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Archive for April, 2009

The “Blagojevich Enterprise” Was Actually a Bi-Partisan Affair

By Jon Perkins
tickethewire.com

Indictedgov-blagojevich-plane ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a die-hard Democrat, has clearly been an embarrassment to his party.

But what’s often lost amid the salacious allegations is that the “Blagojevich Enterprise” – a cynical term dubbed by the prosecution in the April 2 indictment — has been a bi-partisan affair, an equal opportunity for both Dems and Republicans to line their pockets.

The indictment includes the names of William Cellini, a Springfield, Ill., businessmen and a leading figure in GOP state politics who is accused of fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion. And lobbyist Robert Kjellander, a former RNC treasurer who Chicago Tribune sources said is tied to an alleged scheme to direct the sale of billions of dollars in bonds to refinance the state’s pension debt and secretly kick back hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic financier Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

So in reality, there’s probably a better term for the level of corruption here – no offense to the U.S. Atty.Patrick Fitzgerald. It’s called the “Illinois Combine”.

The Illinois Combine as defined by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, as a loose and shadowy bipartisan confederation of powerful state figures that allegedly
rules across party lines to line the pockets of political allies without regard to party affiliation.

A combine, notice the lower case “c,” is a very handy if not essential piece of farm machinery. The combine is designed to harvest grain. The Illinois Combine appears to be designed to harvest money and power for the private enrichment for the politically well-connected from the public trough.

There are some dangers in operating farm equipment, and combines are no exception. Combines can get stuck in the fields and occasionally can hit a rut and expel passengers.

Bagojevch faces 16 charges of fraud, extortion and racketeering
conspiracy. His indictment, which came more than three months after
Blagojevich was arrested, repeated the allegation that the
then-governor sought to use his power to appoint President Obama’s
replacement in the US Senate to sell the seat to the highest bidder.

The 75-page indictment also said that he plotted with close aides to
make money from his office even before he was elected in 2002.

Blagojevich, his brother Robert, and fellow defendants Christopher Kelly and William Cellini are to be arraigned before U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Tuesday. Former Blagojevich aides John Harris and Lon Monk are to be arraigned April 16. Both Harris and Monk reportedly are cooperating with the government.

Feds Say Utz Potato Chip Stand Sold Chips and Guns

photo by Van Smith/Baltimore City Paper

photo by Van Smith/Baltimore City Paper

They say potato chips go with almost anything. But guns? Well, the feds say this stand was selling more than those salty delights. Here’s a little slice of the urban experience in Baltimore.

By Van Smith and Chris Landers
Baltimore City Paper
BALTIMORE — The owner of Lexington Market’s Utz Potato Chip stand illegally sold guns out of the market for years, according to federal authorities.
The stand’s owner, 53-year-old Michael Papantonakis, and a woman described as his 21-year-old girlfriend, Sharon Jeanette Heberle, were charged March 31 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore with being unlicensed gun sellers.

In addition to detailing six transactions involving 13 guns since 2007, the nine-page complaint describes Papantonakis’ attempts to have someone beat up the market’s general manager Casper Genco, who also heads the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation.

Visited on April 6 by City Paper, Genco had no comment about either the gun sales or the threats against him, saying “I’m not aware of either of those things.” Papantonakis has been detained, according to court records, and could not be reached.

For Full Story

Boston Feds Add 23 More Counts To Indictment Against Ex-State Rep. Dianne Wilkerson

The former state senator thought she had problems before. Now the charges are really piling up. Another promising political career down the drain. 

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson

By Jonathan Saltzman
The Boston Globe
BOSTON — Former state senator Dianne Wilkerson began taking bribes in exchange for political favors in 2002, five years earlier than authorities originally alleged when she was arrested last October in an alleged extortion scheme, according to a new federal indictment announced yesterday.

A grand jury handed up a superseding indictment yesterday that also added 23 additional charges against Wilkerson for activities that led to her previous indictment. Those charges did not cover the additional bribes that were alleged yesterday.

The Roxbury Democrat resigned in November following her original indictment, which accused her of accepting eight bribes totaling $23,500 to secure a liquor license for a nightclub and legislation to pave the way for a commercial development in Roxbury.

For Full Story

Va. Scientist Gets 51 Months for Leaking Technology to China

norfolk-mapScientist Quan-Sheng Shu figured he’d be on easy street the remainder of his life. Now he’s off to prison. Not exactly a retirement dream come true.

By Tim McGlone
The Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK, Va. — A local scientist was sentenced Tuesday to 51 months in federal prison after admitting he passed space technology to China and bribed Chinese government officials to obtain what could have been a lucrative contract worth millions.

Quan-Sheng Shu, 69, pleaded guilty in the fall to two counts of violating the federal Arms Export Control Act and one count of bribery. He could have faced up to 25 years in prison.

To the American people, Shu offered “a very sincere I’m sorry,” he told U.S. District Court Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr.

“I want to tell everybody I’ve never deliberately tried to harm anybody or the country,” he said, speaking through a Chinese interpreter.

Shu, owner of AMAC International Inc. in Newport News, provided China assistance in the design and development of a cryogenic fueling system for space-launch vehicles to be used at China’s space facility in Hainan.

For Full Story

Accused Texas Swindler R. Allen Stanford Speaks Out and Denies Wrongdoing

FBI Probing Leak of Hugh Jackman Film on Web a Month Before Release

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

There is pirating a film and there is this, posting it on the website even before it’s released. That’s a bold new world we’re entering here.

By The Herald Sun of Australia

The FBI is investigating the leak of a copy of Hugh Jackman’s new film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, almost a month before its cinema release.

A high-quality work print has surfaced on internet file-sharing websites, and hundreds of thousands of people have already downloaded it.

It is an incomplete print, minus special effects and extra scenes, but 20th Century Fox vowed to track down and prosecute the source.

“We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it,” the company said in a statement.

“The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“The courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts. The FBI and Motion Pictures Association of America are also actively investigating.”

 For Full Story

Judge Tosses Ted Stevens Case; Appoints Lawyer to Probe Government’s Misconduct

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan

As expected U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan not only voided the conviction of  ex-Senator Ted Stevens but he publicly criticized the Justice Department for its embarrassing execution of the case. This isn’t the end of all this.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A federal judge this morning tossed out the conviction of former senator Ted Stevens and assigned an outside lawyer to investigate allegations of misconduct by the prosecutors who tried him on public corruption charges.

In throwing out the October conviction, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called accusations that prosecutors mishandled evidence and witnesses “shocking and disturbing.” In his 25 years on the bench, the judge said he had “never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct in this case.” He then urged Attorney General Eric H. Holder to better train prosecutors about the requirements for turning over evidence to defense lawyers that may help their case.

Stevens, 85, who narrowly lost reelection eight days after being found guilty of seven counts of lying on financial disclosure forms, said the actions of prosecutors had “nearly destroyed” his faith in the criminal justice system. But he thanked the judge and a new team of Justice Department lawyers for pressing to uncover the truth.

For Full Story

Fed Law Enforcement Better Get Necessary Funding For Its Broad Mission

I have struggled with writing this column lately. Every time I have settled on something I want to say, a national event has dumped some cold water on my tentative muse.

Like most Americans, I find the swirl of daily calamitous economic, political and news in general, depressing and intimidating.

I also believe there is a meaner dimension to the streets brought on by the daily onslaught of bad news we endure. When that anxiety is combined with the seemingly clumsy attempt of government to deal with these things it does not leave one confident, to say the least.

I am deeply concerned about the ability of Federal law enforcement to meet the public’s expectations to reign in the rogue financial shenanigans that brought us to this economic quagmire.

How can we broach universal healthcare when we continually struggle with the resources necessary to reign in the fraud, waste and abuse in our existing social insurance delivery systems, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance?

The oversight mission over the stimulus funding given to the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board is staggeringly complex and important.

Yet there can be no compromise in our existing efforts to keep us safe from the unabated terrorist threat. To top it off, we have the boil over of drug war violence on the Mexican border that needs immediate int
ervention.

Where are the resources for all of this? There is no finger-snap solution to the fact that Federal law enforcement has significantly too much mission to address.

Add to this conundrum the increasing public violence of the past several weeks with the deaths of local law enforcement officers and you understand that this mission strain is a very serious concern.

The financial downturn with falling tax revenues is directly reducing the capacity of local law enforcement to deal with these strains. What help can they receive from Federal law enforcement whose own resources are committed to other emergencies?

We need to be aware of these demands and strains and understand that we have to push back and demand the appropriate resources to help the over-burdened Federal law enforcement agencies address these problems and get the job done.

All existing missions need to be reassessed, reprioritized, and in some instances set aside.

On April 19, in my native Massachusetts, there is the annual celebration of the original Patriot’s Day (before it was recast by President Bush after 9/11/01) saluting the brave Minutemen who stood, as Emerson said, “on that rude bridge that arched the flood”, in Concord in 1775 and confronted their exigent furies embodied by King George’s soldiers.

Those patriots found their priorities that fateful day by mustering, setting aside their quotidian concerns,
and arguably focusing on what was important.

Our Federal leaders and law enforcement agencies need to borrow from this historical motivation, and do much the same, make the hard choices and get it done.

(Jim Huse is the CEO of IntegriGuard, LLC, a program integrity, payment accuracy company in Omaha, NE. You can learn more about him and his company at www.integriguard.org).