Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Frank Preve Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in Massive Rothstein Ponzi Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Donnell Young, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that Frank Preve, 70, of Coral Springs, pled guilty in Ft. Lauderdale before U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. At his sentencing, scheduled for December 12, 2014, Preve faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison.

In 2009, it was discovered that the law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. (RRA) was being utilized by its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Scott W. Rothstein, to commit a massive Ponzi scheme stemming from the sale of fictitious confidential settlements. In a written factual stipulation filed in connection with his guilty plea, Preve admitted that he worked for a number of companies, referred to as “the Banyon Group,” which solicited lenders and investors into the confidential settlement business being offered by Rothstein. The defendant further admitted that, from on or about July 9, 2009 through October 31, 2009, he defrauded investors by not disclosing that Rothstein had failed to make payments that were due to the Banyon Group, that Rothstein had frozen certain bank accounts that were holding investor funds, that certain paperwork was not being prepared, and that verification of the investments was not taking place, all in violation of a private placement memorandum which had been circulated to potential investors by the Banyon Group. The defendant further admitted that, through these material misrepresentations and omissions, Preve caused more than $20 million to be paid by investors to the Banyon Group.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Joint Statement from FBI & Justice Department on #Ferguson

The following joint statement was released by FBI Special Agent in Charge William P. Woods, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Richard G. Callahan and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Molly Moran:

“At the onset of our federal civil rights investigation, the Attorney General of the United States promised a thorough and complete investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown.  That investigation is proceeding. We can confirm that FBI agents, working together with attorneys from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and US Attorney's Office, have already conducted several interviews of witnesses on the scene at the time of the shooting.  Over the next several days, teams of FBI agents will be canvassing the neighborhood where the shooting took place to identify any individuals who may have information related to the shooting and have not yet come forward.  We ask for the public's cooperation and patience, and again urge anyone with information related to the shooting to contact the FBI.  The FBI can be reached at (800) CALL-FBI, option 4.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Has the Aryan Brotherhood Gang Been Decapitated?

After a six-year investigation and a sweeping indictment naming dozens of suspects, federal authorities declared they have "decapitated" the notoriously violent prison gang known as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

The final two defendants snared in the long criminal probe have pleaded guilty, prosecutors announced, capping a wide-ranging case that led to 73 convictions and decimated the gang's leadership.

"All five of the active generals for each of the regions, one for each of the regions, have been prosecuted, convicted and will spend long sentences in federal prison," said Marshall Miller, principal deputy assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice Criminal Division.

The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, a highly structured white-supremacist gang, emerged in Texas prisons during the early 1980s. As convicts involved in the gang during its formative years finished their sentences, they carried their criminal enterprises into the free world as an organized crime group often controlled from inside prison walls.

"The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas – or ABT – launched its brutal, murderous and racist ideology from within the prisons of the state of Texas," Miller said. "Unfortunately, ABT then unleashed a violent crime spree that jumped the prison walls and infected communities."

An indictment unsealed in 2012 drew a detailed portrait of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas as a sophisticated organized crime group with a military-style structure and a written constitution widely circulated in Texas prisons. The group's leadership routinely used murder, kidnappings, arson and severe beatings as enforcement tactics, the indictment said.

"You name it," Miller said. "Drugs, kidnappings, assaults, murders attempted murders. They ran the gamut."

The indictment makes the Aryan Brotherhood looks less like a prison gang than a classic organized crime syndicate with military titles. Five generals control five different regions of the state, authorities said, with each general controlling two separate chains of command – one inside prisons and one in the free world. Each general has an "inside major" and an "outside major" overseeing several captains, lieutenants, sergeants-at-arms and soldiers.

All five active generals have been convicted, authorities said, along with one "acting" general and a former general who was also a founding member of the gang. At a news conference attended by law enforcement authorities from some of the dozens of agencies that worked on the case, officials displayed a poster showing where each of 36 defendants swept up in the latest indictment fit into the group's organizational structure.

"Today was the plea of the last defendant in the case," said Ken Magidson, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. "So all 36 defendants in the indictment have been convicted."

Only three of the gang members have been sentenced, facing prison terms of 10 to 30 years. A woman associated with the gang was sentenced to 6 ½ years. The rest of the defendants are scheduled for sentencing in October.

Thanks to Doug Miller.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents in First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler

As in a play, presidents, vice presidents, and presidential candidates perform on stage for the public and the media. What the nation’s leaders are really like and what goes on behind the scenes remains hidden. Secret Service agents have a front row seat on their private lives and those of their wives and children.

Crammed with new, headline-making revelations, The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents by Ronald Kessler tells that eye-opening, uncensored story.

Since publication of his New York Times bestselling book In the President’s Secret Service, award-winning investigative reporter Ronald Kessler has continued to penetrate the wall of secrecy that surrounds the U.S. Secret Service, breaking the story that Secret Service agents who were to protect President Obama hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia and revealing that the Secret Service allowed a third uninvited guest to crash a White House state dinner.

Now in this new book, Kessler presents far bigger and more consequential stories about our nation’s leaders and the agency sworn to protect them. Kessler widens his scope to include presidential candidates and former presidents after they leave the White House. In particular, he focuses on first ladies and their children and their relationships with the presidents.

From observing Vice President Joe Biden’s reckless behavior that jeopardizes the country’s safety, to escorting Bill Clinton’s blond mistress at Chappaqua, to overhearing First Lady Michelle Obama’s admonitions to the president, to witnessing President Nixon’s friends bring him a nude stripper, to seeing their own agency take risks that could result in an assassination, Secret Service agents know a secret world that Ronald Kessler exposes in breathtaking detail.


·       Vice President Joe Biden regularly orders the Secret Service to keep his military aide with the nuclear football a mile behind his motorcade, potentially leaving the country unable to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

·       Secret Service agents discovered that former president Bill Clinton has a blond mistress who lives near the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York. Within minutes of Hillary Clinton’s leaving, the woman—codenamed Energizer by agents—shows up to be with Bill and stays every day while the likely future presidential candidate is away.

·       The Secret Service covered up the fact that President Ronald Reagan’s White House staff overruled the Secret Service to let unscreened spectators get close to Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton, allowing John W. Hinckley Jr. to shoot the president.

·       Secret Service agents have been dismayed to overhear Michelle Obama push her husband to be more aggressive in attacking Republicans and to side with blacks in racial controversies.

·       Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan diverted agents from protecting President Obama and his family at the White House and ordered them instead to protect his assistant at her home and illegally retrieve confidential law enforcement records as a favor to her.

·       Because Hillary Clinton is so nasty to agents, being assigned to her protective detail is considered a form of punishment and the worst assignment in the Secret Service.

·       Secret Service agents were ordered to ignore security rules and allow the SUV carrying actor Bradley Cooper to drive unscreened into a secure restricted area when President Obama was about to deliver his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

·       Vice President Joe Biden has racked up costs to taxpayers of a million dollars to fly to and from his home in Delaware on Air Force Two. His office tried to cover up the costs of the personal trips.

·       Because the Secret Service refused to provide enough magnetometers at his campaign events, Mitt Romney regularly left himself open to assassination by giving speeches to crowds that had not been screened.

·       Vice President Joe Biden swims nude at the vice president’s residence in Washington and at his home in Delaware, offending female Secret Service agents.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Reputed Knight Templar Mexican Drug Lord, Servando Gomez's Videos Lead to Arrests

After more than six months on the run from federal troops, an alleged Mexican crime lord has been striking back with the release of videos purporting to link government officials and their relatives to his gang, leading to several arrests.

The videos, which in recent months have emerged online, show politicians and their family members meeting with Servando Gómez, known as "La Tuta"—the boss—who heads the Knights Templar syndicate. Federal officials say Mr. Gómez, a former teacher, dominates organized crime and terrorizes residents of Michoacán state.

On Monday, a federal judge denied a bail request of Rodrigo Vallejo, a son of former Michoacán Gov. Fausto Vallejo. Police arrested the younger Mr. Vallejo on Sunday after he emerged on a video with Mr. Gómez.

Mr. Vallejo's father said his son was innocent and was forced by Mr. Gómez to meet with him. "The people of Michoacán know me," the elder Mr. Vallejo, who belongs to Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said in a post on his official Twitter account last week after the video emerged. "I have never tolerated, nor will I tolerate, breaking the rule of law."

In the video, the younger Mr. Vallejo is seen talking with Mr. Gómez about state politics and the health of his father, who resigned in June, citing an undisclosed illness.

The younger Mr. Vallejo, who in the video laughs easily and sips beer as he chats with the alleged crime boss, was jailed after allegedly refusing to answer federal prosecutors' questions about the meeting, federal officials said. Prosecutors said he faces possible charges of withholding evidence. His lawyer couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Since being posted last week on the website of Quadratín, a Michoacán news agency, the 18-minute video has been widely viewed across Mexico.

Based on their conversation, the meeting between Messrs. Vallejo and Gómez appears to have occurred last year, during the former governor's leave of absence to deal with his illness.

The interim governor to stand in during his leave, Jesús Reyna, Michoacán's second-ranking official, was jailed in April after videos emerged online of him meeting with Mr. Gómez. Mr. Reyna, who also was charged links to organized crime, has dismissed previous accusations of any involvement with criminal gangs as "baseless, false and absurd."

He remains imprisoned without bail while state and federal prosecutors say they are preparing charges against him.

In the latest video, the younger Mr. Vallejo suggests to Mr. Gómez that Mr. Reyna and another state official wielded political power equal to that of his father. "The thing is there are three governors," the younger Mr. Vallejo says in the video.

The Knights Templar replaced La Familia Michoacana three years ago as the methamphetamine-producing state's dominant criminal band, officials say. Discontent with the gang's widespread extortion and kidnapping, armed residents of some 30 of the state's mostly rural townships rose up against the Templar in early 2013.

In January, fearful of fresh violence, President Enrique Peña Nieto sent thousands of federal troops into the state and appointed a special envoy and other federal officials who have taken control of the state's security and other vital functions.

Michoacán envoy Alfredo Castillo has incorporated hundreds of former vigilantes into a "rural guard" that patrols alongside state and federal security forces.

In another video posted to YouTube last week, Mr. Gómez accuses some leaders of the rural guards of links to a rival gangster band, the Jalisco Cartel-New Generation, which produces methamphetamine for the U.S. market, officials say.

Another Mexican official, Arquímides Oseguera, the former mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, the Pacific Coast steel-producing city that serves as one of Mexico's key ports, was arrested last year for his alleged links to organized crime after appearing in a video with Mr. Gómez. Mr. Oseguera, who denied any links to organized crime, faces possible charges of extortion and abduction as well, prosecutors said.

Such arrests have happened before in Michoacán. In May 2009, federal officials arrested 38 state and local officials, including 11 mayors, accusing them of protecting La Familia Michoacana. Charges were dropped against all of the officials by 2012, with federal prosecutors pointing to a lack of evidence.

Thanks to Dudley Althaus.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mafia Involvement in JFK's Killing Investigated in Assassination Theater

After decades of controversy, investigating the Kennedy assassination has earned a reputation as bad news for many reporters, a radioactive topic no one wants to approach.

“It’s one of the black holes of journalism,” said investigative reporter/playwright Hillel Levin. “It’s the sort of story reporters get sucked into and are never heard from again.”

That, however, hasn’t stopped him from spending seven years working on “Assassination Theater,” a theatrical investigation making a case for an organized crime conspiracy to kill JFK. The play debuts with a one-night-only staged reading Aug. 9 in the Arts Center of Oak Park.

Levin, an Oak Park resident and former editor of Chicago magazine, has made a specialty of true-crime books since co-authoring 2004’s “When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down” about the ’90s Gambat trials exposing the Chicago mob’s rigging of the city’s legal system.

After that book and a 2007 Playboy article about the burglarizing of Chicago mafia boss Tony Accardo’s home (a movie version starring Robert De Niro will be shot this fall in Chicago), Zachariah Shelton, an FBI agent featured in that story, asked Levin why he didn’t write the real Chicago mob story. Namely, their active involvement in the Kennedy assassination.

“I admit that I cringed a bit when he said that,” Levin said. “But having leaned about the mob here, about their power and influence, I couldn’t easily dismiss it. And I could understand why they might have been motivated to do it, since they were very involved in building Las Vegas in 1963 with funds from the Teamsters Central States pension — and the Kennedys, especially Bobby Kennedy as attorney general, were threatening that by going after Jimmy Hoffa.”

Levin said he was never a believer in the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted as a lone assassin, but he had never thought of the mafia as a likely suspect until Shelton showed him FBI evidence he had discovered by accident, along with corroborating evidence the agent uncovered in a private investigation. And even then, he wasn’t convinced until he’d spent years going over the official evidence, including medical reports and statements from witnesses unsealed in the ’90s.

His findings are dramatized by four actors in “Assassination Theater,” one playing himself, one playing Shelton and two playing various characters including Oswald, LBJ, Jack Ruby, autopsy morticians, mob figures and more. A large screen shows photos supporting their statements, including one purporting to show an assassin walking away from the grassy knoll immediately after the shooting.

“I’m not a zealot and I’m not saying everyone has to believe me,” Levin said. “But I think anyone who looks at the evidence with any attention will realize Oswald couldn’t have done it alone. My central thesis is that it was theater in a lot of ways and part of the show was putting the blame on only one actor, when in fact he was part of a much bigger production.”

Hence, in large part, Levin’s decision to present his findings on stage instead of writing a book. That, plus his belief that theater provides an immersive experience that will help people process the information and come to an understanding of it.

“The thing about the assassination I’d most like to dispel is people simply accepting the idea that this is a mystery that can never be known. I believe a great deal of it can in fact be known — that it is not unfathomable,” he said.

“That’s the way I hope everyone will feel when they leave the theater.”

Thanks to Bruce Ingram.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Ivan Soto-Barraza Extradited to Face Charges in Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry Murder Case

Ivan Soto-Barraza, who is charged with the first degree murder of United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was extradited to the United States from Mexico, announced Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California.

Agent Terry was fatally shot on Dec. 14, 2010, when he and other Border Patrol agents encountered Soto-Barraza and others in a rural area north of Nogales, Arizona. Of six defendants charged so far, two have pleaded guilty and two are awaiting trial.

“This marks another step forward in our aggressive pursuit of those responsible for the murder of Agent Brian Terry, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country,” said Attorney General Holder. "We will never stop seeking justice against those who do harm to our best and bravest."

“This extradition is another major development in the pursuit of justice for Agent Terry and his family,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “As we continue to make significant progress in this case, we are constantly motivated by the memory of Agent Terry and his sacrifice for our country.”

Soto-Barraza is scheduled to be arraigned in federal district court in Tucson, Arizona, on August 1, 2014. The indictment charges Soto-Barraza and others with first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, use and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and assault on a federal officer. In addition to the murder of Agent Terry, the indictment alleges that the defendants assaulted Border Patrol Agents William Castano, Gabriel Fragoza and Timothy Keller, who were with Agent Terry during the firefight.

On July 20, 2012, in order to seek the public’s assistance, Department of Justice officials announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest of four fugitives: Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes, Lionel Portillo-Meza and Soto-Barraza. Portillo-Meza was captured in Mexico in September 2012 and extradited to the U.S. from Mexico on June 17, 2014. Soto-Barraza was captured in Mexico in September 2013.   Favela-Astorga and Osorio-Arellanes are fugitives.

A fifth defendant, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in February 2014. A sixth defendant, Rito Osorio-Arellanes, who was in custody at the time of Agent Terry’s murder, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2013.