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Archive for September, 2013

Brothers, Father Accused of Running Small Texas Town with Retaliation, Intimidation

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

When it comes to politics in the small Texas town of Progreso, it’s safe to say the Vela family flexed some muscle.

Omar Vela, 35, is the town’s mayor. His brother, Michael Vela, 28 (pictured), is the president of the school board. And their father, Jose Guadalupe Vela, 64, works in management at the school district.

All three are accused of participating in a “pay-to-play” scheme involving contractors, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Following an FBI investigation, the trio were charged in federal court Wednesday with conspiracy, mail fraud, theft and bribery.

Special Agent Ricardo Ale testified in court Wednesday that the men ruled through intimidation and retaliation.

The border town of Progreso has a population of about 5,000.

Man Gets 15 Years in Prison for Pulling Gun on FBI Agent

FBI stock photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Here’s a little unsolicited advice: Don’t pull a gun on an FBI agent.

That’s what a Mississippi man learned after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison late last month, the Associated Press reports.

Eugene Bernardini, 38, bumped into a car in Olive Branch and then pulled a gun on the occupants.

One of those occupants turned out to be FBI Special Agent Thomas Barlow, who quickly disarmed Bernardini before the man pulled out a knife and fled in his car.

Bernardini was arrested later that day.

Ex-Secret Service Gets 5 Years for Plot of Kidnap Judge

Correction: The original story said that James Bartee pleaded guilty. He was actually convicted by a Oconee County jury in 2013. 
 
Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

James Bartee, a former Secret Service agent, wanted so much to be sheriff that he was allegedly was willing to pay an informant to kidnap a former judge who was going to challenge his credentials for the sheriff position, the Associated Press reports.

The 55-year-old, who spent more than two decades with the U.S. Secret Service, was running for Oconee County sheriff when authorities said he was concerned a former judge would reveal during a hearing that Bartee didn’t have the qualifications for the top law enforcement position.

Bartee ended up allegedly paying an informant to kidnap the former judge.

He was found guilty of solicitation to commit a felony and sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation.

Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Calls for Congressional Hearings on DEA Surveillance

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Revelations that the DEA uses NSA data to investigate non-terrorism cases against Americans has prompted a coalition of two dozen civil rights groups to call for congressional hearings, Reuters reports.

The call for hearings comes after Reuters revealed that the DEA uses telephone surveillance from the NSA to build criminal cases against Americans.

“The implications of the Reuters revelations are serious and far-reaching,” the groups wrote Thursday to Congressional leaders on judiciary, homeland security and oversight committees, the wire service reported.

“For too long Congress has given the DEA a free pass,” said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Our hope is that Congress does its job and provides oversight of an agency that has a long track record of deeply troubling behavior.”

Federal Agents Help Phoenix Police Make 17 Gang-Related Arrests

stock photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Phoenix apartment complex was rife with gang activity.

So says federal agents and local police after arresting 17 people on gang-related charges following a yearlong investigation, the Arizona Republic reports.

Authorities said they found drugs, weapons and two top gang leaders.

“These individuals sought to take over the neighborhood,” Phoenix Assistant Chief Sandra Renteria said.

Authorities said the men openly sold drugs and intimidated apartment dwellers.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

It’s Official: James B. Comey Becomes the 7th FBI Director

FBI photo

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Wednesday marked the start of a new era for the FBI.

After 12 years at the helm, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was replaced by James B Comey.

As noted on the FBI website, Attorney General Eric Holder administered the oath of office at 4:32 p.m., making Comey the seventh director.

“I know Jim brings an impeccable sense of judgment, a commitment to innovative methods and tools, and a lifetime of experience to this new role—which is critical to the protection of our nation and its citizens,” said Attorney General Holder. “As a seasoned prosecutor, a proven leader, and a faithful advocate for the American people—and for the rule of law—I am confident that Jim Comey will continue to uphold the standards of excellence and integrity that the FBI’s outgoing Director, Bob Mueller, helped to establish.”

 

Boetig, Expert in Cyber Threats, Named Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Buffalo

SAC Boetig

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

An expert on cyber threats will serve as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI office in Buffalo, reports Buffalo News.

Brian P. Boetig, former director of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, was named Tuesday as the new head of the Buffalo office.

Boetig’s career with the FBI began in 1998. He worked as an instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and as an FBI Counterterrorism Division Liaison Officer to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Buffalo News wrote.

Before joining the FBI, Boetig served as a police officer in Auburn, Alabama.

Boetig replaced Christopher Piehota, who departed in April to take the position of director of the Terrorist Screening Center in Washington D.C.

FBI Warns of Phone Hackers Calling 911 to Draw SWAT Teams to Homes

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI is warning local law enforcement about a hoax called “swatting.”

Using technology to hack a phone, prank callers are pretending to be shooters or victims of a shooting to draw SWAT teams to a house of unsuspecting people.

“The FBI looks at these crimes as a public safety issue,” said Kevin Kolbye, an assistant special agent in charge in our Dallas Division. “It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents.”

The FBI cited close calls, including one in which a police offer was injured in a car crash while responding to a “swatting” incident. Some unsuspecting victims even suffered mild heart attacks, according to the FBI.

The emergency responders “believe they have a violent subject to apprehend or an innocent victim to rescue,” Kolbye said. “It’s a dangerous situation any way you look at it.”

The FBI has made some “swatting” arrests, including of 18-year-old Matthew Weigman.