October 18, 2021

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Vermont Man Pleads Guilty to Hiring A Person to Kidnap and Kill an Individual in a Foreign Country and Child Pornography Charges

24 min read
<div>A Vermont man pleaded guilty today to hiring a woman in Venezuela to kidnap an adult male and make a video of the man being beaten, tortured, and suffocated to death, and to conspiracy to produce child pornography and possession of child pornography.</div>
A Vermont man pleaded guilty today to hiring a woman in Venezuela to kidnap an adult male and make a video of the man being beaten, tortured, and suffocated to death, and to conspiracy to produce child pornography and possession of child pornography.

More from: October 14, 2021

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  • Visa Waiver Program: Actions Are Needed to Improve Management of the Expansion Process, and to Assess and Mitigate Program Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    The Visa Waiver Program, which enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without first obtaining a visa, has many benefits, but it also has risks. In 2006, GAO found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needed to improve efforts to assess and mitigate these risks. In August 2007, Congress passed the 9/11 Act, which provides DHS with the authority to consider expanding the program to countries whose short-term business and tourism visa refusal rates were between 3 and 10 percent in the prior fiscal year. Countries must also meet certain conditions, and DHS must complete actions to enhance the program's security. GAO has examined DHS's process for expanding the Visa Waiver Program and evaluated the extent to which DHS is assessing and mitigating program risks. GAO reviewed relevant laws and procedures and interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and in U.S. embassies in eight aspiring and three Visa Waiver Program countries.The executive branch is moving aggressively to expand the Visa Waiver Program by the end of 2008, but, in doing so, DHS has not followed a transparent process. DHS did not follow its own November 2007 standard operating procedures, which set forth key milestones to be met before countries are admitted into the program. As a result, Departments of State (State) and Justice and U.S. embassy officials stated that DHS created confusion among interagency partners and aspiring program countries. U.S. embassy officials in several aspiring countries told us it had been difficult to explain the expansion process to foreign counterparts and manage their expectations. State officials said it was also difficult to explain to countries with fiscal year 2007 refusal rates below 10 percent that have signaled interest in joining the program (Croatia, Israel, and Taiwan) why DHS is not negotiating with them, given that DHS is negotiating with several countries that had refusal rates above 10 percent (Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia). Despite this confusion, DHS achieved some security enhancements during the expansion negotiations, including agreements with several aspiring countries on lost and stolen passport reporting. DHS, State, and Justice agreed that a more transparent process is needed to guide future program expansion. DHS has not fully developed tools to assess and mitigate risks in the Visa Waiver Program. To designate new program countries with refusal rates between 3 and 10 percent, DHS must first make two certifications. First, DHS must certify that it can verify the departure of not less than 97 percent of foreign nationals who exit from U.S. airports. In February 2008, we testified that DHS's plan to meet this provision will not help mitigate program risks because it does not account for data on those who remain in the country beyond their authorized period of stay (overstays). DHS has not yet finalized its methodology for meeting this provision. Second, DHS must certify that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for screening visa waiver travelers in advance of their travel is "fully operational." While DHS has not announced when it plans to make this certification, it anticipates ESTA authorizations will be required for all visa waiver travelers after January 12, 2009. DHS determined that the law permits it to expand the program to countries with refusal rates between 3 and 10 percent after it makes these two certifications, and after the countries have met the required conditions, but before ESTA is mandatory for all Visa Waiver Program travelers. For DHS to maintain its authority to admit certain countries into the program, it must incorporate biometric indicators (such as fingerprints) into the air exit system by July 1, 2009. However, DHS is unlikely to meet this timeline due to several unresolved issues.In addition, DHS does not fully consider countries' overstay rates when assessing illegal immigration risks in the Visa Waiver Program. Finally, DHS has implemented many recommendations from GAO's 2006 report, including screening U.S.-bound travelers against Interpol's lost and stolen passport database, but has not fully implemented others. Implementing the remaining recommendations is important as DHS moves to expand both the program and the department's oversight responsibilities.
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  • Defense Real Property: DOD-Wide Strategy Needed to Address Control Issues and Improve Reliability of Records
    In U.S GAO News
    As required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the Department of Defense (DOD) for fiscal year 2019 underwent a financial statement audit. In the military services' full financial statement audit reports for fiscal year 2019, the independent public accountants reported serious control issues related to events that occur during the life cycle of real property, consisting of adding, disposing, reconciling, valuing, and performing physical inventory counts. These control issues affect not only the reliability of financial statement reporting but also the quality of property record data that DOD officials need to make decisions for budget and mission planning, space management, and buying versus leasing options. Further, with DOD having almost half of the government's buildings, better data could help the federal government identify opportunities to dispose of unneeded buildings and reduce lease costs, thus potentially saving it millions of dollars. DOD has not yet developed a comprehensive, department-wide strategy—an element of leading practices for enterprise-wide real property management—to address the reported real property issues. Instead, each of the military services is independently developing corrective actions to address control issues, without applying common solutions among the services or department-wide. A department-wide strategy for remediating control issues would better position DOD to develop sustainable, routine processes that help ensure accurate real property records and, ultimately, auditable information for financial reporting for the department. Additionally, a DOD-wide strategy could help the military services more effectively and efficiently address reported control issues, particularly for those categorized as DOD-wide issues. The Acting Secretary, noting that the services had not accurately accounted for DOD's buildings and structures, required existence and completeness (E&C) verifications to be performed for all real property for fiscal year 2019. Given the lack of department-wide instructions for how to carry out the requirement, the military services independently developed approaches for performing the E&C verifications. Their approaches differed in both scope (what assets were verified) and methodology (how the assets were verified), including the extent to which instructions were written. Reporting and monitoring of the results by service and department-level management also differed. Without department-wide instructions for performing the fiscal year 2019 E&C verifications, the results were not comparable among the military services. Further, DOD and the military services did not obtain the complete and consistent information needed to create a DOD real property baseline or to help ensure that the department's real property records are reliable. DOD-wide instructions would help DOD obtain complete and comparable E&C verifications results, which would help DOD achieve an auditable real property baseline and, ultimately, its objective of an unmodified (“clean”) audit opinion. DOD manages one of the federal government's largest portfolios of real property. This engagement was initiated in connection with the statutory requirement for GAO to audit the U.S. government's consolidated financial statements. DOD's uncorrected deficiencies, including those affecting real property, prevent DOD from having auditable financial statements, one of the three major impediments preventing GAO from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. This report (1) identifies the real property control issues that independent public accountants reported that may affect the ability of the military services to establish and maintain accurate and complete real property records, (2) examines the extent to which DOD had a strategy to address the control issues, and (3) assesses the extent to which DOD provided guidance for the required E&C verifications during fiscal year 2019 and how each military service implemented the directive. GAO analyzed fiscal year 2019 audit findings, reviewed key DOD documents, and interviewed DOD and military service officials. GAO is recommending that DOD (1) develop and implement an enterprise-wide strategy to remediate real property control issues and (2) issue DOD-wide instructions for the E&C verifications. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Kristen Kociolek at (202) 512-2989 or kociolekk@gao.gov.
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    The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has dismissed the appeal of Tennessee resident Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen who was ordered removed from the United States earlier this year on the basis of his service in Nazi Germany in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system (Neuengamme).
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    The Department of Justice announced today that American Honda Finance Corporation (AHFC) has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by failing to refund a type of up-front lease payment to servicemembers who lawfully terminated their motor vehicle leases early. Under the settlement agreement, AHFC must pay up to $1,585,803.89 in compensation to 714 servicemembers who were harmed by the alleged violations.
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    Two United States citizens who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and recently transferred to the custody of the FBI have been charged with material support violations relating to their support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
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  • Michigan Restaurant and Strip Club Owner Sentenced to Two Years n Prison for Tax Crimes
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    A Walled Lake, Michigan, business owner was sentenced today to two years in prison, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
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  • Federal Grand Jury Returns a Superseding Indictment Adding New Charges in the Conspiracy to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Michigan returned a superseding indictment that adds new charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against three defendants and adds federal firearms violations against two defendants in the case alleging a conspiracy to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.
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  • Defense Management: Opportunities Exist to Improve DOD’s Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) has long sought to reform its enterprise business operations—such as its processes to manage contracts, finances, and supply chain— but faces challenges in improving department-wide management. DOD has taken some actions to improve its business operations data, but remains limited by the lack of reliable cost data, affecting its ability to monitor and inform its reform efforts. Having reliable data to identify baseline costs of the department's business and management functions and to measure progress has been a key challenge facing DOD, but one the department is trying to address. As GAO reported in November 2020, DOD has made progress in setting baseline costs of certain activities, such as logistics and real estate management. Further, DOD has ongoing efforts to develop baselines for all of the department's enterprise business operations that should enable it to better monitor reform progress. However, DOD needs better data about how it performs its business functions. For example, in September 2018, GAO reported that DOD's efforts to reduce inefficiencies in human resources services were hampered by inconsistent performance data across the six organizations that provide these services. DOD has ongoing efforts to address GAO's recommendations. DOD still needs clear roles, responsibilities, authorities and dedicated resources to support reform. GAO has found that demonstrating sustained leadership commitment—including through ensuring that those responsible for leading change have clearly defined and documented roles, responsibilities, and authorities—is imperative for successful business transformation. GAO has assessed many of DOD's organizational structures over the decades, including the recently eliminated Chief Management Officer (CMO) position. GAO found that, while Congress had given the CMO both significant responsibilities and authorities, DOD had not resolved unanswered questions about how those authorities would be carried out, nor communicated the CMO's roles and responsibilities department-wide. GAO also identified instances where CMO reforms were hampered by a lack of resources. As DOD moves to an organization without the CMO position, which was eliminated in 2021, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of those tasked with managing business reform remains important. DOD could also improve its efforts to reliably demonstrate progress toward meaningful reform. DOD has reported achievements from some of its department-wide efforts, such as its reported $37 billion in savings from fiscal years 2017 to 2021. However, GAO reported in November 2020 that while DOD's reported savings were largely reflected in its budget materials, the underlying analyses were not always well documented and the savings were not always consistent with the department's definitions of reform. For example, one reform initiative was based on delaying military construction projects that, according to DOD officials, allowed DOD to fund higher priorities. If a delayed project is still planned, however, the costs will likely be realized in a future year and are not a reflection of business process reform. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations to establish a process to standardize development and documentation of such cost savings, and ensure that reported savings are consistent with the department's definitions of reform. Why GAO Did This Study DOD spends billions of dollars each year to maintain key business operations and defense-wide agencies and programs intended to support the warfighter, including systems and processes related to the management of contracts, finances, the supply chain, support infrastructure, and weapon systems acquisition. The department's approach to transforming these business operations is linked to its ability to perform its overall mission, directly affecting the readiness and capabilities of U.S. military forces. This testimony summarizes GAO's past work related to DOD's efforts to improve the management of its business operations. Specifically, this testimony discusses DOD's efforts to (1) improve data and baselines to monitor and inform reform efforts; (2) establish clear roles, responsibilities, and authorities for leading reform efforts, and dedicate resources to these efforts; and (3) reliably demonstrate progress in its reform efforts. This statement is based on GAO's body of work issued from 2017 through 2020 on DOD management and business reform issues.
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    In Crime News
    Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Arkansas was arrested today in Bentonville, Arkansas on multiple criminal charges related to his alleged unlawful activities earlier this week at the U.S. Capitol Building where he was photographed with his feet up on a desk in the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ office.
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