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Ex-Suburban D.C. County Executive Gets 7-Plus Years in Prison For Bribery

 

Jack Johnson/wusa
By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Jack Johnson, a former county executive in suburban D.C., who was caught on a phone wiretap directing his wife inside their home to destroy evidence while FBI agents stood at the door, was sentenced Tuesday in Maryland federal court to 7 years and 3 months in prison and three years of supervised release for taking bribes.

Authorities said that Johnson, 62, who had gone from the being the top prosecutor in Prince George’s County to the county executive, used his public office as county executive to steer millions of dollars in public funds for bribes from developers. Johnson was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and forfeit his Mercedes Benz and $78,000. He reportedly got as much as $1 million in illegal bribes.

“Jack Johnson could have been a role model for integrity, but he chose to be a poster child for greed,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement. “The facts of this case read like a dime novel because the defendant acted as if corruption was the normal way of doing business. It is our responsibility to prove him wrong.”

After serving as the county’s State’s Attorney and nearly a decade as an attorney for the IRS, Johnson began a career as County Executive in 2002 that lasted until December of 2010.

The guilty plea says Johnson orchestrated a conspiracy from 2003 through at least November 12, 2010,among clients which included bribes of money, trip expenses, food, drinks, logding, flights, employment and political contributions, among other items, according to the Justice Department. The bribes among Johnson and other co-conspirators amounted to more than $1.6 million.

There have been 15 convictions to date in related corruption investigations in Prince George’s County.

Johnson was disgraced in his final weeks in office in November 2010 when FBI agents came knocking on the door of his home in Mitchellvile, Md, a suburb of D.C.  He wasn’t home, but his wife was.

Two minutes later, Johnson’s wife Leslie called Johnson on an FBI-tapped phone, according to an FBI affidavidt

The wife told Johnson two women were at the door.

“Don’t answer it,” Johnson said, according to the affidavit.

Johnson then told his wife to go upstairs and go to “my drawer” and find a check from the developer the FBI believes was the $100,000 check. He said the check was in the underwear drawer.

The wife then asked if she should remove any cash and Johnson said “Yes.”

Johnson then told his wife to put the cash in her underwear.

After she found the check, Johnson told his wife: “Tear it up! That is the only thing you have to do.”

She then asked if she should remove the cash from the basement and Johnson said: “Put it in your bra and walk out or something and I don’t know what to do.”

Leslie Johnson then said: “What do you want me to do with the check?”

“Tear it up,” Johnson replied.

Then Johnson told her to flush the check down the toilet.

“Yes, flush that,” he said, according to the affidavit.

He then told her to put the cash in her underwear.

“I have it in my bra,” she replied.

FBI agents entered the home and found $79,600 in Leslie Johnson’s underwear.

Judge Zagel: Blago Set and Sought Senate Seat Price

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday faced the first of two days of hearings for his sentencing on public corruption charges.

The usually chatty ex-governor had walked quietly out of his home earlier in the morning and into the courtroom via a passage blocked off to the media he once revelled in, a Chicago Tribune blog reported.  He declined to comment to the media.

Before the trial began Blagojevich bent over to kiss his wife Patti, saying “I love you.”

The defense argued Blagojevich did not gain any money from the allegations, while the prosecution pointed to “bountiful” evidence of what Blagojevich expected to gain.

Of the $1.5 million Blagojevich sought for the senate seat, Judge James Zagel said “”It was a price he put on it. The price he expected to receive,” tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney.

Blagojevich, arrested in December of 2008, was convicted of 1 of 24 counts — lying to an FBI agent — in his first trial. The second proved far more fruitful for the prosecution, which convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including his famous attempt to sell or trade Barack Obama’s Senate seat for his own benefit.

During the feds probe of Blago, the FBI caught his now-famous line on tape: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s [expletive] golden,” he said of the Senate seat. Since his arrest state lawmakers approved a series of campaign finance reforms and transparency laws.

Before and during the trial Blagojevich repeatedly proclaimed his innocence in the national media, appearing regularly on news and talk shows, including The View. Many speculated early on that the media campaign could hurt him at sentencing.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois, previously told ticklethewire.com. “I think that will be one factor.”

Blagojevich served as a state legislator in both Washington and the Illinois capital of Springfield. He got his start in Chicago with the help of longtime city alderman Richard Mell, a powerful Democratic politician on the city’s Northwest Side. He was elected governor of Illinois in 2002 and impeached on January 9, 2009. He was banned in a separate vote from ever holding public office in the state of Illinois in the future.

Why Aren’t the Bankers in Trouble?

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

In the wake of the financial sector’s meltdown, many were on the hunt for the blood of bankers. But convictions for wrongdoing on Wall Street have been remarkably scarce in the aftermath of the industry’s collapse–no small part of why Occupy Wall Street protestors have gathered in lower Manhattan.

A Wall Street Journal blog explains why prosecutions in the financial sector have been so slow to surface. Federal agent’s “hopes slowly gave way to frustration over how to prove criminal intent,” the blog post notes, citing former deputy assistant director of the FBI David Cardona.

Much of the Justice Department’s criminal investigations “hinge on disclosure” Cardona told the Journal. “What does adequate disclosure mean? And those are really technical arguments that sometimes get lost with a jury.”

Many of the FBI’s criminal probes into financial wrongdoing have gone nowhere, according to the Journal, including probes into top financial firms like AIG, Goldman Sachs and Washington Mutual. After a jury acquitted Bear Stearns in 2009, US officials have been wary of trying crimes in which a jury may decide losses were due to bad judgement or the market rather than actual criminality.

“Thus, cases that turn on technical issues such as disclosure are being left for civil-enforcement actions.”

To read more click here.

 

Member of Michigan Militia That Plotted to Kill Cops Pleads Guilty

Hutaree members charged in case. Clough is pictured in the last photo on the right on the top row. /southern poverty law center photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A member of a southeast Michigan militia known as “Hutaree” pleaded guilty Monday to his role in a plot to use explosives against local and fed law enforcement, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Joshua Clough admitted guilt on the same day an FBI report on the group was released. The report concluded that the name “Hutaree” was made up by the son of a ringleader and had no meaning, the Free Press reported.

Clough was one of nine members charged in the case and accused of trying to overthrow the government.

To read the full story click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

 

FBI Search Airplane After Bomb Note Found in Bathroom

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

FBI Agents were summoned to Boston’s Logan Airport on Sunday as an inbound flight from London landed and a “suspicious note” mentioning a bomb was found by a flight attendent, reports Boston.com.

FBI agents, police and k-9 units searched the plane along with its 200 passengers and 16 crew members when the flight touched down at Logan Airport, according to State Police, though nothing was found.

Virgin Atlantic Airways Flight 11 arrived in Boston without incident at about 6 pm on Sunday

Trooper Thomas Murphy, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, said authorities do not believe the bomb threat to be credible, but are investigating at the moment.

To read more click here.

 

Column: Ex-FBI Agent Coleen Rowley: Americans’ Rights at Risk

 

FBI Agent Coleen Rowley/ photo ia.ucsb.edu

By Coleen Rowley, former FBI Agent
ConsortiumNews.com

The political, military industrial, corporate class in Washington DC continues to re-make our Constitutional Republic into a powerful, unaccountable Military Empire.

The U.S. Senate has just voted 93 to 7 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which allows the military to operate domestically within the borders of the United States and to possibly (or most probably) detain U.S. citizens without trial.

Forget that the ACLU called it “an historic threat to American citizens,” this bill is so dangerous not only to our rights but to our country’s security that it was criticized by the Directors of the FBI and the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Defense Secretary!

For the first time in our history, if this Act is not vetoed, American citizens may not be guaranteed their Article III right to trial. The government would be able to decide who gets an old-fashioned trial (along with right to attorney and right against self-incrimination) and who gets detained without due process and put into a modern legal limbo.

To read more click here.

Hedge Funder Employees Charged in FBI Sting; Agent Pretended to Represent Major Fund

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Hard to believe there is corruption in the hedge fund industry, aye?

An FBI sting has resulted in charges against 11 people with ties to hedge fund companies, plus two “finders,”  the finance website FINalternatives.com.

An FBI agent posed as a representative of a major hedge fund, operating from an office in suburban Boston the bureau set up. The agent offered a $5 million investments to mircocap companies, publicly traded companies which tend to have more risk and volatility, in exchange for a 50 percent kickback.

The SEC suspended trading for the companies involved, which include Augrid Global Holdings, Comcan International, First Global Financial Corp., MicroHoldings US, Outfront Companies, Symbollon Pharmaceuticals and ZipGlobal Holdings.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

 

Rep Darrell Issa May Recommend that ATF be Folded Into the FBI

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has led the crusade against Attorney General Eric Holder during the Fast and Furious investigations, said he may recommend merging  ATF into the FBI, Bloomberg reports.

“ATF, perhaps, should be molded completely into the FBI and be done with it,” the California Republican told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast in Washington. “There is no reason you can’t have a special unit under the FBI” that investigates federal firearms laws. Both the ATF and the FBI are under the Justice Department.

Over the years, rumors have circulated that the ATF or DEA might be folded into the FBI.  Lawmakers from time to time have pushed for such changes as well.

To read more click here.