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Archive for January, 2022

Sherri Onks Tapped to Serve As Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office

FBI Special Agent in Charge Sherri Onks

By Steve Neavling

Sherri E. Onks has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Field Office in Florida. 

Before the appointment, Onks served as an executive special assistant to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Onks’ career with the FBI began in 1999, when she was assigned to the Los Angeles Field Office, where she investigated white-collar crime before switching to counterterrorism following 9/11. 

In 2013, Onks transferred to the San Juan Field Office and investigated public corruption. She also was temporarily assigned to FBI headquarters to work a public-corruption case contacted to terrorism.

In 2006, Onks moved to the Richmond Field Office in Virginia to investigate corporate and securities fraud. In addition to investigating several complex investigations, she established and led the Virginia Financial and Securities Fraud Task Force.

In 2012, Onks was promoted to supervisory special agent and worked as the program coordinator of FBI Richmond’s financial crime, public corruption, civil rights, and health care fraud programs. In addition, she helped secure the first-ever federal criminal convictions of a Virginia governor and first lady by overseeing their public corruption case.

In 2014, Onks was named assistant legal attaché to Vancouver in Canada. She facilitated criminal, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism investigations and joint operations in Western Canada. She also served as FBI liaison to Canadian counterparts and held relationships with law enforcement and intelligence partners.

In 2019, Onks was promoted to the assistant special agent in charge of the Criminal and Administrative Branch of the Knoxville Field Office in Tennessee. In 2020, she was appointed special executive assistant to the director.

Onks received a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College in Tennessee and a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Memphis. 

Before joining the bureau, Onks worked in the health physics field.

Border Patrol Agents Rescue 25 Undocumented Migrants from Freezing Trailer

By Steve Neavling

Border Patrol agents rescued 25 undocumented migrants from a locked trailer in Texas. 

The migrants had no heat and no means of escape when agents assigned to the Sierra Blanca Station rescued them on the morning of Jan. 5, the agency announced.

Some of the migrants, who were part of a failed smuggling operation, were crying, shivering and distraught when they were found. 

“There have been significant rescues as of late by our agents where individuals were left in hazardous conditions and required immediate medical attention,” Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin said. “Transnational criminal organizations have no concern for humanity, they continually place lives in danger.”

Last year, fast-acting Border Patrol agents – some of them off-duty – sprung to action when they saw people in danger. They were credited with saving lives.

CBP Reports 10-Fold Increase in Fentanyl Seized in South Texas

The DEA seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl in one year. Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

CBP reported a more than ten-fold increase in fentanyl seizures in south Texas during fiscal year 2021. 

CBP officers at eight ports of entry from Brownsville to Del Rio seized 87,652 pounds of narcotics with a street value of $786 million, the agency said this week. 

They confiscated 41,713 pounds of marijuana, 8,592 pounds of cocaine, 33,777 pounds of methamphetamine, 1,215 pounds of heroin, 588 pounds of fentanyl, $10.4 million in unreported currency, 463 weapons and 84,863 rounds of ammunition. 

“Faced with significantly less traffic due to travel restrictions imposed for public health reasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the drug and contraband threat remained the same and our frontline CBP officers rose to the challenge to meet that threat head on,” Randy J. Howe, director of field operations at the Laredo Field Office, said in a statement. “Our significant gains in fentanyl and cocaine seizures underscore the deadly nature of the contraband we encounter, the need to utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect our officers and our continued resolve to carry out our vital border security mission.”

The seizures come at a time when U.S. authorities are seeing a surge in fentanyl overdoses. 

Biden Renominates Texas Sheriff to Lead ICE

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has been nominated to head ICE.

By Steve Neavling

President Biden nominated for a second time Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzaelez to be the next director of ICE. 

ICE has not had a confirmed director since January 2017, when Sarah Saldaña retired. 

In April 2020, Biden first nominated Gonzalez, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s immigration policies. But the nomination stalled in the Senate and expired at the end of the year. 

Gonzalez was elected sheriff of Harris County, which includes Houston, in 2016 and reelected in 2020. 

Gonzalez will likely face opposition from Republicans for a second time. 

Gonzalez has criticized Trump’s deportation policies and the separation of migrant children from their families. 

His law enforcement career began in the Houston Police Department, and he later served three terms on the Houston City Council. 

Gonzalez has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Houston Downtown and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. 

Homeland Security Warns about ‘New Content Online That Could Inspire Violence’

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo via Shutterstock.

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security on Thursday warned local law enforcement of online threats from extremists who believe the election was stolen from former President Trump.

The memo, obtained by CBS News, points to two social media posts.

One is a video on a QAnon-friendly forum “calling for Congresspeople to be hung in front of the White House.” The video was viewed 60,000 times and called out 93 members of Congress for voting to certifying the 2020 “fraudulent” presidential election. 

The second post calls Jan. 6 “a day to conduct assassinations against named Democratic political figures,” including President Biden. 

The memo said there was no specific threat for an attack on Jan. 6. 

The memo warned about “new content online that could inspire violence particularly by lone offenders.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday said the threat climate in the U.S. is “grave,” adding that it “has certainly held steady if not grown in severity” since the Jan. 6 riot. 

One Year Later, Garland Says DOJ Has ‘No Higher Priority’ than Jan. 6 Probe

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday said the investigation into the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is far from over and pledged to hold everyone responsible. 

“The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law, whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy,” Garland said on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the riot. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead.”

So far, the investigation has led to more than 725 arrests and roughly 165 guilty pleas, and about 70 rioters have been sentenced. 

Garland said about 140 federal prosecutors have worked on the case. 

At least 140 officers were injured during the siege. 

“Those involved must be held accountable,” Garland said. “And there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice.”

The Democratic-led House select committee also is investigating the riot. 

In a speech Thursday, President Biden is expected to speak on the “singular responsibility” of former President Trump, who riled up supporters before the riot and spread lies about the election, CNN reports.

Also on Thursday, members of Congress are expected to take a moment of silence and take testimonials from those who were at the Capitol during the attack. 

Border Patrol Chief Ortiz Tests Positive for COVID-19

Deputy Chief of Border Patrol Raul Ortiz.

By Steve Neavling

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. 

“Earlier today I was set to receive my Booster but was feeling symptomatic and took a #COVID test,” Ortiz said on Twitter. “I tested positive and am self-isolating, hopeful to feel better. My symptoms may have been worse had I not been vaccinated.”

Ortiz encouraged others to get vaccinated. 

“I urge everyone to follow the guidance from health professionals and get vaccinate(d). I am one of hundreds of #USBP personnel in quarantine. Our frontline agents have battled this virus from the onset and I commend them. We will continue to be #vigilant as we protect our nation.”

In October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tested positive for COVID-19. 

CBP Confiscates More than 1,300 Counterfeit Championship Rings

CBP confiscated more than 1,300 counterfeit championship rings. Photo: CBP

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers in Cincinnati have seized numerous shipments of counterfeit championship rings for professional sports. 

More than 1,300 counterfeit rings were confiscated over the past three months, along with many matching championships trophies, CBP announced Tuesday. 

The rings, which were cheaply made, were intercepted in 56 shipments, which originated from China. 

If genuine, the rings would be worth more than $982,000. 

They included rings for the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Bucks, University of Kentucky and NASCAR. 

“Part of CBP’s mission is to protect American consumers from purchasing these counterfeit products,” LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, director field operations in Chicago, said in a statement. “This seizure illustrates our commitment to stopping counterfeit products from China and protecting our nation’s economy and consumers from those intent on defrauding businesses and consumers alike.”