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U.S. Border Patrol Orders Investgation Into Allegations of Arrest Quotas

Quotas are seldom a good idea, particularly in law enforcement.

By AMY TAXIN
Associated Press Writer
SANTA ANA, Calif. — The U.S. Border Patrol on Monday ordered an investigation of allegations by agents in Southern California that they were given arrest quotas and threatened with punishment if they failed to meet them.
Jeffrey Calhoon, El Centro’s chief patrol agent, said he learned the patrol agent in charge of the agency’s Riverside station some 100 miles north of the Mexican border gave agents numerical goals for how many suspected illegal immigrants they should arrest in January.
Calhoon says he has ordered a probe into whether agents were told they would be punished if they failed to meet this target.
“If there is some threatening behavior, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Calhoon said.
The probe comes after Border Patrol agents in Riverside said they were ordered to arrest at least 150 suspected illegal immigrants in January or faced having their work shifts changed.

No one has been suspended during the probe, said Richard Velez, an agency spokesman.

A.G. Holder Recruiting from Blue Chip firms and the Old Clinton Justice Dept.

David Ogden

David Ogden

The recruits have impressive backgrounds. But is it better to dip back into the past for talent or find fresh talent?

By David Ingram and Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — Eric Holder Jr. and David Ogden, two men who have split their time since the mid-1990s between Main Justice and Big Law, are drawing on that experience to recruit their top assistants.
They’re preparing to surround themselves with lawyers from Covington & Burling and from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr-their respective firms for the last eight years-as well as from the ranks of the Clinton-era Department of Justice.
Justice officials say that Holder, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled for a Senate vote today, has chosen Kevin Ohlson as his chief of staff. Ohlson, who is currently the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, served as Holder’s chief of staff when he was deputy attorney general.
Stuart Delery is Ogden’s pick for chief of staff if Ogden is confirmed as deputy attorney general, according to the Justice Department. A Wilmer alum, Delery specializes in securities litigation. He represented the special investigative committees convened by the boards at both Enron and Worldcom. He was also on the team of Wilmer lawyers that represented the University of Michigan in the high-profile Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the consideration of race as a factor in admissions.

For Full Story

Mexican Cartels Keep Finding Ways to Get Marijuana Over the Borders

As long as there’s a demand, the drug cartels will find innovative ways to get the drugs into the U.S. Here’s the latest example of that.
TUCSON — Drug smugglers parked a car transport trailer against the Mexican side of the border one day in December, dropped a ramp over the security fence, and drove two pickup trucks filled with marijuana onto Arizona soil.
As Border Patrol agents gave chase, a third truck appeared on the Mexican side and gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire over the fence at the agents. Smugglers in the first vehicles torched one truck and abandoned the other, with $1 million worth of marijuana still in the truck bed. Then they vaulted back over the barrier into Mexico’s Sonora state.
Despite huge enforcement actions on both sides of the Southwest border, the Mexican marijuana trade is more robust — and brazen — than ever, law enforcement officials say. Mexican drug cartels routinely transported industrial-size loads of marijuana in 2008, excavating new tunnels and adopting tactics like ramp-assisted smuggling to get their cargoes across undetected.
But these are not the only new tactics: the cartels are also increasingly planting marijuana crops inside the United States in a major strategy shift to avoid the border altogether, officials said. Last year, drug enforcement authorities confiscated record amounts of high potency plants from Miami to San Diego, and even from vineyards leased by cartels in Washington State. Mexican drug traffickers have also moved into hydroponic marijuana production — cannabis grown indoors without soil and nourished with sunlamps — challenging Asian networks and smaller, individual growers here.
For Full Story

Two Ex-FBI Agents Say the Agency Should Have Done More to Head Off Mortgage Fraud Disaster

Sure the FBI saw this mortgage mess way back when. And sure it was clear it didn’t have enough resources to deal with it. But back then it wasn’t a disaster. Now it is. And that’s our nature: we seldom address things until they become a crisis. Now we’ve got us a real crisis. Now the FBI wants more resources to deal with it all.

By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
SEATTLE — The FBI was aware for years of “pervasive and growing” fraud in the mortgage industry that eventually contributed to America’s financial meltdown, but did not take definitive action to stop it.
“It is clear that we had good intelligence on the mortgage-fraud schemes, the corrupt attorneys, the corrupt appraisers, the insider schemes,” said a recently retired, high FBI official. Another retired top FBI official confirmed that such intelligence went back to 2002.
The problem, according to the two FBI retirees and several other current and former bureau colleagues, is that the bureau was stretched so thin that no one noticed when those lenders began packaging bad mortgages into bad securities.
“We knew that the mortgage-brokerage industry was corrupt,” the first of the retired FBI officials told the Seattle P-I. “Where we would have gotten a sense of what was really going on was the point where the mortgage was sold knowing that it was a piece of dung and it would be turned into a security. But the agents with the expertise had been diverted to counterterrorism.”
For Full Story

Breaking News: Eric Holder Jr. Confirmed 75-21 as New Atty. General

Eric Holder Jr.

Eric Holder Jr.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — It’s official.
The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Eric. H. Holder Jr. Monday night as the 82nd  Attorney General of United States, replacing Michael Mukasey who was tasked with repairing the damaged reputation of the department.
The vote was 75-21.
Holder,  a well-liked figure in Washington,  becomes the first black Attorney General.  He faced some tough questioning last month about pardons under the Clinton administration during confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But in the end, the committee voted 17-2 to confirm him.
Before Monday’s full Senate vote, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) voiced opposition to the confirmation because of Holder’s pro-gun control views.  Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) said he didn’t agree with all of Holders’ beliefs, but said he supported him.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a big Holdler supporter,  voiced sharp criticism of former A.G. Alberto Gonzalez  while saying that no “nomination for attorney general fills me with greater pride than this one.”

Cleveland Federal Prosecutor Says He Was Fired for Questioning DEA Agent’s Conduct

A federal prosecutor says he was fired for raising questions about a DEA agent. Is the prosecutor a whistleblower or is it simply an internal personnel matter?

John Caniglia
Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter
CLEVELAND — Several years before a grand jury started investigating Drug Enforcement Administration agent Lee Lucas for his role in a bungled probe that sent innocent people to prison, a federal prosecutor wrote a memo to his superiors questioning Lucas’ tactics.
That prosecutor, Thomas Gruscinski, lost his job last month. Gruscinski has hired a lawyer, who says the former prosecutor’s criticism of Lucas led to Gruscinski’s dismissal.
“Mr. Gruscinski’s firing was initiated after he had reported numerous instances of suspected misconduct by members of his office to various agencies of the United States government,” said attorney J. Michael Hannon.
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He pointed out that Gruscinski was “fired in the midst of very serious issues being raised about the conduct of federal law enforcement authorities” in Cleveland.
U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards would not say that Gruscinski, who has been a prosecutor for 21 years, was fired, only that “he no longer works for the Department of Justice.”

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Former Mass Gop Leader Pleads to Money Laundering (AP)

FBI Investigating LA PD Perjury Allegations

The last thing this police department needs is more bad publicity. The question is whether this probe will have any legs.

By Jack Leonard
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities have launched a civil rights investigation into several Los Angeles police officers accused of lying under oath in a drug possession case that was dismissed last year when a videotape sharply contradicted their testimony.
An FBI agent and a federal prosecutor last week surveyed a Hollywood apartment complex where a security camera documented the 2007 arrest of Guillermo Alarcon Jr. by LAPD officers, according to an attorney who represents Alarcon in a civil claim against the Police Department.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the existence of the probe and said that Department of Justice officials in Washington, D.C., would ultimately weigh in on whether federal charges would be filed against the officers.
“We’re investigating allegations that the defendant’s civil rights may have been violated,” said spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. She declined to provide further details.

For Full Story

FBI and IRS Looking at Memphis Mayor’s Lavish Parties

Mayor WIllie Herenton

Mayor WIllie Herenton

In Detroit, the mayor recently went to jail. In Birmingham, Ala., the mayor faces public corruption charges. Ditto for ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. In Arizona, ex-Rep. Rick Renzi faces trial. Ex-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens was recently convicted of wrongdoing. And on and on. Is it that our politicians are doing more and more questionable things, or are authorities getting better at unearthing their indiscretions?

By Amos Maki and Marc Perrusquia
Memphis Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS — The lamb chops were tender, the wine fine and the setting exquisite — an upper room at the luxurious Peabody hotel.
The exclusive parties came at a price: a $1,000 donation to honor Mayor Willie Herenton.
The annual fetes, thrown at Christmas by the mayor’s aide, Pete Aviotti, are legend in Memphis, yet never has interest been more intense or more consuming.
In recent weeks, agents with the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service have been asking about those lavish parties as part of a federal probe focusing on Herenton’s private business dealings.
But if Aviotti is worried that agents have gathered evidence of wrongdoing in staging the parties, he isn’t showing it.
For Full Story