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Archive for January, 2009

Newest Disaster: Mississippi Mayor and Wife Indicted in Katrina Fraud

Mayor Brent Warr/city photo

Mayor Brent Warr/city photo

Meet the latest public corruption case. Sadly this one involved Katrina funds. Sadly there are no limits to greed.

By Chris Joyner
Jackson Clarion Ledger
JACKSON, Miss — Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife, Laura Jean Warr, have been indicted today on 16 counts of Katrina fraud, including charges they stole federal funds, filed false disaster assistance claims and committed insurance fraud.
If convicted on all counts, the Warrs could face decades in federal prison and up to $4 million in fines. Both have been released on bond and given an April 6 trial date.
The investigation was conducted by the inspectors general of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Housing and Urban Department and the State Auditor’s Katrina Fraud Task Force.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering said the case is similar to more than two dozen indictments handed down on prior Katrina-related fraud cases.
For Full Story

Man Hanged Self In Va. Jail Hours Before Pleading in Fed Court to Child Porn Charges


Don Douglas was just one of the scores of people nationwide facing child pornography charges. The Internet has opened opportunties never seen before.

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A 40-year-old Springfield man killed himself just hours before he was scheduled to plead guilty in federal court on child pornography charges, sheriff’s officials said today.
Don Douglas was discovered by guards during a routine check Jan. 12. He had hanged himself in the shower and was pronounced dead at Inova Alexandria Hospital after efforts to revive him failed, sheriff’s officials said.
For Full Story

A Detroit Reporter Comments on a Colleague’s Refusal to Disclose Federal Sources

In Detroit, a battle has been simmering between a former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Ashenfelter. Convertino wants to know who leaked information about him to Ashenfelter, who is now taking the Fifth.

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino

Ex-Prosecutor Convertino

By Sandra Svoboda
News Hits staff/Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Let’s get this out right from the start: News Hits has a hard time being even close to objective when it comes to covering the legal tussle going on between Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter and former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino.
We don’t like to see good journalists called criminals for essentially doing their jobs. If reporters routinely fear prosecution for providing an otherwise absent watchdog role over government, everyone suffers.
Think Kwame Kilpatrick.
But part of us does understand Convertino’s position of wanting the truth to come out relevant to his personal lawsuit against the government. We’ve seen the movie Absence of Malice many times, and get the concept of unnamed government officials unscrupulously using the press as a weapon against someone they’re out to get.
We also understand how frustrating it can be for the aggrieved person trying to find out exactly who leaked the tar so that they can be held accountable. All of which is part of the reason we find the case fascinating.
Convertino, now in private practice in Plymouth, has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against his former employer, the U.S. Department of Justice. Among other things, Convertino claims an unnamed official illegally gave Ashenfelter information for a 2004 article about the department investigating Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism trial.
Convertino also claims he was punished for complaining – to Congress, in fact – about a lack of resources to fight terrorism.

To Read More

Sen. Judiciary Confirms Holder 17-2; Next Stop: Full Senate Where It Looks Like a Sure Thing

In the end, the judiciary vote was pretty overwhelming. But Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex) was in the minority, delivering some stinging remarks about Holder.

By Randall Mikkelsen
Reuters
Eric Holder Jr.

Eric Holder Jr.

WASHINGTON – A Senate committee voted to approve Eric Holder to be the first black attorney general, sending his nomination on Wednesday to the full Senate, which is expected to confirm him.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 to confirm President Barack Obama’s nomination of Holder, a deputy attorney general under former President Bill Clinton. Holder had faced questions over his record, including his support for controversial pardons issued by Clinton, and Republicans had delayed the vote for a week until Wednesday.
“Eric Holder is a good man. He’s a decent man. He’s a public servant committed to the rule of law and he will be a good attorney general,” committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said before the vote.
For Full Story
READ  WEDNESDAY’S STATEMENTS BY  SOME COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sen. Herb Kohl
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Sen. Russ Feingold
Sen. John Cornyn
Sen. Edward Kaufman

Buyers For Potato Chip King Frito-Lay and Kraft Plead To Accepting Bribes


When you think of Frito-Lay, you think of potato chips — ruffles and all — and as its logo says: “Good fun!”.  But bribery? Almost makes you want to switch to Pringles.

By DON THOMPSON
Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO — Buyers for Kraft Foods Inc. and Frito-Lay Inc. are pleading guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes as part of a scheme that helped drive up food prices nationwide, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Robert Watson of White Plains, N.Y., entered his plea in a Sacramento federal court Tuesday to accepting $158,000 from a California-based tomato processor. Watson, 59, was a Kraft senior purchasing manager.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said James Wahl Jr., 58, a former Frito-Lay purchaser from Dallas, also has agreed to plead guilty to accepting about $160,000.
The charges say they each helped Randall Lee Rahal, a sales broker and director at SK Foods of Lemoore, charge their companies inflated prices. SK Foods grows and processes products like tomato paste and diced tomatoes, 95 percent of which are processed in California.

Full Story

More Stories of Interest

ATF Investigating Latest Fire in Coatsville, Pa. (CNN)

ABC Reports Justice Investigating CIA Station Chief in Algeria on Allegations of Rape

Expensive Web Cameras at Texas-Mexico Border Not Paying Off

The 21st Century high-tech equipment should be taking law enforcement to new heights. But in this case, it may be taking it to marginal heights.

By Brandi Grissom
El Paso Times
AUSTIN — A virtual border surveillance program Gov. Rick Perry has committed millions of taxpayer dollars to fell far short of expectations during the first six months of operation.
Border sheriffs, who Perry gave $2 million to line the Texas-Mexico border with hundreds of Web cameras, installed only about a dozen and made just a handful of apprehensions as a result of tips from online viewers.
Reports obtained by the El Paso Times under the Texas Public Information Act show that the cameras produced a fraction of the objectives Perry outlined.
Perry’s office acknowledged the reported results were a far from the expectations but said the problem was with the yardstick used to measure the outcome and not with the camera program.

For Full Story

Two Sri Lankans in FBI Sting Plead to Buying Surface-to-Air Missles For Civil War Back Home

The intense civil war in Sri Lanka has spilled over beyond it’s borders. In this case, New York.

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM
New York Times
NEW YORK — Two men from Sri Lanka who were about to go on trial in federal court in Brooklyn on terrorism charges pleaded guilty on Tuesday to plotting to buy shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles for a separatist group in their country.
The men, Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam, who prosecutors said were acting at the direction of senior members of the group, the Tamil Tigers, in Sri Lanka, also pleaded guilty to attempting and conspiring to provide material support for the group, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist organization.
Mr. Thanigasalam, 40, and Mr. Sabaratnam, 29, entered their pleas before Raymond J. Dearie, the chief judge of United States District Court in Brooklyn, where opening statements were expected to begin on Wednesday.
The guilty pleas stem from a videotaped F.B.I. sting operation in 2006 in which the men sought to buy 10 Russian-made SA-18 heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles and 500 AK-47 assault rifles, prosecutors said. On Monday, two of their co-defendants pleaded guilty to similar charges. Jury selection had been under way in the case.
For Full Story


Read Indictment

Two Pa. Judges Plead To Corruption Charges; Feds Say Probe Ongoing

Some how we’re rarely shocked by news of a crooked politician. But crooked judges? That’s just still hard to swallow. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, more courthouse indictments could be forthcoming.

MICHAEL RUBINKAM
The Associated Press
SCRANTON, Pa. – Two Pennsylvania judges agreed Monday to plead guilty to fraud charges accusing them of taking $2.6 million in kickbacks in return for placing juvenile offenders into certain detention facilities.
The plea agreements for Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan call for sentences of more than seven years in prison. Ciavarella resigned from the bench in a Jan. 23 letter to Gov. Ed Rendell. Conahan has agreed to resign within 10 days of a judge’s acceptance of the plea.
Authorities say the judges took kickbacks between 2003 and 2007 in exchange for guaranteeing the placement of juvenile offenders into facilities operated by PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care LLC. In some cases, Ciavarella ordered children into detention even when juvenile probation officers did not recommend it.
“They sold their oaths of offices to the highest bidders,” Deron Roberts, chief of the FBI’s Scranton office, said at a news conference Monday.
U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson stressed the charges were “the first developments in an ongoing investigation” into public corruption at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
For Full Story