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Archive for February 27th, 2014

ATF official Tom Brandon: No New Stings Underway After Botched Operations

Tom Brandon/atf photo

By John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON — After running nearly 40 undercover storefront stings in the last five years, the ATF’s deputy director says no such operations are now underway and that improvements in oversight have been made in the wake of botched operations nationwide.

Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon testified Thursday before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and acknowledged significant deficiencies in undercover storefront stings saying there was no justification for having the wrong people charged, as happened in Milwaukee, or the lack of outside cover teams to ensure armed felons didn’t leave.

He called locating an undercover gun-buying operation in Portland, Ore., across the street from a middle school “a mistake” and said it “wasn’t great judgment” for agents there to pay two teens to get tattoos depicting the fake storefront’s logo of a giant squid smoking a joint.

He said the young men requested the tattoos — testimony that conflicts with the account of events described in court by the prosecuting attorney.

To read more click here.

Read Tom Brandon’s statement

 

Update: Attorney General Eric Holder is Fine and Home From the Hospital

Update: Thursday, 4:30 p.m. — Attorney Gen. Eric Holder was released from the hospital this afternoon.  The Justice Department issued a statement:

“The Attorney General has been discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He was taken there earlier today as a precaution, after experiencing lightheadedness and shortness of breath during a senior staff meeting at the Justice Department in Washington.

“The Attorney General arrived at the hospital at approximately 10:30 am, and was treated for an elevated heart rate. He received medication that quickly restored his heart rate to a normal level, and after successfully completing a full range of tests, doctors were satisfied that the Attorney General could be discharged.

“He departed the hospital at 1:15 pm. He walked out without any assistance, and has returned home, where he is resting comfortably.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has a stressful job, and perhaps the stress peeked its head on Thursday.

The Justice Department reported that as a precaution after feeling faint and being short of breath Thursday during a morning staff meeting, Holder was taken MedStar Washington Hospital Center by ambulance. He appears to be doing fine.

The Justice Department issued a statement saying:

“During his regular morning meeting with senior staff, the Attorney General began experiencing symptoms including faintness and shortness of breath. As a precaution, the Attorney General was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center to undergo further evaluation. He is currently resting comfortably and in good condition. He is alert and conversing with his doctors. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.”

He will remain in the hospital for testing, the station reported.

Former Inspector General for HUD is Indicted in Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former head of the Office of Inspector General’s Atlanta office faces charges of making false statements to a bank to obtain a mortgage loan and conspiring to obstruct an investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta said Thursday.

Herschell Harvell, Jr., 53,  made his initial appearance in federal court in Atlanta.  Harvell’s co-defendant and nephew, Tavus A. Wright also made his initial appearance on federal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury.

He is accused of obstructing an investigation into his real estate transactions by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG). He was terminated last year.

 “As a federal law enforcement officer, Harvell was entrusted with supervising mortgage fraud investigations,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. in a statement“It is particularly troubling that someone responsible for investigating mortgage fraud is charged with committing it and with obstructing justice to cover up his crimes.”

David Montoya,  Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement: “It is a regrettable day for the dedicated, hard-working men and women of our organization. We cannot tolerate or condone the abuse of trust and the violation of the very laws that Mr. Harvell was sworn to investigate and that is why I brought this matter to the attention of the U.S. Attorney.  I am profoundly disappointed at that break down of our former employee’s ethical and moral compass.”

A press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta stated:

Between 2007 and 2012, Harvell served as a supervisory Special Agent in several HUD-OIG offices, including as a Special Agent in Charge in Fort Worth and Atlanta. Harvell also owned residential homes in the Atlanta area as investment properties. During 2007 and 2008, he acquired and refinanced several more homes with mortgage loans. In addition, in January and February 2008, Harvell purchased a Precision Tune automobile care franchise, incurring significant expenses in connection with that purchase.

On March 25, 2008, Harvell refinanced one of his rental homes and received over $23,000 in cash. Harvell’s loan application represented that he had a $70,000 certificate of deposit and that he received $6,180 in monthly rental income from six residential homes. The indictment alleges that these representations were false. It is alleged that Harvell had cashed in the certificate of deposit more than a month before, during the time period that he was purchasing the Precision Tune Franchise. In addition, it is alleged that Harvell’s houses were not rented or producing the rental income as stated on his loan application. For example, it is alleged that Harvell in fact received less than $900 in rent in March 2008 and for the year to date, had received less than $6,000 total in rental income.

The indictment alleges that during the course of the HUD-OIG investigation of the accuracy of Harvell’s loan application, Harvell’s nephew, Tavus Wright, provided false information to agents and perjured himself before the grand jury about whether he had signed a document used to demonstrate to Harvell’s lender that one of his houses was rented.

 

 

Florida State Attorney to Reveal Results of Investigation of FBI Shooting of Friend of Boston Marathon Bomber

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A state investigation into the mysterious fatal shooting of a friend of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerian Tsaranev during an FBI interview is expected to be released next month.

The Boston Herald reports that Florida state Attorney Jeffrey Ashton anticipates releasing the report by the end of March.

The Florida investigation is one of three into what happened to 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev when he was being interview by FBI agents and state police at his Orlando apartment.

Top Criminal Prosecutor at Justice Department Is Leaving Following High-Profile Cases

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Mythili Raman, the Justice Department’s top criminal attorney, is leaving the agency next month following high-profile cases of corporate misdeeds, Reuters reports.

Raman is a 17-year veteran of the department and once acted as chief after her predecessor, Lanny Breuer, stepped down last year.

Raman said she’s not sure what’s next in her career.

A Senate panel today is expected to consider Breuer’s replacement, Leslie Caldwel, a former federal prosecutor who helped prosecute Enron Corp.

Congressional Panel to Probe Discovery That FBI Was in Direct Contact with Osama bin Laden in 1990s

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A special congressional panel will investigate revelations this week that the FBI was in direct contact with Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s, the Washington Times reports.

The agency’s close contact with bin Laden was never included in the official investigations of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the Washington Times disclosed the existence of a mole Wednesday after being tipped off about an old employment case that happens to divulge the information.

The investigation will be taken up by a special panel that was recently authorized by Congress to review FBI reforms following the terrorist attacks.

Homeland Security Is Shedding Air Marshal Jobs Because of Deep Budget Cuts

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Budget cuts have forced Homeland Security to reduce the number of Federal Air Marshals whose job is to protect aircrafts from terrorists, CNN reports, citing internal emails.

The department declined to say how many marshals the department has lost in the past three years.

Critics blasted the department for its secrecy surrounding the issue.

It’s believed that the agency had about 3,500 air marshals about two years ago.

Air Marshal Director Robert Bray said the agency’s budget has been slashed from $966 to $806 million over the past three years.