Saturday, April 20, 2019

Former Manager For International Airline Pleads Guilty To Acting As An Agent Of The Chinese Government


The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
In Brooklyn, New York, Ying Lin pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), without notification to the Attorney General, by working at the direction and control of military officers assigned to the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.  Lin, a former manager with an international air carrier headquartered in the PRC (the Air Carrier), abused her privileges to transport packages from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) to the PRC aboard Air Carrier flights at the behest of the PRC military officers and in violation of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations.  The proceeding was held before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr of the FBI’s New York Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the guilty plea.
“This case is a stark example of the Chinese government using the employees of Chinese companies doing business here to engage in illegal activity,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Covertly doing the Chinese military’s bidding on U.S. soil is a crime, and Lin and the Chinese military took advantage of a commercial enterprise to evade legitimate U.S. government oversight.”
“The defendant’s actions as an agent of the Chinese government helped Chinese military officers to evade U.S. law enforcement scrutiny of packages that they sent from New York to Beijing,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This case demonstrates how seriously we address counterintelligence threats posed by individuals in the United States who work for foreign governments, such as China.” 
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners do all we can every day to protect this country from the threats we can see, and we work even harder to find the threats we can’t see,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “Ms. Lin was secreting packages through some of the country's busiest airports, using her work with the Chinese government to thwart our security measures.  We believe this case isn’t unique and hope it serves as an example that the Chinese and other foreign governments can't break our laws with impunity.”
“Lin’s criminal actions exploited the international boundary of the United States as she used her position to smuggle packages onto planes headed to China,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Melendez. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our international airports so they are not used as a front for illicit activities.”
Lin worked for the Air Carrier from 2002 through the fall of 2015 as a counter agent at JFK Airport and from the fall of 2015 through April 2016 as the station manager at Newark Liberty International Airport.  During her employment with the Air Carrier, Lin accepted packages from the PRC military officers, and placed those packages aboard Air Carrier flights to the PRC as unaccompanied luggage or checked in the packages under the names of other passengers flying on those flights.  As the PRC military officers did not travel on those flights, Lin’s actions were contrary to a security program that required that checked baggage be accepted only from ticketed passengers, thereby violating TSA regulations.  In addition, Lin encouraged other Air Carrier employees to assist the PRC military officers, instructing those employees that because the Air Carrier was a PRC company, their primary loyalty should be to the PRC.
In exchange for her work at the direction and under the control of PRC military officers and other PRC government officials, Lin received benefits from the PRC Mission and PRC Consulate in New York.  These benefits included tax-exempt purchases of liquor, cigarettes and electronic devices worth tens of thousands of dollars.  These benefits also included free contracting work at the defendant’s two residences in Queens, New York, by PRC construction workers who were permitted under the terms of their visas to work only on PRC government facilities.
When sentenced, Lin faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment.  As part of the guilty plea, Lin agreed to forfeit approximately $25,000 as well as an additional $145,000 in connection with her resolution of the government’s forfeiture verdict in United States v. Zhong, No. 16-CR-614 (AMD).
Mr. Demers and Mr. Donoghue expressed their appreciation to the Transportation Security Administration for their assistance on the case.  The government’s case is being handled by the National Security and Cybercrime Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas M. Pravda, Alexander A. Solomon, Ian C. Richardson and Sarah M. Evans are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Trial Attorney Matthew R. Walczewski of the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.  The forfeiture aspect of the case is being handled by EDNY Assistant United States Attorney Brian Morris of the Office’s Civil Division.

Friday, April 19, 2019

A little Humor: Over The Speed Limit



A woman was driving her old beat up car on the highway with her 7-year-old son.

She tried to keep up with traffic, but the other cars flew past her.

After getting caught up in a large group of cars flying down the road, she looked at her speedometer and saw that she was doing more than 20 miles over the speed limit.

Slowing down, she moved over to the side and got out of the group that sped on.

She looked up and saw the flashing lights of a police car behind her.

She pulled over and waited for the deputy sheriff to come up to her car. 

“Ma’am do you know why I pulled you over?” the deputy asked.

Her son piped up from the back seat, “I do… because you couldn’t catch the other cars!”

The Passion Of The Christ From The Gospel Of Mark


On this Good Friday the Washington Times offers The Passion of the Christ From the Gospel of Saint Mark:

Straightaway in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.

Pilate asked Him, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” And He answering said unto him, “Thou sayest it.” The chief priests accused Him of many things: but He answered nothing. Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Answerest thou nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee.” But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled.

You can read the rest via the below link:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/29/editorial-the-passion-of-the-christ-132831055/ 

Note: The above photo is actor Jim Caziveil as Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s great film, The Passion of the Christ. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks On The Release Of The Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election


The U.S. Justice Department released the below:
Good Morning.  Thank you all for being here today.
On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation of matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to Department of Justice regulations. 
As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I am committed to ensuring the greatest possible degree of transparency concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation, consistent with the law.
At 11:00 this morning, I will transmit copies of a public version of the Special Counsel’s report to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  The Department of Justice will also make the report available to the American public by posting it on the Department’s website after it has been delivered to Congress.
I would like to offer a few comments today on the report. 
But before I do that, I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for joining me here today and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process.  Rod has served the Department of Justice for many years with dedication and distinction, and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with him since my confirmation.  He had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that I interrupted by asking him to help in my transition.  Rod has been an invaluable partner, and I am grateful that he was willing to help me and has been able to see the Special Counsel’s investigation to its conclusion.  Thank you, Rod.
I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral process. 
As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.  Volume I of the Special Counsel’s report describes the results of that investigation.  As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” 
I am sure that all Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election.  As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election.  But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.  That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed. 
The Special Counsel’s report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election:
First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.  Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme.  Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large.
But the Special Counsel found no evidence that any Americans – including anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme.  Indeed, as the report states, “[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.”  Put another way, the Special Counsel found no “collusion” by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity.
Second, the report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails.  Obtaining such unauthorized access into computers is a federal crime.  Following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities.  Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large.
But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations.  In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking. 
The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet.  The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication.  Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps.  The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts.  Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.  Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.
Finally, the Special Counsel investigated a number of “links” or “contacts” between Trump Campaign officials and individuals connected with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.  After reviewing those contacts, the Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign.
So that is the bottom line.  After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes. 
After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation.  As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation.  Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense. 
After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. 
Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.  Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion. 
In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context.  President Trump faced an unprecedented situation.  As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.  At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.  Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.  And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.  Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.  And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.
Now, before I take questions, I want to address a few aspects of the process for producing the public report that I am releasing today.  As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information.  To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories.
As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case.
These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases.  The redactions are their work product.
Consistent with long-standing Executive Branch practice, the decision whether to assert Executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the President of the United States.  Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the President could have asserted privilege.  And he would have been well within his rights to do so.  Following my March 29th letter, the Office of the White House Counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the President on the potential invocation of privilege, which is consistent with long-standing practice.  Following that review, the President confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the Special Counsel’s report.  Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege. 

In addition, earlier this week, the President’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released.  That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication.  The President’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions. 
In addition to making the redacted report public, we are also committed to working with Congress to accommodate their legitimate oversight interests with respect to the Special Counsel’s investigation.  We have been consulting with Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. 
Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation.  Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information.  Thus, these members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted material for themselves – with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared. 
I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation.
Once again, I would like to thank you all for being here today.  I now have a few minutes for questions.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Little Night Music: Peter, Paul & Mary's 'Early Morning Rain'


You can watch Peter, Paul & Mary perform an old favorite song of mine, Early Morning Rain, which was written by Gordon Lightfoot, in 1966 on the BBC via the below link:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OCnHNk2Hac

A Little Humor: The Sportman's Double


A man met an older prostitute at a bar.

He thought the woman looked good for a 50-year-old. 

In fact, she wasn’t too bad at all, and he found himself thinking that she probably had a hot daughter.

They had a few drinks and then she asked if he’d ever had a “Sportsman’s Double?” 

“What’s that?” he asked. 

“It’s a mother and daughter threesome,’ she replied.

The man liked the idea and he wondered what her daughter might look like.

“No, I haven’t,” he told the woman.

They had a few more drinks and she winked at him and told him, “This is your lucky night”. 

They went to the woman’s apartment and went in.

The woman put on the lights and shouted, “Mom, you still awake?”

Note: The above photo is of Barbra Streisand as a hooker in the funny film, The Owl and the Pussycat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Two Romanian Cybercriminals Convicted Of All 21 Counts Relating To Infecting Over 400,000 Victim Computers With Malware And Stealing Millions Of Dollars


The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A federal jury today convicted two Bucharest, Romania, residents of 21 counts related to their scheme to infect victim computers with malware in order to steal credit card and other information to sell on dark market websites, mine cryptocurrency and engage in online auction fraud, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio.
Bogdan Nicolescu, 36, and Radu Miclaus, 37, were convicted after a 12-day trial of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts each of wire fraud.  Sentencing has been set for Aug. 14, 2019 before Chief Judge Patricia A. Gaughan of the Northern District of Ohio.
According to testimony at trial and court documents, Nicolescu, Miclaus, and a co-conspirator who pleaded guilty, collectively operated a criminal conspiracy from Bucharest, Romania.  It began in 2007 with the development of proprietary malware, which they disseminated through malicious emails purporting to be legitimate from such entities as Western Union, Norton AntiVirus and the IRS. When recipients clicked on an attached file, the malware was surreptitiously installed onto their computer.
This malware harvested email addresses from the infected computer, such as from contact lists or email accounts, and then sent malicious emails to these harvested email addresses.  The defendants infected and controlled more than 400,000 individual computers, primarily in the United States.
Controlling these computers allowed the defendants to harvest personal information, such as credit card information, user names and passwords.  They disabled victims’ malware protection and blocked the victims’ access to websites associated with law enforcement.
Controlling the computers also allowed the defendants to use the processing power of the computer to solve complex algorithms for the financial benefit of the group, a process known as cryptocurrency mining.
The defendants used stolen email credentials to copy a victim’s email contacts.  They also activated files that forced infected computers to register email accounts with AOL.  The defendants registered more than 100,000 email accounts using this method.  They then sent malicious emails from these addresses to the compromised contact lists.  Through this method, they sent tens of millions of malicious emails.
When victims with infected computers visited websites such as Facebook, PayPal, eBay or others, the defendants would intercept the request and redirect the computer to a nearly identical website they had created.  The defendants would then steal account credentials.  They used the stolen credit card information to fund their criminal infrastructure, including renting server space, registering domain names using fictitious identities and paying for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which further concealed their identities.
The defendants were also able to inject fake pages into legitimate websites, such as eBay, to make victims believe they were receiving and following instructions from legitimate websites, when they were actually following the instructions of the defendants.
They placed more than 1,000 fraudulent listings for automobiles, motorcycles and other high-priced goods on eBay and similar auction sites.  Photos of the items were infected with malware, which redirected computers that clicked on the image to fictitious webpages designed by the defendants to resemble legitimate eBay pages.
These fictitious webpages prompted users to pay for their goods through a nonexistent “eBay Escrow Agent” who was simply a person hired by the defendants.  Users paid for the goods to the fraudulent escrow agents, who in turn wired the money to others in Eastern Europe, who in turn gave it to the defendants.  The payers/victims never received the items and never got their money back.
This resulted in a loss of millions of dollars.
The Bayrob group laundered this money by hiring “money transfer agents” and created fictitious companies with fraudulent websites designed to give the impression they were actual businesses engaged in legitimate financial transactions.  Money stolen from victims was wired to these fraudulent companies and then in turn wired to Western Union or Money Gram offices in Romania.  European “money mules” used fake identity documents to collect the money and deliver it to the defendants. 
The FBI investigated the case, with assistance from the Romanian National Police.  Senior Counsel Brian Levine of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Duncan T. Brown and Brian McDonough of the Northern District of Ohio prosecuted the case.  The Office of International Affairs also provided assistance in this case.