October 21, 2021

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MS-13 Member Sentenced to 35 Years’ Imprisonment for Racketeering Conspiracy and Other Violent Crimes

9 min read
<div>A Maryland man was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and other charges in connection with his La Mara Salvatrucha, aka “MS-13” gang, activities between 2015 and 2019.</div>
A Maryland man was sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder and attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and other charges in connection with his La Mara Salvatrucha, aka “MS-13” gang, activities between 2015 and 2019.

More from: September 16, 2021

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  • Emergency Responder Safety: States and DOT Are Implementing Actions to Reduce Roadside Crashes
    In U.S GAO News
    Move Over laws vary by state but generally require motorists to move over a lane or slow down, or both, when approaching emergency response vehicles with flashing lights stopped on the roadside. U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data provide limited information on whether crashes involved violations of these state laws, but the agency is taking steps to collect additional data. For instance, NHTSA's 2018 data show 112 fatalities from crashes involving emergency vehicles, representing 0.3 percent of all traffic fatalities that year, but these data cannot be used to definitively identify which crashes involved a violation of Move Over laws. NHTSA is proposing updates to the data that it encourages states to include on crash report forms to better identify crashes involving violations of Move Over laws, and plans to convene an expert panel and initiate a pilot project to study further data improvements. Selected state officials reported that they have taken actions to improve public education and enforcement of Move Over laws but still face challenges in both areas. Such actions include education through various forms of media and regional coordination among states to conduct targeted enforcement of Move Over laws within their respective borders during the same time period. State officials cited raising public awareness as the most prevalent challenge, as motorists may not know the law exists or its specific requirements. Variation in the requirements of some Move Over laws—such as for which emergency vehicles motorists are required to move over—may contribute to challenges in educating the public about these laws, according to state officials. DOT has taken actions and is planning others to help improve emergency responder roadside safety. NHTSA helps states promote public awareness of Move Over laws by developing and disseminating marketing materials states can use to develop their own traffic safety campaigns. NHTSA also administers funding that states can use for public awareness activities or enforcement initiatives related to emergency responder safety. FHWA has coordinated with a network of stakeholders across the country to train emergency responders on traffic incident management best practices. Finally, in response to congressional direction, NHTSA officials are planning several research efforts intended to enhance emergency responder safety, including studies on motorist behaviors that contribute to roadside incidents and technologies that protect law enforcement officials, first responders, roadside crews and other responders. General Requirements of Move Over Laws for Motorists on a Multiple Lane Roadway     Police, fire, medical, towing, and other responders risk being killed or injured by passing vehicles when responding to a roadside emergency. To protect these vulnerable workers and improve highway safety, all states and the District of Columbia have enacted Move Over laws. GAO was asked to review issues related to Move Over laws and emergency responder roadside safety. This report: (1) examines data NHTSA collects on crashes involving violations of Move Over laws, (2) describes selected states' actions and challenges related to Move Over laws, and (3) describes DOT efforts to improve emergency responder roadside safety. GAO analyzed NHTSA's 2018 crash data, which were the latest data available; reviewed federal and state laws and regulations, and DOT initiatives to improve emergency responder roadside safety; reviewed state reports to DOT; and interviewed NHTSA and FHWA officials, traffic safely and law enforcement officials in seven selected states, and stakeholders from traffic safety organizations and occupational groups, such as the Emergency Responder Safety Institute and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. GAO selected states based on a variety of factors, including traffic fatality rates per vehicle mile traveled and recommendations from stakeholders. DOT provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact Elizabeth Repko at (202) 512-2834 or RepkoE@gao.gov.
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  • Tax Administration: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight of Hospitals’ Tax-Exempt Status
    In U.S GAO News
    Nonprofit hospitals must satisfy three sets of requirements to obtain and maintain a nonprofit tax exemption (see figure). Requirements for Nonprofit Hospitals to Obtain and Maintain a Tax-Exemption While PPACA established requirements to better ensure hospitals are serving their communities, the law is unclear about what community benefit activities hospitals should be engaged in to justify their tax exemption. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identified factors that can demonstrate community benefits, but they are not requirements. IRS does not have authority to specify activities hospitals must undertake and makes determinations based on facts and circumstances. This lack of clarity makes IRS's oversight challenging. Congress could help by adding specificity to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). While IRS is required to review hospitals' community benefit activities at least once every 3 years, it does not have a well-documented process to ensure that those activities are being reviewed. IRS referred almost 1,000 hospitals to its audit division for potential PPACA violations from 2015 through 2019. However, IRS could not identify if any of these referrals related to community benefits. GAO's analysis of IRS data identified 30 hospitals that reported no spending on community benefits in 2016, indicating potential noncompliance with providing community benefits. A well-documented process, such as clear instructions for addressing community benefits in the PPACA reviews or risk-based methods for selecting cases, would help IRS ensure it is effectively reviewing hospitals' community benefit activities. Further, according to IRS officials, hospitals with little to no community benefit expenses would indicate potential noncompliance. However, IRS was unable to provide evidence that it conducts reviews related to hospitals' community benefits because it does not have codes to track such audits. Slightly more than half of community hospitals in the United States are private, nonprofit organizations. IRS and the Department of the Treasury have recognized the promotion of health as a charitable purpose and have specified that nonprofit hospitals are eligible for a tax exemption. IRS has further stated that these hospitals can demonstrate their charitable purpose by providing services that benefit their communities as a whole. In 2010, Congress and the President enacted PPACA, which established additional requirements for tax-exempt hospitals to meet to maintain their tax exemption. GAO was asked to review IRS's implementation of requirements for tax-exempt hospitals. This report assesses IRS's (1) oversight of how tax-exempt hospitals provide community benefits, and (2) enforcement of PPACA requirements related to tax-exempt hospitals. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration to specify in the IRC what services and activities Congress considers sufficient community benefit. GAO is also making four recommendations to IRS, including to establish a well-documented process to ensure hospitals' community benefit activities are being reviewed, and to create codes to track audit activity related to hospitals' community benefit activities. IRS agreed with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or lucasjudyj@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Labor's (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) enforcement focuses on encouraging retirement and health plans to comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, and restoring benefits that were improperly withheld from plan participants. To identify violations, EBSA investigates benefit plans and their service providers. Over two-thirds of investigation leads are identified by EBSA staff. EBSA prioritizes investigating cases that may result in large recoveries or affect many participants, such as restored retirement plan contributions or payment for incorrectly denied medical claims. When agreement cannot be reached, investigators can refer civil cases to DOL's Office of the Solicitor for civil litigation. Criminal cases are referred to Department of Justice. In fiscal year 2020, almost 84 percent of investigations were civil and more than 16 percent were criminal, resulting in over $3 billion in payments to participants and plans. EBSA uses a range of strategies to improve its investigative processes and seeks to ensure enforcement quality through training and oversight. For example, EBSA makes efforts to target investigations for greater impact, such as a 2013 change to prioritize cases with the potential to affect many participants and recover significant assets. As EBSA pursued more complex and technical investigations, the number of closed cases decreased, while monetary recoveries increased (see figure). To ensure investigation quality, EBSA provides training, documents procedures, and reviews open and closed cases to evaluate whether investigation procedures have been followed. Number of EBSA Investigations Closed and Monetary Recoveries, Fiscal Years 2011-2020 The COVID-19 pandemic created a number of immediate and long-term challenges for EBSA and benefit plans. For example, according to stakeholders, plans were initially concerned about how to implement provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, but those concerns were addressed as the agency issued FAQs and notices. Similarly, EBSA officials reported that court closures temporarily slowed criminal cases, but as virtual hearings increased, litigation resumed. Stakeholders and EBSA officials also described potential long-term challenges, including difficulties locating the many participants who may have left a job due to the pandemic and may be unaware they left behind retirement funds. Why GAO Did This Study Millions of Americans rely on employer benefits for their health care and future financial security. Private sector retirement plans are a key source of income for many retirees and employer-sponsored group health plans cover over one-half of all Americans. Consequently, effective oversight and enforcement are critically important to ensure the integrity of the private employee benefit system, especially in light of the economic and health effects of COVID-19 on American workers and their families. EBSA is charged with protecting the rights of participants in employer-sponsored benefit plans. As of fiscal year 2020, this included about 154 million participants in 722,000 retirement plans and 2.5 million health plans with combined assets of over $10.7 trillion. This report examines (1) how EBSA manages its enforcement process, (2) EBSA's strategies to improve investigative processes and ensure enforcement quality, and (3) the immediate and long-term challenges of COVID-19 for EBSA and private sector retirement and health plans. GAO analyzed EBSA data and documents; and federal laws, regulations, and guidance, including the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. GAO interviewed officials from EBSA's national office and three regional offices, selected for variation in investigations, and locations as well as stakeholders from nine organizations knowledgeable about benefits compliance requirements, the employer-sponsored benefit industry, and participants' benefit plan experiences. For more information, contact Tranchau (Kris) T. Nguyen at (202) 512-7215 or nguyentt@gao.gov.
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  • International Security: DOD and State Need to Improve Sustainment Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation for Section 1206 and 1207 Assistance Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2006, the United States created two new programs, authorized in Sections 1206 and 1207 of the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, to respond to the threats of global terrorism and instability. These programs have provided over $1.3 billion in military and nonmilitary aid to 62 countries and are due to expire in 2011 and 2010, respectively. The Congress mandated that GAO assess the programs. This report addresses the extent to which the programs (1) are consistent with U.S. strategic priorities, (2) are distinct from other programs, (3) address sustainment needs, and (4) incorporate monitoring and evaluation. GAO analyzed data and program documents from the Departments of Defense (DOD) and State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and interviewed U.S. and host country officials.The Section 1206 and 1207 programs have generally been consistent with U.S. strategic priorities. The Section 1206 program was established to build the military capacity of foreign countries to conduct counterterrorism and stabilization operations. DOD and State have devoted 82 percent of this program's funds to address specific terrorist threats, primarily in countries the U.S. intelligence community has identified as priorities for the counterterrorism effort. The Section 1207 program was established to transfer DOD funds to State for nonmilitary assistance related to stabilization, reconstruction, and security. DOD, State, and USAID have devoted 77 percent of this program's funds to countries at significant risk of instability, mostly those the United States has identified as vulnerable to state failure. Based on agency guidelines, the Section 1206 program is generally distinct from other programs, while the Section 1207 program is not. In most cases, Section 1206 projects addressed urgent and emergent counterterrorism and stabilization priorities of combatant commanders and did so more quickly than other programs, sometimes in a year, whereas Foreign Military Financing (FMF) projects can take up to 3 years to plan. DOD and embassy officials GAO spoke to consistently explained why projects do not overlap those of FMF and other programs, although project proposals GAO reviewed did not always document these distinctions. Section 1207 projects are virtually indistinguishable from those of other foreign aid programs in their content and time frames. Furthermore, the Section 1207 program has entailed additional implementation costs and funding delays beyond those of traditional foreign assistance programs, while the 1206 program has not. The uncertain availability of resources to sustain Section 1206 projects poses risks to achieving long-term impact. Enabling nations to achieve sustainable counterterrorism capabilities is a key U.S. policy goal. The long-term viability of Section 1206 projects is threatened by (1) the limited ability or willingness of partner nations to support new capabilities, as 76 percent of Section 1206 projects are in low- or lower-middle-income countries, and (2) U.S. legal and policy restrictions on using FMF and additional Section 1206 resources for sustainment. In contrast, sustainment risks for Section 1207 projects appear minimal, because State, USAID, and DOD are not restricted from drawing on a variety of overlapping funding sources to continue them. DOD and State have incorporated little monitoring and evaluation into the Section 1206 and 1207 programs. For Section 1206 projects, the agencies have not consistently defined performance measures, and results reporting has generally been limited to anecdotal information. For Section 1207 projects, the agencies have defined performance measures and State requires quarterly reporting on project implementation. However, State has not fully analyzed this information or provided it to DOD to inform program management. As a result, agencies have made decisions to sustain and expand both Section 1206 and 1207 projects without documentation of progress or effectiveness.
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    In U.S GAO News
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    In U.S GAO News
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