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Archive for December, 2020

Ex-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman Named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year for 2020

By Allan Lengel

These have been extraordinary times for people working for the Justice Department. Standing for what’s right in the Trump era has often come with consequences.

Former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the ex-U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, knows that as well as anyone. Berman oversaw the office when it was investigating President Trump’s allies. In June, Trump fired him after Attorney General William Barr shamefully and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to step down.

To his credit, Berman agreed not to fight his dismissal after Barr agreed to name Berman’s handpicked deputy, Audrey Strauss, someone with a great deal of integrity and experience, as the new U.S. Attorney. These days, not everyone has the backbone to stand up for what’s right.

To that end, we salute Geoffrey Berman and select him as the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year for 2020.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):  Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015); D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016); Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator (2017); Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (2018); and DEA agent Joe Piersante (2019).

FBI Searching for Stolen 18th Century Violin Worth $700,000

A rare 18th century violin stolen in California, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is on the hunt for a rare 18th century violin that was stolen in Los Feliz, Calif. 

The 310-year-old violin, made of curly maple and alpine spruce, is believed to be worth more than $700,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The owner is Rowland Weinstein, an art dealer who told authorities the instrument was inside his white Tesla, which was stolen on Dec. 8. 

It’s unclear whether the violin was even a target of the theft. 

Weinstein told authorities that the car was unlocked because he dropped the keys behind the driver’s seat. While he left the car briefly to go inside his home, the Tesla was stolen. 

The FBI said it has no suspects at this time .

“According to LAPD, a car thief is believed to have been in the area,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. “It’s possible that the person who stole it may not have known the value and discovered it [later] and may try to pawn it or sell it overseas. So it’s critical to get the information to the public so that hopefully somebody who received it, or is offered it, can identify it and return it to its rightful owner.”

Weinstein, who said he is “heartbroken,” is offering a $25,000 reward. 

FBI: Nashville Bombing Suspect Died in Blast

Suspect’s RV in downtown Nashville, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Forensic tests show the suspect in the downtown Nashville bombing on Christmas morning died in the explosion, the FBI said Sunday. 

The bureau matched the DNA of tissue samples found at the scene with that of the suspect Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, of Antioch, TN. 

Investigators got a break in the case when the Tennessee Highway Patrol located and recovered the VIN from the suspect’s RV. That information, along with tips from the public, led investigators to the home of the suspect. 

FBI and ATF agents are still recovering and analyzing evidence. No motive has been identified yet. 

Authorities said there’s no evidence that additional suspects were involved.

“Leads are still being followed, but at this time, there is no indication that any other individuals are involved,” the bureau said in a news release

The blast rocked downtown Nashville, injuring three people and heavily damaging businesses, including an AT&T switching center.   

Weekend Series on Crime: The Italian Mafia Still Thriving During Pandemic

Merry Christmas From ticklethewire.com

Chris Clem Takes Helm at Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector

Chris T. Clem, chief patrol agent in the Yuma Sector.

By Steve Neavling

Chris T. Clem, a 25-year veteran of the Border Patrol, has been tapped to serve as chief patrol agent in the Yuma Sector in Arizona. 

The appointment comes just five months after he took the helm at Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector. He replaces Anthony Porvaznik, who recently retired after serving in the position for more than five years.

Clem’s joined the Border Patrol in 1995 at the Lordsburg Station in the El Paso Sector. 

During his career, he held a variety of leadership positions, including senior patrol agent, supervisory border patrol agent, field operations supervisor, and patrol agent in charge, as well as associate, assistant and deputy chief patrol agent. He also served as a canine handler, and intelligence agent and a firearms instructor. 

Clem has worked out of Border Patrol stations in Lordsburg, New Mexico and Casa Grande, Arizona; as well as stations across the southern Texas Border. He also worked at Border Patrol Headquarters in Washington D.C.

A native of New Orleans who grew up in Houston, Clem earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in leadership management.  from Sam Houston State University.

Yuma Sector includes 126 miles of international border with Mexico and 181,000 square miles. There are three stations – Yuma, Wellton and Blythe – and three checkpoints, with more than 700 Border Patrol agents.

Trump Pardons 2 More Ex-Aides, Associates Convicted in Mueller Probe

Paul Manafort jail mugshot.

By Steve Neavling

President Trump has pardoned two more former aides and associates ensnared in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation of Russian election inference. 

Trump on Wednesday issued pardons to his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his longtime adviser Roger Stone. Both were convicted in the Mueller probe. 

Stone, whose sentence Trump commuted earlier this year, was convicted in November 2019 of lying to the House Intelligence Committee. Manafort was convicted of financial crimes in connection with his overseas lobbying work and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. 

On Tuesday, Trump pardoned his former foreign policu adviser George Papadopoulos and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, both of whom were convicted of lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. 

Among those not pardoned in connection with the Mueller probe were Manafort’s deputy Rick Gates, who was sentenced last year to 45 days in prison after cooperating with prosecutors, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who pleaded guilty to campaign finance laws. 

“The pardons from this President are what you would expect to get if you gave the pardon power to a mob boss,” tweeted Andrew Weissmann, a Mueller team member who helped prosecute Manafort.

White Supremacists Plotted Attack on Power Grid, FBI Says

Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI says it uncovered a white supremacist plot to cause electricity outages by attacking power stations in the southeastern U.S. 

The alleged plot was revealed in a mistakenly unsealed affidavit obtained by the Associated Press.

The plan was to create a white supremacist group that would be “operational” by 2024, but if President Trump lost the 2020 election, the group would act sooner, the FBI says. 

The group planned to shoot rifle rounds into power stations in the summer of 2021, the affidavit states. 

According to an informant, an Ohio teen “definitely wanted to be operational for violence, but also activism.”

A Purdue University student who was a group member is accused of texting the informant to say that “leaving the power off would wake people up to the harsh reality of life by wreaking havoc across the nation.”