September 28, 2021

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Man Sentenced for Production of Child Pornography

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<div>A North Carolina man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison for production of child pornography</div>
A North Carolina man was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison for production of child pornography

More from: June 11, 2021

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  • Three Texas Men Sentenced to Prison for Using Dating App to Target Gay Men for Violent Crimes
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    Three Texas men were sentenced yesterday for violent crimes.
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  • Leader of a Sophisticated Drug Trafficking Organization and Prolific Ally of the Sinaloa Cartel Sentenced
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    A Mexican national was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 22 years in prison for her role in an international drug trafficking conspiracy to transport into the United States thousands of kilograms of cocaine and dozens of pounds of methamphetamine.
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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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  • Deutsche Bank Agrees to Pay over $130 Million to Resolve Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Fraud Case
    In Crime News
    Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft (Deutsche Bank or the Company) has agreed to pay more than $130 million to resolve the government’s investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and a separate investigation into a commodities fraud scheme.
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  • Next Generation Combat Vehicles: As Army Prioritizes Rapid Development, More Attention Needed to Provide Insight on Cost Estimates and Systems Engineering Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The four efforts within the Next Generation Combat Vehicles (NGCV) portfolio all prioritize rapid development, while using different acquisition approaches and contracting strategies. Some of the efforts use the new middle-tier acquisition approach, which enables rapid development by exempting programs from many existing DOD acquisition processes and policies. Similarly, the efforts use contracting strategies that include both traditional contract types as well as more flexible approaches to enable rapid development of technology and designs. Vehicles of the Next Generation Combat Vehicles Portfolio The two programs within the portfolio that recently initiated acquisitions—Mobile Protected Firepower and Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle—have taken some steps to mitigate risks in cost and technology consistent with GAO's leading practices. The Army's use of the middle-tier approach for these efforts may facilitate rapid development, but the programs could benefit from additional application of GAO's leading practices. For example, the programs identified some risks in their cost estimates, but because each presented a single estimate of the total cost—referred to as a point estimate—these estimates do not fully reflect how uncertainty could affect costs. Similarly, the programs took some steps to mitigate technical risk by limiting development to 6 years or less and incrementally introducing new technologies, steps consistent with GAO's leading practices. However, by delaying key systems engineering reviews, the programs took some steps not consistent with leading practices, which could increase technical risk. While trade-offs may be necessary to facilitate rapid development, more consistent application of GAO's leading practices for providing cost estimates that reflect uncertainty and conducting timely systems engineering reviews could improve Army's ability to provide insight to decision makers and deliver capability to the warfighter on time and at or near expected costs. The Army has taken actions to enhance communication, both within the Army and with Department of Defense stakeholders, to mitigate risks. Within the Army, these actions included implementing a cross-functional team structure to collaboratively develop program requirements with input from acquisition, contracting, and technology development staff. Program officials also coordinated with other Army and Department of Defense stakeholders responsible for cost and test assessment, even where not required by policy, to mitigate risk. The Army views the NGCV portfolio as one of its most critical and urgent modernization priorities, as many current Army ground combat vehicles were developed in the 1980s or earlier. Past efforts to replace some of these systems failed at a cost of roughly $23 billion. In November 2017, the Army began new efforts to modernize this portfolio. GAO was asked to review the Army's plans for modernizing its fleet of ground combat vehicles. This report examines (1) the acquisition approaches and contracting strategies the Army is considering for the NGCV portfolio, (2) the extent to which the Army's efforts to balance schedule, cost, and technology are reducing acquisition risks for that portfolio, and (3) how the Army is communicating internally and externally to reduce acquisition risks. GAO reviewed the acquisition and contracting plans for each of the vehicles in the portfolio to determine their approaches; assessed schedule, cost, and technology information—where available—against GAO's leading practice guides on these issues as well as other leading practices for acquisition; and interviewed Army and DOD officials. GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Army follow leading practices on cost estimation and systems engineering to mitigate program risk. In its response, the Army concurred with these recommendations and plans to take action to address them. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonj@gao.gov.
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  • Clinical Researchers Sentenced in Connection with Scheme to Falsify Drug Trial Data
    In Crime News
    A federal judge sentenced a Florida nurse practitioner and a Florida woman to prison terms today in connection with their participation in a conspiracy to falsify data related to clinical drug trials.
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  • Justice Department Requires Divestiture In Order For Anheuser-Busch To Acquire Craft Brew Alliance
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it is requiring Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI), its wholly-owned subsidiary Anheuser-Busch Companies LLC (AB Companies), and Craft Brew Alliance Inc. (CBA) to divest CBA’s entire Kona brand business in the state of Hawaii and to license to the acquirer the Kona brand in Hawaii in order for AB Companies, a minority shareholder in CBA, to proceed with its proposed acquisition of the remaining shares of CBA.  The department has approved PV Brewing Partners, LLC as the acquirer.  The proposed settlement will maintain competition in the beer industry in Hawaii benefitting consumers.
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  • Rebuilding Iraq: Reconstruction Progress Hindered by Contracting, Security, and Capacity Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has relied extensively on contractors to undertake major reconstruction projects and provide support to its deployed forces, but these efforts have not always achieved desired outcomes. Further, the Iraqi government must be able to reduce violence, sustain reconstruction progress, improve basic services, and make a positive difference in the daily lives of the Iraqi people. This statement discusses (1) factors affecting DOD's ability to promote successful acquisition outcomes on its contracts for reconstruction and for support to deployed forces in Iraq, (2) the deteriorating security situation and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, and (3) issues affecting the Iraqi government's ability to support and sustain future reconstruction progress. The testimony is based upon our work on Iraq reconstruction and stabilization efforts, DOD contracting activities, and DOD's use of support contractors spanning several years. This work was conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.The challenges faced by DOD on its reconstruction and support contracts often reflect systemic and long-standing shortcomings in DOD's capacity to manage contractor efforts. Such shortcomings result from poorly defined or changing requirements, the use of poor business arrangements, the absence of senior leadership and guidance, and an insufficient number of trained contracting, acquisition and other personnel to manage, assess and oversee contractor performance. In turn, these shortcomings manifest themselves in higher costs to taxpayers, schedule delays, unmet objectives, and other undesirable outcomes. For example, because DOD authorized contractors to begin work before reaching agreement on the scope and price of that work, DOD paid millions of dollars in costs that were questioned by the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Similarly, DOD lacks visibility on the extent to which they rely on contractors to support their operations. When senior military leaders began to develop a base consolidation plan, officials were unable to determine how many contractors were deployed and therefore ran the risk of over- or under-building the capacity of the consolidated bases. U.S. reconstruction efforts also continue to be hampered by a security situation that continues to deteriorate. Although the number of trained and equipped Iraqi security forces increased to about 323,000 in December 2006 and more Iraqi Army units have taken the lead for counterinsurgency operations, attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces and civilians have all increased. Aggregate numbers of trained and equipped Iraqi forces, however, do not provide information on the capabilities and needs of individual units. GAO has made repeated attempts to obtain unit-level Transition Readiness Assessments (TRAs) without success. This information is essential for the Congress to make fully informed decisions in connection with its authorization, appropriations, and oversight responsibilities. As the U.S. attempts to turn over its reconstruction efforts, the capacity of the Iraqi government to continue overall reconstruction progress is undermined by shortfalls in the capacity of the Iraqi ministries, widespread corruption and the inability to fund and execute projects for which funds were previously budgeted. Iraqi government institutions are undeveloped and confront significant challenges in staffing a competent, nonaligned civil service; using modern technology; and managing resources and personnel effectively. For example, according to U.S. officials 20 to 30 percent of the Ministry of Interior staff are "ghost employees" whose salaries are collected by other officials. Further, corruption in Iraq poses a major challenge to building an effective Iraqi government and could jeopardize future flows of needed international assistance. Unclear budgeting and procurement rules have affected Iraq's efforts to spend capital budgets effectively and efficiently, according to U.S. officials. At the Ministry of Oil, for example, less than 1 percent of the $3.5 billion budgeted in 2006 for key enhancements to the country's oil production, distribution, and export facilities, had been spent as of August 2006.
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  • Operation Warp Speed: Accelerated COVID-19 Vaccine Development Status and Efforts to Address Manufacturing Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    Operation Warp Speed (OWS)—a partnership between the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense (DOD)—aimed to help accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. GAO found that OWS and vaccine companies adopted several strategies to accelerate vaccine development and mitigate risk. For example, OWS selected vaccine candidates that use different mechanisms to stimulate an immune response (i.e., platform technologies; see figure). Vaccine companies also took steps, such as starting large-scale manufacturing during clinical trials and combining clinical trial phases or running them concurrently. Clinical trials gather data on safety and efficacy, with more participants in each successive phase (e.g., phase 3 has more participants than phase 2). Vaccine Platform Technologies Supported by Operation Warp Speed, as of January 2021 As of January 30, 2021, five of the six OWS vaccine candidates have entered phase 3 clinical trials, two of which—Moderna's and Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccines—have received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For vaccines that received EUA, additional data on vaccine effectiveness will be generated from further follow-up of participants in clinical trials already underway before the EUA was issued. Technology readiness. GAO's analysis of the OWS vaccine candidates' technology readiness levels (TRL)—an indicator of technology maturity— showed that COVID-19 vaccine development under OWS generally followed traditional practices, with some adaptations. FDA issued specific guidance that identified ways that vaccine development may be accelerated during the pandemic. Vaccine companies told GAO that the primary difference from a non-pandemic environment was the compressed timelines. To meet OWS timelines, some vaccine companies relied on data from other vaccines using the same platforms, where available, or conducted certain animal studies at the same time as clinical trials. However, as is done in a non-pandemic environment, all vaccine companies gathered initial safety and antibody response data with a small number of participants before proceeding into large-scale human studies (e.g., phase 3 clinical trials). The two EUAs issued in December 2020 were based on analyses of clinical trial participants and showed about 95 percent efficacy for each vaccine. These analyses included assessments of efficacy after individuals were given two doses of vaccine and after they were monitored for about 2 months for adverse events. Manufacturing. As of January 2021, five of the six OWS vaccine companies had started commercial scale manufacturing. OWS officials reported that as of January 31, 2021, companies had released 63.7 million doses—about 32 percent of the 200 million doses that, according to OWS, companies with EUAs have been contracted to provide by March 31, 2021. Vaccine companies face a number of challenges in scaling up manufacturing to produce hundreds of millions of doses under OWS's accelerated timelines. DOD and HHS are working with vaccine companies to help mitigate manufacturing challenges, including: Limited manufacturing capacity: A shortage of facilities with capacity to handle the vaccine manufacturing needs can lead to production bottlenecks. Vaccine companies are working in partnership with OWS to expand production capacity. For example, one vaccine company told GAO that HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority helped them identify an additional manufacturing partner to increase production. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing construction projects to expand capacity at vaccine manufacturing facilities. Disruptions to manufacturing supply chains: Vaccine manufacturing supply chains have been strained by the global demand for certain goods and workforce disruptions caused by the global pandemic. For example, representatives from one facility manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines stated that they experienced challenges obtaining materials, including reagents and certain chemicals. They also said that due to global demand, they waited 4 to 12 weeks for items that before the pandemic were typically available for shipment within one week. Vaccine companies and DOD and HHS officials told GAO they have undertaken several efforts to address possible manufacturing disruptions and mitigate supply chain challenges. These efforts include federal assistance to (1) expedite procurement and delivery of critical manufacturing equipment, (2) develop a list of critical supplies that are common across the six OWS vaccine candidates, and (3) expedite the delivery of necessary equipment and goods coming into the United States. Additionally, DOD and HHS officials said that as of December 2020 they had placed prioritized ratings on 18 supply contracts for vaccine companies under the Defense Production Act, which allows federal agencies with delegated authority to require contractors to prioritize those contracts for supplies needed for vaccine production. Gaps in the available workforce: Hiring and training personnel with the specialized skills needed to run vaccine manufacturing processes can be challenging. OWS officials stated that they have worked with the Department of State to expedite visa approval for key technical personnel, including technicians and engineers to assist with installing, testing, and certifying critical equipment manufactured overseas. OWS officials also stated that they requested that 16 DOD personnel be detailed to serve as quality control staff at two vaccine manufacturing sites until the organizations can hire the required personnel. As of February 5, 2021, the U.S. had over 26 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and about 449,020 reported deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions, with the unemployment rate and number of unemployed in January 2021 at nearly twice their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. In May 2020, OWS was launched and included a goal of producing 300 million doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines with initial doses available by January 2021. Although FDA has authorized two vaccines for emergency use, OWS has not yet met its production goal. Such vaccines are crucial to mitigate the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic. GAO was asked to review OWS vaccine development efforts. This report examines: (1) the characteristics and status of the OWS vaccines, (2) how developmental processes have been adapted to meet OWS timelines, and (3) the challenges that companies have faced with scaling up manufacturing and the steps they are taking to address those challenges. GAO administered a questionnaire based on HHS's medical countermeasures TRL criteria to the six OWS vaccine companies to evaluate the COVID-19 vaccine development processes. GAO also collected and reviewed supporting documentation on vaccine development and conducted interviews with representatives from each of the companies on vaccine development and manufacturing. For more information, contact Karen L. Howard and Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov or wrightc@gao.gov.
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  • VA Research: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Partnerships and Guide Decision-Making with Nonprofits and Academic Affiliates
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) extramural research spending totaled about $510 million in fiscal year 2019—nearly half of the $1.1 billion in total spending on VA research. Of the $510 million, federal sources, such as National Institutes of Health, funded $382 million (75 percent), and nonfederal sources, including private entities, academic institutions, state and local governments, and foundations, funded $128 million (25 percent). Spending at the 92 VA medical centers that conducted extramural research in fiscal year 2019 ranged from less than $2 million to more than $10 million (see figure). VA medical centers' nonprofit research and education corporations (NPC) and academic affiliate partners administered the grants that accounted for 91 percent of the spending. Figure: Extramural Research Spending by VA Medical Centers that Conducted Extramural Research in Fiscal Year 2019 VA has made efforts to promote and support VA medical centers' partnerships with academic affiliates—for example, by coordinating a mentoring program for local VA research officials—and considers effective affiliations as an enhancement to research. However, VA's Central Office officials have not provided examples of successful practices for strengthening research partnerships with academic affiliates. Having such practices would promote collaborative opportunities for VA medical centers with academic affiliates, particularly for medical centers that have poor communication with affiliates. Additionally, VA's Central Office has provided general guidance but not specific tools to VA medical centers for determining when an NPC or an academic affiliate should administer a project's extramural funds. Having specific decision-making tools could help medical centers make more informed decisions to provide optimal support for the research. VA research, which has contributed to many medical advances, may be funded by VA's appropriation or extramurally by other federal agencies and nonfederal sources. To access extramural funding, investigators at VA medical centers usually work with an NPC or academic affiliate partner to submit a grant proposal. Once a grant is awarded, medical centers' partners administer the grant by distributing funding, fulfilling reporting requirements, and performing other administrative activities. GAO was asked to review VA's extramural research. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how much VA spent on extramural research in fiscal year 2019 and (2) the efforts VA has made to support medical centers' partnerships for extramural research. GAO analyzed VA policies, documents, and data. It also conducted site visits and interviewed officials from VA's Central Office and from a nongeneralizable sample of VA medical centers, NPCs, and academic affiliates, which GAO selected to represent variation in geographic location and funding. GAO recommends that VA (1) provide more information to VA medical centers on strengthening research relationships with academic affiliates and (2) develop decision tools to help VA medical centers determine whether NPCs or academic affiliates should administer extramural grants. VA agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or neumannj@gao.gov.
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  • Prison Health Care Provider Naphcare Agrees to Settle False Claims Act Allegations
    In Crime News
    NaphCare Inc., headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, has agreed to pay $694,593 to resolve allegations that the company violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false claims to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in connection with health care services provided to BOP inmates. 
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  • Former Florida Resident Indicted for Tax Evasion and Failing to Report Foreign Bank Accounts
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging Lucia Andrea Gatta, a former resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, with tax evasion and failing to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), among other offenses, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida.
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  • Courts Suspending Jury Trials as COVID-19 Cases Surge
    In U.S Courts
    About two dozen U.S. district courts have posted orders that suspend jury trials or grand jury proceedings, and scale back other courthouse activities in response to a sharp nationwide rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The surge in new court orders in recent weeks marks a significant pause in efforts by federal courts to resume full operations.
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  • Michigan Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Michigan man was sentenced today to 32 months in federal prison for fraudulently seeking nearly $1 million 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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