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October 2008


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for October, 2008

Prosecutors In Final Stretch In Retrial Of Holy Land Foundation Terrorism Case

Prosecutors hope for a better outcome than the last trial. The last one imploded.

By Jason Trahan
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — Prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing retrial have switched gears in the run-up to what is expected to be the final week of their case before the defense begins.
After more than a month of testimony meant to show that five former organizers for the now-defunct Richardson foundation – once the nation’s largest Muslim charity – for years espoused extremist views and courted ties to Islamic militants, prosecutors must now prove how the defendants’ actions and beliefs led them to break U.S. laws.
To get convictions, prosecutors need to convince jurors that Holy Land sent millions of dollars to Palestinian charity groups, known as zakat committees, knowing that they were controlled by Hamas after the U.S. designated it as a terrorist group in 1995.
Prosecutors last week unveiled a series of detailed charts that point jurors to the exact page of documents already in evidence allegedly showing the Hamas affiliations of the zakat committee leaders.
For Full Story

See Evidence In Trial

Alternate Juror To Take Seat In Sen. Stevens Trial

Sen. Stevens Trial
Sen. Ted Stevens Trial

Jury deliberations in the Sen. Stevens case, which began last week,  continue to take some new turns. Here’s the latest.

By Erika Bolstad
Anchorage Daily News
WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Stevens’ corruption trial will resume Monday morning, with an alternate juror replacing the one who left for her father’s funeral in California.
Judge Emmet Sullivan paused proceedings Friday morning after a juror learned Thursday night her father had died and she needed to leave for his funeral. He had hoped to bring the juror back to continue deliberating with the other 11, but couldn’t reach her over the weekend to determine whether she would be available.
An alternate will take her place and jurors will continue deliberating Monday morning, although they will have to start fresh with the new juror.
For Full Story

See Trial Exhibits

UPDATE- 2:15 p.m. Monday – The Assciated Press reported earlier today that jurors found an error in the indictment, an embarrassment for prosecutors. For More

The Growing Link Between Terrorism And Drug Trafficking

The alarming and increasingly close working relationship between the $300 billion global narcotics market and worldwide terrorist organizations was underscored last week by two federal cases in Miami and New York. The cases also underscored something else: The urgent need for the U.S. to develop a smarter, more comprehensive plan to cut off the drug money that has allowed terrorist groups to flourish and attack the U.S. and its allies.

As reported on Oct. 22 in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Colombian law enforcement agents in Bogota arrested Lebanese money laundering kingpin Chekry Harb, a/k/a Taliban, along with 35 others who were allegedly involved in laundering cocaine funds from sales in the United States and Europe and using tens of millions of these dollars to finance the activities of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist organization. Harb and a dozen others are expected to be extradited to face an indictment in Miami.

Federal law enforcement officials point to the case as the most recent evidence that Hezbollah is moving into Latin America. Other incidents involving the organization have been reported in Venezuela and Argentina. What’s more, the close ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran, Hezbollah’s chief supporter, raise concern over this trend, particularly in view of the fact that one-third of the Colombian cocaine destined for the U. S. and Europe now travels through Venezuela.

In the second case, on Oct. 23, New York DEA agents arrested Afghan drug kingpin Haji Juma Khan under the 2006 federal narco-terrorism statute, which prohibits the distribution of drugs to support a terrorist organization. The indictment in the Southern District of New York is believed to be one of the first uses of the new law.

Using his close ties to the Taliban, Khan is alleged to head an organization in southern Afghanistan which sells morphine base, the opium derivative used to produce heroin, in quantities large enough to supply the entire United States heroin market. Khan allegedly provided millions of dollars to help fund the Taliban’s insurgency campaign of roadside bombs, kidnappings and military activities. In exchange, the Taliban protected the Khan organization’s drug routes, production laboratories, and poppy fields.

A September 2008 United Nations report estimates that the Taliban will receive up to $70 million from the opium poppy harvest this year. Last year’s report indicated that half of all identified terrorist organizations are known to be involved in drug trafficking.

Some experts believe that the enhanced terror and military capabilities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which has caused several pessimistic appraisals by some NATO military officials, is directly due to the increased funding by drug traffickers since 9-11. This financial support has permitted more sophisticated weapons and explosive devices, as well as the ability to train and equip increased numbers of Taliban fighters. Some coalition officials doubt the likelihood of success of a “surge” military strategy such as that used in Iraq to combat this threat.

The link between terrorism and international drug trafficking is well established. DEA officials point out that it is no coincidence that major drug source countries are also the home bases for organizations which use terror methods to advance their causes. To name a few, these include, in addition to the Taliban in Afghanistan, FARC in Colombia, PKK in Turkey, and MEK-PMOI in Iran. There is growing evidence that other organizations, such as the ETA in Spain, a major drug shipping center for Europe, are also beginning to use drug profits for financing.

Considering the central importance that counter-terrorism has assumed in the U. S. foreign and military policy, it is astounding how piecemeal the attack is on the drug-terror cartels. Not that some federal law enforcement agencies aren’t doing good work in this area, but the support for and coordination of these efforts are sadly lacking. DEA, under the leadership of its Chief of Operations, Michael Braun, not only has mounted successful enforcement operations, but also has attempted to educate the rest of the government on the danger posed by this relationship and the need for increased resources. However, compared to the billions spent militarily every month in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financing and commitment devoted to take on narco-terrorists is a drop in the bucket.

What should the United States be doing to sever the link between the drug trade and terrorist organizations? First, we need a well thought out, internationally supported strategy to investigate and disrupt the financial aspects of these organizations. As outlined in the recent counter-terrorism blog by David Lormel, “Understanding and Disrupting Terrorist Financing,” this strategy must include more training for government, business and financial entities about how terror groups raise money, launder it, and transfer the funds to support their activities. The involvement by these groups and their support are critical for any enforcement strategy to detect sources of funding, identify those who facilitate the financial transactions, and terminate the flow of money.

Next, Congress and the new Administration must come to recognize how important it is to set a priority to establish this strategy and set about to implement it. Detecting and disrupting the cash pipeline is critical to the war on terror as well as the effort to combat international drug trafficking. More resources are needed so that federal law enforcement agencies can dedicate more highly trained agents and the most sophisticated and effective enforcement tools.

An equally large challenge to the success of this effort will be to achieve coordination and communication among federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This appears to be minimal at present. Increased intelligence gathering, access to information such as satellite and wiretapping data, the formation of many more inter-agency working groups and task forces, and shared resources on the investigations of the money channels will be essential. Sporadic and under-funded efforts by individual agencies are doomed to failure.

Finally, something more has to be done about the mounting dangers posed by the mess at the Southwest border. Coming north are not only drug shipments, but also, according to frequent reports, human smuggling rings of Middle Easterners with false Latin American citizenship documents. Potential terrorists pay better than guest workers.

Going south are bulk drug cash, precursor chemicals and sophisticated weapons. These exports are fueling the epidemic and brutal violence which has claimed over 5,000 lives in drug wars in Mexico in the two years since President Felipe Calderone’s efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking in his country.

Conscious ignorance of the ugly reality at the Southwest border by U. S. Congressional and Administration officials, who want a kinder and gentler immigration policy, amounts to aiding and abetting. It’s an untenable situation.
Which means, we need to strike a balance between our National Security and trade.

FBI Joins Search For Jennifer Hudson’s Nephew

Jennifer Hudson’s life was so good. How did it turn so bad? The FBI has now entered the picture.

CHICAGO (AP) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the search on Saturday for the 7-year-old nephew of the actress Jennifer Hudson, still missing a day after the bodies of Ms. Hudson’s mother and brother were found in her childhood home.
William Balfour, a suspect in the deaths, was arrested Friday but has not been charged, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times reported, citing law enforcement officials.
Mr. Balfour remained in custody, but the nephew, Julian King, has not been seen since the bodies of the mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and the brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found Friday.
For Full Story

Authorities Mistake Canadian Man For Infamous Boston Mobster

Warning to the  James “Whitey” Bulger look-a-likes of the world. Authorities could end up arresting you as Canadian Angelo Plytasas, 69, discovered on Thursday.

The Real "Whitey" Bulger/fbi photo

The Real

Nick Aveling and Alex Cooper
Toronto Star
TORONTO — James Bulger is a man of simple pleasures.
When the 79-year-old bookworm isn’t indulging his passion for history at libraries and historical sites, he can be found walking on the beach with his companion Catherine Elizabeth Greig. Sure, he’s not as healthy as he used to be, but all that exercise keeps him spry.
Which comes in handy, when you’re running from the FBI.
The international manhunt for James (Whitey) Bulger warmed up Thursday, after a tip from Interpol indicated he may be in Toronto. The alleged former boss of Boston’s notorious Winter Hill Gang, and the oft-cited inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello character in The Departed, has been on the lam since 1995.
That’s where he stays, at least for now, after the RCMP came up empty-handed twice Thursday.
RCMP Sgt. Marc LaPorte said officers first went to an address where an Interpol tipster said they would find Bulger. He wasn’t there. They then received a report of a man matching Bulger’s description at a restaurant in Centerpoint Mall near Yonge St. and Steeles Ave. Police arrested the man – 69-year-old Angelo Plytas – in front of his wife and 2-year-old granddaughter.
“It strikes me as an extraordinarily heavy-handed use of police power in the absence of even the most minimal investigation beforehand,” said Scott Fenton, Plytas’ legal counsel.
For Full Story

Authorities Arrest Suspected Afghan Drug Kingpin With Links To Taliban

Sadly, oil isn’t the only thing American consumers are buying that helps fund our enemies. There’s drugs. The arrest of of Haji Juma Khan is the latest reminder.

By Larry Neumeister
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — An Afghan man was brought to the United States on Friday to face charges that he led an international drug trafficking organization that helped fund the Taliban to fight Americans, prosecutors said.
An indictment unsealed in Manhattan accused Haji Juma Khan, 54, of conspiring to produce huge quantities of drugs in two southern Afghanistan provinces since at least 1999. Prosecutors said he was one of the first to be prosecuted under a 2006 federal narco-terrorism law.
For Full Story

Read The Indictment

Read DEA Press Release

Trucker Convicted Of Extorting Las Vegas Casinos

Trucker Jeffrey Daniel Greer gambled on extortion and lost big time. Details of the case, including  use of secret recordings, are included in a confidential government memo to the judge that was recently unsealed.

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A former trucker could face decades in federal prison after he was found guilty of trying to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from two Las Vegas casino companies for the return of confidential customer information, a prosecutor said.
Jeffrey Daniel Greer, 49, of Parson, Tenn., was convicted Thursday of two charges of interference with commerce by threats or use of fear, and two charges of use of interstate facility in aid of racketeering activity, said Gregory Brower, U.S. attorney for Nevada.
Greer, a former driver for French Trucking Co. of Lexington, Tenn., faces up to 50 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines. He remained free on bond Friday pending sentencing Jan. 30.
His lawyer, a federal public defender in Las Vegas, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Greer was accused of obtaining identification and personal financial information about customers at several MGM Mirage Inc. and Harrah’s Entertainment casinos from documents in a load of paper refuse he drove in March 2007 to a recycling plant in Jackson, Ala.

For Full Story

Read Goverment’s Confidential Memo To Judge

Maryland Man Stole Up To $40 Million In Scheme

By Tricia Bishop
Baltimore Sun
BALTIMORE — Alan B. Fabian, a politically connected Hunt Valley entrepreneur, was sentenced today to nine years in prison for a multimillion-dollar mail and tax fraud scheme.
Prosecutors say he inflicted “losses of millions of dollars on numerous people and institutions” and is a “persistent white collar criminal.”
Fabian, 46, was convicted of mail and tax fraud this spring in Baltimore U.S. District Court, shocking nearly everyone who knew him. According to federal prosecutors, Fabian stole up to $40 million, in part through a complex computer lease-back scheme that entangled his own companies, those that he worked for and even his nonprofit, the Centre for Management and Technology.
For Full Story