Thursday, March 31, 2016

U. S. Justice Department Warns Public To Beware Of Fraudulent Tax Return Preparers And Tax Scheme Promoters


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

With tax season in full swing, the Justice Department urged the public today to avoid dishonest tax-return preparers who fleece their customers and illegally drain the U.S. Treasury.  Noting that every taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the contents of his or her own return, Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Tax Division also warned the public to be wary of anyone who guarantees a refund or who claims to sell a sure-fire way to reduce your taxes.
Dishonest Return Preparers Cost Their Clients and the United States
U.S. taxpayers filed approximately 150 million returns in 2014.  According to statistics available from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identified more than 2.1 million of those returns that claimed fraudulent refunds totaling more than $15.7 billion.  As in past years, the IRS has designated return preparer fraud as one of 2016’s “Dirty Dozen” tax scams to avoid during return filing season.  In 2015, the Tax Division permanently shut down more than 35 fraudulent tax-return preparers located all over the United States.  The defendants in those cases spanned the spectrum from large-scale return preparation franchises to small, independent return preparers.
“Every year, thousands of federal income tax returns are prepared by people who care much more about making a quick buck than about preparing accurate returns,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo.  “Most tax return preparers are honest.  But some preparers who charge clients a percentage of their tax refund intentionally prepare false returns to increase their clients’ refund, and thus their own fees.  Likewise, some preparers who charge by the form will intentionally prepare incorrect forms that their clients don’t need in order to increase their compensation.  Taxpayers might think that they’re getting a good deal on their taxes, or that as long as someone else prepares the return, they’re not responsible.  They’re wrong.  Taxpayers who have their return prepared incorrectly are required to pay the tax they owe, or pay back the refund they weren’t entitled to get.  These clients might also owe interest and penalties, which can be substantial.  Fortunately, there are red flags that taxpayers can look for and avoid when choosing a return preparer.”
Your refund should never be deposited directly into a preparer’s bank account.
In United States v. Elton L. Barnes, No. 2:14-cv-05621 (C.D. Cal.), the court barred a return preparer who caused other people’s tax returns to be deposited to bank accounts in his name.
Never sign a blank return or a blank form, or sign a return or a form without reading it first.
By law, a return preparer must provide a client with a completed copy of the return no later than the time the customer is asked to sign the return.  In United States v. Syed N. Ahmed et al., No. 2:15-cv-11461 (E.D. Mich.), the United States alleged that the defendants’ Liberty Tax Service franchises asked customers to sign blank forms that stated that the customers had non-existent businesses, which were then used to maximize the customer’s refund.  Although the defendants did not admit to the allegations in the complaint, they agreed to an order from a federal court permanently shutting down the stores.
Don’t use a preparer who mischaracterizes your expenses.
In United States v. Lawrence Preston Siegel, No. 3:15-00643 (S.D. Cal.), the defendant prepared returns that falsely characterized personal purchases as deductible expenses.  For instance, one customer’s return deducted purchases at Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as “medical expenses.”  The court permanently barred Siegel from preparing tax returns or providing tax advice for compensation.
Do not use a preparer who fabricates business expenses or deductions, or who claims bogus credits to which you are not entitled, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child care credit, or the education credit.
One of the most common dishonest return-preparation practices is to prepare returns that include non-existent businesses, sometimes based on a client’s hobbies.  In 2015, for example, federal courts shut down tax return preparers in Kahului, HawaiiAppleton, Wisconsin; and Chicago, Illinois, who fabricated supposed “businesses” for their clients.  Federal courts have also ordered return preparers in Miami, Florida, and Memphis, Tennessee to submit to third-party monitoring at their own expense to make sure they are not preparing returns with fraudulent “businesses.”
Some other fraudulent schemes and practices that have been stopped through injunction orders entered by federal courts throughout the country include:
In January 2016, a federal court in Orlando, Florida entered a preliminary injunction against Jason Stinson, who ran a series of tax return preparer storefronts under the name “Nation Tax Services,” requiring him to shut down the stores pending resolution of the case.  As part of its explanation for why it was ordering Stinson’s stores to shut down in the middle of the case, the court said that Stinson’s business “exposes . . . [his] customers to individual tax liability.  Both the Government and Stinson’s customers will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted. Moreover, it is in the public’s best interest to protect vulnerable customers from the inaccurate preparation of their taxes, not to deplete Government resources, and to maintain the public trust in the tax system.”  The case is United States v. Jason Stinson et al., No. 6:14-cv-1534 (M.D. Fla.).
The IRS advises taxpayers who ask a tax professional to prepare their return to be careful in the professional they select.  The IRS offers some basic tips and guidelines to assist taxpayers in choosing a reputable tax professional and is also offering taxpayers a number of instructional YouTube videos to help them prepare their own taxes for the upcoming filing season.  Several options, including free assistance with preparation and electronic filing for the elderly and individuals making $50,000 or less, are available to help taxpayers prepare for the current tax season and receive their refunds as easily as possible.
Tax Division Sues to Shut Down Promoters of Fraudulent Tax Schemes
In addition to return preparers who deliberately falsify returns, the Tax Division targets those who peddle schemes that purportedly reduce taxes—but in fact rely on false statements or financial sleight-of-hand. 
In United States v. Wayne Reeves et al., No. 12-cv-1916 (D. Nev.), the court found that defendants Wayne Reeves and Diane Vaoga advised their clients “to set up sham trusts and have their wages directed into accounts for those trusts as a way to improperly reduce their tax liability.”  They advised their clients that the income the clients received from the trusts was “nontaxable and did not need to be reported on tax returns.”  The court further found that Reeves prepared tax returns that “willfully attempted to understate his clients’ correct tax liabilities,” and that Vaoga assisted him in doing so.  In January 2015, the court permanently barred both Reeves and Vaoga from preparing returns or giving tax advice to others.
In November 2015, the Tax Division sued to shut down an alleged tax scheme based on a purported solar energy generation facility in Utah.  The case is United States v. RaPower-3 LLC et al., No. 2:15-cv-00828 (D. Utah).  The United States’ complaint alleges that the defendants purportedly sell “solar thermal lenses” to customers, and tell their customers that they are entitled to claim depreciation expenses and the solar energy credit for the lenses—even though the defendants allegedly know or have reason to know that their customers are not in the business of producing and selling solar energy and that the defendants’ purported solar energy facilities do not actually produce solar energy in a manner that meets the Internal Revenue Code’s requirements for claiming the credit.
And in the same month, in United States v. James Tarpey et al., No. 2:15-cv-00072 (D. Mont.), the Tax Division sued to shut down an alleged timeshare donation scheme.  According to the United States’ complaint in that case, the defendants have their customers give rights in a timeshare to “Donate for a Cause,” a tax-exempt entity operated by Tarpey.  The complaint alleges that the customers receive an appraisal that grossly overvalues the donated timeshare rights and use that appraisal to claim a large charitable donation deduction, even when the true market value of the timeshare right is a small fraction of the appraised value. 
“The Tax Division is committed to stopping those who promote fraudulent tax shelters and other schemes or who prepare false returns,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo said.  “Along with our colleagues at the IRS, we will find dishonest preparers and fraudulent tax-scheme promoters and work to shut them down.  We will hold accountable those who willfully assist taxpayers to file false returns.  And in appropriate cases, we will prosecute them.  But everyone can help stop fraud and protect our public finances.  Pay attention to your tax return and make sure that it’s right.  If you think that a tax return preparer is deliberately preparing incorrect returns, or you suspect someone is selling a phony tax-loss scheme, report that person to the IRS.”
In addition to the civil enforcement through injunctions that stop their illegal actions, many return preparers and promoters also face prosecution.  Examples of those investigations can be found for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

Paris Terrorist Salah Abdeslam Agrees To Turn Snitch For French Police… Making The World's Most Wanted Man Now The No.1 ISIS Target


Julian Barnes at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on Paris terrorist-turned "supergrass," as the British call a rat or a snitch.

Paris terrorist Salah Abdeslam has agreed to turn supergrass for French police - making the world's most wanted man now the number one ISIS target.

The 26-year-old, suspected of being the logistics chief behind the deadly Paris terror attacks in November, was captured earlier this month during a raid in Brussels.

Abdeslam has not spoken to investigators since the Belgian capital was hit by suicide bombs at the airport and a metro station last week. But this morning it emerged that Abdeslam now wants to 'cooperate' with French authorities.

The terror suspect had previously told interrogators he had intended to blow himself up at the Stade de France stadium in Paris but had backed out at the last minute

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

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3516975/Paris-terrorist-Salah-Abdeslam-agrees-turn-supergrass-French-police-making-world-s-wanted-man-No-1-ISIS-target.html
 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Look Back At Jack Nicholson in 'The Last Detail'


Todd Garbarini at cinemaretro.com offers a review of one of my favorite films about the U.S. Navy, The Last Detail, which was recently released on DVD.

In the mid 1980’s, I caught ABC-TV’s premiere broadcast of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and it changed me forever. I became a huge fan of both Stanley Kubrick’s and Stephen King’s work, as well as classical music. Despite the protestations of many a film reviewer regarding the casting of Jack Nicholson, I greatly admired his performance in the film, and eagerly sought out all of his films that I could find on home video and television at the time. Among them was a film that I had not heard of before, the story about two Navy lifers transporting a convict to the “brig”, a military prison, for having stolen $40.00 out of the Polio contribution box (the Commanding Officer’s wife’s favorite charity – oops!!). Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail(1973), which opened in New York on Sunday, February 10, 1974 (having premiered in L.A. in December of 1973) , contains my favorite film performance by Jack Nicholson, which is saying a lot considering that his turn as R.P. McMurphy inOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) is the role that most critics think of when they discuss his work. Here he plays Billy "Badass" Buddusky, a U.S. petty officer who, along with Richard "Mule" Mulhall (the late Otis Young), is tasked with escorting a sailor, Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid), from their home base in Norfolk, VA to Portsmouth Naval Prison up in Maine.

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

http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/9117-REVIEW-HAL-ASHBYS-THE-LAST-DETAIL-1973-STARRING-JACK-NICHOLSON;-TWILIGHT-TIME-LIMITED-EDITION-BLU-RAY.html 



Note: The film was based on Navy veteran Darryl Ponsicon's novel. 



You can order the novel via the below link:


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Served Proudly In The U.S. Navy


Former Navy Noncommissioned Officer Sentenced To 24 Months In Prison For Accepting Bribes While Serving In Afghanistan


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

A former Navy noncommissioned officer was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for accepting approximately $25,000 in cash bribes from vendors while he served in Afghanistan.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova of the Northern District of Florida, Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko, Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit, Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office and Brigadier General Keith M. Givens of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) made the announcement.
Donald P. Bunch, 46, of Pace, Florida, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, who also ordered Bunch to pay a $5,000 fine and to forfeit $25,000.  Bunch pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2015, to a one-count information charging him with accepting bribes.
According to the plea agreement, from February 2009 to August 2009, Bunch worked as a U.S. Navy E8 senior chief at the Humanitarian Assistance Yard (HA Yard) at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.  The HA Yard purchased supplies from local Afghan vendors for use as part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which enabled U.S. military commanders to respond to urgent humanitarian relief requirements in Afghanistan, Bunch admitted. 
Bunch was responsible for replenishing food and supplies at the HA Yard and for selecting vendors from a pre-determined list to provide the necessary items, according to his plea.  In connection with his guilty plea, Bunch admitted that his predecessor had instructed him to rotate among the vendors.  
According to admissions made in connection with his plea agreement, certain Afghan vendors offered money for the purpose of influencing their contracts.  Bunch admitted that he accepted a total of approximately $25,000 in bribes from the vendors and as a result, he secured on their behalf more frequent and lucrative contracts.  Bunch sent greeting cards stuffed with proceeds of the bribes to his wife and used the money to pay for the construction of a new home.
The FBI, SIGAR, CID, DCIS and OSI investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Daniel P. Butler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Goldberg of the Northern District of Florida prosecuted the case.

Vietnam Veterans Day


The Truth About The Vietnam War


As I noted in my previous post, on this day in 1973 all U.S. combat troops left Vietnam.

You can watch a short video that tells the truth about the Vietnam War via the below link:

https://www.prageru.com/courses/history/truth-about-vietnam-war#.VE9Cbpco6M8

You can also read Philip Jenning's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Vietnam War.  

On This Day In History In 1973 American Combat Troops Withdrew From South Vietnam


As History.com notes, on this day in 1973 all American combat troops withdrew from South Vietnam.

Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops leave South Vietnam as Hanoi frees the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. America’s direct eight-year intervention in the Vietnam War was at an end. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam 

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

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-withdraws-from-vietnam?cmpid=email-hist-tdih-2016-0329-03292016&om_rid=de5e4076c942a595dbda53f758321d197499484f6d117f61b6ac5c08e0d6f0aa&om_mid=33580635&kx_EmailCampaignID=3677&kx_EmailCampaignName=email-hist-tdih-2016-0329-03292016&kx_EmailRecipientID=de5e4076c942a595dbda53f758321d197499484f6d117f61b6ac5c08e0d6f0aa

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Vietnam War via the below link:

http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2012/02/look-back-at-vietnam-war-and-lessons.html

And you can watch a short video on the Vietnam War via the below link:

https://www.prageru.com/courses/history/truth-about-vietnam-war#.VE9Cbpco6M8

FBI: A Look Back At The Coors Kidnapping Case - Law Enforcement Collaboration And Public Assistance Played Key Role


The FBI released the below report:

On February 9, 1960, a milkman sounded his horn several times in an attempt to get the attention of the driver of a station wagon that was blocking the middle of the bridge over Turkey Creek, near Morrison, Colorado. When there was no response, he got out of his truck and walked to the vehicle—it was empty, but its engine was running and the radio playing. A few more beeps on the horn didn’t bring the driver back, so the milkman moved the car himself to the side of the road, noticing a reddish-brown stain on the bridge and a hat on the edge of the river bank below.
The milkman reported the matter to the local police, who quickly determined that the car belonged to Adolph Coors, III. Heir to the Coors Brewing Company fortune, Coors had left his house—not far from the bridge—that morning, but had not been seen since. Searchers soon spread out over the area looking for the missing 45-year-old father of four. In addition to the hat, a few objects belonging Coors were found below the bridge, but no other trace was found during the wider search.
Twenty-four hours later, the FBI’s Denver Division entered the case to help Colorado authorities—with the passage of a day since Coors’ disappearance, the federal kidnapping statute could be invoked and the full investigative resources of the Bureau could be called upon. Coors’ wife, Mary, received a typewritten note that day demanding a ransom for the return of her husband. Under the guidance of law enforcement, she followed the instructions regarding contacting the kidnapper but heard nothing back.
The FBI Laboratory began analyzing the available evidence, especially the ransom note, which had a distinct typeface and was written on paper with an uncommon watermark.
Meanwhile, state and local police pursued leads closer to the scene of the crime, conducting extensive interviews and other investigative activities. They soon focused on a canary yellow Mercury that had been seen in the area on several occasions and tried to track down its driver, a man who called himself Walter Osborne. The FBI learned that Osborne had disappeared around the time of Coors’ abduction, but before doing so had obtained a gun, handcuffs, and a typewriter. And the Bureau also learned that Osborne had obtained an insurance policy at a previous job, and that policy designated a man named Joseph Corbett as his beneficiary.
Corbett, in turn, had a son—Joseph Corbett, Jr.—who had previously been convicted of murder but had escaped from a California prison. Now a chief suspect in the Coors case, the FBI obtained a fugitive warrant for him and placed him on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list soon after.
Throughout the summer of 1960, Corbett, Jr.’s trail remained cold. But tragically, the trail leading to Adolph Coors ended on September 11, 1960, when some hikers came across a pair of trousers in the woods about 12 miles southwest of Sedalia, a town south of Denver. The pants had a key ring bearing the initials ACIII. The trousers, other items of clothing, and skeletal remains found there were determined to belong to Coors. A jacket and shirt had bullet holes that showed he had been shot in the back, and an analysis of a shoulder bone confirmed this.
The story of Coors’ disappearance remained in the public eye and was featured in various publications, including Reader’s Digest. Corbett, Jr.’s wanted photo sparked interest and leads across America, but it was the magazine’s readers in Canada who would break the case. One reader pointed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their FBI allies to an apartment rented by a man who resembled Corbett, Jr., but the man had recently moved on. The next day, the manager of a rooming house in Winnipeg called local police to report that a man who looked like the fugitive had recently stayed at her flophouse. She also noted that the suspect had been driving a fire engine red Pontiac.
That new information went out across Canada, and on October 29, 1960, a Vancouver police officer reported a similar vehicle parked outside of local motor inn. Soon, police—with the assistance of the FBI’s Toronto legal attaché office—were knocking on the door of the hotel room. The man who answered said, “I give up. I’m the man you want.”
Corbett, Jr. was returned to Colorado, where he was tried by the state for Coors’ murder (because Coors’ remains were found within the state, he wasn’t tried on federal kidnapping charges). During the trial, the FBI offered 23 agents, five lab examiners, and a fingerprint expert to help put forward an iron-clad case. Especially compelling was the ransom note believed to have been typed on Corbett, Jr.’s typewriter, and damning evidence taken from his burned-out canary yellow Mercury, which was recovered by law enforcement in New Jersey shortly after Coors’ disappearance. On March 19, 1961, Joseph Corbett, Jr. was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
And 65 years later, the FBI continues to offer a wide array of investigative assistance to our state and local partners—just as we continue to rely on the support of the public to help us solve crimes.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Visit To The Tarantulas: Alive And Up Close Exhibit In Philadelphia


I took my 10-year-old step-grandson to the Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia today.

Tarantulas have a reputation that precedes them—terrifying, fast, hairy, scary—the biggest, baddest, and most fearsome of all spiders. In the Academy’s newest hands-on exhibit, Tarantulas: Alive and Up Close, you will come face-to-face with a stunning array of live tarantulas … fangs and all. 

Visitors to Tarantulas can:

  • Play a guessing game to learn about speedy tarantulas that dwell in the highest treetops and others that live underground, only emerging under cover of darkness to ambush their prey.
  • Find out why certain species prefer the desert and the rainforest.
  • Learn how tarantulas may play an important role in human medicine.
  • Get the facts on why tarantulas are so hairy.
  • Explore a tarantula burrow.
  • See live feedings.
  • Check out arthropods under a microscope.
  • Dress up like an eight-legged beast to get your photo taken.
We visited the museum because of their dinosaur skeletons, which my step-grandson is very interested in. His interest was sparked by the Jurassic Park film series.

We also saw the museum's wildlife dioramas and while we there I talked the boy into accompanying me to the live tarantulas exhibit. He was leery, but he finally gave in and went in bravely to see the tarantulas with me.

We had a good time.    


You can learn more about the Philadelphia museum via the below link:

http://www.ansp.org/visit/

Tennessee and New York-Based Defense Contractors Agree To Pay $8 Million To Settle False Claims Act Allegations Involving Defective Countermeasure Flares Sold to the U.S. Army


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

The Department of Justice announced today that Kilgore Flares Company and one of its subcontractors, ESM Group Inc., have agreed to pay a total of $8 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by selling or conspiring to sell defective infrared countermeasure flares to the U.S. Army and, in the case of ESM, knowingly evading customs duties owed to the United States.  Tennessee-based Kilgore Flares manufactures and sells electronics and energetic products, such as flares, to the U.S. military.  ESM Group, located in New York, manufactures magnesium powder supplied to the chemical, welding and pyrotechnics industries.  ESM imported magnesium powder used in the flares from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which it sold to Kilgore Flares. 
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that contractors do not cut corners in manufacturing critical items sold to the U.S. military,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “These settlements also show that the department will aggressively pursue those who avoid paying duties to gain an unfair business advantage over competitors who abide by the rules.”   
The U.S. military uses infrared countermeasure flares to divert enemy heat-seeking missiles away from U.S. military aircraft.  A primary component of these flares is ultrafine magnesium powder, which combined with other materials, provides ignition and enables the flares to burn at high temperatures and at rates that mimic an aircraft’s engine.  Kilgore’s contracts with the army prohibited the use of magnesium powder from foreign countries (except Canada) in order to maintain domestic manufacturing capability in the interest of national defense. 
The United States alleged that from July 2003 through May 2005, ESM knowingly misrepresented the content of ultrafine magnesium powder imported from the PRC in order to avoid paying antidumping duties owed to the United States.  Antidumping duties protect against foreign companies “dumping” products on the U.S. market at prices below cost.  The U.S. Department of Commerce assesses and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collects these duties to protect U.S. businesses and level the playing field for domestic products.  At the time of the imports alleged in this case, ultrafine magnesium powder from the PRC was subject to a 305 percent antidumping duty. 
The government further alleged that from March 2005 through August 2006, Kilgore used the illegally imported Chinese magnesium powder purchased from ESM in the countermeasure flares it sold to the U.S. Army.  The Chinese magnesium powder allegedly violated both the requirement for domestically produced powder and engineering specifications required by the contracts.  
Kilgore and ESM agreed to pay $6 million and $2 million, respectively, to resolve the government’s allegations. 
“Our warfighters– along with everyone who relies upon them, including their families – need to know that the equipment they use is of the highest quality and dependability,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. of the Western District of New York. “In this case, the magnesium flares made by Kilgore were literally the last line of defense for our brave aviators. Because of today’s resolution, Kilgore will now ensure that similar incidents do not happen in the future.”
Prior to the civil settlements with Kilgore and ESM, five former employees and agents of ESM pleaded guilty to criminal offenses related to the magnesium importation scheme, including ESM’s former president, Charles Wright.  The criminal defendants were ordered to pay more than $14 million in restitution.
“These civil settlements demonstrate the continued commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and our partner agencies to pro-actively identify individuals and groups intent on providing substandard, substituted products to the U.S. military in exchange for unwarranted exorbitant profits,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig W. Rupert of the U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General, DCIS.  “Such schemes, perpetrated by dishonest contractors and individuals, place the American Warfighter in danger, erode public confidence and undermine the mission of our military services. The DCIS and its law enforcement partners will continue to tirelessly pursue and investigate procurement fraud allegations in order to safeguard our military members and to shield America’s investment in national defense.”
“The components of U.S. military equipment are held to rigorous standards to ensure our military superiority and the safety of our warfighters,” said Special Agent in Charge James Spero of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Buffalo. “When short cuts are taken, lives are put at risk. This settlement ensures that the companies involved are held responsible for their actions and further emphasizes HSI’s commitment to ensuring that the sale and distribution of products used by our military is done with integrity.”
The settlement with ESM resolved a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the United States those who falsely claim federal funds or, as in this case, those who avoid paying funds owed to the government.  The lawsuit was filed by Reade Manufacturing Company, a domestic manufacturer of magnesium powder.  The act also allows the whistleblower to receive a share of any funds recovered through the lawsuit.  Reade Manufacturing received $400,000 as part of the settlement with ESM.  
The settlements with Kilgore and ESM were the result of a coordinated effort among the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Contract Audit Agency, DCIS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HSI Buffalo and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Additional technical support was provided by the Army Sustainment Command at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. and the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.      
The lawsuit against ESM is captioned United States ex rel. Reade Manufacturing Co. v. ESM Group, Inc., Civ. No. 10 - CV - 504-S (W.D.N.Y.).  The claims resolved by these settlements are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability except as admitted by the individual defendants in the criminal proceedings.  

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of Mark Bowden's 'The Three Battles Of Wanat And Other True Stories'

My review of Mark Bowden's The Three Battles of Wanat And Other True Stories appeared today in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As I wrote at the top of my review, I saw Mark Bowden at a Center City book store some years ago when he was promoting one of his books.

I recall that he spoke of his pleasant surprise that military people and their families were willing to open up to him. He noted that he didn’t serve in the military and previous to his Philadelphia Inquirer series on Black Hawk Down and his subsequent book, he had never covered the military.

As a Navy veteran, a former Defense Department civilian employee, and a writer who covers the military for The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security Int’l, I’ve associated with sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen nearly all of my life. For some years now I spoken to a good number of current and former armed forces members who very much like Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo, Guests of the Ayatollah, and his other books on the military.

Although Bowden may not share their mostly hawkish views, most believe he is a fair reporter. Military people want their story told and fairness is all most of them ask for. That Bowden is also a fine storyteller is a plus.

You can read the review via the below link:

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/entertainment/20160327_Bowden_s__Three_Battles_of_Wanat___Continuing_a_great_tradition.html

Or below:


Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Watching Mel Gibson's 'The Passion Of Christ' On Easter


After Easter dinner and our family gathering every year, my wife and I sit down and watch Mel Gibson's film about Jesus Christ, The Passion of Christ.

You can read my column on Gibson and the film via the below link:

http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2010/04/mel-gibson-and-passion-of-christ.html

A Little Night Music: Old Jazz Guy Michael Franks' 'The Lady Wants To Know'


Jazz singer and songwriter Michael Franks calls himself an 'old jazz guy.'

I like his song The Lady Wants to Know.

You can listen to the song via the below link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilj-3T7O7f8  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Defense Secretary Carter: U.S. Military Targets Key ISIL Terrorists


Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2016 — The U.S. military killed several key Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists this week, including a senior ISIL leader and finance minister who led certain external affairs and plots, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said here today.

During a Pentagon press briefing, joined by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Carter said the coalition is systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet, including Haji Imam.

“He was a well-known terrorist within ISIL's ranks, dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaida in Iraq when he worked under [the group’s leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi as its liaison for operations with Pakistan,” the secretary said.

Hampering ISIL Operations

“The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization's ability … to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Carter said Imam is the second senior ISIL leader the coalition has killed this month. Earlier this month defense officials confirmed the death of ISIL's so-called minister of war, Abu Omar al-Shishani, known as Omar the Chechen.

When the fight against ISIL accelerated a few months ago, the secretary said, the coalition began with storage sites where ISIL holds its cash, and now the leader who oversees all funding for ISIL operations is dead, hurting the terrorist army’s ability to pay fighters and hire recruits.

“Our campaign plan is first and foremost to collapse ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, focusing on its power centers in Raqqa and Mosul,” he added.

Repelling Counterattacks

In Syria, coalition-supported local forces recently took the town of Shaddadi, repelled ISIL's counterattacks and ultimately severed the main artery between Syria and northern Iraq, making it harder for ISIL's leaders and forces to travel between Raqqa and Mosul, Carter said.

Iraqi forces have moved from their staging base at Makhmur and are advancing to new positions as part of the early stages of operations to collapse ISIL's control over Mosul, the defense secretary added.
U.S. Marines near Makhmur now are providing artillery fire there at Iraq’s request, he said, to help protect and support the Iraqi advance against ISIL.

“In both Syria and Iraq we're seeing important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to come,” Carter said.

Relentless Pressure

As local partners move forward, the coalition continues to bring relentless pressure on ISIL commanders in Mosul, the secretary added.

Along with killing Imam, U.S. forces targeted Abu Sara, a top ISIL leader charged with paying fighters in northern Iraq, and several ISIL associates who were directly involved in external plotting and training, he said.

“These precise actions came after recent strikes that destroyed a significant quantity of improvised explosive devices and bomb-making equipment that could have been used against our partners headed for Mosul,” Carter added, noting that the actions are believed to be successful and damaging to ISIL.

Campaign Momentum

The defense secretary said the momentum of the campaign against ISIL is clearly on the coalition’s side.

“The United States military will continue to work intensively with our coalition partners to build on this progress, as our counterparts throughout our governments work to defend our homelands at the same time,” he said.

Carter also announced that yesterday he and his Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman, agreed to convene a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation defense ministerial on April 20 in Riyadh ahead of President Barack Obama's participation in the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council leaders’ summit there the next day.

“This will be an important forum to build on our counter-ISIL defense ministerial in Brussels last month,” Carter said.


The meeting also will strengthen U.S.-GCC defense partnerships by allowing participants to review and discuss the way ahead for joint regional defense initiatives that all committed to during the 2015 US-GCC Camp David Summit last May, the secretary added.

Note: In the above DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answer questions about efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during a news conference at the Pentagon, March 25, 2016.

Krauthammer: Obama’s Ideological Holiday In Havana


Charles Krauthammer offers his take on President Obama's trip to Cuba in his column at the Washington Post.

The split screen told the story: on one side, images of the terror bombing in Brussels; on the other, Barack Obama doing the wave with Raúl Castro at a baseball game in Havana.
On one side, the real world of rising global terrorism. On the other, the Obama fantasy world in which romancing a geopolitically insignificant Cuba — without an ounce of democracy or human rights yielded in return — is considered a seminal achievement of American diplomacy.
Cuba wasn’t so much a legacy trip as a vanity trip, vindicating the dorm-room enthusiasms of one’s student days when the Sandinistas were cool, revolution was king and every other friend had a dog named Che.
When Brussels intervened, some argued that Obama should have cut short his trip and come back home. I disagree. You don’t let three suicide bombers control the itinerary of the American president. Moreover, Obama’s next stop, Argentina, is actually important and had just elected a friendly government that broke from its long and corrupt Peronist past.
Nonetheless, Obama could have done without the baseball. What kind of message does it send to be yukking it up with Raúl even as Belgian authorities are picking body parts off the floor of the Brussels airport?

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

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-ideological-holiday-in-havana/2016/03/24/4402a6ee-f1f0-11e5-89c3-a647fcce95e0_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_opinions


Highest-Ranking Navy Official Sentenced To 46 Months In Prison For Accepting Bribes From Foreign Defense Contractor In Massive Bribery And Fraud Scheme


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

The highest-ranking official charged in a massive Navy bribery scandal was sentenced in federal court today to 46 months in prison for giving classified information to a foreign defense contractor in exchange for prostitutes, luxury travel and other gifts.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director James B. Burch of the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Director Andrew Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Director Anita Bales of Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) made the announcement.
U.S. Navy Capt. Daniel Dusek was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Southern District of California, who also ordered Dusek to pay a $70,000 fine and $30,000 in restitution to the Navy.  He was ordered to report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on June 15, 2016.
Dusek, 49, pleaded guilty in January 2015 to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery.  Dusek admitted that he used his influence as Deputy Director of Operations for the Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, and later as executive officer of the USS Essex and the commanding officer of the USS Bonhomme Richard, to benefit Leonard Glenn Francis and his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).  For decades, GDMA provided port services to U.S. Navy ships and in return, Francis plied Dusek with meals, alcohol, entertainment, gifts, dozens of nights and incidentals at luxury hotels and the services of prostitutes, Dusek admitted.
Underscoring his importance to the conspiracy, in an email to one of his employees, Francis wrote: “(Dusek) is a golden asset to drive the big decks (aircraft carriers) into our fat revenue GDMA ports.”
“As a Navy officer, Captain Dusek took an oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Instead, he chose self-interest, greed and prurience.  And when he learned of the investigation, Captain Dusek deleted his email accounts in an attempt to shield his crimes from law enforcement.  The Department of Justice is committed to holding public officials responsible when they betray the public trust.”
“Captain Dusek’s betrayal is the most distressing because the Navy placed so much trust, power and authority in his hands,” said U.S. Attorney Duffy.   “This is a fitting sentence for a man who was so valuable that his conspirators labeled him their ‘Golden Asset.’”
“This outcome again sends the message that corruption will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Director Burch.  “This is an unfortunate example of dishonorable naval officers who recklessly risked the safety of our troops by trading classified information for cash, extravagant gifts and prostitutes.  Cases such as these are not motivated by need or other difficult personal circumstances; they are the product of simple greed.  This investigation should serve as a warning that those who compromise the integrity of the United States will face their day of reckoning.  DCIS and our law enforcement partners will pursue these crimes relentlessly.”
“Captain Dusek put greed and personal pleasure above the safety of his shipmates and, in doing so, violated his sworn oath as a naval officer,” said Director Traver.  “His sentence today attests to the seriousness of his crimes.  NCIS, along with our partners at the Department of Justice, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Defense Contract Audit Agency have been steadfast in our commitment to fully investigate the actions of all those involved in the GDMA case, and will continue with the same determination as the investigation continues.”
“DCAA is honored to be a partner with DCIS, NCIS and the Department of Justice in this investigation,” said Director Bales.  “Our investigative support auditors did an outstanding job analyzing the evidence.  I’m proud of their work and its impact on bringing justice to those who corruptly defraud the government.”
According to Dusek’s plea agreement, he hand-delivered Navy ship schedules to the GDMA office in Japan or emailed them directly to Francis or a GDMA employee on dozens of occasions, each time taking steps to avoid detection by law enforcement or U.S. Navy personnel.
Dusek was lavishly rewarded for his efforts to help GDMA.  For example, according to the plea agreement, GDMA paid for a hotel for Dusek and his family at the Marriott Waikiki in Hawaii on July 19, 2010, and on Aug. 5, 2010, GDMA paid for a hotel room for Dusek at the Shangri-La in Makati, Philippines, and provided him with the services of a prostitute.
Soon after, Francis asked Dusek to exercise his influence on GDMA’s behalf by steering the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its associated strike group to Port Klang, Malaysia (PKCC) – a port terminal owned by Francis.  Dusek replied in a series of emails to GDMA in late August 2010 that he would make it happen.  “Good discussion with N00 (Admiral) today and convince him that PKCC is the better choice,” Dusek wrote to Francis on Aug. 21, 2010.  Three days later, Dusek reported to Francis that he had “everyone in agreement that the next CSG (Carrier Strike Group) through the AOR (area of responsibility) will stop at PKCC.  Dates will be 08-12 Oct.”  The port visit cost the United States approximately $1.6 million. 
On Sept. 17, 2013, when Dusek learned that Francis and Navy personnel had been arrested, he deleted the contents of his email accounts in an effort to avoid detection by law enforcement.
To date, 10 individuals have been charged in connection with this scheme; of those, nine have pleaded guilty, including Dusek, Lieutenant Commander Todd Malaki, Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau, Commander Jose Luis Sanchez and U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug.  Former Department of Defense civilian employee Paul Simpkins awaits trial.  On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a $15,000 fine; on Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $15,000 fine; and on March 18, 2016, Alex Wisidagama, a former GDMA employee, was sentenced to 63 months and $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy; the others await sentencing.
The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS, DCIS and DCAA.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Pletcher of the Southern District of California. 
Those with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DOD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline, or call (800) 424-9098. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cigars, Health Care, Che Guevara And Other Myths About Cuba


I'm a cigar smoker. I've been smoking cigars since I was a very young man.

I recall smoking a fine cigar when I was in my early 20s on the fantail of a U.S. Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland. Another young sailor approached me and asked, "Don't you feel old smoking a cigar?"

"No," I replied. "I feel... prosperous."

At a recent gathering of serious cigar smokers, I was bold enough to state that I thought Cuban cigars were overrated. I prefer a Dominican Republic Cohiba to a Cuban one. It seems to me that the Communist Cubans don't quite grasp the concept of quality assurance.

I was surprised to discover that a good number of my fellow cigar aficionados felt the same.

So I pleased to read that Christopher Sabatini offered a piece on five Cuban myths in the Washington Post, and he included Cuban cigars as one of the myths. Cuban health care and Che Guevara are two other myths Mr. Sabatini pokes holes in.

President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba this past week returned U.S. and world attention to the small Caribbean island of 11 million people and the long, curious history between it and the United States. It’s hard to think of a similarly sized country that has had such a memorable, tumultuous, often romantic hold on U.S. history and imagination. That narrative encapsulates a welter of assumptions — some propagated by the 1959 revolution, others by the Cuban diaspora and the rest by Americans who haven’t seen Cuba up close in more than half a century. Here are some of those myths.

You can read about the five myths via the below link:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/5-myths-about-cuba/2016/03/25/44f0b3e2-f21e-11e5-89c3-a647fcce95e0_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_popns

FBI: International Cyber Crime - Iranians Charged with Hacking U.S. Financial Sector


The FBI released the below report:

Seven Iranians working on behalf of the Iranian government have been indicted for a series of cyber crimes that cost U.S. financial institutions tens of millions of dollars and compromised critical controls of a New York dam.
Using botnets and other malicious computer code, the individuals—employed by two Iran-based computer companies sponsored and directed by the Iranian government—engaged in a systematic campaign of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against nearly 50 institutions in the U.S. financial sector between late 2011 and mid-2013. The repeated, coordinated attacks disabled bank websites and prevented customers from accessing their online accounts.
The indictments were unsealed today in federal court in New York City. The defendants are all believed to be in Iran, but Interpol Red Notices have been issued for their arrests and extraditions to the U.S. if they travel outside of Iran.
“The FBI will find those behind cyber intrusions and hold them accountable, wherever they are, and whoever they are,” said Director James B. Comey at a press conference today at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where the charges were announced. Attorney General Loretta Lynch added, “We will continue to pursue national security cyber threats through the use of all available tools, including public criminal charges.”
The DDoS attacks, which overwhelmed servers and thereby denied Internet access to legitimate users, collectively required tens of millions of dollars to mitigate. The attacks began in December 2011, and by September 2012 were occurring on nearly a weekly basis. On certain days, hundreds of thousands of customers were cut off from online access to their bank accounts.
According to court documents, one of the hackers who helped build the botnet used in some of the attacks received credit for his computer intrusion work from the Iranian government toward completion of his mandatory military service requirement. Other defendants have claimed responsibility for hacking servers belonging to NASA and for intrusions into thousands of other servers in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel.
Since the attacks, the FBI and the Department of Justice have worked with the private sector to neutralize and remediate the botnets. The Bureau also conducted extensive outreach to Internet service providers to assist in removing the malware from affected servers. Through these efforts, more than 90 percent of the threat has been successfully eliminated.
“By calling out the individuals and nations who use cyber attacks to threaten American enterprise, as we have done in this indictment, we will change behavior,” Comey said. Referring to the fact that the defendants are currently out of U.S. reach, he added, “The world is small, and our memories are long. No matter where hackers are in the world and no matter how hard they try to conceal their identities, we will find ways to pierce that shield and identify them. That is the message of this case.”
In addition to targeting the U.S. financial sector, one of the defendants repeatedly gained access to computer systems of the Bowman Dam in Rye, New York in 2013. Although the defendant never gained control of the dam, his access allowed him to learn critical information about the dam’s operation, including details about gates that control water levels and flow rates. The breach underscored the potential vulnerabilities of the nation’s critical infrastructure to foreign hackers and could have posed “a clear and present danger to the public health and safety of Americans,” said Attorney General Lynch.