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Archive for July, 2019

FBI Arrests Former Top Puerto Rico Officials in Corruption Case

Puerto Rico flag.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI arrested two former top officials in Puerto Rico for allegedly directing about $15.5 million in federal funding to political connected businesses.

According to prosecutors, Julia Keleher, former secretary of the department of education, and Angela Avila-Marrero, former head of the Health Insurance Administration, illegally directed the money to contractors who paid “unauthorized commissions” to help lobby for more contracts.

Both officials served in the administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, prompting officials to calls for his resignation. Among those officials is Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, who is the chair of the Natural Resources Committee that oversees Puerto Rico.

“The Puerto Rican people deserve a government that takes public service seriously, that’s transparent and accountable, and that doesn’t let this happen in the first place,” Grijalva said in a statement.

The 32-count indictment charged four other consultants with wire fraud, theft and money laundering.

The charges come at a political sensitive time. Congress recently approved billions of dollars in aid to the island. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that money is now in jeopardy.

DEA Supervisor Busted in ‘Improper Personal Relationship’ with Confidential Source

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A DEA supervisor was involved in an “improper personal relationship” with a confidential source, taking the source on dates and making unjustified payments to the source, according to a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The internal watchdog investigation was prompted by a tip from the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which said the unnamed supervisor “caused false statements to be made to justify” payments to the source, The Hill first reported.

The report also states the supervisor took the source on dates using a government vehicle, which is a violation of DEA policy. The supervisor also shared nonpublic information about personnel issues.

“The OIG concluded that the GS violated DEA policy and federal law when the GS approved payments to the CS without proper justification and when the GS approved a form relating to the CS knowing that it included false statements,” the report states.

Prosecutors declined to charge the supervisor, who the report says violated DEA policy and federal law.

‘I’m gonna die,’ FBI Agent Says After Getting Shot in Brooklyn

.Ronnell Watson, via Instagram

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Moments after FBI special agent Christopher Harper was shot while on an undercover stakeout in Brooklyn, he’s heard telling an NYPD officer, “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die.”

The dramatic action in December 2018 was caught on a body cam, which was played during the trial of reputed Crips gang member, Ronnell Watson, who is accused of pulling the trigger, The New York Post reports.

“I’m not doing well,” the agent said. “No exit, the bullet’s in me.”

The shooting was captured on surveillance footage.

Harper survived the shooting after suffering a collapsed lung, a broken rib and fractured shoulder blade. He’s expected to testify.

U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said the shooting was an “attempted execution.”

But Watson’s defense attorney Benjamin Yaster claims his client panicked when he saw a strange car with tinted windows quickly approaching him.

“Does it make sense that Ronell Watson would attempt to murder someone in front of his home, which was decorated for Christmas and outfitted with his mother’s security cameras?” Yaster asked.

One of ATF’s Most Wanted Fugitives Was Arrested at Native American Reservation

Michael Strain

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

U.S. marshals arrested one of the ATF’s most wanted fugitives after he spent eight years evading authorities.

Michael Duane Strain, 62, of Iowa, fled after he was indicted on federal firearms charges in 2011. Federal agents found thousands of rounds of ammunition and numerous firearms.

Authorities found Strain on a ranch on a Montana Native American reservation, The USA Today reports.

A self-proclaimed sovereign citizen, Strain refused to comply with government authorities, saying they had no jurisdiction over him. He made the same claim when he was taken into custody, according to court records.

After receiving a telephone tip, marshals found Strain at the Crow Reservation, where he “was basically squatting on the property,” according to an affidavit from Stephen Feuerstein, a detective assigned to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Michelle Sutphin Named Special Agent in Charge of Jackson

Jackson Field Office.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Michelle A. Sutphin, who most recently served at FBI Headquarters in Washington D.C., has been named special agent in charge of the Jackson Field Office in Mississippi.

Sutphin’s career with the FBI began in 1998 as a special agent investigating violent crimes, gangs, and art crimes at the Chicago Field Office. On 9/11, Sutphin responded to the Pennsylvania plane crash as leader of the Chicago Evidence Response Team.

Special Agent Michelle Sutphin

In 2008, Sutphin was promoted to supervisory special agent and managed the Evidence Response Team Unit at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va.

In 2011, Sutphin was transferred to the Springfield Field Office in Illinois, where she worked on criminal cases in 18 Central Illinois counties. Two years later, Sutphin investigated violent gangs and drug crimes at the St. Louis Field Office.

Sutphin became the team leader in the Inspection Division in 2014 at the bureau’s headquarters, where she led program reviews during inspections of field offices and reviews of shooting incidents.

In 2016, she was promoted to assistant special agent in charge at the Little Rock Field Office in Arkansas, where she oversaw the intelligence program and all national security programs, from counterterrorism and counterintelligence to weapons of mass destruction and cyber matters, in the state.

Sutphin was promoted in 2018 to section chief and chief of staff for the Science and Technology Branch at FBI headquarters in Washington D.C.

Sutphin earned a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University.

Sean Kaul Named Special Agent in Charge of Phoenix Field Office

Special Agent Sean Kaul

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Sean L. Kaul, who led the Honolulu Field Office since 2017, has been named special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Office.

Kaul began his career as an FBI agent in 2000, where his first assignment was the Bakersfield Resident Agency of the Sacramento Field Office in California.

Kaul worked in numerous offices, from Atlanta to Washington D.C. He served as a special agent bomb technician in Atlanta and Bakersfield, Calif.

In 2011, Kaul served as a supervisory special agent for the Washington Field Office, where he led the Northern Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force and received an Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service.

In 2013, Kaul became an assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Office, where he led the criminal branch and four Indian County resident agencies.

In 2016, he was promoted to section chief in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters before taking charge of the Honolulu Field Office.

Before joining the FBI, Kaul was a captain in the U.S. Army. He has a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

FBI, ICE Scan Driver’s License Databases to Conduct Facial-Recognition Searches

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been given access to driver’s license photos to conduct facial-recognition scans without motorists’ consent.

ICE officials were authorized by three states to use the repositories of license photos to scan through facial-recognition technology in search of undocumented immigrants, according to documents obtained by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology and first reported by The Washington Post.

The searches involved databases from Utah and Vermont, which complied with ICE’s request to access the photos. In Washington, agents also were given permission to scan license photos, but it wasn’t immediately clear if those searches were carried out.

The discovery comes as Congress considers a moratorium on facial-recognition technology because of serious concerns over privacy rights and the inaccuracy of the systems. Researchers said the technology is racially biased and prone to errors, which could lead to false arrests.

“Law enforcement’s access of state databases,” particularly driver’s license databases, is “often done in the shadows with no consent,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. said in a statement to The Post.

San Francisco became the first city to ban the technology. In Detroit and Chicago, police departments have software that enables them to conduct facial-recognition searches in real-time.

Homeland Security: CBP Agents Disciplined for Offensive Facebook Posts

Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on ABC’s “This Week.”

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Customs and Border Protection agents who posted offensive and sexually demeaning content on Facebook have been disciplined, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told ABC’s “This Week.”

McAleenan said some agents were placed on “administrative duties” and others were warned to stop the conduct in letters. He did not specify how many agents were involved.

“The agents will be held accountable if they are CBP employees who did inappropriate things. I don’t think it’s reflective of the men and women we have,” McAleenan said.

The Facebook page, called “I’m 10-15,” was first reported by ProPublica on Monday. The page is used by current and former agents.

The Facebook group included offensive content and demeaning posts that targeted undocumented immigrants and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
 One of the posts was an illustration of President Trump pushing the congresswoman’s head toward his crotch. In another post, a member encouraged agents to toss a “burrito at these bitches,” referring to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who were visiting detention centers.

Commenters also questioned the authenticity of a now-viral photo of a drowned man and his younger daughter.

When ProPublica approached CBP about the Facebook group, Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost denied knowing about it and pledged to launch an investigation.

But Politico reported that CBP officials knew about a secret, sexist and demeaning Facebook group for at least three years. In 2016, Border Patrol agents reported offensive photos that included simulated sex acts and other offensive material, a current Homeland Security official told Politico.

McAleenan on Sunday said he “was not aware of this group” at the time. Since then, he claimed, one agent was disciplined.

Politico received screenshots of Facebook posts that were reported to CBP. One agent appeared in two photos, one of which showed him simulating sex with a training mannequin. The other showed the agent smiling and posing with what appeared to be a human skull. In a third photo, an agent appeared to be defecting in the Arizona desert.

The reported photos resulted in a now-closed investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility.