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A Detroit DEA Agent Talks About A Case That Became the Subject of the Clint Eastwood film, ‘The Mule’

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — In 2011, Kent Kleinschmidt, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, headed an enforcement group in the Detroit office that was investigating ties between a local drug organization and the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico led by the notorious Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

The case eventually lead to some serious seizures of cocaine and  money and the arrest in October 2011 of Leo Sharp, an 87-year-old “mule” caught transporting 104 kilos of cocaine from Arizona to Michigan for the cartel. Michigan State Police, at the direction of the DEA, pulled over Sharp on I-94 in Washtenaw County and arrested him. Kleinschmidt was nearby watching.

Sharp was sentenced in Detroit to three years in prison. He got out early because of a terminal illness and died Dec. 12,  2016 at 92.

Now Sharp is the subject of a Clint Eastwood film, “The Mule.” (See the trailer.)

Kleinschmidt, an assistant special agent in charge of the Detroit DEA, talked about the film on Thursday, a day before the national debut.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The FBI’s Robert Hassen, An American Spy

7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies of Dehydration While in Border Patrol Custody

Border marker, via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died while in Border Patrol custody after she and her father were taken into custody for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, federal authorities confirmed Thursday.

The girl died of dehydration and shock a day after she was arrested by Borer Patrol agents near Lordsburg, N.M., The Washington Post reports

The CBP said the girl began having seizures after being in custody for more than eight hours and had a body temperature of 105.7 degrees. She died at a hospital in El Paso.

In a statement, CBP said she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

CBP typically provides food and water to migrants, but it wasn’t clear if that happened in this case.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Feds: Were Middle Easterners Promised Influence over American Policy Through Trump Donations?

President Trump’s inauguration, via White House

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether highly influential businessmen from the Middle East tried to buy influence over American policy by donating to President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC.

The investigation is examining whether people from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates used straw donors – or American intermediaries – to donate to the funds since federal law bars foreigners from contributing to political campaigns, The New York Times reports.  

Trump friend and billionaire Thomas Barrack

One of Trump’s closest friends, billionaire financier Thomas J. Barrack Jr., raised a significant amount of money for the funds. He’s known for having an extensive network of business connections in the Persian Gulf.

The PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was created in the summer of 2016 when Trump was struggling to raise money for his presidential run. Such PACs can raise an unlimited amount of money, but only if they’re not closely coordinated with the campaign.

Barrack told investigators a year ago that Trump’s campaign boss, Paul Manafort, treated the PAC as a fundraising arm of the campaign.

The PAC raised $23 million, primarily from big donors such as Linda McMahon, a professional wrestling executive whom Trump later appointed to head the Small Business Administration. She donated $6 million.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Barrack and Manafort went on a Mediterranean cruise together in August 2016, just three months before the presidential election. On the cruise, the pair met with several influential Middle Easterners, including Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar and one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Barrack denied any wrongdoing.

“Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to either the campaign, the inauguration or any such political activity,” said Owen Blicksilver, a spokesman for Barrack.

Prosecutors also are investigating whether Middle Easterners and others funneled money into Trump’s $107 million inaugural fund in exchange for access to the new presidential administration, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Federal law prohibits the exchange of money for political favors.

Trump raised more money for his inauguration than any previous president. The donations largely came from billionaires and corporations, including casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, AT&T Inc. and Boeing Co. 

Another donor was billionaire Dan Gilbert, whose Quicken Loans company has been under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly targeting, among others, lower-income African Americans for mortgages, many of which went belly up.

Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison, Blaming Blind Loyalty to Trump

Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Trump.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former longtime attorney and self-described fixer was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to nine federal charges, including making secret payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

The charges also included lying to congress about his involvement with a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

Cohen, 52, told Judge William Pauley that his loyalty to Trump led him “to choose darkness over light.”

“Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,” Cohen said.

Cohen apologized to his family and U.S. citizens.

“I am truly sorry and I promise I will be better,” he said.

Cohen pleaded guilty as part of an agreement to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Mueller wrote in a sentencing memo that Cohen provided “relevant and useful.”

It’s not year clear what information Cohen has provided.

Manafort May No Longer Challenge Mueller’s Allegations That He Lied to Prosecutors

Paul Manafort’s mugshot

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

After insisting Paul Manafort did not lie to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of a plea deal, attorneys for the former campaign chief for Donald Trump may no longer contest allegations that Manafort provided false information.

Manafort’s attorney Richard Westling met with Mueller’s team Tuesday before saying in federal court that “the certainty of the hearing is less clear,” Huffington Post and other media outlets reported.

Mueller rescinded the plea deal with Manafort in late November, saying he violated the plea deal by lying to prosecutors.

Manafort has until Jan. 7 to decide whether to contest the allegations that he lied. 

Manafort, who was found guilty in August of eight criminal charges lodged by Mueller, is set to be sentenced on March 5.

He faces more jail time for allegedly lying to prosecutors.

DEA Agent Indicted on Charges of Decade-Long Affiliation with Deadly Drug Gang

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A sweeping federal indictment alleges a DEA agent began working with a gang a decade ago while he was a police officer in Illinois and continued the work while at the drug agency’s Chicago field office.

According to the indictment, Fernando Gomez, 41, was affiliated with the Organizacion de Narcotraficantes Unidos, a Puerto Rico-based group that imported vast amounts of cocaine into the U.S. and was involved in at least eight drug-related killings.

He was arrested at the DEA’s field office Tuesday morning, The Chicago Tribune reports

When Gomez was a detective for Evanston police, prosecutors said he began working with the gang, obtaining guns from drug dealers and giving them to gang leader Jose Martinez-Diaz, AKA “Tony Zinc.”

The indictment alleges Gomez became a DEA agent to provide protection for the gang.

Michael Flynn Asks for No Prison for Cooperating with Mueller’s Team

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn is asking a judge to spare him prison time for cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Instead, Flynn is requesting to be sentenced to one year of probation, his attorneys wrote in a memo in advance of his Dec. 18 sentencing date.

“His cooperation was not grudging or delayed,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote, according to The New York Times.

Flynn’s lawyers also cited the Army general’s lengthy military service.

But his lawyers also suggested he was tricked into lying by the FBI, repeating a narrative often used by Trump.