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Archive for October, 2020

New York Pharmacist Sent Cocaine in a Greeting Card To DEA Agent, Prosecutors Say

By Steve Neavling

A New York pharmacist is accused of sending powdered cocaine in a greeting card to a DEA agent after discovering his business was under investigation, the Justice Department said. 

The idea was to disrupt the investigation, but the plan failed. 

Dimitrios Lymberatos, 34, is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice for seeking to “interfere with the investigation through intimidation,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York said in a statement.

“Lymberatos’s misguided message was received loud and clear – and he now faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term for his potentially harmful attempt to obstruct law enforcement,” Strauss said. 

The DEA began investigating the pharmacy in November 2019 over discrepancies in a registration application, delaying his ability to receive authorization to dispense controlled substances.

Frustrated with the impact on his pharmacy, Lymberatos hired a private investigator to learn more about the DEA investigator. After discovering the agent’s home address, he sent her a greeting card with several packets of cocaine. 

When the agent received the card and found white powder inside, she alerted law enforcement and went to the hospital for a toxicology screening. 

Prosecutors say the motive was to create “fear” for the agent’s “physical safety, and to create trouble for the Investigator by causing her to come into possession of an illegal controlled substance.”

“One of our own diversion investigators was allegedly targeted simply for doing their job, and as such, Mr. Lymberatos’s alleged actions as a pharmacist and licensed professional were completely unconscionable,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan said. “Thankfully, due to the diligent work of our Tactical Diversion Squads, he will be brought to justice.” 

Gov. Cuomo As U.S. Attorney General? Biden Is Reportedly Considering Him

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

By Steve Neavling

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is reportedly considering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as his attorney general if he wins the election. 

The possibility is so strong that the National Governors Association is looking into contingencies to replace Cuomo as the chairman because he would be unable to serve in that role if he becomes attorney general, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Cuomo, 62, served as New York’s attorney General from 2007 to 2010.  

Biden and Cuomo have a relationship dating back to the 1980s. People familiar with the relationship say Biden sees himself in Cuomo. 

Other potential candidates for attorney general include former acting AG Sally Yates and Stacey Abrams, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Oklahoma Bombing

Trump Lambasts FBI Director, Attorney General in Strange Interview

President Trump and AG William Barr, via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump, increasingly agitated as his poll numbers slide and he’s isolated in the White House with COVID-19, lashed out at his FBI director and attorney general Thursday.

“He’s been disappointing,” Trump said of FBI Director Christopher Wray in an interview with Fox Business. “He doesn’t see the voting ballots as a problem.”

In congressional testimony two weeks ago, Wray said the FBI has “not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”

Trump refused to say whether he plans to replace Wray if elected to a second term. Daily Beast reported last week that Trump has talked of replacing Wray, whom he nominated in 2017.

The president also said Attorney General William Barr would go down in history “as a very sad, sad situation” if he fails to indict Democrats such as Trump’s opponent Joe Biden and former President Obama. 

“Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we’re going to get little satisfaction unless I win and we’ll just have to go, because I won’t forget it,” Trump said, referring to the probe of his 2016 campaign ties with Russia. “But these people should be indicted. This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.”

Trump has stepped up his claims that Obama and Biden should be prosecuted, and hinted that he pressured Barr to prosecute Barr to bring indictments. 

“He’s got all the information he needs,” Trump said. “They want to get more, more, more, they keep getting more. I said, ‘You don’t need any more.’”

FBI Foils Plot to Kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

By Steve Neavling

The FBI said Thursday that it had thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the presidential election, leading to charges against 13 men who are accused of planing to attack law enforcement, overthrow the government and instigate a civil war. 

The extraordinary plot involved months of planning that included combat drills, building explosives, and rehearsing to kidnap the Democratic governor from her vacation. 

The men, angry of Whitmer’s COVID-19 restricts, are charged with terrorism, conspiracy, and weapons charges. Six were charged in federal court, and seven were charged on the state level. The groups trained together, authorities said. 

Four of the suspects planned to meet Wednesday to “make payments on explosives and exchange tactical gear.”

The FBI credited undercover agents and informants for thwarting the violence. 

“Federal and state law enforcement are committed to working together to make sure violent extremists never succeed with their plans, particularly when they target our duly elected leaders,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider called the allegations “deeply disturbing.”

“All of us can disagree about politics, but those disagreements should never, ever result in violence,” Scheinder said. “We owe our thanks to the men and women of law enforcement who uncovered this plot and have worked so hard to protect Governor Whitmer.”

The FBI has warned of the increasing dangers posed by right-wing extremists. 

Ex-Secret Service Supervisor Blasts Trump for Putting Agents ‘Needlessly’ at Risk of COVID-19

By Steve Neavling

A former Secret Service supervisor assailed President Trump for putting the agents hired to protect him at an elevated risk of contacting the coronavirus. 

In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Joseph Petro, a 23-year special agent and senior executive with the Secret Service, said Trump’s jaunt in an SUV around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over weekend was “a gratuitous and dangerous political exercise that needlessly exposed his Secret Service agents” and their families.

“It was an avoidable risk, and someone should have objected,” he wrote. 

Petro said that protecting agents was “aways our highest priority.”

But not under Trump, who Petro points out rarely wore a mask, even though it’s one of the most effective ways of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

“He has refused to wear a mask on nearly all occasions, and his staff and most attendees at his rallies follow his example,” Petro said. “The inevitable result has been the surge in positive cases among the president’s staff and other associates.”

Petro said Secret Service management must be committed to protecting its agents.

“The Secret Service cannot protect the president from himself, but its management has a solemn responsibility to protect those agents who put their lives on the line every day to protect him,” Petro said. “It should not be that hard to do.”

DOJ Indicts 2 Notoriously Brutal Members of ISIS on Charges of Torturing, Murdering Hostages

FBI Director Christopher Wray announces charges against ISIS members.

By Steve Neavling

Two British members of ISIS are now in FBI custody after the Justice Department charged them Wednesday in the torture and murder of four Americans captured in Syria. 

El Shafee Elsheikh, 32, and Alexanda Kotey, 36, who were part of a notoriously brutal group of hostage-takers known as the Beatles, face up to life in prison, each charged with eight counts, including conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens, hostage taking, hostage taking, and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. 

The charges stem from the deaths of four Americans in Syria: James Foley, Peter Kassig, Kayla Mueller, and Steven Sotlof. They also are accused of kidnapping and torturing more than 20 other hostages, some of whom were beheaded in propaganda videos. 

“The families of the victims have suffered the painful loss of their loved ones at the hands of brutal killers. And while their pain may never fully subside, today, with the announcement of this indictment, we’re beginning to bring them the justice they deserve,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference

Attorney General William Barr said charges stem from years of “hard work in pursuit of justice for our citizens slain by ISIS.

“Our message to other terrorists around the world is this: If you harm Americans, you will face American arms on the battlefield or American law in our courtrooms,” Barr said. “Either way, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”

Wray Pledges in Social Media Video to Keep Elections ‘Fair And Free,’ Contradicts Trump

FBI Director Christopher Wray

By Steve Neavling

In a nine-minute video posted on social media Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray and top national security officials contradicted President Trump’s repeated and baseless narratives about widespread election fraud. 

“Next month we will exercise one of our most cherished rights and a foundation of our democracy – the right to vote in a free and fair election,” Wray said. “Rest assured that the security of the election and safeguarding your vote is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities.”

Christopher Krebs, director of cyber security and infrastructure security agency, added: “My confidence in the security of your vote has never been higher.”

Wray’s remarks come less than two weeks after he told a Senate committee that the bureau has no evidence of large-scale voter fraud. In testimony before a House committee in mid-September, Wray said Russia continues to be “very active” in meddling with the presidential election, primarily to “denigrate” Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Trump criticized Wray’s testimony a day later. 

“But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia,” Trump tweeted. “They will both, plus others, be able to interfere in our 2020 Election with our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also assailed Wray, saying the FBI director “has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI.”

Last Week, Daily Beast reported that Trump, if reelected, plans to replace Wray.

Wray is holding a news conference “on a matter of national security” at 11 a.m. today, fueling all kinds of speculation. Also attending the press conference are Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger, and Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office James A. Dawson. No further details were available.