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FBI

FBI Says Bank Robberies Up in Last Quarter of 2008

Bank robber-Auburn, Mass. Dec. 2008

Bank robber-Auburn, Mass. Dec. 2008

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — There were 1,645 robberies, burglaries and larcenies nationwide involving banks in the last quarter of 2008, up 19.5 percent from the previous quarter in 2008, according to FBI stats released this past week.

The following are stats provided in an FBI Press release:

Of the 1,645 total reported violations, loot was taken in 1,527 incidents (93 percent). In contrast, loot was taken in 1,267 incidents (92 percent) during the third quarter of 2008.

The total amount taken was valued at more than $15.4 million dollars, an increase from the previous quarter’s total of more than $12.5 million stolen.
A note was used in 839 incidents; a firearm was used in 465 incidents; and robbers threatened the use of a weapon in 696 incidents.

Acts of violence were committed during 75 of the reported incidents. These acts included 22 instances involving the discharge of firearms, 37 instances involving assaults, and 15 instances of hostage situations.

Three deaths occurred during this reporting period, all three of which were perpetrators. No law enforcement officers were killed responding to these incidents.
Most violations occurred on Friday. Regardless of the day of the week, violations between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. were the most common.

Court of Appeals Orders Detroit Reporter to Answer Pre-trial Questions in Case Involving Confidential Sources

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

The chess game between an ex-federal prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize reporter continues to play out in Detroit. The media and federal law enforcement community is watching. The latest court order came down on Thursday.

By JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — A federal appeals court said this afternoon that Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter will have to sit for pretrial questioning by attorneys for a former federal prosecutor wanting to find out who leaked word to Ashenfelter that he was under an internal investigation.
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Free Press attorneys had asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the deposition process ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland for next Tuesday, but the appellate court said in a two-page order that Ashenfelter hadn’t shown Cleland abused his discretion.

Ashenfelter has refused to name his source for his 2004 story, citing First Amendment freedom of press protections and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, came under fire and stood trial for alleged misconduct in a discredited 2003 terror trial. He has said that Ashenfelter may have conspired with the leakers to break federal laws. Convertino was acquitted in 2007 of hiding evidence from defense lawyers in the terror trial.

Cleland has said he’ll decide if Ashenfelter’s assertions are valid on a question-by-question basis.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Wiretaps Helps Maryland Feds and Locals Bust 24 People Linked to “Black Guerilla Family” Gang Including Prison Guards

baltimoreThis is a case right out the HBO show “The Wire”; prison guards and  drug dealers.  Authorities were able to listen in on conversations of smuggled prison cell phones.
By Justin Fenton
Baltimore Sun
   
A seven-month investigation that included wiretaps on contraband prison cell phones led to the indictment of 24 people, including four state prison officers, who authorities believe were part of a prison gang that extorted protection money from other inmates, directed drug distribution and arranged attacks on witnesses.

Federal and local law enforcement officials said the suspects are affiliated with the Black Guerilla Family, and placed “hits” on suspected informants and discussed robberies of drug dealers and assaults on rival gang members. Authorities say the investigation helped provide real-time intelligence to the Department of Corrections.

Among those charged was Eric Brown, the alleged leader of the BGF in Maryland, and Tomeka Harris, the operator of the Northeast Baltimore establishment Club 410 that was shut down by police last month. Harris had scoffed at allegations at a hearing that the club was associated with the gang, and testified that the club had a positive impact on the community.

On Monday afternoon, police say they broke up a Black Guerilla Family gang meeting in Druid Hill Park in which 100 to 200 people had gathered. Court documents show that police recovered gang handbooks and a list of members who had violated gang rules.

For Full Story

Read Press Release

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Illegal Cigarettes and Organized Crime & More

img_01251WASHINGTON —One recent weekday, in a downtown Washington office building, Edgar A. Domenech, head of the ATF Washington Field Division, sat down to talk with ticklethewire.com editor Allan Lengel.

Domenech, a 24-year veteran of the ATF, talked about a variety of subjects ranging from methamphetamine traffic to white supremacists to motorcycle gangs. But what seemed to be particularly interesting was the proliferation of illegal cigarette trafficking and organized crime’s growing interest in it.

Domenech says in many instances, traffickers are buying low tax cigarettes in states like Virginia and selling them at cheaper prices to stores in New York, which normally pay much more because of the higher New York cigarette taxes. Sometimes the traffickers are buying counterfeit cigarettes made in China, which have not been taxed at all.

Just how lucrative is the black market cigarette business? In one ATF undercover operation, Domenech said, some cigarette traffickers traded more than two pounds of cocaine for a load of cigarettes. “That they’re willing to trade a kilo of cocaine for a truckload of cigarettes tells you they were going to make more money trafficking cigarettes than cocaine,” he said.

The following is a condensed interview. The questions were edited for clarity.

What has ATF’s role been with the trafficking of illegal cigarettes?
We’re very active in investigating cigarette trafficking here in the Washington field offices. In fact, we’ve taken off several organizations. We just recently had a group of Koreans in the Arlington, Falls Church area that were trafficking cigarettes from here to New York and that was organized crime in the Korean community. Working with Fairfax County and some of our other state and local partners, we actually worked that investigation with some undercover agents.

How does that all work, how do they get a hold of the cigarettes?
What’s happening is those individuals are looking to purchase what they believe to be untaxed cigarettes or cigarettes at a lower cost. Traditionally our investigations have been up to New York, where New York had a very high tax per carton and the profit is such, it makes it very very advantageous. There’s an increase in organized crime , whether it’s Korean organized crime or Russian organized crime , that are getting involved in the trafficking and buying cigarettes.

Which are the source states?
North Carolina, Virginia. Based on the fact I’ve got several field offices in Virginia we have taken advantage of the fact, we have a lot of individuals who come down to Virginia looking to purchase cigarettes . We take advantage of that greed element to basically insert ourselves in these criminal investigations .

Are you seeing some nexus with terrorism too?
Right now we’re seeing a nexus to organized crime. But again we have seen in some of our older cases that terrorist have in fact looked to use the trafficking in the cigarettes as a way to fund their organizations because the profit margin is so large.

When we talk about a profit margin what are we talking about, the initial output for the trafficker?
We can look at it this way, you can come down to Virginia and you can buy, let’s say, a van load of cigarettes, you can fill up a back of a van that you rent; it’s probably going to run you anywhere from 6 to $9,000 dollars. You can take that and sell that in New York for maybe 60 or $70,000 dollars. It’s a very good profit margin and again if you’re caught, the penalties are very low. It’s a white collar crime right now. For trafficking in cigarettes, you’re going to be on the low end of the sentencing guidelines, you may get probation the first time. The problem we’re seeing now is organized crime and other violent groups have become aware of the profit margin and when you get such a large profit margin, then the violence associated with those individuals who want to monopolize that area becomes a concern to us.
That’s why we work very aggressively in that area, in fact just two weeks ago we did a reverse where we traded cigarettes for cocaine. Out of New York. A kilo.

Is that common?
No, the trading of cocaine for cigarettes of that quantity is the first time we’ve done that in this field division. We’ve done smaller quantities. That they’re willing to trade a kilo of cocaine for a truckload of cigarettes tells you they were going to make more money trafficking cigarettes than cocaine.

How much quantity did you buy?
That was a six or seven month long operation . We had done several buys with them, just cigarettes alone. And they offered that they had kilo sized weight. We took them up on the offer. Again, we met them through cigarettes, not drug trafficking.

Were you surprised that they wanted to trade that much cocaine for cigarettes?
I am no longer. With the amount of tobacco diversion that I have seen just explode across the the country in the last two, three years, absolutely not. I can very comfortably say that trafficking of cigarettes has transcended state lines and agency jurisdictions. We’re involved more with the FBI and ICE involving cigarettes trafficking cases than ever before.

How far are people coming to get cigarettes in Virginia?
In field division, they’re coming from New York. Traditionally it’s going on from your high tax states, the northeast area. The larger issue is you have a large amount of counterfeit cigarettes coming into this country. Traditionally they look like Marlboros but they’re not made by Marlboro. They’re made in in factories outside the United States. China has one of the largest trafficking of counterfeit cigarette factories, that we’re aware of. Unfortunately what you don’t know, what are those cigarettes made of. So there are the unknown health implications. Again they’re untaxed and that’s lost revenue. I think there was a study done in California at one point that 60 percent of the Marlboros in California were counterfeit.

Are you seeing some of those counterfeit cigarettes here?
We’re seeing counterfeit cigarettes throughout the United States. Here in the Washington field division, in our investigations, we’ve seen counterfeit cigarettes.

How do they generally arrive?
Smuggled in through ports in trailer loads, this is cargo type.

Are they dangerous?
They are dangerous, again (we’re) not sure what’s in some of them. What kind of chemicals are in there ? Are there insecticides in there? I know we have a very good relationship with Phillips Morris, who has a genuine, legitimate concern to assure these counterfeit cigarettes are taken off the market.

Are they hard to detect on the street?
They’ve become more and more sophisticated in disguising the counterfeit cigarettes. Some of these organizations have done so good at disguising fake Marlboros from real Marlboros, even some of my agents who have worked investigations can’t tell the difference. Than how’s the general public going to know the difference?

Do they have a whole distribution network?
Absolutely.

Is it all Chinese?
No. They have the opportunity to utilize the facilities in China, but we’re seeing factories in central America, there’s activity in Panama, there’s activity in Africa now. These are individuals where again the organized criminal elements has taken advantage of these areas. Again these products are counterfeit.

What are the tell tale signs of a fake Marlboros?
Well, like I said they’re getting harder and harder to tell. At the end of the day the only way you can tell is when you smoke them, the quality will never be the quality of a true Marlboro. But the packaging has gotten so good. You just think you got a bad pack when you smoke it, so you may throw one out. The quality will always be different. That’s the profit margin for them. It’s not the quality tobacco. Some of the time the amount of tobacco in the product is miniscule. It’s filled with filler. There can be chemical products, the remnants of animal feces. Again, no quality controls.

In terms of country like China, are they being cooperative with U.S. law enforcement?
I know this issue is discussed but again as to the level of cooperation, from my level I don’t get involved in that. I know its been an ongoing discussion. We have a very good working relationship with the European law enforcement community. They are seeing, what’s not going into this country is going to Europe.

Do you have active cases?
We most certainly do. We have active ongoing investigations that have tentacles into Europe, China, South America, Africa and just about every state in the union.

Are the foreign governments giving the counterfeiters the nod, telling them to do their thing? Are the governments involved in some of them?
Again, I would have to say when they’re operating in the amount of product that is being introduced in some of these countries, you have to ask yourself: ‘How are they able to do this?’

If someone were to get involved in this business. What is the price difference, if they wanted to buy a counterfeit cigarretes as opposed to a low state tax pack?
It depends what low state tax you’re in. If you’re in the Carolinas, you could be looking at several dollar difference. And that’s where the counterfeit cigarettes problem occurs. From the very inception, there’s no tax. If you don’t know they’re counterfeit, the bad guys aren’t telling you you’re buying counterfeit cigarettes cause they’re getting that good.

Are you finding a lot of guns in connection with cigarette investigations?
We’re seeing these guys are more violent, they’re carrying firearms when they meet with us.

When we talk about organized crime, are we also talking about traditional organized crime?
We’re talking the matrix, from Italian organized crime to your Russian organized crime. Here we’re seeing your Korean. We’re seeing the Russians and the Koreans and your traditional New York style family, I’m sure are involved. We may not be working them, but I’m sure there’s some other ATF office working it. I think what we’re seeing here, the Koreans were purchasing the cigarettes from us and taking them to New York so there’s a relationship between Korean organized crime here and their ability to move it. They were taking them to the Korean community up there. Our concern is you’re going to see an increase in the level of violent crimes.

Are you seeing any nexus with legitimate business people?
Yes, we’re seeing legitimate wholesalers and distributors involved in the divergence of cigarettes and we’re aggressively pursuing them as well.

When you say diverting, are you talking about taxed cigarettes?
Yes.

Are you seeing any actually willing to buy the knockoffs?
What we’re seeing is that they’re willing to move untaxed cigarettes. Whether or not they’re knowingly aware of the fact that they’re ‘counterfeit or not , that’s hard to say.

What about White Supremacist groups? There seems to be a presence in this region like West Virginia and Virginia.
There’s still appears to be small cell groups out there of those hate groups. We continue to monitor those groups of violation of ATF violations.

Are they very active?
Right now from what we’ve seen in discussions with out state and local partners, there’s a lot more of what we call rhetoric right now. You see a lot more email and website activity . I think that draws concerns because when you see an increase in that activity there’s usually something behind it. We’re being due diligent. We have not presently initiated any current investigations. But again we monitor what our state and locals and what informants are bringing us to determine whether or not there’s an interest for ATF and if there’s’ an interest to push that information to the FBI.

There’s a lot of reports that after Obama was elected or even during the campaign, there seemed to be more chatter.
I’ve heard the same thing, there’s a lot more chatter on these website, these blogs, basically indicating the hateful rhetoric.

Are there problems with motorcycle gangs in this area?
There has been an uptick in activity , not necessarily in the D.C. area, but in the state of Viringia. We’re starting to take a look at it. We’re looking to see potential violations, firearms violations. We are seeing an uptick in new club chapters, whenever you see that, it behooves all of in law enforcement to get together and exchange information and see whether or not there’s a need for us to collectively look at some of the activity.

Methaphetamines seems to be a big thing, particularly in Virginia in the rural areas. What are you seeing out there?
We are seeing an increase in meth cases. We are getting called by the DEA or whether it’s state or locals in the rural area, more so than the District of Columbia.

Are we seeing labs?
We are not.

The customers, who are the targets?
It’s traditionally, it’s going to be your lower income, white males, white females.. On the lower economic scale.

Any surprises in general of the guns recovered in the region ?
There isn’t a surprise in any of the guns, but what has changed, the majority of firearms that are recovered in the District of Columbia that are crime guns, are actually from the date of purchase to the date of recovery over three years old. What that’s telling us is that the District of Columbia doesn’t have a traditional trafficking environment where they’re getting new guns in. What’s happening happening is a lot of older guns are getting recovered. For us, we’re trying to understand that, and understand how that illegal market is actually operating here in the District, which is a challenge to us.

Feds Indict Ohio Sheriff and 3 Others on Charges of Jail Death Cover Up

Sheriff James A. Telb/dept. photo

Sheriff James A. Telb/dept. photo

It’s never good when the head of a law enforcement agency gets indicted by the feds. Certainly not good p.r. for the department.

By ERICA BLAKE
Toledo Blade Staff Writer
TOLEDO,Ohio — Lucas County Sheriff James Telb and three members of his staff – including two former employees – were indicted in U.S. District Court in Toledo yesterday on criminal charges related to the 2004 death of an inmate at the jail and allegations of a subsequent cover-up.

Sheriff Telb, 70, who recently began his seventh term in office, was indicted by a grand jury on one count each of making false statements and misprision of a felony, or the cover-up of a crime. He faces three years in prison if convicted.

The sheriff denied any wrongdoing, saying he is “expecting to be vindicated on this.”

He also said he would not step down from office.

“This is serious stuff, but I’m not backing away from it; I’m not running from it,” he said during a press conference at the sheriff’s office.

“At no time was there any attempt, or any effort, to cover up anything,” he said, adding that he didn’t “think anybody did anything wrong.”

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

F

FBI Continues to Push to Solve Serial Killings Involving Truckers

Gov. Blago Camp Was Told Jesse Jackson Jr. Would Raise $5 Million If He Got Senate Seat

The FBI is interested in him, and Jesse Jackson has, as Ricky Ricardo would say “some splainin to do!”. This case is only going to get bigger. Stay tuned.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s camp was told last year that U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) would raise up to $5 million in campaign cash for the ex-governor if he was appointed to President Obama’s U.S. Senate seat, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The overture came from at least two members of the local Indian community who approached the Blagojevich fund-raising team last fall, sources say.

Besides the $5 million to be raised by Jackson, the proposal also included another $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund that would come from Indian donors, sources say.

This is the first revelation that a proposal for the Jackson appointment involved an alleged promise that he’d raise campaign cash for the ex-governor.

Also, the amount of money allegedly offered to Blagojevich is significantly higher than what’s been reported so far.

For Full Story

Blagojevich to be Arraigned Today (AP)

UPDATE: Blago Pleads Not Guilty (Chicago Tribune)

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller Names Women to Head San Francisco and Honolulu Offices

fbiBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has picked seasoned women agents to head FBI offices in San Francisco and Honolulu.

The women are replacing women agents.

Stephanie Douglas will head the San Francisco office and Charlene B. Thornton will take charge of the Honolulu office, the FBI said.

Douglas started with the FBI in 1989 and went on to the Washington field office where she investigated violent crimes, public corruption and “some of the FBI’s most sensitive counterintelligence and espionage investigations”, the FBI said. In 2000, she was promoted to a supervisory post and was detailed to the CIA, the FBI said.

After taking various posts, she was named deputy assistant director for Operations Support in the Counterintelligence Division, the FBI said. She replaces Charlene Thornton, who goes off to Honolulu.

Thornton joined the FBI in 1979, and started working criminal counterintelligence and counterrorism in the Indianapolis and Los Angeles divisions, the FBI said.

In 1995, she became assisant special agent in charge of the Honolulu office. She later went on to become special agent in charge of the Birmingham, Ala. and Phoenix divisions and in 2006 headed the San Francisco office.
She replaces Janet Kammerman, who is now associate executive assistant director of the Human Resources Branch at FBI headquarters.