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Tag: mail fraud

Rep. Chaka Fattah, Associates Indicted on Racketeering Conspiracy Charges

Rep. Chaka Fattah

Rep. Chaka Fattah

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and four associates were indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on racketeering conspiracy charges, accused of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and charity and campaign funds.

The 58-year-old Democrat from Philadelphia was charged in a 29-count indictment along with lobbyist Herbert Vederman, 69, of Palm Beach, Florida; Fattah’s Congressional District Director Bonnie Bowser, 59, of Philadelphia; and Robert Brand, 69, of Philadelphia; and Karen Nicholas, 57, of Williamstown, New Jersey, the FBI announced Wednesday.

They are accused of bribery, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and numerous counts of bank fraud, money laundering, making false statements to a financial institution and falsification of records.

“As charged in the indictment, Congressman Fattah and his associates embarked on a wide-ranging conspiracy involving bribery, concealment of unlawful campaign contributions and theft of charitable and federal funds to advance their own personal interests,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said. “When elected officials betray the trust and confidence placed in them by the public, the department will do everything we can to ensure that they are held accountable. Public corruption takes a particularly heavy toll on our democracy because it undermines people’s basic belief that our elected leaders are committed to serving the public interest, not to lining their own pockets.”

“These crimes and the subsequent elaborate cover-up constitute an egregious breach of public trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It is the duty of the FBI, IRS and Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute those who violate this trust and put personal gain above public service.”

Some of the charges date back to Fattah’s failed 2007 campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. He and his associates are accused of borrowing $1 million from a wealthy supporter and concealing the funds with sham contracts.

Fattah also is accused of trying to pay down a $130,000 campaign debt by attempting to steer federal grants to the consult with whom he owed money by inventing a nonprofit.

FBI Agents Bust Philadelphia Municipal Judge by Inventing Defendant

By Steve Neavling
tickethewire.com

A Philadelphia municipal judge who pleaded guilty last week to mail and wire fraud charges was caught in the act when the FBI invented a defendant, the Associated Press reports.

Judge Joseph Waters Jr., who was suspected of corruption, had no idea that the FBI created a bogus defendant, David Khoury, who was accused of carrying an unloaded pistol during a traffic stop.

Court documents show that an unidentified campaign donor asked the judge for leniency in the case of Khoury. According to those records, Waters urged another judge to help Khoury, calling the defendant  a friend.

Judge Admonishes FBI for Silly Argument for Not Releasing Public Records

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s argument for resisting an inmate’s Freedom of Information Act request is “transparently implausible,” a federal judge said in admonishing the bureau, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The FBI made the bizarre argument that the “FOIA request need not be disclosed because they reside on two CDs and a thumb drive.”

The FOIA requests by Gregory Bartko, who is serving prison time for conspiracy, mail fraud and selling unregistered securities, seek records involving the federal prosecutor who handled his case.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said the FBI must turn over the documents.

“The Bureau’s rationale seems to be that the electronic media in question are not ‘records’ for FOIA purposes because they are physical items that were presented to prosecutors as evidence,” Boasberg wrote. “Why this reasoning would exclude CDs that hold documents in digital form but not, say, the printer paper that will eventually hold this Opinion is beyond the Court.”

“In any case,” Boasberg continued, “no sophistry is necessary here, as Congress, with commendable technological foresight, amended FOIA in 1996 to cover records ‘maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format.’”

Former FBI Informant Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Same Crime He Was Helping Investigate

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former college professor who was working as an FBI informant investigating mortgage fraud was sentenced to four years and four months in prison Thursdsay for hatching his own mortgage fraud scheme, The Plain Dealer reports.

Paul Tomko asked for leniency but got none from U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko.

Tomko pleaded guilty in March to five charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

While Tomko pocketed about $100,000 by filing liens for work not performed, he also was working as an FBI agent from 2006-09, helping agents target fraudulent appraisers.

“How ironic,” the judge said. “While you’re helping the FBI you’re gutting the public.”

Brothers, Father Accused of Running Small Texas Town with Retaliation, Intimidation

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When it comes to politics in the small Texas town of Progreso, it’s safe to say the Vela family flexed some muscle.

Omar Vela, 35, is the town’s mayor. His brother, Michael Vela, 28 (pictured), is the president of the school board. And their father, Jose Guadalupe Vela, 64, works in management at the school district.

All three are accused of participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme involving contractors, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Following an FBI investigation, the trio were charged in federal court Wednesday with conspiracy, mail fraud, theft and bribery.

Special Agent Ricardo Ale testified in court Wednesday that the men ruled through intimidation and retaliation.

The border town of Progreso has a population of about 5,000.

Five Arrested in Foreclosure Bidding Conspiracy

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Creativity is one thing that never seems to be lacking when it comes to housing fraud, a pervasive problem.

The latest: Five men have been charged in an FBI probe into bid rigging on foreclosed homes at public auction in northern California, a local ABC affiliate reported on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury returned indictments on the men with charges including bid rigging and conspiracy to commit mail fraud on December 7th.

The indictment alleges that between September 2008 and October 2009 the men “entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and restrain competition by rigging bids to obtain selected properties offered at public auctions in San Joaquin County,” according to the report.

More specifically, the station reported that the “men agreed not to publicly bid against each other then held private auctions amongst themselves and divided the profits, according to Assistant United States Attorney Russell Carlberg.”

To read more click here.