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DEA Program Manager Charged in Credit Card Fraud Involving $115,000; Prosecutors Allege She Took Out 33 DEA Credit Cards

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A DEA program manager from Maryland has been charged in a fraudulent scheme involving DEA credit cards.

She’s charged with using the cards to withdraw from ATM machines about $115,000 for her own use.

Keenya Meshell Banks, age 41, of Upper Marlboro, Md. is charged in a criminal complaint with access device fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. She made her initial appearance on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

According to a government affidavit, Banks worked as a DEA Program Manager in Northern Virginia, and was responsible for the approval and issuance of government credit cards to DEA employees, authorities said in a press release. The affidavit alleges that from June 2010 through October 2014, Banks fraudulently acquired 33 DEA credit cards.

According to the press release:

Specifically, Banks allegedly submitted applications that included the names and identifying information of individuals who did not work for DEA and therefore were not eligible to receive DEA government credit cards. On at least one occasion, Banks submitted an application that matched a current DEA employee. The employee never received the card and Banks allegedly used the personal information of the employee without the employee’s knowledge or approval. The credit cards were ordered by Banks via email, and the cards were sent to Banks via Federal Express or other mail, based on her certification on the applications.

The criminal complaint alleges that Banks used the cards at Automated Teller Machines in Maryland and Northern Virginia, withdrawing approximately $115,841.74 over the course of the scheme. No payment was ever made to the credit card issuer.

Is DEA Out of Touch When it Comes to Marijuana?

By  Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Is the DEA out of touch when it comes to classifying marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, the same as drugs like heroin and LSD?

Some might think so.

The website Government Executive has written a story entitled: “The DEA Still Thinks Marijuana is as Dangerous as Heroin.”

The website writes:

At the federal level, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cannabis as a schedule 1 substance, the most dangerous class under the Controlled Substances Act, with “a high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence.”

Many scientists say there is little basis to put marijuana in that category, and the DEA’s stance that marijuana has no medicinal use has been widely rebuked in recent years.

To read more click here.

FBI Discloses Evidence Linking North Korea to Hacking of Sony Computers

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI on Friday offered evidence that links the North Korean government to the hacking of Sony Pictures computers.

“We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States,” the FBI said in a statement.

The FBI, in a press release disclosed evidence it has gathered in the probe.

The release states:

  • Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.
  • The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.
  • Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

 

Parker: Supreme Court Was Pretty Good To Law Enforcement This Year

 
Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

With a couple of notable exceptions the Supreme Court continued to be good to law enforcement in general this past year of 2014, particularly to federal agencies. The functioning so-called “conservative” majority of Chief Justice Roberts along with Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy was not invariably responsible for this result. In fact, predicting in advance the votes of particular Justices on particular issues was a dicey exercise.

Although the Supreme Court decides cases by September to June terms, just like most school kids in America, this column will examine notable 2014 Criminal Cases (and those which might be of interest to federal agents). Most were decided in the 2013-2014 term with a few already ruled upon in the 2014-2015 term.

Vehicle Stop Cases

Plumhoff v. Rickard (5/27) – Upholds the use of deadly force (shooting the driver) to end a dangerous car chase by police of a wanted driver of a vehicle that was endangering other drivers and pedestrians.

Navarette v. California (4/27) – Officer had reasonable suspicion that justified a vehicle stop based on an anonymous 911 call that the vehicle had run the caller off the road. Similar cases invalidating stops were distinguished because in this case the informant had actually seen criminal activity.

Hein v. North Carolina (12/15) – An officer’s mistake of law (that a car must have two working brake lights under NC law) if reasonable under the circumstances can validate reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle.

Search and Seizure Cases

Fernandez v. California (2/25) – Consent to search given by an abused co-inhabitant to police after they had arrested and removed from the house an objecting inhabitant was valid. Prior cases invalidating cases were distinguished since the objecting occupant in those cases was still physically present when the officers acted on the consent of the other occupant.

Riley v. California (6/25) — Officers cannot search digital information from a cell phone seized as incident to an arrest absent a valid search warrant. Such a warrantless search could still be valid in exigent circumstances. See an earlier column for a detailed analysis.

Firearm Cases

Rosemund v.US  (3/5) – Conviction for aiding and abetting a crime of carrying a gun requires proof that the defendant knew in advance that the carrier would be armed and that the defendant had a realistic opportunity to abandon the crime.

Abarmski v. US (6/16) – A straw buyer (who happened to be a policemen buying for his uncle and with his uncle’s money) who purchases a firearm on behalf of another person while filling out the ATF form that the purchase was for himself violates the sec. 922(a)(6) false statement prohibition, even if the other person could have legally purchased the firearm. This was a 5-4 decision in which the normally pro law enforcement Justices voted in the dissent.

US v. Castleman (3/26) – Dismissal of Armed Career Criminal Act charges was reversed by a holding that a prior misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence barred firearm possession under sec. 922(g)(9) even though no physical force had been used in the assault.

Capital Punishment Cases

Hall v. Florida (5/27) – Florida statute which established a bright line rule for defining intellectual disability for the purpose of qualifying for the death penalty at IQ 70 was invalidated as too rigid and permitted an unacceptable risk of executing a disabled defendant. See an earlier column for more detailed analysis.

Note – The nation’s struggle to establish due process in this category continued, sometimes with bizarre results. The majority of states have eliminated the death penalty either de facto or by legislation and in only a handful of southern states does it remain in use. Henry Lee McCollum was exonerated by DNA after he had spent over 30 years on death row in North Carolina in a case that Justice Scalia is said to have ridiculed his appeal a decade earlier. In Arizona a motion to stop an execution was filed and argued by conference call in the middle of an execution by lethal injection when death did not result for over two hours. Alabama continued to be the only state to permit judges to disregard a jury’s verdict of life imprisonment and to impose a death sentence. This has occurred 95 times in the last 30 years and 43 defendants are on death row under the same circumstances.

Controlled Substances Case

Burage v. US (1/27) – Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt a “but-for” causation in order to convict a defendant of distribution where death results. Contributing to or acting as a substantial cause in the death is insufficient.

Cases Involving Agents

Wood v. Moss (5/27) – Secret Service Agents were entitled to qualified immunity in a Bivens civil action where they moved a protest group two blocks away and out of sight of the President when he unexpectedly decided to deviate from a planned motorcade route in Oregon in order to eat lunch. The agents acted in good faith with valid security concerns. The fact that the protesters could not continue their expressions like the supporters when the President went back to the planned route did not justify the civil suit.

US v. Clark (6/9) – A bare allegation that IRS agents had acted with an improper purpose, without adequate facts, was insufficient to compel them to be subject to examination in a civil action by taxpayers who had been summoned to testify and produce documents.

In these dozen cases, dedcisions favorable to law enforcement were an 8 to 4 majority, a good result in most fields of endeavor.

 

 

FBI Recovers Millions of Dollars Worth of Paintings Missing for 6 Years

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A joint investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department led to the recovery of nine paintings totaling million of dollars that had been stolen six years ago from the home of an elderly couple, Reuters reports.

The FBI arrested the 45-year-old suspect, Paul Espinoza, after an undercover agent posed as an art buyer interested in the stolen pieces, some of which were painted by Marc Chagall and Diego Rivera.

Espinoza was arrested and pleaded not guilty to possession of stolen property in court on Oct. 27.

Other Stories of Interest

 

 

U.S. Authorities: North Korea Was ‘Centrally Involved’ in Sony Hacking Attack

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

U.S. authorities believe the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent hacking attacks on Sony Pictures because of anger over a comedy that was about to be released, the Boston Globe reports.

The determination by U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, coincided with Sony’s decision to cancel its release of “The Interview,” a controversial film about plotting to assassinate a fictional Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea.

The White House hasn’t yet determined whether to publicly accuse the country for its alleged roof.

Some officials are worrying about escalating tensions between the two counties.

Sony officials received a threat that “the world will be full of fear” if the film was released.

“Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time,” the threat added.

 

FBI, Casino Regulator Criticized fo Failing to Get Warrant for Evidence Seizure

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI and a Nevada casino regulator entered Ceasars Palace posed as Internet repairman and gathered evidence against suspects in an allegedly illegal online gambling operation without ever consulting with a judge, according to testimony in the case.

The Associated Press reports that Nevada Gaming Control Board Special Agent Ricardo Lopez acknowledged in court, like those before him, that he had no permission from prosecutors and lacked a warrant.

The investigators didn’t even bother to get permission from the hotel.

The defense is trying to get the case dismissed because of what they say was an illegal search.