September 22, 2021

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Indian national admits to role in government impersonation call center scam

7 min read
A 37-year-old Indian citizen who was illegally residing in Houston has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov September 13, 2021

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  • United States Reaches Proposed Settlement with Ranch Owner to Restore Creek and Wetlands and Pay Damages for Trespass
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that they have reached a proposed settlement with John Raftopoulos, Diamond Peak Cattle Company LLC and Rancho Greco Limited LLC (collectively, the defendants) to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) involving unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States and trespass on federal public lands in northwest Moffat County, Colorado.
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  • Bankruptcy Filings Plunged to Lowest Number Since 1985
    In U.S Courts
    Personal and business bankruptcy filings plummeted 32.2 percent for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2021. The number of filings was the lowest in a 12-month period since 1985.
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  • Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Georgia to Stop Racially Discriminatory Provisions of New Voting Law
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia, the Georgia Secretary of State, and the Georgia State Election Board over recent voting procedures adopted by Georgia Senate Bill 202, which was signed into law in March 2021. The United States’ complaint challenges provisions of Senate Bill 202 under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 
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  • Chad National Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • [Protest of Air Force Cancellation of Purchase Order for Books]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm protested the Air Force's cancellation of a purchase order for books, contending that the: (1) cancellation of the original purchase order was unjustified; and (2) issuance of the second solicitation resulted in an impermissible auction, since its price on the first solicitation was exposed to the other bidders. GAO held that: (1) the cancellation of the purchase order was justified, since the solicitation misstated the Air Force's actual needs; and (2) although the protester's bid price reflected the Air Force's actual needs, the other firms submitted quotes based on the stated description, and therefore were prejudiced by the error. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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  • Key Outcomes at the 47th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • The United States Opposes the ICC Investigation into the Palestinian Situation
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    In San Antonio today, 22-year-old Cost resident Jaylyn Christopher Molina, aka Abdur Rahim, admitted to conspiring to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham/Syria (ISIS), announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Gregg N. Sofer and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division Christopher Combs.
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  • Sheriff of Franklin County, Arkansas Found Guilty of Assaulting Two Individuals in Custody
    In Crime News
    A federal jury convicted the Sheriff of Franklin County, Arkansas today on two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Mike Allen of Axios on HBO Max
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Venezuela: Additional Tracking Could Aid Treasury’s Efforts to Mitigate Any Adverse Impacts U.S. Sanctions Might Have on Humanitarian Assistance
    In U.S GAO News
    The Venezuelan economy's performance has declined steadily for almost a decade and fallen steeply since the imposition of a series of U.S. sanctions starting in 2015. For example, the economy declined from negative 6.2 percent gross domestic product growth in 2015 to negative 35 percent in 2019 and negative 25 percent in 2020. The sanctions, particularly on the state oil company in 2019, likely contributed to the steeper decline of the Venezuelan economy, primarily by limiting revenue from oil production. However, mismanagement of Venezuela's state oil company and decreasing oil prices are among other factors that have also affected the economy's performance during this period. U.S. agencies have sought input from humanitarian organizations to identify the potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela and taken steps to mitigate these issues. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State (State) have solicited input from U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations on challenges they face, including the impact of sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and State have also taken steps to mitigate negative consequences. For example, Treasury issued licenses permitting various types of humanitarian assistance transactions in Venezuela (see figure). Treasury also maintains a call center and email account through which organizations can receive assistance with compliance issues or other challenges related to sanctions. While Treasury officials told GAO they respond to individual inquiries, Treasury does not systematically track and analyze information from these inquiries to identify trends or recurrent issues. Without collection and analysis of this information, Treasury and its interagency partners may be limited in their ability to develop further actions to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not disrupt humanitarian assistance. U.S. Humanitarian Assistance Supplies for Venezuelans U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela have likely had a limited impact, if any, on the U.S. oil industry. Despite an overall lower supply of oil in the U.S. market from the loss of Venezuelan crude oil due to sanctions, crude oil and retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have not increased substantially. Many other factors in addition to the sanctions simultaneously affected the oil market and the price of crude oil and retail gasoline prices, including production cuts in January 2019 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and decreased demand for energy during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to industry officials to whom GAO spoke, U.S. refineries have adjusted to these changes by shifting to alternative sources and types of crude oil. Venezuela has been experiencing an economic, political, and humanitarian crisis. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, government, and central bank, among others, in response to activities of the Venezuelan government and certain individuals. Treasury and the Department of State lead the implementation of the sanctions program, and USAID is primarily responsible for implementing humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans. GAO was asked to review U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela. This report examines: (1) how the Venezuelan economy performed before and since the imposition of sanctions in 2015; (2) the steps U.S. agencies have taken to identify and mitigate potential negative humanitarian consequences of sanctions related to Venezuela; and (3) what is known about the impact of U.S. sanctions related to Venezuela on the U.S. oil industry. GAO analyzed economic indicators, reviewed documents, interviewed agency officials, and spoke with representatives from selected humanitarian organizations and the U.S oil industry. GAO recommends that Treasury systematically track inquiries made to its call center and email account, including the specific sanctions program and the subject matter of the inquiry to identify trends and recurring issues. Treasury concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or GianopoulosK@gao.gov.
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  • Briefing with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
    In Climate - Environment - Conservation
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  • Critical Infrastructure Protection: Treasury Needs to Improve Tracking of Financial Sector Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    The federal government has long identified the financial services sector as a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. The sector includes commercial banks, securities brokers and dealers, and providers of the key financial systems and services that support these functions. Altogether, the sector holds about $108 trillion in assets and faces a variety of cybersecurity-related risks. Key risks include (1) an increase in access to financial data through information technology service providers and supply chain partners; (2) a growth in sophistication of malware—software meant to do harm—and (3) an increase in interconnectivity via networks, the cloud, and mobile applications. Cyberattacks that exploit risks can occur against either public or private components of the sector. For example, in February 2016, hackers were able to install malware on the Bangladesh Central Bank's system through a service provider, which then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money to accounts in other Asian countries. This attack resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million. Several industry groups and firms are taking steps to enhance the security and resilience of the U.S. financial services sector through a broad range of cyber risk mitigation efforts. These efforts include coordinating within the sector through groups such as the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and the Financial Systemic Analysis and Resilience Center, conducting industrywide incident response exercises, sharing threat and vulnerability information, developing and providing guidance in conducting risk assessments, and offering cybersecurity-related training. The Departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury and federal financial regulators are also taking multiple steps to support cybersecurity and resilience through risk mitigation efforts. Among other things, federal agencies provide cybersecurity expertise and conduct simulation exercises related to cyber incident response and recovery. Treasury, as the designated lead agency for the financial sector, plays a key role in supporting many of the efforts to enhance the sector's cybersecurity and resiliency. For example, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions serves as the chair of the committee of government agencies with sector responsibilities, and Treasury coordinates federal agency efforts to improve the sector's cybersecurity and related communications. However, Treasury does not track efforts or prioritize them according to goals established by the sector for enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency. Treasury also has not fully implemented GAO's previous recommendation to establish metrics related to the value and results of the sector's risk mitigation efforts. Further, the 2016 sector-specific plan, which is intended to direct sector activities, does not identify ways to measure sector progress and is out of date. Among other things, the sector-specific plan lacks information on sector-related requirements laid out in the 2019 National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan . Unless more widespread and detailed tracking and prioritization of efforts occurs according to the goals laid out in the sector-specific plan, the sector could be insufficiently prepared to deal with cyber-related risks, such as those caused by increased access to data by third parties. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to protect the nation's critical infrastructures. The financial services sector's reliance on information technology makes it a leading target for cyber-based attacks. Recent high-profile breaches at commercial entities have heightened concerns that data are not being adequately protected. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to (1) describe the key cyber-related risks facing the financial sector; (2) describe steps the financial services industry is taking to share information on and address risks to its sector; and (3) assess steps federal agencies are taking to enhance the security and resilience of the sector. GAO analyzed relevant reports and information to determine risks and mitigation efforts and compared agency efforts against federal policies and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials at 16 private sector entities, two self-regulatory organizations, and eight federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. GAO is making recommendations to Treasury to track and prioritize the sector's cyber risk mitigation efforts, and to update the sector's plan with metrics for measuring progress and information on how sector efforts will meet sector goals and requirements, including those contained within the National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan. Treasury generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov or Michael Clements at (202) 512-7763 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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  • Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks on Justice Department Lawsuit Against the State of Georgia to Stop Racially Discriminatory Provisions of New Voting Law
    In Crime News
    Thank you, Attorney General Garland. Two weeks ago, you made clear that the Department will spare no effort to protect voting rights in this country. As you and I have discussed on many occasions, the Civil Rights Division stands on the front lines of this work. While it is the honor of a lifetime to lead the division charged with upholding the nation’s civil rights laws, it is also a great responsibility.
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  • Rental Housing: Information on Low-Income Veterans’ Housing Conditions and Participation in HUD’s Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    Veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan could increase demand for affordable rental housing. Households with low incomes (80 percent or less of the area median income) generally are eligible to receive rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) housing choice voucher, public housing, and project-based programs. However, because rental assistance is not an entitlement, not all who are eligible receive assistance. In response to a congressional mandate, GAO assessed (1) the income status and demographic and housing characteristics of veteran renter households, (2) how HUD's rental assistance programs treat veteran status (whether a person is a veteran or not) and whether they use a veterans' preference, and (3) the extent to which HUD's rental assistance programs served veterans in fiscal year 2005. Among other things, GAO analyzed data from HUD, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Bureau of the Census, surveyed selected public housing agencies, and interviewed agency officials and veterans groups. GAO makes no recommendations in this report. VA agreed with the report's findings. HUD objected to the characterization in the report regarding HUD's policies on veteran status and program eligibility and subsidy amounts.In 2005, an estimated 2.3 million veteran renter households had low incomes. The proportion of veteran renter households that were low income varied by state but did not fall below 41 percent. Further, an estimated 1.3 million, or about 56 percent of these low-income veteran households, had housing affordability problems--that is, rental costs exceeding 30 percent of household income. Compared with other (nonveteran) renter households, however, veterans were somewhat less likely to be low income or have housing affordability problems. HUD's policies for its three major rental assistance programs generally do not take veteran status into account when determining eligibility or assistance levels, but eligible veterans can receive assistance. Also, HUD generally does not distinguish between income that is specific to veterans, such as VA-provided benefits, and other sources of income. The majority of the 41 largest public housing agencies that administer the housing choice voucher or public housing programs have no veterans' preference for admission. The 13 largest performance-based contract administrators that oversee most properties under project-based programs reported that owners generally did not adopt a veterans' preference. In fiscal year 2005, an estimated 11 percent of all eligible low-income veteran households (at least 250,000) received assistance, compared with 19 percent of nonveteran households. Although the reasons for the difference are unclear, factors such as differing levels of need for affordable housing among veteran and other households could influence the percentages.
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  • Mail-Order Diabetic Testing Supplier and Parent Company Agree to Pay $160 Million to Resolve Alleged False Claims to Medicare
    In Crime News
    Arriva Medical LLC (Arriva), at one point the nation’s largest Medicare mail-order diabetic testing supplier, and its parent, Alere Inc. (Alere), have agreed to pay $160 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act.
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Labor
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Department of Labor (DOL). Since then, DOL has implemented one of those recommendations by taking steps to collect better data on how advanced technologies are changing the workplace, which can help DOL and policymakers design training programs that meet the job needs of the future. In May 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for DOL, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations involve the following areas: stronger protections for wage earners; enhancing unemployment insurance; and better protections for retirees. DOL'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 Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or costat@gao.gov.
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  • Export-Import Bank: Status of End-Use Monitoring of Dual-Use Exports as of August 2021
    In U.S GAO News
    Why GAO Did This Study EXIM's mission is to support the export of U.S. goods and services overseas through loans, loan guarantees, and insurance, thereby supporting U.S. jobs. In 1994, Congress passed legislation authorizing EXIM to facilitate the financing of U.S. exports of defense articles and services with both commercial and military applications, provided that the bank determines these items are nonlethal and primarily meant for civilian end use. Included in the same act was a provision for GAO, in conjunction with EXIM, to report annually on the end uses of dual-use exports financed by EXIM during the second preceding fiscal year. This report (1) examines the status of EXIM's monitoring of dual-use exports that it continued to finance in fiscal year 2019, as of August 2021; and (2) identifies any new dual-use exports that EXIM financed in fiscal year 2020. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed EXIM documentation and data on dual-use exports and interviewed EXIM officials. What GAO Found As of August 2021, the Export-Import Bank (EXIM) was monitoring the end use of a single transaction that it continued to finance in fiscal year 2019, as summarized below: Two satellites for the government of Mexico. A fixed service satellite was launched in December 2012 and became operational in February 2013, and a mobile service satellite was launched in October 2015 and became operational in December 2015. For 2021, EXIM received all documents from the government of Mexico on time and subsequently determined that Mexico was in compliance with the bank's dual-use policy. EXIM did not finance any new exports under its dual-use authority in fiscal year 2020, according to EXIM authorization data and EXIM officials. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.
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    In Travel
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  • Department of Justice Issues Positive Business Review Letter to Companies Developing Plasma Therapies for Covid-19
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it has no intention to challenge proposed efforts by Baxalta US Inc., Emergent BioSolutions Inc., Grifols Therapeutics LLC, and CSL Plasma Inc. (together, the “Requesting Parties”) to assist the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in designing quality standards for collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
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