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Archive for June 1st, 2012

Weekend Series on Crime: Ex-FBI Agent Ali Soufan

Ex-ICE Official Sentenced to 2 Years After Lying and Scamming Agency

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former official for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was sentenced Friday in Los Angeles to two years in prison and ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution for obstruction of justice, giving false information to a federal prosecutor and a federal judge in Florida, and devising a scheme to have his wife paid nearly $600,000 even though she did little work for the agency.

Ex-ICE assistant special agent in charge Frank Johnston, 55, of Whittier,Calif., who retired from ICE in August 2009 after 31 years was also ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution.

“Whenever public officials break the law, particularly those persons sworn to serve and protect the public, we must do everything we can to hold them accountable,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr in a statement.

 

Johnston was found guilty in two federal trials. In the first, he was convicted of making false statements that resulted in the delay – lasting nearly a year and a half – of a prison term for a man who received an 18-month sentence in a cigarette-smuggling case.

Johnston told a Justice Department prosecutor and a Florida federal judge that person was providing “ongoing cooperation” in two organized crime investigations being conducted in Los Angeles — when in fact he was not.

In a second trial in February, Johnston was convicted on charges that he and his wife, Taryn Johnston, engaged in a fraud scheme in which Taryn Johnson received approximately $582,000 in salary and benefits from ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, even though she had done virtually no work for the agency and infrequently went to work, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. His wife was convicted and sentenced to 30 days behind bars.

Exciting Ride for Head of Detroit FBI: Going to Head Crime Commission

Andy Arena

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — On Christmas day in 2009, Andrew Arena, head of the Detroit FBI, made a beeline to the airport to deal with a young Nigerian man — aka The Underwear Bomber — who tried to blow up an airliner.

“He slipped up and gave us some stuff,” Arena explained of the valuable global terrorism information the bomber gave up during the interrogation. ” I can’t get into because it’s still classified. We exploited a lot… We got some key stuff.”

Arena was directly involved in the decisions about the interrogating the bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, including when to read him the Miranda warning, an issue that would later become a “political football” in Washington.

Some conservative Republicans like Michele Bachman were highly critical, insisting the FBI shouldn’t have read the Miranda warning to a terrorist because it may have stifled the flow of valuable information. Many Democrats defended the FBI and Justice Department, which delayed reading the rights, but ultimately did after six hours. The Obama administration claimed it got plenty of valuable information about the plot and terrorism around the world.

“People used the national security issue for political purposes,” he said of the partisan bickering in Washington. “Yeah, that did bother me.”

Arena is a personable man who speaks fondly of his native Detroit. In his FBI office on Michigan Avenue downtown, he sat down earlier this month with Deadline Detroit reporter Allan Lengel to discuss his 24-year-career in the FBI, including the last five as head of the Detroit office.

Arena officially retired on May 31. He’s will take over as director of the newly formed Detroit Crime Commission. The commission, he says, will try unearthing corruption and other crime and try to fill some gaps law enforcement hasn’t been able to address. He says the business people funding the commission were shy about having their names in the press.

To be sure, his five years have been eventful.

Besides the Underwear Bomber, he’s gone after corruption in city hall, resulting in an indictment of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is set to go to trial in September. Arena’s agents have also doggedly pursued corruption involving Wayne County government.

What will happen to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano?

“I don’t know,” he says. “We’ll see where the facts take us.”

He had to deal with his fair share of controversy, including the fatal shooting of an imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, who was killed by his agents during a raid in Dearborn in 2009 after the imam, according to agents, pulled out a gun and fired, killing an FBI dog.

With all the many successes in court — and there were plenty — it wasn’t always perfect. Recently, a federal judge dismissed charges that a militia known as the Hutaree was plotting to revolt against the government and kill cops. The judge simply didn’t buy the case, saying their talk was protected by free speech. Two members ended up pleading guilty to gun charges.

It was an embarrassment to the government. Arena says he and U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade strongly disagreed with the ruling.

In Washington, Arena was a highly regarded bureau official, and while he was stationed there after Sept. 11, 2001, he briefed FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III regularly on terrorism. Arena also pushed back when the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney were pressuring the FBI to find a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

In the book –“The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al Qaeda” — author Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent, writes of Arena, who at the time, was chief of the International Terrorism Operations Section:

Prior to the Iraq war, when there was a lot of pressure on the FBI from the White House to produce a “link” between Saddam Hussein

and al-Qaeda, the 9/11 Team’s assessment, again and again, was that there was no link. The White House didn’t like that answer, and told the bureau to look into it more and “come up with one.” Andy refused, and in an exchange (now famous among bureau agents), he told Robert Mueller: “Sir, in the FBI, we present facts. We don’t manufacture reasons for White House wars.” The director agreed, and the message went back that the assessment wouldn’t be changed.

The following is an interview with Arena, which has been trimmed for brevity. The questions have been edited for clarity.

Deadline Detroit: Tell me about the Detroit Crime Commission. What’s your core mission?

Arena: I think we’re looking at what are the gaps in law enforcement. First and foremost we’re gong to be looking at criminal enterprise, public-corruption-type investigations. As the FBI, I can’t go out and look at all these not-for-profits that people are using to funnel money through. Unless I’ve got reasonable suspicion that they’re using it for criminal activity, I can’t look at it. As a private entity I can do whatever the hell I want.

To read the full interview click here.

Flip-Flop Bandit Pleads Guilty for Illinois Stick-Up

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Carla R. Walker, 43, of Lebanon, Ill. must not have listed “running away” in her escape plan when she wore flip-flops to rob her hometown bank.

Walker pled guilty Thursday in federal court on one count of bank robbery, announced the Justice Department in a press release.

They must have heard Walker coming when she entered Lebanon’s First Federal Savings Bank sporting bright green flip-flops in March. She held up tellers with a pellet gun, nabbing between $14,000 and $16,000. That’s plenty to buy more practical get-away shoes for next time.

There may not be a next time though; she potentially is facing some serious prison time.

Gangster Whitey Bulger Started Snitching as Early as 1950s

Whitey Bulger/fbi

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Crime never pays, but working as an informant for the FBI sure seemed to for Mobster “Whitey” Bulger. That’s why he started snitching early… as early as the 1950s reports the Boston Globe.

Arrested with his girlfriend Catherine Greig last June after 16 years on the lamb, 82-year-old Bulger may not have changed much over the years. The Boston Globe recounts that “Whitey” was first motivated to collaborate with authorities to protect his girlfriend at the time, Jacqui McAuliffe, one of a string of loyal thrill-seekers endowed with movie-star good looks but short on morals.

The story begins after McAuliffe had traveled to Indiana with Bulger to rob a bank. Accomplice Carl Smith turned them in, meaning McAuliffe would also face charges as an accomplice. That’s when the cornered Bulger chose to squeal on fellow bank robber Richard Barchard in exchange for his girlfriend’s immunity. That first deal worked, and in 1956 McAuliffe got to go back to cutting hair in Boston while the chivalrous Bulger served a 20-year sentence for the Indiana heist.

Barchard, now 81, told the Globe he had no hard feelings about being turned in by his partner in crime. “All I know is that Whitey and I were friends. We committed a crime. We paid for doing the crime. He went his way and I went mine.”

To read more click here.

The John Edwards Case Just Didn’t Feel Right

Edwards after the trial/ from NBC newscast

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Some federal cases are too complicated for jurors. Some may be borderline illegal. And some may end up being a waste of taxpayer money.

The trial against ex-presidential hopeful John Edwards was probably all of the above.  A jury on Thursday acquitted him on one count and deadlocked on five others in a scandal that involved using nearly $1 million  – in what should have been declared as campaign funds — to help hide an extra-marital affair during the 2008 campaign.

It had a lot of gossip appeal, which made for good press, but in the end it seemed to lack the appropriate outrage quotient necessary to get all the jurors to jump into the guilty pool.

Who’s the loser.

The list is long.

For one, Edwards paid some serious bucks for a top-flight legal team.

Additionally, his reputation, which was already pretty poor, got tarnished even more. If you had any doubts that he was a sleaze, the trial helped put those to rest.

And he had to bear responsibility watching his family suffer through the trial.

 

The Justice Department once again looks bad. Granted, federal prosecutors shouldn’t fear losing. They should just worry about standing on solid ground. Some how, this one didn’t ever feel right to me.

The feds should have gone after some hefty civil fines. Edwards has lots of money. He would have gladly paid to make it go away. Maybe the money could have been put to good use.

And then there’s the former U.S. Attorney George Holding, who stuck around in his post to make sure that Edwards was indicted. He’s running for Congress and is expected to win.

But there’s talk of him jumping into the Senate race in North Carolina in 2014. A conviction of Edwards could only have bolstered his political capital. Now, sorry George, no added points for you.

So at this point, the question is: Should the feds go for a retrial?

I say absolutely not. In a case like this, one bite of the apple is enough. It’s not like the Rod Blagojevich case, which was certainly worth going after a second time after Blago was convicted on only 1 of 24 counts. The feds nailed him the second time.

This one is not worth going after again. Was Edwards a sneak? Yes. Is he a sleaze? Yes.

As the Washington Post noted:

“The mixed result in a trial that laid bare Edwards’s sexual indiscretions and serial deceptions came after nine days of jury deliberations.”

There are bigger crimes out there. And he’s paid  for his digressions. Let’s move on, and let’s forget we knew a Presidential candidate named John Edwards.

He is not worthy.

Colombo Mob Boss Pleaded Guilty to Racketeering and Firearms Charges in Boston Fed Court

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Mob boss DeLeo’s been off the streets for a while, but that hasn’t kept the feds from coming after him.

The 69-year-old Colombo Family ‘Street Boss’, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in Boston Federal court Thursday to racketeering conspiracy and illegal possession of firearms, the Justice Department announced in a press release.

As head of the DeLeo Crew based in Somerville, Mass., DeLeo led cocaine and marijuana trafficking operations between Massachusetts, Arkansas, Florida and New York. In addition to weapons and drugs, he was busted with a stash of costumes including police uniforms.

At the sentencing set for  Sept. 6, DeLeo will face up to nearly 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, followed by three years of supervised release. According to the Wall Street Journal, DeLeo’s already serving a 12 year sentence in federal prison for related drug crimes in Arkansas.

To read more click here.

 

FBI Sting Snares White Supremacist Who Threatened Prez: Faces Gun Charges

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An FBI sting snared a white supremacist in Virginia who posted threats about President Obama on a hate-website.

Douglas Story tried buying an illegal fully automatic machine gun from an undercover agent, Fox 5 reported.

Story alleged paid the agent to convert a rifle into a machine gun.

To read more click here.