Tuesday, March 31, 2020

My Washington Times Review Of 'Mengele: Unmasking The Angel of Death'

The Washington Times published my review of Mengele; Unmasking the Angel of Death.

Josef Mengele was one of the most notorious war criminals in history. During World War II the Nazi doctor performed medical experiments in a concentration camp on unwilling children and adults, and with a jerk of his thumb he sent many unlucky men, women and children to their immediate deaths.

He escaped justice after the Third Reich fell by fleeing the country and although his death was later confirmed, and his body uncovered in a cemetery in Brazil, his victims’ demand for justice has not been fulfilled, nor has it satisfied an abundant interest in his life and crimes.

David Marwell’s “Mengele: Unmasking the Angel of Death” is a fine addition to other biographies of the evil doctor, as it is partly a biography and partly a memoir, as historian David Marwell was the U.S. Justice Department’s chief of investigative research in the Office of Special Investigations in the 1980s.

Mr. Marwell was involved in the Mengele investigation and he performed numerous interviews of victims and other parties, examined documents and visited Germany and other countries around the world gathering evidence. He also coordinated the investigation with partners in Israel, Germany and other governments and private organizations. He even held Mengele’s bones in his hands.

“While this book is based on both primary sources from archives throughout the world and the careful research of a host of brilliant scholars, it also relies on the writings of Mengele himself,” Mr. Marwell writes. “I read his correspondence and diaries from his later life and was exposed to the intimate details of his health complaints, frustrations, and private reflections, and to the style and rhythm of his thoughts. In addition, I had access to Mengele’s own attempt at the very enterprise in which I was engaged.”

Mr. Marwell notes that late in Mengele’s life, he wrote but never published an autobiographical novel, which was about a man shaped in a very special way by his time, as Mengele put it.

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


China Researchers Isolated Deadly Bat Coronaviruses Near Wuhan Animal Market

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece in the Washington Times on how Chinese government researchers performed scientific work on bat coronaviruses three miles from the "wet markets" identified as ground zero in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinese government researchers isolated more than 2,000 animal viruses, including deadly bat coronaviruses, and carried out scientific work on them just three miles from a wild animal market identified as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Chinese state media outlets in recent months touted the virus research and lionized in particular a key researcher in Wuhan, Tian Junhua, as a leader in bat virus work.

The coronavirus strain now infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally mutated from bats believed to have infected animals and people at a wild animal market in Wuhan. The exact origin of the virus, however, remains a mystery.

Reports of the extensive Chinese research on bat viruses likely will fuel more calls for Beijing to make public what it knows about such work.

“This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic,” Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. Mr. McCaul has said China should be held accountable for the pandemic.

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


Monday, March 30, 2020

Babylon Bee: Chick-Fil-A Temporarily Changes Slogan To 'Eat Fewer Bats'

Noting that informed sources have identified the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak to the “wet markets” in China, where bats and other exotic animals are considered a delicacy, the satiric Babylon Bee offers a great piece. 

ATLANTA, GA—In an effort to help curb the spread of Coronavirus, Chick-fil-a has announced that it will temporarily be changing its advertising slogan from "Eat Mor Chikin" to "Eat Fewer Bats."

The chicken sandwich chain will run public health ads and billboards with its iconic cow mascots reminding people to "eat fewer bats" and "have a delicious chicken sandwich instead."

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

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Get Shorty at 30: Dennis Lehane on Elmore Leonard's Hollywood satire

The late, great Elmore "Dutch" Leonard is one of my favorite writers and Get Shorty is one of his best crime novels.

The Guardian offers Dennis Lehane's fine introduction to the Folio Society Edition of Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty on the novel’s 30th anniversary. 

You can read the piece via the below link:


   You can also read my Crime Beat column on Elmore Leonard via the below link:


And you can read my friend and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer Frank Wilson's piece on Elmore Leonard via the below link:


Vietnam War Veterans Day 2020

Once again the country offers a day to show appreciation for the veterans of the Vietnam War.

My brother Ed served in the U.S. Army at Chu Lai, South Vietnam in 1968-1969.

I served in the U.S. Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk on "Yankee Station" off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970-1971.

You can read my Washington Times piece on the Vietnam War via the below link:


You can also read my post on the USS Kitty Hawk on Yankee Station via the below link:


Bent Not Broken: Tested By Wars, Storms And Terrorists, America Always Survives

Washington Times columnist Scott Walker offers a column on why America will survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

A tornado hit Merrill, Wisconsin, back in 2011 and did a great deal of damage. In addition to hitting a number of homes in town, the tornado ripped up several small businesses including a place called Northern Wire. The owner took some of the metal that was torn from their building and made it into keychains with the words, “Bent Not Broken” stamped on the side.

As a society, we too feel like we are in the middle of a storm. Worst of all is the unknown.

How much worse will it get? 

… During the Revolutionary War, we faced nearly impossible odds. At the time, Great Britain was, as Smithsonian Magazine says, “the greatest world power and owner of the planet’s most threatening navy.” Yet the early patriots won our independence from the British Empire. America was bent but not broken.

One in four soldiers who left home to fight in the Civil War never returned. An estimated 620,000 (about 2 percent of the population at the time) soldiers lost their lives in the line of duty. America was bent but not broken.

… The Great Depression began with the Stock Market Crash in the fall of 1929. Unemployment peaked at 25 percent in 1933. Droughts through the heartland and factory closings lead to a major decline in the economy and thousands of homeless. America was bent but now broken.

Surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. During the war, we faced nearly insurmountable odds at places like Normandy. Still, we achieved victory 75 years ago. America was bent but not broken.

Radical Islamic terrorists took over commercial aircraft that crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a cornfield in Pennsylvania.The attacks were planned to strike fear in the hearts of U.S. citizens and our allies around the world. America was bent but not broken.

Our nation has been tested many times in our history. With God’s help, however, we will emerge from this current crisis Bent Not Broken!

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


Note: The above photo is of Jasper John’s Three Flags.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain Warns About Fraud Related To The Coronavirus Crisis And Provides Tips To The Public

The U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below:

PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain warned the public today about the growing number and variety of fraud schemes associated with the coronavirus. He offered guidance to help prevent the public from being victimized by these frauds.  

“Over the past few weeks, there has been a significant number of frauds committed across the country related to the coronavirus pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The fact that criminals seek to exploit the pandemic by preying on the worries and fears of the public in this difficult time is despicable. My Office will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to protect the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. We will leave no stone unturned to find these criminals and bring them to justice.”
Below are some of the known fraudulent schemes related to the coronavirus pandemic:
·         Fake cures: Fraudsters are advertising fake cures, fake vaccines, and so-called “immunity” pills, and including wild claims about the products’ healing powers with no scientific or medical basis.

·         Fake testing: Fraudsters are selling fake at-home testing kits or going door-to-door performing fraudulent tests in exchange for money.

·         Health care frauds: Fraudsters are offering free (and phony) coronavirus testing to obtain Medicare or other healthcare insurance information, which they use to submit false claims for benefits.

·         Fake protection and supplies: Fraudsters are advertising fake or un-tested protective equipment (including respirator masks) through websites, social media, and robocalls. The fraudsters have no real equipment to sell, or provide equipment that has not been proven to work for its advertised purpose.

·         Phishing: Fraudsters are posing as representatives from well-known institutions, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in order to trick victims into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

·         Fake health care providers: Fraudsters pose as doctors or hospital employees and contact individuals via phone or email. They make false claims that they treated a relative or friend for coronavirus and demand money for the claimed treatment.

·         Identity theft: Fraudsters are using social media to fraudulently seek donations or provide stimulus funds if the victim provides a bank account number or other personal identifying information. The fraudsters use the information entered by the victim to impersonate the victim and steal money from the victim’s bank account.

·         Securities fraud: Fraudsters are promoting securities in publicly traded companies that they falsely claim have discovered the cure for coronavirus.

·         Fake charities: Fraudsters are soliciting donations for charities to allegedly benefit people affected by the virus and pocketing the money for themselves.  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office urges everyone to follow these tips to better protect themselves from these types of fraud schemes:
·         Ignore unsolicited offers for coronavirus cures, vaccines, pills, or treatment.  If there is a medical breakthrough, you will not hear about it first through an email, advertisement, or door-to-door sales pitch. Be aware that fraudsters often use addresses that differ only slightly from the entities that they are impersonating, such as “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”

·         Do not share personal information with strangers. Be extremely cautious about unsolicited emails or ads that request your personal information for any purpose. Legitimate healthcare providers will not call or email you and demand medical information, personal identifying information, or money for treatment they have provided to a friend or relative. Report the contact to law enforcement. 

·         Do not open emails or links from unknown sources. In doing so, you could download malware or a virus onto your computer or device. 

·         Be extremely cautious when sending money in any form. If a business, charity, or individual is requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail, be careful. Take extra steps to verify the identity of the receiving party and the security of the transaction.

·         Have up-to-date software protections on your devices. Be sure the anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer or device is operating and up-to-date. 

If you or someone you know has been the target or victim of a fraud scheme related to the coronavirus, please report the incident to the national hotline at The National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or at disaster@leo.gov.

District Court Orders Injunctions Against Two Telecom Carriers Who Facilitated Hundreds Of Millions Of Fraudulent Robocalls To Consumers In The United States: First Of Their Kind Injunctions Obtained By Justice Department

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information: 
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York entered orders in two separate civil actions, barring eight individuals and entities from continuing to facilitate the transmission of massive volumes of fraudulent robocalls to consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice announced today. 
In one of the matters, United States v. Nicholas Palumbo, et al., the District Court entered a preliminary injunction that bars two individuals and two entities from operating as intermediate voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) carriers during the pendency of the civil action.  In the other matter, United States v. John Kahen, et al., the District Court entered consent decrees that permanently bar an individual and three entities from operating as intermediate VoIP carriers conveying any telephone calls into the U.S. telephone system.
“These massive robocall fraud schemes target telephones of residents across our country, many of whom are elderly or are otherwise potentially vulnerable to such schemes,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “The department is committed to stopping this unlawful conduct and pursuing those who knowingly facilitate these schemes for their own financial gain.”
“This office will take all appropriate measures to stop fraudulent robocalling schemes responsible for causing catastrophic losses to victims, including seeking to permanently shut down the U.S.-based enablers of such schemes,” said United States Attorney Richad P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York.  “Protecting elderly and vulnerable individuals from being conned by foreign call center scammers remains a priority of this office and the Department of Justice.”
As alleged in the complaints, the defendants in both cases operated as VoIP carriers, receiving internet-based calls from other entities, often located abroad, and transmitting those calls first to other carriers within the United States and, ultimately, to the phones of individuals.  Numerous foreign-based call centers are alleged to have used the defendants’ VoIP carrier services to pass fraudulent government- and business-imposter robocalls to victims in the United States.  The defendants also sold U.S. phone numbers to foreign entities, which were used as victim call-back numbers as part of massive robocalling fraud schemes.
As also alleged, the defendants were warned numerous times that they were carrying fraudulent robocalls — including calls impersonating government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and legitimate businesses, such as Microsoft — and yet continued to carry those calls and facilitate fraud schemes targeting individuals in the United States.  Many of the robocalls were made by foreign fraudsters impersonating government investigators and conveying alarming messages, such as: the recipient’s social security number or other personal information has been compromised or otherwise connected to criminal activity; the recipient faces imminent arrest; the recipient’s assets are being frozen; the recipient’s bank and credit accounts have suspect activity; the recipient’s benefits are being stopped; the recipient faces imminent deportation; or combinations of these threats.  Each of these claims was a lie, designed to scare the call recipient into paying large sums of money.  These calls led to massive financial losses to elderly and other vulnerable victims throughout the United States.
“The court’s decision sends a clear message to gateway carriers who knowingly do business with scammers targeting Americans from overseas,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration.  “We will continue to pursue those who facilitate these scam calls by allowing them into the U.S. telephone network.  I want to thank the Department of Justice for its support throughout this investigation and its commitment to protecting Americans from this insidious form of fraud and theft.”
United States v. Nicholas Palumbo, et al.
In the first case, the District Court issued a preliminary injunction against spouses Nicholas and Natasha Palumbo of Scottsdale, Arizona, and the Arizona companies they own and operate, Ecommerce National LLC d/b/a TollFreeDeals.com and SIP Retail d/b/a sipretail.com.  The District Court held, in a written opinion, that the evidence presented by the United States demonstrated probable cause to conclude that the defendants were engaged in “widespread patterns of telecommunications fraud, intended to deprive call recipients in the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere of money and property.”
The preliminary injunction issued by the court bars those defendants from carrying any VoIP calls destined for phones in the United States and providing any U.S. telephone numbers (often used as call-back numbers in the fraudulent robocalling schemes) to any individuals or entities during the pendency of this litigation.  The court noted that though defendants had been warned more than 100 times of specific instances of fraudulent calls being transmitted through their network, they never severed their business relationship with any entity they learned was associated with fraudulent call traffic, prior to the United States’ filing of its lawsuit.  The court further noted that “the telecommunications ‘intermediary’ industry is set up perfectly to allow fraudulent operators to rotate telephone numbers endlessly and blame other parties for the fraudulent call traffic they carry,” that the United States “demonstrat[ed] probable cause to conclude that defendants’ business is permeated with fraud,” that “multiple individual victims in the United States suffered significant fraud losses,” and that “[e]very day that the defendants’ actions in this vein continue, the public is at risk of harm in the form of additional high-dollar fraud losses.”
The claims in the United States v. Nicholas Palumboet al. matter are allegations only, and there has not been any final determination of liability or wrongdoing.
United States v. John Kahen, et al.
In the second case, the District Court entered consent decrees permanently resolving the matter against five individuals and entities who were also operating intermediary VoIP carriers.  The court entered a consent decree on March 2, 2020 against Jon Kahen, a/k/a Jon Kaen of New York, and New York corporations Global Voicecom Inc. and Global Telecommunication Services Inc., permanently barring those defendants from, among other things, using the U.S. telephone system to: deliver prerecorded messages through automatic means, carry calls to the United States from foreign locations, and provide calling and toll-free services for calls originating in the United States.  In addition, the defendants are permanently barred from serving as employees, agents, or consultants to any person or entity engaged in these activities.  In a second consent decree, entered on March 24, 2020, the District Court barred KAT Telecom Inc., a New York corporation, from conveying or causing any other person or entity from conveying fraudulent telephone calls, fraudulent recordings, and unauthorized “spoofed” telephone calls.  In the event that KAT Telecom, Inc. resumes operations, it must also implement strong anti-fraud measures, including anti-fraud monitoring, mitigation, and know-your-customer measures.
The claims resolved by the settlement in the United States v. Jon Kahenet al. matter are allegations only, and there has not been any final determination of liability or wrongdoing. 
These cases are being handled by Trial Attorneys Ann F. Entwistle and Charles B. Dunn of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bonni Perlin, Dara Olds, and Evan Lestelle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, in coordination with the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.  Investigative support was also provided by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation’s El Dorado Task Force and U.S. Secret Service.  The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission also provided pertinent data.  
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-edny.   

Real Superheroes During The COVID-19 Crisis

Cartoonist Garry Varvel offers the above cartoon that honors doctors, nurses, cops, fire fighters, first responders, military people, reporters, government workers, grocers, farmers, and others during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can visit Garry Varvel's website via the below link:


U.S. Navy Remains On Patrol: The USS North Carolina Departs Hawaii

As most Americans shelter-in-place to wait out the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. Navy ships and boats remain on patrol in the oceans around the world in defense of the United States. In the above photo children wave goodbye as the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a scheduled deployment on March 25th. The submarine, a 377-feet long boat, displacing 7,800 tons, is equipped to carry torpedoes and tomahawk missiles, and possesses the capacity to insert special operations forces into a multitude of environments and battlefield scenarios. Note: The above U.S. Navy photo was taken by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray.

Friday, March 27, 2020

My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column: COVID-19 Is The Stuff Of Thrillers

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on the COVID-19 outbreak being the stuff of thrillers. 

A reader wrote me and stated that the COVID-19 outbreak was a Communist Chinese plot to destroy Western economies. He had no proof, but he is not alone in thinking that China or someone else intentionally spread the COVID-19.

I have my doubts about this conspiracy theory and others like it, as they are the stuff of fanciful thrillers. Of course, many thrillers are based on reality and some thrillers have predicted future events. For example, in Tom Clancy’s 1994 thriller “Debt of Honor,” a modern-day Kamikaze suicide pilot crashed his plane into the Capital Building, anticipating the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

In the thriller, a group of Japanese businessmen take over the Japanese government and go to war with America once again. Perhaps not wishing to offend the Japanese, the producers of the film version of “Debt of Honor” changed the bad guys into Nazis.  

In Ed McBain’s 2001 novel “Money, Money, Money,” he had the bad guys use counterfeit money to finance a terrorist plot akin to the 9/11 plot. When McBain’s Middle Eastern character arrived at an American airport he was deeply offended at being profiled as a terrorist — even though he was one.

McBain’s fine crime novel was published just two days before the 9/11 attack. Ed McBain, aka Evan Hunter, said he was on a book promotion tour in Chicago when he heard the news of the 9/11 attack, and he noted the eerie similarity between his novel and the real unfolding events.

Dean Koontz predicted the COVID-19 outbreak in his 1981 thriller “The Eyes of Darkness.” The novel was about a Chinese military lab that created a new virus as a biological weapon. The lab just happened to be located in Wuhan, China, the place where the COVID-19 outbreak began. Mr. Koontz called the weaponized virus the Wuhan-400.

And there is Ian Fleming.  

“Fleming was able to peer beyond the Cold War limitations of mere spy fiction and to anticipate the emerging milieu of the Colombian cartels, Osama bin Laden and, indeed the Russian Mafia, as well as the nightmarish idea that some such fanatical freelance megalomaniac would eventually collar some weapons-grade plutonium,” Christopher Hitchens wrote in his introduction to a series of reissued Ian Fleming novels.

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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Nicolás Maduro Moros And 14 Current And Former Venezuelan Officials Charged With Narco-Terrorism, Corruption, Drug Trafficking And Other Criminal Charges

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
Former President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Moros, Venezuela’s vice president for the economy, Venezuela’s Minister of Defense, and Venezuela’s Chief Supreme Court Justice are among those charged in New York City; Washington, DC; and Miami, along with current and former Venezuelan government officials as well as two Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) leaders, announced U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“The Venezuelan regime, once led by Nicolás Maduro Moros, remains plagued by criminality and corruption,” said Attorney General Barr.  “For more than 20 years, Maduro and a number of high-ranking colleagues allegedly conspired with the FARC, causing tons of cocaine to enter and devastate American communities.  Today’s announcement is focused on rooting out the extensive corruption within the Venezuelan government – a system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government.  The United States will not allow these corrupt Venezuelan officials to use the U.S. banking system to move their illicit proceeds from South America nor further their criminal schemes.” 
“Today we announce criminal charges against Nicolás Maduro Moros for running, together with his top lieutenants, a narco-terrorism partnership with the FARC for the past 20 years,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.  “The scope and magnitude of the drug trafficking alleged was made possible only because Maduro and others corrupted the institutions of Venezuela and provided political and military protection for the rampant narco-terrorism crimes described in our charges.  As alleged, Maduro and the other defendants expressly intended to flood the United States with cocaine in order to undermine the health and wellbeing of our nation.  Maduro very deliberately deployed cocaine as a weapon.  While Maduro and other cartel members held lofty titles in Venezuela’s political and military leadership, the conduct described in the Indictment wasn’t statecraft or service to the Venezuelan people.  As alleged, the defendants betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuelan institutions to line their pockets with drug money.”
“Over the last decade, corrupt Venezuelan government officials have systematically looted Venezuela of billions of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan.  “Far too often, these corrupt officials and their co-conspirators have used South Florida banks and real estate to conceal and perpetuate their illegal activity.  As the recent charges show, Venezuelan corruption and money laundering in South Florida extends to even the highest levels of Venezuela’s judicial system.  In the last couple of years, the US Attorney’s Office in South Florida and its federal law enforcement partners have united to bring dozens of criminal charges against high-level regime officials and co-conspirators resulting in seizures of approximately $450 million dollars.”  
“These indictments expose the devastating systemic corruption at the highest levels of Nicolas Maduro’s regime,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon.  “These officials repeatedly and knowingly betrayed the people of Venezuela, conspiring, for personal gain, with drug traffickers and designated foreign terrorist organizations like the FARC.  Today’s actions send a clear message to corrupt officials everywhere that no one is above the law or beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.  The Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to protect the American people from ruthless drug traffickers – no matter who they are or where they live.”
“The collaborative nature of this investigation is representative of the ongoing work HSI and international law enforcement agencies perform each day, often behind the scenes and unknown to the public, to make our communities safer and free from corruption,” said HSI’s Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa D. Erichs.  “Today’s announcement highlights HSI’s global reach and commitment to aggressively identify, target and investigate individuals who violate U.S. laws, exploit financial systems, and hide behind cryptocurrency to further their illicit criminal activity.  Let this indictment be a reminder that no one is above the law - not even powerful political officials.”
A four-count superseding indictment unsealed today in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) charges Nicolás Maduro Moros, 57; Diosdado Cabello Rondón, 56, head of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly; Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios aka “El Pollo,” 59, former director of military intelligence; Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cordones, 58, former General in the Venezuelan armed forces; Luciano Marín Arango aka “Ivan Marquez,” 64, a member of the FARC’s Secretariat, which is the FARC’s highest leadership body; and Seuxis Paucis Hernández Solarte aka “Jesús Santrich,” 53, a member of the FARC’s Central High Command, which is the FARC’s second-highest leadership body.  The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.
The U.S. Department of State, through its Narcotics Rewards Program, is offering rewards of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Maduro Moros, up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios, and Alcalá Cordones, and up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Marín Arango.
Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios, Alcalá Cordones, Marín Arango, and Hernández Solarte have each been charged with: (1) participating in a narco-terrorism conspiracy, which carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life in prison; (2) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life in prison; (3) using and carrying machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and possessing machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the narco-terrorism and cocaine-importation conspiracies, which carries a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence and a maximum of life in prison; and (4) conspiring to use and carry machine guns and destructive devices during and in relation to, and to possess machine guns and destructive devices in furtherance of, the narco-terrorism and cocaine-importation conspiracies, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The potential mandatory minimum and maximum sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
According to the allegations contained in the superseding indictment, other court filings, and statements made during court proceedings:
Since at least 1999, Maduro Moros, Cabello Rondón, Carvajal Barrios and Alcalá Cordones, acted as leaders and managers of the Cártel de Los Soles, or “Cartel of the Suns.”  The Cartel’s name refers to the sun insignias affixed to the uniforms of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials.  Maduro Moros and the other charged Cartel members abused the Venezuelan people and corrupted the legitimate institutions of Venezuela—including parts of the military, intelligence apparatus, legislature, and the judiciary—to facilitate the importation of tons of cocaine into the United States.  The Cártel de Los Soles sought to not only enrich its members and enhance their power, but also to “flood” the United States with cocaine and inflict the drug’s harmful and addictive effects on users in the United States.
Marín Arango and Hernández Solarte are leaders of the FARC.  Beginning in approximately 1999, while the FARC was purporting to negotiate toward peace with the Colombian government, FARC leaders agreed with leaders of the Cártel de Los Soles to relocate some of the FARC’s operations to Venezuela under the protection of the Cartel.  Thereafter, the FARC and the Cártel de Los Soles dispatched processed cocaine from Venezuela to the United States via transshipment points in the Caribbean and Central America, such as Honduras.  By approximately 2004, the U.S. Department of State estimated that 250 or more tons of cocaine were transiting Venezuela per year.  The maritime shipments were shipped north from Venezuela’s coastline using go-fast vessels, fishing boats, and container ships.  Air shipments were often dispatched from clandestine airstrips, typically made of dirt or grass, concentrated in the Apure State. According to the U.S. Department of State, approximately 75 unauthorized flights suspected of drug-trafficking activities entered Honduran airspace in 2010 alone, using what is known as the “air bridge” cocaine route between Venezuela and Honduras.
In his role as a leader of the Cártel de Los Soles, Maduro Moros negotiated multi-ton shipments of FARC-produced cocaine; directed that the Cártel de Los Soles provide military-grade weapons to the FARC; coordinated foreign affairs with Honduras and other countries to facilitate large-scale drug trafficking; and solicited assistance from FARC leadership in training an unsanctioned militia group that functioned, in essence, as an armed forces unit for the Cártel de Los Soles.
DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit, New York Strike Force, and Miami Field Division conducted the investigation.  This case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Houle, Matthew J. Laroche, Jason A. Richman, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.
*                *                *
An indictment unsealed today in the District of Columbia charges Vladimir Padrino Lopez, 56, Minister of Defense of Venezuela. The indictment alleges that from March 2014 until May 2019, Padrino Lopez conspired with others to distribute cocaine on board an aircraft registered in the United States. 
Padrino Lopez, who holds the rank of General in the Venezuelan armed forces, held the authority for interdicting aircraft, many of which are registered in the United States, suspected of being used to traffic drugs from Venezuela to countries in Central America.  On numerous occasions, Padrino Lopez ordered or authorized the Venezuelan military to force suspected trafficking aircraft to land or to shoot down the aircraft.  However, Padrino Lopez allowed for other aircraft whose drug trafficking coordinators paid bribes to him to safely transit Venezuelan airspace. 
On Sept. 25, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) included Padrino Lopez on its Specially Designated Nationals List.  Pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, this means that his assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from having financial transactions with him. 
The DEA Orlando District Office led the investigation, which was supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program and the Criminal Division’s Office of Enforcement Operations. Acting Deputy Chief Charles Miracle and Trial Attorneys Michael Christin and Kirt Marsh of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting the case.
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Maikel Jose Moreno Perez, 54, current Chief Justice of the Venezuelan Supreme Court, was charged via a criminal complaint in the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering in connection with the alleged corrupt receipt or intended receipt of tens of millions of dollars and bribes to illegally fix dozens of civil and criminal cases in Venezuela.  
The complaint alleges, for example, that the defendant authorized a seizure and sale of a General Motors auto plant with an estimated value of $100 million in exchange for a personal percentage of the proceeds.  Similarly, the complaint alleges that the defendant received bribes to authorize the dismissal of charges or release against Venezuelans, including one charged in a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme against the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
According to the criminal complaint, in or around October 2014, Moreno Perez told U.S. authorities in a visa application that he earned the equivalent of about $12,000 per year from his work in Venezuela. From 2012 to 2016, the defendant’s U.S. bank records show approximately $3 million in inflows to the defendant’s accounts, primarily from large round-dollar transfers from shell corporations with foreign bank accounts linked to Co-Conspirator 1, who is a former criminal defense attorney in Venezuela that currently controls a media company in Venezuela.
As set out in the criminal complaint, the defendant’s bank records allegedly show that from 2012 to 2016, the defendant spent approximately $3 million, primarily in the geographical area of South Florida. For example, bank records allegedly show that Moreno Perez spent about $1 million for a private aircraft and private pilot, more than $600,000 in credit or debit card purchases at stores primarily in South Florida (including tens of thousands of dollars at luxury stores in Bal Harbor, such as Prada and Salvatore Ferragamo), about $50,000 in payments to a luxury watch repair store in Aventura, and approximately $40,000 in payments to a Venezuelan beauty pageant director.
HSI’s Miami Field Office conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger of the Southern District of Florida is in charge of the prosecution.
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A separate superseding indictment unsealed today in the Southern District of New York charges Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah, 45, Venezuela’s vice president for the economy, Joselit Ramirez Camacho, 33, Venezuela’s superintendent of cryptocurrency (Sunacrip), and Samark Lopez Bello, 45, a Venezuelan businessman, with a series of crimes relating to efforts to evade sanctions imposed by OFAC against Maduro Moros, El Aissami Maddah, and Lopez Bello. 
The indictment alleges that from February 2017 until March 2019, El Aissami Maddah and Ramirez Camacho worked with U.S. persons and U.S.-based entities to provide private flight services for the benefit of Maduro’s 2018 presidential campaign, in violation of OFAC’s sanctions targeting Maduro after he organized elections for the illegitimate National Constituent Assembly that Cabello Rondon now leads.  
The U.S. Department of State, through its Narcotics Rewards Program, is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of El Aissami Maddah.
HSI’s New York Field Office conducted the investigation.  This case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sam Adelsberg and Amanda L. Houle are in charge of the prosecution.
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Other individuals charged in separate indictments include:
  • Luis Motta Dominguez, 67, Former Minister of Energy, was charged in the Southern District of Florida for his alleged role in laundering the proceeds of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with his alleged receipt of bribes to award Corpoelec business to U.S.-based companies;
  • Nestor Reverol Torres, 55, former General Director of Venezuela’s La Oficina Nacional Antidrogas (ONA) and former commander of Venezuela’s National Guard and Edylberto Jose Molina Molina, 57, former Sub-Director of Venezuela’s ONA and currently Venezuela’s military attaché to Germany, were charged in the Eastern District of New York with participating in an international cocaine distribution conspiracy where they allegedly assisted narcotics traffickers in importing cocaine into the United States;
  • Vassyly Kotosky Villarroel Ramirez aka “Mauro” and “Angel,” 47, a former captain in the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional, was charged in a third superseding indictment in the Eastern District of New York with participating in an international cocaine distribution conspiracy between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 1, 2009;
  • Rafael Antonio Villasana Fernandez, 48, a former officer in the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional, was charged in the Eastern District of New York with participating in an international cocaine distribution conspiracy between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 1, 2009. According to court documents, Kotosky and Villasana allegedly used official government vehicles to transport more than seven metric tons of cocaine from the Colombian border to various airports and seaports in Venezuela for ultimate importation into the United States;
  • Nervis Gerardo Villalobos Cardenas, 52, former Vice Minister of Energy of Venezuela, was charged in a 20-count indictment in the Southern District of Texas with conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for his alleged role in an international money laundering scheme involving bribes paid by the owners of U.S.-based companies to Venezuelan government officials to corruptly secure energy contracts and payment priority on outstanding invoices; and
  • Oscar Rafael Colmenarez Villalobos, 51, former Venezuelan Air Force Officer, charged in the District of Arizona with violations of the Arms Export Control Act. He allegedly conspired with others, including individuals associated with an aviation company in Arizona, to smuggle from the United States to Venezuela T-76 military aircraft engines used on OV-10 Bronco aircraft to individuals in Venezuela and allegedly made false and misleading statements on shipping and export control documents to conceal the prohibited activities and transactions from detection of the U.S. government. 
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 
The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Enforcement Operations provided valuable assistance.

A Little Humor: Babylon Bee On Chinese PR Disaster: President Xi Forgets To Remove 'Made In China' Tags From Coronavirus

The satiric Babylon Bee offers another humorous piece on an otherwise serious subject, the COVID-19 outbreak.

BEIJING—In a PR disaster for the Communist government of China, President Xi Jinping suddenly realized he forgot to take off the "Made in China" tags from all copies of the coronavirus his government shipped all over the world.

"Oh, shoot, I knew I forgot something," the totalitarian Communist president muttered as his scientists examined COVID-19 viruses under microscopes and realized every copy of the virus had the telltale tag attached. "All this time I've been trying to blame America for this thing and the evidence was right there." 

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Chinese Spies, Agents And Assassins: My Washington Times Review Of 'Chinese Communist Espionage'

The Washington Times published my review of Chinese Communist Espionage.

Speaking at the Justice Department’s China Initiative Conference on Feb. 6 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that one long-term threat to the country’s information, intellectual property and economic vitality was espionage from China.  

“China is using a wide range of methods and techniques — everything from cyber intrusions to corrupting trusted insiders. They’ve even engaged in physical theft,” Mr. Wray explained. “And they’ve pioneered an expansive approach to stealing innovation through a wide range of actors — including not just Chinese intelligence services but state-owned enterprises, ostensibly private companies, certain kinds of graduate students and researchers, and a variety of other actors all working on their behalf.”

He added that the Chinese are targeting Fortune 100 companies, Silicon Valley start-ups, defense contractors, government and academia, and agriculture. He further stated that the FBI has about 1,000 investigations involving China’s attempted theft of U.S.-based technology, in all 56 of the FBI field offices.

“The Chinese government is taking an all-tools and all-sectors approach — and that demands our own all-tools and all-sectors approach in response,” Mr. Wray said. “To respond to the China threat more effectively, I believe we need to better understand several key aspects of it.”

One could add that we should also know the history of Chinese espionage, so the publication of “Chinese Communist Espionage: An Intelligence Primer” is timely.

Peter Mattis, a research fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial and a former CIA counterintelligence analyst, and Matthew Brazil, a non-resident fellow at The Jamestown Foundation and a former U.S. Army officer who worked in Asia for more than 20 years, offer a studious history of Communist China’s intelligence services.

The authors mined numerous Chinese publications, books and other materials and sources to tell the history and current state of Chinese Communist intelligence operations, and of the often shadowy figures who planned and carried out those operations.

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