October 21, 2021

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High-ranking gang member gets substantial sentence for drug trafficking

9 min read
A 33 year-old Houston man with a lengthy criminal history has been ordered to federal prison after packaging thousands of ecstasy pills for sale

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov October 4, 2021

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  • COVID-19: Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund Cash Management and Defense Logistics Agency Pandemic Response
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Three Department of Defense (DOD) agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), use the Defense-Wide Working Capital Fund (DWWCF) to fund their operations and then deposit the proceeds from sales of goods and services to their customers back into the fund. DOD received $500 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for the DWWCF in order to position the agency to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. GAO found: DOD Actions Helped Maintain DWWCF Balances within Targeted Ranges. Several transactions increased the DWWCF cash balances. In particular, the DWWCF received nearly $600 million in allotments from appropriations from January 2020 through January 2021, including $500 million from the CARES Act. DLA, which uses the DWWCF to fund operations, such as providing consumable items and fuel to its military customers and other federal agencies, also received $2 billion in advance billings from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from April 2020 through September 2020. DOD officials said they also took actions that had the effect of mitigating the extent to which DWWCF cash balances exceeded the targeted upper cash requirement. DOD transferred $241 million to military services' working capital funds and reduced fuel prices by 20 percent, among other things. DLA officials said that they expect the $3.6 billion cash balance to decline as advance-billed orders are filled and fuel prices recover. DLA Responded to a Surge in Medical Materials Demand during the Pandemic. From March 2020 through May 2021, DLA executed about 31,000 contract actions marked as COVID-19–related, resulting in $3.67 billion in contract obligations. DLA officials said FEMA and HHS became DLA's largest customers for COVID-19–related items during the pandemic. COVID-related procurements included test kits, gloves, N95 respirators, hand sanitizers, surgical masks, ventilators, and protective gowns, among other things. DLA Did Not Plan for Pandemic Support, but It Tracked Performance and Identified Lessons Learned. DLA officials told GAO they were not tasked with planning to support civilian agencies in a pandemic, and they had not developed plans for supporting other federal agencies during a pandemic prior to the current pandemic. However, DLA continued to monitor and measure its medical supply chain performance during the pandemic using previously established measures, which showed that its performance decreased during the pandemic. Officials from DLA and from its customer agencies attributed this decrease to difficulties experienced by vendors in responding to medical material demand during the global pandemic. DLA Increased Medical Contracting and Reduced Contracting in Some Other Areas. GAO's analysis found that DLA obligated $40.1 billion on contracts from March 2020 through February 2021, a decrease of more than $2.0 billion (4.8 percent) as compared with the same 12-month period prior to the pandemic. DLA obligations increased in 64 of 134 product service groups, with the largest increases occurring in the medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies; firefighting, rescue, and safety equipment and environmental protection equipment and materials; and instruments and laboratory equipment groups. DLA obligations decreased in 69 of 134 product service groups, with the largest decreases occurring in the fuels, lubricants, oils and waxes and the aerospace craft components and accessories product service groups.  Of the 11,832 DLA vendors used during this period, GAO found that DLA obligations related to 6,208 (52.5 percent) decreased, 4,960 (41.9 percent) increased, and 664 (5.6 percent) had no change. DLA obligations related to vendors providing medical, dental, and veterinary equipment and supplies had the largest increases, and obligations related to those providing fuels, lubricants, oils, and waxes and those providing aerospace components had the largest decreases. The decreases did not significantly alter the proportion of DLA contracting obligations going to vendors in three primary socioeconomic groups (small disadvantaged, women–owned, and minority–owned). Why GAO Did This Study This report responds to a request from the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee that GAO review DOD's management of the DWWCF cash balance and DLA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is part of GAO's body of work in response to the CARES Act. This report provides information on: (1) actions DOD took from October 2018 through March 2021 to maintain the DWWCF cash balance between its targeted upper and lower cash requirements; (2) the effects of the pandemic on DLA's supply chain management activity, including medical supplies, starting in March 2020; (3) DLA's planning to support a pandemic event and tracking of its performance in meeting customer needs from March 2020 through June 2021; and (4) changes in DLA's contracting activity, by type of product and individual vendor, from March 2019– February 2020 and March 2020–February 2021. GAO reviewed DWWCF cash balances and budget estimates; DLA readiness reports and performance measures; and federal contracting data; and interviewed officials of DLA and its customers. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Linde 
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  • Hawaii CEO Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Hawaii man has been taken into custody on allegations he fraudulently obtained more than $12.8 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price of the District of Hawaii.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos
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  • Lead Paint in Housing: HUD Has Not Identified High-Risk Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties
    In U.S GAO News
    During fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) obligated about $421 million through two grant programs to state and local governments to help identify and control lead paint hazards in housing for low-income households. HUD also issued guidelines for evaluating and controlling lead paint hazards, generally encouraging abatement (such as replacing building components containing lead) as the preferred long-term solution. HUD has supported research on lead paint hazard control and provided education and outreach to public housing agencies, property owners, and the public through publications and training events. HUD monitors lead paint-related risks in its Project-Based Rental Assistance Program, one of HUD's three largest rental assistance programs, through management reviews and periodic physical inspections, but has not conducted a comprehensive risk assessment to identify properties posing the greatest risk to children under the age of 6. HUD's management reviews include assessing property owners' compliance with lead paint regulations—such as by reviewing lead disclosure forms, records of lead inspections, and plans to address lead paint hazards. Inspectors from HUD's Real Estate Assessment Center also assess the physical condition of properties, including identifying damaged paint that could indicate lead paint risks. According to HUD officials, they have not conducted risk assessments in project-based rental assistance housing because they believe the program has relatively few older and potentially riskier properties. However, GAO's analysis of HUD data found that 21 percent of project-based rental assistance properties have at least one building constructed before 1978 (when lead paint was banned in homes) and house over 138,000 children under the age of 6. If HUD used available program data to inform periodic risk assessments, HUD could identify which of the properties pose the greatest risk of exposure to lead paint hazards for children under the age of 6. Unless HUD develops a strategy for managing the risks associated with lead paint and lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing, it may miss the opportunity to prevent children under the age of 6 from being inadvertently exposed to lead paint in those properties. Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties with at Least One Building Built before 1978 and That House Children under Age 6, as of December 31, 2019 Note: Children under the age of 6 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure because they have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, often crawl on the floor, and ingest nonfood items. Lead paint exposure in children under the age of 6 can cause brain damage, slowed development, and learning and behavioral problems. Exposure to lead paint hazards can cause serious harm to children under 6 years old. HUD is required by law to reduce the risk of lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted rental housing—including project-based rental assistance (subsidies to make privately owned multifamily properties affordable to low-income households). The 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act Joint Explanatory Statement includes a provision for GAO to review, among other things, HUD's oversight of lead paint and related hazards in affordable rental housing. This report (1) describes how HUD programs and guidance address lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted and other low-income rental housing, and (2) examines HUD's oversight procedures for assessing risk for lead paint hazards in project-based rental assistance housing. GAO reviewed HUD and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint regulations and documents on lead programs and methods for addressing lead paint hazards. GAO reviewed HUD oversight policies and procedures and analyzed HUD data on building and tenant age. GAO interviewed staff at HUD, EPA, and organizations that advocate for safe affordable housing. GAO recommends that HUD (1) conduct periodic risk assessments for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Program and (2) develop and implement plans to proactively manage identified lead paint risks. HUD agreed to conduct periodic risk assessments and develop and implement a plan to proactively manage risks. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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  • Arms Control and International Security Since January 2017
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Department Of Justice Is Combatting COVID-19 Fraud But Reminds The Public To Remain Vigilant
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice is reminding members of the public to be vigilant against fraudsters who are using the COVID-19 pandemic to exploit American consumers and organizations and to cheat disaster relief programs.  In particular, the department is warning the public about scams perpetrated through websites, social media, emails, robocalls, and other means that peddle fake COVID-19 vaccines, tests, treatments, and protective equipment, and also about criminals that fabricate businesses and steal identities in order to defraud federal relief programs and state unemployment programs. 
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Army Working Capital Fund: Army Faces Challenges in Managing Working Capital Fund Cash Balance during Wartime Environment
    In U.S GAO News
    The Army Working Capital Fund (AWCF) collected over $16 billion for goods and services provided to customers in fiscal year 2009. Cash generated from sales is used by AWCF to cover its expenses such as paying employees. In light of the Army's changing role in the Middle East, GAO was asked to determine whether (1) AWCF's monthly cash balances fell within the Department of Defense's (DOD) cash requirements for fiscal years 2000 through 2009, (2) the cash transfers resulted in AWCF's monthly cash balances falling below the minimum amount required by DOD, and (3) the AWCF's projected monthly cash balances are expected to fall below DOD's minimum cash requirement for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 and actions the Army can take to manage those balances. To address these objectives, GAO (1) reviewed relevant DOD guidance, (2) obtained and analyzed AWCF budget and accounting reports containing cash information, and (3) interviewed DOD and Army officials.GAO analysis showed that the AWCF monthly cash balance fluctuated significantly between fiscal years 2000 and 2009 and exceeded the maximum cash requirement prescribed by DOD regulation for 94 out of 120 months. The fluctuations were due to differences between receipts and disbursements, including the (1) receipt of collections from AWCF operations, (2) appropriations received in support of the wars, (3) disbursements made to pay for AWCF expenses, and (4) transfers made to fund other Army requirements. The Army transferred $4.8 billion out of AWCF from fiscal years 2004 through 2009. Most of the transfers funded requirements of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or military personnel costs. These transfers helped to reduce the cash balance, but also resulted in the AWCF cash falling below the minimum cash requirement for a 6-month period in fiscal year 2006. GAO analysis of the AWCF fiscal year 2011 budget and cash plan showed that the projected monthly cash balances for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 would exceed DOD's minimum cash requirement for 22 out of 24 months. While the Army does not expect a cash shortfall due primarily to an increase in military build-up activities in Afghanistan, a cash shortfall may occur if certain Army actions are not implemented and monitored effectively. These actions include (1) reducing AWCF obligations to less than the amount of inventory sold, (2) collecting funds from Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for inventory items transferred from AWCF to DLA, and (3) reducing the amount of inventory at industrial operations activities. Further, the relevant DOD Financial Management Regulation lacks sufficient clarity to determine the appropriate level of inventory to be held at these activities.
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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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  • Nuclear Weapons: Actions Needed to Improve Management of NNSA’s Lithium Activities
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In December 2019, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) preliminarily estimated construction would cost between $955 million and $1.645 billion for a new lithium processing facility (LPF) at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) in Tennessee and would be completed between May 2028 and September 2031. This is a substantial increase in cost and schedule; in 2015, NNSA initially estimated that a new facility would cost between $300 and $631 million and could be completed between 2023 and 2025. One reason for the cost and schedule changes is increased facility size, as reflected in a more mature design. GAO's evaluation of the LPF's preliminary cost estimate found it to be substantially comprehensive. NNSA also plans to include a new technology in the facility design based on its most recent technology assessment. In this assessment, NNSA did not collect certain data needed to fully evaluate the lithium produced with the technology. GAO best practices recommend agencies ensure all necessary evidence is collected when assessing the maturity of a new technology. Otherwise, NNSA faces some risks to ensuring the technology is ready to start construction in 2024 and could face future delays to the LPF if testing reveals unexpected problems with lithium produced with this technology. Preliminary Cost and Schedule Estimates for NNSA's New Lithium Processing Facility Increased Over Timea aNNSA's estimates are reported as actual dollars and were not adjusted for inflation. Important program management tools that NNSA could use to help ensure that the agency meets lithium demand are under development and are not consistent with best practices. For example, the lithium program's current schedule and scope of work—as expressed in a work breakdown structure—do not track the same program activities. According to GAO best practices, a program's schedule should be aligned with its work breakdown structure to ensure that activities are completed on time. By aligning these management tools, NNSA could help ensure that the comprehensive scope of work for the program is reflected in the schedule and that NNSA is accomplishing all program activities on time. Why GAO Did This Study Since the 1940s, the nation's supply of lithium used in some nuclear weapons components has been processed at NNSA's Y-12 site. However, due to deteriorating facilities and equipment and the need to reestablish dormant processing capabilities, NNSA faces risks in meeting future lithium demand. To address these challenges, NNSA has developed a strategy to meet lithium demand until the 2030s, by which time it expects the new LPF will be fully operational. The Senate committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 includes a provision for GAO to examine NNSA's lithium programs and projects. GAO's report examines, among other things, (1) the status of current cost and schedule estimates and design activities for NNSA's LPF project and (2) the extent to which NNSA has developed management tools for the lithium program that are consistent with best practices. GAO reviewed NNSA and contractor documentation, compared NNSA's efforts against agency requirements and best practices, and interviewed NNSA officials and Y-12 contractor representatives.
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  • Designation of Iranian Procurement Networks
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Iranian National Charged with Illegally Exporting Laboratory Equipment to Iran
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment today charging a Canadian national with the unlawful export of laboratory equipment from the United States to Iran, through Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
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  • Afghanistan Reconstruction: GAO Work since 2002 Shows Systemic Internal Control Weaknesses that Increased the Risk of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO's body of work on Afghanistan reconstruction from 2002 through 2020 identified systemic weaknesses in human resources, monitoring, contracting, information quality, coordination, and other management areas where internal control issues could increase the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse. These systemic weaknesses cut across multiple sectors of reconstruction activities, such as security, roads and infrastructure, and agriculture. Fifty GAO reports on Afghanistan reconstruction discussed such weaknesses and explicitly or implicitly referred to an increased risk of waste, fraud, or abuse as a result of the weaknesses. GAO made 154 recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, of which 134, or 87 percent, were implemented. Why GAO Did This Study The U.S. government has allocated approximately $141 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002. Since that time, GAO has issued roughly 100 reports covering U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. GAO was asked to report on waste, fraud, and abuse that GAO had uncovered with respect to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. This report summarizes the systemic internal control weaknesses that increased the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse related to Afghanistan reconstruction that were identified in prior GAO work.
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    In Travel
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  • Military Uniforms: Issues Related to the Supply of Flame Resistant Fibers for the Production of Military Uniforms
    In U.S GAO News
    Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel with flame resistant (FR) uniforms were mainly aviators, fuel handlers, and tank crews. With the growing prevalence of the improvised explosive device (IED) threat, all ground forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to the possibility of fire-related injuries. The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 extended to 2015 the authority to procure fire resistant rayon fiber for the production of uniforms from certain foreign countries, provided by section 829 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 and originally set to expire in 2013. This letter discusses the briefing developed in response to the requirement in the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 to report on the supply chain for FR fiber for the production of military uniforms. Specifically, the act required GAO to analyze several elements of the supply chain, including the current and anticipated sources of FR rayon fiber; actions DOD has taken to identify alternatives to FR rayon fiber; impediments to the use of such alternatives; and the impediments posed to efficient procurement of FR rayon fiber by existing statutory or regulatory requirements; among others. On March 15, 2011, we provided a draft of the briefing to Congress to satisfy this requirement.In summary, an Austrian-headquartered company is presently the only source used for FR rayon fiber to support the manufacturing of FR uniforms for DOD. However, the department has taken a number of steps over the past 5 years to identify alternative FR fabric blends. For example, the military services have sought fabric/garment submissions through sources sought notices, market surveys, or solicitations in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010 to explore available options and have tested a wide variety of FR fabrics. Based on our review of military service testing, it is unclear if FR rayon's flame resistant characteristics are better than all other alternatives. Further, some DOD and industry officials stated that FR rayon has several advantages, including improved comfort, moisture absorbency, and ability to be dyed, while others have stated that fabrics with FR rayon tend to be less durable than those using other FR fibers. With respect to legal requirements applying to the production and use of FR rayon fibers, immediately relevant to our assessment was the Berry Amendment, which generally prohibits the use of funds available to DOD for the procurement of certain items when not grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States, absent an exception. Two exceptions relevant to FR rayon fiber are the general availability exception under the Berry Amendment itself, which results in a domestic nonavailability determination (DNAD), and the exception unique to FR rayon provided by the authority found in section 829 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008. DOD indicated that a DNAD issued in 2001 for rayon yarn for use in military clothing and textile items provides the basis for the waiver presently used for purchase of FR rayon for military uniforms. We are not making any recommendations in this report.
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Researcher Pleaded Guilty to Conspiring to Steal Scientific Trade Secrets from Ohio Children’s Hospital to Sell in China
    In Crime News
    Former Ohio woman Li Chen, 46, pleaded guilty today via video conference in U.S. District Court today to conspiring to steal scientific trade secrets and conspiring to commit wire fraud concerning the research, identification and treatment of a range of pediatric medical conditions.
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  • Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Claims Against 19 Building Owners
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it reached a single agreement with 19 building owners* who rent space in their buildings to stores and restaurants. 
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