Thursday, October 8, 2015

Two Philadelphia Men Admit Roles In $5.8 Million Reloadable Debit Card Extortion Scam

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

CAMDEN, NJ—Two Philadelphia men today admitted their roles in a conspiracy to extort victims to load prepaid debit cards with funds that were stolen as part of the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Alpeshkumar Patel, 31, and Vijaykumar Patel, 40, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb to separate informations charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel admitted that from September 2013 through March 2014, they were part of a conspiracy to steal money using reloadable debit cards. First, conspirators would purchase reloadable Green Dot Cards, and register them in names other than their own. The conspirators contacted victims by phone and used threats or deceit to induce them to put money on MoneyPak cards, which are used along with assigned PIN codes to add funds to Green Dot Cards.
Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel admitted that they obtained the Green Dot Cards and used them to purchase money orders. Afterwards, they deposited the funds into bank accounts associated with the scheme.
Phone numbers and IP addresses connected with the conspiracy were tied to approximately 2,500 Green Dot Cards that were funded in excess of $5.8 million.
The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge to which Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents, detectives and investigators assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, and FBI Special Agent in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. in Philadelphia, as well as special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The End Of Tsarist Russia: The March To World War I & Revolution

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Dominic Lieven's The Of Tsarist Russia: The March To World War I & Revolution in today's Washington Times. 

In the freshest of books marking the centennial of World War I, Dominic Lieven offers an explanation for the conflict that most western-oriented historians have ignored: “The war was first and foremost an eastern European conflict.”
As is well-recorded, the precipitant event for the war was the murder of the Austrian heir Franz Ferdinand in June 1914. Two weeks of diplomatic to-and-fro led to a war involving all European powers. Mr. Lieven, a British historian of Russian heritage, convincingly argues that at its core, the war was a confrontation between Russia and Austria, eastern Europe’s two greatest empires.
As he writes, France and Britain were drawn into what started as a conflict in eastern Europe above all because of fears for their own security: The victory of the Austro-German alliance over Russia would tilt the European balance of power toward Berlin and Vienna.
And, although victory was finally won by Britain and France on the western front, “the peace of 1918 was mostly lost in East Europe. The great irony of World War I was that a conflict which began more than anything else as a struggle between the Germanic powers and Russia to dominate east-central Europe ended in the defeat of both sides.”
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

U.S. Navy Admiral And NATO Leader Says Russia Building ‘Arc of Steel’ In Europe

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON October 6, 2015 — In the same vein as Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain metaphor, a NATO commander said today that Russia is building an “arc of steel” from the Arctic to the Mediterranean Sea.

Navy Adm. Mark Ferguson (seen in the above official photo), who commands NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, and U.S. Navy forces in Europe and Africa, spoke at the Atlantic Council here.

The alliance also faces threats from the south, and both threats argue for more attention from the United States, NATO members and allied states, Ferguson said.

The admiral spoke first about Russia. Calling it the most dangerous threat in Europe, he said Russian leaders are more than willing to use military force to achieve their objectives, noting Russian aggression in Georgia, its illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued operations in Ukraine.

NATO’s response to Russia was “assurance and adaptation,” he said.

Assurance was covered by demonstrations of alliance solidarity on land, in the air and at sea. “These actions were highlighted in the media with the intent of improving their visibility in the public domain,” he said. “The intended effects were to reassure allies and improve the underlying support structures of the Eastern nations. There was a renewed focus on interoperability, logistics and intelligence.”

The Hard Work of Adaptation

The hard work underway now is adaptation, which, Ferguson said involves the fundamental transformation of NATO’s structure and capabilities. “To be credible, NATO’s adaptation must focus on building the range of capability, increase its capacity or depth and improve its responsiveness,” he said.

Russia has learned this already, the admiral said, noting that its actions fully integrated the elements of speed and strategic surprise in its operations. “Air and land forces with cyber will dominate the center of NATO’s defended territory,” Ferguson said.

But Russia is active on the waves, too, Ferguson said. From the North Atlantic to the Black Sea, Russia is fielding an increasingly capable navy, he added, unveiling a new maritime strategy and demonstrating new equipment and capabilities at sea.

“This remilitarization of Russian security policy is evident by the construction of an ‘arc of steel’ from the Arctic to the Mediterranean,” Ferguson said. “Russia has introduced advanced air defense, cruise missiles systems and new platforms.”

Strategy Aimed at NATO Maritime Forces

The strategy is clearly aimed at deterring NATO maritime forces, he said, and is not defensive. “The proficiency and operational tempo of the Russian submarine force is increasing,” Ferguson said.
Russia also is integrating asymmetric capabilities fully into its conventional military strategy. “This involves the use of space, cyber, information warfare and hybrid warfare designed to cripple the decision-making cycle of the alliance,” Ferguson said. “Their capabilities are focused on the creation of ambiguity.”

The alliance must reply, he said. He recommended three areas of response. First, alliance nations must invest in training at the high-end of warfighting skills. “Second, forces must be on call for real world operations, and third we must keep apace of the growing Russian capabilities,” he said.

Training Must Incorporate New Russian Strategy

Any training has to incorporate Russian new strategy, Ferguson said, adding that naval forces must be able to reply to and counterattack asymmetric threats. “We must invest in systems that allow us to fight through these effects,” the admiral said.

The security challenges to the alliance’s south also concern NATO planners, he said. Al-Qaida affiliates and extremist groups in Africa are becoming increasingly dangerous, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant controls 200 kilometers of Libya’s coast, he noted. “What makes this threat particularly vulnerable is no state structure exists for negotiation, as it does with Russia,” he said.

The immediate challenge for NATO military commands is to improve the alliance’s understanding of the networks and to begin to provide political leaders with better situational awareness and, consequently, well-reasoned options for action, Ferguson said.

U.S. Task Force Report Recognizes INTERPOL's 'Crucial Global Tools' In Combating Foreign Terrorist Fighter Travel

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

LYON, France – A US Homeland Security Committee task force report which recognizes INTERPOL’s systems as ‘crucial global tools for combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel’ has been welcomed by the world police body.
The ‘Combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel’ report, published following an extensive, six month review to assess the severity of the threat from individuals who leave home to join jihadist groups overseas and to identify potential security gaps, makes 32 key findings and accompanying recommendations.
The report states: “The closest the international community has come to centrally tracking foreign fighters is through a database created last year by INTERPOL…. Thousands of these fighters are returning home, and this database has the potential to become the global “tripwire” to detect their movements.”
With the report also highlighting how data from INTERPOL enabled US law enforcement to identify hundreds of previously unknown terrorist suspects and foreign fighters, the task force recommends ‘the US must work with international partners to designate INTERPOL as a central repository for foreign fighter identities.’
Other key recommendations include;
  • ­The US government should make it a top diplomatic priority to ramp up foreign partner use of INTERPOL systems, including the regular provision of information to the organization’s databases, and as a screening mechanism at borders and ports of entry, especially for counterterrorism purposes.
  • ­The Administration should consider granting State and local law enforcement the ability to quickly submit INTERPOL notices for wanted subjects in their jurisdictions. Aspiring foreign fighters often leave for the conflict zone with little or no notice, and giving state and local partners the ability to expedite notices to INTERPOL’s 190 member states could help stop extremists in their tracks on the way to terrorist safe havens, especially in cases where local authorities are tipped off to a suspect who was not previously on federal law enforcement’s radar.
Welcoming the report, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said its findings once again underlined the absolute necessity for countries to share information on foreign terrorist fighters.
The report was published on the same day as Secretary General Stock addressed the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, hosted by US President Barack Obama.
The INTERPOL Chief updated the Summit on INTERPOL’s implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2178 which recognizes the Organization’s role as a global, neutral information sharing platform against foreign terrorist fighters. 
The Summit heard that with 52 countries now contributing to INTERPOL’s FTF database, information shared through its channels had increased six-fold in the last year, with some 5,000 foreign terrorist fighters identified so far in INTERPOL’s systems.

FBI: Insurance Broker Sentenced For Fraud

The FBI web site offers a report on a trucker insurance fraud scheme.

More than 800 commercial trucking companies in nearly a dozen states paid Atlanta-area insurance broker John Paul Kill approximately $3.7 million in premiums from 2013 to mid-2014 to purchase insurance that protected their livelihoods: their cargo and the trailers that carried it.

There was only one problem—for the most part, Kill didn’t purchase the insurance requested by his customers. Investigators with Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner’s Office discovered that Kill pocketed the premiums for his personal use.

Once Georgia officials realized the extent of Kill’s activities—millions of dollars in stolen premiums from customers in multiple jurisdictions—the office requested the assistance of the FBI. And as a result of the ensuing joint investigation, Kill pled guilty in federal court earlier this year to the nationwide cargo insurance scam. This past August, he was sentenced to four years in a federal prison and was also ordered to pay $1.23 million in restitution to his victims.

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

Justice Department Announces New Strategy To Combat Intellectual Property Crimes And $3.2 Million In Grant Funding To State And Local Law Enforcement Agencies

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

WASHINGTON—Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced today that the Justice Department will launch a new collaborative strategy to more closely partner with businesses in intellectual property enforcement efforts and will award over $3.2 million to 10 jurisdictions to support state and local task forces in the training, prevention, enforcement and prosecution of intellectual property theft and infringement crimes.

“The digital age has revolutionized how we share information, store data, make purchases and develop products, requiring law enforcement to strengthen our defenses against cyber crime—one of my top priorities as Attorney General,” said Attorney General Lynch. “High-profile instances of hacking—even against large companies like Sony and Target—have demonstrated the seriousness of the threat all business face and have underscored the potential for sophisticated adversaries to inflict real and lasting harm.”

The new FBI collaborative strategy builds upon the work previously done by the department while also working with industry partners to make enforcement efforts more effective. As part of the strategy, the FBI will partner with third-party marketplaces to ensure they have the right analytical tools and techniques to combat intellectual property concerns on their websites. The bureau also will serve as a bridge between brand owners and third-party marketplaces in an effort to mitigate instances of the manufacture, distribution, advertising and sale of counterfeit products.

This new strategy will help law enforcement and companies better identify, prioritize and disrupt the manufacturing, distribution, advertising and sale of counterfeit products. Crimes will then be investigated by the FBI and other partners of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and finally prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

Additionally, the Office of Justice Program’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Program (IPEP) will award $3.2 million in grants to aid state and local law enforcement in addressing intellectual property crimes.

Local award recipients announced today include the following:
  • City of Austin Police Department - $400,000
  • City of Hartford Police Department - $399,545
  • Cook County State Attorney’s Office - $400,000
  • Baltimore County Police Department - $120,174
  • North Carolina Department of Secretary of State - $367,076
  • New Jersey State Police - $269,619
  • City of Phoenix Police Department - $253,129
  • City of Portland Police Department - $373,569
  • Virginia State Police - $253,128
  • City of San Antonio Police Department - $400,000
Since IPEP’s establishment in 2009, the department has invested nearly $14.8 million for 41 task forces across the country. These grants have supported the arrest of 3,522 individuals, the dismantling of 1,882 piracy or counterfeiting organizations and the seizure of $266,164,989 in counterfeit property, other property and currency in conjunction with IP enforcement operations.

The department also launched a new intellectual property website,, to serve as a both a resource to companies facing intellectual property challenges as well as a mechanism to educate the public on how intellectual property theft is a growing threat to the country’s public safety and economic well-being.

Intellectual property theft refers to the violation of criminal laws that protect copyrights, patents, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property and trade secrets both in the United State and abroad. Faulty and counterfeit products are often sold to unsuspecting consumers and pose a severe threat to their health and safety. In a few circumstances, these activities are used to fund dangerous or violent criminal enterprises or organized crime networks.

10 Biggest Bond Revelations From Ian Fleming's Private Letters

Thomas Freeman at offers 10 revelations about the iconic character James Bond from a new book of Bond creator Ian Fleming's private letters called The Man With the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's Bond Letters.   

Half of the world has reportedly seen a James Bond film, but only a fraction of those viewers know that the movies began with a series of books by author Ian Fleming (who also invented Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). As the franchise gears up for its latest big-screen installment, Spectre, opening November 6, it seems only fitting to delve into Bond’s origins.

Fans of the source novels have long speculated that author Ian Fleming, who dabbled in espionage during World War II, channeled his own ride-or-die experiences into his novels. Others viewed him mostly as a staid London aristocrat who dreamt up a thrilling world amid the comforts of a bourgeois live. A new biography on Ian Fleming, written by his nephew Fergus Fleming, lands him somewhere in the middle.

Featuring private letters typed on his storied golden typewriter and sent to friends and colleagues,
The Man with the Golden Typewriter offers a closer look at the origins of popular culture’s most indelible secret agent. Alongside Fergus Fleming’s scrupulous background research, the letters reveal much about the series’ early evolution and even drop some major behind-the-scenes 007 bombshells.

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

The book was edited by Fergus Fleming, Ian Fleming's nephew. I interviewed Mr. Fergus a while back and you can read my interview with him via the below link: