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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 »

Orange County Register: Why FBI Should Disclose How iPhone Was Hacked

Apple-iphoneBy Editorial Board
Orange County Register

After the San Bernardino attack in December that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others, the FBI hired a private hacker to unlock the iPhone of one of the two dead terrorists. Perhaps the FBI learned some of Syed Rizwan Farook’s evil secrets. But it also created unsettling secrets of its own.

The mysteries left over from the episode start with these: Who is the unnamed private party the FBI paid to break the smartphone’s security device? How much taxpayer money did the agency pay?

News organizations that have been stiff-armed by the FBI in their Freedom of Information Act request now are suing the bureau for answers.

We hope they succeed. The public should be able to know more about how the FBI cracked the privacy safeguards on the terrorist’s Apple phone. This is about more than one investigation and one wrongdoer’s phone – it’s about the threat that the government’s ability to break into electronic devices could pose to anybody’s online privacy and safety, especially if the tools fell into the wrong hands.

As stated in the lawsuit – filed last week by the Associated Press, the Gannett media company and the Vice Media digital and broadcasting company – “Understanding the amount that the FBI deemed appropriate to spend on the tool, as well as the identity and reputation of the vendor it did businesses with, is essential for the public to provide effective oversight of government functions and help guard against potential improprieties.”

To read more click here. 

FBI: Did NYPD Lt. Shoot Himself to Avoid Testifying Against Former Boss?

nypd badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Authorities are questioning whether an NYPD lieutenant shot himself twice in the stomach to avoid testifying against his friend and former boss.

The New York Post reports that Lt. Peter Salzone shot himself after he was interviewed by the FBI as part of a corruption investigation into the NYPD.

Salzone had been asked to testify against his former boss, NYPD Deputy Inspector James Grant.

The Post wrote:

The NYPD’s Force Investigation Division is looking at the possibility that Salzone never intended to kill himself and merely wanted to appear emotionally unstable to sabotage his credibility as a witness, according to sources.

Salzone was stripped of his gun and badge Saturday. He could not be reached for comment.

He is the second police officer to shoot himself after getting called into the federal inquiry, which has seen dozens of cops get grilled.

Homeland Security: Hackers Targeted Election Systems in 20+ States

ballot box flintBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The voter registration systems of more than 20 states have been targeted by hackers in recent months, a Homeland Security official said.

The discovery comes as election officials are worried about foreign hackers compromising the elections. But federal officials said hackers likely would not be able to alter the outcome of an election because the systems are generally not connected to the Internet, the Associated Press reports. 

It’s still not clear where the hackers are from and what their motives are.

The FBI has warned state officials about election security in the wake of the suspected hacking attempts.

FBI Director James Comey said last week that the bureau is investigating whether Russian hackers are trying to disrupt the election.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson encouraged state election officials to secure their election systems by implementing existing technical recommendations.

Authorities Say Black Box Wasn’t Working During N.J. Train Crash in Hoboken

New Jersey Transit train, via Wikipedia.

New Jersey Transit train, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Authorities hoping to determine what caused a New Jersey Transit train to crash in Hoboken received bad news Sunday.

The black box that was recovered was not working at the time of the accident, the New York Daily News reports. 

The black box, which was recovered from the rear of the train, recorded no information. It was built in 1995.

The engineer of the train told the National Transportation Safety Board that he doesn’t remember the fatal crash, but said the train was traveling 10 mph as it entered the station.

Another recorder was located at the front end of the train, but it has not been found.

“Right now it is very dangerous to get in there,” NTSB vice chair Bella Dinh-Zarr said. “We’re hopeful that that will have information, that it will be functioning.”

The Thursday morning crash killed one person and injured more than 100 people.

Other Stories of Interest