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Archive for November, 2020

U.S. Citizens Settle Lawsuit After Being Detained by Border Patrol for Speaking Spanish in Montana

Screen grab of Border Patrol agent detaining Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez.

By Steve Neavling

Two U.S. citizens who were detained by Border Patrol at a convenience store in Montana for speaking Spanish have reached a settlement in a lawsuit they filed against the Trump administration. 

Ana Suda and Martha “Mimi” Hernandez alleged in the lawsuit that their constitutional rights were violated when the agents detained them for 40 minutes in the parking lot of the store. According to the suit, they were standing in line to pay for groceries when a Border Patrol agent asked where the women were born and demanded their identifications. They both turned over valid Montana drivers licenses. 

Although there was no evidence they violated a law, the agent detained them while they filmed the incident. 

“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent said in the video. 

“We stood up to the government because speaking Spanish is not a reason to be racially profiled and harassed,” Suda said in a news release from the ACLU of Montana, which filed the lawsuit. “I am proud to be bilingual, and I hope that as a result of this case CBP takes a hard look at its policies and practices. No one else should ever have to go through this again.”

As part of the settlement, CBP did not admit liability. 

Feds Bust Tony Meatballs And 14 Other Alleged Mafia Members from Philadelphia

By Steve Neavling

Fifteen alleged members and associates of a Philadelphia mob crime family were indicted on charges ranging from racketeering and extortion to gambling and drug trafficking, the Justice Department announced Monday. 

Federal authorities allege the criminal organization, La Cosa Nostra, “sought to use its reputation and influence to exercise control over criminal rackets, like bookmaking and loansharking in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, particularly Atlantic City.”

Among those arrested were Anthony “Tony Meatballs” Gigoli, 72; Joseph “Joey Electric” Servidio, 60; and the alleged underboss Steven “Stevie” Mazzone.  

“The Philadelphia mob isn’t what it used to be, and thank God for that,” U.S. Attorney Anthony McSwain said in a statement. “But it is still a problem and is still allegedly committing serious federal crimes, which is why we at the Department of Justice are focused on stamping it out. We will not rest until the mob is nothing but a bad memory.”

The case was handled by the FBI, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General .

Biden Picks Mayorkas to Become First Hispanic, Immigrant to Lead Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas

By Steve Neavling

President-elect Joe Biden tapped Alejandro Mayorkas to become the first immigrant and Hispanic to lead the Department of Homeland Security. 

Mayorkas, 61, served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama. A former U.S. attorney in California, Mayorkas also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term. 

Born in Cuba, Mayorkas and her family arrived as refugees in the 1960s, settling in Southern California. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. Mayorkas graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and earned a law degree from Loyola Law School. 

“When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge,” Mayorkas tweeted. “Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

FBI Arrests Man Accused of Crashing Drone into LAPD Helicopter, Forcing Emergency Landing

By Steve Neavling

FBI agents arrested a 22-year-old Hollywood man accused of recklessly operating a drone that crashed into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter and forced it to make an emergency landing. 

Andrew Rene Hernandez was charged last week with a misdemeanor charge of operating an unmanned aircraft, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison. 

The LAPD chopper was providing air support on Sept. 18 while officers responded to a burglary call at a pharmacy in Hollywood. 

“As the helicopter approached the pharmacy, the pilot saw the drone and attempted to evade the unmanned aircraft,” the Justice Department said in a news release. “Despite the evasive efforts, the drone stuck the helicopter, forcing the pilot to initiate an emergency landing. The drone damaged the helicopter’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings.”

According to the complaint, the collision could have been deadly.

“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” the complaint reads. 

Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 

Weekend Series on Crime: Why Colombia Is Losing the Cocaine War

FBI Agents Association Honors Dr. Fauci at Annual Event

By Allan Lengel

The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents more than 14,000 active and retired agents, honored Dr. Anthony Fauci at its seventh annual “G-Man Honors: A Salute to FBI Heroes” event on Thursday night.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), was the keynote speaker and received the association’s Distinguished Service Award.  

All proceeds from the virtual event benefit the FBIAA’s two charitable funds, the Memorial College Fund and the Membership Assistance Fund, for children and spouses of deceased agents.

FBI Director Chris Wray was a special guest at the event and host at a special roundtable.

“FBIAA’s G-Man Honors is a night to recognize the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the FBI and their families,” FBIAA President Brian O’Hare said in a statement before the event. “We are honored to present our highest award to Dr. Fauci and thrilled that Director Wray will join us and speak to the student beneficiaries of FBIAA’s Memorial College Fund. The powerful stories of our FBI families are truly inspirational, and we are excited to share them with FBIAA’s members, friends and supporters.”

Those wishing to donate to the funds can text FBIAA at 50155 or go to www.gmanhonors.com.

Four Potential Homeland Security Secretaries Under President-Elect Biden

Joe Biden, via Shutterstock.com.

By Steve Neavling

President-elect Joe Biden with be tasked with reforming the Department of Homeland Security and that will begin with picking a new leader. 

Axios has identified four potential picks for Biden’s Homeland Security secretary.

One is Alejandro Mayorkas, the former deputy secretary and the architect of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). A former U.S. attorney who emigrated to Cuba as a child, Mayorkas is currently a partner at the law firm WilmerHale. 

A second candidate is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a son of Mexican immigrants who has opposed Trump’s immigration policies. Becerra also served in Congress from 1993 to 2017, representing downtown Los Angeles. 

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida’s 10th Congressional District, is a third potential pick. Although Demings has less immigration experience than the other candidates, she did work in law enforcement for three decades. For four years, she served as Orlando’s first female police chief. 

A four potential pick is Lisa Monaco, who served as Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism advisor. Monaco also has ties to Biden, serving as his aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 1990s and working with him recently as a member of his Public Health Advisory Committee that is hammering out a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.