January 25, 2022

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Young Houstonian sent to prison for nearly 20 years

17 min read
A 24-year-old Houston man has been ordered to federal prison following his convictions on robbery, brandishing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov November 22, 2021
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  • Senior Executive of Oil-Services Company Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud Scheme that Caused Over $886 Million in Shareholder Losses
    In Crime News
    A North Dakota man, formerly the executive vice president of U.S. operations at a publicly traded Canadian oil-services company, pleaded guilty today to perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently inflate the company’s reported revenue that resulted in shareholder losses in excess of $886 million.
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  • Judiciary Informs Congress of Its Opposition to Bill
    In U.S Courts
    The Judiciary has informed Congress that it opposes the proposed Judiciary Accountability Act. In a letter to key lawmakers today, Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, wrote that the bill “fails to recognize the robust safeguards that have been in place within the Judiciary to protect Judiciary employees, including law clerks, from wrongful conduct in the workplace, including protections against discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and abusive conduct.”
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  • Colorado Man Sentenced for Sexual Exploitation of Children in Guatemala
    In Crime News
    A Colorado man was sentenced today to 60 years in prison for production, transportation, and possession of child pornography.
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  • Owner of Louisiana Construction and Building Inspection Businesses and His Two Siblings Plead Guilty to Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Louisiana man who owns construction and building inspection businesses, along with his brother and sister, who were employed by the construction businesses, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to defraud the IRS.
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  • Man Sentenced for His Role in COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Wisconsin man was sentenced today to 36 months in prison for fraudulently seeking over $600,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Justice Department Approves Remission of Over $32 Million in Forfeited Funds to Victims in the FIFA Corruption Case
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it will begin the process of remitting forfeited funds to FIFA, the world organizing body of soccer; CONCACAF, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in North and Central America, among other regions; CONMEBOL, the confederation responsible for soccer governance in South America; and various constituent national soccer federations (collectively, the “Victims”). The department granted a joint petition for remission filed by the Victims, recognizing losses and granting remission up to a total of more than $201 million, of which $32.3 million in forfeited funds has been approved for an initial distribution. In total, well over the amount granted has been seized and has been or is expected to be forfeited to the United States in the Eastern District of New York as part of the government’s long-running investigation and prosecution of corruption in international soccer. 
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  • Justice Department Observes National Missing Children’s Day
    In Crime News
    As part of the 38th annual commemoration of National Missing Children’s Day, the Department of Justice today honored nine courageous individuals for their extraordinary efforts to recover missing children and bring sexual predators to justice. This year’s award recipients include four detectives and a sergeant from Fresno, California; two coordinators in the Missing Child Center-Hawaii in Honolulu; a sergeant from Addison, Illinois; and a U.S. Postal Service employee from Columbia, Maryland.
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  • Bureau of Land Management: Better Workforce Planning and Data Would Help Mitigate the Effects of Recent Staff Vacancies
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Since 2016, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) changed its organizational structure by merging or transferring several of its headquarters functions. BLM also moved its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, CO, and relocated most of its headquarters positions to its new headquarters and other offices in 11 western states. In September 2021, the Secretary announced plans to return the headquarters to Washington, D.C. Since 2016, BLM's workforce composition changed in several ways, including through increases in headquarters vacancies and in temporary reassignments—known as details—to fill the duties of those vacant positions. BLM senior officials told GAO they do not have consistent and reliable data on vacancies agency-wide or the use of details. However, BLM provided some vacancy data for headquarters positions from July 2019 to May 2021. According to these data, the number of vacant headquarters positions increased after BLM announced the relocation of its headquarters in July 2019, as shown in the figure below. BLM Headquarters Vacancies from July 2019 to May 2021 Most BLM staff GAO spoke with said vacancies in key headquarters positions caused delays in creating or clarifying guidance or policy. Further, some said an increased reliance on details negatively affected their office's performance—for example, because state office staff detailed to headquarters reduced capacity in state offices. Without complete and reliable data on vacancies and details across the agency, BLM officials cannot make informed decisions about filling vacancies and initiating details to help the agency achieve its mission and goals. GAO also found that BLM does not have an agency-wide strategic workforce plan that supports its mission and programmatic goals. BLM officials told GAO their mechanism for strategic workforce planning is a 2019 memorandum, but this memorandum generally does not address the two critical needs that define strategic workforce planning: (1) aligning the human capital program with emerging mission goals and (2) developing long-term strategies for acquiring, developing, and retaining staff to achieve programmatic goals. Without a strategic workforce plan that addresses these needs, BLM lacks reasonable assurance the agency will have the workforce necessary to achieve its goals in managing millions of acres of public lands. Why GAO Did This Study BLM's workforce of about 8,800 permanent staff is responsible for a portfolio of public lands, which, according to BLM, encompasses more than 245 million surface acres, primarily in western states. BLM's mission includes managing these lands for a variety of uses while maintaining natural and cultural resources. BLM headquarters provides national policy direction to the rest of BLM, while state offices generally administer programs in the states. Since 2016, BLM's workforce has experienced hiring restrictions and a reorganization. GAO was asked to review recent changes to BLM's workforce and the agency's workforce planning efforts. This report examines, for the period since 2016, (1) changes in BLM's organizational structure, (2) changes in BLM's workforce composition, and (3) the extent to which BLM has had a strategic workforce plan that supports its mission and goals. GAO analyzed BLM workforce data, information on organizational changes, and workforce planning documents from 2016 to 2021, and interviewed 13 BLM staff members from offices affected by organizational and workforce changes.
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  • Mexican nationals face life sentence for human smuggling resulting in death
    In Justice News
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  • Readout of the Political Directors Small Group Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Announces Civil Investigation into Louisiana’s Prisoner Release Practices
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a statewide civil investigation into Louisiana’s prisoner release practices.
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  • Iranian Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Evade U.S. Sanctions on Iran by Disguising $300 Million in Transactions Over Two Decades
    In Crime News
    A federal criminal complaint unsealed today charges 10 Iranian nationals with running a nearly 20-year-long scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on the Government of Iran by disguising more than $300 million worth of transactions – including the purchase of two $25 million oil tankers – on Iran’s behalf through front companies in the San Fernando Valley, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.
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  • Executive Arrested and Charged for Bribery and Money-Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    A South Florida resident was arrested yesterday in Miami on charges related to his alleged role in a scheme to bribe Venezuelan officials and launder funds to obtain contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), and Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled food company that purchased food for Venezuela, Corporación de Abastecimiento y Servicios Agrícola (CASA).
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  • Azerbaijan Republic Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Los Angeles Man Arrested for $27 Million PPP Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A California man was arrested today in Los Angeles on criminal charges related to his alleged bank fraud, false statements in a loan application and money laundering arising from the submission of fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.
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  • Former Union Official Sentenced for Violent Extortion
    In Crime News
    An Indiana man and former business agent of Iron Workers Local 395 was sentenced today to more than four years in prison for conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act extortion.
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  • Personnel Vetting: Actions Needed to Implement Reforms, Address Challenges, and Improve Planning
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council (PAC) Principals—comprising the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security—have made progress in implementing Trusted Workforce 2.0, which is a reform of personnel vetting processes. The PAC Principals reduced a backlog of investigations, have begun to develop a policy framework for a new approach to personnel vetting, and have begun to develop needed information technology (IT) systems. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has formalized requirements to enroll the eligible national security population in continuous evaluation (CE), but has not assessed program performance. CE entails enrolling employees in IT systems that conduct automated record checks on a frequent basis. As of March 2021, about three-quarters of the eligible national security population in executive branch agencies were enrolled in a CE system, according to ODNI officials. In 2017 GAO recommended that ODNI develop performance measures to evaluate CE and a plan to address its impact on agency resources. ODNI concurred with GAO's recommendation but has delayed taking actions in response and will not do so until CE is fully implemented, according to ODNI officials. This lack of progress may warrant congressional consideration, as it could limit ODNI's and congressional decision-makers' ability to assess the effectiveness and impact of continuous evaluation. The Department of Defense (DOD) does not have a reliable schedule to help manage the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. DOD has been developing NBIS since 2016, and DOD plans to replace the IT systems it currently uses to manage the background investigation process with NBIS. GAO assessed the NBIS schedule using GAO best practices and found it did not meet the characteristics of a reliable schedule (see table). By aligning the NBIS schedule with the characteristics of a reliable schedule, DOD could improve the likelihood of completing NBIS on schedule and improve decision-making during the program's development. Table: Extent to Which NBIS Schedule Meets Best Practices Characteristics of a reliable schedule GAO assessment of the characteristic Comprehensive Partially met Controlled Partially met Well-constructed Minimally met Credible Minimally met Source: GAO analysis of information for the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) system. | GAO-22-104093 Further, DOD has taken limited strategic workforce planning steps for its entire personnel vetting workforce because it has not established a milestone for doing so. By establishing a milestone, DOD would create an accountability mechanism to complete its planning, which would help it determine the right mix of skills and competencies needed to effectively accomplish the personnel vetting mission. Why GAO Did This Study Personnel vetting helps protect the nation's interests by aiming to establish and maintain trust in the federal workforce. High-quality vetting processes can reduce the risk of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. In 2018 GAO placed the government-wide personnel security clearance process on its High-Risk List due to a lack of performance measures and issues with IT systems. This report evaluates, among other things, the extent to which the PAC Principals have implemented Trusted Workforce 2.0; ODNI has formalized continuous evaluation and assessed program performance; and DOD has planned for the IT and workforce needed to support its personnel vetting mission. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed relevant documentation, interviewed officials from the agencies represented by the four PAC Principals, and collected and reviewed data on continuous evaluation. GAO also assessed information collected against GAO leading practices on performance measures and project schedules, and evaluated DOD's actions against a DOD instruction on workforce planning.
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  • VA Disability Benefits and Health Care: Providing Certain Services to the Seriously Injured Poses Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    More than 10,000 U.S. military servicemembers, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, have been injured in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those with serious physical and psychological injuries are initially treated at the Department of Defense's (DOD) major military treatment facilities (MTF). The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made provision of services to these servicemembers a high priority. This testimony focuses on the steps VA has taken and the challenges it faces in providing services to the seriously injured and highlights findings from three recent GAO reports that addressed VA's efforts to provide services to the seriously injured. These services include vocational rehabilitation and employment (VR&E) and health care for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).VA has taken steps to provide services as a high priority to seriously injured servicemembers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. To identify and monitor those who may require VA's services, VA and DOD are working on a formal agreement to share data about servicemembers with serious injuries. Meanwhile, VA has relied on its regional offices to coordinate with staff at MTFs and VA medical centers to learn the identities, medical conditions, and military status of seriously injured servicemembers. For servicemembers with PTSD, VA has taken steps to improve care including developing with DOD a clinical practice guideline for identifying and treating individuals with PTSD. The guideline contains a four-question screening tool, which both VA and DOD use to identify those who may be at risk for PTSD. VA faces significant challenges in providing services to seriously injured servicemembers. For example, the individualized nature of recovery makes it difficult to determine when a seriously injured servicemember will be ready for vocational rehabilitation, and DOD has expressed concern that VA's outreach to servicemembers could affect retention for those whose discharge from military service is uncertain. VA is also challenged by the lack of access to DOD data; although VA staff have developed ad hoc arrangements, such informal agreements can break down. Regarding PTSD, inaccurate data limit VA's ability to estimate its capacity for treating additional veterans and to plan for an increased demand for these services.
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  • 401(k) Retirement Plans: Many Participants Do Not Understand Fee Information, but DOL Could Take Additional Steps to Help Them
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Almost 40 percent of 401(k) plan participants do not fully understand and have difficulty using the fee information that the Department of Labor (DOL) requires plans to provide to participants in fee disclosures, according to GAO's analysis of its generalizable survey (see figure). GAO assessed participants' understanding of samples from several large plans' fee disclosures and other information about fees, and asked general knowledge questions about fees. For example, GAO found that 45 percent of participants are not able to use the information given in disclosures to determine the cost of their investment fee. Additionally, 41 percent of participants incorrectly believe that they do not pay any 401(k) plan fees. Prior GAO work has shown that even seemingly small fees can significantly reduce participants' retirement savings over time. GAO Estimates of 401(k) Plan Participants' Score Distribution on Survey's Fee-Related Assessment Questions GAO's review of selected countries and the European Union (EU) found they have implemented practices to help retirement plan participants understand and use fee information from plan disclosures. For example, stakeholders in those locations said layering data, a technique where information is presented hierarchically, can help participants understand disclosures by providing them key plan information first. Stakeholders also said other tools can help participants understand fee information. In Italy, for example, the government provides a supplemental online tool so participants can compare and calculate fees across plans and investment options, according to stakeholders. This tool also includes a fee benchmark—which is generally an average fee among comparable funds—that helps participants judge the value of an individual investment option. DOL could take additional steps to help 401(k) plan participants improve their understanding and use of fee information, based on GAO survey responses and analysis. DOL regulations require that disclosures present fee information in a format that helps participants compare investment options. However, disclosures are not required to include certain information, such as fee benchmarks and ticker information (unique identifying symbols used for many popular types of investments), that could be helpful for participants. Fee benchmarks can help participants to assess an investment option's value, not only relative to other in-plan options but to options outside the plan. Ticker information can help participants identify many plan investments online to evaluate and compare them to options outside the plan. By requiring such information in disclosures, DOL could help participants better understand and compare their 401(k) plan fees when making investment choices that affect their retirement security. Why GAO Did This Study DOL regulations require 401(k) plans to provide the more than 87 million plan participants with a comprehensive disclosure of the fees they pay. GAO was asked to examine how well participants can understand and use the fee disclosures. This report (1) assesses the extent to which 401(k) plan participants can understand and use fee information in disclosures; (2) describes disclosure practices used by selected countries to help retirement plan participants; and (3) examines any additional steps that DOL could take to advance participant understanding and use of fee information. GAO conducted a nationally representative survey of 401(k) plan participants to assess their understanding of fee disclosure samples from among 10 large plans and of other fee information. To identify and describe disclosure practices used abroad, GAO interviewed stakeholders and reviewed fee disclosure documents from Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and the European Union, chosen because of their documented practices to improve participants' understanding of fee disclosures. To identify any additional steps DOL could take, GAO also reviewed disclosures from 10 large plans, as well as relevant federal laws and regulations, and interviewed stakeholders in the U.S.
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  • International Trio Indicted in Austin for Illegal Exports to Russia
    In Crime News
    A four–count federal grand jury indictment returned in Austin and unsealed today charges three foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and two Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the U.S. and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licenses.
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