Sanctioning Iranian Intelligence Officers Involved in the Abduction of Bob Levinson

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

For 13 years, the Iranian regime has denied knowledge of Robert A. “Bob” Levinson’s whereabouts or condition. However, senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson’s abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the regime.

Today, the United States is designating two senior officials of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who were involved in the abduction of Mr. Levinson on Iran’s Kish Island on or about March 9, 2007. Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acting in their capacity as MOIS officers, were involved in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson. They are designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13553 for acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Iran’s MOIS. The MOIS was previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for being complicit in the commission of serious human rights abuses against Iranians protesting fraudulent elections held on June 12, 2009.

The Iranian regime has a 41-year history of abducting and detaining foreigners and dual-nationals as political leverage. We reiterate our strong warning to U.S. citizens and dual-nationals that traveling to Iran may jeopardize their personal safety. The abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson is another egregious example of the regime’s callous disregard toward human life.

The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson’s disappearance. We call on the Iranian regime to provide a full accounting of Mr. Levinson’s fate, and we will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained by Iran are back home. We hope today brings the Levinson family some of the answers and justice they deserve.

For more information about today’s action, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release .

More from: Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Hits: 3

News Network

  • Global Entry for Colombian Citizens
    In Travel
    How to Apply for Global [Read More…]
  • Two Owners of New York Pharmacies Charged in a $30 Million COVID-19 Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering Case
    In Crime News
    The owners of over a dozen New York-area pharmacies were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their roles in a $30 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they exploited emergency codes and edits in the Medicare system that went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to submit fraudulent claims for expensive cancer drugs that were never provided, ordered, or authorized by medical professionals.
    [Read More…]
  • Judiciary Employees Find Ways to Help During Pandemic
    In U.S Courts
    Learn about the countless Judiciary employees across the court system who have volunteered to help people in need in their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Calls for Free, Fair, and Peaceful Elections in Uganda
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Russia Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to Russia [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Calls with Armenian Foreign Minister Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Bayramov
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Title X Family Planning Program Turns 50
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Title X of the Public [Read More…]
  • Puerto Rico Legislator Indicted for Theft, Bribery, and Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against legislator María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, as well as her husband Orlando Montes-Rivera (Montes), their son Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier, and her assistant Frances Acevedo-Ceballos (Acevedo), for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.
    [Read More…]
  • Portugal Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Files Antitrust Case and Simultaneous Settlement Requiring National Association of Realtors® To Repeal and Modify Certain Anticompetitive Rules
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today filed a civil lawsuit against the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) alleging that NAR established and enforced illegal restraints on the ways that REALTORS® compete.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles Claim Against California-Based Staffing Company for Favoring Temporary Visa Workers Over U.S. Workers
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it signed a settlement agreement with AllianceIT, a provider of IT staffing services based in Pleasanton, California. This is the tenth settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. workers in favor of temporary foreign visa workers.
    [Read More…]
  • Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband on Supreme Court’s Order in Favor of Colorado Church that Challenged COVID Restrictions
    In Crime News
    Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Eric S. Dreiband, issued the following statement:
    [Read More…]
  • Readout of Attorney General William P. Barr’s Visits to Chicago and Phoenix
    In Crime News
    This week, Attorney General William P. Barr traveled to Chicago, Illinois, and Phoenix, Arizona, to announce updates on Operation Legend and the results of Operation Crystal Shield, respectively.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Nino Scalia of Madison’s Notes Podcast
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Interagency Issues Advisory on Use of Technology to Detect and Mitigate Unmanned Aircraft Systems
    In Crime News
    Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an advisory guidance document to help non-federal public and private entities better understand the federal laws and regulations that may apply to the use of capabilities to detect and mitigate threats posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations.
    [Read More…]
  • Morocco Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
  • How We ReImagined HHS
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    On October 1, 2020, I [Read More…]
  • Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Adam Hickey Delivers Remarks at the ACI 2nd National Forum on FARA
    In Crime News
    Over the last few years, a conventional wisdom has developed about the arc of FARA enforcement.  It goes a little something like this: In the beginning, Congress created FARA. Then DOJ rested.  For nearly 80 years, it was not enforced, carried no penalties, and was largely ignored.  Beginning in 2017, the Special Counsel’s Office used the statute to investigate and charge Russian Internet trolls and politically influential Americans alike.  Suddenly, this vague statute transformed from an administrative afterthought into an unpredictable source of criminal liability.  FARA registrations skyrocketed, and conferences of white collar defense attorneys organized soon thereafter. 
    [Read More…]
  • Owner of Bitcoin Exchange Sentenced to Prison for Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Bulgarian national who was convicted by a federal jury for his role in a transnational and multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud American victims was sentenced today to 121 months in prison.
    [Read More…]
  • Over 300 People Facing Federal Charges For Crimes Committed During Nationwide Demonstrations
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that more than 300 individuals in 29 states and Washington, D.C., have been charged for crimes committed adjacent to or under the guise of peaceful demonstrations since the end of May.
    [Read More…]
  • Recycling: Building on Existing Federal Efforts Could Help Address Cross-Cutting Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    Based on GAO analysis of stakeholder views, five cross-cutting challenges affect the U.S. recycling system: (1) contamination of recyclables; (2) low collection of recyclables; (3) limited market demand for recyclables; (4) low profitability for operating recycling programs; and (5) limited information to support decision-making about recycling. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent data show that less than a quarter of the waste generated in the United States is collected for recycling (69 million of 292 million tons) and is potentially available, along with new materials, to make new products (see fig.). Estimated Generation and Disposition of Waste in the United States, as of 2018 EPA, the Departments of Commerce (Commerce) and Energy, and the Federal Trade Commission have taken actions that advance recycling, such as collecting data and awarding grants for research on recycling technologies. However, EPA has not conducted studies or developed recommendations for administrative or legislative action on the effect of existing public policies on recycling, as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires. Conducting these studies would provide Congress with information to better evaluate the effect of different policies on U.S. recycling efforts. In addition, Commerce is not fully meeting its RCRA requirement to stimulate the development of markets for recycled materials because it has not taken actions to stimulate domestic markets, as GAO recommended in 2006. Commerce officials stated that their work to stimulate international markets fulfills Commerce's obligations under RCRA. Congress may need to act to clarify Commerce's responsibilities under RCRA or assign responsibility for stimulating domestic markets to another agency. By taking action, Congress can ensure a federal response to the reduction in international demand for U.S. recyclables. EPA has taken several actions to plan and coordinate national efforts to advance recycling, such as releasing a draft national recycling strategy in October 2020. However, EPA has not incorporated some desirable characteristics for effective national strategies, identified in prior GAO work. By better incorporating such characteristics as it finalizes and implements its draft strategy, EPA will have greater assurance of the strategy's usefulness in making resource and policy decisions and will better ensure accountability for its implementation. In 1976, Congress sought to reduce solid waste and encourage recycling as part of RCRA, which gave primary responsibility for recycling to states and municipalities but requires EPA and Commerce to take specific actions. The United States generated almost 1,800 pounds of waste per capita in 2018. Recycling rates for common recyclables, such as paper, plastics, glass, and some metals, remain low. Furthermore, recent international import restrictions have reduced demand for U.S. exports of recyclables. GAO was asked to review federal efforts that advance recycling in the United States. This report examines (1) cross-cutting challenges affecting recycling in the United States, (2) actions that selected federal agencies have taken that advance recycling, and (3) actions EPA has taken to plan and coordinate national efforts to advance recycling. GAO reviewed laws and agency documents; and interviewed federal officials and nonfederal stakeholders, such as states, municipalities, and industry representatives, selected for their expertise and efforts to advance recycling. GAO is making one matter for congressional consideration to clarify a RCRA requirement for Commerce or to assign responsibility for stimulating domestic markets to another agency; and three recommendations to EPA, including that it take actions to fulfill certain RCRA requirements. EPA concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or gomezj@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • The Scripps Research Institute To Pay $10 Million To Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related To Mischarging NIH-Sponsored Research Grants
    In Crime News
    The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has agreed to pay the U.S. $10 million to settle claims that it improperly charged NIH-funded research grants for time spent by researchers on non-grant related activities such as developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities, the Department of Justice announced today. 
    [Read More…]
  • Some Courts Slow Reopening Plans as COVID Cases Rise
    In U.S Courts
    At a time when some states are backtracking on plans to restore business and government operations, a number of federal courts also are slowing plans to reopen courthouse doors as coronavirus (COVID-19) case numbers escalate in many states. In recent weeks, federal courts, especially in Sun Belt “hot spot” states, have issued orders extending courthouse closures, postponement of jury trials, and the use of video and teleconferencing for most or all proceedings. Most of the orders cited rising COVID-19 numbers.
    [Read More…]
  • International Trio Indicted in Austin for Illegal Exports to Russia
    In Crime News
    A four–count federal grand jury indictment returned in Austin and unsealed today charges three foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and two Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the U.S. and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licenses.
    [Read More…]
  • Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks at the Pan Am 103 Press Conference
    In Crime News
    On this day 32 years ago, December 21, 1988, at 7:03 p.m. local time, a bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew 31,000 feet above Lockerbie, Scotland. The massive Boeing 747 plane, known as the “Clipper Maid of the Seas,” exploded and fell to the ground in countless pieces scattered across 840 square miles, nearly the entire width of Scotland. The explosion killed all 259 people on board—243 passengers and 16 crew members, including 190 Americans. Falling debris claimed the lives of 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground, many of whom were in their homes and had just sat down for dinner.
    [Read More…]
  • Information Security and Privacy: HUD Needs a Major Effort to Protect Data Shared with External Entities
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is not effectively protecting sensitive information exchanged with external entities. Of four leading practices for such oversight, HUD did not address one practice and only minimally addressed the other three in its security and privacy policies and procedures (see table). For example, HUD minimally addressed the first leading practice because its policy required federal agencies and contractors with which it exchanges information to implement risk-based security controls; however, the department did not, among other things, establish a process or mechanism to ensure all external entities complied with security and privacy requirements when processing, storing, or sharing information outside of HUD systems. HUD's weaknesses in the four practices were due largely to a lack of priority given to updating its policies. Until HUD implements the leading practices, it is unlikely that the department will be able to mitigate risks to its programs and program participants. Extent to Which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Policies and Procedures Address Leading Practices for Overseeing the Protection of Sensitive Information Practice Rating Require risk-based security and privacy controls ◔ Independently assess implementation of controls ◌ Identify and track corrective actions needed ◔ Monitor progress implementing controls ◔ Legend: ◔=Minimally addressed—leading practice was addressed to a limited extent; ◌=Not addressed—leading practice was not addressed. Source: GAO analysis of HUD data. | GAO-20-431 HUD was not fully able to identify external entities that process, store, or share sensitive information with its systems used to support housing, community investment, or mortgage loan programs. HUD's data were incomplete and did not provide reliable information about external entities with access to sensitive information from these systems. For example, GAO identified additional external entities in system documentation beyond what HUD reported for 23 of 32 systems. HUD was further limited in its ability to protect sensitive information because it did not track the types of personally identifiable information or other sensitive information shared with external entities that required protection. This occurred, in part, because the department did not have a comprehensive inventory of systems, to include information on external entities. Its policies and procedures also focused primarily on security and privacy for internal systems and lacked specificity about how to ensure that all types of external entities protected information collected, processed, or shared with the department. Until HUD develops sufficient, reliable information about external entities with which program information is shared and the extent to which each entity has access to personally identifiable information and other sensitive information, the department will be limited in its ability to safeguard information about its housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs. To administer housing, community investment, and mortgage loan programs, HUD collects a vast amount of sensitive personal information and shares it with external entities, including federal agencies, contractors, and state, local, and tribal organizations. In 2016, HUD reported two incidents that compromised sensitive information. House Report 115-237, referenced by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, included a provision for GAO to evaluate HUD's information security framework for protecting information within these programs. The objectives were to (1) assess the effectiveness of HUD's policies and procedures for overseeing the security and privacy of sensitive information exchanged with external entities; and (2) determine the extent to which HUD was able to identify external entities that process, store, and share sensitive information with applicable systems. GAO compared HUD's policies and practices for systems' security and privacy to four leading practices identified in federal legislation and guidance. GAO also assessed HUD's practices for identifying external entities with access to sensitive information. GAO is making five recommendations to HUD to fully implement the four leading practices and fully identify the extent to which sensitive information is shared with external entities. HUD did not agree or disagree with the recommendations, but described actions intended to address them. For more information, contact Carol C. Harris at (202) 512-4456 or harriscc@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Invests More than $87 Million in Grants to Address School Violence
    In Crime News
    The Department of [Read More…]
  • NASA Scientist Over the Moon With Homegrown Radish Research
    In Space
    How two video meetings, [Read More…]
  • Harnessing Technology to Address Loneliness and Social Isolation
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Physical distancing has [Read More…]
  • Owner and Operator of India-Based Call Centers Sentenced to Prison for Scamming U.S. Victims out of Millions of Dollars
    In Crime News
    An Indian national was sentenced today to 20 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release in the Southern District of Texas for his role in operating and funding India-based call centers that defrauded U.S. victims out of millions of dollars between 2013 and 2016.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Venus Rover Challenge Winners Announced
    In Space
    An overwhelming response [Read More…]
  • Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Hugh Hewitt of The Hugh Hewitt Show
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Owner of Seafood Processor Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion
    In Crime News
    A Rhode Island man was sentenced to three years in prison today for tax evasion, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman for the District of Rhode Island, and Special Agent in Charge Kristina O’Connell of IRS Criminal Investigation.
    [Read More…]
  • Trinidad and Tobago Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Condolences on the Passing of Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of the Kingdom of Eswatini 
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Department of Energy Contracting: Improvements Needed to Ensure DOE Assesses Its Full Range of Contracting Fraud Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO identified nine categories of contracting fraud schemes that occurred at the Department of Energy (DOE), including billing schemes, conflicts of interest, and payroll schemes. For example, a subcontractor employee at a site created fraudulent invoices for goods never received, resulting in a loss of over $6 million. In another scheme, a contractor engaged in years of widespread time card fraud, submitting inflated claims for compensation. The contractor agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle the case. DOE reported that it identified nearly $15 million in improper payments due to confirmed fraud in fiscal year 2019. However, due to the difficulty in detecting fraud, agencies—including DOE—incur financial losses related to fraud that are never identified or are settled without admission to fraud and are not counted as such. Fraud can also have nonfinancial impacts, such as fraudsters obtaining a competitive advantage and preventing legitimate businesses from obtaining contracts. DOE has taken some steps and is planning others to demonstrate a commitment to combat fraud and assess its contracting fraud risks, consistent with the leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. However, GAO found that DOE has not assessed the full range of contracting fraud risks it faces. Specifically, GAO found DOE's methods for gathering information about its fraud risks captures selected fraud risks—rather than all fraud risks—facing DOE programs. As shown in the figure, DOE's risk profiles for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 did not capture four of nine fraud schemes that occurred at DOE. For example, one entity did not include any fraud risks in its risk profiles, yet GAO identified six types of fraud schemes that occurred at the entity's site. DOE plans to expand its risk assessment process, but officials expect the new process will continue to rely on a methodology that gathers information on selected fraud risks. The Fraud Risk Framework states that entities identify specific tools, methods, and sources for gathering information about fraud risks. Without expanding its methodology to capture, assess, and document all fraud risks facing its programs, DOE risks remaining vulnerable to these types of fraud. Fraud Risks Identified in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 Risk Profiles Compared with Types of Fraud Schemes That Have Occurred at DOE DOE is planning to develop an antifraud strategy in fiscal year 2022 and has taken some steps to evaluate and adapt to fraud risks, consistent with leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Part of DOE's effort to manage fraud risks includes adapting controls to address emerging fraud risks. Additionally, DOE is planning to expand its use of data analytics to detect contracting fraud, beginning in fiscal year 2022. DOE relies primarily on contractors to carry out its missions at its laboratories and other facilities, spending approximately 80 percent of its total obligations on contracts. GAO and DOE's Inspector General have reported on incidents of fraud by DOE contractors and identified multiple contracting fraud risks. GAO was asked to examine DOE's processes to manage contracting fraud risks. This report examines, for DOE, (1) types of contracting fraud schemes and their financial and nonfinancial impacts, (2) steps taken to commit to combating contracting fraud risks and the extent to which these risks have been assessed, and (3) steps taken to design and implement an antifraud strategy and to evaluate and adapt its approach. GAO reviewed relevant laws and guidance; reviewed agency media releases, Agency Financial Reports, and DOE Inspector General reports to Congress from 2013 through 2019; and reviewed documents and interviewed officials from 42 DOE field and site offices, contractors, and subcontractors, representing a range of sites and programs. GAO is making two recommendations, including for DOE to expand its fraud risk assessment methodology to ensure all fraud risks facing DOE programs are fully assessed and documented in accordance with leading practices. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Shea at (202) 512-6722 shear@gao.gov or Allison B. Bawden at (202) 512-3841, bawdena@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Spotlight on Naloxone Co-Prescribing
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    As we recognize [Read More…]
  • VERITAS: Exploring the Deep Truths of Venus
    In Space
    Under consideration to [Read More…]
  • Tennessee Emergency Medical Doctor Sentenced to Prison for Unlawfully Distributing Controlled Substances
    In Crime News
    A Tennessee emergency medical doctor was sentenced today to serve 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in unlawfully distributing controlled substances.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Partners with Australia and Japan to Expand Reliable and Secure Digital Connectivity in Palau
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Former Deputy Jailer Sentenced to 48 Months for Violating the Civil Rights of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    ​​​​​​​A former Shelby County Deputy Jailer, William Anthony Carey, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gregory F. VanTatenhove to serve 48 months in federal prison for violating the civil rights of an inmate in his custody.
    [Read More…]
  • Man Convicted of Multiple Obscenity Crimes Involving Children
    In Crime News
    A Texas man was convicted by a federal jury today for operating a website dedicated to publishing writings that detailed the sexual abuse of children.
    [Read More…]
  • Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim Delivers Remarks at Georgetown Law’s Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium
    In Crime News
    “Reflections”: Looking [Read More…]
  • Join NASA for the Launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover
    In Space
    No matter where you [Read More…]
  • Private Health Coverage: Results of Covert Testing for Selected Offerings
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO performed 31 covert tests to selected sales representatives and stated that we had pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, and we requested coverage for these conditions to see if the sales representative directed GAO's undercover agents to a comprehensive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-compliant plan, or a PPACA-exempt plan that does not cover what we requested. As part of these tests, GAO gauged whether sales representatives engaged in potentially deceptive practices, such as making false or misleading statements about coverage or omitting material information about coverage. The results of the covert tests ranged from sales representatives appropriately explaining to GAO's undercover agents that a PPACA-exempt plan would not cover the pre-existing condition the undercover agents stated that they had, to engaging in potentially deceptive marketing practices that misrepresented or omitted information about the products they were selling. Specifically, in 21 of 31 covert tests, the sales representative appropriately referred undercover agents to a PPACA-compliant plan. In two of 31 covert tests, the sales representatives did not appear to engage in deceptive marketing practices but were not always consistent or clear in their explanation of the type of coverage and plans they were selling. In the remaining eight of 31 covert tests, the sales representatives engaged in potentially deceptive marketing practices, such as claiming the pre-existing condition was covered when the health plan documents GAO received after purchase said otherwise. GAO plans to refer these eight cases of potential deceptive marketing practices to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and corresponding state insurance commissioners' offices for follow-up as appropriate. Millions of Americans obtain health insurance coverage in the individual market, which consists mainly of private plans sold directly to consumers without access to group coverage. While generally regulated by states, starting in 2014, PPACA established a number of new federal requirements for the individual health insurance market. For example, PPACA prohibited insurers from excluding coverage or charging higher premiums for pre-existing conditions and required that individual market plans cover a set of essential health benefits, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorder services, prescription drugs, and maternity and newborn care. Certain types of health coverage arrangements that can be sold directly to consumers do not have to comply with some or all of PPACA's individual market requirements and, as a result, may be less expensive, but also offer more limited benefits compared to PPACA-compliant plans. Recent changes to federal law and regulations could result in the increased use of PPACA-exempt health coverage arrangements as alternatives to PPACA-compliant plans in the individual market. For example, in 2018, federal regulations expanded the availability of short term, limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans, a type of PPACA-exempt arrangement. In addition, starting January 1, 2019, individuals who fail to maintain "minimum essential coverage," as required by PPACA, no longer face a tax penalty. Further, the devastating economic effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could create additional demand for affordable health coverage, including PPACA-exempt plans.  With these changes, and because of their lower relative costs, PPACA-exempt health coverage arrangements may be attractive to consumers, particularly those who find it difficult to afford PPACA-compliant plans. However, such arrangements generally do not need to follow PPACA's requirement that plans in the individual market be presented to consumers in defined categories outlining the extent to which they are expected to cover medical care. As a result, depending on how they are marketed and sold, PPACA-exempt arrangements could present risks for consumers, if, for example, they buy them mistakenly believing that coverage is as comprehensive as for PPACA-compliant plans. GAO was asked to obtain insights on the marketing and sales practices of insurance sales representatives who sell PPACA-exempt plans. In this report, GAO describes the results of covert tests we conducted involving selected sales representatives, when contacted by individuals stating that they had pre-existing conditions. In this regard, GAO agents performed a number of covert tests (i.e., undercover phone calls) from November 2019 through January 2020 posing as individuals needing to purchase health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions. GAO also discussed the marketing and oversight of PPACA-exempt arrangements with senior officials from federal agencies, including the FTC, and Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)5. GAO provided a draft of this product to FTC, HHS, and NAIC for review and comment. FTC, HHS, and NAIC provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. HHS provided additional written comments on a draft of this report. For more information, contact Seto Bagdoyan at (202)-6722 or bagdoyans@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Brightbill Delivers Remarks at the 2020 Annual Pennsylvania Chamber Environmental Virtual Conference
    In Crime News
    I am happy to be back home in Pennsylvania — in a sense — and have the opportunity to speak with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. Since this organization’s founding in 1916, this Chamber has advocated for job creation and greater prosperity for all Pennsylvanians. It represents almost 50 percent of Pennsylvania’s private workforce with a membership of 10,000 businesses ranging from sole proprietors to Fortune 100 companies.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Pompeo Approves New Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies Bureau
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Retirement Security: DOL Could Better Inform Divorcing Parties About Dividing Savings
    In U.S GAO News
    Although more than one-third of adults aged 50 or older have experienced divorce, few people seek and obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), according to large plan sponsors GAO surveyed. A QDRO establishes the right of an alternate payee, such as a former spouse, to receive all or a portion of the benefits payable to a participant under a retirement plan upon separation or divorce. There are no nationally representative data on the number of QDROs, but plans and record keepers GAO interviewed and surveyed reported that few seek and obtain QDROs. For example, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation administered retirement benefits to about 1.6 million participants, and approved about 16,000 QDROs in the last 10 years. GAO's analysis of other survey data found about one-third of those who experienced a divorce from 2008 to 2016 and reported their former spouse had a retirement plan also reported losing a claim to that spouse's benefits. Many experts stated that some people—especially those with lower incomes—face challenges to successfully navigating the process for obtaining a QDRO, including complexity and cost. Individuals seeking a QDRO may be charged fees for preparation and review of draft orders before they are qualified as QDROs and, according to experts GAO interviewed, these fees vary widely. These experts cited concerns about QDRO review fees that they said in some cases were more than twice the amount of typical fees, and said they may discourage some from pursuing QDROs. Department of Labor (DOL) officials said the agency generally does not collect information on QDRO fees. Exploring ways to collect and analyze information from plans on fees could help DOL ensure costs are reasonable. Divorcing parties who pursue QDROs often had orders not qualified due to lacking basic information, according to plans and record keepers we surveyed (see figure). Plan Administrators and Record Keepers Reported Reasons for Not Qualifying a Domestic Relations Order (DRO) DOL provides some information to help divorcing parties pursue QDROs. However, many experts cited a lack of awareness about QDROs by the public and said DOL could do more to make resources available to divorcing parties. Without additional outreach by DOL, divorcing parties may spend unnecessary time and resources drafting orders that are not likely to be qualified, resulting in unnecessary expenditures of time and money. A domestic relations order (DRO) is a court-issued judgment, decree, or order that, when qualified by a retirement plan administrator, can divide certain retirement benefits in connection with separation or divorce and as such provide crucial financial security to a former spouse. DOL has authority to interpret QDRO requirements. GAO was asked to review the process for obtaining QDROs. This report examines what is known about (1) the number of QDRO recipients, (2) the fees and other expenses for processing QDROs, and (3) the reasons plans do not initially qualify DROs and the challenges experts identify regarding the QDRO process. To conduct this work, GAO analyzed available data, and a total of 14 responses from two surveys of large private sector plans and account record keepers, and interviewed 18 experts including practitioners who provide services to divorcing couples. GAO is recommending that DOL (1) explore ways to collect information on QDRO-related fees charged to participants or alternate payees, and (2) take steps to ensure information about the process for obtaining a QDRO is accessible. DOL generally agreed with our recommendations. For more information, contact Kris Nguyen at (202) 512-7215 or NguyenTT@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Former President of Nuclear Transportation Company Sentenced to Prison for Foreign Bribery and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
    The former president of Transport Logistics International Inc. (TLI), a Maryland-based transportation company that provides services for the transportation of nuclear materials to customers in the United States and abroad, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a scheme to bribe a Russian official in exchange for obtaining contracts for the company.
    [Read More…]
  • The United States Imposes Sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong Persons for Activities Related to Supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Call with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akiba
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • NASA’s ECOSTRESS Monitors California’s Record-Breaking Heat Wave
    In Space
    From cities to deserts, [Read More…]
  • Remarks to the Community of Democracies 20th Anniversary Virtual Conference
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    Stephen Biegun, Deputy [Read More…]
  • Two Virginia Men Convicted for Their Roles in Investment Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal jury found two representatives of a purported investment company based in the United Kingdom guilty on Oct. 30 for their roles in an investment fraud scheme by which they stole at least $5 million from victim investors.
    [Read More…]
  • Special Representative Khalilzad Travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and Turkmenistan
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Five Peruvians Extradited For Overseeing Call Centers That Threatened And Defrauded Spanish-Speaking U.S. Consumers
    In Crime News
    Five residents of Lima, Peru, were extradited to the United States and made their initial appearances in Miami federal court, where they stand accused of operating a large fraud and extortion scheme targeting Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.
    [Read More…]
  • Over 500K Rapid Coronavirus Tests Being Distributed to HBCUs
    In Human Health, Resources and Services
    In yet another effort by [Read More…]
  • Abusive Tax Schemes: Offshore Insurance Products and Associated Compliance Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    Federal law provides certain tax benefits for transactions involving genuine insurance products, including insurance products held offshore. While taxpayers may lawfully hold offshore insurance products, they contain features that make them vulnerable for use in abusive tax schemes. For example, offshore insurance products can be highly technical and individualized, making enforcement challenging, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials. Furthermore, insurance is not defined by federal statute, potentially making a determination of what constitutes genuine insurance for federal tax purposes unclear. Offshore micro-captive insurance products, which are made by small insurance companies owned by the businesses they insure, may be abused if the corporate taxpayer improperly claims deductions for payments made to a micro-captive for federal tax purposes. Courts have applied certain considerations to determine whether these deductions can be claimed. For example, one consideration is whether the insurance legitimately distributes risk across participating entities. IRS officials said they expend significant resources reviewing these schemes because of the varied ways insurance companies may work. Offshore variable life insurance products, which are insurance policies with investment components over which the insured has certain control, may be abused if the individual taxpayer fails to meet IRS reporting requirements or pay appropriate federal income taxes. Federal regulations require that taxpayers with certain foreign life insurance accounts report this information to IRS and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The structure of life insurance products may vary and taxpayers are required to pay taxes based on the underlying type of financial product the policy represents. The figure below shows how noncompliance may occur when taxpayers use life insurance and micro-captive insurance in abusive tax schemes. Abusive Use of Micro-captive and Life Insurance When structured in abusive ways, insurance products held offshore can be designed to aid in unlawful tax evasion by U.S. taxpayers. Two products that IRS has recently warned have the potential for such abuse include micro-captive insurance and variable life insurance policies. GAO was asked to review how taxpayers may abuse offshore insurance products. This report describes (1) how offshore insurance tax shelters provide opportunities for income tax abuse; (2) how offshore micro-captive insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes; and (3) how offshore variable life insurance is used and how it is used in abusive tax schemes. GAO reviewed IRS tax and information return forms, relevant U.S. case law and IRS guidance, academic and trade publications, and applicable statutes and regulations. GAO also interviewed IRS officials and professionals in the tax preparation and insurance industries. For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-9110 or LucasJudyJ@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Two Quebec Men Extradited to North Dakota from Canada as Part of ‘Operation Denial’
    In Crime News
    More from: January 8, [Read More…]
  • VA Vet Centers: Evaluations Needed of Expectations for Counselor Productivity and Centers’ Staffing
    In U.S GAO News
    The Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) provides counseling through 300 Vet Centers, which can be found in community settings and are separate from other VHA facilities. RCS has set expectations for counselor productivity at Vet Centers. For example, one expectation is for counselors to achieve an average of 1.5 visits for each hour they provide direct services. However, RCS officials told GAO that they have not conducted, and do not have plans to conduct, an evaluation of the expectations. VA Vet Center Productivity Expectations for Counselors Although most counselors met the productivity expectations in fiscal year 2019, counselors GAO spoke with said the expectations led them to change work practices in ways that could negatively affect client care. For example, counselors at one Vet Center told GAO that, to meet productivity expectations, they spend less time with each client to fit more clients into their schedules. Without an evaluation of its productivity expectations, RCS lacks reasonable assurance that it is identifying any unintended or potentially negative effects of the expectations on counselor practices and client care. RCS officials told GAO that by the start of fiscal year 2021 they plan to implement a staffing model to identify criteria for determining staffing needs at Vet Centers. The model incorporates data on counselors' productivity (work hours and number of visits), and total clients to determine criteria for adding or removing a counselor position from a Vet Center. However, the model does not fully address key practices in staffing model design GAO identified in previous work. For example, the model does not include the input of Vet Center counselors, or client data associated with directors, who also provide counseling. As a result, RCS is at risk of making decisions about Vet Center staffing that may not be responsive to changing client needs. Shortages of mental health staff within VHA coupled with the increasing veteran demand for mental health services highlight the critical importance of ensuring appropriate Vet Center staffing. VHA's RCS provided counseling (individual, group, marriage, and family) and outreach services through Vet Centers to more than 300,000 veterans and their families in fiscal year 2019. In 2017, RCS implemented changes to expectations that it uses to assess Vet Center counselor productivity, setting expectations for counselors' percentage of time with clients and number of client visits. GAO was asked to review Vet Center productivity expectations for counselors and staffing. Among other issues, this report examines the extent to which VHA (1) evaluates its productivity expectations; and (2) assesses Vet Centers' staffing needs. To do this work, GAO reviewed RCS documentation regarding counselors' productivity expectations and analyzed RCS data on counselor productivity expectations and staffing, for fiscal year 2019. GAO interviewed RCS leadership, including district directors, and directors and counselors from 12 Vet Centers, selected for variation in geographic location and total number of clients, among other factors. GAO is making four recommendations, including that VHA (1) evaluate Vet Center productivity expectations for counselors; and (2) develop and implement a staffing model that incorporates key practices. The Department of Veterans Affairs concurred with GAO's recommendations and identified actions VHA is taking to implement them. For more information, contact Debra A. Draper at (202) 512-7114 or draperd@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]