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Archive for August, 2012

FBI: Court Clerk Tipped Off Gang Members Before Arrests

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A federal court clerk in Los Angeles is accused of revealing confidential court files and tipping off gangs,   the FBI said Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Nune Gevorkyan, 35, and her husband were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice after federal authorities say they tipped off more than 70 people connected with the Armenian Power gang.

The FBI says Gevorkyan peered at sealed indictments and passed on info to gangs before raids and arrests.

A cooperating defendant plans to testify against Gevorkyan.

Judge Rules FBI Must Release Dotcom Evidence

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

U.S. federal authorities cannot extradite the founder of the Megaupload online file-sharing site without evidence supporting charges of copyright breaches and internet piracy, a New Zealand court ruled Thursday, Reuters reports.

“Without access to materials relevant to the extradition hearing phase, the person sought will be significantly constrained in his or her ability to participate in the hearing,” Justice Helen Winkelmann said in a written judgment.

The FBI claims Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, netted millions of dollars by copying movies and music without authorization.

Dotcom was arrested by New Zealand authorities at his rented house near Auckland in late January.

Janice Fedarcyk, First Woman to Head N.Y. FBI, Retiring to Join Private Sector

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Janice Fedarcyk, the fist woman to head the N.Y. FBI office, who oversaw some major terrorists, mob and Wall Street probes,  is retiring  to enter the private sector, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the New York bureau, plans to start a consulting firm in Washington D.C., where her husband, a retired FBI agent, works.

During her tenure, Fedarcyk’s office cracked down on insider trading and computer attacks.

Some of the prosecutors involved in the insider-trading investigation have also left the federal government for the private sector, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Before coming to New York, Fedarcyk had headed up the Philadelphia office. She began her career with the FBI in 1987 in Los Angeles.

In New York, she oversaw:

  • The investigation and arrest of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, al Shabaab leader for providing material support to al Qaeda.
  • Processing and dissemination of all intelligence following the Bin Laden raid in Pakistan.
  • Arrest of leadership and members of Anonymous and/or offshoot groups related to Anonymous, including “Internet Feds,” “LulzSec,” and “AntiSec,” for computer hacking and other crimes. Click here for more details.
  • The largest coordinated, national takedown of members of the five Organized Crime Families of La Cosa Nostra, including some of its most senior members.
  • The arrest of eight active and retired NYPD officers.
  • Arrest and subsequent guilty verdicts of Raj Rajaratnam, the founder and former head of the Galleon Group, and Rajat Gupta, a former corporate chairman and member of the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs, for insider trading.
  • Arrest and subsequent guilty plea of Peter Madoff, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC former Chief Compliance Officer and Senior Managing Director, for Securities Fraud and Tax Fraud Conspiracy.
  • Investigation, arrest, and subsequent guilty verdict for New York State Senator Pedro Espada and his son for embezzlement.
  • Investigation, arrest, and subsequent guilty plea from New York State Senator Carl Kruger for bibery schemes.
  • Investigation and arrest of New York State Assemblyman William Boyland for bribery and attempted Hobbs Act Extortion. Details here.
  • Numerous acts of piracy investigated by the FBI off the coast of Somalia. Included dozens of arrests for piracy, murder, and other offenses.

 

ICE Chief of Staff on Leave Amid Complaints Including Sexual Harassment

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

ICE Chief of Staff Suzanne Barr is on leave while the agency investigates claims that she treated men poorly, the New York Daily News reports.

Barr voluntarily placed herself on leave Tuesday, said ICE spokesman Brian Hale.

New accusers are speaking out after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of ICE Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr., who says Barr was verbally abusive, his attorney said, the New York Daily News reported.

One accuser  said in a statement after  a gathering at the ICE director’s office, according to the Daily News:

“At some point during the conversation, I witnessed Suzanne Barr turn to senior ICE employee Tae Johnson and state ‘You a sexy mothaf—a!’ She then looked at his crotch and asked, ‘How long is it anyway?’ ”

   OTHER STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Too Much Evidence Prompts Dismissal of Prescription Drug Case

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Is it possible to have too much evidence against someone?

It appears so after a federal judge in Iowa dropped a case involving the nation’s largest prosecution of Internet pharmacies, the Associated Press reports.

The evidence against former Miami doctor, Armando Angulo, included more than 400,000 documents and two terabytes of electronic data, taking up 5% of the DEA’s worldwide electronic storage, according to Newsday.

Angulo fled to his native Panama, which does not extradite its own citizens. So given that he’s never likely to come back to the U.S., and the issue of maintaining all the documents, the prosecutors asked the to dismiss the case so the evidence can be deleted or destroyed, AP reported.

 

 

A Bird’s Eye View of Baltimore’s High-Flying Pot Conspiracy

ILLUSTRATION BY NOAH PATRICK PFARR/Baltimore City Paper

By Van Smith
Baltimore City Paper

BALTIMORE — The Lancair IV-P airplane is a sleek four-seater, capable of flying 330 miles per hour and more than 1,500 miles on a tank of gas. The one that was seized in June 2009 from Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, near Denver, had been purchased the previous summer for $450,000. The buyer, a Delaware company called Air Sky Holdings LLC, still owed the seller about $64,000. But the Lancair was not repossessed due to outstanding debt. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took it.

What led law enforcers to that Lancair was a game-changing series of events for a sprawling, sophisticated outfit of Baltimore-based potrepreneurs whose illicit, high-volume business had been a veritable license to print money. Its seizure didn’t immediately end the flow of eye-popping amounts of premium weed they’d been moving, but it was a red flag, putting key players on notice that the gig was nosediving into a forest of cops, lawyers, and judges.

And nosedive it did, ultimately resulting in at least three federal cases and possibly dozens of state-level ones, all in Maryland.

To read the full story click here.

Thirty Years Later, Carrying on a Tradition: Talking to U of M Football Team About Gambling and Other Matters

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

 In 1982 legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler called the FBI office in Ann Arbor. Bo wanted the FBI to talk to his team primarily about the perils of illegal sports gambling.

The Senior Resident Agent, Tom Love, agreed to make the presentation. Tom knew I had played (read mostly practiced) college football and asked me to help.

At the time Michigan’s football team was housed in a relatively small one story building that reminded me of a Quonset hut. Michigan’s transition from that modest building to the state of the art facilities they have today is emblematic of the change in Division 1 football in the last 30 years.

In our talk we explained how sports gambling worked. How it’s not about who wins. It’s about covering the point spread. How important it was for gamblers to get inside information as an edge to better divine how a team will perform, and if possible, have a cooperating player or ref with the ability to control the point spread, “point shaving.”

Sports gambling was and is a potential threat to the integrity of sports. The huge amount of money bet illegally in the US on sports is an incentive to gain an advantage in knowing or trying to control the outcome of a game. Recent estimates of the annual amount bet illegally in the U.S. are north of $300 billion.

When I started doing the FBI presentations, a D-1 college team, like Michigan, might be on TV once or twice a year. Now sports programing has become so pervasive that a dedicated fan or gambler can watch just about any game played anywhere in the country.

 

With the increase in TV coverage, sports gambling has also increased. And with the advent of the internet, gamblers have access to more current information and can place bets on-line.

Recognizing the need for educating players, the FBI developed a sports presentation program, and trained agents to address college and professional teams. After my first talk to the Michigan football team, I went through the training and attended periodic conferences with representatives from NFL, MLB, NHL and NCAA.

Over the years I’ve talked to pro and college teams. (I talked to the Michigan basketball teams several times including the “Fab Five” teams. That might have been a case of a failure to communicate.)

Something I didn’t always do, but learned was important, was to ensure that the head coaches stayed during the presentations. If the coaches didn’t think it was important enough to be there, the players would think the same thing.

The FBI program still exists in theory, but priorities have changed. It is no longer as active as it was, although sports gambling is bigger than ever and point shaving scandals continue to surface.

Our first talk with the Michigan football team must have gone well. Bo invited Tom Love and me back the next year. Tom was not as enthusiastic about speaking to the team as I was. So he told me to handle it on my own.

Little did I know that it was to be the “beginning of a beautiful friendship” between Bo and me. It was to have a substantial impact on my career.

Bo and I would work together on several FBI cases – notably the investigation of Norby Walters/Lloyd Bloom, two notorious sports agents who bribed and signed about 20 blue chip college football players while they were still eligible to play college ball. Walters and Bloom post dated the contracts and kept them secret, a clear violation of NCAA rules. Under NCAA rules, once you sign with an agent, your college eligibility ends.

Bo would be the “star” witness in the successful federal prosecution of Walters and Bloom. (Walters had been a New York music agent and had organized crime ties and a NY Mafia family helped finance Walters’ sports operation. It was believed that the ultimate goal of signing so many star athletes was to try to get some of the players in the stable to become involved in point shaving.)

Bo also convinced me –he was very persuasive — to pursue an undercover operation targeting the illegal trafficking of anabolic steroids. That UCO, Equine, was international in scope and resulted in the successful prosecution of over 70 dealers. (I’ve written several stories about Equine.)

Although illegal sports gambling continued to be the primary topic over the years, other concerns were discussed like: drugs, steroids, domestic violence (more specifically don’t beat-up your girlfriend) and recently the improvident use of social media. Obviously social media can also be a source of inside information for gamblers – makes you wonder how many star players’ twitter followers are professional gamblers.

The topics may have changed, but the message never really did. The common theme was using good judgment, having good values and making good decisions.

Bo had a concept of a “Michigan Man” (not meant to be gender specific). A Michigan Man not only demonstrated traditional values like integrity, honor and responsibility, on the field, but he/she lived them.

When Bo retired in 1989, I continued to talk to the Michigan football teams.

Later I was fortunate to become friends with Lloyd Carr during his 13 year tenure as Michigan coach. Lloyd reminded me of Jimmy Stewart, whereas Bo was more like George C. Scott playing General Patton. Both men led by example and practiced the values they taught.

During four of the seasons Lloyd coached (2000-03), my son was a walk-on. Those presentations were special for me. When I spoke to those teams, I was not only a FBI agent speaking to Michigan’s football team, but a father seeing his son in a group of men representing a program that I had come to respect.

This week I will again talk to the Michigan football team. Brady Hoke is Michigan’s coach now.

Before leaving to be head coach at Ball State and San Diego State, Brady was an assistant at Michigan under Lloyd Carr for 7 years (1995-2002). Brady has embraced the traditions of Michigan and the concept of the Michigan Man.

It is Michigan’s 133rd football season, and it will be my 30th year.

The topics have changed. There are still the perils of illegal sports gambling, but now there are the issues of social media: texting, sexting, twittering, etc. New problems, but the message stays the same: making good choices based on good values.

I always end my talks with a quote attributed to John Wayne: “Life is tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

Judge Tosses Muslim Spying Lawsuit Against FBI

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge rejected a lawsuit against the FBI that alleges the agency unlawfully spied on Orange County Muslims in California, the Los Angeles Times reports.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney wrote that “the state secrets privilege may unfortunately mean the sacrifice of individual liberties for the sake of national security.”

Carney said the intelligence in the case would compromise national security, if revealed, the LA Times reported.

Still, the judge said the suit can proceed against the individual FBI agents.

Orange County Muslims brought the lawsuit after they said they were targeted for illegally spying.