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Justice Dept. Takes on Itself in Anthrax Attacks

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Jerry Markon
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Since it began a decade ago, the federal government’s massive investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks has been plagued by missteps and complications.

Investigators initially focused on the wrong man, then had to pay him a nearly $6 million settlement. In 2008, they accused another man, Bruce E. Ivins, who killed himself before he could go to trial. Now, in the latest twist, the government has argued against itself.

In documents deep in the files of a recently settled Florida lawsuit, Justice Department civil attorneys contradicted their own department’s conclusion that Ivins was unquestionably the anthrax killer. The lawyers said the type of anthrax in Ivins’s lab was “radically different” from the deadly anthrax. They cited several witnesses who said Ivins was innocent, and they suggested that a private laboratory in Ohio could have been involved in the attacks.

To read the full story click here.

Head of Dallas FBI Robert E. Casey Calling it Quits

Robert Casey Jr./fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s the end of the road for Robert E. Casey.

The veteran FBI agent is stepping down April 30 after five years as head of the bureau’s Dallas office, according to the Associated Press. He’s planning to retire and join the private sector, AP reported.

Casey, 54, was named special agent in charge of the office in May 2006. He joined the bureau in 1986.

His tenure as head of the office included the high-profile sting involving Hosam Smadi, who thought he was detonating a bomb to blow up a Dallas skyscraper.

He was also the target of threats from an agent in the office who was going through marital problems with his wife, who also worked for the FBI. The agent was sentenced to prison.

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Dem Staff Report Says Top Justice Officials Did Not Give Green Light for Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A report issued late Monday night by the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tries to debunk suggestions by Republicans that high level appointees at the Justice Department conceived and directed the very flawed ATF Operation Fast and Furious. It places the blame for the operation squarely on the agents in Phoenix.

“This report debunks many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top ranking Democrat,  wrote in a cover letter for the detailed report. “Contrary to repeated claims by some, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was a politically motivated operation conceived and directed by high-level Obama administration political appointees at the Department of Justice.”

“The documents obtained and interviews conducted by the Committee indicate that it was the latest in a series of reckless and fatally flawed operations run by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division during both the previous and current administrations,” Cummings wrote.

The report counters repeated claims by Republicans like Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that top ranking Justice Dept. officials gave the green light for  Fast and Furious.  Under the operation, ATF’s Phoenix office encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.  Some of the weapons surfaced at crime scenes including at the murder scene in Arizona of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Many Republicans have called for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to resign.

The report is expected to be met with skepticism by many Republicans and critics of ATF, which has come under intense scrutiny, and has undergone a major shakeup in management. Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s and Cumming’s committee on Thursday where he’s likely to get a grilling from the Republicans.

Cummings, who has sometimes been at odds with Issa over Fast and Furious, said in a press release  that the minority staff report was the result “of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the actions and circumstances that led to multiple gunwalking operations in Arizona from 2006 to 2010.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

The report concludes that the ATF Phoenix office failed to use sufficient controls to stop weapons from getting into the hands of violent criminals.

“Although this report provides a great amount of detail about what we have learned to date, it has several shortcomings,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “Despite requests from me and others, the Committee never held a hearing or even conducted an interview with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Committee obtained documents indicating that in 2007 he was personally informed about the failure of previous law enforcement operations involving the illegal smuggling of weapons into Mexico, and that he received a proposal to expand these operations. Since the Committee failed to speak with Mr. Mukasey, we do not have the benefit of his input about why these operations were allowed to continue after he was given this information.”

“The Committee also rejected my request to hold a public hearing with Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director of ATF, the agency primarily responsible for these operations. Although Committee staff conducted an interview with Mr. Melson, the public has not had an opportunity to hear his explanations for why these operations continued for so many years without adequate oversight from ATF headquarters.”

The report states that in 2006, ATF agents in Phoenix initiated Operation Wide Receiver with the cooperation of a local gun dealer.

“For months, ATF agents watched in realtime as traffickers purchased guns and drove them across the border into Mexico,” the report states.

The report also states “that ATF’s former Acting Director, Kenneth Melson, and ATF’s Deputy Director, William Hoover, told Committee staff that gunwalking violated agency doctrine,that they did not approve it, and that they were not aware that ATF agents in Phoenix were using the tactic in Operation Fast and Furious. They also stated that, because they did not know about the use of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, they never raised it up the chain of command to senior Justice Department officials.”

The report further stated: “Former Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told Committee staff that although he received multiple briefings on Operation Fast and Furious, he did not approve gunwalking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use.”

“He told Committee staff that, at the time he approved the proposal for a broader strategy targeting cartel leaders instead of straw purchasers, he had been informed that there was no probable cause to make any arrests and that he had been under the impression that ATF agents were working closely with Mexican officials to interdict weapons.”

The report goes on to state: “Gary Grindler, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, both stated that neither ATF nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office ever brought to their attention concerns about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, and that, if they had been told, they ‘would have stopped it.’”

“When allegations of gunwalking three years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver were brought to the attention of Mr. Breuer in 2010, he immediately directed his deputy to share their concerns directly with ATF’s leadership. He testified, however, that he regretted not raising these concerns directly with the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, stating, “if I had known then what I know now, I, of course, would have told the Deputy and the Attorney General.”

“The Committee has obtained no evidence indicating that the Attorney General authorized gunwalking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public. None of the 22 witnesses interviewed by the Committee claims to have spoken with the Attorney General about the specific tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious prior to the public controversy.”

 

High Ranking Justice Dept. Official Suggested Letting Guns Walk, Emails Show

Lanny Breuer

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Newly released Justice Department emails sent to Capitol Hill for a congressional inquiry into a gun-smuggling operation indicate that the head of the department’s criminal division suggested letting some illicit “straw” weapons buyers in the U.S. transport their guns across the border into Mexico where they could be arrested.

According to the emails turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Friday night, the Justice official, Lanny Breuer, made the suggestion to Mexican officials because it “may send a strong message to arms traffickers.”

Mexico has stringent gun control laws with long prison terms as opposed to the U.S., where small-time “straw” buyers working for major arms traffickers seldom face jail time.

To read more click here.

 

Ex-Security Guard to the Stars Gets 9 Years for Distributing Oxycodone

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former security guard to the stars who protected such celebrities as Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Lionel Richie and the late Marvin Gaye, was sentenced Friday in Alexandria, Va. fed court to 9 years in prison for conspiring to distribute oxycodone.

Joseph Emmanuel Mann, 57, of New Carrollton, Md., was convicted of the charges last October.

Authorities said that as part of the conspiracy Mann obtained prescriptions of the drug by wearing disguises, including wigs and hats, and using multiple names and dates of birth.

“By changing his identity, Mann was able to receive high volumes of prescription narcotics on a regular basis from various local pharmacies,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

Co-conspirators testified that Mann, when entering a pharmacy to fill a prescription for OxyContin, would act as if he was in a lot of pain and wear neck braces and carry crutches.

During trial, he was seated in a wheel chair even though no witness ever saw him in one before his arrest last July, authorities said.

Mann distributed more than 20,000 OxyContin 80 mg pills during the eight-year conspiracy, many of which were resold by co-conspirators to addicts throughout Northern Virginia. Authorities witnesses at trial said they saw Mann illegally distribute pills near schools, libraries, restaurants, and on the National Mall.

Feds Arrest Bonanno Mob Family Members

 
By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Four members of the Bonanno organized crime family were arrested early Friday in New York by DEA and FBI agents on charges of racketeering, gambling and drug sales, reports NBC. Also charged in the case was Anthony Graziano, the father of Mob Wives”  reality show star Renee Graziano .

Vincent Badalamenti, identified as a member of the Bonanno crime family administration, Nicholas Santora, a Bonanno family capo, Vito Balsamo, an acting captain, and Anthony Calabrese, a soldier, were arrested and charged on Friday with racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana, according to NBC.

All the defendants  entered pleas of not guilty.

To read more click here.

15 Arrested in Large Drug Smuggling Investigation Including Albuquerque Fireman

DEA cocaine photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A DEA bust has led to the arrest of a local firefighter in Albuquerque, reports KQRE.

Acquaintances of firefighter Steve Chavez said he was the last guy they’d expect to be involved in a drug ring. Chavez had been with the department for seven years, according to KQRE. The drug ring he was involved in had links to a Mexican cartel, authorities say.

The investigation involved more than 100 officers from numerous agencies, working for multiple months investigating a ring of large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana smuggling. Officials raided three homes and an addition property on Thursday, taking 15 into custody.

To read more click here.

 

 

Bizarre Sex Initiations Required for Credit Card Scheme, Secret Service Investigation Reveals

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Here’s a record-breaker for the kinkiest financial fraud: Allegations in a fed probe in Georgia suggest the leader of a credit card cloning ring demanded his co-conspirators, in order to prove themselves, had to engage in sexual acts with him, other men and women while being videotaped, reports the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia.

Vikas Yadav found crime partners in online S&M chatrooms, according to the Herald-Banner. The scheme ultimately netted him millions of dollars.

The ring was discovered during an investigation in which Athens-Clarke, Ga., police detective Beverly Russell helped the US Secret Service.  As part of the probe, authorities seized a package of more then 20 cloned credit cards which Yadav had shipped into North Carolina.

To read more click here.