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Archive for October, 2020

FBI Returns Jewish Family’s Painting That Was Looted by Nazis in 1933

“Winter” by American impressionist Gary Melchers, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

A painting stolen from a Jewish family by the Nazis in 1933 has been returned to its original owners thanks to the FBI. 

The painting “Winter” by American impressionist Gary Melchers was looted from the art collection of the Mosse family, prominent Jewish residents and philanthropists from Berlin. It was among more than 200 pieces of the family’s artwork stolen by the Nazis. 

The Moss family owned the newspaper, “Berliner Tageblatt,” which was critical of the Nazis. 

“We can never ease the horrors of Nazi Germany from history, but we can, and should, take every opportunity to deliver any justice we can including the return of property to rightful heirs,” Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said in a statement.  “The Department of Justice will continue to do just that.”

“Winter” was returned to the family’s heirs Thursday during a repatriation ceremony at the FBI Field Office in Albany. 

The painting was eventually purchased by Bartlett Arkell, whose collection is now housed at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, New York. The FBI tracked down the painting in September 2019. Investigators said there’s no evidence that Arkell knew the painting was stolen when he purchased it.

“While it’s believed there were hundreds of thousands of pieces of art stolen by the Nazis, our office is immensely proud to help right even just one wrong done during this evil period of world history,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Relford said. “We may have played a small role in a massive effort, but we will forever recognize the magnitude of this work and we’re truly honored to be able to return this painting to its rightful owners.”

Ex-‘Arsenio Hall Show’ Music Director Sentenced for Embezzling Money for Homeless Children

Robin DiMaggio, via Wikpedia.

By Steve Neavling

Former “Arsenio Hall Show” music director Robin DiMaggio was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in federal prison, followed by one-year home confinement, for embezzling nearly $1 million intended for a charity concert for children who lost their homes because of wars. 

The 49-year-old drummer pledged to help get famous musicians and celebrities to perform at the concert by the Peace for You Peace for Me Foundation, a Bulgaria-based nonprofit. To do that, he said he needed money to book the artists, so the foundation’s sponsor wired him nearly $1 million. 

Instead of using the money for the concert, he spent more than $250,000 on a Calabasas home for his ex-wife, $35,000 for a car for his mother, and $24,000 for a car for his son. In addition, he wired $150,000 to his company’s bank account. 

None of the money was spent on the concert. 

United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee, who sentenced DiMaggio, said his actions were “a despicable crime of sheer greed.”  

A restitution hearing will be scheduled in the coming homes. 

 “The concert never happened and this much-needed money was never raised for this charitable cause,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “[DiMaggio] lined his own pockets at the expense of [the foundation’s financial sponsor] and the children that would have benefited from the concert’s proceeds.”

The FBI investigated the embezzlement. 

Trump Says He’s ‘Not Happy’ with Barr, Won’t Commit to Retaining AG

President Trump and AG William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump on Wednesday said he was “not happy”  with Attorney General William Barr and declined to say whether he’d keep Barr in a potential second term. 

In an interview with Newsmax, Trump said it was “too early” to decide whether Barr would stay on if the president wins re-election in November. 

“Can’t comment on that, it’s too early. I’m not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy,” Trump said.

Trump has expressed frustration with Barr after the attorney general told Republicans that he didn’t expect the Justice Department to finish its investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. 

Trump’s remarks also come after the The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Justice Department’s investigation of the Obama era’s “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials didn’t uncover wrongdoing.

“Personally, I think it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. It’s a disgrace,” Trump said. “I think it’s really a horrible thing that they’re allowed to get away — when they say no indictments, they actually said no indictments before the election.

“I had to go through elections with all those clouds over my head. But they don’t because the Republicans are so nice. Personally, I think it’s too bad. I think it’s too bad, they’re guilty as hell.”

DEA Makes Largest Meth Bust in Its History – 2,224 Pounds

The DEA’s biggest methamphetamine seizure. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

The DEA on Wednesday announced the biggest methamphetamine seizure in American history: 2,224 pounds of the drug recovered in California.  

The Oct. 2 bust took place at stash houses in Riverside County that were connected with the Sinaloa cartel, The Los Angeles Times reports. The DEA also seized 13 pounds of heroin and 893 pounds of cocaine.

The announcement came just three days before CBP announced its second largest methamphetamine seizure on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. CBP officers seized more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

Together, the seizures “are more than enough to provide a dose of meth for every man, woman and child in the United States and Mexico,” Timothy Shea, acting administrator of the DEA, said Wednesday at a news conference.

Authorities have seen a dramatic increase in methamphetamine seizures near the border. Last year, meth overdoses rose 25%, Shea said. 

Mexican Drug Cartel Leader Added to FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List

Jose Rodolfo Villarreal Hernández

By Steve Neavling

A Mexican drug cartel leader accused of ordering the 2013 murder of a lawyer in Southlake, Texas, has been added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. 

The FBI added Jose Rodolfo Villarreal Hernández, 42, also known as “El Gato,” to the list Tuesday. 

Villarreal-Hernandez, who the FBI believes may be hiding in Mexico, has been charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit murder for hire and interstate stalking in the death of a 43-year-old man, who was shot several times in his Range Rover while his wife was loading groceries into their vehicle. 

The bureau is offering up to a $1 million reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.  

“Jose Rodolfo Villarreal-Hernandez is charged with orchestrating a brutal murder that took place in broad daylight at a busy shopping center. The shooter and his accomplices showed no regard for the victim, his wife, or the innocent bystanders who witnessed the murder,” Matthew J. DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, said in a statement. “The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program allows us to bring this case to the eyes and ears of citizens around the world. We will not rest until Villarreal-Hernandez is apprehended and made to answer for these charges in court.”

Villarreal-Hernandez has black hair and brown eyes, 5-foot-4 and weighs about  165 pounds. 

Villarreal-Hernandez is the 524 person to be added to the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. 

“The FBI will continue to use its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program to locate and arrest violent criminals like Jose Rodolfo Villarreal-Hernandez,” Calvin A. Shivers, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said. “We will bring to justice those individuals who commit violent acts and threaten the safety of our citizens and our community. However, in order for us to be effective, we need the public’s assistance. We encourage you to reach out to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI if you witness a crime or have information that is beneficial to an ongoing investigation.”

Steven M. D’Antuono Named Assistant Director in Charge of Washington Field Office

Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office.

By Steve Neavling

Steven M. D’Antuono has been tapped to serve as assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office. 

D’Antuono, who spent much of his 24-year career at the FBI tracking down white-collar crime and public corruption, most recently served as the special agent in charge of the Detroit Field Office.

D’Antuono joined the bureau as a forensic accountant in 1996. His first assignment was at the Providence Resident Agency in Rhode Island, where he handled criminal investigations into financial crimes, public corruption, organized crime, drugs, and counterintelligence.

In 1998, D’Antuono served as a special agent assigned to the Washington Field Office, where he investigated white-collar crime and public corruption.

In 2004, D’Antuono began teaching white-collar crime while serving as the supervisory special agent at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. In 2008, he was transferred to the Washington Field Office to supervise a public corruption and government fraud squad.

In 2014, D’Antuono became an assistant special agent in charge at the St. Louis Field Office, overseeing the Criminal and Administrative branches.

D’Antuono was promoted in 2017 to chief of the Financial Crimes Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, where he oversaw all of the bureau’s white-collar crime programs, including corporate securities and commodities fraud, economic crimes, financial institution fraud, money laundering, health care fraud, intellectual property, and forensic accountant programs.

In 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray named D’Antuono as the special agent in charge of the Detroit Field Office. 

D’Antuono earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Rhode Island. Before joining the FBI, he was a certified public accountant.

Border Patrol Makes Second-Largest Meth Bust Along Southwest Border

More than 3,100 pounds of meth were seized at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego.

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers made the second-largest methamphetamine bust ever along the Southwest border, seizing more than 3,100 pounds of the drug, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

The drugs were found in a tractor-trailer on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. 

A CBP officer ordered the driver of the truck to pull over for an inspection. Using the port’s imaging system, which is similar to an x-ray, CBP officers grew suspicious and sent the conveyance to a dock, where a canine alerted authorities to boxes inside the trailer. 

The drugs were co-mingled with medical supplies. 

The estimated value of the drugs is $7.2 million, CBP said.  

“Smugglers will try every way possible to try and get their product across the border and because of the partnership between CBP, Homeland Security investigations and DEA this significant seizure occurred and we stopped them,” Anne Maricich, acting CBP director of field operations in San Diego, said in a statement. “I’m proud of the CBP officers’ dedication to our mission; they continue to stop dangerous drugs from entering our communities.”

The driver, a 47-year-old Mexican resident, was arrested and turned over to ICE, Homeland Security Investigations and the DEA for further investigation. 

“This massive seizure is testament of what law enforcement agencies can do when we combine forces – prevent over $7 million worth of deadly drugs from entering our country; thus saving countless lives from addiction and overdose deaths,” DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery said. “DEA cherishes our great law enforcement partners in San Diego, especially those who work tirelessly to protect our nation’s borders.  We will continue to work together to disrupt drug trafficking organizations at every opportunity we are given.” 

Inside the truck where 3,100 pounds of meth were found.

Ethics Groups Urge House to Begin Impeachment Inquiry Against Barr

AG William Barr

By Steve Neavling

Two private ethics groups are calling for the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of misusing his position to help President Trump get re-elected. 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) made the case in a 267-page report released Monday that outlines how they say Barr has undermined public confidence in the Justice Department, Bloomberg reports.

They pointed to what they called the intentional distortion of Robert Mueller’s special counsel report, Barr’s repeated news interviews in support of the president, and his appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the Trump-Russia investigation. Barr also has intervened in criminal cases involving Trump associates, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. 

They said these actions may also violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity while on duty. 

“The working group came to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the Department as a vehicle for supporting the political objectives of President Donald Trump,” they wrote. “It appears that the Department has transitioned from one that is subject to law, to become one that instead views the application of law as politically discretionary; moving from rule of law to rule by law.”