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Stejskal: The Hole-In-The-Truck Gang

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

It was a cold early spring Saturday morning, and I was following a lead in a rural part of Michigan. I had received a call on Friday afternoon that there was a unique piece of evidence on a farm near the Michigan/Ohio border.

When I got to the farm, I made contact with the owner and identified myself. He walked me to the back of an outbuilding. There parked in the weeds was a white cargo van with flat tires. The farmer opened the van’s back door. In the middle of the cargo bay was a circular hole that had been cut in the floor.

So why was I out here on a cold Saturday morning looking at a van with a hole in its floor?

It all started in the summer the year before, 1998. An Environmental Protection Agency /FBI task force that was working illegal dumping cases had received information that a waste disposal company near Ann Arbor, Michigan, was defrauding clients by not doing work and overcharging. There were also rumors that the company was surreptitiously creating spills which they then charged clients to clean-up. The information was fragmentary, and it was coming primarily from disgruntled employees.

The disposal firm was Hi-Po. Hi-Po had been in business for about 9 years. The founders Aaron Smith, who was just 26, and Stephen Carbeck (34) started with a pick-up and a power washer. They had grown Hi-Po to more than 100 employees and several vacuum trucks at well over $200,000 each. By all accounts Hi-Po had become extraordinarily successful with such clients as the University of Michigan and Chrysler.

In the summer of 1998, the EPA/FBI task force had learned that recently one of the Hi-Po employees had quit reportedly because he was upset with Hi-Po not performing work and then charging for the work that hadn’t been done.

That employee, Michael Stagg had retired from the Washtenaw County (Michigan) drain commissioner’s office prior to working at Hi-Po. EPA agent Greg Horvath and FBI agent, Steve Flattery, both from the task force, and I went to Stagg’s home in Ann Arbor. He wasn’t surprised to see us and said he had been thinking about coming to us.

Stagg was very forthcoming, but he only had limited direct knowledge. He had inspected a Hi-Po clean-up project in Riverview, a city south of Detroit. There he saw that Hi-Po had only done about ½ the work they had contracted to do, but Stagg was told Hi-Po billed Riverview for the whole job. (Later we learned that a Riverview official was receiving kickbacks.)

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FBI Investigated PETA Over Alleged Plan to Launch Anthrax Threat

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI began investigating the animal-rights group PETA in the late 1990s after agents were told volunteers planned an anthrax attack, the New York Post reports.

Documents obtained by PETA show the FBI was told the group planned to release anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Washington D.C.

“I was bowled over by it,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said. “It was such a disappointment. I don’t know if someone just hated us, but it’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s total fantasy.”

The FBI declined to comment.

FBI Worried About Increase in Lasers Being Pointed at Aircraft

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI reported an increasing number of lasers being pointed at aircraft and pilots in the New York area, CNN reports.

The 17% increase is concerning because lasers can temporarily or permanently blind a pilot or crew. Earlier this year, several pilots suffered significant eye injuries, including a burnt retina.

On Tuesday, at least two incidents of green lasers were reported, according to CNN.

“The FBI is asking anyone with information about any of these dangerous laser incidents to pick up the phone and call us,” Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”

 

 

Justice Department: California Prisons’ Handling of Riots Often Violate Federal Constitution

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

California prisons are violating the federal constitution by isolating people based on race after a riot, the Associated Press reports.

When a riot breaks out, officers often lock up entire races of people to prevent further violence.

But the Justice Department said in a recent court filing that the practice violates the 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection, the AP wrote.

The policy “is not based on any individual analysis of prisoner behavior, but rather on generalized fears of racial violence. Indeed, the policy affects hundreds of prisoners throughout the (prison) system who the state acknowledges have absolutely no gang ties or history of violence,” according to the filing signed by the chiefs of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Washington Times: Obama’s Poor Choice for Homeland Security Secretary

By the Washington Times 
Editorial Page

Janet Napolitano finally retired as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to take a job as president of the University of California.

That’s good news for friends of reason, good sense and liberty, considering her tenure was marked by the implementation of backdoor amnesty schemes.

The not-so-good news is that President Obama’s replacement doesn’t sound much better. Jeh Johnson, formerly the top lawyer at the Pentagon, was crowned, or bemedaled, or beribboned, or whatever may be appropriate for that job, in a Rose Garden ceremony Friday. He was a Manhattan trial lawyer and a lobbyist who was general counsel at the Defense Department during Mr. Obama’s first term.

The department looks dysfunctional, and may need someone more than a professional lobbyist.

To read more click here.

FBI Apologizes for Press Release That Gives False Credit to Head of Connecticut Office

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI office in Connecticut issued an unusual apology after sending out a press release with false information about the office’s new head, Patricia Ferrick said.

The Hartford Courant reports that the Sept. 23 news release incorrectly credited Ferrick for playing a key role in an investigation she wasn’t involved in.

“Ms. Ferrick left the ranks of management [at FBI headquarters in Washington] in 2005 and transferred to the New Haven Division after being selected primary investigator of a high-profile case involving the governor of Connecticut,” the news release read.

Turns out, Ferrick didn’t investigate the case, according to the Courant.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Detroit Cop on ATF Task Force Dies From Wounds Suffered in April Shootout

By Allan Lengel
Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — Detroit cop Patrick Hill — part of a federal task force– who was critically wounded in a shootout with a murder suspect in early April on the city’s west side, died Saturday, a source tells Deadline Detroit.

Hill got into a shootout while trying to arrest a murder suspect. The suspect was killed by law enforcement. Another officer was wounded during the shootout, but was treated and released from the hospital within 24 hours of the shooting.

Details about his death were sketchy.

Originally, back in April, it was reported that Hill was shot in the head multiple times. Reports later came out that he may have been hit by shrapnel or metal fragments, possibly from a car that was hit by bullets.

Hill was a highly respected cop on the task force.

 

Parker: U.S. Attorney Joe Hayes, A Contributor to the Rule of Law (1940-2013)

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008″.

Roy Hayes

 
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Roy C. (Joe) Hayes, the 45th United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan (1986-89), died earlier this month.  Although his contributions extended to several other venues, it is this service that stands out for those of us who were privileged to work with and for him in the federal system.

Considering the epochal changes that occurred to the federal criminal justice system during his term, Joe’s common sense and leadership provided a steady hand at the Office tiller. Plus he was one of the nicest guys you could work for. His personal and professional history made a significant contribution to the rule of law in Michigan, in both the state and federal systems.

He was born on June 19, 1940 in Detroit, and he grew up in the city, where his father operated an advertising and public relations business.  At an early age, he was given the nickname “Joe,” and it stuck throughout his life among his friends and co-workers. He was graduated from the University of Notre Dame High School in 1958, and with his strong Irish and Roman Catholic background, he naturally chose to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1962.  He then went to law school at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1965.

Joe was selected in 1966 to be the Editor of the Detroit Lawyer, the primary publication of the Detroit Bar Association.  During this same time, he served as public relations counsel of the State Bar of Michigan and of the Detroit Bar Association.  In 1967, a tumultuous time for the city, he became an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

He was soon assigned to a heavy schedule of trying major felony cases in one of the busiest criminal courts in the nation.  He developed an expertise in trying murder, arson and fraud cases.  In 1969 he left the office to be Assistant Director of the Crime Control Project for the American Bar Association in Chicago.  The experience of working under the direction of famed trial lawyers Leon Jaworski and Edward Bennett Williams left a strong impression on him.

From 1970 until 1975, Joe Hayes headed the Wayne County Organized Crime Task Force in Detroit.  As the director of the operation, he supervised a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officers who investigated major corruption. His most important case of was the 10th Precinct Police Corruption trial, which involved one of the longest trials in Michigan history.  The nine-month trial involved the first use of metal detectors in a Michigan courtroom.  The case resulted in the conviction of fourteen police officers and six drug traffickers.

Ross Parker

In January 1976, he left the task force to accept the appointment as Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney.  In 1978 he formed the law firm of Hayes and Beatly in Charlevoix and, for seven years, engaged in a diverse legal practice, which he left in 1986 to become United States Attorney.

Few USAs have managed the changes and challenges Joe Hayes faced in his term. The biggest of these was probably the Sentencing Reform Act which caused one of the most important changes in the federal criminal justice system in the twentieth century.  Under the prior “indeterminate” sentencing system, there were almost no limitations on the range of sentences a judge could impose for a particular offense committed by a particular defendant.  The result was a wide disparity of sentences for similarly situated defendants.  The other complaint about this system was that defendants were eligible for parole after serving only one-third of their sentence.  That fact plus a generous good time system made the actual time served by an offender impossible to predict until his or her release on parole.

The Sentencing Guidelines system tried to avoid disparity, uncertainty and unfairness by requiring judges to impose sentences within a narrow range.  The Sentencing Commission developed a time grid based on the category of the offense and the criminal record of the offender. 

The defendant would serve “real time” sentences, minus the prescribed good time allowance. Parole was replaced by a mandatory period of supervised release tacked on after an inmate left prison. Although it had several important benefits, the system was incredibly complicated and many practitioners predicted disastrous chaos. Plus mandatory minimums could be indiscriminately harsh. AUSAs faced criticism for the new system on a daily basis. Joe’s patience and encouragement got us through a challenging time of adjustment.

 

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