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December 2011


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for December, 2011

Ex-Suburban D.C. County Executive Gets 7-Plus Years in Prison For Bribery


Jack Johnson/wusa
By Danny Fenster

Jack Johnson, a former county executive in suburban D.C., who was caught on a phone wiretap directing his wife inside their home to destroy evidence while FBI agents stood at the door, was sentenced Tuesday in Maryland federal court to 7 years and 3 months in prison and three years of supervised release for taking bribes.

Authorities said that Johnson, 62, who had gone from the being the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County to the county executive, used his public office as county executive to steer millions of dollars in public funds for bribes from developers. Johnson was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and forfeit his Mercedes Benz and $78,000. He reportedly got as much as $1 million in illegal bribes.

“Jack Johnson could have been a role model for integrity, but he chose to be a poster child for greed,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement. “The facts of this case read like a dime novel because the defendant acted as if corruption was the normal way of doing business. It is our responsibility to prove him wrong.”

After serving as the county’s State’s Attorney and nearly a decade as an attorney for the IRS, Johnson began a career as County Executive in 2002 that lasted until December of 2010.

The guilty plea says Johnson orchestrated a conspiracy from 2003 through at least November 12, 2010,among clients which included bribes of money, trip expenses, food, drinks, logding, flights, employment and political contributions, among other items, according to the Justice Department. The bribes among Johnson and other co-conspirators amounted to more than $1.6 million.

There have been 15 convictions to date in related corruption investigations in Prince George’s County.

Johnson was disgraced in his final weeks in office in November 2010 when FBI agents came knocking on the door of his home in Mitchellvile, Md, a suburb of D.C.  He wasn’t home, but his wife was.

Two minutes later, Johnson’s wife Leslie called Johnson on an FBI-tapped phone, according to an FBI affidavidt

The wife told Johnson two women were at the door.

“Don’t answer it,” Johnson said, according to the affidavit.

Johnson then told his wife to go upstairs and go to “my drawer” and find a check from the developer the FBI believes was the $100,000 check. He said the check was in the underwear drawer.

The wife then asked if she should remove any cash and Johnson said “Yes.”

Johnson then told his wife to put the cash in her underwear.

After she found the check, Johnson told his wife: “Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do.”

She then asked if she should remove the cash from the basement and Johnson said: “Put it in your bra and walk out or something and I don’t know what to do.”

Leslie Johnson then said: “What do you want me to do with the check?”

“Tear it up,” Johnson replied.

Then Johnson told her to flush the check down the toilet.

“Yes, flush that,” he said, according to the affidavit.

He then told her to put the cash in her underwear.

“I have it in my bra,” she replied.

FBI agents entered the home and found $79,600 in Leslie Johnson’s underwear.

Judge Zagel: Blago Set and Sought Senate Seat Price

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster

Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday faced the first of two days of hearings for his sentencing on public corruption charges.

The usually chatty ex-governor had walked quietly out of his home earlier in the morning and into the courtroom via a passage blocked off to the media he once revelled in, a Chicago Tribune blog reported.  He declined to comment to the media.

Before the trial began Blagojevich bent over to kiss his wife Patti, saying “I love you.”

The defense argued Blagojevich did not gain any money from the allegations, while the prosecution pointed to “bountiful” evidence of what Blagojevich expected to gain.

Of the $1.5 million Blagojevich sought for the senate seat, Judge James Zagel said “”It was a price he put on it. The price he expected to receive,” tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney.

Blagojevich, arrested in December of 2008, was convicted of 1 of 24 counts — lying to an FBI agent — in his first trial. The second proved far more fruitful for the prosecution, which convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including his famous attempt to sell or trade Barack Obama’s Senate seat for his own benefit.

During the feds probe of Blago, the FBI caught his now-famous line on tape: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s [expletive] golden,” he said of the Senate seat. Since his arrest state lawmakers approved a series of campaign finance reforms and transparency laws.

Before and during the trial Blagojevich repeatedly proclaimed his innocence in the national media, appearing regularly on news and talk shows, including The View. Many speculated early on that the media campaign could hurt him at sentencing.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois, previously told “I think that will be one factor.”

Blagojevich served as a state legislator in both Washington and the Illinois capital of Springfield. He got his start in Chicago with the help of longtime city alderman Richard Mell, a powerful Democratic politician on the city’s Northwest Side. He was elected governor of Illinois in 2002 and impeached on January 9, 2009. He was banned in a separate vote from ever holding public office in the state of Illinois in the future.

Why Aren’t the Bankers in Trouble?

By Danny Fenster

In the wake of the financial sector’s meltdown, many were on the hunt for the blood of bankers. But convictions for wrongdoing on Wall Street have been remarkably scarce in the aftermath of the industry’s collapse–no small part of why Occupy Wall Street protestors have gathered in lower Manhattan.

A Wall Street Journal blog explains why prosecutions in the financial sector have been so slow to surface. Federal agent’s “hopes slowly gave way to frustration over how to prove criminal intent,” the blog post notes, citing former deputy assistant director of the FBI David Cardona.

Much of the Justice Department’s criminal investigations “hinge on disclosure” Cardona told the Journal. “What does adequate disclosure mean? And those are really technical arguments that sometimes get lost with a jury.”

Many of the FBI’s criminal probes into financial wrongdoing have gone nowhere, according to the Journal, including probes into top financial firms like AIG, Goldman Sachs and Washington Mutual. After a jury acquitted Bear Stearns in 2009, US officials have been wary of trying crimes in which a jury may decide losses were due to bad judgement or the market rather than actual criminality.

“Thus, cases that turn on technical issues such as disclosure are being left for civil-enforcement actions.”

To read more click here.


Elderly Women Complain of TSA Screening at JFK Airport

file photo

By Danny Fenster

Two elderly women claimed this week that TSA employees, during private screenings at John F. Kennedy International Airport, embarrassed them by asking them to lower their pants and expose private items to the officers, reports WPLG. One claims she was made to lower her pants and underwear so her back brace could be inspected; the other said she was made to lower her waste and show officers her colostomy bag.

The TSA says the officers followed proper procedures in both cases, the station reported.

But with the aging US population, such searched may become even more common, according to the WPLG report. Many prosthetics and medical devices cannot go through regular scans.

“You have pacemakers, you have artificial hips, you have artificial knees,” Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said, according to the station.”As we get older and we keep ourselves together, it’s going to take more and more surgery. There’s going to be more and more medical improvements, but that can create what appears to be a security issue.”

Prosthetics can set off metal detectors, while bags and catheters create bulges in people’s clothing that security officials are likely to question.

The TSA says it continues to try and tailor screening procedure for different demographics. The agency has formed an advisory committee, with 70 disability groups, to adapt screening techniques.

To read more click here.

Supreme Court to Hear Case of Cheney Back-Slap

By Danny Fenster

As Herman Cain knows, it’s a fine line between a friendly pat on the shoulder and a little too much touching. Now, Steven Howards will find out the same.

On Monday the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether or not Howards can sue the Secret Service for denying his right to free speech when protecting then-vice president Dick Cheney during a 2006 incident in Colorado.

At a mall in Beaver Creek, Colo., a Secret Service agent said he heard Howards speaking into his cellphone, describing his plan to ask the vice president “how many kids he’s killed today,” according to the New York Times. Howards later approached Cheney, telling him his administration’s “policies in Iraq are disgusting,” then touched Cheney on the shoulder.

The shoulder tap has been variously described as a pat, a slap and a strike, which caused Cheney’s shoulder to dip, according to the Times. When agents confronted Howards he denied touching the vice president and said “if you don’t want other people sharing their opinions, you should have him avoid public places.” He was then arrested for assault and given to local authorities, charged with harassment–charges which were later dropped.

A federal district judge in Denver ruled that the suit against the agents could proceed.  A three-panel on the Court of Appeals subsequently reversed some of that ruling, saying that agents had a right to arrest Howards after he touched Cheney. Conversely, it ruled that the Howards’s claim for retaliatory arrest could  proceed to trial, saying his First Amendment rights may have been violated because agents could have been “substantially motivated” to take action against him based on his remarks, the Times reported.

The Supreme Court will now take on this touchy issue.

To read more click here.

Rep. Issa Announces Investigation into DEA Letting Money Flow to Cartels

By Allan Lengel and Danny Fenster

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)is attacking Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. once again, this time for a DEA operation that allowed money to flow to the Mexican drug cartels.

In a press release issued Monday, Issa announced that he was investigating the matter, which was highlighted in a front page story in the New York Times on Monday.

In a letter to Holder, he said he had been investigating this “reckless tactics” in Operation Fast and Furious, and he was none too happy to see it being done with money “walking” to the cartels. ATF’s Fast and Furious operation encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers” or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the cartels.

“The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question,” Issa wrote in the letter to Holder. “The managerial structure you have implemented lacks appropriate operational safeguards to prevent the implementation of such dangerous schemes. The consequences have been disastrous.”

DEA agents have laundered or smuggled–or, “let walk”–millions of dollars in drug proceeds in an effort to trace the money to the end recipients, reports the New York Times. The DEA sought to understand how cartels moved their money, where assets were kept and, ultimately, who the leaders were. Money was put into trafficker accounts or shell accounts set up by agents, according to the Times.

The DEA said the operations began in Mexico only within the past few years, but similar operations have been used internationally before. The controversial tactic lets cartels continue their activities while the investigation is ongoing, and raises serious some questions about the agency’s effectiveness, diplomacy and Mexican sovereignty and the distinction between surveilling and facilitating crime, the Times reported.

Former DEA officials reject any comparison between the laundering operation and the gun-walking program Fast and Furious, saying that money poses far less a threat to public safety and can lead more directly to the top ranks of cartels, the Times reports.

Member of Michigan Militia That Plotted to Kill Cops Pleads Guilty

Hutaree members charged in case. Clough is pictured in the last photo on the right on the top row. /southern poverty law center photo

By Allan Lengel

A member of a southeast Michigan militia known as “Hutaree” pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a plot to use explosives against local and fed law enforcement, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Joshua Clough admitted guilt on the same day an FBI report on the group was released. The report concluded that the name “Hutaree” was made up by the son of a ringleader and had no meaning, the Free Press reported.

Clough was one of nine members charged in the case and accused of trying to overthrow the government.

To read the full story click here.




FBI Search Airplane After Bomb Note Found in Bathroom

By Danny Fenster

FBI Agents were summoned to Boston’s Logan Airport on Sunday as an inbound flight from London landed and a “suspicious note” mentioning a bomb was found by a flight attendent, reports

FBI agents, police and k-9 units searched the plane along with its 200 passengers and 16 crew members when the flight touched down at Logan Airport, according to State Police, though nothing was found.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Flight 11 arrived in Boston without incident at about 6 pm on Sunday

Trooper Thomas Murphy, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, said authorities do not believe the bomb threat to be credible, but are investigating at the moment.

To read more click here.