December 3, 2021

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Seattle Doctor Found Guilty of Fraudulently Obtaining Millions of Dollars from COVID-19 Relief Programs

8 min read
<div>A federal jury convicted a Seattle doctor yesterday of fraudulently seeking over $3.5 million and obtaining over $2.8 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.</div>
A federal jury convicted a Seattle doctor yesterday of fraudulently seeking over $3.5 million and obtaining over $2.8 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) COVID-19 relief funds.

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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit
    In Crime News
    Good afternoon. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to join the first Tribal Nations Summit in five years. 
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  • Military Readiness: DOD Has Not Yet Incorporated Leading Practices of a Strategic Management Planning Framework in Retrograde and Reset Guidance
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a strategic policy for the retrograde and reset of equipment during contingency operations that incorporates key elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning. Because DOD and the military services do not separately track the "reconstitution" of units, which includes personnel and training costs, the focus of GAO's report is on the retrograde and reset of equipment. According to DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, "retrograde" refers to the process for the movement of nonunit equipment and materiel from a forward location to a reset program or to another directed area of operations. "Reset" refers to a set of actions to restore equipment to a desired level of combat capability commensurate with a unit's future mission. GAO found that there was no consensus among the officials we spoke with regarding which organization should lead the effort to develop a DOD-wide policy. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for DOD to develop a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that incorporates key elements of strategic management planning is valid. Although the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) has provided definitions of terms for the services to use in reporting the cost of contingency operations, DOD has not ensured that the services use consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in policy and guidance. Although DOD updated the relevant chapter of the Financial Management Regulation in December 2017 to include definitions of "reset" and "retrograde," GAO found that the terms retrograde and reset are not used consistently by the department and the services. As a result, GAO believes that to fully meet the intent of its May 2016 recommendation DOD needs to take action to ensure that these terms are uniformly defined and consistently used throughout the services. The Marine Corps has been implementing its plan for the retrograde and reset of its equipment, but the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have no immediate plans to develop reset plans. Marine Corps officials reported that the implementation of reset activities for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is 99-percent complete and will be completed in May 2019. Navy and Air Force officials cited the need for a DOD-wide policy before they can establish service-specific plans. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to develop service-specific implementation plans for retrograde and reset is valid. Furthermore, GAO continues to believe that DOD needs to establish a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning to guide and inform the services' plans, as previously discussed. Why GAO Did This Study Section 324 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 required DOD to establish a policy regarding the retrograde, reconstitution, and replacement of units and materiel used to support overseas contingency operations and to submit a plan for implementation of the policy within 90 days of the enactment of the NDAA. It also required DOD to submit annual updates (for the next 3 years) to congressional defense committees on its progress toward meeting the goals of the plan. The act included a provision for GAO to review and report on DOD's policy, implementation plan, and annual updates. For this report on DOD's third and final annual update, GAO evaluated the extent to which DOD has addressed GAO's May 2016 recommendations. Specifically, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) DOD has established a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of equipment that supports overseas contingency operations, (2) DOD has developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance, and (3) each of the military services has developed and implemented a service-specific plan consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset that supports overseas contingency operations. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD reports, interviewed officials, and reviewed/assessed agency provided documents.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi Before Their Meeting
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  • Justice Department Settles with a Car Rental Services Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it signed a settlement agreement with Fleetlogix Inc. (Fleetlogix) resolving claims that the company discriminated against work-authorized non-U.S. citizens by requiring them to provide specific and unnecessary work authorization documentation because of their citizenship or immigration status. Fleetlogix, based in San Diego, California, operates offices nationwide that provide cleaning and transportation services to rental car companies.
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  • Pregnant Women in DOJ Custody: U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Prisons Should Better Align Policies with National Guidelines
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO analyses of available data show that from calendar year 2017 through 2019, there were at least 1,220 pregnant women in U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) custody and 524 pregnant women in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody. Pregnant Women in USMS and BOP Custody: Number, Age, Race, and Length of Time in Custody from 2017 through 2019 aUSMS does not track pregnancy outcomes, so length of time in custody may include time when the women were not pregnant. For BOP, the length of time represents only the period of pregnancy. GAO analyses also show that pregnant women were held at a variety of facility types from 2017 through 2019. For example, pregnant women spent 68 percent of their time in USMS custody in non-federal facilities where USMS has an intergovernmental agreement. BOP data show that pregnant women spent 21 percent of their time in BOP custody while pregnant at Carswell—BOP's only female Federal Medical Center. While USMS and BOP both have policies that address the treatment and care of pregnant women, not all policies fully align with national guidance recommendations on 16 pregnancy-related care topics. For example, national guidance recommends specialized nutrition and when needed, mental health care. USMS policies fully align on three of 16 care topics and BOP policies fully align on eight of 16. By taking steps to more closely align agency standards and policies with national guidance as feasible, USMS and BOP would be better positioned to help ensure the health of pregnant women in their custody. USMS and BOP data show that the agencies provide a variety of medical care and special accommodations to pregnant women, and both agencies track the use of restraints. For example, USMS data show that women receive prenatal care and BOP data show that women receive prenatal vitamins and lower bunk assignments, among other things. However, USMS could do more to collect data on pregnant and postpartum women in their custody who are placed in restrictive housing. While USMS requests that facilities that hold USMS prisoners submit data on a regular basis indicating which prisoners were placed in restrictive housing, facilities are not required to indicate if any of these prisoners are pregnant or postpartum. In addition, USMS does not have a requirement for facilities to immediately notify USMS when such women are placed in restrictive housing. By requiring these notifications and data collection, USMS would be better positioned to ensure that facilities are complying with its USMS Detention Standards and Department of Justice (DOJ) guidance that state pregnant and postpartum women should not be placed in restrictive housing except in rare situations. Policymakers and advocacy groups have raised questions about the treatment of incarcerated pregnant women, including the use of restrictive housing—removal from the general prisoner population with the inability to leave the cell for the majority of the day—and restraints. Within DOJ, USMS is responsible for prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing. BOP is responsible for sentenced prisoners. GAO was asked to review issues related to pregnant women in USMS and BOP custody. This report examines (1) what DOJ data indicate about pregnant women in USMS and BOP custody; (2) the extent to which USMS and BOP policies align with national guidance on pregnancy-related care; and (3) what is known about the care provided and the extent to which USMS and BOP track when pregnant women are placed in restrictive housing or restraints. GAO analyzed available agency data from calendar years 2017 through 2019, which were the most recent data available; compared agency policies to relevant national guidance; and interviewed officials and a non-generalizable sample of prisoners who had been pregnant in USMS or BOP custody. GAO is making six recommendations, including that USMS and BOP take steps to more closely align their policies with national guidance on pregnancy-related care as feasible, and that USMS require facilities to collect data on and notify USMS when pregnant or postpartum women are placed in restrictive housing. DOJ concurred with our recommendations. For more information, contact Gretta L. Goodwin at (202) 512-8777 or goodwing@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Al Thani
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  • Border Security: CBP’s Response to COVID-19
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found According to data from the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), through February 2021, over 7,000 Office of Field Operations (OFO) and U.S. Border Patrol employees reported being infected with COVID-19, and 24 died due to COVID-19-related illnesses. In addition, over 20,000 OFO and Border Patrol employees were unable to work at some point due to COVID-19-related illnesses or quarantining in the same time period. OFO officials noted that employee absences due to COVID-19 did not generally have a significant impact on port operations, given relatively low travel volumes. In contrast, officials interviewed by GAO at three of four Border Patrol locations said that COVID-19 absences had impacted operations to some extent. COVID-19 Cases within Customs and Border Protection, through February 2021 CBP regularly updated guidance, used workplace flexibilities, and implemented safety precautions against COVID-19. Between January and December 2020, CBP updated guidance on COVID-19 precautions and how managers should address possible exposures. CBP also used a variety of workplace flexibilities, including telework and weather and safety leave to minimize the number of employees in the workplace, when appropriate. Meanwhile, CBP field locations moved some processing functions outdoors, encouraged social distancing, and provided protective equipment to employees and the public. In addition, some field locations took steps to modify infrastructure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as installing acrylic barriers or improving airflow in facilities. Challenges implementing operational changes included insufficient equipment for telework at three field locations, and shortages of respirators at a quarter of the ports of entry GAO contacted. CBP adjusted operations in response to COVID-19 and executive actions. As travel and trade volumes declined, some ports of entry reallocated personnel to other operations, such as cargo processing. In contrast, starting in May 2020 Border Patrol encounters with noncitizens steadily increased. As a result, Border Patrol requested additional resources. It also shifted its deployment strategy to operate as closely to the border as practical to intercept individuals who could be infected with COVID-19. Accordingly, some Border Patrol sectors modified interior operations, such as limiting resources at immigration checkpoints. CBP also assisted in implementing a Centers for Disease Control order that provided the ability to quickly expel apprehended individuals. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic impacted nearly all aspects of society, including travel to and from the U.S. In response to COVID-19, the administration issued executive actions with the intention of decreasing the number of individuals entering the U.S. and reducing transmission of the virus. Within CBP, OFO is responsible for implementing these actions at ports of entry through which travelers enter the U.S., and Border Patrol is responsible for patrolling the areas between ports of entry to prevent individuals and goods from entering the U.S. illegally. Based on their role in facilitating legitimate travel and trade and securing the borders, CBP employees risk exposure to COVID-19 in the line of duty. GAO was asked to review how CBP managed its field operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes: (1) available data on the number of CBP employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work; (2) actions CBP has taken related to protecting its workforce and the public from COVID-19; and (3) the extent to which CBP adjusted operations in response to the pandemic and related travel restrictions. GAO reviewed key guidance documents and analyzed data on travel and trade at ports of entry, Border Patrol enforcement, and COVID-19 exposures among CBP employees. GAO also interviewed officials at CBP headquarters, employee unions' representatives, and 12 CBP field locations, selected for factors such as geographic diversity, traffic levels, and COVID-19 infection rates. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.
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  • State Department Designates Two Senior Al-Shabaab Leaders as Terrorists
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  • Department of Justice and Partner Departments and Agencies Conduct Coordinated Actions to Disrupt and Deter Iranian Malicious Cyber Activities Targeting the United States and the Broader International Community
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  • The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Announces Design-Build Award for the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos
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  • Combating Terrorism: Increased Oversight and Accountability Needed over Pakistan Reimbursement Claims for Coalition Support Funds
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States has reimbursed Pakistan, a key ally in the global war on terror, about $5.56 billion in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) for its efforts to combat terrorism along its border with Afghanistan. The Department of Defense (Defense) provides CSF to 27 coalition partners for costs incurred in direct support of U.S. military operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient of CSF, receiving 81 percent of CSF reimbursements as of May 2008. This report focuses on (1) the extent to which Defense has consistently applied its guidance to validate the reimbursements claimed by Pakistan and (2) how the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan's (ODRP) role has changed over time. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed CSF oversight procedures, examined CSF documents, and interviewed Defense officials in Washington, D.C., U.S. Central Command in Florida, and Pakistan.Defense Comptroller issued new guidance in 2003 to enhance CSF oversight. The guidance calls for, among other things, CSF reimbursement claims to contain quantifiable information that indicates the incremental nature of support (i.e., above and beyond normal operations), validation that the support or service was provided, and copies of invoices or documentation supporting how the costs were calculated. While Defense generally conducted macro-level analytical reviews called for in its guidance, such as determining whether the cost is less than that which would be incurred by the United States for the same service, for a large number of reimbursement claims Defense did not obtain detailed documentation to verify that claimed costs were valid, actually incurred, or correctly calculated. GAO found that Defense did not consistently apply its existing CSF oversight guidance. For example, as of May 2008, Defense paid over $2 billion in Pakistani reimbursement claims for military activities covering January 2004 through June 2007 without obtaining sufficient information that would enable a third party to recalculate these costs. Furthermore, Defense may have reimbursed costs that (1) were not incremental, (2) were not based on actual activity, or (3) were potentially duplicative. GAO also found that additional oversight controls were needed. For example, there is no guidance for Defense to verify currency conversion rates used by Pakistan, which if performed would enhance Defense's ability to monitor for potential overbillings. Defense's guidance does not specifically task ODRP with attempting to verify Pakistani military support and expenses, despite recognition by Defense officials that such verification is best performed by U.S. officials in Pakistan, who have access to Pakistani officials and information. As such, ODRP did not try to verify Pakistan CSF claims from January 2004 through August 2006. Beginning in September 2006, without any formal guidance or directive to do so from U.S. Central Command or the Defense Comptroller, ODRP began an effort to validate Pakistani military support and expenses. This increased verification effort on the part of ODRP contributed to an increase in the amount of Pakistani government CSF claims disallowed and deferred. Prior to ODRP's increased verification efforts, the average percentage of Pakistani claims disallowed or deferred for January 2004 through August 2006 was a little over 2 percent. In comparison, the average percentage of Pakistani claims disallowed or deferred for September 2006 through February 2007 was 6 percent and for the most recent claims (March 2007 through June 2007) processed in February 2008, was approximately 22 percent. However, ODRP's continued oversight activity is not assured, as Defense had not developed formal guidance delineating how and to what degree ODRP should attempt to verify Pakistani claims for reimbursement. GAO recognizes that Defense may not be able to fully verify every Pakistani claim without the ability to access Pakistani records or do onsite monitoring. However, such ability would enhance CSF oversight.
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  • Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Justice Department’s Implementation of the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made the following statement after the President’s signing of the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy:
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  • Federal Contracting: Actions Needed to Improve Department of Labor’s Enforcement of Service Worker Wage Protections
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Labor (DOL) completed over 5,000 Service Contract Act (SCA) cases, which for many resulted in the awarding of back wages to federally contracted security guards, janitors, and other service workers, in fiscal years 2014 through 2019, according to available data. DOL enforces the SCA, which was enacted to protect workers on certain types of federal service contracts. DOL found SCA violations—primarily of wage and benefit protections—in 68 percent of cases. Employers across a range of service industries agreed to pay around $224 million in back wages (see figure for examples). Sixty cases resulted in debarment—a decision to prevent an employer from being awarded new federal contracts for 3 years. DOL's strategic plan emphasizes optimizing resources for resolving cases using all available enforcement tools. However, DOL does not analyze its use of enforcement tools, such as debarment or employer compliance agreements. Therefore, DOL may lack a complete picture of how it uses resources on different strategies for resolving SCA cases, as well as the effectiveness of these enforcement strategies. Back Wages Paid for SCA Cases in Example Industries, Fiscal Years 2014-2019 Note: Mail haul refers to surface mail transportation by contract carriers. Values are adjusted for inflation and expressed in fiscal year 2019 dollars using the Gross Domestic Product Price Index from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. DOL reported various challenges to enforcing the SCA, including difficulty communicating with contracting agencies. For example, DOL officials told GAO that poor communication with contracting agencies—particularly with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS)—can affect and delay cases, though USPS officials told GAO they were unaware of any communication gaps. Without addressing communication issues between USPS and DOL, USPS's implementation and DOL's enforcement of the SCA may be weakened. GAO found that contracting agencies may face SCA implementation challenges, including not having key information about SCA debarments and violations from DOL. When recording SCA debarments, DOL does not always include the unique identifier for an employer so that contracting agencies can accurately identify debarred firms. DOL also does not have a process that consistently or reliably informs contracting agencies about SCA violations by employers. Without improved information sharing by DOL, an agency may award a contract to an employer without being aware of or considering its past SCA violations. The SCA ensures that service workers on certain federal contracts receive pay and benefits that reflect current employment conditions in their locality. From fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the U.S. government obligated over $720 billion on service contracts covered under the SCA. GAO was asked to review SCA implementation and enforcement. This report examines (1) what available data reveal about past SCA cases, (2) what challenges DOL reports facing in enforcing the SCA, and (3) how contracting agencies implement the SCA. GAO analyzed DOL and federal procurement data for fiscal years 2014 through 2019, the most recent years available; reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of contract performance assessments; examined practices at three agencies selected to represent a range of contracting services and agency size; interviewed DOL officials; and reviewed relevant federal laws, policy, and guidance. GAO is making six recommendations, including that DOL analyze its use of enforcement tools; that DOL and USPS implement written protocols to improve communication with each other; and that DOL improve its information sharing with contracting agencies on SCA debarments and investigation outcomes. DOL and USPS generally concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas M. Costa at (202) 512-7215 or costat@gao.gov.
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  • Defense Budget: Opportunities Exist to Improve DOD’s Management of Defense Spending
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's previous work has shown that a number of opportunities exist for the Department of Defense (DOD) to strengthen management of defense spending, which would help the department address the challenges it faces, especially in a constrained budget environment. These opportunities include: Improving budgeting execution of funds. DOD does not fully obligate the funds appropriated to it and can improve both its budgeting for and its use of the resources that are provided to it. For example, GAO found that DOD has left billions of dollars in appropriated amounts unspent over the past 10 fiscal years. Better estimating annual budget requirements and obligating appropriations provided by Congress within the period of availability established by Congress would help DOD minimize these cases of under-execution. More clearly determining future resource requirements related to overseas contingency operations. DOD and Congress need a clearer determination of DOD's future resource requirements, in particular how and whether to incorporate enduring Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) costs—costs that will endure beyond ongoing contingency operations—into DOD's base budget. These costs could total tens of billions of dollars a year. However, few details exist as to what makes up these enduring costs or how they were derived, raising questions about how much should be included as future requirements. Reducing improper payments. Addressing improper payments—payments that should not have been made or were made in an incorrect amount—is an area where better financial management could save DOD billions of dollars. In its fiscal year 2020 agency financial report, DOD estimated that it paid about $11.4 billion in improper payments, or about 1.7 percent of all payments it made that year. DOD has taken steps to reduce improper payments in some areas, but DOD's estimates of its improper payments in other areas indicate more remains to be done. Sustaining and refining department-wide business reform efforts. DOD must transform its overall business operations so that it can more efficiently and effectively use its resources. In recent years, DOD reported notable achievements from its most recent department-wide business reform efforts, including $37 billion in savings from fiscal years 2017 to 2021 as a result of these efforts. However, GAO previously found that while DOD's reported savings were largely reflected in its budget materials, the analyses underlying these estimates were not always well documented and the savings were not always the result of business reform. Moreover, uncertainty about the leadership structure at DOD for overseeing and reforming business operations, including the recent elimination of the Chief Management Officer position, calls into question whether efforts to fundamentally transform how the department does business can be realized and sustained. GAO has previously highlighted the importance of DOD providing clear department-wide guidance on roles, responsibilities, authorities, and resources for business reform efforts will be necessary for DOD to make progress in these efforts. Decisions by DOD and Congress regarding long-term defense needs will have a meaningful impact on the nation's fiscal future. As the single largest category of discretionary spending, defense spending is likely to play a large role in any discussion of future federal spending. GAO and others have found that DOD faces challenges that are likely to put pressure on its budget moving forward. DOD is the only major federal agency that has been unable to receive a clean audit opinion on its financial statements. This testimony provides information on how DOD can better manage defense spending, specifically related to its ability to (1) accurately estimate its budgetary requirements and execute its appropriated funds, (2) determine resource requirements related to overseas contingency operations, (3) reduce improper payments, and (4) sustain and refine department-wide reform efforts. For this testimony, GAO reviewed and summarized its recent work on DOD budget and financial management issues and departmental reform efforts. In prior work on which this testimony is based, GAO made recommendations that DOD take steps to better estimate its annual budget requirements and future fiscal needs for OCO, reduce improper payments, and refine and formalize its departmental reform efforts. DOD generally concurred with these recommendations and is working toward implementing them. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Service of Remembrance for George Pratt Shultz
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  • Justice Department Finds Yale Illegally Discriminates Against Asians and Whites in Undergraduate Admissions in Violation of Federal Civil-Rights Laws
    In Crime News
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  • Civil Rights Division Opens Investigation into Potential Discrimination in Public Contracting
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has opened an investigation into whether the public contracting and procurement practices of Kansas City, Missouri comply with the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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