January 25, 2022

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Former Energy Broker Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading and Kickback Scheme

8 min read
<div>A former Texas energy broker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme. </div>
A former Texas energy broker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme. 

More from: June 15, 2021

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  • Indian Education: Schools Need More Assistance to Provide Distance Learning
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), within the Department of the Interior (Interior), has not provided BIE-funded schools with comprehensive guidance on distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, BIE issued a short memo directing schools to “deliver flexible instruction” and “teach content,” but did not offer specific guidance on how to do so. In July 2020, 13 of the 25 schools that responded to GAO's survey said they wanted BIE to provide information on developing and implementing distance learning programs. In addition, 12 schools responded that they wanted information on distance learning methods for areas without broadband internet access. In August 2020, after some schools had already begun the school year, BIE issued a re-opening guide for the 2020-2021 school year. BIE's guidance focused primarily on preparations for in-person instruction at schools, although nearly all schools provided distance learning during the fall of 2020. The guidance contained little information on distance learning. Providing schools with comprehensive distance learning guidance will help them better navigate the current pandemic as well as potential future emergencies that lead to school building closures. BIE helped improve internet access for students at BIE-operated schools during the pandemic, but many students had not received laptops to access online learning by the end of fall 2020. BIE and other Interior offices provided over 7,000 hotspots to students to improve home internet access, but they did not order laptops for most students until September 2020. Interior officials said a nationwide IT supply shortage contributed to the delayed order for about 10,000 laptops. GAO found, however, that delays were also caused in part by BIE not having complete and accurate information on schools' IT needs. Most schools received laptops from late October 2020 to early January 2021, although some laptops still had not been delivered as of late March 2021. Once laptops were delivered, however, schools also faced challenges configuring them, leading to further delays in distributing them to students. BIE officials told GAO that to address schools' challenges with configuring laptops, they are assessing schools' IT workforce needs. Most BIE students did not receive laptops until months after the school year began, according to GAO's analysis of Interior information. Specifically, none of the laptops Interior ordered in early September 2020 arrived in time to distribute to students by the start of the school year in mid-September; by the end of December 2020, schools had not distributed over 80 percent of the student laptops Interior ordered; and as of late March 2021, schools had not distributed about 20 percent of the student laptops Interior ordered. Without accurate, complete, and up-to-date information on schools' IT needs, BIE was unable to ensure that students received laptops when they needed them. Establishing policies and procedures for assessing schools' IT needs would help guide the agency's IT purchases now and in the future, and position schools to integrate technology into their everyday curricula. Why GAO Did This Study BIE's mission is to provide quality education to approximately 41,000 students at 183 schools it funds on or near Indian reservations in 23 states. About two-thirds of these schools are operated by tribes and the remaining third are operated by BIE. In March 2020, all BIE schools closed their buildings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO reviewed distance learning at BIE schools as part of its oversight responsibilities under the CARES Act. This testimony examines the extent to which (1) BIE has provided schools with guidance to develop and implement distance learning programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) students have had the technology they need to participate in such programs. GAO analyzed the guidance BIE provided to schools on distance learning, examined BIE's provision of technology to schools and students, surveyed a non-generalizable sample of 30 schools—including 19 operated by tribes and 11 operated by BIE— with 25 schools responding, selected for geographic diversity and level of community broadband access, among other criteria, reviewed relevant federal statutes, regulations, and agency documentation, and interviewed BIE and school officials.
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  • Cybersecurity: Preliminary Results Show That Agencies’ Implementation of FISMA Requirements Was Inconsistent
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Based on GAO's preliminary results, in fiscal year 2020, the effectiveness of federal agencies' implementation of requirements set by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) varied. For example, more agencies reported meeting goals related to capabilities for the detection and prevention of cybersecurity incidents, as well as those related to access management for users. However, inspectors general (IG) identified uneven implementation of cyber security policies and practices. For fiscal year 2020 reporting, IGs determined that seven of the 23 civilian Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO) agencies had effective agency-wide information security programs. The results from the IG reports for fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2020 were similar with a slight increase in effective programs for 2020. Number of 23 Civilian Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 Agencies with Effective and Not Effective Agency-Wide Information Security Programs, as Reported by Inspectors General for Fiscal Years 2017-2020 GAO has also routinely reported on agencies' inconsistent implementation of federal cybersecurity policies and practices. Since 2010, GAO has made about 3,700 recommendations to agencies aimed at remedying cybersecurity shortcomings; about 900 were not yet fully implemented as of November 2021. More recent GAO reviews have identified weaknesses regarding access controls, configuration management, and the protection of data shared with external entities. GAO has made numerous recommendations to address these. Based on interviews with agency officials, such as chief information security officers, GAO's preliminary results show that officials at 14 CFO Act agencies stated that FISMA enabled their agencies to improve information security program effectiveness to a great extent. Officials at the remaining 10 CFO Act agencies said that FISMA had improved their programs to a moderate extent. The officials also identified impediments to implementing FISMA, such as a lack of resources. Agency officials suggested ways to improve the FISMA reporting process, such as by updating FISMA metrics to increase their effectiveness, improving the IG evaluation and rating process, and increasing the use of automation in report data collection. Why GAO Did This Study Federal systems are highly complex and dynamic, technologically diverse, and often geographically dispersed. Without proper safeguards, computer systems are increasingly vulnerable to attack. As such, since 1997, GAO has designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area. FISMA was enacted to provide federal agencies with a comprehensive framework for ensuring the effectiveness of information security controls. FISMA requires federal agencies to develop, document, and implement an information security program to protect the information and systems that support the operations and assets. It also includes a provision for GAO to periodically report on agencies' implementation of the act. This testimony discusses GAO's preliminary results from its draft report in which the objectives were to (1) describe the reported effectiveness of federal agencies' implementation of cybersecurity policies and practices and (2) evaluate the extent to which relevant officials at federal agencies consider FISMA to be effective at improving the security of agency information systems. To do so, GAO reviewed the 23 civilian CFO Act agencies' FISMA reports, agency-reported performance data, past GAO reports, and OMB documentation and guidance. GAO also interviewed agency officials from the 24 CFO Act agencies (i.e., the 23 civilian CFO Act agencies and the Department of Defense). For more information, contact Jennifer R. Franks at (404) 679-1831 or franksj@gao.gov.
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  • Two Individuals Charged for their Roles in Massive Cattle Ponzi Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Colorado returned an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday charging an Illinois woman and a Georgia man with running a Ponzi scheme that raised approximately $650 million from investors across the country.
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  • Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton Delivers Remarks at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Fourth Annual National Cybersecurity Summit
    In Crime News
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  • Four Charged in Alleged $150 Million Payment Processing Scheme
    In Crime News
    Four individuals have been charged in the District of Massachusetts with conspiring to deceive banks and credit card companies into processing more than $150 million in credit and debit card payments on behalf of merchants involved in prohibited and high-risk businesses, including online gambling, debt collection, debt reduction, prescription drugs, and payday lending, according to an indictment unsealed today in Boston. Three of the four individuals charged were arrested today. The fourth defendant has not yet been arrested and is a fugitive on separate federal charges.
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  • FY 2021 Local Jail Reporting Program (LJRP) Pilot Test
    In Justice News
    (Solicitation)
    The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is seeking applications for funding for the FY 2021 Local Jail Reporting Program Pilot Test. This pilot test will collect individual-level administrative record data from 10 large jails. The information collected will include jail admissions and releases, demographic characteristics of inmates, charges and dispositions, and sentences.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at Meet and Greet with Evacuation Operations Staff
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod at a Joint Press Availability
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Mathematics Professor and University Researcher Indicted for Grant Fraud
    In Crime News
    Today, a federal grand jury in Carbondale, Ill. returned an indictment charging a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC) with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement.
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  • Opportunity Zones: Census Tract Designations, Investment Activities, and IRS Challenges Ensuring Taxpayer Compliance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The 2017 law commonly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created a tax incentive that gave governors discretion to nominate generally up to 25 percent of their states' low-income census tracts as special investment areas called Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Department of the Treasury then verified eligibility and designated the nominated tracts. GAO found that on average, the selected tracts had higher poverty and a greater share of non-White populations than eligible, but not selected, tracts. These differences were statistically significant. Most state government officials were aware of at least some Opportunity Zone investments but had differing views of the tax incentive's effect so far. State Respondents' Views on Overall Impact of the Opportunity Zones Tax Incentive Note: GAO surveyed government officials from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and received 56 responses. Based on case studies of Qualified Opportunity Funds—investment vehicles organized for investing in Opportunity Zones—the tax incentive attracted investment in a variety of projects, including multifamily housing, self-storage facilities, and renewable energy businesses. According to survey responses and other sources, most projects are real-estate focused. Through 2019, more than 6,000 Qualified Opportunity Funds had invested about $29 billion, based on partial data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS developed plans to ensure Qualified Opportunity Funds and investors are complying with the tax incentive's requirements; however, IRS faces challenges in implementing these plans. Specifically, the plans depend on data that are not readily available for analysis. In addition, funds have attracted investments from high-wealth individuals, and some funds are organized as partnerships with hundreds of investors. IRS considers both of these groups to be high risk for tax noncompliance generally. However, IRS has not researched potential compliance risks these groups pose for this tax incentive. As a result, IRS may be unable to effectively direct compliance efforts. Why GAO Did This Study Congress created the Opportunity Zones tax incentive to spur investments in distressed communities. Taxpayers who invest in Qualified Opportunity Funds—that then invest in qualified property or businesses—could receive significant tax-related benefits. Funds and their investors generally must invest in Opportunity Zones for a minimum number of years and report information annually to receive tax benefits and avoid penalties. IRS administers and ensures compliance with these rules. GAO was asked to review implementation and use of this tax incentive. This report describes the process for designating census tracts as Opportunity Zones and compares characteristics of designated and non-designated tracts; describes Qualified Opportunity Funds' experiences with and states' views on the tax incentive; analyzes available IRS data; and evaluates IRS's taxpayer compliance plans, among other objectives. GAO analyzed census data on tracts designated and not designated as Opportunity Zones, analyzed data from a non-generalizable sample of 18 Qualified Opportunity Funds, and surveyed state officials. GAO also reviewed IRS documentation, including a compliance plan, and met with Treasury and IRS officials.
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  • State Department Collaboration with Welcome.US
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Judge Julia Gibbons Receives 2021 Devitt Award
    In U.S Courts
    Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, former budget chair for the U.S. Judicial Conference who was a pioneering woman judge in her home state of Tennessee, is the recipient of the 2021 Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award. Gibbons serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  
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    In Travel
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen’s Video Statement on the Seizure of the U.S. Capitol
    In Crime News
    Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen delivered the following video statement on the seizure of the U.S. Capitol:
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  • Disqualification of Pan-Democratic Lawmakers in Hong Kong
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Remarks of Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt at the ACI 37th Annual Conference on the FCPA
    In Crime News
    Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be here with you today, even if only virtually. Just a year ago, addressing a conference of this size and importance via video would have seemed unthinkable. Today, it is — unfortunately — normal. I look forward to the time — hopefully, soon — when we can gather again in person. In the meantime, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak with you, and I look forward to my discussion with Kim after my remarks conclude.
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