Monday, July 30, 2018

A Look Back At The Sinking Of The USS Indianapolis

Coinciding with the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, I happen to be reading a fine book on the tragic story, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic's Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fidty-Two Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man. 

My review of Indianapolis will soon appear in the Washington Times. 

Simon and Schuster offers the below on the book:

“This is an absorbing book. The attention to detail is superb, the clear result of lots of plain hard work. Yet the detail doesn’t get in the way, but rather serves, along with a driving narrative, to get the reader as close to experiencing this most tragic episode of World War II as is possible without living through it. The book is hard to put down.”
— Karl Marlantes, New York Times bestselling author of Matterhorn

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is still the biggest single loss of life at sea to be suffered by the United States navy.

From a crew of 1,196 men, only 317 survived.

Torpedoed by the Japanese, dying of thirst and eaten by sharks.

For 70 years, the story of the USS Indianapolis has been told as a sinking story, or a shark story, or a story of military justice gone awry. But in Indianapolis, the true story of this mighty vessel is revealed.

As the USS Arizona embodies the beginning of the Pacific war, the USS Indianapolis embodies its fiery end. From its bridge, Admiral Raymond Spruance devised and executed the island-hopping campaign that decimated Japan’s Navy and Army.  Its crew led the fleet from Pearl Harbour to the islands of Japan, notching an unbroken string of victories in an exotic and uncharted theatre of war.

When the time came for President Harry S. Truman to deal Japan the decisive blow, Indianapolis answered the call. And super-spy Major Robert S. Furman climbed aboard, secreting the components of the world’s first atomic bomb.

Four days after delivering her ominous cargo to the island of Tinian, the Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine, with nearly 900 men lost. The captain, Charles B. McVay III, was wrongly court-martialled for negligence over the sinking. Decades after these events, the survivors of the Indianapolis, as well as the Japanese submarine commander who sank it, joined together to finally exonerate McVay.

“The voices of the Greatest Generation come alive in Indianapolis. Through first-person accounts we hear horrific stories of fear, pain, and anger but also of resilience, hope, and courage. Stories of the friendships the sailors forged with each other on board and the sacrifices they made for each other in their darkest hours are inspirational. Ultimately, Indianapolis is about the sacrifice these men made for our country at a time of unparalleled risk and of their lifelong search for justice for the captain of their ship. It’s a beautifully told and incredibly detailed narrative that brings this famous disaster to life.”
— Kate Andersen Brower, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Residence and First Women

You can purchase the book via the below link:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia'

The Washington Times published my review of The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia. 

With Russia in the forefront of the news these days, one might be interested in reading a bit of Russian history. Mark Galeotti's “The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia” offers a comprehensive history of organized crime in Russia.

The book opens with a body washing ashore in Russia in 1974. The body had deep knife wounds, which indicated the cause of death. As there were no fingerprints, no clothing, and his face was bloated, there was no way to identify him. But he was identified in only two days, as his body was covered with tattoos.

“The tattoos were the mark of a Vor, the Russian word for ‘thief,’ but a general term for a member of the Soviet underworld, the so-called ‘thieves’ world,’ or vorovkoi mir, and life in the gulag labor camp system,” Mr. Galeotti explains in the introduction.

The tattoos were still recognizable on the body and an expert on reading them was summoned. The man, a former prison warden turned police investigator, decoded the tattoos in an hour. The leaping frog meant he spent time in the northern labor camps. The knife wrapped in chains meant the man had committed a violent assault behind bars. And so on.

Mr. Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and an expert on transnational crime and Russian security affairs, offers a look back at how the Russian criminal evolved from rural horse thieves to the modern international drug and woman-trafficking criminals.

The Vory, Mr. Galeotti tells us, was born early in the 20th century, largely in Lenin and Stalin’s gulags and forced labor camps that the late great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described so well in his non-fiction — “The Gulag Archipelago” — and his novel, “The First Circle.”

“First, the criminals adapted an uncompromising and unapologetic rejection of the legitimate world, visibly tattooing themselves as a dramatic gesture of defiance,” Mr. Galeotti writes. “They had their own language, their own customs, their own authority figure. This was the so-called vor v zakone, the “thief within the code, or, literally, “thief in law” — law referring to their own, not that of the rest of society.”

Over time the code of the vory would change with a new generation who saw opportunities in dealing with a “cynical and vicious” state on their own terms, taking a back seat to barons of the black market and the Communist bosses in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book covers the evolution of the vory from the gulag camps through the Stalin years, the Cold War and the Soviets’ Afghan War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some Russian criminals moved to London and other European capitals, while others moved to New York and settled in the city’s Brighton Beach area. 

Mr. Galeotti informs us that in Russia the vory has penetrated the financial and political structures of the country and abroad the vory operates aggressively as part of the new transnational underworld. The Russian gangsters arm insurgents and other criminals, traffics drugs and people, and offers criminal services, such as money laundering and computer hacking.

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Old Ship: The USS Kitty Hawk In Port At Subic Bay, The Philippines, WESTPAC, 1970-1971

I came across the above old photo of my old ship, the USS Kitty Hawk, as the aircraft carrier was docked in Subic Bay, the Philippines, in 1970 or 1971.

These were the two years I served on the Kitty Hawk, so the photo brought back some fine memories of Subic Bay, of the wild times in the wide open liberty town of Olongapo, and other port-o-calls the carrier made during our WESTPAC (Western Pacific) cruise.

We also spent most of our time off the coast of Vietnam, on “Yankee Station” in the South China Sea, performing combat operations against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese in support of our in-country troops.

You can read about operations on Yankee Station via the below link:

Friday, July 27, 2018

Ignored No More: 'Gosnell' Movie Targets Women, Looks To Change Minds About Abortion: Filmmaker John Sullivan Ready To Challange Media Silence on Horrific Philadelphia 'Serial Killer'

Christian Toto at the Washington Times offers a piece on John Sullivan, who is making a film about the Philadelphia abortionist doctor and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell.

Filmmaker John Sullivan has faced his share of obstacles in executive-producing his latest movie, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.”

First came financing for the feature film, which recalls the barbaric practices of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. The issue was resolved by a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign in 2014 that netted north of $2.1 million via Indiegogo.

Then a lawsuit filed by a judge depicted in the movie delayed its release, as did securing a distributor. The pro-life film is set for an Oct. 12 release on about 600 screens.

Now Mr. Sullivan his crew are bracing for a lack of interest by the left-leaning media, which gave little coverage of Gosnell’s 2013 murder trial, where it was revealed that he likely had killed hundreds of babies born alive on his operating table.

Gosnell, now 77, was convicted of three first-degree murder charges and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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

You can also read my Washington Times review of Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer via the below link:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

3M Company Agrees To Pay $9.1 Million To Resolve Allegations That It Supplied The United States With Defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs

The U.S. Department of Justice released the below information:
The Department of Justice announced today that 3M Company (3M), headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device. 
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division.  “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
“Through rigorous enforcement of the False Claims Act, we protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” said U. S. Attorney Sherri Lydon for the District of South Carolina.  “And in this case in particular, we are proud to defend the integrity of our military programs and ensure that our men and women in uniform are adequately protected as they serve our country.”
"Today's settlement will ensure that those who do business with the government know that their actions will not go unnoticed," said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit. "Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military's readiness. Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military."
“This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for supplying substandard products, in particular products that could directly impact our service members’ health and welfare.  DCIS protects the integrity of Defense Department programs by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that negatively affect the wellbeing of our troops,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Craig, Jr., DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office.
The settlement announced today resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency.  Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.  The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military. 
The allegations resolved by the settlement were brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act permits private parties to sue on behalf of the government when they believe that defendants submitted false claims for government funds and to share in any recovery.  As part of today’s resolution, the whistleblower will receive $1,911,000. 
The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.        
The case is captioned United States ex rel. Moldex-Metric v. 3M Company, Case No. 3:16-cv-1533-MBS (D.S.C.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Corporation: An Epic Story Of The Cuban American Underworld'

The Washington Times published my review of T.J. English’s “The Corporation: An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld.”

While much is known about Italian, Russian and other ethnic organized crime groups, not much is known about Cuban-American organized crime. That lack of knowledge can be corrected easily by reading T.J. English’s book “The Corporation: An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld.”

Mr. English, who has written non-fiction books about Irish, Asian and Italian organized crime, opens his sweeping tale about Cuban-American organized crime by noting that while other ethic criminal groups in America rose up in the early part of the 20th century, the Cuban underworld came about after Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in Cuba in 1959.

Mr. English writes that many of those who contributed to the revolution, including some who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Castro in the mountains, were unaware that they were taking part in a Communist takeover of Cuba. Only after Castro was successful did he, Che Guevara and Raul Castro move toward making the island a Communist stronghold.

The rise of the Castro Communist dictatorship forced many Cubans to flee the island, including some who distinguished themselves in combat against the Batista government. Many who were unable or unwilling to flee ended up facing a firing squad. The feeling of those who escaped to Florida, Mr. English explains, was resentment, betrayal and a need for revenge.

The Cubans mostly settled in Miami and South Florida, while some moved to Union City in New Jersey. By the late 1960s, Union City would have the largest population of Cubans outside of Miami. Where ever Cubans settled, they brought their cultural traditions, such as music, dance, food, cigars and a simple game known as la bolita.

Bolita, which means “little ball,” stemmed from the Cuban national lottery, which used small numbered balls to determine the daily number. Bolita, the illegal underground numbers game, based its winning number on the national lottery, but it was less expensive to play.

“Given the ubiquitous presence of bolita among Cubans of all classes and genders, it was perhaps inevitable that the game would thrive in the Cuban exile communities of Miami and Union City,” Mr. English writes. “The man whose name would come to be associated with this illegal activity in the United States had not been a seasoned bolitero, or bolito boss, back in Cuba. He had been a cop in the city of Havana during the reign of the Batista dictatorship. His name was Jose Miguel Battle y Vargas.”

Battle became known as El Padrino (the Godfather) of the Cuban-American mob. The corrupt Cuban vice cop immigrated to America after Castro rose to power, and he later joined up with other anti-Castro Cubans and fought in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. Battle joined the U.S. Army afterward and after his brief service he began his rise in the Cuban underworld and became head of “the Corporation,” a powerful organized crime group.

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

On This Day In History Raymond Chandler, One Of America's Greatest Crime Writers, Was Born

On this date in 1888 the late, great Raymond Chandler, author of The Big Sleep, The Little Sister and other classic crime novels, was born.  

You can read about his life and works via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler via the below link:

CIA Offfical: China Waging 'Quiet' Cold War Against US

The New York Post offers a piece on intelligence officials naming Communist China as a threat to the US.

ASPEN, Colo. — China is waging a “quiet kind of cold war” against the United States, using all its resources to try to replace America as the leading power in the world, a top CIA expert on Asia said Friday.
Beijing doesn’t want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jingping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the U.S. in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia.
“I would argue … that what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during THE Cold War (between the U.S. and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition,” Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Rising U.S.-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations.
There is concern over China’s pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the U.S. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the U.S., as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea.
“I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said, referring to Russia’s brash annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was condemned throughout the West.
… On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest and most significant threat America faces. He said the FBI has economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that can be traced back to China.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned of rising Chinese aggression. In particular, he said, the U.S. must stand strong against China’s effort to steal business secrets and academic research.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, July 20, 2018

24 Defendants Sentenced In Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

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

Twenty-one members of a massive India-based fraud and money laundering conspiracy that defrauded thousands of U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars were sentenced this week to terms of imprisonment up to 20 years.  Three other conspirators were sentenced earlier this year for laundering proceeds for the conspiracy, which was operated out of India-based call centers that targeted U.S. residents in various telephone fraud schemes.  This week’s sentencing hearings took place in Houston, Texas, before the Honorable David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas.       
Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the U.S. Department of Justice, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and Special Agent in Charge David Green of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Houston, Texas made the announcement today.

“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.  The transnational criminal ring of fraudsters and money launderers who conspired to bilk older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through their lies, threats and financial schemes must recognize that all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail, and bring a measure of justice to the victims.”
“This type of fraud is sickening,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick.  “However, after years of investigation and incredible hard work by multiple agents and attorneys, these con artists are finally headed to prison. Their cruel tactics preyed on some very vulnerable people, thereby stealing millions from them. These sentences should send a strong message that we will follow the trail no matter how difficult and seek justice for those victimized by these types of transnational schemes. We will simply not stand by and allow criminals to use the names of legitimate government agencies to enrich themselves by victimizing others.”
“Today’s sentences should serve as a strong deterrent to anyone considering taking part in similar scams, and I hope that they provide a sense of justice to the victims, as well,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner.  “There is no safe haven from U.S. law enforcement. HSI will continue to utilize our unique investigative mandate, in conjunction with our local, state, and federal partners, to attack and dismantle the criminal enterprises who would seek to manipulate U.S. institutions and taxpayers.”
“The sentences imposed on these defendants validate our efforts to bring to justice scammers who defraud taxpayers by impersonating employees of the Internal Revenue Service,” said Inspector General J. Russell George.  “I wish to thank the Department of Justice, the multiple federal agencies involved, and most importantly, my own investigators who continue to devote countless hours to these cases.  Taxpayers must remain wary of unsolicited telephone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS employees.  If any taxpayer believes they or someone they know is a victim of an IRS impersonation scam, they should report it to TIGTA at or by calling 1-800-366-4484.”
“The sentences imposed this week provide a clear deterrent to those who would seek to enrich themselves by extorting the most vulnerable in our society,” said DHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Green.  “These scammers should know that their actions carry real consequences, both for their victims and for themselves, and that there are dedicated agents and prosecutors who will go above and beyond to find them, identify them and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 240 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on the charge of money laundering conspiracy.  According to the factual basis of his plea agreement, Patel served as the manager of a Chicago-based crew of “runners” that liquidated and laundered fraud proceeds generated by callers at India-based call centers.  Those callers used call scripts and lead lists to target victims throughout the United States with telefraud schemes in which the callers impersonated U.S. government employees from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  The callers duped victims into believing that they owed money to the U.S. government and would be arrested or deported if they did not pay immediately.  After the victims transferred money to the callers, a network of U.S.-based runners moved expeditiously to liquidate and launder fraud proceeds through the use of anonymous stored value cards.  In addition to recruiting, training, and tasking runners in his crew, Patel also coordinated directly with the Indian side of the conspiracy about the operation of the scheme.  Patel was held accountable for laundering between $9.5 and $25 million for the scheme.    
Hardik Patel, 31, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 188 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on the charge of wire fraud conspiracy.  Hardik consented to removal to India upon completion of his prison term.  According to the factual basis of his plea agreement, Patel was a co-owner and manager of an India-based call center involved in the conspiracy.  In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of a call center, Patel also processed payments and did bookkeeping for the various call centers involved in the fraud scheme.  One of the India-based co-defendants with whom Patel communicated about the scheme was Sagar “Shaggy” Thakar, a payment processor that Indian authorities arrested in April 2017 in connection with call center fraud.  After moving to the United States in 2015, Patel continued to promote the conspiracy by recruiting runners to liquidate fraud proceeds.  Patel was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million dollars for the scheme. 
Sunny Joshi, aka Sharad Ishwarlal Joshi and Sunny Mahashanker Joshi, 47, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison on the charge of money laundering conspiracy, and 120 months in prison on the charge of naturalization fraud to run concurrent followed by three years of supervised release.  According to the factual basis of his plea agreement, Joshi was a member of a Houston-based crew of runners that he co-managed with his brother, co-defendant Mike Joshi, aka Rajesh Bhatt.  Sunny Joshi communicated extensively with India-based co-defendants about the operations of the scheme, and was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million.  Additionally, in connection with his sentence on the immigration charge, Judge Hittner entered an order revoking Joshi’s U.S. citizenship and requiring him to surrender his certificate of naturalization.  
Twenty-two of the defendants sentenced before Judge Hittner were held jointly and severally liable for restitution of $8,970,396 payable to identified victims of their crimes.  Additionally, the court entered individual preliminary orders of forfeiture against 21 defendants for assets that were seized in the case, and money judgments totaling over $72,942,300.

Eighteen other defendants were also sentenced in Houston before Judge Hittner this week:
  • Fahad Ali, 25, of Indiana, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner also recommended deportation upon completion of his sentence.
  • Montu Barot, 30, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Barot to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Rajesh Bhatt, aka Mike Joshi, 53, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 145 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Bhatt to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, 28, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy. 
  • Jagdish Chaudhari, 39, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Chaudhari to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Rajesh Kumar, 39, of Arizona, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner recommended deportation to India following his prison sentence.   
  • Jerry Norris, 47, of California, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy. 
  • Nilesh Pandya, 54, of Texas, was sentenced to serve three years probation on one count of conspiracy. 
  • Nilam Parikh, 46, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy. 
  • Bharatkumar Patel, 43, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 50 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Bhavesh Patel, 47, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy. 
  • Dilipkumar A. Patel, 53, of California, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Dilipkumar R. Patel, 39, of Florida, was sentenced to serve 52 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.
  • Harsh Patel, 28, of New Jersey, was sentenced to serve 82 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner also recommended deportation upon completion of his sentence.
  • Nisarg Patel, 26, of New Jersey, was sentenced to serve 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner recommended deportation to India following his prison sentence.     
  • Praful Patel, 50, of Florida, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy. 
  • Rajubhai Patel, 32, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy. 
  • Viraj Patel, 33, of California, was sentenced to serve 165 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.   
In addition to these 21 defendants, three others were previously sentenced for their involvement in the same fraud and money laundering scheme:
  • Asmitaben Patel, 34, of Illinois, was sentenced before Judge Hittner in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on March 23.  She was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison on the charge of conspiracy.
  • Dipakkumar Patel, 38, of Illinois, was sentenced before Judge Eleanor L. Ross in the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, on Feb. 14.  Patel, who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and passport fraud, was sentenced to serve a prison term of 51 months, to run concurrently.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $128,006.26.
  • Raman Patel, 82, of Arizona, was sentenced before Judge John Tuchi in the District of Arizona, Phoenix Division, on Jan. 29.  In connection with his plea agreement, Raman Patel received a probationary sentence for his plea to conspiracy.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $76,314.38.  
According to various admissions made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, between 2012 and 2016, the defendants and their conspirators perpetrated a complex fraud and money laundering scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, frequently impersonated officials from the IRS or USCIS in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States.  Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.  Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money.  Once a victim provided payment, the call centers turned to a network of runners based in the United States to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers.  In a typical scenario, call centers directed runners to purchase these stored value reloadable cards and transmit the unique card number to India-based co-conspirators who registered the cards using the misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) of U.S. citizens.  The India-based co-conspirators then loaded these cards with scam funds obtained from victims.  The runners used the stored value cards to purchase money orders that they deposited into the bank account of another person.  For their services, the runners would earn a specific fee or a percentage of the funds.  Runners also received victims’ funds via wire transfers, which were retrieved under fake names and through the use of using false identification documents, direct bank deposits by victims, and Apple iTunes or other gift cards that victims purchased. 
The indictment in this case also charged 32 India-based conspirators and five India-based call centers with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.  These defendants have yet to be arraigned in this case.  An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
HSI, DHS-OIG, and TIGTA led the investigation of this case.  Also providing significant support were: the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; the Ft. Bend, Texas, County Sheriff’s Department; the Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Police Department; the Leonia, New Jersey, Police Department; the Naperville, Illinois, Police Department; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection/Elder Abuse Unit; the U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, Eastern District of Louisiana, District of Nevada, and the District of New Jersey.  The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.  Additionally, the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), Legal and Victim Programs, provided significant support to the prosecution. 
Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), Trial Attorney Amanda S. Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark McIntyre and Craig Feazel of the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.  Kaitlin Gonzalez of HRSP was the paralegal for this case.    
A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims, and the public.  Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the FTC via this website.

Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Adrian Cronauer, The Airman Who Inspired ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ Film Has Died

Ben Finley at reports on the death of Adrian Cronauer.

RFOLK, Va. (AP) — Adrian Cronauer, the man whose military radio antics inspired a character played by Robin Williams in the film “Good Morning, Vietnam,” has died. He was 79.

Mary Muse, the wife of his stepson Michael Muse, said Thursday that Cronauer died Wednesday from an age-related illness. He had lived in Troutville, Virginia, and died at a local nursing home, she said.

During his service as a U.S. Air Force sergeant in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966, Cronauer opened his Armed Forces Radio show with the phrase, “Goooooood morning, Vietnam!” Williams made the refrain famous in the 1987 film, loosely based on Cronauer’s time in Saigon.

The film was a departure from other Vietnam war movies that focused on bloody realism, such as the Academy Award-winning “Platoon.” Instead, it was about irreverent youth in the 1960s fighting the military establishment.

“We were the only game in town, and you had to play by our rules,” Cronauer told The Associated Press in 1987. “But I wanted to serve the listeners.”

… Cronauer said he loved the movie but much of it was Hollywood make-believe. Robin Williams’ portrayal as a fast- talking, nonconformist, yuk-it-up disc jockey sometimes gave people the wrong impression of the man who inspired the film.

“Yes, I did try to make it sound more like a stateside station,” he told The AP in 1989. “Yes, I did have problems with news censorship. Yes, I was in a restaurant shortly before the Viet Cong hit it. And yes, I did start each program by yelling, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam!’”

The rest is what he delicately called “good script crafting.”

… “I always was a bit of an iconoclast, as Robin (Williams) was in the film,” Cronauer told the AP in 1999. “But I was not anti-military, or anti-establishment. I was anti-stupidity. And you certainly do run into a lot of stupidity in the military.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Inspector General Warns Public About Social Security Administration Impersonation Schemes

The Social Security Administration released the below information:

The Acting Inspector General of Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, is warning citizens about ongoing Social Security Administration (SSA) impersonation schemes. SSA and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have recently received several reports of suspicious phone calls claiming to be from SSA.

In one case, an automated recording states the person’s Social Security number (SSN) “has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity,” and the person should contact a provided phone number immediately to resolve the issue.  The call concludes by stating if the person does not contact the provided phone number, the person’s assets will be frozen until the alleged issue is resolved.  In another case, a caller claims to be from “SSA headquarters” and waits for the person to provide personal information, such as an SSN, address, and date of birth.  In January, the OIG shared similar information from the Federal Trade Commission, which reported an increase in reports of suspicious phone calls from people claiming to be SSA employees.

SSA employees occasionally contact citizens by telephone for customer-service purposes.  In only a few limited special situations, usually already known to the citizen, an SSA employee may request the citizen confirm personal information over the phone.  

If a person receives a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from SSA, citizens should report that information to the OIG at 1-800-269-0271 or online via

Acting Inspector General Stone continues to warn citizens to be cautious, and to avoid providing information such as your SSN or bank account numbers to unknown persons over the phone or internet unless you are certain of who is receiving it.  “Be aware of suspicious calls from unknown sources, and when in doubt, contact the official entity to verify the legitimacy of the call,” Stone said.
If a person has questions about any communication—email, letter, text or phone call—that claims to be from SSA or the OIG, please contact your local Social Security office, or call Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to verify its legitimacy.  (Those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.) 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Charles Hurt On Trump's One Bad Day In Russia

Charles Hurt (seen in the below photo) offers his take on President Trump’s one bad day in Russia (and the many bad days of the previous administration) in his column in the Washington Times.

Well, that certainly was not The Art of the Deal. And that was not the tough guy from Queens we so enthusiastically elected.

President Trump is the most courageous, imaginative, and dynamic American political leader in more than a quarter-century. He is willing to tackle huge problems and fiercely pursue bold and inventive courses in search of solutions to problems that cowardly politicians have ignored for decades.

None of that was on display Monday in Helsinki.

Mr. Trump was defensive, short-sighted and small-minded in answering reporters’ questions.

He equivocated between Russian President Vladimir Putin and American intelligence officials on whether Russia tried interfering with the 2016 election. (Of course they did. They always do. And Mr. Putin is a murderous thug who’d belong in prison in a country that had the rule of law … Spoiler: Russia doesn’t.)

Instead of seeing the big picture of a hostile adversary attacking our country, President Trump was focused on defending himself from these absurd accusations he “colluded” with Russia. When he was not doing that, he used the global stage to defend the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.

No serious person cares about any of this nonsense. Nobody but the worst partisan hacks think Mr. Trump “colluded” with Russia. Nor do any serious people think his victory was somehow not legitimate.

For a guy who normally does majestic whale breaches in the open water, these were guppy flips in a tiny fish bowl. It was embarrassing and totally unworthy of the Donald Trump we know and love.

Mr. Trump is at his very best when he is standing toe-to-toe telling friends and foes alike the hard truths they don’t want to hear. That is the Art of the Deal that Americans love and that is what got him legitimately elected president.

Mr. Trump’s fearlessness in standing up to all of the worst, most weaselly politicians in both parties — kicking their teeth in when necessary — is what we love about Mr. Trump.

Still, as bad as Mr. Trump’s performance in Helsinki was, it is not nearly as bad as the performance of the entire political machine over the past decade.

For instance, it was not nearly as bad as allowing Russia to invade Ukraine.

It was not nearly as bad as, say, reneging on U.S. assurances to protect Eastern European allies with anti-missile systems.

It was not anywhere in the same galaxy as ignoring your own “red line” laid down in Syria after Syrian butcher and Putin-puppet Bashar Assad gassed his own people.

And, finally, it was no where near as bad as whispering to Russia that you will have more “flexibility” after re-election to surrender everything to Russian power.

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

Russian National Charged In Conspiracy To Act As An Agent Of The Russian Federation Within The United States

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

A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Maria Butina, 29, a Russian citizen residing in Washington D.C., was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and made her initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was ordered held pending a hearing set for July 18, 2018.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.  This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.

The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation. The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.

The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fox’s Trish Regan And Retired General Jack Keane Shred Trump Over Putin Presser: ‘He Should Have Defended Us!’

Josh Feldman at offers a piece on Fox Business commentator Trish Regan and retired General Jack Keane (seen in the above photo) views on President Trump’s press conference with Russian President Putin.

Fox Business’ Trish Regan emphasized today she really, really wanted to be able to open her show by saying the media was all wrong about the Trump-Putin summit.

But she couldn’t.

“[Trump] basically said he didn’t buy what his own intelligence community was telling him,” Regan said. “This was clearly not his best performance… He should have defended us! He should have defended his own intelligence community. Or just don’t take the meeting! Don’t go to Helsinki if you can’t look the guy in the eye and tell him what’s what!”

She said the President should be able to separate Russian meddling from the collusion issue and his inability to do so is stunning.

Retired General Jack Keane, a Fox News senior strategic analyst, told Regan what happened today is “stunning and disappointing.”

He said whatever happened in private, the press conference was Trump’s opportunity to “knock the ball out of the park” and instead he “walked away from his intelligence community and did not stand behind them when they absolutely have the goods on Putin’s meddling in our election.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch the video clip via the below link:

The World Of Raymond Chandler And 'The Big Sleep' offers an excerpt and adaptation from the editor’s introduction to The Annotated Big Sleep, a book about the late, great writer Raymond Chandler’s first crime novel.

Raymond Chandler once wrote that “some literary antiquarian of a rather special type may one day think it worthwhile to run through the files of the pulp detective magazines” to watch as “the popular mystery story shed its refined good manners and went native.” He might have said, as the genre of detective fiction kicked out the Britishisms and became American. A chief agent of this transformation was Raymond Chandler himself. The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel, and it introduced the world to Philip Marlowe, the archetypal wisecracking, world-weary private detective that now occupies a permanent place in the American imagination. If Superman or John Wayne is the Zeus of American myth, and Marilyn Monroe is Aphrodite, then Marlowe is Prometheus: the noble outsider, sacrificing and enduring for a code he alone upholds.

But The Big Sleep does more than even Chandler intended it to do. Partially by design and partly by happy contingency, the novel dramatizes a cluster of profound subjects and themes, including human mortality; ethical inquiry; the sordid history of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century; the politics of class, gender, and sexuality; the explosion of Americanisms, colloquialisms, slang, and genre jargon; and a knowing playfulness with the mystery formula—all set against a backdrop of a post-Prohibition, Depression-era America teetering on the edge of World War II. For all this, The Big Sleep reads easy. And it’s a ripping good story.

In this annotated edition, we will trace the many veins of meaning folded into Chandler’s intricate novel. He didn’t think of himself as primarily a “mystery” writer—he called his stories only “ostensibly” mysteries—but consideration of his work was confined within the limitations of genre fiction during his lifetime and for decades thereafter. Chandler hated being restricted by such notions. In a late letter to publisher Hamish Hamilton he wrote: “In this country the mystery writer is looked down on as sub-literary merely because he is a mystery writer. . . . When people ask me, as occasionally they do, why I don’t try my hand at a serious novel, I don’t argue with them; I don’t even ask them what they mean by a serious novel. It would be useless. They wouldn’t know.”

Nowadays we don’t tend to be constrained by the same distinctions between “high” and “low art” that haunted Chandler. He is taught in university courses. He’s been canonized by the Library of America. Le Monde voted The Big Sleep one of the “100 Books of the Century” in 1999, and in 2005 TIME Magazine included it in its list of 100 best English-language novels since the magazine began in 1923. Before his death he would be lauded by authors as eminent W. H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and Christopher Isherwood. And The Big Sleep’s success moved from text to screen, with film adaptations eliciting iconic performances from two of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler via the below link:

Sunday, July 15, 2018

FBI Helps Marshall Center Counterterrorism Network Stop Future Attacks

Christine June at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies offers the below piece:

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, July 13, 2018 — For the past five years, Special Agents Tom and Jean O’Connor, both with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, have shared their experiences collecting evidence at terrorism sites with international participants attending the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies held twice a year at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here.

“The practical, real-life information provided by Tom and Jean on how to collect evidence can help our participants find out who the terrorists are and how they did it,” said retired Marine Corps Col. James Howcroft, Marshall Center’s PTSS director. “Then, you can figure out who are their friends, contacts and even, other members of the cell and this can help you stop a terrorist attack before it happens.”

Together, the husband-wife team has more than 40 years of experience investigating and collecting evidence at terrorist attack sites around the world. They have investigated large-scale terrorism sites such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon, as well as bombings on the USS Cole and at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and U.S. Consulate in Pakistan.

“The way we have done our training for PTSS participants is that we give a personal perspective on how to work these scenes and what investigative steps to take to locate the evidence that will help with the overall investigation,” Tom O’Connor said.

Evidence and Prosecution

The presentation they give for each PTSS program is a special evening class on evidence and prosecution. On July 9 here, they presented case studies on the incidents they have investigated or for which they collected evidence to illustrate the evidence response team’s 12-step process, from preparation to releasing the scene.

“I think PTSS has the internationally reach that I have not seen anywhere else. Case in point, we just hit up 68 potential investigators from 44 countries in one classroom,” Tom O’Connor said.  “We have been doing this twice a year since 2013. That’s a lot of countries and individuals who have been receiving this information, and a lot of potential terrorist attacks and criminal acts that are going to be able to be solved or prevented through investigative efforts.”

He added that the information provided in their presentation not only helps when the bomb goes off, but also can help before it goes off.

“When someone is doing an investigation and they come across some of the things Jean and I have talked about, they are able to put the case together and arrest individuals before the bad stuff happens,” he said.

Functionally Focused Program

The O’Connors are PTSS alumni. Tom attended in 2011, and Jean followed the next year in 2012.

“I think it’s really important to have alumni come back and share their experiences with other members of the PTSS,” Howcroft said.  “My team and I strive to make sure that PTSS is a course for practitioners, and we select speakers who offer experience and practical knowledge, and there is nobody better than Tom and Jean.”

Marshall Center’s PTSS is a functionally focused program that draws in civilian, law enforcement and military counterterrorism professionals from around the world and improves their capacity to counter terrorism's regional and transnational implications. It aims to combat terrorism in all of its manifestations nationally, regionally and globally.

The first PTSS course was in 2004, and this iteration is the Marshall Center’s 28th. It began June 27 and will finish July 26.

Real, Practical, Useful Takeaway’

“Through our teaching here at PTSS and talking to participants, we are also letting them know the capability of the FBI and that we have legal attaches based in U.S. Embassies throughout the world,” Jean O’Connor said. “This is important for them to know, because they all have evidence collection teams, and depending on what that level is in terms of training and capability, they could possibly use our assistance to collect evidence or have access to the FBI Laboratory.”

That is a real, practical and useful takeaway from the PTSS course, Howcroft said.

“The FBI has people like Tom and Jean who respond to events around the world, and they are there to help our partners to improve their capabilities to collect evidence in order to prosecute terrorists and discover their networks,” he added. “This is really important and, in fact, crucial for our participants to know that in their countries or regions, there are FBI agents who can help them.”

Marshall Center Alumni Network

The Marshall Center is a 25-year-old, German-American security partnership that has produced generations of global security professionals schooled in American and German security policies. Its alumni network has more than 12,500 security professionals from 154 nations. From the Marshall Center’s alumni network, close to 2,000 from 127 countries are PTSS alumni.
The O’Connors have contacted Marshall Center alumni when they have traveled overseas conducting investigations or participating in training.

“They do work internationally, and they have met up with alumni in many of the places they have gone to work like Kenya, Ukraine, Pakistan and Yemen,” Howcroft said. “They are really living this idea of the value of the alumni network here at the Marshall Center.”

Note: In the above DoD photo by Christine June Special Agents Tom and Jean O’Connor, both with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, talk about evidence and prosecution to 68 security professionals from 44 countries attending the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany on  July 9, 2018.