanation. She flew to Malaysia the next day.

But when she tried to return to the United States, she discovered that her visa had been revoked. And when she complained that she did not belong on a terrorist watch list, the government’s response came a year later in a form letter saying only that her case had been reviewed and that any changes warranted had been made.

Every year, thousands of people find themselves caught up in the government’s terrorist screening process. Some are legitimate targets of concern, others are victims of errors in judgment or simple mistaken identity.

Either way, their numbers are likely to rise as the Obama administration recalibrates the standards for identifying potential terrorists, in response to intelligence failures that let a would-be bomber fly to Detroit from Amsterdam last Christmas.

To Read full story click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blago’s Trial Strategy Conflicts With Brother’s

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

They may be brothers, but their attorneys seem to be mapping out conflicting strategies.

Robert Blogojevich, brother of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has filed a motion to keep FBI recordings from airing in their upcoming public corruption trial, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Brother Rod has indicated that he has nothing to hide and wants the jury to hear everything. They are charged with trading favors for campaign money and selling the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

The Tribune reports that the attorney for Robert Blagojevich claims the FBI had no probable cause to make the recordings, and that there had been no indication that Robert traded favors for campaign contributions. Robert ran his brother’s campaign fund in 2008.

“Evidence of Robert Blagojevich soliciting campaign contributions on behalf of his brother, without proof of an explicit quid pro quo, is not remotely criminal, but, rather, exemplifies the American political process,” Robert’s attorney Michael Ettinger wrote, according to the Tribune.

To Read more click here.