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Archive for October, 2011

A Whale of a Crime; Va. Man Pleads to Trafficking Sperm Whale Teeth

 

istock photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It may not be the crime of the century, nonetheless, the feds say it’s a whale of a crime.

Richard M. Ertel, of Spotsylvania, Va., pleaded guilty Monday in Richmond, Va., to importation and illegal trafficking of sperm whale teeth, a violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trading in endangered marine mammal parts.

Sperm whales are classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Justice Department said it is illegal to import parts of the sperm whale into the United States without the requisite permits and certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sperm whale teeth are commonly used for such things are jewelry and crafts, and it usually entails etchings or engravings in the teeth. The Justice Department said Ertel admitted that from April 2002 to June 2007, he bought sperm whale teeth from the Ukraine, and then sold to customers in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, mostly via the Internet.

2 Somali Pirates Get Life in Deaths of S/V Quest Hijacking

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Somali pirates involved in the hijacking of the S/V Quest, which resulted in the death of four Americans, were sentenced Monday in Norfolk, Va. fed court to life in prison.

Muhidin Salad Omar, 30, and Mahdi Jama Mohamed, who is about 24, admitted in the plea agreements that they participated in the hijacking off the coast of Somalia in February , but said they did not shoot any of the victims, authorities said.

“Somali piracy is a scourge on the world stage, and it continues to grow more widespread and more violent,” said Virginia U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride in a statement. “Armed attacks on the high seas carry a very real threat of death to those taken hostage, a threat that was tragically made evident in this case. That threat remains for hundreds of hostages held hostage in Somalia, and a life sentence sends a strong message to anyone who chooses to engage in piracy against U.S. interests that they will face severe consequences.”

“Muhidin Salad Omar and Mahdi Jama Mohamed will spend the rest of their lives behind bars, far away from the high seas they terrorized,” added Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI.

 

Medical Marijuana Growers Selling to Black Market, Complicating Matters

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Difficulties seem to be sprouting up like weeds as local governments across the country experiment with new laws and regulations concerning medical marijuana; the drug is still illegal and listed as a controlled substance by the federal government.

A top federal law enforcement official in Oregan has declared that medical growers are selling their products onto the black market, outside of the limits of the state that regulates the industry, reports The Bulletin, of Bend, Ore.   The result has been a number of busts by the DEA.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton told The Associated Press on Friday that Oregon medical growers sold marijuana to buyers in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Idaho and Missouri illegally.

“We hear from patients when I’m on radio call-in shows,” Holton said, according to the AP. “Inevitably, we get a call in saying, ‘I can’t find marijuana.’ If cardholders can’t find marijuana, we’ve got to figure out where it is going, and there is a ton of it growing in the state. The answer is we know where it is going.”

Advocates of the drug’s legalization place the blame more with the disconnect between the federal ban of the drug and the increasing acceptance of its use in various states.

“Until cannabis prohibition ends and we get some kind of regulation system in this country as a whole, we cannot stop the criminals, we can’t stop the black market,” said Lori Duckworth of Southern Oregon NORML.

She said advocates are eager to work with the feds to stop the illegal sales, which are a burden on the patients that need the drug.

“Patients are not criminals. But patients are being punished for the actions of a few bad seeds,” she said.

One indicator of the illegal sales were patient complaints that they were often unable to obtain marijuana from legal dispensaries and caregivers due to a lack of supply, said Holton, the US attorney.

“An informal list of medical marijuana seizures in the past year kept by prosecutors showed 50 pounds going to Texas, 43 pounds going to Florida, 75 pounds going to the East Coast, and 120 pounds going to Arkansas,” reports The Bulletin.

“I think what is new about this, or different about what we have seen so far — not this particular case — is the excess amount of marijuana that must go someplace — especially when we’ve got cardholders saying they can’t get marijuana,” Holton told The Bulletin.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

 

Ex-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales to Join New Law School in Nashville

Alberto Gonzales/Fox 34

  
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Alberto R. Gonzales, who became a controversial figure as Attorney General during the Bush administration, will become a professor at the newly created Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, Tenn.

The university announced in a press release that Gonzales will fill the endowed position as the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law on Jan. 2. The law school opened its doors in September.

Gonzales is currently  a Visiting Professor and minority/veteran recruitment consultant at Texas Tech University.

“The insight and experience Alberto Gonzales acquired while serving as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, Counsel to the President, Justice on the Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Secretary of State will be immeasurable resources for our students and faculty,” Belmont’s Law School Dean Jeff Kinsler said in a statement. “Since leaving public office, these qualities have helped Judge Gonzales develop into an outstanding professor. We are incredibly fortunate that he has decided to join our charter faculty, and we are extremely grateful for the support provided by Doyle and Barbara Rogers.”

Gonzales was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate as the 80th Attorney General on Feb. 3, 2005. He served in that post until September of 2007.

“I am honored to be named as the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law, created in honor of an outstanding lawyer and extraordinary human being,” Gonzales said in a statement. ” I welcome the opportunity to be associated with the Belmont College of Law, and I look forward to working with an outstanding charter faculty to develop tomorrow’s leaders in the bar, the Nashville community and beyond.”

 

Big Management Shakeup Coming at ATF

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

With acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones in place, and the new fiscal year beginning, rumors are swirling about that ATF is soon expected to make a lot of changes in top management, which will result in a serious round of musical chairs.

One rumor circulating within ATF is that Thomas E. Brandon, who had just recently moved from Detroit to Phoenix to help clean up the mess in wake of the disastrous Operation Fast and Furious, will be headed to Washington to take on a senior leadership role.

Agents around the country have told tickethewire.com that Brandon has the respect of fellow agents.

The changes come as the scandal surrounding Operation Fast and Furious unravels. The poorly executed operation encouraged Arizona firearms dealers to sell to questionable straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of some weapons, and some surfaced at crimes scenes on both sides of the border.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)  and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.)  have  been investigating the fall out from  Operation Fast and Furious and have been raising questions about ATF’s leadership.

In the midst of their probe,  ATF acting director Ken Melson stepped down to head over to a post at the Justice Department. In stepped Jones, who has kept his post as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

The White House had nominated Andrew Traver, head of the ATF’s Chicago office, to become the new director. But his confirmation process got stalled, and the NRA put up a strong fight against him.

At this point, it appears likely Traver’s nomination will simply die out of concern that he can’t get confirmed.

As for seating a permanent director at this point? It’s not likely that the Obama administration will spend its political capital trying to get any director confirmed before the election in November 2012.

Rumors have also been circulating that the Justice Department wants to fold ATF into the FBI, but a federal source said that won’t happen.

The Examiner.com reported last week that there were rumors of  ”a possible big shake up” at ATF,   but gave no specifics.

 

Possibility of Charging Madoff Relatives Fading

Mark Madoff committed suicide/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Nearly three years after the feds began investigating world-class swindler Bernie Madoff, it appears less and less likely charges will be filed against his brother, son and niece, the Associated Press reports.

AP reported that “people with knowledge of the case” said potential evidence against brother Peter Madoff, son Andrew Madoff and niece Shana Madoff was turned over to prosecutors in the spring and that a decision was expected by summer’s end.

“The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan hasn’t taken any action, suggesting any potential criminal evidence gleaned from a massive paper trail and the testimony of cooperators isn’t strong enough to conclusively prove that the three knew that Madoff spent decades orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a final decision hasn’t been announced,” AP wrote. “All three family members have denied any wrongdoing.”

AP reported that prosecutors have decided not charge Madoff’s wife Ruth. His son Mark, a former executive with the company, committed suicide last year, AP reported.

 

VP Biden’s Brother Got White Powder Package in Fla.

Management Shakeup Expected at ATF


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

With acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones in place, and the new fiscal year beginning, rumors are swirling about that ATF is soon expected to make a lot of changes in top management, which will result in a serious round of musical chairs.

One rumor circulating within ATF is that Thomas E. Brandon, who had just recently moved from Detroit to Phoenix to help clean up the mess in wake of the disastrous Operation Fast and Furious, will be headed to Washington to take on a senior leadership role.

Agents around the country have told tickethewire.com that Brandon has the respect of fellow agents.

The changes come in wake of the controversy over Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona firearms dealers to sell to questionable straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of some weapons, and some surfaced at crimes scenes on both sides of the border.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)  and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.)  have  been investigating the fall out from  Operation Fast and Furious and have been raising questions about ATF’s leadership.

In the midst of their probe,  ATF acting director Ken Melson stepped down to head over to a post at the Justice Department. In stepped Jones, who has kept his post as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

The White House had nominated Andrew Traver, head of the ATF’s Chicago office, to become the new director. But his confirmation process got stalled, and the NRA put up a strong fight against him.

At this point, it appears Traver’s nomination will simply die out for lack of momentum. And it’s not likely that the Obama administration will spend its political capital trying to get any director confirmed before the election in November 2012.

Rumors have been circulating that the Justice Department wants to fold ATF into the FBI, but a federal source said that won’t happen.

The Examiner.com reported last week that there were rumors of  “a possible big shake up” at ATF,   but gave no specifics.