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Archive for November, 2014

Debt Collectors Accused of Impersonating Federal Authorities to Get People to Pay Up

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Employees of a debt collection company in Georgia are accused of impersonating FBI, Justice Department and local police officials to get thousands of people to pay up, the Guardian reports.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the employees of Williams, Scott and Associates illegally collected debts from 6,000 people and are now facing criminal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The employees face up to 20 years in prison.

After buying the debt for a few cents on the dollar, the company began collecting the money from 6,000 people after saying they were investigators. The employees collected $4.1 million this year, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

“After years of threatening false arrest, these defendants are the ones who now find themselves in handcuffs,”  said US attorney for the southern district of New York Preet Bharara in a statement.

Were Police in Ferguson Heavy-Handed During Response to Protests? Justice Department Investigates

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department has launched a review of the police response to 16 days of Ferguson protests in wake of the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen, CNN reports.

The review will examine the handling of crowd control, protesters and the media.

The task will be undertaken by a 12-person team that will include Justice Department officials and current and former police chiefs.

The assessment started last week.

Attorney General Eric Holder has criticized the police response, which has been widely considered heavy-handed.

The review comes as law enforcement braces for the outcome of the grand jury that will decide whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

Border Patrol Accused in Lawsuit of Racially Targeting Latinos in Northern Ohio

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A group of law school students in Ohio teamed up with a nonprofit law firm to filed a federal lawsuit against Border Patrol, alleging agents are targeting Latinos in the northern part of the state, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The suit is seeking arrest records and polices following actions by agents in the Border Patrol office in northern Ohio.

“We have reason to believe that Border Patrol agents in Sandusky Bay are engaging in racial profiling to target individuals who appear Hispanic, for unlawful enforcement activities,” said Jason Luebbers, a third-year law student at OSU.

The suit was filed by Ohio State University’s law school and a nonprofit law firm, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo.

The law firm sought the records on Aug. 18 but have yet to receive a response.

CBP officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Suspected Gang Member Implicated in Theft of FBI Agent’s Laptop in California

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An alleged Oakland gang member accused of stealing an FBI agent’s laptop from his locked car  is expected to plead guilty soon to theft of U.S. government property, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Joey Haines, 30, is an alleged member of the Ghost Town gang in West Oakland, Calif.

Haines and a friend are accused of smashing the rear passenger side window of an FBI car parked near the bureau’s office in Oakland and stealing a backpack belonging to Special Agent Russell Nimmo.

Agents were lucky enough to reach their car just after the theft and were able to chase the burglars long enough to track down information about the driver using surveillance.

Agents delivered a message to Haines through his brother’s girlfriend that the laptop better be returned within 24 hours.

Sure enough, the laptop was found in a plastic bag placed on the hood of a police car, with a note that read: “This laptop belongs to FBI agent officer Russ. Please return to him.”

Later that day, Haines was arrested.

Other Stories of Interest

Detroit’s Top FBI Agent Paul Abbate Talks About ISIS, Gangs, Corporate Espionage and Violence

 

Paul Abbate

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Paul M. Abbate arrived in Detroit last fall to take over the local FBI office, days after Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick got a hefty 28-year prison sentence. Kilpatrick was whisked away in handcuffs.

But the scent of corruption lingered, and Abbate suddenly found himself heading up an FBI office, where public corruption investigations continue to be a high priority.  In the past few years alone, besides the mess at city hall, several people in the Wayne County government have been convicted of corruption charges. That investigation remains open

Before arriving here, Abbate headed up the counterterrorism division in the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which handles terrorism investigations domestically and overseas.

Before that, he spent time at FBI headquarters, Newark,  New York, Los Angeles, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was involved in such FBI investigations as Benghazi and Pan Am 103.

October marked his first anniversary in Detroit.

A native of the New Haven,  Conn. area, the very affable Abbate, an 18-year veteran of the FBI,  recently sat down with Allan Lengel of ticklethewire.com to talk about ISIS, traditional organized crime, the agency’s relationship with the Arab-American community, local gangs and use of social media, corporate espionage, violence and how he ended up in Detroit.

“I actually asked to come here,” he says, adding that he’s been impressed with the people of Michigan.

The following is an interview with Abbate, which has been trimmed for brevity. The questions have been edited for clarity.

DD: Is there any sense that ISIS  or ISIL has any presence or connection here?

Abbate: It’s something that we’re constantly vigilant about, proactive in terms of trying to be in front.  I wouldn’t say that we have any specific or credible information that there’s an ISIL presence here in Michigan at this time. But it’s something, 24/7, we’re always on guard for.

DD: The Internet has become a big tool for recruiting. Do you see any of that activity here?

Abbate: That’s everywhere.

DD: Is that monitored out of headquarters?

Abbate: We work in conjunction with the Counterterroism Division in headquarters. And that type of investigative work is carried out throughout the 56 field offices including here as well. When you talk about focusing on a specific area, the Internet and the reach of the Internet has really broken that down. Any person sitting anywhere in the world can reach out and attempt to recruit, radicalize and incite anyone else in the world whether it’s here in Michigan or anywhere in the United States.

DD: Do you have any sense of al Qaeda having some presence here?

Abbate: Like the earlier questions you ask, I would say that we don’t have any specific or credible information with regard to any particular group like that, but that’s what we do. That’s what we’re on the watch for. It’s our top priority to identify if it’s here and prevent an attack from occurring.

DD: Do you see anything in Michigan, an exchange of people coming and going from Syria, that might concern you?

Abbate: We’re always on the look out for that. We had a case here , we had an individual who was arrested  this past March who was seeking, as alleged in the complaint, to go over to Syria to join up with a terrorist organization. We’ve had a number of cases nationally where we’ve had people travel there.

DD: How would you describe your relationship with the Arab American community here?

Abbate: I think it’s strong. Again the community outreach that we do is broad based, so I don’t like to single out any one particular community. With respect to the Arab American community, we  have a very robust outreach, with various aspects of that community and individuals. It’s strong. We go to various events that are held within the community. We hold regular meetings here to share ideas, to hear from the various communities.

DD: In some parts of the country there have been concerns over the years that the FBI has been too aggressive in monitoring activities in mosques. Is there a concern here that you’ve heard?

Abbate: I think a lot of those earlier concerns that have been around for a long time, now to a great extent, have been overcome.  Certainly that sort of distrust or concern still exists to some level, and we do continue to hear that. But I think we’ve made great strides.

Read more »

Horn of Plenty: Middle East Heroin and Meth Is Bound for the U.S. Through East Africa

By Jeffrey Anderson
For ticklethewire.com

An indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of a major international drug trafficking enterprise in the Middle East and Africa is shining a light on law enforcement operations and the diplomatic challenges the United States faces in such foreign cases.

The complications of investigating international conspiracies and dealing with foreign treaties and corruption in foreign lands are among the obstacles U.S. law enforcers face in a case out of Kenya that illustrates the continued rise of East Africa as a global drug hub.

The indictment charges a suspected organized crime family in Kenya and associates from India and Pakistan with running a large-scale operation to transport heroin and meth from the Middle East, through East Africa, and to U.S. ports by sea.

Ibrahim Akasha and Baktash Akasha, Kenyan nationals and sons of the elder Ibrahim Akasha, who was murdered in Netherlands in 2000, face conspiracy and drug trafficking charges. They were arrested last week in Mombasa.

The Akasha organization is managed by Vijay Anandgiri Goswami, known in India as “Vicky” Goswami, the indictment states. A Pakistani man named Gulam Hussein, “Old Man,” is identified as the narcotics supplier for the alleged transportation network. They too were arrested in Mombasa.

Hussein has acknowledged transporting tons of heroin by sea, which he procured from one of the largest suppliers of white heroin in the world, the indictment states. He and the Akashas allegedly planned to import the drugs into the U.S.

People Daily, Daily Nation and others reported the arrests of Hussein, Gowami and the Akashas last week as the indictment was being unsealed in New York. The indictment states that Baktash Akasha met two confidential DEA sources posing as representatives of a Colombian drug trafficking organization in Mombasa, in March, and discussed a plan to import hundreds of kilograms of pure heroin, known as “100 percent white crystal,” into the United States. Akasha offered a discount to one of the DEA sources if he paid for the heroin up front, the indictment states.

He also told the source about a European communications company that provides secure cell phones to evade American or Israeli intelligence, according to the indictment.

During an April meeting in Mombasa that included his brother Ibrahim and Goswami, Akasha told the same DEA source that he had contacted a heroin supplier in Pakistan about buying 500 kilograms of “carat diamond,” referring to high-quality heroin, for importation into the U.S., the indictment states. Akasha told the DEA source that the supplier, who is not named in the indictment, could provide 420 kilograms.

In a recorded telephone conversation in June, Akasha talked to the DEA source about sending a sample of the heroin to East Africa. Later that month, Goswami talked with the DEA source about establishing meth labs in West Africa, offering that he could procure “ton-quantities” of the chemicals to produce meth in East Africa, the indictment states.

Read more »

FBI Warns Of Violence in Wake of Decision About Ferguson Police Officer

Michael Brown

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is worried about “likely” threats and attacks targeting law enforcement after a grand jury determines whether a Ferguson police officer will be charged with killing an unarmed Michael Brown, ABC News reports.

The FBI also warned law enforcement of possible attacks on electrical facilities and water treatment plants.

“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI said in an intelligence bulletin. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”

The FBI’s concerns were not over peaceful protesters.

“The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

 

 

FBI Director Comey: Hatchet Attack on NYPD Officer Was ‘Act of Terror’

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A man who attacked an NYPD officer last month with a hatchet was inspired by terrorists and black separatism, NBC4 New York reports.

“There is no doubt it was terrorism,” Comey said during a news conference at the Newark FBI offices.

Comey said the suspect, Zale Thompson, was politically motivated and he appears to have drawn inspiration from foreign terrorist sources like ISIL (ISIS), but there is also evidence he was focused on black separatist ideology.”

Comey said Thompson reviewed jihadist propaganda and ISIL beheading videos online.

“There is no doubt that played a role,” Comey said.

Thompson is accused of attacking NYPD rookie Officer Kenneth Healy while he was posing for a picture. Healy spent time in the hospital and rehabilitation before being sent home to recover.