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Archive for September, 2010

IRS Revenue Officer Took Payoffs for Inside Info

irs
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former IRS revenue officer pleaded guilty Wednesday in Greenbelt, Md., to taking payoffs from a tax preparer to access inside information about clients, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Mark E. Hunt, 45, of Baltimore admitted unlawfully accessing 12 taxpayer accounts at the IRS, authorities said.

According to Hunt’s guilty plea, from March 1999 to May 2004, he wore his IRS identification and was introduced as the “man on the inside” at meetings between the owner of a tax preparation service and potential clients or investors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

He ultimately accessed 12 of the clients’ IRS accounts “to obtain confidential information that the owner needed to further his businesses,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “In so doing, Hunt entered the IRS databases 24 times in order to illegally navigate the stored data and retrieve confidential taxpayer information.”

He first denied knowing the tax preparer in 2008, but later admitted that he was paid 10 to 12 occasions to provide the taxpayer information.

Hunt faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sentencing is set for Jan. 24 before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus.

ACLU Sues Govt. To Stop Laptop and Cellphone Searches at Border Without Suspicion of Wrongdoing

laptopBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The ACLU is fighting a practice by federal authorities, who routinely search laptops and cells phones at border crossings.

The New York Daily News reports that the ACLU on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court challenging the policy.

The lawsuit contends that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security routinely conducts the searches without suspicion of wrongdoing, and sometimes transfers data out of the devices,  the Daily News reported.

“Innocent Americans should not be made to feel like the personal information they store on their laptops and cell phones is vulnerable to searches by government officials any time they travel out of the country,” said Catherine Crump of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to the Daily News.

To read more click here.

Bomb Threat Note Found on Thai Flight to LA

plane window2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A jittery public continues to get a periodic reminder of the potential dangers of flying.

The latest came Tuesday evening when  Thai Airways flight 794 from Bangkok landed safely at Los Angeles International Airport  after a bomb threat written in poorly worded English was discovered on a bathroom mirror, the Associated Press reported. No explosives were found aboard.

The plane landed just before 9 p.m., AP reported. The FBI said the plane had less than 200 passengers, who were interviewed, the AP reported.

Atty. Gen. Holder Calls Plan to Burn Qurans “Idiotic”

holder ericBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Idiotic and dangerous are the words Attorney General Eric Holder used to describe a plan to burn the Quran on Sept. 11, nine years after the infamous attack that shook the foundation of the United States, Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Holder used those words during a closed door meeting Tuesday with religious leaders during a discussion about recent attacks on Muslims and mosques around the nation.

Rev. Terry Jones plans to burn copies of the Quran at his church in Gainesville, Fla. on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

AP reported that Gen. David Petraeus said the symbolic gMisesture could put U.S. troops in danger.

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Ex-Treasurer of National Republican Congressional Committee Admits Stealing About $850,000

money-photo
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The ex-treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington to embezzling about $850,000 in funds, authorities said.

Christopher J. Ward, 41, formerly of Bethesda, Md.,pleaded guilty to stealing funds from the NRCC and other political committees, which were clients of his accounting and consulting business, authorities said. Sentencing is set for Dec. 2.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office Shawn Henry.

“Christopher J. Ward was trusted to oversee other people’s money, and he violated that trust by diverting nearly $850,000 into his own pocket and creating fraudulent documentation to conceal the theft,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of Baltimore, whose office was assigned to the case in Washington, said in a statement.

“Mr. Ward then caused false reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission concerning the expenditure of the political contributions.”

“Mr. Ward claimed to operate an accounting business that helped clients comply with federal election laws, while he was filing false documents with the Federal Election Commission to hide the fact that he was stealing money,” Assistant Director Shawn Henry of the Washington FBI field office said in a statement. “The FBI has a responsibility to investigate and uncover fraudulent financial reporting related to federal elections in order to protect the public’s confidence in democracy and the election process.”

Mexican Drug Kingpin Gets 27 Years in Arizona

arizona-mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The man who headed up the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico was sentenced Friday in Arizona to 27 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $4 million, the Associated Press reported.

Carlos Molinares Nunez, aka “Caliche,” was arrested in 2006 while staying with his wife’s relatives in Tucson, AP reported. Authorities say he headed up the cartel fort five years from Naco in Sonora, Mexico.

“Caliche was a key figure in the violent drug trade of the Sinaloa cartel,” U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said, according to AP. “With this sentencing, his individual organization has been dismantled and destroyed.”

Molinares’ organization used sophisticated radio communications and observation equipment to keep drivers from getting caught crossing the border, AP reported.

Fla. Man Gets Prison for Bilking Consumers of $35 Million in Collect Call Scam

TelephonesBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

We often think that once a criminal is behind bars, society is a little safer.

William Farr shows us that’s not necessarily true.

The 46-year-old West Palm Beach man, while in the West Palm Beach County Jail, ran a scam in which he fleeced consumers of $35 million by charging them for collect phone calls that were never made, according to the Justice Department.

Late last week, he was sentenced to more than 21 years in prison for pulling off the scam known as a “cramming scheme.”

Court documents show that from April 2003 to December 2005 Farr used three West Palm Beach companies – Nationwide Connections Inc., Access One Communications Inc., and Connect One Communications Inc. – to defraud consumers, the Justice Department said.

Farr arranged for telephone companies to falsely bill consumers, and because charges normally appeared on the last page of the telephone bill, many paid the charges, the Justice Department said.

During his plea, Farr that he had hid his ownership of the three firms because “other firms had cut off his ability to bill for calls due to consumer complaints and the fact that state regulators had sued him for illegitimate billing,” the Justice Department said.

“As this sentence demonstrates, the Justice Department has put a priority on protecting the public from fraudulent schemes. This case should also remind consumers to carefully review their telephone bills for unauthorized charges,” Tony West, assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division said in a statement.”

Washington Post Editorial: NRA Pushes to Undermine ATF’s Gun Enforcement Through Bill

atf file photo

atf file photo

By The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — ONLY ABOUT 10 percent of the nation’s 100,000 licensed gun dealers are audited each year by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The ATF cannot fine wayward dealers; its only tool at the moment involves revoking a miscreant’s license. And that happens only about 100 times annually.

But even this level of scrutiny rankles the National Rifle Association, which is pushing for legislation that threatens to gut the ATF’s already limited ability to keep illegal guns off the streets.

The bill, formally known as the ATF Reform and Firearms Modernization Act, is making headway in both houses of Congress, with hearings likely to take place in the Senate this month. The bill should be dramatically rewritten or scrapped altogether.

To read more.

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