Friday, February 22, 2019

Sons Of Convicted Drug Lord Joaquin Guzman Loera Aka “El Chapo” Charged With Drug Trafficking


The Justice Department released the below information:
An indictment against Joaquin Guzman Lopez and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, charging them with a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana for importation into the United States was unsealed last week. The Guzman Lopez brothers, believed to currently reside in Mexico, are the sons of Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka “El Chapo,” who was convicted by a jury in the Eastern District of New York for his role as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Arizona Field Office made the announcement.
Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 34, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 28, are charged in a one-count indictment alleging that from in or around April 2008, through April 2018, they conspired to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana from Mexico and elsewhere for importation into the United States.  This case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras.
The case was investigated by HSI.  This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle, and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Trial Attorneys Anthony Aminoff and Anthony Nardozzi of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) are prosecuting the case. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Washington Times Piece On Targeting Crime Guns


The Washington Times published my piece on targeting crime guns.

While reading a Department of Justice report that states that fewer than 1 in 50 criminals obtained a firearm legally to use in the course of committing a crime, I thought of George V. Higgins’ classic 1972 crime novel, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.’

The fictional character Eddie Coyle, a 45-year-old stocky career criminal, is a low-level gunrunner who purchases guns illegally and then sells those illegal guns to Jimmy Scalisi, the leader of a gang of violent bank robbers in Boston. The fine 1973 film adaptation of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” starring the late, great actor Robert Mitchum as Eddie Coyle, was faithful to the novel.

The late Mr. Higgins (seen in the below photo), a former newspaper crime reporter, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts when he wrote his great crime novel. Mr. Higgins knew how hoodlums spoke, which is why the novel’s dialogue is so gritty and authentic. And he knew how they operated, which why his fictional armed robbers obtained their guns from an illicit source, namely Eddie Coyle, rather than a legal gun store.

Mr. Higgins knew that criminals didn’t go to retail stores and purchase firearms legally. One can’t imagine Eddie Coyle or Jimmy Scalisi taking the time to fill out the proper forms and then wait patiently for a background check prior to purchasing a gun. Both characters had extensive criminal records, which would in any case prohibited them from purchasing firearms legally.

This report points out what any cop will tell you. Criminals mostly buy illegal guns from other criminals and they use these crime guns to rob, steal, rape and murder. I’m thankful that the Justice Department and local police departments are targeting professional criminals who sell firearms to other criminals. This, in my view, is true gun control. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:




Department Of Veterans Affairs Official Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison For $2 Million Bribery Scheme Involving Program For Disabled Military Veterans


The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official was sentenced today for demanding and receiving bribes from three for-profit schools in exchange for enrolling disabled military veterans in those schools and facilitating over $2 million in payments from the VA using the veterans’ federal benefits. 
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Kim Lampkins of the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.
James King, 63, of Baltimore, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to an Information alleging one count of honest services and money/property wire fraud, one count of bribery of a public official, and one count of falsifying records to obstruct an investigation.  King was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia to serve 132 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and to pay $155,000 in restitution to the VA.  Earlier this week, Judge Bates sentenced three school owners and employees who admitted to bribing King.  Albert Poawui, the owner of Atius Technology Institute, was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution.  Sombo Kanneh, Poawui’s employee, was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison and ordered to pay $113,000 in restitution.  Michelle Stevens, the owner of Eelon Training Academy, was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $83,000 in restitution.
“James King and his associates exploited an important VA program that provides valuable services to our disabled military veterans,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “This prosecution once again demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to hold accountable those who seek to defraud government programs for their own personal enrichment.”
“James King blatantly betrayed his responsibility with the VA to provide job and educational counseling to disabled military veterans who turned to him for help,” said U.S. Attorney Liu.  “Instead of helping our veterans, he lined his own pockets by taking bribes to send them to three sham schools that brought them only pain and frustration. Today’s sentencing holds him accountable for this breach of trust and this waste of taxpayer money.”
“King tried to use his position to enrich himself at the expense of veterans who have honorably served our country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge DeSarno.  “Today's sentencing makes it clear that such activity by anyone affiliated with the U.S. government will not be tolerated.  The FBI will work closely with our partners to continue to aggressively investigate allegations of corruption.”
“We are pleased to see Mr. King, a person who abused his position of trust and the veterans he was supposed to serve, sentenced today,” said VA OIG Special Agent in Charge Lampkins.  “This sentence sends a clear message that VA OIG is dedicated to prosecuting those that take advantage of VA programs that are intended to help our veterans and their families.”
According to King’s admissions made in connection with his plea, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) provides disabled U.S. military veterans with education and employment-related services.  VR&E program counselors advise veterans under their supervision which schools to attend and facilitate payments to those schools for veterans’ tuition and necessary supplies.
From 2015 through 2017, King, using his position as a VR&E program counselor, demanded and received cash bribes from the owners of Atius Technology Institute (Atius), Eelon Training Academy (Eelon), and School A, a school purporting to specialize in physical security classes.  King facilitated over $2 million in payments to Atius, over $83,000 to Eelon, and over $340,000 to School A, all in furtherance of King’s separate agreements with the respective school owners to commit bribery and defraud the VA.  King agreed with Poawui and Stevens that they would each pay him, in cash, seven percent of the money they received from the VA in exchange for King steering veterans to their schools and facilitating VA payments.  King similarly accepted cash payments from the owner of School A, who is identified as Person A in the Information, in exchange for the same official acts.
In order to maximize the profits from their fraud, all three school owners sent King and other VA officials false information about the education being provided to veterans, and King facilitated payments to all three schools knowing this information was false.  King also admitted to repeatedly lying to veterans under his supervision in order to convince them to attend Atius, Eelon, or School A.  For example, King falsely instructed one veteran that, unless he attended School A, his VR&E program benefits would “lapse.”  King insisted that this veteran enroll in School A despite the veteran’s protests that he could not engage in physical security work due to a physical disability, and despite the fact that the veteran had enrolled in the VR&E program to pursue his dream of becoming a baker.
In early 2017, the VA initiated a fact-finding inquiry into Atius based on complaints by students as to the quality of education at the school.  In August 2017, after King became aware of the inquiry, he created a falsified site visit report and instructed Poawui to send it to another VA official, all in an effort to obstruct the VA’s inquiry into Atius.  In January 2018, King attempted to convince Poawui to lie to the grand jury about the purpose of the bribe payments.
King’s plea is the result of an ongoing investigation by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the VA Office of Inspector General.  Trial Attorney Simon J. Cataldo of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and current Fraud Section Trial Attorney Sonali D. Patel and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Misler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Tale of Two Drugs Lords: From Cosa Nostra To Guzmán – It’s Strictly Business


Ed Vulliamy at the Guardian offers a look back at the Sicilian Cosa Nostra boss, Salvatore "Toto" Riina (seen in the above photo on the left), and the Mexican cartel boss Joaguin "El Shorty" Guzman (seen in the above photo on the right).
They both bore the same nickname: “Shorty”. Salvatore Riina, boss of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra from the late 1970s, reportedly until his death in jail in 2017, was known as Totò ‘u Curtu in dialect. And Joaquín Guzmán Loera, convicted last week of being the world’s biggest drug lord and leader of crime’s mightiest syndicate, Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, became famous as “El Chapo”.
Riina was also called La Belva – the beast – for self-explanatory reasons, and Guzmán, El Rapido, for the speed at which he delivered Colombian cocaine, via Mexico, to the US and Europe.
I saw them both stand trial, a quarter of a century apart: the closing phases of the mafia “Maxi trial” in 1992 with Riina convicted in absentia; then Riina’s own case in 1993; and the opening salvos of Guzmán’s trial last November. Two eras separating two hemispheres; same business, same nickname. And how that business model appeared to change, yet remained in many crucial respects the same. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Saturday, February 16, 2019

One American And One Chinese National Indicted In Tennessee For Conspiracy To Commit Theft Of Trade Secrets And Wire Fraud


The Justice Department released the below information:
A grand jury sitting in Greeneville, Tennessee has returned an indictment against Xiaorong You, a/k/a Shannon You, 56, of Lansing, Michigan, and Liu Xiangchen, 61, of Shandong Province, China for conspiracy to steal trade secrets related to formulations for bisphenol-A-free (BPA-free) coatings.  You was also indicted on seven counts of theft of trade secrets and one count of wire fraud.
Assistant Attorney General National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee, FBI Executive Assistant Director for the National Security Branch Jay Tabb, and Special Agent in Charge Troy Sowers of the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office made the announcement.
“The conduct alleged in today’s indictment exemplifies the rob, replicate and replace approach to technological development,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Xiaorong You is accused of an egregious, premediated theft and transfer of trade secrets worth more than $100 million for the purpose of setting up a Chinese company that would compete with the American companies from which the trade secrets were stolen.  Unfortunately, China continues to use its national programs, like the ‘Thousand Talents,’ to solicit and reward the theft of our nation’s trade secrets and intellectual property, but the Justice Department will continue to prioritize investigations like these, to ensure that China understands that this criminal conduct is not an acceptable business or economic development practice.” 
“Our office is committed to working closely with our federal, state and local partners to identify and prosecute those who engage in illegal and deceptive practices to steal trade secret and protected information from companies who spend millions of dollars to develop it,” said U.S. Attorney Overbey.  “Not only can theft of this information be potentially devastating to our American companies, it could also pose a threat to our overall national and economic security.”
“The facts laid out in this indictment show the conspirators engaged in blatant criminal activity,” said Executive Assistant Director Tabb.  “They didn't stop at going after technical secrets belonging to just one company.  They allegedly targeted multiple companies and made off with trade secrets at an estimated value of almost 120 million dollars.  As this case demonstrates, the FBI is determined to do everything possible to bring to justice those who try to steal secrets belonging to American companies.”
"As this indictment highlights, theft of trade secrets from American companies is an emerging economic threat, even here in East Tennessee," said Special Agent in Charge Sowers.  "The tireless work of our agents and prosecutors in this case underscores the FBI's commitment to protecting American ingenuity."
The BPA-free trade secrets allegedly stolen by these individuals belonged to multiple owners and cost an estimated total of at least $119,600,000 to develop.  Until recently, bisphenol-A (BPA) was used to coat the inside of cans and other food and beverage containers to help minimize flavor loss, and prevent the container from corroding or reacting with the food or beverage contained therein.  However, due to the discovered potential harmful effects of BPA, companies began searching for BPA-free alternatives. These alternatives are difficult and expensive to develop.
From December 2012 through Aug. 31, 2017, You was employed as Principal Engineer for Global Research by a company in Atlanta, which had agreements with numerous companies to conduct research and development, testing, analysis and review of various BPA-free technologies.  Due to her extensive education and experience with BPA and BPA-free coating technologies, she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secrets belonging to the various owners.  From approximately September 2017 through June 2018, You was employed as a packaging application development manager for a company in Kingsport, Tennessee, where she was one of a limited number of employees with access to trade secrets belonging to that company.
Details of the conspiracy are included in the indictment on file with the U.S. District Court.  The indictment alleges that You, Liu, and a third co-conspirator formulated a plan in which You would exploit her employment with the two American employers to steal trade secrets and provide the information for the economic benefit of trade secrets the Chinese company that Liu managed, which would manufacture and profit from products developed using the stolen trade secrets.  In exchange, Liu would cause the Chinese company to reward You for her theft, by helping her receive the Thousand Talent and another financial award, based on the trade secrets she stole, and by giving You an ownership share of a new company that would “own” the stolen trade secrets in China.  The conspirators also agreed to compete with U.S. and foreign companies, including some of the owners of the stolen stolen trade secrets, in China and elsewhere, by selling products designed, developed and manufactured using the stolen trade secrets.
The charges contained in this indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Eastern District of Tennessee and the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Former U.S. Counterintelligence Agent Charged With Espionage On Behalf of Iran; Four Iranians Charged With A Cyber Campaign Targeting Her Former Colleagues


The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, a former U.S. service member and counterintelligence agent, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for conspiracy to deliver and delivering national defense information to representatives of the Iranian government.  Witt, who defected to Iran in 2013, is alleged to have assisted Iranian intelligence services in targeting her former fellow agents in the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC).  Witt is also alleged to have disclosed the code name and classified mission of a U.S. Department of Defense Special Access Program. An arrest warrant has been issued for Witt, who remains at large.
The same indictment charges four Iranian nationals, Mojtaba Masoumpour, Behzad Mesri, Hossein Parvar and Mohamad Paryar (the “Cyber Conspirators”), with conspiracy, attempts to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft, for conduct in 2014 and 2015 targeting former co-workers and colleagues of Witt in the U.S. Intelligence Community.  The Cyber Conspirators, using fictional and imposter social media accounts and working on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), sought to deploy malware that would provide them covert access to the targets’ computers and networks.  Arrest warrants have been issued for the Cyber Conspirators, who also remain at large.
The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Executive Assistant Director for National Security Jay Tabb of the FBI, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Special Agent Terry Phillips of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
“Monica Witt is charged with revealing to the Iranian regime a highly classified intelligence program and the identity of a U.S. Intelligence Officer, all in violation of the law, her solemn oath to protect and defend our country, and the bounds of human decency,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Four Iranian cyber hackers are also charged with various computer crimes targeting members of the U.S. intelligence community who were Ms. Witt’s former colleagues. This case underscores the dangers to our intelligence professionals and the lengths our adversaries will go to identify them, expose them, target them, and, in a few rare cases, ultimately turn them against the nation they swore to protect.  When our intelligence professionals are targeted or betrayed, the National Security Division will relentlessly pursue justice against the wrong-doers.” 
“This case reflects our firm resolve to hold accountable any individual who betrays the public trust by compromising our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Liu.  “Today’s announcement also highlights our commitment to vigorously pursue those who threaten U.S. security through state-sponsored hacking campaigns.”
“The charges unsealed today are the result of years of investigative work by the FBI to uncover Monica Witt’s betrayal of the oath she swore to safeguard America’s intelligence and defense secrets” said Executive Assistant Director for National Security Tabb.  “This case also highlights the FBI’s commitment to disrupting those who engage in malicious cyber activity to undermine our country’s national security. The FBI is grateful to the Department of Treasury and the United States Air Force for their continued partnership and assistance in this case.”
Treasury is taking action against malicious Iranian cyber actors and covert operations that have targeted Americans at home and overseas as part of our ongoing efforts to counter the Iranian regime’s cyber-attacks,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  “Treasury is sanctioning New Horizon Organization for its support to the IRGC-QF.  New Horizon hosts international conferences that have provided Iranian intelligence officers a platform to recruit and collect damaging information from attendees, while propagating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.  We are also sanctioning an Iran-based company that has attempted to install malware to compromise the computers of U.S. personnel.”
“The alleged actions of Monica Witt in assisting a hostile nation are a betrayal of our nation’s security, our military, and the American people,” said Special Agent Phillips. “While violations like this are extremely rare, her actions as alleged are an affront to all who have served our great nation.”  
“This investigation exemplifies the tireless work the agents and analysts of the FBI do each and every day to bring a complex case like this to fruition,’ said Assistant Director in Charge McNamara.  “Witt's betrayal of her country and the actions of the cyber criminals - at the behest of the IRGC - could have brought serious damage to the United States, and we will not stand by and allow that to happen.  The efforts by the Iranian government to target and harm the U.S. will not be taken lightly, and the FBI will continue our work to hold those individuals or groups accountable for their actions.”
According to the allegations contained in the indictment unsealed today:
Monica Witt’s Espionage
Monica Witt, a U.S. citizen, was an active duty U.S. Air Force Intelligence Specialist and Special Agent of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who entered on duty in 1997 and left the U.S. government in 2008.  Monica Witt separated from the Air Force in 2008 and ended work with DOD as a contractor in 2010.  During her tenure with the U.S. government, Witt was granted high-level security clearances and was deployed overseas to conduct classified counterintelligence missions.
In Feb. 2012, Witt traveled to Iran to attend the Iranian New Horizon Organization’s “Hollywoodism” conference, an IRGC-sponsored event aimed at, among other things, condemning American moral standards and promoting anti-U.S. propaganda.  Through subsequent interactions and communications with a dual United States-Iranian citizen referred to in the indictment as Individual A, Witt successfully arranged to re-enter Iran in Aug. 2013.  Thereafter, Iranian government officials provided Witt with a housing and computer equipment.  She went on to disclose U.S. classified information to the Iranian government official.  As part of her work on behalf of the Iranian government, she conducted research about USIC personnel that she had known and worked with, and used that information to draft “target packages” against these U.S. agents.   
Iranian Hacking Efforts Targeting Witt’s Former Colleagues
Beginning in late 2014, the Cyber Conspirators began a malicious campaign targeting Witt’s former co-workers and colleagues.  Specifically, Mesri registered and helped manage an Iranian company, the identity of which is known to the United States, which conducted computer intrusions against targets inside and outside the United States on behalf of the IRGC.  Using computer and online infrastructure, in some cases procured by Mesri, the conspiracy tested its malware and gathered information from target computers or networks, and sent spearphishing messages to its targets.  Specifically, between Jan. and May 2015, the Cyber Conspirators, using fictitious and imposter accounts, attempted to trick their targets into clicking links or opening files that would allow the conspirators to deploy malware on the target’s computer.  In one such instance, the Cyber Conspirators created a Facebook account that purported to belong to a USIC employee and former colleague of Witt, and which utilized legitimate information and photos from the USIC employee’s actual Facebook account. This particular fake account caused several of Witt’s former colleagues to accept “friend” requests.
*          *          *
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office with assistance from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.  The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Curtis, Jocelyn Ballantine and Luke Jones of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia with assistance from Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo's Philadelphia And Populist Politics'


The Washington Times published my review of Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics.

In 2017, while there was a national campaign to tear down the statutes of Confederate soldiers and historical figures deemed racists by the left, some Philadelphia politicians and left-wing activists demanded that the City of Philadelphia remove the 10-foot-tall statute of former Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo from in front of the city’s Municipal Services Building.

Frank Rizzo’s supporters rallied to keep the statue in place, and the current mayor, Jim Kenney, stated that he was looking into moving the statue to another location, possibly to South Philadelphia, where Frank Rizzo was born and raised, and where many of his supporters live, work and vote. Today the statute remains in front of the Municipal Services Building.

Frank Rizzo, who rose from beat cop to mayor, was a controversial figure with fervent supporters and detractors, and he remains so years after his death. The larger-than-life Frank Rizzo was a big man physically, at 6‘2 and 250 pounds, and he loomed large as a personality as a tough and aggressive cop in the 1950s and early 1960s, known then as the “Cisco Kid,” and as the police commissioner in the late 1960s. A famous 1969 photo of Frank Rizzo shows the commissioner, who left a formal event to respond to a violent incident, in a tuxedo with a nightstick jammed into his cummerbund.

Timothy J. Lombardo, who teaches history at the University of South Alabama, offers a look back at Frank Rizzo’s life and times in “Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics.” Mr. Lombardo opens the book with a passage about the time Frank Rizzo visited South Philadelphia during his first campaign to become mayor. The South Philly native attended a Columbus Day free concert that became a spontaneous pro-Rizzo rally.

“Despite his warm welcome in South Philadelphia, Francis Lazaro Rizzo was one of the most controversial figures in the city’s history,” Mr. Lombardo writes in his introduction to the book. “As a young man, long before his entrance into politics, the son of Italian immigrants dropped out of high school and followed his father’s footsteps into the Philadelphia Police Department. He quickly earned a reputation as one of the toughest cops on the force. Rising through the ranks in rapid succession, he earned the department’s highest post in 1967.

As the city’s top cop, Rizzo was fond of saying that the way to treat criminals was “scappo il capo,” an Italian phrase he translated to “crack their heads.” He earned a national reputation for his tough stance on crime, the heavy-handed tactics of his police force and his openly hostile treatment of civil rights activists. Yet Rizzo claimed those methods were the reason that Philadelphia avoided the urban rioting that struck cities like Los Angeles, Detroit or nearby Newark, New Jersey, in the late 1960s. While that won little favor in African-American communities or among liberals that decried his “Gestapo tactics,” he became a hero to the white-ethnic, blue-collar Philadelphians who demanded “law and order.” Capitalizing on this, he used his police experience as a springboard for his first campaign for public office in 1971.” 

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: