December 4, 2021

News

News Network

Former Shadow Creek Ranch manager charged with wire fraud

4 min read
A 62-year-old Houston resident is set to appear in federal court on charges she defrauded a property management company

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov November 23, 2021
1. Global Warming Network
2. Christians Online
3. Put your website in the archives
4. Area Control Network News

News Network

  • Disaster Recovery: COVID-19 Pandemic Intensifies Disaster Recovery Challenges for K-12 Schools
    In U.S GAO News
    Local education officials in natural disaster-affected areas told us the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues and contributed to lost instructional time, staff burnout, delays in recovery projects, and financial strain in their communities. These officials explained that after the natural disaster, restoring students' mental health was a top priority. Many local education officials said that the services needed to treat trauma and other disaster-related mental health issues were not readily available in their areas, and some noted that providing mental health services has been especially difficult during the pandemic. For example, one official said that because half of her students live in poverty, they usually access mental health services through the school, and were cut off from those services during the pandemic. Some local education officials said they were also particularly worried about the effects of the pandemic on their low-income and other at-risk students, noting that these students are especially vulnerable to learning loss. The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected districts by slowing progress on some disaster recovery projects. For example, an official in a district affected by wildfire said that an effort to restore running water to damaged school buildings was delayed due the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Education (Education) supported school recovery efforts by awarding nearly $1.4 billion to assist schools in over 30 states and U.S. territories with recovery from presidentially-declared major disasters occurring between 2017 and 2019, although some local education officials reported difficulty in using these grant funds during the pandemic. Education provided this funding through the Immediate Aid to Restart School Operations (Restart) and the Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant programs, among others. Local education officials from several districts and counties said that they are using or planning to use Education disaster grants to provide mental health services to students and cover other costs associated with re-opening, such as additional transportation services, but that during the pandemic this was sometimes challenging. For example, officials in two counties said that timeframes for using Restart funds, which expire after 2 years, were too short for long-term recovery needs such as mental health services, particularly with the compounding effects of the pandemic. Education officials said that grantees may request waivers to extend the end dates of these grants and that as of October 2020, no Restart grantees who experienced a 2018 disaster had done so. With regard to oversight, Education officials said they paused on-site monitoring efforts for recent disaster grants as a result of the pandemic, but have continued to hold quarterly phone calls with Restart grantees. These grantees have noted some challenges related to the grant program but have not discussed specific technical assistance needs, according to Education officials. More than 260 presidentially-declared major disasters have occurred since 2017, affecting every state and several U.S. territories, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Many of these natural disasters have had devastating effects, including rendering K-12 school facilities unusable for lengthy periods of time. These schools are now experiencing the compounding challenge of recovering from natural disasters while managing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing practices and building closures are meant to keep staff and students safe, but may also complicate recovery efforts for disaster-affected districts. The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 provided funds for GAO to audit issues related to presidentially-declared major disasters that occurred in 2018. We reviewed (1) how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected schools recovering from recent natural disasters; and (2) support Education has provided to help school recover from recent natural disasters and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected schools' use of these resources. We interviewed 29 local education officials representing over 50 school districts in California, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, and Hawaii, which were selected because they were affected by a diverse set of major natural disasters in 2018 that occurred in a mix of populated and less-populated areas. In addition, through a national school superintendents association, we convened a discussion group of superintendents who have experienced natural disasters and mentor other affected districts. Finally, we reviewed federal guidance and interviewed Education officials. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Press Availability at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Political Prisoners in Belarus Should Be Released
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Warfighter Support: DOD Needs a Complete Picture of the Military Services’ Prepositioning Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    The services preposition combat and support assets ashore and afloat worldwide, including in the Indo-Pacific region. Prepositioned assets include combat vehicles, equipment sets for engineering and construction, and protective gear for chemical or biological attacks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Defense (DOD) used prepositioned medical assets for personnel in Guam, South Korea, and Germany. All of the services have reported some shortfalls in their prepositioned assets from 2015 through 2019—including mortars, combat vehicles, and medical equipment. In the Indo-Pacific region, for example, the Army reported shortfalls in equipment to construct bridges over difficult terrain. All services also cited challenges, such as insufficient storage space, storage facilities located far away from intended points of use, and the perishability of some assets. In some cases, the services are taking actions to address these shortfalls and challenges. In others, the services are accepting risk because, according to officials, not all shortfalls and challenges can be fully addressed. Sailors and Marines Offload Assets from a Prepositioning Ship during the COVID-19 Response in Guam DOD has taken steps to implement a joint oversight framework but does not have a complete view of the services' prepositioning programs. DOD revised two guidance documents—an instruction in 2019 and a strategic implementation plan in 2020—to establish a joint oversight framework. However, DOD has focused much of its joint efforts to date on preparing a required annual report to Congress on the status of the services' prepositioning programs. While the report provides some useful information, GAO found inaccurate and inconsistent information in multiple annual reports, which hinder their utility. DOD does not have a reporting mechanism or information-collection tool to develop a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. The current annual reporting requirement expires in 2021, which provides DOD with an opportunity to create a new reporting mechanism, or modify existing mechanisms or tools, to enable a complete picture of the services' prepositioning programs. By doing so, DOD could better identify gaps or redundancies in the services' programs, make more informed decisions to mitigate asset shortfalls and challenges, reduce potential duplication and fragmentation, and improve its joint oversight. The U.S. military services preposition critical assets at strategic locations around the world for access during the initial phases of an operation. DOD uses these prepositioned assets for combat, support to allies, and disaster and humanitarian assistance. For many years, GAO has identified weaknesses in DOD's efforts to establish a joint oversight framework to guide its ability to assess the services' prepositioning programs. This has led to fragmentation and the potential for duplication. Senate Report 116-48 included a provision for GAO to evaluate the services' prepositioning programs and associated challenges. This report (1) describes the types of assets the services preposition worldwide, as well as asset shortfalls and challenges the services have identified, and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD has made progress in implementing a joint oversight framework for the services' programs. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed DOD prepositioning documents and interviewed DOD and State Department officials from over 20 offices. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in December 2020. Information that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO recommends that DOD develop a reporting mechanism or tool to gather complete information about the military services' prepositioning programs for joint oversight and to reduce duplication and fragmentation. DOD concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Final Adoption of the U.S. Universal Periodic Review
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Sexual Harassment: NNSA Could Improve Prevention and Response Efforts in Its Nuclear Security Forces
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—within the Department of Energy (DOE)—and its contractors may have limited information on the prevalence of sexual harassment within the nuclear security forces. NNSA's nuclear security forces include federal agents in NNSA's Office of Secure Transportation (OST), which is responsible for transporting nuclear materials, and contracted guard forces at four of its sites. Federal officials at NNSA and contractor representatives at four NNSA sites that process weapons-usable nuclear material reported very few cases of sexual harassment from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. Research shows that the least common response to harassment is to report it or file a complaint. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—which enforces federal laws prohibiting harassment—suggests organizations survey employees to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem in their organization. NNSA does not survey employees on this topic, nor does NNSA call for such surveys in its contracts for security forces. Because NNSA relies solely on reported incidents, it may not have full knowledge into the nature or extent of sexual harassment in OST or by its contractors at its sites. Surveying employees would better position them to identify actions to effectively prevent and respond to harassment. To varying degrees, NNSA and its contractors follow EEOC's recommended practices to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in their nuclear security forces. For example, with respect to recommended training practices, NNSA and its contractors provide antiharassment training to all employees, but only one force offers workplace-specific training that addresses sexual harassment risk factors relevant to the security forces. Because NNSA has not formally reviewed EEOC's practices and considered which to adopt for its nuclear security forces, or made similar considerations for its security force contractors, the agency may be missing opportunities to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Selected EEOC Practices for Effective Training to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Harassment and Number of NNSA's Nuclear Security Forces That Reflect Those Practices in Training EEOC Promising Practice Number of forces that reflect the practice Provided to employees at every level and location of the organization 5 of 5 Tailored to the specific workplace and workforce 1 of 5 Explains the complaint process, as well as any voluntary alternative dispute resolution processes 2 of 5 Explains the range of possible consequences for engaging in prohibited conduct 1 of 5 Source: GAO comparison of National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and protective force contractor information with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) November 2017 Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment . | GAO-21-307 EEOC has found that NNSA and DOE do not meet all EEOC requirements relevant to preventing and responding to sexual harassment. For example, NNSA does not have an antiharassment program or a compliant antiharassment policy. According to EEOC officials, NNSA and DOE efforts to date have improved some aspects of their EEO programs, but because the agencies have not fully implemented their plans to address deficiencies identified by EEOC, DOE and NNSA may be missing opportunities to establish and maintain effective programs that include protection from and response to sexual harassment. Why GAO Did This Study Federal law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Besides being harmful to those harassed, sexual harassment can decrease organizational performance and increase turnover. In January 2019, public allegations of sexual harassment in NNSA's nuclear security forces drew attention to this issue. House Report 116-120 provided that GAO review sexual harassment in NNSA's nuclear security force. This report examines (1) what NNSA and its contractors know about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their nuclear security forces, (2) the extent to which NNSA and its contractors implement EEOC recommendations to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and (3) the extent to which EEOC found that NNSA and DOE meet its requirements relevant to sexual harassment. GAO reviewed information on sexual harassment and programs to address such harassment at DOE and NNSA from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO analyzed documents and data, conducted a literature review, interviewed NNSA officials, and compared NNSA and contractor actions with EEOC-recommended practices for preventing harassment.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Remarks to Embassy London Staff
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Statement from Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall on the Passing of Former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III
    In Crime News
    Today, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall issued the following statement on the passing of former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III:
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to Mark Official U.S. Reentry into Paris Agreement
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Defense Budget: DOD Has Adopted Practices to Manage Within the Constraints of Continuing Resolutions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) and the military services' obligations and acquisitions are limited during a Continuing Resolution (CR), but they have some practices in place to minimize the effects. Specifically, GAO found that for selected appropriations' accounts for fiscal years 2017 through 2020, the military services tended to obligate, (i.e., make a legal commitment to pay for goods or services), a lower percentage of their total annual obligations in the first quarter of the fiscal year—when DOD is most likely to be operating under a CR—as compared with the other quarters (see figure). Military Services' Average Obligations by Quarter of Operation and Maintenance Appropriations, Fiscal Years 2017–2020 Note: Percentages may not add due to rounding. Although DOD officials reported acquisitions were constrained by CR provisions that restrict starting new programs and production rate increases, the programs GAO reviewed were able to avoid delays or cost increases during the fiscal years with CRs. The military services have instituted some practices to minimize the effects of CRs, including initiating service contract start dates after the first quarter of the fiscal year and postponing nonessential purchases and training to later in the fiscal year. DOD officials stated both that the repetition and incremental planning required during a CR is not an effective or efficient way to operate, but that preparing for and operating under CRs have become routine in nature. GAO identified three activities directly related to preparing for and operating under CRs—developing legislative anomaly proposals (i.e., requests for authority beyond the standard CR provisions), creating spending plans for various CR scenarios, and adjusting contracts to reflect CR funding availability. DOD civilian hiring generally slowed during CRs. GAO's analysis of DOD civilian hiring data from fiscal year 2017 through 2020 found that, on average, fewer civilian personnel were hired per day during CRs than during non-CR periods. For fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2020, DOD hired on average about 200 civilians per day during CR periods as compared with about 250 people per day during non-CR periods. Why GAO Did This Study For 11 of the past 12 fiscal years, DOD has operated under a CR for some part of the fiscal year. CRs provide funding for agencies to continue operating when Congress has not enacted its regular appropriation acts before the beginning of the new fiscal year. From fiscal years 2010 through 2021—with the exception of fiscal year 2019 during which there was no CR—DOD has operated under CRs ranging from 76 to 216 days. DOD officials have stated publicly that delays in knowing when and how much funding will ultimately be available for the fiscal year hampers the military services' ability to accomplish key mission requirements and carry out management functions. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to review the effects of CRs on DOD. This report examines, among other things, (1) the effects of constraints on the military services' spending and acquisitions during CRs, and what practices they use to minimize these effects; (2) how DOD personnel prepare for and operate under CRs; and (3) DOD's hiring of civilian personnel during CRs. GAO reviewed DOD's CRs, the military services' quarterly obligation reports, and DOD civilian personnel hiring data for fiscal years 2017 through 2020; obtained information from DOD and military service financial management officials; and interviewed officials from a nongeneralizable sample of major defense acquisition programs and other defense organizations. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or FieldE1@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • In Commemoration of Juneteenth
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid and the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Foreign Minister Mahuta 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement on the Signing of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement
    In Crime News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced that Zachary Clark, a/k/a “Umar Kabir,” a/k/a “Umar Shishani,” a/k/a “Abu Talha,” pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Clark pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald. Judge Buchwald is scheduled to sentence Clark on Feb. 9, 2021, at 12:00 p.m.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Reserve Lending Programs: Credit Markets Served by the Programs Have Stabilized, but Vulnerabilities Remain
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve) authorized 13 lending programs—known as facilities—to ensure the flow of credit to various parts of the economy affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The last of the nine facilities supported through CARES Act funding ceased purchasing assets, such as corporate bonds, or extending credit by January 8, 2021. As of September 1, 2021, the CARES Act facilities held about $19 billion in assets. The Federal Reserve oversight reviews completed in December 2020 identified opportunities to enhance certain areas, including internal process and controls. These reviews also identified areas for continued monitoring, such as cybersecurity and conflicts of interest. GAO found that Federal Reserve's plans for ongoing monitoring of the facilities align with federal internal control standards for ongoing monitoring of an entity's internal control system. Available indicators suggest the facilities helped improve access to credit and liquidity in the corporate and municipal credit markets. For example, corporate bond spreads (which reflect borrowing costs) have remained low, and municipal spreads have decreased to prepandemic levels. Also, officials from state and local entities that participated in the Municipal Liquidity Facility (which targeted the municipal bond market) generally said the facility was beneficial and helped restore investor confidence in the municipal bond market. However, corporate and municipal credit markets remain vulnerable. For corporate credit markets, corporate bonds outstanding remain elevated and the high level of debt leaves businesses vulnerable to distress. Municipal credit markets also remain vulnerable because of the pandemic's extended duration, which may adversely affect local economies. According to surveys of small and independent businesses and lenders, access to credit has improved, but recovery remains slow, including for businesses in the services sector. Loans made under the Main Street facilities (which targeted small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofits) were concentrated among small for-profit businesses in certain economic sectors, such as restaurants. According to GAO's generalizable survey of Main Street borrowers, an estimated 88 percent said that the program was “very important” in helping them maintain operations. Women-owned businesses participated at lower rates compared to their representation among U.S. businesses. Although estimates of veteran- and minority-owned business participation were somewhat lower compared to their representation among U.S. businesses, the differences were not statistically significant (see figure). Estimated Participation of Business Types in the Main Street Lending Program Why GAO Did This Study On July 30, 2021, the last of the 13 Federal Reserve lending facilities stopped purchasing assets or extending credit. However, some of these facilities, including facilities that were supported through Department of the Treasury funding appropriated under section 4003(b)(4) of the CARES Act, continue to hold outstanding assets and loans. The Federal Reserve will continue to monitor and manage the facilities until these assets and loans are no longer outstanding. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to periodically report on section 4003 loans, loan guarantees, and investments. This report examines the Federal Reserve's continued oversight and monitoring of the CARES Act facilities; what available evidence suggests about the facilities' effects on corporate credit markets, states and municipalities, and small businesses; and the characteristics of Main Street Lending Program participants, among other things. GAO reviewed applicable laws and agency and Federal Reserve Bank documentation; analyzed agency and other data on the facilities and credit markets; interviewed Federal Reserve and Treasury officials and representatives of state and local governments; and conducted a generalizable survey of for-profit Main Street borrowers. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or clementsm@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Foreign Assistance: USAID Needs to Improve Its Strategic Planning to Address Current and Future Workforce Needs
    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) oversees U.S. foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries. In 2003, GAO recommended that USAID develop a comprehensive workforce planning system to better identify its staffing needs and requirements. Key principles for effective strategic workforce planning are important to an agency's ability to carry out its mission. GAO examined (1) changes in USAID's workforce and program funding since 2004, (2) the extent to which it has developed a strategic workforce plan, (3) the efforts it has taken to implement two key human capital initiatives, and (4) the challenges and constraints that affect its workforce planning and management. To conduct the work, GAO analyzed staffing and program funding data; reviewed documentation related to the agency's workforce planning; and interviewed officials in Washington, D.C., and at six overseas missions selected to obtain an appropriate mix of geographic coverage, programs, and workforce size and composition.USAID's workforce declined 2.7 percent from 2004 to 2009. While the decline is primarily due to decreases in the number of U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors, these staff continue to comprise the majority of USAID's workforce. Over the same period USAID's program funding increased 92 percent to $17.9 billion. USAID also faces some workforce gaps and vacancies at the six missions visited by GAO. Mission officials cited recruiting difficulties and the need for staff in priority countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as factors contributing to these vacancies. According to mission officials, it is not uncommon for positions to remain vacant for a lengthy period. During this time staff may assume multiple responsibilities and accept additional workload, which present some challenges in the agency's ability to manage and oversee its activities. For example, workforce gaps and heavy workload may limit mission staff's ability to travel to the field to monitor and evaluate the implementation of projects. USAID's 5-year workforce plan for fiscal years 2009 through 2013 discusses the agency's challenges and the steps it has taken and plans to take to strengthen its workforce. However, the plan lacks several key elements that GAO has identified as critical to strategic workforce planning. For example, the plan generally does not include a major portion of USAID's workforce--U.S. and foreign national personal services contractors. In particular, it is not comprehensive in its analysis of workforce and competency gaps and the staffing levels that the agency requires to meet its program needs and goals. USAID has taken actions to implement two key initiatives specified in its workforce plan--a workforce planning model and expansion of its Foreign Service--but it generally lacks documented plans to help ensure they are implemented successfully. For example, USAID implemented the workforce planning model to project its workforce and budgetary needs, but it has not developed plans for providing all missions comprehensive information about the model and its projections to inform missions of how it will affect their workforce planning. In addition, USAID has not fully met its Foreign Service hiring targets nor developed plans for how it will meet its hiring goals, and it has not planned the required overseas training assignments for all new hires to help ensure that missions have the necessary resources and mentors. USAID faces several challenges in its workforce planning and management. First, USAID lacks a sufficiently reliable and comprehensive system to record the number, location, and occupation of its staff. Second, according to mission officials, operating in an uncertain environment with shifting program priorities and funding can make it difficult to ensure that missions have the staff available with the necessary skills when needed. Third, the processes USAID must use to plan for the placement of its overseas staff require coordination with State; however, USAID has not consistently developed and shared its plans for the numbers and specific locations for these assignments. GAO recommends that USAID take several actions to develop more comprehensive workforce plans and improve its workforce data. USAID concurred with GAO's findings and recommendations.
    [Read More…]
  • Russian National Convicted of Charges Relating to Kelihos Botnet
    In Crime News
    A federal jury in Connecticut convicted a Russian national on Tuesday for operating a “crypting” service used to conceal “Kelihos” malware from antivirus software, enabling hackers to systematically infect victim computers around the world with malicious software, including ransomware.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Welcomes the Appointment of Staffan de Mistura as the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Lesotho National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.