December 4, 2021

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Serial Child Sex Offender Convicted of Child Exploitation Offenses

6 min read
<div>A federal jury convicted a Texas man today for multiple child exploitation offenses involving an 11-year-old child.</div>
A federal jury convicted a Texas man today for multiple child exploitation offenses involving an 11-year-old child.

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  • Federal Hiring: OPM Should Collect and Share COVID-19 Lessons Learned to Inform Hiring During Future Emergencies
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The CARES Act provided temporary hiring authorities to six agencies with responsibilities for responding to the public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. A hiring authority is the law, executive order, or regulation that allows an agency to hire a person into the federal civil service. In addition, as of September 30, 2020, five agencies received direct hiring authority (DHA) from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in response to the pandemic. DHAs allow agencies to expedite hiring by eliminating competitive rating and ranking procedures and veterans' preference for specific positions. Also, in March 2020, OPM authorized the use of COVID-19 Schedule A hiring authority, which allows agencies to fill positions for up to 1 year as needed in response to, or as a result of, COVID-19. GAO found that the number of staff hired by 10 selected agencies using these three temporary COVID-19 hiring authorities varied. Figure 1: Availability of COVID-19 Hiring Authorities and Total Number of Hires Made at Selected Agencies, March through December 2020 aCOVID-19 Schedule A hiring authority allows agencies to fill positions for up to 1 year as needed in response to, or as a result of, COVID-19. bAgency received approval to amend an existing authority so hires were not all related to COVID-19. cCommerce's CARES Act hiring authority is limited to the Economic Development Administration. The selected agencies described a few lessons learned that could help other agencies improve the use of hiring authorities in future emergencies including: (1) collaborating with internal stakeholders to maximize information sharing across the agency; and (2) creating an inventory of hiring needs and available authorities to assist in addressing agency workforce needs. OPM intends to conduct reviews in fiscal year 2022 that may provide insight into agencies' use of hiring authorities in response to the pandemic. However, according to OPM officials, the agency has not yet developed plans to collect and share lessons learned on the use of COVID-19 related hiring authorities. Collecting and sharing lessons learned would help OPM understand how the various hiring authorities could be used during future emergencies and identify opportunities to improve the hiring process. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on federal programs and operations. To address this public health crisis, Congress and the administration made several hiring authorities available to agencies to hire staff with the needed skills to effectively respond to the pandemic. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines: (1) the new hiring authorities provided to federal agencies for COVID-19 response and the extent to which selected agencies have used them; (2) selected agencies' experiences using those hiring authorities, including lessons learned; and (3) OPM's efforts to assess agencies' use of the COVID-19 related hiring authorities. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from OPM and the 10 agencies that were provided hiring authorities in the CARES Act or DHA for the public health emergency from OPM between March 1 and September 30, 2020. The documents reviewed included data on the agencies' hiring and OPM policies and guidance for its oversight of agencies' use of hiring authorities.
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  • VA Health Care: Preliminary Findings on the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Budget Formulation for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006
    In U.S GAO News
    This report documents the information we provided to Congress in a briefing on February 2, 2006, in response to a request concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) internal budget formulation process. This includes information that VA develops for its budget submission to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but it does not include information on subsequent interactions that occur between VA and OMB. We will do additional work to incorporate information from OMB and complete our analysis in a report to be issued at a later date. Congress requested information on VA's budget formulation process because of its interest in ensuring that VA's budget forecasts are accurate and based on valid patient estimates. In response to the request for information on VA's internal budget formulation process, this report provides the following for fiscal years 2005 and 2006: (1) a description of VA's process for developing its budget submission to OMB for its medical programs, and the role of VA's actuarial model; (2) a description of the medical program activities cited by VA as needing additional funding, and how VA identified these activities; and (3) key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding.VA's internal process for formulating the medical programs funding requests was informed by, but not driven by, projected demand. VA projected costs based on projected demand for medical care under current policy. Throughout the process, VA compared projected costs to its anticipated request level for the OMB submission and made adjustments to address the difference. VA officials stated that this was done in two ways: through cost-saving policy proposals, such as assessing an annual health care enrollment fee, and management efficiencies. After making adjustments to address the difference between projected costs and its anticipated request level, VA developed its budget submission for OMB. VA later cited a number of activities as needing additional funding based on programmatic priorities and an analysis of expenditure data. Among the activities that were cited for fiscal year 2005 was $273 million for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; $226 million for long-term care; and almost $400 million for increases in the number of patients, as well as increases in both utilization and intensity of care. For the fiscal year 2006 budget, VA cited $677 million to cover a 2 percent increase in the number of patients, $600 million to correct VA's estimate for long-term care costs, $400 million for an unexpected 1.2 percent increase in average cost per patient, and $300 million to replace funds VA planned to carry over from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that they chose to highlight activities that were of high programmatic priority and could be supported by workload and expenditure data (e.g. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan). They also reviewed spending and workload trends to determine whether spending trends were on target or whether adjustments were needed. An unrealistic assumption, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding. According to VA, an unrealistic assumption about the speed with which VA could implement a policy to reduce nursing home patient workload in VA-operated nursing homes for fiscal year 2005 led to a need for additional funds. VA officials told us that errors in estimating the effect of a nursing home policy to reduce workload in all three of its nursing home settings--VA-operated nursing homes, community nursing homes, and state veterans' nursing homes--accounted for a request for additional funding for fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that the error resulted from calculations being made in haste during the OMB appeal process. Finally, VA officials told us that insufficient data on certain activities contributed to the requests for additional funds for both years. For example, inadequate data on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an underestimate in the initial funding request.
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  • Medicare: Information on the Transition to Alternative Payment Models by Providers in Rural, Health Professional Shortage, or Underserved Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In recent years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has developed and implemented new Medicare payment models, including alternative payment models (APM), in an effort to shift from paying providers based on the volume of care provided to the quality of care provided (value-based payments). One type of APM, Advanced APMs, are designed to encourage providers to share in both the financial rewards and risk of caring for Medicare beneficiaries. Providers must meet certain requirements to take part in an Advanced APM, such as using certified electronic health record technology. GAO's analysis of CMS data found that a smaller percentage of providers eligible to participate in Advanced APMs (eligible providers) in rural or health professional shortage areas (shortage areas) participated in them each year from 2017 through 2019 compared to providers not located in these areas. Percentage of Medicare Providers in Rural or Shortage Areas and Providers Not Located in These Areas Who Participated in Advanced APMs, 2017 – 2019 Providers in rural, shortage, or medically underserved areas face financial, technology, and other challenges in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs, according to CMS officials and stakeholders GAO interviewed. These include a lack of capital to finance the upfront costs of transitioning to an APM, including purchasing electronic health record technology; and challenges acquiring or conducting data analysis necessary for participation. CMS has implemented models with certain features that may help providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas transition to APMs, including Advanced APMs. This includes models that offer upfront funding to help with costs associated with participating in the APM, such as hiring additional staff; and technical assistance, such as education about APMs, to support providers. Why GAO Did This Study In 2017, in response to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, CMS implemented the Quality Payment Program—a payment incentive program intended to reward high-quality, efficient care. Advanced APMs, which offer a 5 percent incentive payment for Medicare providers seeing a certain percentage of their Medicare beneficiaries through the Advanced APM, are one part of this program. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 included a provision for GAO to examine transitions to APMs for providers in rural areas, shortage areas, or medically underserved areas. This report describes (1) participation in Advanced APMs by providers in rural or shortage areas; (2) challenges providers in rural, shortage, or underserved areas face in transitioning to APMs, including Advanced APMs; and (3) actions CMS has taken to help these providers transition to APMs. GAO analyzed CMS data on participation in Advanced APMs for 2017 through 2019—the most recent years available at the time of GAO's analysis. GAO also interviewed officials from CMS and 18 stakeholder organizations that represent providers of various specialties that participate in APMs or that have conducted research and are knowledgeable of issues related to APMs. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Michelle B. Rosenberg at (202) 512-7114 or rosenbergm@gao.gov.
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  • Promoting Accountability for Those Responsible for Violence Against Protestors in Burma
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Department of Justice Announces Charges of North Korean and Malaysia Nationals for Bank Fraud, Money Laundering and North Korea Sanctions Violations
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced a criminal complaint charging Ri Jong Chol, Ri Yu Gyong, North Korean nationals, and Gan Chee Lim, a Malaysia national. The three were charged with conspiracy to violate North Korean Sanctions Regulations and bank fraud, and conspiracy to launder funds. The defendants allegedly established and utilized front companies that transmitted U.S. dollar wires through the United States to purchase commodities on behalf of North Korean customers.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Meet and Greet with Embassy Jerusalem Staff
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Palauan President Whipps, Jr.
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Calls with Israeli Foreign Minister Ashkenazi
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • $26.6 Million In Allegedly Illicit Proceeds to Be Used To Fight COVID-19 and Address Medical Needs in Equatorial Guinea
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into agreements to distribute $19.25 million to the United Nations for the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines
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  • Texas plastics corporation will pay nearly $3M for violating Clean Air Act
    In Justice News
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Education
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified six priority recommendations for the Department of Education. Since then, Education has implemented three of those recommendations by taking action to: (1) raise awareness of the threat of lead in school drinking water and collaborate with EPA to encourage testing; (2) help borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program better understand eligibility requirements; and (3) improve its cyber risk management framework to better protect the agency's systems and data. In May 2021, GAO identified four additional priority recommendations for Education, bringing the total number to seven. These recommendations involve the following areas: protecting the investment in higher education and ensuring the well-being and education of the nation's school-age children. Education's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Jackie Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Former Owner of Health Care Staffing Company Indicted for Wage Fixing
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices by lowering the rates paid to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in north Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictment also charges Jindal with obstruction of the Federal Trade Commission’s separate investigation into this conduct.
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  • Clean Water Act: EPA Needs to Better Assess and Disclose Quality of Compliance and Enforcement Data
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has modified one of its three national initiatives emphasizing compliance with the Clean Water Act and has discontinued two others (see fig.). The goal of the modified initiative is to reduce significant noncompliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by half by the end of fiscal year 2022. Such permits set limits on discharges of wastewater from point sources, such as a pipe from an industrial facility. This goal supports EPA's strategic objective to increase compliance with environmental laws in its strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. EPA discontinued its initiatives focused on animal waste pollution and raw sewage and stormwater runoff, returning these areas to the core enforcement program in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As a result, these areas no longer receive the heightened attention and focused resources of the national initiatives, but the agency still pursues enforcement actions when needed. Changes in EPA's Clean Water Act National Initiatives EPA posts data that states report on their NPDES compliance and enforcement activities to its website, but the data are not reliable for identifying changes in the number of activities states conducted since 2015. EPA's most recent assessment of states' data showed that two of 17 states met expectations for the accuracy and completeness of the data recorded in the agency's national database. EPA is working with states to improve their data, and it includes on its website disclosures by some states about problems and limitations with their data. However, the agency has not ensured that all states' disclosures are consolidated, complete, and updated. Until it does so, potential users of the data may not fully understand the data or the data's limitations. EPA developed a measure to track progress toward its goal for reducing the rate of significant noncompliance by NPDES facilities with individual permits by the end of fiscal year 2022. While the measure tracks changes in the number of facilities in significant noncompliance, the results of the measure are unclear because data EPA needs to track compliance are incomplete and contain inaccuracies. According to EPA, about 70 percent of NDPES facilities have sufficiently complete data in the national database for EPA to track compliance. EPA is working with states to improve data quality, but it does not have a plan to assess the overall accuracy of the data. Until it does so, EPA cannot be certain what its measure is showing and if EPA is making progress toward its goal. Why GAO Did This Study EPA partners with states to oversee compliance with and enforcement of the Clean Water Act. In fiscal year 2020, there were roughly 335,000 facilities with active NPDES permits, which are used to regulate wastewater discharges under the act. In 2015, EPA began requiring states and facilities to electronically report data on their NPDES activities. EPA estimated that in 2018, nearly 11,000 facilities significantly exceeded their permit limits and illegally discharged pollutants into nearby waters, which may pose serious threats to human health and the environment. GAO was asked to review EPA's enforcement of the Clean Water Act. This report examines (1) changes since 2015 in EPA's national initiatives for ensuring compliance with the act, (2) changes in NPDES compliance and enforcement activities since 2015, and (3) the extent to which EPA is measuring progress toward compliance with the NPDES program. GAO reviewed and analyzed EPA documents and data on NPDES compliance and enforcement activities. GAO also interviewed officials from eight states, selected in part by EPA region, to learn about their NPDES compliance and enforcement activities and data reporting.
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  • United States Reaches Agreement with Midwest Can for Clean Air Act Violations
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement today that will require Midwest Can Company, one of the largest manufacturers of portable fuel containers in the United States, to pay a $1.7 million civil penalty to resolve Clean Air Act violations.
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  • Former South Carolina Sheriff and Former Deputies Convicted of Conspiracy, Misuse of Funds, and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
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  • Texas Woman Indicted for Transporting Minor for Female Genital Mutilation
    In Crime News
    A Texas woman has been indicted for transporting a minor from the United States to a foreign country for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM).
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  • Judiciary Seeks New Judgeships, Reaffirms Need for Enhanced Security
    In U.S Courts
    The Judicial Conference of the United States, the Judiciary’s policy-making body, today addressed two of its most pressing issues – a proposal to add 79 new judgeships for courts across the country and initiatives to improve both personal and courthouse security.
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  • Two sentenced after law enforcement uncovers illegal aliens in 100 degree trailer
    In Justice News
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  • COVID-19 Loans: SBA Has Begun to Take Steps to Improve Oversight and Fraud Risk Management
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) quickly implemented the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expedited the processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and a new EIDL advance program. These important programs have helped businesses survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to move quickly on these programs, SBA initially put limited internal controls in place, leaving both susceptible to program integrity issues, improper payments, and fraud. Because of concerns about program integrity, GAO added PPP and the EIDL program onto its High-Risk List in March 2021. SBA has begun to take steps to address these initial deficiencies: PPP oversight. Because ongoing oversight is crucial, GAO recommended in June 2020 that SBA develop plans to respond to PPP risks to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. Since then, SBA has developed a loan review process and added up-front verifications before it approves new loans. Improper payments for PPP. GAO recommended in November 2020 that SBA expeditiously estimate improper payments for PPP and report estimates and error rates. SBA has now developed a plan for the testing needed to estimate improper payments. Analyzing EIDL data. Based on evidence of widespread potential fraud for EIDL, GAO recommended in January 2021 that SBA conduct portfolio-level analysis to detect potentially ineligible applications. SBA has not announced plans to implement this recommendation. EIDL oversight. GAO recommended in March 2021 that SBA implement a comprehensive oversight plan for EIDL to ensure program integrity. SBA agreed to implement such a plan. Assessment of fraud risks. SBA has not conducted a formal fraud risk assessment for PPP or the EIDL program. GAO made four recommendations in March 2021, including that SBA conduct a formal assessment and develop a strategy to manage fraud risks for each program. SBA said it would work to complete fraud risk assessments for PPP and EIDL and continually monitor fraud risks. Financial statement audit. In December 2020, SBA's independent financial statement auditor issued a disclaimer of opinion on SBA's fiscal year 2020 consolidated financial statements because SBA could not provide adequate documentation to support a significant number of transactions and account balances related to PPP and EIDL. GAO continues to review information SBA recently provided, including data on PPP loan forgiveness and details on the PPP and EIDL loan review processes. In addition, GAO has obtained additional information from a survey of PPP participating lenders, interviews with SBA's PPP contractors, and written responses to questions provided by SBA's EIDL contractor and subcontractors. Why GAO Did This Study SBA has made or guaranteed about 18.7 million loans and grants through PPP and the EIDL program, providing about $968 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. PPP provides potentially forgivable loans to small businesses, and EIDL provides low-interest loans of up to $2 million for operating and other expenses, as well as advances (grants). This testimony discusses the lack of controls in PPP and the EIDL program and SBA's efforts to improve its oversight of these programs. It is based largely on GAO's June 2020–March 2021 reports on the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 (GAO-20-625, GAO-20-701, GAO-21-191, GAO-21-265, GAO -21-387). For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports; analyzed SBA data; and interviewed officials from SBA, the SBA OIG, and the Department of the Treasury.
    [Read More…]
  • Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Releases Status Report
    In Crime News
    The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) today released a status report detailing accomplishments during its first year and outlining its strategy for the next 12 months. The President’s Executive Order (E.O.) 13898, set forth a range of tasks to be completed over the two-year life of the Task Force, with required reports at the end of each year. Attorney General William P. Barr and Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt transmitted the status report to President Trump, and notably characterized these accomplishments as, “a productive first year of Task Force operations.”
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