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Nine More Charged in Scheme to Defraud Holocaust Victims Fund of Tens of Millions of Dollars

FBI's Janet Fedarcyk/fbi file photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The massive scandal to rip off a charitable Holocaust fund designed to benefit victims who were persecuted by the Nazis, continued to unravel in N.Y.  on Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan announced the arrest of eight more people for being part of  a plot to defraud the fund out of  $57.3 million. A ninth person charged is expected to surrender voluntarily.

Five of those arrested are former employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which administered the charitable programs. The five were charged with knowingly approving nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in the payout to unqualified applicants, in exchange for kickbacks. Since prosecution began in the case, a total of 30 people have been charged in connection with the scheme.

The latest folks charged in the case include: Henry Gordin; Genrikh Kolontyrskiy; Viktor Levin; Ella Voskresenskiy; Zlata Blavatnik; Pyotr Blavatnik; Yevgeniya Abramovich; Asya Galindo; and Lana Kagan, the ninth who is expected to surrender voluntarily.

“These defendants had a hand in fabricating, filing, or processing nearly 5,000 fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants,” Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the N.Y. FBI said in a statement. Claims Conference funds have been drained of $57 million meant for Holocaust victims, and a large portion of the diverted money went into the pockets of corrupt insiders. These were people hired to give who conspired to take.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara added:  “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust. With today’s charges, we have now identified 30 people who allegedly exploited a fund that is as symbolically important as it is necessary to its beneficiaries. We again thank the Claims Conference for their outstanding ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme.”

 Read press release

 

Suburban D.C. Man Accused of Spying for Syria

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the suburbs of D.C., resident Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid was more than just a suburban dweller, at least according to the FBI.

Authorities announced this week charges against the 47-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, who lived in Leesburg, Va., and allegedly collected video and audio recordings and other information about people in the U.S. and Syria who were protesting the government of Syria.

Authorities alleged the he turned over materails to Syrian intelligence agencies “in order to silence, intimidate, and potentially harm the protestors.” He was arrested on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., charged him with conspiring to act as an agent of the Syrian government in the United States without notifying the Attorney General as required by law; two counts of providing false statements on a firearms purchase form; and two counts of providing false statements to federal law enforcement.

“The ability to assemble and protest is a cherished right in the United States, and it’s troubling that a U.S. citizen from Leesburg is accused of working with the Syrian government to identify and intimidate those who exercise that right,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of Alexandria said in a statement. “Spying for another country is a serious threat to our national security, especially when it threatens the ability of U.S. citizens to engage in political speech within our own borders.”

 

Ex-FBI Agent and Wife Charged in $1.3 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

 
 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI special agent and his wife have been charged in Richmond, Va. federal court in a $1.3 million investment fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Ex-agent John Robert Graves, 52, and Sara Turberville Graves, 44, both of Fredericksburg, Va., are charged with multiple counts.

Authorities said that Graves founded Brook Point Management (BPM) in 2003, a company that sold insurance, performed estate and tax planning services and recruited and advised investment clients.

The indictment alleges that between June 2008 and July 2011, John Graves, Sara Graves, and others schemed to defraud approximately 11 investors in central Virginia of approximately $1.3 million.

Authorities alleged that the couple raised investor funds by misrepresenting “the safety and security of the investments, as well as misrepresentations and omissions regarding their use of investor money.”

Authorities alleged that the two used the investor funds to pay back previous investors who requested access to their money; purchase real estate in Partlow, Va.; and pay personal expenses, including credit card bills and time share dues. Authorities alleged that even after the scheme was uncovered, John Graves continued to make misrepresentations through false and misleading statements to the investors and to investigators from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

FBI Denies Playing Any Role in Boston Globe Naming Bulger Tipster

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy surrounding the decision by the Boston Globe to publish the name of the woman who tipped off the FBI as to the whereabouts of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, continued on Wednesday.

The FBI in Boston posted a statement on its website denying it played any role in the publication of the name, Anna Bjornsdottir, a former Miss Iceland, who split her time between Iceland and Santa Monica, Calif., where she lived near Bulger and his companion Catherine Greig.

“Recently, a news outlet chose to publish the alleged identity of one of the tipsters involved in locating FBI Top Ten Fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger and Catherine Grieg. It is important to note, despite numerous media requests to provide the name of one of the tipsters, at no time has the FBI furnished the name, provided comment, or confirmed the accuracy of any reporting about the tipsters.”

“In defending against public criticism about the decision to publish the name of the alleged tipster, reporters and editors from the news outlet attempted to justify it by stating the FBI did not raise any objections in advance.

“That explanation suggested the FBI was culpable for the publishing of this information. To the contrary, the FBI’s silence on these inquiries should not be seen as acquiescence to that editorial decision. Had the FBI responded one way or the other, the effect would have been to confirm or deny the identity of one of the tipsters.”

“The decision by the news outlet to use an individual’s name and photograph was a decision made solely and independently by that news outlet.”

The Globe reported on the FBI statement and provided further explanation for publishing the name.

Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for local news, said the newspaper never reported that the FBI had no objections to identifying the tipster, only that it did not raise any concerns about her personal safety.

“A great deal of thought and discussion went into the decision to name the tipster,’’ Peter said. “And in a case such as this, where there have been so many deceptions and lies in the past and where there were so many conspiracy theories circulating as to what actually happened, it seemed imperative to give as accurate and full an accounting as we could.’’

The Globe reported that is decision to publish the name of the tipster drew criticism from its rival, the Boston Herald and Globe readers.

 

Assassination Plot Was So Clumsy, Officials at First Doubted Iran’s Role

By Joby Warrick and and Thomas Erdbrink
The Washington Post

The straight-out-of-pulp-fiction plot by alleged Iranian operatives to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington was so badly bungled that investigators initially were skeptical that Iran’s government was behind it, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Officials laying out the details of the case owned up to their early doubts about an Iranian role as they sought to counter skepticism and confusion about the unusual scheme — one that happens to carry far-reaching international consequences.

Less than 24 hours after disclosing the disruption of the alleged plot, the Obama administration spent much of Wednesday outlining the evidence, not only to journalists but also to international allies and members of Congress. In briefings and phone calls, U.S. officials sought to explain how Iran’s vaunted Quds Force allegedly ended up enlisting a used-car salesman and a Mexican drug gang in a plan to kill Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador and blow up embassies in Washington and Buenos Aires.

To read full story click here.

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Atty. Gen. Holder Holds Up Underwear Bomber Case As a Positive Example of Prosecuting Terrorism in Civilian Courts

Eric Holder Jr./ticklethewire.com file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. took the opportunity  following the guilty plea Wednesday morning of  the “Underwear Bomber” to hold the case up as another example of the success the Justice Department has had prosecuting terrorism cases in civilian courts.

“Contrary to what some have claimed, today’s plea removes any doubt that our courts are one of the most effective tools we have to fight terrorism and keep the American people safe,” Holder said in a statement. “Our priority in this case was to ensure that we arrested a man who tried to do us harm, that we collected actionable intelligence from him and that we prosecuted him in a way that was consistent with the rule of law.”

“We will continue to be aggressive in our fight against terrorism and those who target us, and we will let results, not rhetoric, guide our actions.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty to all eight counts on Wednesday in the second day of his terrorism trial in downtown Detroit. He was accused of trying to blow up a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

The statement comes in wake of sharp criticism from Republicans in the past couple years over the Justice Department’s push to prosecute many of the terrorism cases in the civilian courts.

Some Republicans have argued that the cases should be prosecuted in a military court. They’ve also been critical of the FBI reading Miranda warnings to terrorist suspects.

FBI agents read the underwear bomber his rights after questioning him for a while.

 

Florida Man Arrested in Celebrity Hacking Case

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Though he may be a hero to some the world over, a Florida resident was arrested Wednesday for hacking the computers and releasing information from Hollywood celebrities, including the infamous nude photos of actress Scarlett Johansson.

The FBI said Wednesday that it had arrested Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Fla. without incident in the morning on a host of cyber-related charges.

The investigation, dubbed Hackerazzi, began late in 2010, long before the Johansson shots made news.

“While the case against Mr. Chaney involves celebrities who were targeted because of their fame, this case reminds us that we are all potential victims of computer hackers,” said LA U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a statement.

The indictment alleges that Chaney accessed the computers, e-mail accounts and account settings of several victims, beginning November 13, 2010, through February 10, 2011.

The indictment further alleges Chaney also used the identities of some of the victims to illegally access and control computers, and in other instances, “intercepted and endeavored to intercept wire communications; specifically, e-mails and attachments.”

In most cases, Chaney accessed the administrative settings on the victims’ accounts so that all of their e-mails would automatically be forwarded to a separate e-mail account Chaney controlled, authorities said. This form of wiretapping, authorities said, allowed Chaney to continually receive victims’ e-mails even after a password had been reset.

Investigators determined that Chaney distributed some of the files he obtained illegally, including photos of celebrities, and offered them to various celebrity blog sites. Some of the illegally obtained files, including private photographs, were ultimately posted online.

“As we highlight cyber awareness during the month of October, it’s important to remember that, although these victims appear to have been targeted based on their celebrity, similar methods may be used to illegally access any one of our computers,” said Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Strict computer security should be practiced when using smart phones, laptops, desktops, iPads, or any other device that provides Internet access.”

Rep. Issa Issues Subpoena for Atty. Gen. Holder in Fast and Furious

file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethwire.com

The battle inside the Beltway over ATF’s Fast and Furious operation continued Wednesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced Wednesday that he has sent a subpoena to Attorney General Eric Holder as part of his investigation into the program, Fox News reported.

“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” Isssa said in a statement, according to Fox. “The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”

Fox reported that the subpoena seeks communications regarding the operation from 16 top Justice officials, including Holder, his chief of staff, Gary Grindler, and the head of the department’s criminal division, Lanny Breuer, as well as correspondence on specific dates to and from the former head of the ATF’s Phoenix field division, William Newell.