December 6, 2021

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South Texan heads to prison for possessing nearly 1500 pornographic images of minors

11 min read
A 27-year-old Brownsville resident has been ordered to federal prison for possession of child pornography

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov June 23, 2021

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  • GAO Audits Involving DOD: Status of Efforts to Schedule and Hold Timely Entrance Conferences
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO began 42 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. Of the 42 requested entrance conferences (i.e., initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff) for those audits, DOD scheduled 41 within 14 days of notification and held all 42 entrance conferences within 30 days of notification. Scheduling was delayed for one entrance conference, which was scheduled 21 days after notification, because DOD and GAO were working to reach agreement on the primary action officer, which is the appropriate office or component within the department that coordinates DOD's response to the audit. The entrance conference was held 8 days after it was scheduled. Entrance conferences allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support the audit work. GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols assist GAO in scheduling entrance conferences with key agency officials within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits. In past years, DOD experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences. In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling and holding of entrance conferences. In this report, GAO evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of receiving notice of a new audit, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and held those conferences within 30 days. This is the third of four quarterly reports that GAO will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020. In the first two quarterly reports, GAO found that DOD had improved its ability to meet the protocol target. GAO analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD and initiated in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020 (April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020). Specifically, GAO identified the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that were sent to DOD during that time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received the notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the relevant GAO team for each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • North Carolina Man Sentenced for Violating Fair Housing Act and Threatening a Family Because of Their Race
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that Douglas Matthew Gurkins, 34,was sentenced to 28 months in prison, followed by three years supervised release, for using threats of force against an African American family because of the family members’ race and because they were renting a dwelling.
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  • Repeat Child Sex Offender Sentenced to 108 Months in Prison for Attempted Sex Abuse in Vietnam
    In Crime News
    A U.S. citizen residing outside the United States was sentenced today to 108 months in prison for attempting to molest an 11-year-old boy in Vietnam.
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  • COVID-19: Additional Risk Assessment Actions Could Improve HUD Oversight of CARES Act Funds
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) oversight of $12.4 billion in CARES Act funding included monitoring spending and addressing reporting requirements, but further action is needed to more fully assess program and fraud risks. As of July 2021, HUD obligated 94 percent of its CARES Act funds, and 34 percent had been expended (see figure). The CARES Act significantly increased funding for some HUD programs—for example the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program for homelessness assistance received more than 10 times its fiscal year 2020 funding. GAO previously reported that programs should update risk assessments when funding or the operating environment changes. To respond to COVID-19, HUD expedited its risk assessment process, and concluded the CARES Act funds did not substantially affect programs' risks or existing controls. While HUD's assessment identified risk factors and short-term steps to address them, it did not include some leading fraud risk management practices GAO previously identified. For example, HUD did not identify programs' new fraud risks or evaluate fraud risk tolerance. Additional risk assessment actions could help HUD better identify and address potential program and fraud risks of its CARES Act programs. HUD CARES Act Funds' Obligations and Expenditures, as of July 31, 2021 As of July 2021, HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and ESG programs expended about 15 percent of their CARES Act funds, mostly for emergency payments that can include rental assistance. HUD officials said spending is slow because some grantees have limited capacity to administer the larger grants, other federal funding is available, and CDBG grantees had until mid-August 2021 to apply for CARES Act funds. HUD is providing grantees with training and support to help them administer and use the CARES Act funds and developing specific monitoring guidance. Almost all of the CARES Act's $1.25 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program has been expended. To help public housing agencies navigate COVID-19, HUD issued numerous program waivers, such as letting owners self-certify property conditions in lieu of inspections. To monitor compliance, HUD is developing a portal for public housing agencies to report their use of the funds, which officials anticipate will be operational in December 2021. HUD also awarded a contract to support the program's CARES Act monitoring, including collecting information on waiver use. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn created housing instability for many families and individuals. Congress appropriated about $12.4 billion to HUD in CARES Act funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to housing needs related to COVID-19. GAO has previously reported on HUD's persistent management challenges and noted the potential for these challenges to affect the implementation and oversight of HUD's COVID-19 response. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor the federal government's efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines HUD's actions to oversee its CARES Act funding and manage risks, and HUD's implementation and monitoring of the CARES Act funds of selected community development, homelessness, and rental assistance programs. GAO reviewed HUD documentation and analyzed HUD spending data, focusing on the four programs that received the most CARES Act funding. GAO also interviewed HUD officials and associations representing HUD funding recipients.
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  • Waste Management: DOD Needs to Fully Assess the Health Risks of Burn Pits
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO reported in September 2016 that the effects from exposing individuals to burn pit emissions were not well understood, and the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully assessed the health risks associated with the use of burn pits. Burn pits—shallow excavations or surface features with berms used to conduct open-air burning—were often chosen as a method of waste disposal during recent contingency operations in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, which extends from the Middle East to Central Asia and includes Iraq and Afghanistan. According to DOD Instruction 6055.01, DOD Safety and Occupational Health (SOH) Program , DOD should apply risk-management strategies to eliminate occupational injury or illness and loss of mission capability or resources. The instruction also requires all DOD components to establish procedures to ensure that risk-acceptance decisions were documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. Furthermore, DOD Instruction 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), requires that hazards be identified and risk evaluated as early as possible, including the consideration of exposure patterns, duration, and rates. While DOD has guidance that applies to burn pit emissions among other health hazards, DOD had not fully assessed the health risks of use of burn pits, according to DOD officials. According to DOD officials, DOD's ability to assess these risks was limited by a lack of adequate information on (1) the levels of exposure to burn pit emissions and (2) the health impacts these exposures had on individuals. With respect to information on exposure levels, DOD had not collected data from emissions or monitored exposures from burn pits as required by its own guidance. Given the potential use of burn pits near installations and during future contingency operations, establishing processes to monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures would better position DOD and combatant commanders to collect data that could help assess exposure to risks. GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense (1) take steps to ensure CENTCOM and other geographic combatant commands, as appropriate, establish processes to consistently monitor burn pit emissions for unacceptable exposures; and (2) in coordination with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, specifically examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health-related issues. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second. In a May 2018 status update regarding these recommendations, DOD outlined a series of steps it had implemented as well as steps that it intends to implement. The department believes these efforts will further enhance its ability to better monitor burn-pit emissions and examine the relationship between direct, individual, burn pit exposure and potential long-term health related issues. GAO believes the steps DOD is taking are appropriate. Why GAO Did This Study Burn pits help base commanders manage waste generated by U.S. forces overseas, but they also produce harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in chronic health effects for those exposed. This statement provides information on the extent to which DOD has assessed any health risks of burn pit use. This statement is based on a GAO report issued in September 2016 (GAO-16-781). The report was conducted in response to section 313 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Specifically, GAO assessed the methodology DOD used in conducting a review of the compliance of the military departments and combatant commands with DOD instructions governing the use of burn pits in contingency operations and the adequacy of a DOD report for the defense committees. GAO also obtained updates from DOD on actions taken to assess health risks from burn pits since September 2016.
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  • International Security: DOD and State Need to Improve Sustainment Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation for Section 1206 and 1207 Assistance Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2006, the United States created two new programs, authorized in Sections 1206 and 1207 of the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, to respond to the threats of global terrorism and instability. These programs have provided over $1.3 billion in military and nonmilitary aid to 62 countries and are due to expire in 2011 and 2010, respectively. The Congress mandated that GAO assess the programs. This report addresses the extent to which the programs (1) are consistent with U.S. strategic priorities, (2) are distinct from other programs, (3) address sustainment needs, and (4) incorporate monitoring and evaluation. GAO analyzed data and program documents from the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and interviewed U.S. and host country officials.The Section 1206 and 1207 programs have generally been consistent with U.S. strategic priorities. The Section 1206 program was established to build the military capacity of foreign countries to conduct counterterrorism and stabilization operations. DOD and State have devoted 82 percent of this program's funds to address specific terrorist threats, primarily in countries the U.S. intelligence community has identified as priorities for the counterterrorism effort. The Section 1207 program was established to transfer DOD funds to State for nonmilitary assistance related to stabilization, reconstruction, and security. DOD, State, and USAID have devoted 77 percent of this program's funds to countries at significant risk of instability, mostly those the United States has identified as vulnerable to state failure. Based on agency guidelines, the Section 1206 program is generally distinct from other programs, while the Section 1207 program is not. In most cases, Section 1206 projects addressed urgent and emergent counterterrorism and stabilization priorities of combatant commanders and did so more quickly than other programs, sometimes in a year, whereas Foreign Military Financing (FMF) projects can take up to 3 years to plan. DOD and embassy officials GAO spoke to consistently explained why projects do not overlap those of FMF and other programs, although project proposals GAO reviewed did not always document these distinctions. Section 1207 projects are virtually indistinguishable from those of other foreign aid programs in their content and time frames. Furthermore, the Section 1207 program has entailed additional implementation costs and funding delays beyond those of traditional foreign assistance programs, while the 1206 program has not. The uncertain availability of resources to sustain Section 1206 projects poses risks to achieving long-term impact. Enabling nations to achieve sustainable counterterrorism capabilities is a key U.S. policy goal. The long-term viability of Section 1206 projects is threatened by (1) the limited ability or willingness of partner nations to support new capabilities, as 76 percent of Section 1206 projects are in low- or lower-middle-income countries, and (2) U.S. legal and policy restrictions on using FMF and additional Section 1206 resources for sustainment. In contrast, sustainment risks for Section 1207 projects appear minimal, because State, USAID, and DOD are not restricted from drawing on a variety of overlapping funding sources to continue them. DOD and State have incorporated little monitoring and evaluation into the Section 1206 and 1207 programs. For Section 1206 projects, the agencies have not consistently defined performance measures, and results reporting has generally been limited to anecdotal information. For Section 1207 projects, the agencies have defined performance measures and State requires quarterly reporting on project implementation. However, State has not fully analyzed this information or provided it to DOD to inform program management. As a result, agencies have made decisions to sustain and expand both Section 1206 and 1207 projects without documentation of progress or effectiveness.
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  • Former Kay County Oklahoma Supervisory Corrections Officer Indicted for Civil Rights Violations
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment charging a former Kay County Oklahoma supervisory corrections officer with federal civil rights violations.
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  • Readout of Justice Department Leadership Meeting with Members of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence
    In Crime News
    Yesterday U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta convened a virtual listening session with Members of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence to discuss the unmet needs of survivors and the ways in which the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) could be improved and strengthened to help to meet those needs. The Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and Associate Attorney General were joined by leadership of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).
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  • Marketing Company Agrees to Pay $150 Million for Facilitating Elder Fraud Schemes
    In Crime News
    Epsilon Data Management LLC (Epsilon), one of the largest marketing companies in the world, has entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge for selling millions of Americans’ information to perpetrators of elder fraud schemes.
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  • Army and Marine Corps Training: Better Performance and Cost Data Needed to More Fully Assess Simulation-Based Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundOver the past several decades, the Army and Marine Corps have increased their use of simulation-based training--simulators and computer-based simulations. Historically, the aviation communities in both services have used simulators to train servicemembers in tasks such as takeoffs, and emergency procedures that could not be taught safely live. In contrast, the services' ground communities used limited simulations prior to 2000. However, advances in technology, and emerging conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to increased use of simulation-based training in the ground forces. For example, in response to increases in vehicle rollovers, both services began using simulators to train servicemembers to safely evacuate vehicles. The services are also collaborating in the development of some simulation-based training devices. For instance, according to Marine Corps officials, the service reused 87 percent of the Army's Homestation Instrumentation Training System's components in its own training system, achieving about $11 million in cost avoidance and saving an estimated 7 years in fielding time. The services are also taking steps to better integrate live and simulation-based training, developing technical capabilities to connect previously incompatible simulation-based training devices. The Army's capability is now being fielded, and the Marine Corps' is in the initial development phase.The Army and Marine Corps consider various factors in determining whether to use live or simulation-based training, but lack key performance and cost information that would enhance their ability to determine the optimal mix of training and prioritize related investments. As the services identify which requirements can be met with either live or simulation-based training or both, they consider factors such as safety and training mission. Also, they have cited numerous benefits of simulation-based training, such as improving servicemember performance in live training events, and reducing operating costs. Both services rely on subject matter experts, who develop their training programs, and after action reports from deployments and training exercises for information on how servicemembers may have benefited from simulation-based training. However, neither service has established outcome metrics to assist them in more precisely measuring the impact of using simulation-based devices to improve performance or proficiency. Leading management practices recognize that performance metrics can help agencies determine the contributions that training makes to improve results. Army and Marine Corps officials also generally consider simulation-based training to be less costly than live training and analyze some data, such as life cycle costs, when considering options to acquire a particular simulation-based training device. However, once simulation-based training devices are fielded, the services neither reevaluate cost information as they determine the mix of training nor have a methodology for determining the costs associated with simulation-based training. Federal internal control standards state that decision makers need visibility over a program's financial data to determine whether the program is meeting the agencies' goals and effectively using resources. Without better performance and cost data, the services lack the information they need to make more fully informed decisions in the future regarding the optimal mix of training and how best to target investments for simulation-based training capabilities.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Army and Marine Corps use live and simulation-based training to meet training goals and objectives. Service officials have noted benefits from the use of simulation-based training--both in terms of training effectiveness and in cost savings or cost avoidance. A House report accompanying the bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 mandated GAO to review the status of the military services' training programs. This report follows GAO's reports on the Navy and Air Force, and assesses (1) changes in the Army's and Marine Corps' use of simulation-based training, including efforts to integrate live and simulation-based training capabilities; and (2) the factors the Army and Marine Corps consider in determining whether to use live or simulation-based training, including the extent to which they consider performance and cost information. GAO focused on a broad cross-section of occupations (e.g., aviation, armor, artillery), and analyzed service training strategies and other documents; and conducted six site visits and interviewed service officials involved with training and training development for the selected occupations.
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  • Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made Strengthening Management Functions, but Work Remains
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed, GAO designated implementing and transforming DHS as a high-risk area to the federal government because it had to transform 22 agencies—several with major management challenges—into one department. Progress made. In 2013, GAO reported that challenges remained for DHS across its range of missions, but that the department had made considerable progress transforming its original component agencies into a single cabinet-level department. As a result, GAO narrowed the scope of the high-risk area to focus on strengthening DHS management functions—specifically acquisition, information technology, financial, and human capital management. DHS's efforts to strengthen and integrate its management functions have resulted in the department meeting 3 of 5 criteria for removal from GAO's High-Risk List—demonstrating leadership commitment, having an action plan, and monitoring the effectiveness of its actions. DHS has partially met the remaining two criteria for removal—having sufficient capacity and demonstrating progress. Several factors contributed to DHS's success in narrowing the scope of the high-risk area. These include: DHS's top leaders demonstrated leadership commitment and support for addressing the department's challenges, which helped ensure sustained, consistent progress in this high-risk area. DHS consistently communicated its efforts and regularly sought constructive and specific feedback from GAO on its strategy and approach to addressing the high-risk area. Work remaining. Continued progress for this high-risk area depends on DHS addressing its remaining management challenges. For example, DHS needs to make additional progress identifying and allocating resources in acquisition and financial management. For instance: DHS lacks acquisition support staffing plans and has not clearly defined which acquisition positions are critical for oversight responsibilities, limiting DHS's insight into whether it has appropriate staff to carry out its duties. DHS's financial statement auditor identified several capacity-related issues, including resource limitations and inadequate staff training, resulting in material weaknesses in its 2020 financial statements. DHS also has work remaining to demonstrate progress implementing corrective measures. Specifically, of the 30 outcome measures GAO uses to gauge the department's progress, DHS has not yet fully addressed 12 of 30 measures. For example, DHS needs to effectively implement its long-term financial systems modernization efforts and use department-wide training data to inform its human capital programs. In the coming years, DHS needs to continue implementing its remaining work and sustaining its progress to-date. Why GAO Did This Study The events of September 11, 2001, led to profound changes in government agendas, policies, and structures to confront homeland security threats. In 2003, DHS began operations, with missions to prevent terrorist attacks and reduce the country's vulnerability to future terrorism. GAO's High-Risk List identifies programs and operations (such as DHS's management functions) that are vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement, or in need of transformation. GAO's five criteria for removing areas from the High-Risk List guide the assessment of DHS's progress. This statement addresses DHS's progress and actions needed to strengthen its management functions. It is based on reports in GAO's high-risk series, including its most recent March 2021 update, as well as selected updates on DHS's efforts as of September 2021. For this work, GAO analyzed DHS documents and data and interviewed DHS officials. DHS Progress against High-Risk List Removal Criteria For more information, contact at (404) 679-1875 or curriec@gao.gov.
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