December 3, 2021

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Virginia Man Convicted of Sexual Exploitation of Minors

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    A former commodities trader was sentenced Monday to 12 months and a day in prison for a scheme to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution.
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  • West Virginia Doctor Found Guilty of Unlawfully Distributing Opioids
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    A federal jury found a West Virginia doctor guilty today of unlawfully distributing opioids to his patients. The defendant was charged in a September 2019 indictment as part of the second Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown, a coordinated effort by the Justice Department’s Fraud Section to target unlawful drug diversion activities in areas of the country particularly hard-hit by the opioid epidemic.
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    A Montana man pleaded guilty in federal court in the District of North Dakota to a felony charge of obstructing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proceeding stemming from the 2014 death of an oilfield worker in Williston, North Dakota.
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  • K-12 Education: Students’ Experiences with Bullying, Hate Speech, Hate Crimes, and Victimization in Schools
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Students experience a range of hostile behaviors at schools nationwide, according to GAO's analysis of nationally generalizable surveys of students and schools. About one in five students aged 12 to 18 were bullied annually in school years 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19. Of students who were bullied in school year 2018-19, about one in four students experienced bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. About one in four of all students aged 12 to 18 saw hate words or symbols written in their schools, such as homophobic slurs and references to lynching. Most hostile behaviors also increased in school year 2017-18, according to our analysis of the school survey. Hate crimes—which most commonly targeted students because of their race and national origin—and physical attacks with a weapon nearly doubled (see figure). Sexual assaults also increased during the same period. Hostile Behaviors in K-12 Public Schools, School Years 2015-16 to 2017-18 Nearly every school used programs or practices to address hostile behaviors, and schools' adoption of them increased from school year 2015-16 to 2017-18, according to our analysis of the school survey. About 18,000 more schools implemented social emotional learning and about 1,200 more used in-school suspensions. Additionally, 2,000 more schools used school resource officers (SRO)—career officers with the ability to arrest students—in school year 2017-18. SROs' involvement in schools, such as solving problems, also increased. The Department of Education resolved complaints of hostile behaviors faster in recent years, due in part to more complaints being dismissed and fewer complaints being filed. In the 2019-20 school year, 81 percent of such resolved complaints were dismissed, most commonly because Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) did not receive consent to disclose the complainant's identity to those they filed the complaint against. Complaints of hostile behaviors filed with OCR declined by 9 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in school years 2018-19 and 2019-20. Civil rights experts GAO interviewed said that in recent years they became reluctant to file complaints on students' behalf because they lost confidence in OCR's ability to address civil rights violations in schools. The experts cited, in part, Education's rescission of guidance to schools that clarified civil rights protections, such as those for transgender students. Since 2021, Education has started reviewing or has reinterpreted some of this guidance. Why GAO Did This Study Hostile behaviors, including bullying, harassment, hate speech and hate crimes, or other types of victimization like sexual assault and rape, in schools can negatively affect K-12 students' short- and long-term mental health, education, income, and overall well-being. According to Education's guidance, incidents of harassment or hate, when motivated by race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), or disability status can impede access to an equal education. In certain circumstances, these kinds of incidents may violate certain federal civil rights laws, which Education's OCR is tasked with enforcing in K-12 schools. GAO was asked to review hostile behaviors in K-12 schools. This report examines (1) the prevalence and nature of hostile behaviors in K-12 public schools; (2) the presence of K-12 school programs and practices to address hostile behaviors; and (3) how Education has addressed complaints related to these issues in school years 2010-11 through 2019-20. GAO conducted descriptive and regression analyses on the most recent available data for two nationally generalizable federal surveys: a survey of 12- to 18-year-old students for school years 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19, and a survey of schools for school years 2015-16 and 2017-18. GAO also analyzed 10 years of civil rights complaints filed with OCR against schools; reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and documents; and interviewed relevant federal and national education and civil rights organization officials. GAO incorporated technical comments from Education as appropriate. For more information, contact Jacqueline M. Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • Counternarcotics: Treasury Reports Some Results from Designating Drug Kingpins, but Should Improve Information on Agencies’ Expenditures
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act), the Department of the Treasury's (Treasury) Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) leads a flexible interagency process to designate and sanction foreign individuals and entities that contribute to illicit narcotics trafficking. OFAC identifies potential Kingpin Act designees, compiles evidence, submits it for legal review, and seeks concurrence from partner agencies on designation decisions. OFAC and U.S. partner agencies monitor and enforce Kingpin Act sanctions, but OFAC has not ensured consistency and transparency of the expenditure data it has reported to Congress. Federal Banking Agencies monitor the OFAC compliance programs of U.S. banks through regular bank examinations. Additionally, OFAC handles enforcement through warnings, monetary penalties, and other methods. As required, OFAC reports annually to Congress on Kingpin Act designations and corresponding agency expenditures, but it has provided limited guidance to partner agencies on expenditure data they report. As a result, agencies use different methods to calculate the personnel and resource costs associated with their Kingpin activities. For example, the Department of Homeland Security said it only reports personnel expenditures when it is the lead investigative agency, but the Department of Defense reports personnel expenditures when it is not the lead. Furthermore, OFAC has not reported the limitations in agency data in its congressional reports. This lack of clear expenditure information could hinder oversight of the Kingpin Act. OFAC officials noted challenges to assessing the overall effectiveness of the Kingpin Act, but they and their U.S. and international partners track and report a range of results. The primary challenge cited is the difficulty of isolating the effect of the Kingpin Act from multiple other programs combating drug trafficking organizations. Results reported by OFAC and its partners include, for example, from 2000-2019, OFAC reported that it had designated more than 2,000 Kingpins and their supporters, and frozen more than half a billion dollars in assets under the act. In addition, host government officials reported that Kingpin Act sanctions assist them in imposing penalties on drug traffickers. Number of Kingpin Act Designations, from 2000 to 2019 Why GAO Did This Study Drug deaths in the United States have been rising for years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were over 70,000 U.S. drug overdose deaths. This national emergency results in part from the activities of international narcotics traffickers and their organizations. The Kingpin Act, enacted in 1999, allows Treasury to designate and sanction individuals and entities that contribute to illicit narcotics trafficking. Sanctions and other consequences include blocking a designee's property and assets, denying U.S. travel visas to designees, and penalizing U.S. persons who violate the prohibitions in the Kingpin Act. Treasury is required to submit an annual report to Congress on agencies' Kingpin Act–related personnel and resource expenditures and sanctions activities. This report examines (1) how U.S. agencies designate individuals and entities under the Kingpin Act; (2) the extent to which U.S. agencies monitor, enforce, and report on sanctions under the Kingpin Act; and (3) what agencies have done to assess the effectiveness of the Kingpin Act. GAO reviewed documents from and interviewed officials at Treasury, the Department of State, and other partner agencies. GAO also performed fieldwork in Colombia and Mexico.
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