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Tag: U.S. Attorney’s Office

Former ATF Security Guard Gets 14 Years in Prison for Stealing Firearms, Ammunition from Agency

Christopher Lee Yates

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former contract security guard who stole guns, ammunition and firearms parts from the ATF and then sold them was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison.

Christopher Lee Yates, of Martinsburg, W.V., admitted in court that he stole the items from ATF’s National Firearms and Ammunition Destruction Branch facility near Martinsburg.

An investigation found that Yates stole the guns, ammunition and firearm parts while serving as a security guard from 2016 to 2019.

The theft prompted an investigation that helped the ATF recover 4,625 guns and firearm parts. They included 120 rifles, 60 pistols, four automatic machine guns and three components to make rocket launchers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

What remains unclear is why the ATF didn’t have safeguards in place to avoid the thefts.

Feds Seize a Record 16.5 Tons of Cocaine Worth $1B+ in Philadelphia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine at the Philadelphia Port, calling it the largest coke bust in the history of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the third largest in the U.S.

The DEA bust netted 16.5 tons of cocaine from seven shipping containers found in a cargo ship docked at the Packer Marine Terminal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

Federal authorities arrested two members of the crew, Ivan Durasevic and Fonofaavae Tiasag.
Authorities said the ship appears to have originated from Chile and traveled to Peru, Columbia and Panama.

“This amount of cocaine could kill millions – MILLIONS – of people,” Philadelphia-based U.S. Attorney William McSwain said on Twitter, “My Office is committed to keeping our borders secure and streets safe from deadly narcotics.”

Ex-Federal Prosecutor Publishes 5th Novel, This Time About a Rape on a Prestigious Michigan College Campus

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Allison Leotta

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

For 12 years, Allison Leotta, a Detroit area native and Michigan State University grad, worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, dealing with sex crimes and domestic violence.

These days, she’s a novelist, who writes with authority on crime.

Once described in the Providence Journal as the female John Grisham, Leotta on May 3 will officially release her fifth novel, “The Last  Good Girl,” which deals with rape at a prestigious Michigan university named Tower University. Next week, she begins a book signing tour in Metro Detroit and northern Michigan

“There’s an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses in America,” Leotta said Friday in a phone interview with Deadline Detroit. “One in five girls will be sexually assaulted before they graduate. What I try to do in this book is weave these shocking statistics into a compelling, fascinating thriller.”

A synopsis on her website describes the book:

Emily Shapiro has disappeared.

A freshman at a Michigan university, Emily  was last seen leaving a college bar near Beta Psi, a prestigious and secretive fraternity. The main suspect is Dylan Highsmith, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. At first, the only clue is pieced-together surveillance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night . . . and Dylan running down the street after her.

When prosecutor Anna Curtis discovers a video diary Emily kept during her first few months at college, it exposes the history Emily had with Dylan: she accused him of rape before disappearing. Anna is horrified to discover that Dylan’s frat is known on campus as “the rape factory.”

“A lot of people have told me this is my strongest and best book yet,” she says.

Leotta said some people have gotten hold of the book online before the official release, including women who have been sexually assaulted.

“The response from readers has been more emotional and stronger than anything else I’ve written,” she said.

A Harvard Law School graduate, she lives in suburban D.C. with her husband and two sons.

 

Reporter in Washington D.C. Learns FBI Was Monitoring His Calls to Disgraced D.C. Councilman

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A tenacious reporter who covers urban affairs and the D.C. Council received a troubling email from the U.S. Attorney’s Office: His voice was picked up after agents tapped the cell phones of now-disgraced Councilman Michael Brown, WUSA9 reports.

“I’m not going to be surprised if I call someone at some point in the near future and they say ‘I can’t talk to you because the FBI might be listening,'” reporter Bruce Johnson told the news station, where he works. “Bottom line, of course it’s unsettling when you get a call saying the FBI has heard part of your conversation in the course of you doing your job.”

Here’s a statement from the US Attorney’s Office:

“As has been widely reported, during the investigation which led to former Council Member Michael A. Brown’s conviction on a bribery charge, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia authorized the interception of wire and electronic communications on two cell phones used by Mr. Brown during the relevant time period.

“Thus, some communications between Mr. Brown and individuals not otherwise connected to the government’s investigation were intercepted. Significantly, law enforcement utilized procedures to minimize and reduce to the smallest possible number the amount of innocent and non-pertinent communications that were intercepted between individuals and the target of its investigations.

“The government, as it does in all of its Title III investigations, recently provided notice to individuals who were named in the court orders authorizing interceptions or whose communications with Mr. Brown were intercepted during the course of its investigation. The contents of those intercepted communications will remain sealed, will not be used for any other purpose, and are not anticipated to result in any additional charges against Mr. Brown or anyone else.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-Prosecutor Turned Author Tries to Shield Her Parents from the Steamy Sex Scenes

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By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Allison Leotta, a Detroit native living in the D.C. area, likes to send her parents in Michigan a draft of her new novels — minus the chapters with the steamy sex scenes.

“I take out those chapters,” says Leotta, a Michigan State University graduate.

But her mother, Diane Harnisch, of West Bloomfield, Mich., says at least with the last transcript, her daughter may have forgotten to excise those chapters. Not that it really matters. She says she reads the published books as well.

“I want to know exactly what she’s writing,” says Harnisch. “Of course as a mom, it makes me a little uncomfortable  at times. and wondering how in heavens name does she know that stuff.”

Her parents and grandmother are perhaps her  biggest fans, but certainly not the only ones.

Leotta, 40,  who is married and the mother of two young boys, is on fire in the literary world.

Described in the Providence Journal as a female John Grisham, the former D.C. sex crimes prosecutor will release her third novel “Speak of the Devil”, Tuesday.

It’s part of the ongoing series centering around a fictional sex crime prosecutor named Anna Curtis. On day of the debut, she’ll appear for a book signing at 7 p.m. at Books-A- Million on Southfield Road in Beverly Hills.

The third book isn’t her last.

Leotta recently signed a contract with Touchstone/Simon & Schuster to write two more novels as part of the series, she tells Deadline Detroit.

In her latest book, the main character, prosecutor Anna Curtis gets engaged. That’s the good news.

On the downside, one of her cases takes a vicious turn.  A criminal named Diablo — the Devil — leads an attack on a brothel. It results in an investigation into the dangerous  MS-13 gang, which has roots in El Salvador.  Curtis tries to keep her personal and professional life separate.  But the dangers of the job come to her doorstep.

Leotta says this book is a little darker than previous works, “but it’s a lot more suspenseful. People who have read it have been surprised by all the twist and turns.”

A  sex crimes prosecutor, she left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. in 2011 to write full time.

While working as a prosecutor she wrote her first novel “Law of Attraction.” As policy, the Justice Department had to review the transcript for any security breaches. Leotta wasn’t worried about that. What concerned her was having colleagues having read the sex scenes.

Leotta, who grew up in Franklin and Farmington Hills, and attended Harvard Law School, always can depend on two people to help generate interest in her book signings in Metro Detroit:  Her father, Alan Harnisch of Troy, who is  a former federal prosecutor, and her mother.

“They’re my biggest fans,” she says. “They never fail to pack the bookstore with friends whenever I’m there.”

Her mother says: “I couldn’t be more proud of her or in awe of her ability.”

Interestingly, Leotta says her grandmother has read the books as well — steamy scenes and all.

“With my grandma, she read the published  books, and she said she was shocked, and said ‘ how did you learn all that stuff?”

Besides writing books, Leotta has a blog, The Prime Time Crime Review, which evaluates crime shows for true-to-life  accuracy.

 

Absence of ATF in Northern Nevada Thwarts Investigation into Guns, Other Crimes

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A tiff between the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Reno has left crime-stopping teams without the proper equipment to conduct undercover gun operations and gun buyback programs in northern Nevada, the Reno Gazette Journal reports.

Since ATF agents left the Nevada office, local and regional police have been unable to access surveillance equipment, federal wiretaps and money for gun buybacks.

“Not having an active ATF office has impacted our ability to conduct gun investigations because we don’t have the resources or manpower to do them safely,” said Sgt. Scott Tracy, head of the Sparks Police Department’s Crime Suppression Unit. “And the operations the feds were doing — they were taking illegal guns off the streets.”

The ATF largely abandoned its Nevada post after Assistant U.S. Attorney Sue Fahami sad in September 2011 that her office would not prosecute anymore cases until unnamed issues were resolved.

“The whole thing was a travesty,” said Reno Police Lt. Scott Dugan, head of his department’s Street Enforcement Team. “Losing that expertise has had a great impact.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Fed Field Trip, Destination: Italy

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

The U.S.  feds met with Italian law enforcement counterparts in Italy last week to make sure everyone was on the same page on organized crime.

The summit gave the FBI and several federal prosecutors from the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office a chance to connect the dots with Italian officials on current investigations and operational matters, reports the NY Daily News.

All five New York crime families maintain ties to the old country, but the Gambinos are the most actively linked. Italian police were essential to the 2008 takedown of 62 Gambino members. They also played an important part in the 2011 roundup of more than 100 mobsters in the U.S., says the Daily News.

The NY Feds took the opportunity while abroad to attend Italian Judge Giovanni Falcone’s anniversary memorial service. Falcone was assassinated 20 years ago by a roadside bomb planted by the mob.

To read more click here.

Ponzi Schemer Keith Simmons Sentenced to 50 Years Plus Restitution

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Keith Franklin Simmons, 47, of North Carolina, was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in prison for an elaborate Ponzi scheme that devastated hundreds of investors, mostly elderly and vulnerable, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

A disgusted U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad Jr. and agents involved in his case described Simmons as a callous swindling predator, who wreaked devastation leading victims to anxiety, despondency, and in one case according to the Winston Salem Journal, denouncing god and considering suicide.

Simmons and his co-conspirators began soliciting victims to invest in Black Diamond Capital Solutions in April 2007. Over 400 victims invested more than $40 million from 2007 to 2009, when the bogus claims of wild profits started to unravel and Simmons was arrested by the FBI. Rather than trading in the foreign currency exchange market, as promised, Simmons was funding his own extravagant life style with the investments.

Judge Conrad also sentenced Simmons to pay $35,331,632 in restitution, which will come from selling off that stolen lifestyle one property at a time.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced it will additonally “request liquidation of forfeited assets and return of net proceeds of liquidation to victims.”

Hopefully these reparations will happen quickly, as almost 100 of those who lost everything are over 75 years old and have no time to lose.

To read more click here.