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DEA to Reduce Opioid Manufacturing by 25% in 2017 to Curb Abuse, Overdoses

Fentanyl tablets

Fentanyl tablets

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA’s fight against painkiller abuse has prompted the agency to reduce opioid manufacturing by 25% in 2017.

The cutback will affect drugs such as fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, the Verge reports. 

The good news is, fewer prescriptions are being written for opioids as doctors are becoming more aware of painkiller abuse and its link to heroin use.

The abuse of heroin and opioids are a major reason that 2014 was the deadliest year on record for drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 60% of the overdoses involved an opioid.

Opioids also have become the second most popular drug for non-medical use after marijuana.

Other Stories of Interest

Depth in the Sands: The Horror of the U.S.-Mexico Border

How the FBI Wound Up Destroying Evidence in Clinton Investigation

FBI Nab ISIS Terrorist Trying to Kill U.S. Soldier

FBI Hopes Sketch Will Help Solve 40-Year-Old Ohio Cold Case

Former FBI Agent Named Head of Erie County Central Police Services

DEA Backs Off Kratom Ban – for Now – After Mounting Public Pressure

Kratom pill, via Wikipedia.

Kratom pill, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Under mounting public pressure, the DEA has delayed the ban on Kratom, a Southeast Asian tree leaf that is said to be helpful for pain relief and heroin abuse.

The DEA had planned to name the herb as an illegal Schedule 1 substance, which would have placed it in the same category as heroin.

Despite the delay, Kratom sellers and users and some lawmakers are worried the ban will still happen, KTVU reports.

Owner of Twisted Thistle Apothicaire in Berkeley said Kratom is very popular and effective.

“We didn’t get into this business for Kratom. Kratom found us,” said owner Ethan Franc.

The DEA claims Kratom is addictive and has hallucinogenic properties and therefore should be banned.

Federal Investigators Struggle to Determine Cause of New Jersey Train Crash

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The federal investigation into the crash of a commuter train in Hoboken, N.J., has failed so far to uncover what went wrong because of a lack of evidence.

The New Kersey Transit train crashed into the wall of a station, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others.

Investigators said one of the train’s data recorder was not working at the time of the crash. The second data recorder is trapped in the front of the train, and it’s too dangerous to retrieve the device at this time, McClatchy reports. 

Also at the front of the train is a forward-facing camera that has also been inaccessible.

The NTSB has used a drone to survey the crash scene, but it wasn’t helpful in determining a cause.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI to Announce Location of New Headquarters in December

The FBI's current headquarters is called the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C.

The FBI’s current headquarters is called the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington D.C.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has been searching for a new headquarters for years.

Finally, the wait is about to come to an end, according to CPExecutive.com. 

The FBI is expected to announce its decision on the location of the new $2.5 billion headquarters in December. In July 2014, the potential sites were narrowed down to Greenbelt, Md., Landover, Md., and Springfield, Va.

Under the deal, the winning bidder will build the new headquarters and take possession of the current headquarters.

CPExecutive wrote:

Given the issues with the Hoover Building’s deferred maintenance and deteriorating concrete that were documented for some years before the decision was made to have the FBI bail out for a new headquarters, it seems likely that whoever the new owner is, they will demolish much or all of the hulking structure.

Finally, when the new location opens, it will be deja vu all over again for the FBI. When the Hoover Building opened in June 1974, the agency had headquarters employees scattered across nine buildings. And it took till June 1977 for the last of the FBI’s employees to finally relocate into the Hoover Building.

Veteran FBI Agent John F. Good, Who Oversaw ABSCAM Scandal, Has Died

FBI Abscam tape

FBI Abscam tape

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Veteran FBI agent John F. Good, who was integral to uncovering the ABSCAM scandal that brought down six House members, a U.S. senator and 12 others in the 1970s, has died.

Good was 80 and died Wednesday at his Island Park home, Newsday reports. 

Good oversaw the ABSCAM anti-corruption operation that was depicted in the film, “American Hustle.”

Good’s brother confirmed the death.

Outgoing Leader of Justice Department’s National Security Division Speaks out about Hackers

hacker-istock-photoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

John Carlin, the leader of the Justice Department’s national security division, said cybersecurity has become a major focus as nation states and individuals target U.S. infrastructure and business.

NPR spoke to Carlin, who is leaving after serving in the government for 17 years, about the new challenges facing the Justice Department.

Here is a partial transcript of his interview with NPR:

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We’re going to hear now from the man who’s led the Justice Department’s National Security effort. And one of his big priorities has been protecting the U.S. from hackers. John Carlin sat down with NPR’s Carrie Johnson as he prepares to leave the government.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: When he took the job three years ago, John Carlin didn’t expect to spend so much time on cybersecurity.

JOHN CARLIN: I would just say to any of those out there considering whether or not to try to harm the United States through cyber means, we have a message, which is we can figure out who did it and when we do, we’re not afraid to impose consequences, and we will.

JOHNSON: The U.S. government has already gone after three major cyber adversaries, China, North Korea and Iran. That leaves one more, Russia. Senior members of Congress have blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee and for breaking into the voter registration systems in nearly two dozen states. It’s part of what lawmakers call a plot designed to undermine confidence in the American electoral system.

Carlin wouldn’t say whether indictments are imminent against anyone in Russia. But he did say actions have consequences.

CARLIN: And we would take very, very seriously an attempt to undermine the integrity of our democracy.

JOHNSON: In 2014, his prosecutors indicted five members of the People’s Liberation Army of China for stealing secrets from American businesses.

CARLIN: And their activities spiked at 9:00 a.m. Beijing time. This is their day job.

Parker: Supreme Court Opens the Term with Criminal Case Arguments

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.

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

US_Supreme_Court

The Supreme Court opens the 2016-2017 term on Monday with only 8 Justices because of the death last spring of Justice Scalia. The conventional wisdom is that the Court will do its best to avoid the confusion of 4-4 voting splits by postponing controversial cases another Justice is confirmed. Of course that is not always possible, particularly when the case had already been accepted while the Court was at full strength or when a case is unavoidable. An example of the latter would be a voting controversy after the Presidential election such as the 2000 case which confirmed George W. Bush’s election. God forbid the only thing that could make this election any crazier.

The Court has broad discretion in deciding what cases to accept for decision. Certiorari is granted in only about 80 of the 8,000 odd petitions that are filed. Oral arguments occur about 5 or 6 days a month from October to April. After the argument the Justices meet privately and take a preliminary vote. If the Chief Justice is in the majority, he will assign the author of the opinion. If he is in the minority, the senior Justice does so.

October’s case selections are somewhat unusual in that of the 8 cases scheduled for argument, 6 of them are criminal. Moreover, one of the two civil cases involves an issue of the liability of law enforcement agents who are sued for unconstitutional searches. Usually criminal cases comprise a third or less of the full opinion docket, about half that number of oral arguments in a month.

The first case scheduled for oral argument in the term, Bravo-Fernandez and Martinez-Maldonado v. US, involves a Puerto Rican Senator and businessman convicted of bribery in connection with gifts (Las Vegas boxing match tickets) provided to the Senator who then proceeded to vote in favor of legislation which benefitted the businessman. However, during the same prosecution, the jury also acquitted the two of other charges directly related to the issue of bribery. The verdict was irreconcilably inconsistent. On appeal the substantive bribery convictions were vacated due to erroneous instructions. The government seeks to re-try the vacated counts.

The issue before the Court is whether the factual conclusions underlying the acquittals should work to preclude the retrial under the Collateral Estoppel doctrine of the Double Jeopardy Clause. That is, should the jury’s acquittals prevent the government from retrying the defendants a second time on the charges of the vacated convictions?

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

As a general rule the government cannot re-litigate fact issues resolved against it in a previous prosecution. However, an exception to this rule is made in the case of inconsistent verdicts. The question is whether vacated convictions can be considered under double jeopardy to decide if the verdicts were inconsistent.

Four amicus briefs have been filed in support of the defendants’ arguments. The appeal is a prime example of why amicus briefs should be read to fully understand the issue and what is at stake in the case. One of them in particular filed on behalf of the Cato Institute is a good example of this practice ignored by most lawyers who follow Supreme Court cases. It was authored by Cato’s counsel on the appeal, David Debold, and it presents a thoughtful and erudite discussion on why the history of double jeopardy should preclude the re-trial on the vacated counts. Those of us who have worked beside Mr. Debold can only smile appreciatively at his use of an obscure theory of quantum physics to explain his point that a vacated conviction does not exist legally and so cannot be used to support the proposition that the verdicts are inconsistent.

Read more »

Stejskal: Robin Hood in Reverse – A $1.1 Million SCAM

2000px-robin_hood_logo-svg

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

In 2005 Female Jones (not her real name), an indigent woman living in public housing in Ann Arbor, Mich., discovered she wasn’t eligible for federal housing assistance. The reason she wasn’t eligible was because it appeared she was already receiving “Section 8” voucher payments. Jones wasn’t aware of receiving any assistance. So it was assumed that there was a bureaucratic snafu, but an investigation revealed something far more nefarious.

Section 8 vouchers are so-called because they are authorized under Section 8 of the Federal Housing Act of 1937, part of the New Deal legislation designed to help people suffering the effects of the Great Depression. In 1974 the Housing Act was amended to create the Section 8 voucher program. Low income people would be eligible for vouchers that would pay a percentage of their rent in approved housing facilities. The money for the program would be provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but the program would be administered by the state and local public housing agencies.

There was only a limited amount of funding available. So not all eligible people would receive vouchers. In Michigan a waiting list existed and waits of 3-6 years were not uncommon.

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal

The voucher payments were made directly to the indigent tenants’ landlords to minimize the opportunity for fraud. Housing voucher agents working for the state prepared the application forms for the indigent applicants. These agents obtained background information and determined whether the applicants met the eligibility requirements.

Female Jones’ caseworker determined that she was enrolled in the Section 8 program, and voucher payments were being sent to Washtenaw Payee Services, a company that appeared to receive Section 8 payments on behalf of several landlords in Washtenaw County. Because the woman was unaware of the payments, and they were not being received by her landlord, the caseworker reported the problem to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

MSHDA’s initial investigation indicated there might be some fraudulent activity. As the Section 8 program is federally funded, they reported their concerns to the FBI, and a joint FBI/MSHDA investigation was begun.

Although Washtenaw Payment Services (WPS) appeared to have an office with a street address, it turned out to be a private mailbox service which is often a red flag in a fraud investigation.

The bank records for WPS were obtained via subpoena. Those records showed that WPS was formed in 1990 when LaToya Cotton filed business papers with Washtenaw County and opened a bank account. Since 1994, about 11 years, WPS had been receiving Section 8 voucher payments ostensibly for landlords of low-income tenants enrolled in the program.

The striking thing was the founder of WPS, LaToya Cotton, was a Michigan housing agent responsible for enrolling prospective low-income applicants for Section 8 vouchers. But even more troubling, it didn’t appear that any money had been paid from the WPS account to any landlords on behalf of the Section 8 enrollees.

LaToya Cotton became a Michigan housing agent for MSHDA in 1994. Very soon thereafter she concocted her scheme.

Read more »