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Tag: wire fraud

FBI Arrests Former Top Puerto Rico Officials in Corruption Case

Puerto Rico flag.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI arrested two former top officials in Puerto Rico for allegedly directing about $15.5 million in federal funding to political connected businesses.

According to prosecutors, Julia Keleher, former secretary of the department of education, and Angela Avila-Marrero, former head of the Health Insurance Administration, illegally directed the money to contractors who paid “unauthorized commissions” to help lobby for more contracts.

Both officials served in the administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, prompting officials to calls for his resignation. Among those officials is Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who is the chair of the Natural Resources Committee that oversees Puerto Rico.

“The Puerto Rican people deserve a government that takes public service seriously, that’s transparent and accountable, and that doesn’t let this happen in the first place,” Grijalva said in a statement.

The 32-count indictment charged four other consultants with wire fraud, theft and money laundering.

The charges come at a political sensitive time. Congress recently approved billions of dollars in aid to the island. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that money is now in jeopardy.

Chicago Alderman Who Pledged to Clean Up Graft Was Indicted on Corruption Charges

Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran

Chicago Alderman Willie Cochran

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Willie Cochran, a Chicago alderman who pledged to clean up corruption, was indicted Wednesday for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars in charitable donations for poor children and seniors.

The 15-count indictment alleges Cochran used the funds to gamble and pay for his daughter’s college tuition, the Chicago Tribune reports. 

Cochran also is accused of sharking down a liquor store and taking a bribe in connection with a blight-busting federal program.

The 64-year-old South Side alderman was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of extortion and two counts of bribery.

Cochran’s arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 23.

Former Aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell Pleads Guilty in Pay-to-Play Scheme

Harrisburg Capitol Building.

Harrisburg Capitol Building.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former top aide to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell pleaded guilty Tuesday in a pay-to-play scheme involving a phony company set up by the FBI.

John H. Estey pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud after funneling illegal campaign contributions to Pennsylvania legislators to help the fake company, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. 

Estey’s attorney said hie client was “sorry about the mistakes he has made.”

Estey is facing up to 20 years in prison but sentencing guidelines call for six months of probation.

The Double Steal — The Right and Wrong Way to Steal Trade Secrets

Bill Davidson

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

It took about 5,000 years from the discovery of glass until a process was developed to economically mass produce flat glass, and only a few years before the technology was stolen.

Glass is one of the great fundamental inventions – not at the level of the wheel or fire, but up pretty high on the list. Glass is chiefly made from relatively common and inexpensive raw materials: sand, soda ash (sodium carbonate) and lime.

No one knows when glass was first invented or by whom. It does occur in nature when lightning strikes sand or sometimes from volcanic eruptions (obsidian). Its first use seems to have been as a glaze for ceramic vessels in about 3,000 BCE. It wasn’t until about 1,500 BCE that glass vessels were produced in Egypt (ultimately used to hold beer, one of my favorite inventions). The use of a pipe for blowing superheated glass wasn’t invented until circa 30 BCE.

Through the ages uses for glass have multiplied and are as diverse as flat glass to optical lenses which enabled the development of telescopes and microscopes. But this story is about the technology to produce flat glass, and why some people would go to great lengths to steal it.

Flat glass is used primarily for windows and doors on homes, buildings and vehicles. Until relatively recently there wasn’t an economical way to produce large quantities of quality flat glass.

Flat glass was originally made by blowing cylinders of glass that were cut open and flattened then cut into panes. Most window glass up until the early 1800s was made using the cylinder method. The cylinders were limited in size. They were 6-8 feet (2-3m) long and 10-14 inches (~30cm) in diameter, thus limiting the size of the panes that could be cut. Large windows had to be made of multiple panes.

In 1848 Henry Bessemer, an English engineer, designed a system that produced a continuous ribbon of flat glass by forming the ribbon of molten glass between rollers. This was an expensive process as the surface of the glass had to be ground and polished. This did overcome the size limitations of the cylinder method. Beginning in the 1920s, a continuous ribbon of glass was passed through a lengthy series of inline grinders and polishers, reducing glass loss and cost.

The major breakthrough in the production of flat glass didn’t come until the late 1950s. Sir Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff of Pilkington Brothers, Ltd. in the UK developed the first successful commercial float glass process.

Bill Davidson

Float glass uses common glass-making raw materials. The materials are mixed with cullet (waste glass) in a furnace where it is heated to ~2,800 degrees F (1,500C). When the mixture becomes molten, it is allowed to pour onto a “tin bath,” a bath of molten tin about 2.3 inches (6cm) deep, 3-4 feet (3-4m) wide and 150 feet (45m) long.

The glass enters via a canal. The speed and volume of glass flow is controlled by a gate called a twill. The glass literally floats on top of the tin with uniform thickness. (The molten tin does not adhere to the glass, but an oxygen free atmosphere has to be maintained to keep the tin from oxidizing and adhering to the glass.) As the glass flows along the tin bath, the temperature is gradually reduced. At the end of the bath, the glass has cooled to approximately 1,100F (600C). At that temperature the glass can be lifted from the bath onto rollers. The glass ribbon is pulled by the rollers at a controlled speed. The speed at which the glass is pulled determines its thickness.

As the glass is pulled from the bath, it passes through a lehr (a type of kiln) where it gradually cools so that it anneals and does not crack from more rapid temperature change. After exiting the lehr, the glass is cut by machines.

Read more »

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.

Former FBI agent, Rep. Michael Grimm, faces federal charges, surrenders to FBI in New York

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent, was indicted Monday on 20 counts of fraud and other charges in connection to a Manhattan restaurant he owned, Fox News reports.

The Republican from New York evading the IRS and hiding more than $1 million in profits to avoid paying taxes.

Grimm, who was released on a $400,000 bond, pleaded not guilty in a Brooklyn federal court following his arrest earlier in the day.

“Michael Grimm made the choice to go from upholding the law to breaking it,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said at a press conference detailing the charges. “And in doing so, he turned his back on every oath he had ever taken.”

Grimm responded that he’s the victim of a “political witch hunt.”

“We’re going to fight tooth and nail until I am fully exonerated,” Grimm said outside the courthouse, flanked by his attorneys.
Grimm was previously an FBI special agent and Marine Corps combat veteran.

The indictment accuses him of mail and wire fraud charges and filing false federal tax returns. According to the indictment, he tried to hide the sales at his Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, which he operated from 2007 to 2010.

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.”

Con Man Wanted Hitmen to Store Heads of Judge, Prosecutor in Formaldehyde Until His Release

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Joseph Romano, a convicted con man, wanted revenge for being sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

So much so, reports the New York Daily News, that he tried to hire hitmen to torture and decapitate the judge and prosecutor who oversaw his case in New York.

An added bonus to the killers: Store their heads in formaldehyde until Romano’s release from prison, according to the Daily News, citing authorities at a court hearing Tuesday.

Romano, 49, was convicted in 2010 of wire and bank fraud in connection with a scheme to sell collectible coins at outrageously inflated prices.