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Archive for October 13th, 2011

Atty. Gen. Holder Needs to Step Up and Take Responsibility for ATF’s Fast and Furious

 

Atty. Gen. Holder before House Judiciary /ticklethewire.com file photo

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. is an honorable man.

So I believe him when he tells Congress he didn’t know about ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious until the controversy exploded in 2011.

The problem is that he needs to take responsibility for it. Period. He’s the top dog. People in his organization had some inkling last year that they might be sitting on a political stink bomb. They should have given him a heads up. They need to take responsibility as well.

It’s like the household where the kids hide matches in the house and play with them all the time, and one day burn down their neighbor’s garage. Yes, the parents can tell the neighbor “sorry”, but they also have to take some responsibility even if they had no clue the kids were always playing with matches.

CBS News recently reported that “two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010.”

“It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” said Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replied “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like, ‘Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.’”

That sounds to me like someone in the Justice Department figured out the department was playing with matches by carrying out a program that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. Yes, they contemplated that someone could get burned.

We need to clean up this mess sooner than later. One helpful step along the way would be for Holder to say something to the effect: “Sure I didn’t know about Fast and Furious until the controversy erupted, but I take full responsibility and I want to find out why I wasn’t apprised of something so significant that endangered lives and had international implications.”

p.s. Atty. Gen. Holder, feel free to use that quote.

 

Mass. Democrat Asks Congress to Pay $8.5 Mil to Victims’ Families in Whitey Bulger Murders

Rep. Keating/gov photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rep. William R. Keating (D-Mass.) is asking Congress to pay the families of two men allegedly killed by James “Whitey’’ Bulger the $8.5 million they were initially awarded by a Boston federal judge, the Boston Globe reported.  The Court of Appeals this year tossed out the award on a technicality, saying the families filed the suits too late.

Bulger allegedly killed the two men after learning from the FBI that one of them was cooperating with agents against Bulger,  reports Boston.com.

A judge in 2009 found the government responsible for the 1982 deaths of  Michael Donahue and Edward “Brian” Halloran. The judge found the government acted irresponsibly by essentially letting Bulger run wild and commit crimes while he worked as an informant. But the Justice Department fought against the judgment, and successfully argued on appeal that the lawsuit had not been filed on time.

The Quincy Democrat reported that Keating filed two bills late Tuesday seeking compensation for the families of Donahue and Halloran because they failed to get justice in federal court.

“I just thought justice wasn’t being served,’’ Keating told the Globe. “I know if it was my family, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sleeping at night until every possible avenue was pursued.’’ The Democrat from Massachusetts filed two bills late Tuesday seeking compensation for the families.

Donahue, a 32-year-old truck driver, was giving Halloran, a 41-year-old associate of Bulger’s, a lift home from a waterfront bar in Boston on May 11, 1982. Bulger and an unidentified associate allegedly opened fire on the car, killing both men. A longtime sidekick of Bulger’s, and fellow informant, Stephen “The Rifleman’’ Flemmi testified in court that John J. Connolly Jr., a former FBI agent, warned him and Bulger that Halloran was cooperating with the feds, even implicating the gangsters in an earlier slaying.

“Flemmi said the tip prompted Bulger to kill Halloran and that Donahue was just an innocent bystander,” reported the Globe.

To read more click here.

Hedge Fund King Raj Rajaratnam Gets 11 Years for Insider Trading

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who became one of the more recent poster childs for greed and corruption on Wall Street, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Manhattan to 11 years in prison and fined $10 million for insider trading, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. He was also ordered to forfeit $53.8 million.

U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell announced the sentence after declaring that Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group, had profited to the tune of $50 million, the station reported. Prosecutors had placed the profits at up to $75 million and had sought the maximum sentence of 24.5 years, NBC New York reported.

His lawyers had asked for leniency, citing his failing health.

“Two years ago, Raj Rajaratnam stood at the summit of Wall Street, commanding his own financial empire,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Then he was arrested, tried, and convicted by a jury. Mr. Rajaratnam stood convicted 14 times over of felonies, his empire exposed as a web of fraud and corruption that entangled many.

“Today, Mr. Rajaratnam stood once more and faced justice which was meted out to him. It is a sad conclusion to what once seemed to be a glittering story. We can only hope that this case will be the wake-up call we said it should be when Mr. Rajaratnam was arrested.”

Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the NY FBI added: “Raj Rajaratnam is no different from a host of others who falsely attributed impressive investment results to superior research and acumen. In fact, as his trial determined, he relied on—indeed, actively cultivated—insider information. His considerable fortune was built on a clandestine network of corruption and concealment. Raj Rajaratnam did not merely bend the rules; he broke the law. There is a price to pay for that.”

 

San Diego U.S. Attorney Vows to Go After the Media for Pot Advertising

U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The Obama administration’s latest push against the medical marijuana industry is aimed at the media.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said she plans to start going after newspapers, radio stations and other outlets that advertise marijuana dispensaries, reports California Watch.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy told California Watch and KQED. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

Though she declined to comment on plans of  other U.S. Attorneys in California as far as advertising, she noted they had coordinated their efforts so far. But a spokesman for the Sacramento U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner told the Bakersfield Californian that there were no plans to go after advertising at this point.

The statements by Duffy comes in wake of an announcement by all four U.S. Attorney’s in California, who last week warned dozens of questionable marijuana dispensaries throughout California to shut down or face civil and criminal action.

The top prosecutors vowed to also go after landlords who rent space to the storefront operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, who authorities suspect of using the law to cover large-scale for-profit drug sales, the New York Times reported.

Duffy said she believes the law gives her the right to prosecute media outlets that runs marijuana advertisements, California Watch reported.

“If I own a newspaper … or I own a TV station, and I’m going to take in your money to place these ads, I’m the person who is placing these ads,” Duffy said, according to California Watch. “I am willing to read (the law) expansively and if a court wants to more narrowly define it, that would be up to the court.”

Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in “any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication,” according to California Watch, which could extend to online ads.

“The good intentions behind that law,” she told California Watch “have almost completely been taken over by people who are trying to use that permission law to get rich, to distribute marijuana and traffic drugs to people who aren’t sick, to our youth and to people who are using drugs on a recreational basis.”

To read more click here.

Nine More Charged in Scheme to Defraud Holocaust Victims Fund of Tens of Millions of Dollars

FBI's Janet Fedarcyk/fbi file photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The massive scandal to rip off a charitable Holocaust fund designed to benefit victims who were persecuted by the Nazis, continued to unravel in N.Y.  on Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced the arrest of eight more people for being part of  a plot to defraud the fund out of  $57.3 million. A ninth person charged is expected to surrender voluntarily.

Five of those arrested are former employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which administered the charitable programs. The five were charged with knowingly approving nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in the payout to unqualified applicants, in exchange for kickbacks. Since prosecution began in the case, a total of 30 people have been charged in connection with the scheme.

The latest folks charged in the case include: Henry Gordin; Genrikh Kolontyrskiy; Viktor Levin; Ella Voskresenskiy; Zlata Blavatnik; Pyotr Blavatnik; Yevgeniya Abramovich; Asya Galindo; and Lana Kagan, the ninth who is expected to surrender voluntarily.

“These defendants had a hand in fabricating, filing, or processing nearly 5,000 fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants,” Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the N.Y. FBI said in a statement. Claims Conference funds have been drained of $57 million meant for Holocaust victims, and a large portion of the diverted money went into the pockets of corrupt insiders. These were people hired to give who conspired to take.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara added:  “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust. With today’s charges, we have now identified 30 people who allegedly exploited a fund that is as symbolically important as it is necessary to its beneficiaries. We again thank the Claims Conference for their outstanding ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme.”

 Read press release

 

Suburban D.C. Man Accused of Spying for Syria

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the suburbs of D.C., resident Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid was more than just a suburban dweller, at least according to the FBI.

Authorities announced this week charges against the 47-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, who lived in Leesburg, Va., and allegedly collected video and audio recordings and other information about people in the U.S. and Syria who were protesting the government of Syria.

Authorities alleged the he turned over materails to Syrian intelligence agencies “in order to silence, intimidate, and potentially harm the protestors.” He was arrested on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., charged him with conspiring to act as an agent of the Syrian government in the United States without notifying the Attorney General as required by law; two counts of providing false statements on a firearms purchase form; and two counts of providing false statements to federal law enforcement.

“The ability to assemble and protest is a cherished right in the United States, and it’s troubling that a U.S. citizen from Leesburg is accused of working with the Syrian government to identify and intimidate those who exercise that right,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of Alexandria said in a statement. “Spying for another country is a serious threat to our national security, especially when it threatens the ability of U.S. citizens to engage in political speech within our own borders.”

 

Ex-FBI Agent and Wife Charged in $1.3 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

 
 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI special agent and his wife have been charged in Richmond, Va. federal court in a $1.3 million investment fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Ex-agent John Robert Graves, 52, and Sara Turberville Graves, 44, both of Fredericksburg, Va., are charged with multiple counts.

Authorities said that Graves founded Brook Point Management (BPM) in 2003, a company that sold insurance, performed estate and tax planning services and recruited and advised investment clients.

The indictment alleges that between June 2008 and July 2011, John Graves, Sara Graves, and others schemed to defraud approximately 11 investors in central Virginia of approximately $1.3 million.

Authorities alleged that the couple raised investor funds by misrepresenting “the safety and security of the investments, as well as misrepresentations and omissions regarding their use of investor money.”

Authorities alleged that the two used the investor funds to pay back previous investors who requested access to their money; purchase real estate in Partlow, Va.; and pay personal expenses, including credit card bills and time share dues. Authorities alleged that even after the scheme was uncovered, John Graves continued to make misrepresentations through false and misleading statements to the investors and to investigators from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

FBI Denies Playing Any Role in Boston Globe Naming Bulger Tipster

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy surrounding the decision by the Boston Globe to publish the name of the woman who tipped off the FBI as to the whereabouts of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, continued on Wednesday.

The FBI in Boston posted a statement on its website denying it played any role in the publication of the name, Anna Bjornsdottir, a former Miss Iceland, who split her time between Iceland and Santa Monica, Calif., where she lived near Bulger and his companion Catherine Greig.

“Recently, a news outlet chose to publish the alleged identity of one of the tipsters involved in locating FBI Top Ten Fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger and Catherine Grieg. It is important to note, despite numerous media requests to provide the name of one of the tipsters, at no time has the FBI furnished the name, provided comment, or confirmed the accuracy of any reporting about the tipsters.”

“In defending against public criticism about the decision to publish the name of the alleged tipster, reporters and editors from the news outlet attempted to justify it by stating the FBI did not raise any objections in advance.

“That explanation suggested the FBI was culpable for the publishing of this information. To the contrary, the FBI’s silence on these inquiries should not be seen as acquiescence to that editorial decision. Had the FBI responded one way or the other, the effect would have been to confirm or deny the identity of one of the tipsters.”

“The decision by the news outlet to use an individual’s name and photograph was a decision made solely and independently by that news outlet.”

The Globe reported on the FBI statement and provided further explanation for publishing the name.

Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for local news, said the newspaper never reported that the FBI had no objections to identifying the tipster, only that it did not raise any concerns about her personal safety.

“A great deal of thought and discussion went into the decision to name the tipster,’’ Peter said. “And in a case such as this, where there have been so many deceptions and lies in the past and where there were so many conspiracy theories circulating as to what actually happened, it seemed imperative to give as accurate and full an accounting as we could.’’

The Globe reported that is decision to publish the name of the tipster drew criticism from its rival, the Boston Herald and Globe readers.