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Archive for November 9th, 2010

U.S. Attys Rip Off Taxpayers With Expensive Hotel Rooms

Christopher Christie/campaign photo

UPDATE: The LA Times reports that another former U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien of Los Angeles wrote a check Tuesday reimbursing the government for more than $900 in overages for hotels.  Former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh was also identified in the media as one of the five  violators cited in the Inspector General report.

WASHINGTON — The words “offensive” and “disgusting” and “criminal” best describe the findings of a Justice Department Inspector General report this week which found that five U.S. Attorneys stuck taxpayers with hefty hotel bills.

In other words, they went far beyond the allotted allowance for rooms.

And the worst offender, the report said, was the New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie — who is now the state’s governor — who has crusaded against corruption. This sounds rather corrupt to me.

He was U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2008.

“After reviewing the travel documents and interviewing the U.S. Attorney’s secretary, we found insufficient justification for exceeding the government rate with respect to 14 of the 15 trips,” the report said of Christie.

“These 14 vouchers exceeded the government rate by $19 to $242 per night, for a total of $2,176 (excluding taxes for domestic travel). U.S. Attorney C’s lodging costs exceeded the government rate by more than $100 per night on 9 of the 14 vouchers.”

The report said Christie — considered a rising star in the Republican party – stayed at the Nine Zero Hotel in Boston for $449 per night and the $475-per-night Four Seasons Hotel in Washington at a cost of more than double the government rate for those cities.

Guess what. Go to Orbitz right now. Punch in hotels for  Boston and Washington.

The St. Gregory Luxury Hotel at 20th and M Streets NW in D.C. — a pretty darn nice neighborhood and a four-star hotel — is going this week for $211 a night. And guess what, it’s right near a Four Seasons Hotel where Christie spent $475 a night. And the five-star Langham hotel in Boston is going for $257 a night — far less than the $449 a night he spent at the Nine Zero Hotel.

Christie’s press secretary did not return a call when I called for comment. Not surprising.  There’s no justification for ripping off the taxpayers.

What Christie and the other four U.S. Attorneys need to do is take out a check book and reimburse the taxpayers. They also need to remember, while they’re presidential appointees, they are not the PRESIDENT. They can stay at an Embassy Suites or a Hilton.

It’s all about doing the right thing.

Column: U.S. Attys Rip Off Taxpayers on Hotel Rooms

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The words “offensive” and “disgusting” and “criminal” best describe the findings of a Justice Department Inspector General report this week which found that five U.S. Attorneys stuck taxpayers with hefty hotel bills.

In other words, they went far beyond the allotted allowance for rooms.

And the worst offender, the report said, was the New Jersey U.S. Attorney Chris Christie — who is now the state’s governor — who has crusaded against corruption. This sounds rather corrupt to me.

He was U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2008.

“After reviewing the travel documents and interviewing the U.S. Attorney’s secretary, we found insufficient justification for exceeding the government rate with respect to 14 of the 15 trips,” the report said of Christie.

“These 14 vouchers exceeded the government rate by $19 to $242 per night, for a total of $2,176 (excluding taxes for domestic travel). U.S. Attorney C’s lodging costs exceeded the government rate by more than $100 per night on 9 of the 14 vouchers.”

The report said Christie — considered a rising star in the Republican party – stayed at the Nine Zero Hotel in Boston for $449 per night and the $475-per-night Four Seasons Hotel in Washington at a cost of more than double the government rate for those cities.

Guess what. Go to Orbitz right now. Punch in hotels for  Boston and Washington.

The St. Gregory Luxury Hotel at 20th and M Streets NW in D.C. — a pretty darn nice neighborhood and a four-star hotel — is going this week for $211 a night. And guess what, it’s right near a Four Seasons Hotel where Christie spent $475 a night. And the five-star Langham hotel in Boston is going for $257 a night — far less than the $449 a night he spent at the Nine Zero Hotel.

Christie’s press secretary did not return a call when I called for comment. Not surprising.  There’s no justification for ripping off the taxpayers.

What Christie and the other four U.S. Attorneys need to do is take out a check book and reimburse the taxpayers. They also need to remember, while they’re presidential appointees, they are not the PRESIDENT. They can stay at an Embassy Suites or a Hilton.

It’s all about doing the right thing.

Imprisoned CIA Officer Pleads Guilty to Espionage for 2nd Time in 13 Years

Harold James Nicholson/cia photo

By Glynnesha Taylor
ticklethewire.com

Father and sons have different ways of bonding. Some go camping or fishing. Ex-CIA officer Harold J. Nicholson and his son chose a more novel way: they worked together in the espionage world with the Russians.

On Monday, Nicholson, 59, who is already serving a 23 year-plus year sentence after pleading guilty in 1997,  pleaded guilty again on Monday in Portland, Or., to espionage charges in a case involving his son and the Russians.  Authorities alleged that his son helped his imprisoned father collect some back payments from the Russians while passing on information.

Nicholson worked for the CIA for 16 years. Between June 1994 and November 16, 1996, authorities said he provided the Russian Federation documents, photographic negatives and information relating to the national defense of the United States,  according to Nicholson’s indictment.  He was arrested in November 1996 at Dulles Airport in Virginia while trying to board a plane to Zurich, Switzerland with classified documents.

In return, Nicholson received cash payments he used to pay credit car bills and other expenses, according to court papers. In 1997, he pleaded guilty and agreed to have no direct contact with any foreign government or through another party. His youngest son Nathaniel was 12 at the time.

Authorities say that agreement was broken when around June 2006 Nicholson’s  son Nathaniel J. Nicholson began communicating with the  Russian Federation on behalf of his father.

Read more »

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Reports for Jury Duty

Holder delivers speech recently in Orlando/ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Yes, even the big guys and gals get the call to jury duty some times.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Atty. General Eric Holder Jr. reported to jury duty on Monday at D.C. Superior Court, the city’s court.

And to no surprise, just like most of the big guys and gals, he was dismissed early on, the newspaper reported.

It was back to work.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

17 Charged With Defrauding Holocaust Fund of $42 Million

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

Authorities say a Holocaust fund that helped victims was victimized itself.

Seventeen people were charged in federal court in Manhattan with a long-running scam that defrauded Holocaust funds for survivors out of $42 million, authorities announced today. Some of the fraudulent claims date back to 1993.

Authorities said employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — also known as the Claims Conference — approved more than 5,500 fraudulent applications, resulting in bogus payouts from the German government through the fund. Workers and those who were part of the conspiracy kept a portion of the payments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York said.

“If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference, which every day assists thousands of poor and elderly victims of Nazi persecution,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

To read full story click here.

Ex-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie Routinely Exceeded Hotel Costs at Taxpayer Expense, IG Report Finds

Gov. Chris Christie/state photo By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

As a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey who crusaded against corruption, Chris Christie — now the New Jersey governor —  routinely stayed in expensive hotels at taxpayer expense, far exceeding the government allowance, according to a Justice Department Inspector General report released Monday.

The report, which looked at the travel of all 208 U.S. Attorneys from 2007 to 2008, found that Christie and four others routinely exceeded the government rate for lodging without justification or proper documentation. But it noted that Christie, who was U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2008, was the biggest violator of the five.

The Inspector General  did not name the U.S. Attorneys, but the website Main Justice identified “U.S. Attorney C” in the report as Christie.

“After reviewing the travel documents and interviewing the U.S. Attorney’s secretary, we found insufficient justification for exceeding the government rate with respect to 14 of the 15 trips,” the report said of Christie.

“These 14 vouchers exceeded the government rate by $19 to $242 per night, for a total of $2,176 (excluding taxes for domestic travel). U.S. Attorney C’s lodging costs exceeded the government rate by more than $100 per night on 9 of the 14 vouchers.”

The report said Christie — considered a rising star in the Republican party —  stayed at the  Nine Zero Hotel in Boston for $449 per night and the $475-per-night Four Seasons Hotel in Washington at a cost of more than double the government rate for those cities.

On Christie, the report said: “The U.S. Attorney’s secretary told us that she routinely called hotels to seek the government rate. However, she also said that the U.S. Attorney selected his hotel if he was familiar with the city and that she would seek a recommendation for a “decent” hotel if he was not.

“The secretary told us that if the recommended hotel did not offer the government rate, she would consider other hotels but also take into account the time of the meeting and the distance from the hotel to the meeting site. The secretary stated that the U.S. Attorney normally stayed at the hotel closest to or at the location of his meetings.”

“The justification for his stay at the Four Seasons Hotel (at a rate of $475 per night) was an early morning speech at the hotel. We do not believe this was a suitable justification for exceeding the government rate, particularly by such a large amount, if lodging at the government rate was available at a hotel within a reasonable distance from that hotel.”

Gov. Chrisite’s press secretary Mike Drewniak did not immediately return a call Tuesday morning to ticklethewire.com for comment.  In a New York Time’s story, he declined comment and a spokesman referred to previous comments he made during his campaign.

”I had to go someplace for part of my job. We tried to get the government rate. We couldn’t. So my only alternative would have been to not go,”  Christie said during the campaign in October 2009, according to the Associated Press.

Read report

Mother of Slain FBI Agent Sam Hicks Wrote Judge to Ask for Justice

Slain FBI Agent Sam Hicks/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The mother of slain Pittsburgh FBI agent Samuel Hicks asked a federal judge for justice before sentencing for drug dealer Robert Korbe, whose wife shot and killed agent Hicks, according to a letter she wrote to a judge in September. The letter was unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court  in Pittsburgh.

Korbe was sentenced in September to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking and other charges. His wife Christina Korbe has been charged with shooting agent Hicks during a raid  on Nov. 19, 2008 at  the Korbe home in Indiana Township, Pa. Authorities said Robert Korbe was trying to dispose of drugs in the basement at the time.

“You knowingly had possession of illegal substances, and guns in your home the day before you were to appear before a judge on criminal charges, and on November 19, 2008, you chose to run to the basement instead of opening your front door, as law enforcement called for and to you many times,” wrote Hick’s mother Charlotte Hicks Carrabotta in a letter dated Sept. 16. “You, again, were running from the law in an attempt to cover your criminal evidence -the core of who you are.”

“Today, Judge Terrence McVerry, I would like to ask that justice be served in this courtroom for the arrogance and defiance shown repeatedly by Robert Korbe against the laws that protect as well as serve (all) of us. These laws are laws that protect Robert Korbe, but also protect the life of Agent Samuel Hicks.”

“One moment of respect for the law -the simple act of opening a door -and my son would still be alive,” she wrote at the end.

To read full letter click “read more” below.

Read more »

Napolitano Announces Clamp Down on Air Cargo Security

Janet Napolitano/file photo-bill maher show

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The U.S. moved Monday to clamp down on the vulnerable area of cargo shipments from abroad.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the banning of “high risk” cargo shipments and a ban on shipments from Yemen and Somalia.

“Following the thwarted terrorist plot last week to conceal and ship explosive devices on board aircraft bound for the U.S., the Administration took a number of immediate steps to increase security by tightening existing measures related to cargo bound for the United States,” Napolitano said in a statement.

Read more »