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June 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

News Story

Does Robert Mueller Have A Conflict of Interest With The Russian Probe and an Oligarch?

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Allan Lengel

Life is complicated.

In 2009, when Robert S. Mueller III ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.

John Solomon writes in The Hill that’s  the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.

The Levinson mission is confirmed by more than a dozen participants inside and outside the FBI, including Deripaska, his lawyer, the Levinson family and a retired agent who supervised the case, Solomon writes.


Electronic Frontier Foundation Wants to Know About the 7,800 Phones the FBI Says It Can’t Hack

mobile phone in hand vector silhouette on white background

By Allan Lengel

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is curious about the FBI’s claim that it had nearly 7,800 phones it couldn’t hack into while investigating crimes in 2017.

So, the foundation has submitted a FOIA request to the FBI, as well as the Offices of the Inspector General and Information Policy at DOJ, asking the FBI to tell the public how they arrived at that 7,775 devices figure, when and how the FBI discovered that some outside entity was capable of hacking the San Bernardino iPhone, and what the FBI was telling Congress about its capabilities to hack into cellphones.

The Foundation writes:

When law enforcement argues for legally mandating encryption backdoors into our devices, and justifies that argument by claiming they can’t get in any other way, it’s important for legislators and the public to know whether that justification is actually true.

Mexican Police Commander Pleads No Contest to Leaking Sensitive DEA Information to Drug Cartel Members

By Allan Lengel

Here’s a scenario that has been played out countless times over the years.

Jason McGahan of the Daily Beast reports:

A top-ranking Mexican police commander who was the point person for intelligence sharing between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement has pleaded “no contest” in Chicago federal court to charges he leaked sensitive information, including the identity of an informant, to drug cartel members who were targets of a U.S.-led investigation.

Ivan Reyes Arzate, 46, is accused of funneling sensitive information about surveillance operations from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents to the cartel members, who were the objects of those very same operations in Mexico, over a Blackberry Messenger app.

The unusual pleading of “nolo contendere,” which required a judge’s approval, means Reyes Arzate is acknowledging that the particular facts, if presented at trial, would result in a verdict of guilty, but stops short of admitting guilt.

Reyes Arzate flew to Chicago and self-surrendered to law enforcement in April 2017, according to Chris Hotaling, assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

Theft Trial for ATF Senior Agent in Alabama is Delayed

By Allan Lengel

Trial in Birmingham, Ala., for senior ATF agent Jay Bagwell, who is charged with theft, has been delayed as a result of back surgery, reports.

The “prescribed pain medication renders the defendant unable to effectively participate in the defense of his case,” U.S. Chief Judge Karon O Bowdre wrote. The trial will resume when he recovers.

An indictment alleges that in November 2014 Bagwell “embezzled, stole, purloined, and knowingly converted to his use and the use of another, a thing of value of the United States and of any department or agency thereof.” The indictment only says that the amount of money exceeds $1,000.

“It is our privilege to represent Jay Bagwell, a twenty-five year veteran ATF agent. If a thorough investigation had been conducted by the government, and Mr. Bagwell allowed to provide documentation, this charge would have never existed,” defense attorney Lance Bell said. “We have provided documentation to the government to exonerate this charge and restore Mr. Bagwell’s good name. I wish that I could say more at this time, but I think that the end result will speak for itself.

Rep. Issa Rips DOJ, FBI, Accuses Them of Misleading Congress in Russia Probe

Rep. Darrell Issa

By Allan Lengel

The war of words inside the Beltway over the Trump-Russia investigation shows no signs of letting up.

Rep. Darrell Issa accused the Justice Department and FBI of purposefully misleading Congress when it comes to the origin of the Trump-Russia investigation, Real Clear Politics reports.

“I believe they’re lying through their teeth,” Issa said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo.

Issa, formerly chair of the Oversight Committee, claims it “very much a tradition” for the Justice Department to lie to Congress. He wished Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy good luck finding the truth.

“To be honest, the deputy needs to recuse himself. We need to have a level of transparency. Probably not one person but multiple people who in fact oversee this to make sure that the American people get what they deserve,” Issa said.

An Offer Philly Mob Boss ‘Skinny Joey’ Couldn’t Refuse

Jerry Capeci is regarded as an expert on the mob. His website, Gang Land News, is a subscription-based website. This article was republished with permission.

Gang Land photo

By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

In the end, it was an offer Philadelphia mob boss Joseph (Skinny Joey) Merlino couldn’t refuse. After battling federal  prosecutors to a draw in a hard-fought racketeering trial earlier this year, the flamboyant 56-year-old life-long gambler has decided that the better bet is to take a plea deal with the government for the first — and he hopes the only time — in a long and storied career of forcing the law to prove its case before a jury of his peers.

A very important reason was that the usually hard-driving prosecutors in the so-called Sovereign District of New York agreed to give Skinny Joey an amazingly sweet plea deal — a guarantee that the most severe prison term the mob boss could receive from a judge who has publicly stated that he was a major organized crime figure is two years behind bars. None of the 44 other lesser ranked wiseguys and mobs associates who copped plea deals rather than go to trial — not even the minor defendants who pleaded guilty to selling untaxed cigarettes — was allowed to plead guilty to a charge carrying a maximum sentence of two years behind bars. As Skinny Joey well knows, it could have been worse.

The gambling and fraud charges listed in the four-count indictment against him could have brought a prison sentence of 10 years given Merlino’s two prior federal convictions and his designation in the case as one of the leaders of an East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise.

Despite the great deal, several sources have told Gang Land that Merlino was on the fence about taking the government’s offer. Skinny Joey, whose lawyer described him at trial as a “degenerate gambler,” wanted to go to trial again, but the thought of what a loss would have meant to his family convinced him to take the deal.

Merlino has an older daughter graduating from college in a few weeks and his  younger daughter is on schedule to graduate in two years. If his sentencing falls right, he hopes to still be free for the first graduation and to have finished his latest prison term in time for the next one. His change of tune — “The only thing I’ll accept is an apology” was what he was telling associates after his mistrial — stems in part from advice from close friends, but also from his realization that he and his attorneys would not be able to present what they felt were some of their best arguments to the jury. During the trial, his lawyers were barred from playing any secretly recorded conversations in which Merlino disavowed his mob connections and in which he said he would not get involved in anything illegal.

Ruled Inadmissable

Those comments, in conversations with key government informant John (JR) Rubeo, were ruled inadmissible by Judge Richard Sullivan. Sullivan ruled the comments were self-serving and proved nothing. Merlino realized it was unlikely the judge would rule differently in a retrial. Sources say Merlino has apparently agreed to plead guilty to one gambling charge — placing bets via the Internet.

Three more serious charges, tied to medical insurance fraud and bookmaking , as well as the most serious charge, racketeering conspiracy, will be dropped, the sources say. And Merlino’s sentencing guideline range will be between 10 and 16 months, those same sources say.

He is scheduled to appear before Judge Sullivan on April 27 to enter the plea. A sentencing hearing would be scheduled sometime after that. In his prior skirmishes with the law, Skinny Joey has been convicted of an armored truck robbery and of racketeering. He was acquitted of murder, attempted murder and drug dealing charges. After his release to a halfway house in Florida in 2012, Merlino insisted that he was leaving his life of crime behind.

Gang Land photo

But federal authorities have a different perspective. They argue that despite relocating to Boca Raton, the transplanted South Philadelphia corner boy has continued to run the Philadelphia crime family. In the current case Merlino was identified as the boss of the Philadelphia branch of Cosa Nostra, an allegation he has continued to deny.

Merlino has told associates that he was unjustly targeted in the case because of his reputation and alleged standing in the underworld. He has portrayed himself as a victim of overzealous prosecutors and less than reliable mob informants who were using him as a get-out-of-jail-free card. In addition to the sweetened federal offer — and a chance to be home for both his daughters’ graduations — reports that many jurors had been leaning toward conviction likely play a role in his decision. Court room sources placed the votes at 10-2 and 9-3 for conviction on insurance fraud and bookmaking charges even though Rubeo, the prosecution’s key witness, came across as less than credible under heavy cross-examination by Merlino’s long time, Atlantic City-based lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr.

But as is often the case in mob trials, it was the tapes that appeared to be Merlino’s undoing. The credibility and motivation of cooperating witnesses like Rubeo can easily be challenged. JR was described by Jacobs in his opening statement to the jury as “an arch criminal,” a mob associate who began cooperating after getting jammed up in a major cocaine trafficking case that could have landed the 43-year-old in jail for life.

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Majority of Republicans Believe FBI, DOJ Are ‘Framing’ Trump

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling

A majority of Republicans believe the FBI is conspiring to frame President Trump as part of the special counsel investigation into connections between his campaign and Russia, according to a new poll from YouGov released Wednesday

Participants were asked, “Do you believe Donald Trump is being framed by the FBI and the Department of Justice?”

The survey found that 61% of Republicans believe he is. Only 17% of Republicans think Trump is not being framed, while 21% are unsure.

Overall, though, only 29% of Americans believe the FBI and Justice Department are conspiring to frame the president.

The poll surveyed 1,500 American adults in early May.

The survey had a margin of error of 3%.

FBI Captures Georgia Man Wanted in 1996 Murder

By Steve Neavling

Hector Ulises Garay spent 22 years running from charges that he murdered a Georgia man during an attempted robbery.

The 51-year-old fugitive is now behind bars after he was captured in El Salvador, where members of the FBI’s Atlanta Metro Major Offender Task Force picked him up and transported him back to Atlanta. He’s now lodged in the Gwinnett County Jail without bond on murder charges. 

Border agents in Central America flagged Garay when he tried to travel from El Salvador to Honduras.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes. These fugitives never go off our radar,” FBI spokesperson Kevin Rowson to Fox 5 News

Gary is accused of murdering Adalberto Salines during an attempted robbery at Salines’ home on Jan. 21, 1996.

According to the FBI, Garay shot and killed Salines when he wouldn’t let him in the home. “We don’t believe people should get away with murder,” Rowson said. 

Other Stories of Interest