December 6, 2021

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Houston man admits to exploiting minors he met online

12 min read
A 41-year-old Houstonian has entered guilty pleas to coercion and enticement of a minor as well as sexual exploitation of a child

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov April 14, 2021

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  • Federal Real Property: Additional Documentation of Decision Making Could Improve Transparency of New Disposal Process
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2016, the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA) created the independent Public Buildings Reform Board (the Board) to support a new, three-round process for disposing of unneeded federal real property. The first of these rounds required the Board to identify and recommend at least five high-value disposal candidates with a total market value between $500 and $750 million. To identify these properties, the General Services Administration (GSA) collected and evaluated agency recommendations; a GSA-hired contractor analyzed real property data; and the Board held public hearings, visited properties, and met with federal officials. This process resulted in identifying 44 properties. The Board then took various steps to evaluate the 44 properties and recommended 12 final disposal candidates that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved in January 2020. (See figure.) However, the Board did not fully document the process used to evaluate these candidates. For example, the Board's rationales for why individual candidates were or were not recommended were vague or incomplete. Full documentation on the decision-making process would better position stakeholders, including members of Congress, to understand the Board's rationales, especially for decisions with financial implications. Process Used by Stakeholders for Identifying and Recommending High-Value Federal Real Property for Potential Disposal Candidates According to Board and selected federal agency officials, FASTA made it easier for agencies to pursue high-value property disposals due, in part, to exemptions from some requirements, such as having to first offer properties to federal, state, or local agencies. However, FASTA's effect on other long-standing challenges, including funding to prepare properties for disposal, is unclear. For example, FASTA created a dedicated funding source to implement Board recommendations including those related to covering disposal costs, such as relocating agency staff. However, officials expressed concern that access to these funds is not automatic and must go through the annual appropriations process, which rarely coincides with the timing of these projects. The administration proposed legislative language to make proceeds from the sale of assets in fiscal year 2021 available without additional actions by Congress. However, as of January 2021, legislation containing the proposed language had not been enacted. This report discusses elements Congress may wish to evaluate when determining whether to grant such budget-related flexibility. GAO designated federal real property management, including the disposal of properties, as a high-risk area in 2003. FASTA included a provision for GAO to review the recommendations and selection processes such as those used in the first round of identifying and recommending high-value properties as candidates for disposal. This report examines: (1) how stakeholders implemented FASTA to identify and evaluate high-value properties as potential disposal candidates and (2) stakeholder views on the extent to which FASTA helped agencies with the disposal of unneeded high-value properties and addressed long-standing challenges in disposing of federal properties. GAO reviewed FASTA and analyzed documents from the Board, OMB, GSA, and selected 14 federal agencies to examine the processes they used and the challenges they encountered under the FASTA process. Agencies were selected based on their recommendations of high-value properties and inclusion on the Board's final list, among other things. GAO also interviewed officials from the Board, OMB, GSA, and selected federal agencies. GAO is recommending that the Board fully document its process for recommending FASTA disposal candidates, including the rationales behind disposal decisions. The Board noted plans to develop more documentation of its future disposal decisions. For more information, contact David Trimble at (202) 512-2834 or trimbled@gao.gov.
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  • High-Performance Computing: Advances Made Towards Implementing the National Strategy, but Better Reporting and a More Detailed Plan Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Ten agencies took steps to implement all 71 efforts across the five objectives of the 2016 National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) strategic plan and characterized most as ongoing. According to officials, agencies generally did not receive funding to implement the 2016 strategic plan and undertook efforts as part of existing programs or research that were aligned with the plan's objectives. As part of the largest NSCI investment, the Department of Energy (DOE) obligated $2.2 billion for exascale computing from fiscal years 2016 through 2020. This includes three exascale computing systems, which are expected to be among the most powerful computers in the world when completed (see figure). DOE also collaborated with other agencies to develop exascale-ready software applications for use on those systems to address problems beyond the capability of current high-performance computers. Other agency efforts include funding workforce development and conducting research on future computing technologies. Figure: Department of Energy's Three Expected Exascale Computing Systems The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and agencies inconsistently reported on progress towards the 2016 strategic plan's objectives. OSTP reported 2016 strategic plan accomplishments in a 2018 budget report but did not do so in subsequent years. It was also not aware of the NSCI executive council reporting on progress as called for by the NSCI executive order. Academic and industry stakeholders stated that a lack of progress reports limited their visibility into accomplishments and remaining work. Having such information could help them better align their activities with agency efforts. The 2020 strategic plan—which superseded the 2016 strategic plan—fully or substantially addressed two desirable characteristics of a national strategy identified by GAO to help ensure accountability and more effective results. For example, the plan described how agencies will partner with academia and industry but partially addressed or did not address four other characteristics, such as the resources needed to implement it or a process for monitoring and reporting on progress. OSTP and agency officials said they plan to release a more detailed implementation roadmap later in 2021 but have not described what details this plan will include. By more fully addressing the desirable characteristics of a national strategy through the implementation plan or other means, including reporting on progress, OSTP and agencies could improve efforts to sustain and enhance U.S. leadership in high-performance computing. Why GAO Did This Study In 2015, Executive Order 13702 established the NSCI to maximize the benefits of high-performance computing for economic competitiveness and scientific discovery. The order directed 10 agencies to implement the NSCI and pursue five strategic objectives, including accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system, which is anticipated to be at least three times more powerful than the current top-ranked system. The NSCI Executive Council, established by the executive order and co-chaired by OSTP and the Office of Management and Budget, issued a strategic plan in 2016, which was updated in 2020. GAO was asked to review the status of the NSCI. This report examines (1) agencies' efforts and OSTP's and agencies' reporting on progress towards meeting the objectives of the 2016 strategic plan and (2) the extent to which the 2020 strategic plan includes desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO analyzed key NSCI documents, administered a questionnaire to 10 NSCI agencies, and interviewed OSTP and other agency officials and nonfederal stakeholders.
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  • Sussex County Woman Charged with Concealing Terrorist Financing to Syrian Al-Nusra Front, a Foreign Terrorist Organization
    In Crime News
    A Sussex County, New Jersey, woman, Maria Bell, a/k/a “Maria Sue Bell,” 53, of Hopatcong, New Jersey, was arrested at her home today and charged with one count of knowingly concealing the provision of material support and resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito for the District of New Jersey announced.
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  • Further Sanctions on Entities Trading in or Transporting Iranian Petrochemicals
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with French Foreign Minister Le Drian
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  • [Request for Reconsideration of Dismissed Protest of CIA Contract Award]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm requested reconsideration of its dismissed protest challenging a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contract award for support of its Records Declassification Program, contending that GAO wrongly concluded that it was not an interested party to challenge the award. In addition to the reconsideration request, the protester contended that CIA improperly failed to disclose funding limitations in the solicitation. GAO held that: (1) the protester lacked sufficient interest to protest the contract award, since its proposed and evaluated costs exceeded the available project funding level, and at least one other bidder was below the funding limitation; and (2) there was no requirement for agencies to reveal budgetary information in solicitations. Accordingly, the request for reconsideration and the protest were denied.
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  • Justice Department Announces More Than $73 Million to Help Crime Victims and Improve Public Safety in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today announced that it will award 137 grants to 85 American Indian and Alaska Native communities, for a total of $73 million, to improve public safety and serve crime victims. The announcement was made during the White House Tribal Nations Summit taking place virtually today and tomorrow.
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  • Acting Assistant Secretary Carol Thompson O’Connell Travel to Islamabad, Pakistan
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  • The United States Designates Houthi Militants
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  • Follow NASA’s Perseverance Rover in Real Time on Its Way to Mars
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  • DRL Combating Corruption in the Northern Triangle
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  • Wisconsin-Based Nonprofit To Pay $1.9 Million To Settle Allegations Of False Claims And Kickbacks On Federal Contracts For Blind Workers
    In Crime News
    Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired Inc. (IBI) has agreed to pay the United States $1,938,684.09 to resolve allegations that IBI violated the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act in connection with certain federal contracts set aside to employ blind workers, the Justice Department announced today. 
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  • Former Resident of Stockton, California Sentenced to More Than 15 Years in Prison for Human Trafficking Convictions Related to Forced Labor of Foreign Nationals
    In Crime News
    Sharmistha Barai, 40, formerly of Stockton, California, was sentenced Friday, Oct. 2 to 15 years and eight months in prison for forced labor violations.
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  • Cameroonian Citizen Extradited from Romania to Face Covid-19-Related Fraud Charges
    In Crime News
    A citizen of Cameroon was extradited to the U.S. yesterday to face federal charges for his alleged involvement in a fraud scheme perpetrated against American consumers.
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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at Taking the Call Conference
    In Crime News
    Hello, and welcome to the Taking the Call national conference. It is a pleasure to be part of this new event focused on a crucial topic. I want to thank our Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the University of Cincinnati for organizing this event.
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  • Veterans Health Care: Addressing High Risk Concerns for Oversight and Accountability Are Key to Ensuring Quality of Care and Patient Safety
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO's work has identified a range of concerns with the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) oversight and accountability of its health care system, including those related to quality of care and patient safety. Since GAO added VA health care to its High-Risk List in 2015, GAO has made 131 recommendations related to VA's oversight and accountability, almost half of all GAO's recommendations for VA health care. Recent examples of quality of care and patient safety recommendations include the following: VA has faced challenges in ensuring that its providers deliver safe and effective care to veterans. In February 2021, GAO identified 227providers that had been removed from VA employment but were potentially providing care in a community care network. GAO recommended that VA take actions to assess and address the situation.VA implemented this recommendation by reviewing and excluding 155providers from participating in VA's community care networks. In recent years, there have been reports of veterans dying by suicide on VA campuses—in locations such as inpatient settings, parking lots, and on the grounds of VA cemeteries. In September 2020, GAO found that VA lacks accurate information on the number of suicides and comprehensive analyses of the underlying causes. While VA agreed with two of GAO's recommendations to address these issues, VA still needs to provide documentation of key actions taken by the committee it established to improve its understanding of on-campus suicides. In June 2019, GAO found that VA's oversight of its regional health care networks was limited. GAO recommended that VA develop a process for assessing the overall performance of its networks to be able to better determine if a network's performance is positive, if it is functioning poorly, or if it requires remediation. While VA concurred with GAO's recommendation, VA still needs to provide documentation of the process developed to assess the overall performance of these networks in managing medical centers. Since the last high-risk update in March 2021, VA has taken steps to address some of the oversight and accountability concerns identified by GAO. In May 2021, VA published a revised high-risk action plan for addressing VA health care concerns. However, VA is still in the beginning stages of developing its plan to address root causes such as a fragmented oversight and accountability infrastructure and will need clearly defined metrics to ensure it is effective. Fully addressing oversight and accountability concerns also requires sustained leadership attention as well as leadership stability. However, the Under Secretary for Health position responsible for managing VA health care has not had permanent leadership since January 2017. While VA takes steps to address its needed transformation, it should continue to implement recommendations GAO has made in the oversight and accountability area, given the number of these similar types of recommendations and the need to ensure quality of care and patient safety. Why GAO Did This Study VA operates one of the nation's largest health care systems. GAO's work, along with that of VA's Office of Inspector General and others, has cited longstanding issues with VA's oversight of its health care system. In 2015, GAO added VA health care to its High-Risk List, in which one broad area of concern was inadequate oversight and accountability. In its latest high-risk update in March 2021, GAO noted continued concern over VA's ability to ensure the safety and protection of patients and staff, as well as to oversee its programs. This statement describes the oversight and accountability issues GAO's work has identified related to quality care and patient safety, and the status of VA's efforts to address its high-risk designation. This statement is based on GAO's body of work in this area. GAO’s Fiscal Year 2021 Rating for the Inadequate Oversight and Accountability Area For more information, contact Sharon M. Silas at (202) 512-7114 or silass@gao.gov.
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  • Operation Legend Expanded to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee
    In Crime News
    Today, the expansion of Operation Legend was announced in Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Operation Legend is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. The Operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri, and expanded on July 22, 2020, to Chicago and Albuquerque. Operation Legend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. The first federal arrest under Operation Legend was announced on July 20.
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  • Assistant Attorney General Beth A. Williams Delivers Capital Conversations Speech Highlighting Department of Justice Policy Accomplishments
    In Crime News
    Thank you, Dean, for inviting me.  I am honored to be here and to be part of the Capital Conversations series.
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