October 21, 2021

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Indian national pleads guilty to role in nationwide tech support refund scam

17 min read
A 27-year-old Indian citizen illegally present in the United States who had resided in Houston has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud

Read full article at: https://www.justice.gov September 30, 2021

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  • Department of State Participation in Taiwan-hosted Event on Open Government and Anti-Corruption
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Final Defendant Sentenced in $80 Million Health Care Fraud Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A Florida man was sentenced today to 210 months in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.
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  • United States Places Global Magnitsky Sanctions on the Cuban Ministry of Interior and Its Minister
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  • Missouri Man Indicted on Federal Hate Crime and Firearm Charges
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, returned a two-count indictment charging a Missouri man with hate crime and firearm violations for shooting a teenager with the intent to kill because of the victim’s sexual orientation.
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  • Military Service Uniforms: DOD Could Better Identify and Address Out-of-Pocket Cost Inequities
    In U.S GAO News
    While the military services—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force—provide an annual clothing allowance to replace uniform items initially issued to enlisted service members, GAO found that some items are excluded from the allowance. This can result in out-of-pocket costs for both female and male enlisted service members. Moreover, DOD's uniform allowance policy does not provide the services with consistent criteria for designating which items are considered uniquely military and included in the allowance, and which items are not and are excluded from the allowance. For example, the Air Force and Marine Corps provide an allowance for an all-weather coat, but the Army does not. We found these differences in replacement allowances can also contribute to differences in out-of-pocket costs by service and gender for enlisted service members (see figure). Developing consistent criteria for uniquely military items and periodically reviewing uniform replacement allowances could strengthen DOD's ability to identify and address any out-of-pocket cost differences across the services as well as between female and male enlisted service members. Number and Total Value of Fiscal Year 2020 Enlisted Service Member Clothing Items Included in the Initial Clothing Issue but Excluded from the Services' Calculations for Standard Cash Clothing Replacement Allowances, by Service and Gender The military services made numerous uniform changes over the past 10 years and the changed uniform items were generally more expensive. GAO found that Navy and Marine Corps female enlisted service members and officers were most affected by uniform changes. In addition, GAO found that uniform changes could result in higher costs for officers who generally pay out-of-pocket for uniform costs. While the services have the authority to determine what uniforms are required for enlisted service members and officers, uniform changes have the potential to drive out-of-pocket costs for both. With equity as an underlying principle for compensation, a review of the services' uniform changes and resulting costs could help minimize out-of-pocket cost differences across the department and between genders. The total value of military uniform items for a newly enlisted service member ranges from about $1,600 to $2,400, depending on the military service. Over the course of their careers, service members must replace and maintain their uniforms. The conference report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a provision for GAO to study service members' out-of-pocket costs for uniforms. Among other objectives, this report 1) assesses the extent to which differences exist in out-of-pocket costs for enlisted service member uniforms, by military service and by gender; and 2) examines the extent to which the military services have changed uniforms over the past 10 years, and how the costs of these changes have varied by service, enlisted or officer status, and gender. GAO reviewed DOD policies and service data on uniform allowances, enlisted and officer required uniform items and their costs, and changes made to uniforms since 2010. GAO also interviewed relevant DOD officials and service organization representatives. GAO is making four recommendations to improve DOD's understanding of out-of-pocket costs and to address any cost differences, including that it develop consistent criteria for excluding items from replacement allowances and review planned uniform changes. DOD concurred with all four recommendations. For more information, contact Tina Won Sherman at (202) 512-8461 or shermant@gao.gov.
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  • Judges Focus on Diversity in Clerkship, Internship Hiring
    In U.S Courts
    Federal judges are working to make highly sought-after law clerkships and judicial internships more accessible to a diverse pool of law students.
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  • FBI Employee Indicted for Illegally Removing National Security Documents, Taking Material to Her Home
    In Crime News
    An employee of the FBI’s Kansas City Division has been indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally removing numerous national security documents that were found in her home.
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  • Engineering Firm And Its Former Executive Indicted On Antitrust And Fraud Charges
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Raleigh, North Carolina returned an indictment charging Contech Engineered Solutions LLC and Brent Brewbaker, a former executive at the company, for participating in long-standing conspiracies to rig bids and defraud the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), the Department of Justice announced.
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  • Intellectual Property: CBP Has Taken Steps to Combat Counterfeit Goods in Small Packages but Could Streamline Enforcement
    In U.S GAO News
    The European Union (EU) and U.S. approaches to enforcing intellectual property rights (IPR) differ with respect to counterfeit goods in small packages, which are often sent through express carrier services or international mail. The EU uses a streamlined, application-based procedure to destroy suspected counterfeits in small packages. Through this procedure, rights holders request that member state customs authorities take action against such packages. The procedure allows customs authorities to bill rights holders for certain associated costs, and gives customs authorities discretion in sharing data with rights holders. In the U.S., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is required to seize any goods it determines to be counterfeit, and typically destroys such goods, regardless of shipment size. CBP does not bill rights holders for the cost of enforcement, and is required to provide specific information to rights holders after seizure of goods. EU and U.S. customs officials reported common challenges in combating the flow of counterfeit goods in small packages. For example, EU and U.S. officials said the large volume of small packages makes it difficult for customs agencies to prioritize resources among competing needs such as drug enforcement and security. EU and U.S. officials also reported that a lack of adequate data on these packages is a challenge in taking enforcement action against them. Bags of Small Packages at Mail Facilities in Germany and France While CBP has taken steps to address these challenges, its primary enforcement processes are not tailored to combat counterfeit goods in small packages. According to CBP officials, from 2014 to 2018, CBP piloted a program to help address the volume of such packages by facilitating the abandonment of goods that it suspected—but had not determined—to be counterfeit. In 2019, CBP initiated a program to obtain additional data, and as of July 2020 had begun using these data to assess the risk that such packages contained counterfeit goods. However, CBP officials said that the seizure and forfeiture processes they are required to use for goods determined to be counterfeit are time and resource intensive. In April 2019, the White House required DHS to identify changes, including enhanced enforcement actions, to mitigate the trafficking of counterfeit goods. In January 2020, DHS proposed several actions that CBP could take, but CBP has not decided which to pursue to streamline its enforcement. Without taking steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach, CBP will continue to face difficulty in addressing the influx of counterfeit goods in small packages. Counterfeit goods infringe on IPR, and can harm the U.S. economy and threaten consumer safety. CBP, the U.S. agency tasked with enforcement against counterfeits at the border, has reported that the annual number of small packages sent to the U.S. since fiscal year 2013 more than doubled, and small packages seized often contain counterfeit goods. The European Union Intellectual Property Office noted similar economic and consumer safety impacts in Europe, as well as increases in counterfeit goods in small packages. GAO was asked to review IPR enforcement practices in other advanced economies, and the extent to which CBP could apply those practices. This report examines: (1) how elements of the EU and U.S. approaches to combating counterfeit goods in small packages compare, (2) any enforcement challenges posed by these goods, and (3) the extent to which CBP has taken steps to address these challenges. GAO reviewed agency documents; interviewed CBP and customs officials in the EU; and met with private sector stakeholders, such as express carriers. GAO recommends that CBP take steps to develop a streamlined enforcement approach against counterfeit goods in small packages. CBP concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Rulemaking: Selected Agencies Should Fully Describe Public Comment Data and Their Limitations
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Regulations.gov and selected agency-specific comment websites collect some identity information, such as email address, from commenters who choose to provide it during the public comment process. Based on GAO's survey, the extent to which commenters with email addresses confirmed that they submitted their comments to rulemakings varied across 10 selected agencies (see figure). Specifically, estimates of commenters with email addresses that confirmed their comments ranged from 48 to 87 percent. Conversely, estimates of presumed commenters with email addresses that did not make the comments ranged from 5 to 30 percent, calling into question the actual source of these comments. Most comments at eight selected agencies did not contain email addresses. Although agencies may collect identity information, the law does not require its collection or verification. Agencies must consider the substance of the comment, rather than the identity of the commenter, as part of the rulemaking process. Extent of Commenters with Email Addresses that Confirmed They Submitted Their Comments on 10 Selected Agencies' Rulemaking Proceedings Note: Estimates in this figure have a margin of error of +/- 9 percentage points or fewer, at the 95 percent confidence level. Circles representing each agency's estimates may overlap if the estimates are similar. For example, the circle at the 85 percent level for Yes responses covers two agencies. Various aspects of the commenting process can create limitations for certain external users of public comment data. For example, identity information associated with public comments is self-reported and may not always be accurate. Additionally, some agencies do not post all instances of duplicate comments (identical or near-identical comment text but varied identity information), so the public may not have access to all comment data related to a proposed rule. Almost all of the selected agencies share at least some public comment data online, but they do not always fully describe the available data. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not define the data elements that may be present in its comment data. Further, FCC, the General Services Administration (GSA) (which manages Regulations.gov), and the eight selected agencies that use that site do not describe limitations to external users of comment data that may affect their use of the data. Key practices for transparently reporting open government data state that agencies should fully describe the information they share, including any limitations. Providing information about available public comment data and their limitations can help external users make informed decisions about their use of the data and help ensure they do not inadvertently draw inaccurate conclusions from the data. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies publish thousands of proposed rules each year and are generally required to provide interested persons (commenters) an opportunity to comment on them. Although the identity information collected varies, agencies are generally required to make public comments available online, to the extent practical. Some rulemakings have received extremely large numbers of comments in recent years, raising questions about the accuracy of the associated identity information. GAO was asked to review issues related to identity information associated with public comments. Among other things, this report examines the extent to which commenters confirmed that they submitted comments on rulemaking proceedings for selected agencies and the challenges that exist for external users in reviewing and analyzing public comment data. GAO selected 10 agencies and obtained electronic comments on their rulemakings that accepted comments from 2013 through 2017. GAO selected generalizable samples of comments with email addresses and surveyed commenters to determine whether they submitted the comments. GAO reviewed comment data and key practices for reporting government data.
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  • Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Service of Remembrance for George Pratt Shultz
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  • Department Of Justice Identifies New York City, Portland And Seattle As Jurisdictions Permitting Violence And Destruction Of Property
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice today identified the following three jurisdictions that have permitted violence and destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract criminal activities: New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. The Department of Justice is continuing to work to identify jurisdictions that meet the criteria set out in the President’s Memorandum and will periodically update the list of selected jurisdictions as required therein.
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  • Stalking Victimization, 2016
    In Justice News
    (Publication)
    This report details the demographic characteristics of stalking victims and describes the nature of stalking victimization, including the number of offenders, the victim-offender relationship, and the frequency and duration of the stalking.
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  • Visa Waiver Program: Actions Are Needed to Improve Management of the Expansion Process, and to Assess and Mitigate Program Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The Visa Waiver Program, which enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa, has many benefits, but it also has risks. In 2006, GAO found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needed to improve efforts to assess and mitigate these risks. In August 2007, Congress passed the 9/11 Act, which provides DHS with the authority to consider expanding the program to countries whose short-term business and tourism visa refusal rates were between 3 and 10 percent in the prior fiscal year. Countries must also meet certain conditions, and DHS must complete actions to enhance the program's security. GAO has examined DHS's process for expanding the Visa Waiver Program and evaluated the extent to which DHS is assessing and mitigating program risks. GAO reviewed relevant laws and procedures and interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and in U.S. embassies in eight aspiring and three Visa Waiver Program countries.The executive branch is moving aggressively to expand the Visa Waiver Program by the end of 2008, but, in doing so, DHS has not followed a transparent process. DHS did not follow its own November 2007 standard operating procedures, which set forth key milestones to be met before countries are admitted into the program. As a result, Departments of State (State) and Justice and U.S. embassy officials stated that DHS created confusion among interagency partners and aspiring program countries. U.S. embassy officials in several aspiring countries told us it had been difficult to explain the expansion process to foreign counterparts and manage their expectations. State officials said it was also difficult to explain to countries with fiscal year 2007 refusal rates below 10 percent that have signaled interest in joining the program (Croatia, Israel, and Taiwan) why DHS is not negotiating with them, given that DHS is negotiating with several countries that had refusal rates above 10 percent (Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia). Despite this confusion, DHS achieved some security enhancements during the expansion negotiations, including agreements with several aspiring countries on lost and stolen passport reporting. DHS, State, and Justice agreed that a more transparent process is needed to guide future program expansion. DHS has not fully developed tools to assess and mitigate risks in the Visa Waiver Program. To designate new program countries with refusal rates between 3 and 10 percent, DHS must first make two certifications. First, DHS must certify that it can verify the departure of not less than 97 percent of foreign nationals who exit from U.S. airports. In February 2008, we testified that DHS's plan to meet this provision will not help mitigate program risks because it does not account for data on those who remain in the country beyond their authorized period of stay (overstays). DHS has not yet finalized its methodology for meeting this provision. Second, DHS must certify that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for screening visa waiver travelers in advance of their travel is "fully operational." While DHS has not announced when it plans to make this certification, it anticipates ESTA authorizations will be required for all visa waiver travelers after January 12, 2009. DHS determined that the law permits it to expand the program to countries with refusal rates between 3 and 10 percent after it makes these two certifications, and after the countries have met the required conditions, but before ESTA is mandatory for all Visa Waiver Program travelers. For DHS to maintain its authority to admit certain countries into the program, it must incorporate biometric indicators (such as fingerprints) into the air exit system by July 1, 2009. However, DHS is unlikely to meet this timeline due to several unresolved issues.In addition, DHS does not fully consider countries' overstay rates when assessing illegal immigration risks in the Visa Waiver Program. Finally, DHS has implemented many recommendations from GAO's 2006 report, including screening U.S.-bound travelers against Interpol's lost and stolen passport database, but has not fully implemented others. Implementing the remaining recommendations is important as DHS moves to expand both the program and the department's oversight responsibilities.
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  • Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) are designed to help improve stability in Afghanistan and Iraq by increasing the host nation's capacity to govern; enhancing economic viability; and strengthening local governments' ability to deliver public services, such as security and health care. PRTs are a means of coordinating interagency diplomatic, economic, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency efforts among various U.S. agencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. PRTs are intended to be interim structures; after a PRT has achieved its goal of improving stability, it may be dismantled to allow traditional development efforts to occur. In Afghanistan, the first PRTs were created in 2002 with the mission of facilitating security and reconstruction by helping the central government extend its authority to the provinces. Since then, PRTs have expanded their purpose to include strengthening local governance and community development. In Iraq, PRTs were initiated in 2005 with the mission to increase the capacity of provincial and local governments to govern effectively and, for newer embedded PRTs (ePRT), to support moderates and assist in the military's counterinsurgency efforts. To accomplish their missions, PRTs engage in and fund a variety of activities, such as developing the capacity of local governments through engagement with local stakeholders; promoting budget execution, business development, agriculture, public health initiatives, and governance; and supporting the delivery of basic social services. This report describes (1) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Afghanistan and (2) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Iraq. It excludes information marked "Sensitive but Unclassified" in our September 26, 2008, report on PRTs. Due to broad congressional interest in issues related to Iraq and Afghanistan, we completed this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative.Afghanistan, as of May 2008, the United States was leading 12 of 26 PRTs and 13 other coalition countries were leading the remaining 14 PRTs. All PRTs in Afghanistan are under ISAF's operational command, but individual nations, including the United States, lead PRTs and determine their size and structure. U.S.-led PRTs in Afghanistan are led by DOD and are composed primarily of U.S. military personnel. As of April 2008, 10 of the 12 U.S.-led PRTs included 88 or more military personnel--the majority of whom provide security and other support for the PRTs--and 3 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. The total number of U.S. government personnel assigned to U.S. PRTs in Afghanistan increased slightly from 1,023 personnel in 2007 to 1,055 personnel in 2008--which includes 1,021 military personnel from DOD and 34 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. DOD is responsible for paying nearly all of the costs associated with operating PRTs, such as providing their security and life support. However, DOD officials reported that DOD does not track PRT operating costs separately from other operational costs for Afghanistan. State, USAID, and USDA do not reimburse DOD for its support to civilian PRT officials in Afghanistan. PRTs have one source of programmatic funding available for projects in Afghanistan. PRT commanders can approve the use of funds for projects under DOD's Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) up to $25,000 per project. PRTs in Afghanistan may also coordinate with other U.S.-funded programs, including other commanders' CERP projects and USAID programs, such as the Local Governance and Community Development project. In Iraq, as of August 2008, the United States was leading 28 of 31 PRTs and other coalition countries were leading 3 PRTs. As of August 2008, three types of U.S.-led PRTs were operating in Iraq: 11 PRTs at the provincial level of government; 13 ePRTs embedded with U.S. brigade combat teams and operating in local governments in Baghdad, Anbar, Babil, and Diyala provinces; and 4 Provincial Support Teams (PST), which are smaller PRTs that cannot be based in the intended province due to security concerns. According to State and DOD officials, the number of personnel assigned to PRTs and ePRTs in Iraq increased from an estimated 100 to 125 personnel in early 2007 to about 450 in July 2008. This increase was the result of the Administration's decision in January 2007 to create ePRTs and to increase the size of PRTs in support of The New Way Forward. DOD and civilian agencies have staffed the PRTs with a mix of U.S. government employees--permanent and temporary--and contractors. State reimburses DOD for some operating costs of ePRTs and most PRTs, based on a quarterly estimate for each PRT member. State's reimbursements do not cover the costs of PRT security and transportation provided by the U.S. military. According to DOD, as of April 2008, State had reimbursed $11 million to DOD for operating costs--$5.9 million for fiscal year 2007 and $5.1 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008. State had also obligated $125 million for PRT movement security from September 2005 through May 2008 for PRTs in Iraq that are not embedded with U.S. military units or do not have access to military movement assets.
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  • Federal Court Orders California Company and Owner to Stop Distribution of Unapproved, Misbranded and Adulterated ‘Poly-MVA’ Products
    In Crime News
    A federal court ordered a California company and its owner to stop distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs and adulterated animal drugs.
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  • North Carolina Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Returns
    In Crime News
    A Winston-Salem, North Carolina, tax preparer pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return and to filing a false personal income tax return. 
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  • Announcement of Visa Restrictions on Those Undermining the Peaceful Resolution of the Crisis in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon
    In Crime Control and Security News
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