Friday, February 28, 2020

Dual U.S.-Mexican Citizen Known As 'La Negra" Arrested For Violations Of The Kingpin Act

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen had her initial appearance in federal court in the District of Columbia Wednesday on charges related to her alleged involvement in five business entities designated by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) as providing material support to the international narcotics trafficking activities of the Mexican narcotics trafficking organization known as the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG).
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge William Bodner of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Los Angeles Field Division made the announcement.
Jessica Johanna Oseguera Gonzalez, known as “La Negra,” 33, who was residing in Guadalajara, Mexico, was arrested in Washington, D.C. Wednesday pursuant to a warrant stemming from a Feb. 13, 2020, indictment.  The charges were unsealed earlier today and she remains in U.S. custody.  Her detention hearing is on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather in the District of Columbia. 
The five-count indictment alleges that Oseguera Gonzalez, engaged in transactions or dealings in property or interests in property with five business entities, which have been designated by OFAC as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  The businesses are alleged to provide financial support to, and are subject to the control of, the CJNG.  As a result, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. 
The indictment alleges that Oseguera Gonzalez continued her involvement with J&P Advertising S.A. de C.V., JJGON S.P.R. de R.L. de C.V., Las Flores Cabanas, Mizu Sushi Lounge and Operadora Los Famosas S.A. de C.V., and Onze Black, after their designations by OFAC on Sept. 17, 2015.  
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division led the investigation in conjunction with the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.  Assistant Deputy Chief Anthony Nardozzi, and Trial Attorneys Brett Reynolds, Kaitlin Sahni, and Cole Radovich of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting the case.

A Little Humor: Bernie Sanders Praises Slave Owners For Free Housing Program

The Babylon Bee took a satiric shot at Bernie Sanders, who praised the late Communist dictator Fidel Castro for Cuba’s literacy program.

U.S.—In a televised interview, Bernie Sanders has praised slave owners for their free housing program offered to all slaves working the plantations.

"Of course, the slavery was bad, but the slaves were housed, for free I might add, for their entire employment," Sanders said in an interview with 60 Minutes. "So it's unfair to criticize the whole thing. Also, the slaveowners were pretty impressive guys. The plantations were very clean, very nice buildings.

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

Constitution Health Plaza Cancels Plans For Safe Injection Site In South Philadelphia

WPVI, a TV station in Philadelphia, reports that the drug injection site scheduled to open in South Philadelphia, the first in the nation, will not open as planned due to outraged residents and local political representatives.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In an abrupt turn of events, the plan for the country's first supervised injection site to open in South Philadelphia stopped in its tracks Thursday

The controversial injection site to be operated by non-profit Safehouse was scheduled to open next week at Constitution Health Plaza at Broad and McKean streets.

However, a spokesperson with the Constitution Health Plaza says they are canceling the lease.

"We have made the decision to cancel plans to locate a supervised injection site at Constitution Health Plaza," said Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for Constitution Health Plaza.

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Chinese National Sentenced For Stealing Trade Secrets Worth $1 Billion

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

A former associate scientist was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison in federal court today for stealing proprietary information worth more than $1 billion from his employer, a U.S. petroleum company.
In November 2019, Tan pleaded guilty to theft of a trade secret, unauthorized transmission of a trade secret, and unauthorized possession of a trade secret. From June 2017 until December 2018, Tan was employed as an associate scientist at the petroleum company and was assigned to work in a group with the goal of developing next generation battery technologies for stationary energy storage, specifically flow batteries. In his plea agreement, Tan admitted to intentionally copying and downloading the technologies’ research and development materials without authorization from his employer.
“This investigation and prosecution uncovered another instance of China’s persistent attempts to steal American intellectual property,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “The department of justice will continue to confront this type of illicit behavior to safeguard American industry and protect American jobs.”
“American ingenuity inspires advances in science and technology and drives world markets. Nowhere is that more true than in Oklahoma’s energy industry. Unscrupulous individuals like Hongjin Tan seek to steal American trade secrets to take home to China so they can replicate our technology,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma. “United States Attorneys from coast stand ready to combat China’s economic aggression that criminally threatens American industry.”
"American companies invest heavily in advanced research and cutting-edge technology. Trade secret theft is detrimental to our national security and free-market economy.  It takes profits away from companies and jobs away from hard working Americans," said Melissa Godbold, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Oklahoma City Field Office. “The sentencing of Hongjin Tan underscores the FBI’s commitment to protecting our country's industries from adversaries who attempt to steal valuable proprietary information.”
According to the plea agreement, Tan used a thumb drive to copy hundreds of files containing the proprietary information on Dec. 11, 2018. He subsequently turned in his resignation and was escorted from the premises on Dec. 12, 2018. Later that day, he returned the thumb drive, claiming that he had forgotten to do so before leaving his employer’s property. Upon examination, it was discovered that there was unallocated space on the thumb drive, indicating five documents had previously been deleted. Investigators with the FBI searched Tan’s premises and found an external hard drive. They discovered that the same five missing files from the thumb drive had been downloaded to the hard drive. Tan maintained the files on a hard drive so he could access the data at a later date. Further accessing the material would have been financially advantageous for Tan but caused significant financial damage to his Oklahoma employer.
U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell sentenced Hongjin Tan, 36, a Chinese National and U.S. legal permanent resident, to 24 months in federal prison and ordered the defendant to pay $150,000 in restitution to his former employer. Following his release from prison, Tan will spend three years on supervised release.
Tan was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service until transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons Facility.
The FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel-lyn A. McCormick of the Northern District of Oklahoma and Trial Attorney Matthew J. McKenzie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Trial Attorney Matthew R. Walczewski and Assistant Deputy Chief Brian J. Resler of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).

Statement of U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain Regarding Proposed Drug Injection Site In South Philadelphia

The U.S. Attorney Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below statement:
 PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain released the following statement regarding the proposed drug injection site in South Philadelphia today:
Yesterday morning, Safehouse announced during a press conference that it intends to open a heroin injection site in South Philadelphia next week – although it did not specify the precise location or the precise date, in keeping with Safehouse’s consistent lack of transparency in dealing with the community.  By contrast, I wanted to update the community on the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to prevent this proposed site from opening.  First, yesterday afternoon, my Office filed its official Notice of Appeal with the U.S. District Court, which begins the process of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s review of the District Court’s decision.  Second, my Office will be filing a motion today for the District Court to stay its final order during the pendency of the appeal.
This request for a stay is critically important.  My Office filed suit against Safehouse in the first place to bring order, reason and fairness to a potentially explosive situation.  The current dispute over injection sites should be settled in the courts, not in the streets.  But, that court process is not over, and I believe that a stay is appropriate so that the dispute will continue to be resolved via careful, reasoned analysis and not deteriorate into a literal street fight.  Here, a stay would preserve the status quo while the Third Circuit examines the legality of the proposed site, and would prevent the chaos that would occur should Safehouse lurch forward with an opening while the case is still ongoing.
This unnecessary chaos was on full display at Safehouse’s press conference yesterday morning.  That press conference was a dumpster fire. 
The press conference featured, among other things, understandably angry South Philadelphia residents yelling at former Governor Rendell, calling him unworthy of the title of Governor and berating him as a “sneak” for hiding his intention to locate the first injection site in South Philadelphia, as well as a sitting City Councilman (Mark Squilla) screaming at Safehouse’s founders that their proposal was “horrible and a disgrace” and “not a part of democracy” because he and his constituents had never been informed about Safehouse’s plans. 

It also featured plenty of logical inconsistency: Governor Rendell, for example, claimed that an injection site in Philadelphia would have saved the life of his friend’s son (who tragically overdosed in his parents’ home) on the assumption that this young man would have traveled from the suburbs to the site to inject.  Immediately contradicting this, Safehouse co-founder Ronda Goldfein, in response to angry questions from South Philadelphia residents who fear that the site would draw addicts to their neighborhood, adamantly insisted that “nobody” from outside the South Philadelphia neighborhood would use the site.  Goldfein quickly became irritated with the residents’ legitimate questions; things got so bad that she threw in the towel and deferred any questions to an imaginary, future community meeting to be held at an unnamed time and place.
The sad fact is that Safehouse’s secretive, haphazard “plan” has not been vetted with any of the affected neighborhood residents, community groups, City Council members, State Representatives or State Senators.  It is being unfairly foisted on them on the assumption that they don’t matter.  It is treating them like fools.
The residents of Philadelphia deserve better than this.  And my Office will continue to fight for it – and for them.

FBI: Romanian Hackers Sentenced - Members Of Bayrob Criminal Enterprise Infected Thousands Of Computers With Malware, Stole Millions Of Dollars

The FBI released the below information:
The hackers were like modern-day John Dillingers, brazenly committing their crimes and repeatedly escaping law enforcement’s grasp.
But like Dillinger and most other criminals, they eventually slipped up, and the FBI and its international partners were waiting for them after years of tracking their activities. 
In 2007, an Ohio woman wired thousands of dollars to an eBay seller thinking she was buying a used car. The car never arrived. When she went to her local police department, the listing did not appear on the officers’ computers.
That’s because the woman was on a fraudulent version of the online auction site that mimicked the real one—a result of having unknowingly downloaded malicious software, known as malware, to her computer.
And to thousands of other victims just like her, the website and transactions looked legitimate. But buyers who thought they were wiring money across town were, in fact, sending money to hackers halfway across the world.
The hackers, known as the Bayrob Group, laundered the money via money mules, making it difficult to track. (Money mules are criminal accomplices who, often unwittingly, move criminal money through their own bank accounts.) Additionally, if a user on an infected machine went to the “Help” section of the site, they were met with the hackers’—not eBay’s—customer service.
The Bayrob hackers also blocked websites like—the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center—where a user might have gone for help. And before smartphones were so common, the infected computer may have been a victim’s only access to the Internet.
The would-be car buyer, along with many other victims, lost her money because wiring funds lacks the consumer protection of a credit card. Agents estimate each victim lost between $8,000 and $11,000.
“At the time, this was really cutting edge,” said Special Agent Ryan Macfarlane, who worked this case out of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office. “These guys did a very good job of staying current with the technologies in the cyber criminal underground.”
The Bayrob hackers were frustratingly nimble and good at covering their tracks. They used multiple layers of proxy servers to hide their location. Those proxy servers communicated with the “command and control” servers that talked to the thousands of computers the malware had infected.
But as the hackers gained more victims, more partners joined the investigation. The FBI worked with numerous law enforcement agencies around the world on this case, as well as with companies such as AOL, eBay, and Symantec.
Beginning in 2012, the Bayrob Group began to diversify its criminal business as technology advanced. They continued to spread their malware via spam and social media, but they also got into cryptocurrency mining and selling credit card numbers on the Darknet.
“They had all of these infected systems, and they tried to use as many ways as possible to make money from them,” Macfarlane said.
A break finally came when a Bayrob participant accidentally logged into his personal email instead of his criminal one. AOL, who was investigating his abuse of their network, connected the two accounts. That personal account led to online profiles in Romania and on social media—essentially the first action tying one of the suspects to the crimes.
That small mistake helped set investigators, in partnership with the Romanian National Police, on a path toward discovering the identities of all three hackers. And after much further investigation, including undercover buys from the group on Darknet marketplace Alphabay, the FBI had enough evidence to work with Romanian authorities on the arrests.
By the time the hackers were arrested in 2016, the Bayrob Group had become one of the top senders of malicious email.
“We were essentially taking down this entire infrastructure and arresting the three individuals at one time,” Macfarlane said. “And the Romanian National Police were key partners in this effort. They stuck with us year after year. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
Bayrob Group members Bogdan Nicolescu and Radu Miclaus were both convicted on wire fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges. In December 2019, Nicolescu was sentenced to 20 years and Miclaus to 18 years in prison.
A third member of the group, Tiberiu Danet, pleaded guilty to similar charges. He was sentenced in January to 10 years in prison.
While it was years in the making, putting a stop to these prolific thieves was worth the time and effort for the investigators—even when the hackers were as elusive as a gangster on the run.
“We stuck with it because these guys weren’t stopping,” Macfarlane said. “They continued to evolve, and they were becoming a bigger and bigger threat.”
Protecting Yourself Online
Although many of the victims had no way of knowing their computers were compromised, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your devices, such as making sure your antivirus and operating systems are always up to date. Also be careful of what you click on, even if it’s coming from someone you know.
“A lot of people don’t think that someone they know will be compromised,” said FBI Special Agent Stacy Diaz, who also worked on the case. “These hackers know how social networks work, and they use those relationships to grow their network.”
Bayrob by the Numbers 
  • Infected computers: 400,000+
  • Money lost: $4 million+
  • Average loss per victim: $8,000-$11,000
  • Years in operation: 2007-2016
  • Malware variations: 160+
  • Malicious emails sent: 70+ million 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

U.S. Department Of Justice To Appeal District Court Ruling Regarding Drug Injection Sites

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information.
PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge ruled today that a nonprofit seeking to open a facility in Philadelphia for the injection of illegal drugs would not violate a federal drug law known commonly as the federal “crack house statute.”  The decision by United States District Court Judge Gerald A. McHugh in favor of nonprofit Safehouse makes final a prior ruling and paves the way for a showdown on appeal.
“We respectfully disagree with the District Court’s ruling and plan to appeal immediately,” said United States Attorney William M. McSwain. “What Safehouse proposes is a radical experiment that would invite thousands of people onto its property for the purpose of injecting illegal drugs. In our view, this would plainly violate the law and we look forward to presenting our case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.”
The application of the law in question, which prohibits any person from maintaining a place for the purpose of illegal drug use, is hotly contested. Safehouse contends that allowing illegal drug use on its property is necessary to prevent overdoses. The so-called “supervised injection site” proposed by Safehouse would be the first of its kind in the United States.
This effort is staunchly opposed by a growing number of federal authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Surgeon General. In anticipation of this ruling, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month, condemning Safehouse’s plan and committing to an appeal. Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams cautioned, “I have looked at the data,” and “we want to optimize the things that we know work before we start having conversations about more controversial interventions.”
Community groups in neighborhoods where Safehouse is rumored to be considering opening an injection site have also objected. “We believe that Safehouse’s proposed activity threatens to institutionalize the scourge of illegal drug use – and all the problems that come with it – in Philadelphia neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “In light of these concerns, Safehouse should act prudently and not rush to open while the appeal is pending. But if it does rush forward, my Office will evaluate all options available under the law.”
While no timeline has yet been set for the appeal, the United States will seek an expedited ruling from the Third Circuit.

Doctor Described As ‘Candy Man’ And ‘El Chapo Of Opioids’ Admits Distributing Opioids To Patients

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey released the below information:

NEWARK, N.J. – A Bergen County doctor today admitted distributing opioids without a legitimate medical reason and falsifying medical records to cover it up, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Robert Delagente, 45, of Oakland, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled dangerous substances, three counts of distribution of controlled dangerous substances, and one count of falsifying medical records.
“This defendant knowingly prescribed for his patients some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs available, sometimes with no more contact than a text message from the patient,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “Many of these patients were dealing with pain and addiction, and instead of getting help from their doctor, they were drawn deeper into the cycle of drug abuse. His admission of guilt today ensures that he will be appropriately punished for this behavior.”
“Dr. Delagente sold his ethics, his medical license, and his moral compass,” FBI-Newark Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said. “There is no magic elixir for the pain caused by pill mill doctors. The cure is public awareness, victims who come forward and a determined fleet of FBI investigators who will arrest these unscrupulous practitioners when they run afoul of the law.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Beginning in May 2014, Delagente was a doctor at a medical practice called North Jersey Family Medicine (NJFM) in Oakland, New Jersey. He allegedly described himself in conversations pertaining to his prescribing of painkillers as the “Candy Man” and the “El Chapo of Opioids.” Delagente knowingly prescribed controlled substances, such as oxycodone, Percocet, Tylenol with codeine, and various benzodiazepines (alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, and temazepam), outside the ordinary course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. He ignored the inherent danger and medical risk of overdose, drug abuse, and death that can accompany prescriptions of highly addictive opioids, benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxers, both on their own and in combination with one another.
Delagente prescribed controlled substances without ever seeing the purported patient for a medical visit or even discussing with the patient the medical need for the prescription. He allowed patients to ask him for controlled substances via text message and would write a prescription for patients that he would leave at the front desk, without requiring an office visit or consultation of any kind. He allowed patients to dictate the strength and dosage of the controlled substances he prescribed for them. Delagente also prescribed the dangerous drug combination known as the “Holy Trinity,” comprised of opioids (usually oxycodone), benzodiazepines (usually alprazolam) and muscle relaxers (usually carisoprodol).
Delagente failed to monitor patients for addiction and ignored drug screening tests to determine whether certain patients were taking illicit drugs. In fact, Delagente prescribed controlled substances to patients he knew were addicted to opioids or other controlled substances. In one instance, an NJFM employee texted Delagente that a patient had gotten a babysitter and driven a long distance to get to the practice, but had been unable to see a doctor. Delagente responded: “Oh well … C’est la vie! Lol … He can wait for his oral heroin another day. Lol.”
One patient texted Delagente that the patient “probably can’t stop the pk’s,” referring to painkillers. The patient told Delagente that the patient “would need a plan to stop…not cold turkey.” A few days later, when the patient was having trouble obtaining pain medication, the patient wrote to Delagente that “If I go 4 days without [painkillers] I am in huge trouble.” In response, Delagente wrote “I will leave you a short supply RX [prescription] at the front to pick up.” Delagente then wrote the patient a prescription for 120 tablets of 30-milligram oxycodone for 30 days. Delagente at one point told this patient: “I’m literally sticking my neck out and can lose my medical license or [be] arrested for what I just did.”
Delagente also was charged with altering medical records of patients who received controlled substance prescriptions from him after law enforcement officials had subpoenaed the records in late April 2019.
Delagente faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine on each of the distribution of controlled dangerous substances charges. Delagente faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the charge of falsifying medical records. Sentencing for Delagente is scheduled for June 10, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason S. Gould of the Health Care Fraud Unit and Sean M. Sherman of the Opioids Unit in Newark.

South Philadelphia Drug Delivery Service Operators, Known As The “Friends,” Convicted At Trial On All Counts

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Antoine Clark, 30, Gerald Spruell, 32, and Daniel Robinson, 36, all of Philadelphia, PA, were convicted after more than two weeks at trial of charges including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and distribution or possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and heroin arising from their operation of an almost around-the-clock drug delivery service for several years in South Philadelphia.
Between 2013 and 2016, the defendants and their co-conspirators, known as the “Friends” and “7th Street” drug trafficking group, delivered crack cocaine and heroin to customers along the 7th Street corridor in South Philadelphia using a shared drug phone. The defendants used the phone to take orders and communicate with customers; they would pass the phone off in shifts to keep their operation going almost 24 hours per day. FBI agents conducted surveillance and controlled purchases of narcotics from the defendants using audio and video recording devices. Agents recovered narcotics sold by the defendants after stopping their drug customers. During the course of the investigation, agents also intercepted phone calls and text messages from the shared drug phone, which documented the defendants’ illicit activities. Upon defendant Spruell’s arrest in June 2016, Philadelphia Police officers recovered a number of items related to drug trafficking, including two firearms and live rounds of ammunition.
“The defendants in this case ran a drug delivery operation akin to a ‘GrubHub’ or ‘UberEats’ for narcotics,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “But despite their ‘friendly’ moniker, they were no friends to this community.  To the contrary, they jeopardized the safety of an entire neighborhood in South Philadelphia.  This conviction marks the definitive end to their enterprise, and a new beginning for the 7th Street corridor.”
Each defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment, and a maximum of lifetime imprisonment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Newcomer and Jason Grenell.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

My Washington Times Review Of Bernard Cornwell's 'Sword Of Kings'

The Washington Times published my review of Bernard Cornwell’s Sword of Kings.

I first became acquainted with Bernard Cornwell by watching the “Sharpe” TV series, which was based on his historical novels that featured Richard Sharpe, portrayed by actor Sean Bean, a Napoleonic-era British soldier up from the ranks. Bernard Cornwell described Richard Sharpe as a rogue, but a rogue on our side.

I read the entire Sharpe series and I went on to read his other historical fiction, including his Saxon stories. The Saxon stories cover the bloody path that led to the creation of England in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The hero of the Saxon stories is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon lord from Northumbria who was captured by the Danes as a young man and adopted into their tribe. He later fights for Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex.

Alfred the Great’s dream was to unite the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one kingdom called England. Mr. Cornwell’s Saxon stories were adapted for television and called “The Last Kingdom,” with actor Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred. The series appears on Netflix.

In Mr. Cornwell’s “King of Swords,” the 12th installment in the Saxon stories, Uhtred, who narrates the stories, becomes involved in the succession of Alfred the Great’s son, King Edward. Edward rules over Wessex, Mercia and East Anglia, and as he lay dying, Uhtred swears an oath to Edward’s likely successor, Aethelstan, to kill his rivals to the throne, Aethelhelm and his evil and rotten nephew, Aelfweard.

Uthred, a pagan and a feared warrior, would like to sit out the medieval game of thrones, but the oath is important to him, although he calls it a “fool’s errand.” With a small army he boards “Spearharfoc,” a warship equipped with sail and 40 rowers, and sails into the fray.

Uthred is soon engaged in numerous sea and land battles, which Mr. Cornwell describes in vivid and accurate historical detail. 

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

Sonny' Franzese, Legendary New York Mobster, Dead at 103

Robert Gearty at reports that Sonny Franzese, the former Cosa Nostra Colombo organized crime family underboss, has died.

Legendary New York mobster John “Sonny” Franzese, the former underboss of the Colombo Crime Family, has died at 103, TMZ reported.

As a younger man, according to Mafia lore, Franzese was a big spender and a regular at New York's Copacabana nightclub, where he hobnobbed with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

He also provided financing for the classic 1972 porn film "Deep Throat.”

Franzese died of natural causes at a nursing home in New York, Fox News confirmed. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Monday, February 24, 2020

Narcotics Trafficker Who Distributed Heroin Mixed With Fentanyl Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison For Multiple Gun And Drug Offenses

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information:
PHILADELPHIA – Deputy United States Attorney Louis D. Lappen announced that Matt “Mack” Jones, 37, of Bensalem, PA, was sentenced to 240 months’ imprisonment and eight years’ supervised release by Senior United States District Court Judge R. Barclay Surrick. Jones was convicted at trial in October 2019 on charges of distribution of heroin and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
In January 2018, the Philadelphia Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey State Police, and the Philadelphia Police Department began a joint investigation of the defendant and other co-conspirators. Officers learned that the defendant was a heroin supplier, and that he supplied two female associates with bags of heroin and directed them to deliver the bags to customers in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
Investigators conducted several controlled buys of heroin from the defendant and his co-conspirators with the assistance of a cooperating witness at the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and the Philadelphia Mills Mall (formerly Franklin Mills Mall) in Philadelphia. Laboratory analysis of the seized material confirmed the presence of heroin mixed with fentanyl. In July 2018, officers searched the defendant’s home and found firearms, including a Colt .38 handgun and a 12 gauge shotgun, ammunition, half a kilogram of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, drug packaging paraphernalia and more than $100,000 cash.
“Jones and other members of this drug organization pumped huge quantities of deadly drugs into our community for years,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Lappen.  “Drug trafficking is a serious federal offense which will earn those convicted of it serious time behind bars, as this sentence demonstrates.  Our Office is determined to investigate and convict these criminals to keep the streets of our communities safer.”
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Philadelphia Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the Bensalem Township Police, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher E. Parisi.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Little Humor: Applying For A Government Job

A veteran visited a Defense Department depot in Philadelphia to apply for a job, as he heard that they were hiring vets.

The interviewer asked him, “Are you allergic to anything?” 

The man replied, “Yes, caffeine. I can’t drink coffee.”

“OK, have you ever been in the military?”

“Yes,” the man said. “I was in Afghanistan for one tour.”

The interviewer said, “That will give you five extra points toward employment.”

Then he asked, “Are you disabled in any way?”

The man replied, “Yes. An IED exploded near me and I lost both my testicles.”

The interviewer grimaced and said, “Disabled in your country’s service! Well, that qualifies for extra bonus points. 

“Okay. Looking at the regulations you have got enough points for me to hire you right now. Our normal hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so you can start tomorrow at 10:00 am, and plan on starting at 10:00 am every day.”

The man was puzzled, and he asked, “If the work hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, why don’t you want me here until 10:00 am?”

“This is a government job,” the interviewer said. “For the first two hours, we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our balls.

"No point in you coming in for that.”

Note: The above photo is of Moe, Larry and Curly, the Three Stooges. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Former DIA Employee Pleads Guilty To Leaking Classified National Defense Information To Journalists

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
An employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) pleaded guilty today to charges related to his disclosure of classified national defense information (NDI) to two journalists in 2018 and 2019.
“Frese violated the trust placed in him by the American people when he disclosed sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “He alerted our country’s adversaries to sensitive national defense information, putting the nation’s security at risk.  The government takes these breaches seriously and will use all the resources at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute those who jeopardize the safety of this country and its citizens.”
“Henry Kyle Frese was entrusted with Top Secret information related to the national defense of our country,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Frese violated that trust, the oath he swore to uphold, and engaged in felonious conduct at the expense of our country. This case should serve as a clear reminder to all of those similarly entrusted with National Defense Information that unilaterally disclosing such information for personal gain, or that of others, is not selfless or heroic, it is criminal.”
“Mr. Frese violated his sworn oath to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States by using his access to the United States’ most sensitive information and steal state secrets for nothing more than personal gain,” said Robert Wells, Acting Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division. “The men and women of the FBI who investigated this case swore the same oath but unlike Mr. Frese, they chose to uphold it. I am proud of the work they did to hold Mr. Frese accountable for his actions.”
"By disseminating the same classified information he had pledged to protect, Henry Kyle Frese put the US and our national defense equities in danger," said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office.  "The US Government and the American public depend on trusted government employees to keep such information out of the hands of our adversaries, who could use it to cause us harm.  The FBI's counterintelligence mission is to protect our country's information and secrets in order to safeguard our future; and the men and women of the FBI will continue to work hard to preserve that information."
According to court documents, Henry Kyle Frese, 31, of Alexandria, was employed by DIA as a counterterrorism analyst from February 2018 to October 2019, and held a Top Secret//Sensitive Compartmented Information security clearance. United States government agencies have confirmed that in the spring and summer of 2018, News Outlet 1 published eight articles, all authored by the same journalist (Journalist 1) that contained classified NDI that related to the capabilities of certain foreign countries’ weapons systems. These articles contained classified intelligence from five intelligence reports (the Compromised Intelligence Reports) made available to appropriately cleared recipients in the first half of 2018. The topic of all of these initial five Compromised Intelligence Reports – foreign countries’ weapons systems – was outside the scope of Frese’s job duties as an analyst covering CT topics. The media articles, and the intelligence reporting from which they were derived, both contained information that is classified up to the TS//SCI level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security. The intelligence reporting was marked as such.
According to court documents, Frese and Journalist 1 lived together at the same residential address from January 2018 to November 2018. Throughout 2018 and 2019, Frese and Journalist 1 “followed” each other on Twitter, and on at least two occasions Frese re-Tweeted Journalist 1’s Tweets announcing the publications of articles containing NDI classified at the Top Secret level.
In or about April of 2018, Journalist 1 introduced Frese to a second journalist (Journalist 2).  Subsequently, Frese began texting and speaking with Journalist 2 by telephone. Between mid-2018 and late September 2019, Frese orally transmitted NDI classified at the Top Secret level to Journalist 1 on 12 separate occasions, and orally transmitted NDI classified at the Secret level to Journalist 1 on at least four occasions. Frese knew the information was classified at the Secret and Top Secret levels because the intelligence products from which he had learned the classified information had visible classification markings as to the classification level of the information, and the intelligence products accessed by Frese were stored on secure, classified government information systems.
In relation to one of the 12 times Frese orally transmitted Top Secret NDI to Journalist 1, in or about mid-April to early May 2018, Frese accessed an intelligence report unrelated to his job duties on multiple occasions, which contained NDI classified at the Top Secret//SCI level (Intelligence Report l). A week after Frese accessed Intelligence Report 1 for the second time, Frese received an April 27, 2018 Twitter Direct Message (DM) from Journalist 1 asking whether Frese would be willing to speak with Journalist 2. Frese stated that he was “down” to help Journalist 2 if it helped Journalist 1 “progress.” During the same April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Journalist 1 indicated that a certain United States military official told Journalist 2 that the official was not aware of the subject matter discussed in Intelligence Report 1. Frese characterized the official’s denial as “weird” and commented on the source of information contained within Intelligence Report 1.
Several days after the April 27, 2018, Twitter exchange, Frese searched on a classified United States government computer system for terms related to the topics contained in Intelligence Report 1. A few hours after searching for terms related to the topic of Intelligence Report l, Frese spoke by telephone with Journalist 1, and several hours later he spoke by telephone with Journalist 2.  Immediately after the call with Journalist 2, Journalist 1 called Frese. During at least one of the calls with Journalist 1 and Journalist 2, Frese orally passed Top Secret NDI derived from Intelligence Report 1. Approximately 30 minutes after Frese spoke with the two journalists, Journalist 1 published an article (Article 1) which contained Top Secret NDI, orally communicated by Frese and derived from Intelligence Report 1 classified at the Top Secret//SCI level.
On at least 30 separate occasions in 2018, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems for information regarding the classified topics he discussed with Journalists 1 and 2. On multiple occasions in 2018 and 2019, Frese conducted searches on classified government systems because of specific requests for information from Journalists 1 and 2.
Additionally, between early 2018 and October 2019, Frese communicated with an employee of an overseas CT consulting group (Consultant 1) via social media. On at least two occasions, Frese transmitted classified NDI related to CT topics to Consultant 1, using a social media site’s direct messaging feature.
Frese pleaded guilty to the willful transmission of Top Secret national defense information, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on June 18, 2020, at 9:30 am. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Neil Hammerstrom and Danya E. Atiyeh, and Trial Attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

CIA Operations Officer Lucien Conein: A Study In Contrasts And Controversy

William Rust, author of Kennedy in Vietnam, offers an interesting piece of legendary CIA officer Lucien Conein in the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence.

February 10—CIA’s principal contact with the South Vietnamese generals who overthrew and assassinated President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963 is the subject of an in-depth profile now available in Studies in Intelligence, the professional journal published by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Center for the Study of Intelligence. 

Written by William J. Rust, “No Boy Scout: CIA Operations Officer Lucien Conein” tells the story of a polarizing French-American paramilitary specialist who served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II and in its postwar successor agencies.

A decades-spanning narrative, “No Boy Scout” documents the admiration of several CIA station chiefs for Conein’s professionalism, dedication, and loyalty. Yet his heavy drinking, five marriages, and emotional volatility concerned Agency security officers and other US officials. During the tense weeks before the overthrow of Diem, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was appalled that an “unstable Frenchman” was the CIA liaison with the plotting generals.

Included in “No Boy Scout” are new details about Conein’s OSS service in France and Indochina; his six-year postwar assignment in Germany with the Strategic Services Unit, Central Intelligence Group, and CIA; his sabotage and espionage operations for Colonel Edward G. Lansdale’s Saigon Military Mission in the 1950s; and his involvement with the fabrications of the Nixon White House blaming President Kennedy for the assassination of Diem.

A celebrity spy after the 1971 leak of the top-secret Defense Department history of the Vietnam War, more commonly known as the Pentagon Papers, Conein was a self-admitted fabulist with journalists and historians. Sorting fact from fancy in his professional and personal life has become less difficult with the recent release of declassified records, including efficiency reports, personal history statements, and background investigations in his CIA personnel file.

William Rust is the author of five books about US relations with Southeast Asian nations during the mid-20th century. Learn more about his work at

You can read the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Betrayal In Berlin: My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On Steve Vogel's interview With Cold War Spy George Blake

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on Steve Vogel’s interview with former Soviet spy George Blake (seen in the above photo).

Steve Vogel is the author of “Betrayal in Berlin: The True Story of the Cold War’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation,” which I reviewed in these pages. The book covered the dramatic story of the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service’s attempt to tap Soviet telephone lines by building a tunnel in Berlin during the Cold War.

But the bold plan was blown from the start. An SIS officer named George Blake was a Soviet spy and he informed the Soviets. To protect their valuable spy, the Soviets allowed the tunnel to be built. The West gained much intelligence before the Soviets publicly uncovered the tunnel.

The book covers many interesting people from the era, and although I despise the Soviet spy, I was most interested in George Blake. Blake lives in Russia today under the protection and public admiration of former KGB officer and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who calls him every year on his birthday.  

I contacted Steve Vogel (seen in the above photo) and asked him about his interview with George Blake.

“My dad was a case officer with the CIA, and I was born in Berlin in 1960,” Mr. Vogel said. “Too late for the tunnel, but in time for the Berlin Wall, which my dad said was put up to keep me out.”

He said he was back in Berlin in 1989 as a reporter and saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. He covered many Cold War spy stories, including the trial of East German Stasi spymaster Markus Wolf.

Steve Vogel said his father died in 1986 and hearing stories from his father’s retired CIA friends, he thought this was a good time to write a story about Cold War Berlin.

“When I started the book, I was focusing on the tunnel, but it’s hard not to get sucked into the George Blake story. He was a fascinating figure, one of the great espionage stories of the 20th century,” Mr. Vogel said.

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

You can also read my Washington Times review of Betrayal in Berlin via the below link: 

Charles Portis, Author of 'True Grit,' Dies

The Washington Times reports on the death of writer Charles Portis, the author of True Grit, which was made into a classic Western film starring John Wayne.

Novelist Charles Portis, a favorite among critics and writers for such shaggy dog stories as “Norwood” and “Gringos” and a bounty for Hollywood whose droll, bloody Western “True Grit” was a best-seller twice adapted into Oscar nominated films, died Monday at age 86.

Portis, a former newspaper reporter who apparently learned enough to swear off talking to the media, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s in recent years. His brother, Jonathan Portis, told The Associated Press that he died in a hospice in Little Rock, Arkansas, his longtime residence.

Charles Portis was among the most admired authors to nearly vanish from public consciousness in his own lifetime. His fans included Tom Wolfe, Roy Blount Jr. and Larry McMurtry, and he was often compared to Mark Twain for his plainspoken humor and wry perspective. 

Portis saw the world from the ground up, from bars and shacks and trailer homes, and few spun wilder and funnier stories. In a Portis novel, usually set in the South and south of the border, characters embarked on journeys that took the most unpredictable detours.

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

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Little Humor: Man Brings Friend Home to Meet The Wife

A man brought his friend home unannounced to meet his wife and have dinner after work.

His wife screamed at him while his friend sat there in shock.

“My hair and makeup are not done, the house is a mess, the dishes are not done, I am still in my pajamas and curlers and I can’t be bothered with cooking tonight! Why the hell did you bring him home?”

Calmly, sadly, the husband replied, “He’s thinking of getting married and I promised him a demo.”  

Note: The above photo is of Curly Howard of the Three Stooges.

In one of the Three Stooges shorts, Curly was asked if he was married.

“No,” Curly replied. “I’m happy.”  

Defense Secretary Makes Case That China Is A Growing Threat To Europe

David Vergun at the DOD News offers a piece on Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper’s warning to Europe about China.  

In Europe, there is a focus on the threat from Russia. However, there is also a threat from China, the Pentagon's number one concern, said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. 

"America's concerns about Beijing's commercial and military expansion should be [Europe's] concerns as well," Esper said, during his remarks at the Munich Security Conference in Germany today.

China is currently applying economic and political pressure publicly and privately on many Indo-Pacific region and European nations, to seek new strategic relationships, he said.

The Belt and Road Initiative is one such example where it uses overseas investments to force other nations into making suboptimal security decisions, the secretary noted. This has wide-ranging implications for the U.S. and allies in areas such as data security and military interoperability.

Another example is China's telecommunication firm Huawei, which has developed and is exporting 5G networks that threaten secure communications and jeopardize U.S. alliances. The department is working to support 5G advances in the U.S. and the secretary said he hopes European nations will follow suit.

Esper said China's President Xi Jinping is leading his nation even faster in the wrong direction: more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness and a more aggressive military posture.

The international community needs to be aware of the challenges presented by China's manipulation of the longstanding international rules-based order that has benefited the world for many decades, he said.

Beijing has said that by 2049, it intends to dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power, Esper said.

Over time, the Chinese have seized and militarized islands in the South China Sea, rapidly modernized its armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technology — often acquired through theft — to alter world power in its favor, he said.

Beijing is using artificial intelligence and other technologies to surveil and to repress many of its own people. Also, China is exporting those technologies to other authoritarian regimes, the secretary said.

The world is too interconnected for us not to work together to solve some of our toughest problems." 

For its part, DOD is investing in cutting edge technology to modernize its force and building stronger relationships with allies and partners. Examples, he said, are hypersonics, advanced missile defense systems and artificial intelligence. The goal of developing these weapons is to protect the sovereignty of all freedom-loving countries.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of China's admission into the World Trade Organization, "a decision that fundamentally altered the course of international affairs," he said.

The thinking at the time was that China's admission into the WTO and other multilateral institutions would result in China's continued path to economic reform and eventually become a responsible global and political stakeholder, and possibly an eventual democracy, he mentioned.

Skeptics, however, warned that China would reap the benefits of free trade to acquire technologies to build a strong military and security state capable of expanding the reach of its authoritarian rule, he said.

"These are both credible arguments but we all know which one is winning right now," he said.

Having said that, the U.S. doesn't seek conflict with China, he said. "In fact, we look for areas of cooperation where our interests converge."

For example, Esper said the U.S. delivered 18 tons of medical supplies to China and provided other assistance to help fight COVID19, the coronavirus. "The world is too interconnected for us not to work together to solve some of our toughest problems."

The world is increasingly becoming aware of China's motives and is responding in turn, he said.

To be a responsible partner in the international community, China must be transparent and respect the sovereignty, freedom and rights of all nations, he said.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

FBI: 2019 Internet Crime Report Released

The FBI released the below information:
Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in its 2019 Internet Crime Report. The last calendar year saw both the highest number of complaints and the highest dollar losses reported since the center was established in May 2000.
IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019—an average of nearly 1,300 every day—and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims. The most frequently reported complaints were phishing and similar ploys, non-payment/non-delivery scams, and extortion. The most financially costly complaints involved business email compromise, romance or confidence fraud, and spoofing, or mimicking the account of a person or vendor known to the victim to gather personal or financial information.
Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3, said that in 2019 the center didn’t see an uptick in new types of fraud but rather saw criminals deploying new tactics and techniques to carry out existing scams.
“Criminals are getting so sophisticated,” Gregory said. “It is getting harder and harder for victims to spot the red flags and tell real from fake.”
While email is still a common entry point, frauds are also beginning on text messages—a crime called smishing—or even fake websites—a tactic called pharming.
“You may get a text message that appears to be your bank asking you to verify information on your account,” said Gregory. “Or you may even search a service online and inadvertently end up on a fraudulent site that gathers your bank or credit card information.”
Individuals need to be extremely skeptical and double check everything, Gregory emphasized. “In the same way your bank and online accounts have started to require two-factor authentication—apply that to your life,” she said. “Verify requests in person or by phone, double check web and email addresses, and don’t follow the links provided in any messages.”
Business email compromise (BEC), or email account compromise, has been a major concern for years. In 2019, IC3 recorded 23,775 complaints about BEC, which resulted in more than $1.7 billion in losses.
These scams typically involve a criminal spoofing or mimicking a legitimate email address. For example, an individual will receive a message that appears to be from an executive within their company or a business with which an individual has a relationship. The email will request a payment, wire transfer, or gift card purchase that seems legitimate but actually funnels money directly to a criminal.
In the last year, IC3 reported seeing an increase in the number of BEC complaints related to the diversion of payroll funds. “In this type of scheme, a company’s human resources or payroll department receives an email appearing to be from an employee requesting to update their direct deposit information for the current pay period,” the report said. The change instead routes an employee’s paycheck to a criminal.
 “Information reported to the IC3 plays a vital role in the FBI’s ability to understand our cyber adversaries and their motives, which, in turn, helps us to impose risks and consequences on those who break our laws and threaten our national security,” said Matt Gorham, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “It is through these efforts we hope to build a safer and more secure cyber landscape.” Gorham encourages everyone to use IC3 and reach out to their local field office to report malicious activity. 
Rapid reporting can help law enforcement stop fraudulent transactions before a victim loses the money for good. The FBI’s Recovery Asset Team was created to streamline communication with financial institutions and FBI field offices and is continuing to build on its success. The team successfully recovered more than $300 million for victims in 2019.
Besides stressing vigilance on the part of every connected citizen, the IC3’s Donna Gregory also stressed the importance of victims providing as much information as possible when they come to IC3. Victims should include every piece of information they have—any email addresses, account information they were given, phone numbers scammers called from, and other details. The more information IC3 can gather, the more it helps combat the criminals.
In 2019, the Recovery Asset Team was paired with the Money Mule Team under the IC3’s Recovery and Investigative Development Team. This effort brings together law enforcement and financial institutions to use the data provided in IC3 complaints to gain a better view of the networks and methods of cyber fraudsters and identify the perpetrators.
The new effort allowed IC3 to aggregate more than three years of reports to help build a case against an active group of criminals who were responsible for damaging crimes that ranged from cryptocurrency theft to online extortion. The ensuing investigation by the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office resulted in the arrest of three people.