September 28, 2021

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Two Individuals Charged for their Roles in Massive Cattle Ponzi Scheme

15 min read
<div>A federal grand jury in Colorado returned an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday charging an Illinois woman and a Georgia man with running a Ponzi scheme that raised approximately $650 million from investors across the country.</div>
A federal grand jury in Colorado returned an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday charging an Illinois woman and a Georgia man with running a Ponzi scheme that raised approximately $650 million from investors across the country.

More from: May 12, 2021

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    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has not established a strategic policy for the retrograde and reset of equipment during contingency operations that incorporates key elements of leading practices for sound strategic management planning. Because DOD and the military services do not separately track the "reconstitution" of units, which includes personnel and training costs, the focus of GAO's report is on the retrograde and reset of equipment. According to DOD's Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, "retrograde" refers to the process for the movement of nonunit equipment and materiel from a forward location to a reset program or to another directed area of operations. "Reset" refers to a set of actions to restore equipment to a desired level of combat capability commensurate with a unit's future mission. GAO found that there was no consensus among the officials we spoke with regarding which organization should lead the effort to develop a DOD-wide policy. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for DOD to develop a strategic policy for retrograde and reset that incorporates key elements of strategic management planning is valid. Although the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) has provided definitions of terms for the services to use in reporting the cost of contingency operations, DOD has not ensured that the services use consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in policy and guidance. Although DOD updated the relevant chapter of the Financial Management Regulation in December 2017 to include definitions of "reset" and "retrograde," GAO found that the terms retrograde and reset are not used consistently by the department and the services. As a result, GAO believes that to fully meet the intent of its May 2016 recommendation DOD needs to take action to ensure that these terms are uniformly defined and consistently used throughout the services. The Marine Corps has been implementing its plan for the retrograde and reset of its equipment, but the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have no immediate plans to develop reset plans. Marine Corps officials reported that the implementation of reset activities for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is 99-percent complete and will be completed in May 2019. Navy and Air Force officials cited the need for a DOD-wide policy before they can establish service-specific plans. GAO continues to believe that its May 2016 recommendation for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to develop service-specific implementation plans for retrograde and reset is valid. Furthermore, GAO continues to believe that DOD needs to establish a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning to guide and inform the services' plans, as previously discussed. Why GAO Did This Study Section 324 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014 required DOD to establish a policy regarding the retrograde, reconstitution, and replacement of units and materiel used to support overseas contingency operations and to submit a plan for implementation of the policy within 90 days of the enactment of the NDAA. It also required DOD to submit annual updates (for the next 3 years) to congressional defense committees on its progress toward meeting the goals of the plan. The act included a provision for GAO to review and report on DOD's policy, implementation plan, and annual updates. For this report on DOD's third and final annual update, GAO evaluated the extent to which DOD has addressed GAO's May 2016 recommendations. Specifically, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) DOD has established a strategic policy consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset of equipment that supports overseas contingency operations, (2) DOD has developed and required the use of consistent information and descriptions of key terms regarding retrograde and reset in relevant policy and other guidance, and (3) each of the military services has developed and implemented a service-specific plan consistent with leading practices on sound strategic management planning for the retrograde and reset that supports overseas contingency operations. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD reports, interviewed officials, and reviewed/assessed agency provided documents.
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    What GAO Found Australia, Canada, and Chile—three top mineral-producing countries as of 2018—generally own the minerals on private and government lands and manage hardrock mining at the national or regional (state, provincial, or territorial) government levels. Australia and Canada use national and regional governments to manage mining, whereas Chile uses national governance structures. All three countries primarily use leasing to manage mining. However, some Canadian provinces allow mineral exploration using a location system that provides open access to land to stake a mining claim. Australia, Canada, and Chile collect royalties and corporate income taxes on mineral extraction; however, the types and rates vary. For example, Canada and Chile's royalties are based on operators' net proceeds, while some Australian regional governments' royalties are also based on net market value. Primary Stages of Hardrock Mining In 11 western states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming—responsibility for managing mining on state-owned lands, including trust lands, is decentralized among multiple governance structures. These states primarily use leasing, although Alaska also allows operators to stake mine claims on certain lands, according to state officials. All states collect royalties, or taxes that are similar to royalties, on mining. The types and rates vary, but states typically base their rates on quantity or weight, gross revenue, net smelter returns (based on the value of minerals extracted, with deductions for processing), or net proceeds. Hardrock mining on trust and restricted fee lands (tribal lands) is managed by governance structures at the tribal and federal government levels, in accordance with the approaches established in tribal and federal law. Tribes decide whether to allow hardrock mining on their lands. If so, multiple governance structures at the tribal level may be involved in managing the mining, depending on the requirements of tribal law, which may vary by tribe. In addition, governance structures at the federal level are involved in managing mining. Two federal laws—the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982 and the Indian Mineral Leasing Act—require the use of minerals agreements, as defined in regulation, or leases, respectively. However, few tribes allow hardrock mining on their lands, according to the Department of the Interior. Why GAO Did This Study Hardrock minerals such as gold, silver, and copper play a significant role in U.S. and global economies—in 2018, hardrock minerals extracted worldwide were valued at about $981 billion. However, extracting these minerals creates the potential for public health, safety, and environmental hazards. Different approaches exist to manage these hazards and hardrock mining. GAO recently reported on the number and characteristics of mining operations on federal lands in GAO-20-461R and was also asked to review the methods different governments use to manage mining. This report describes the governance structures and approaches used to manage mining on (1) selected mineral-producing countries' land, (2) state-owned land in selected U.S. states, and (3) tribal lands subject to federal laws and regulations. GAO reviewed laws, regulations, government documents, legal guides, and nongovernmental and industry reports. GAO also interviewed nongovernmental and mining association representatives and officials from selected states and countries. GAO selected countries that were top mineral producers, perceived by researchers to have good mining governance, and were attractive to mining investors. GAO selected states in the western region of the U.S. that produced the highest value of hardrock minerals compared with other U.S. regions. GAO examined federal laws and regulations that generally govern mining on tribal land and interviewed one tribe on mining approaches used. For more information, contact Mark E. Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or gaffiganm@gao.gov.
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  • USDA Food Box Program: Key Information and Opportunities to Better Assess Performance
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    What GAO Found Through contractors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchased fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat products from producers and delivered them to recipient organizations, such as food banks. USDA's goals for the program included providing food to those in need, helping contractors retain jobs, and supporting producers. USDA collected large amounts of data and analyzed various data on deliveries to recipient organizations—that is, total number of food boxes delivered to each state and per million people in each state—and determined that the program met its goal of providing food to those in need. GAO further analyzed USDA's data and found that 243 contractors delivered more than 176 million food boxes to recipient organizations across the U.S. and territories by the end of the program (see figure). GAO's analysis also found that food boxes were delivered to nearly 78 percent of all U.S. counties, including to more than 89 percent of counties where at least 20 percent of the population lives in poverty. Number of Food Boxes Contractors Delivered to Recipient Organizations for the Food Box Program USDA could not analyze the program's performance in meeting its other two goals: (1) helping contractors (i.e., distributors of goods) retain jobs and (2) helping food producers faced with declining demand—because USDA did not systematically collect the necessary data. For example, USDA did not collect data on (1) the number of jobs contractors might have lost but ultimately retained as a result of participating in the program and (2) the number, category, and size of participating producers or whether the pandemic had reduced demand for or sales of the type of product the producer provided for the program. USDA officials acknowledged that a key lesson learned during the implementation of the Food Box Program was the need to collect and analyze such data but that the department did not have time to do so. Federal guidance expresses the importance of balancing speed with transparency, and states that federal managers should use data and evidence to achieve program goals. By applying this lesson learned to current and future emergency food assistance programs, USDA would have greater assurance that it can assess program effectiveness even when it must move quickly in implementing a program. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in the U.S. food supply chain and contributed to a national hunger crisis. In response, USDA implemented the Food Box Program in May 2020. USDA directed a total of $6 billion in congressional appropriations to the program, which lasted 1 year. The program included organizations such as food banks, which received food boxes; contractors that purchased and delivered the food; and food producers, such as farmers and ranchers. The CARES Act contained a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of the use of funds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines the extent to which USDA collected and analyzed data on participants in the program, including data necessary to assess performance in meeting program goals. GAO analyzed information from USDA's website, database, and departmental guidance. GAO also compared USDA's efforts to collect and analyze data on the program against federal guidance, USDA's strategic plan, and documents that include lessons learned. GAO also interviewed USDA officials.
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