Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Investigations to Proceed on #OperationChokePoint

As reported last month, a coalition of congressional representatives led by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer  (R-Mo.) had requested internal investigators at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to conduct formal inquiries into Operation Choke Point, as well as any officials and staff involved in the program. Rep. Luetkemeyer is now reporting that those requests have been granted. According to his press release announcing the decisions, “The correspondence I received from the FDIC and DOJ is a great first step in ensuring that those responsible for Operation Choke Point are held accountable and that Congress and the American people receive details and answers they deserve.”

Over the past year, the NRA has reported at length on the abuses of Operation Choke Point, an enforcement program involving DOJ and FDIC (among other agencies) that claims to target financial fraud, but in reality is being used to choke off banking services to legitimate, although politically-disfavored, businesses. These businesses include retailers of firearms and ammunition, a number of which have found their banking relationships abruptly severed with little or no explanation and without reference to anything the individual businesses did or did not do. Earlier this year, a congressional report based on examination of nearly 900 internal DOJ documents found that the operation's adverse effect on legitimate businesses was not merely an unintended side-effect but the outcome of a deliberate attempt to target entire business sectors that, while legal, were deemed objectionable by regulators.

Many questions about the program remain, including who decided which business sectors should be targeted, the extent of coordination between the agencies involved, and who within the Obama administration knew of or encouraged the activity. The forthcoming investigations should hopefully shed light on these and other important issues. What is clear is that DOJ and FDIC have a lot of explaining to do.

The NRA remains committed to shedding light on the abusive practices of Operation Choke Point. While other attempts to reign in Choke Point are underway -- including legislation and litigation by affected members of the financial services industry -- the ultimate solutions to such rank abuse of investigative and enforcement authorities is to ensure they are clearly revealed for what they are and to pinpoint the decision-makers and planners involved. Legislation and court orders, while beneficial and certainly indicated in addressing Operation Choke Point, are no substitute for integrity, sound discretion, and professional ethics.  In this regard, Operation Choke Point may have more to say about the character of those administering the system than about the soundness of the system itself.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Hand CEO, Charles “Chaz” Williams Files Second Lawsuit Against BET, @BETNETWORKS

Black Hand CEO, Charles “Chaz” Williams has filed a five million dollar ($5,000,000) lawsuit against BET Networks for tortious interference, defamation, and unfair business practice. The lawsuit, filed in Queens County, Supreme Court on September 24, 2014 is based on BET’s action in including Mr. Williams in a feature on its website under the title “INFAMOUS MUSIC MANAGERS”. Mr. Williams was named alongside other music managers including Pebbles, Jerry Heller, Lou Pearlman, Chris Stokes, Maurice Starr, and others. The story went on to state, “in 2003, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson accused him of participating in a 2000 shooting that almost killed the rap star.” Something to which Mr. Williams has never been legally implicated, charged, or convicted.

Mr. Williams alleged that BET acted with reckless, negligent, and malicious intent by printing unsubstantiated and false information about a criminal offense involving the attempt murder of 50 Cent. Mr. Williams stated, “I absolutely had nothing to do with the 50 Cent shooting. I have never been charged with or convicted of any offense against 50. There is no evidence or legal documentation in any federal or state court, nothing presented to a grand jury, or in any law enforcement file that support’s BET’s article…”

In the state lawsuit, it is also alleged that BET acted in retaliation for an earlier $20.5 million dollar copyright infringement lawsuit filed in federal court in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 2013, against BET, A&E Networks, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and Best Buy. That lawsuit is based on the unauthorized use of material Mr. Williams registered for copyright with the Library of Congress in 1999 and which BET incorporated in an episode of its American Gangster series featuring Mr. Williams, (CHAZ WILLIAMS, ARMED & DANGEROUS), and later distributed, licensed, and sold by the others named in the lawsuit. The copyright was filed by Mr. Williams just prior to a one (1) year story rights option film deal with Roc-A-Fella Films, a company once owned by Jay Z and Dame Dash. Mr. Williams went on to state, “…this is an ongoing thing with BET, another example of big business flexing and profiting off someone’s story without proper compensation. I’ve had issues with them in the past and they don’t stop. But let’s be clear, 50 Cent has never implicated me in any criminal activity in any court of law or to any law enforcement; to say otherwise, is irresponsible reporting on BET’s part.”

Mr. Williams and BET are scheduled to appear in both federal and state court in December

5 things you might not know about JFK's assassination

This year will mark 51 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Whether you were alive at the time or not, you probably know that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the President, only to be fatally gunned down by Jack Ruby two days later.

You probably also know there are hundreds of conspiracy theories about who was behind the assassination, and whether Oswald was the lone gunman or if there was another shooter on the infamous grassy knoll.

Here are five things you may not know about the assassination of the 35th president of the United States:

1. Oswald wasn't arrested for JFK killing

Lee Harvey Oswald was actually arrested for fatally shooting a police officer, Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippitt, 45 minutes after killing Kennedy. He denied killing either one and, as he was being transferred to county jail two days later, he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby.

2. Assassinating the president wasn't a federal crime in 1963

Despite the assassinations of three U.S. presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley -- killing or attempting to harm a president wasn't a federal offense until 1965, two years after Kennedy's death.

3. TV networks suspended shows for four days

On November 22, 1963, at 12:40 p.m. CST -- just 10 minutes after President Kennedy was shot -- CBS broadcast the first nationwide TV news bulletin on the shooting. After that, all three television networks -- CBS, NBC, and ABC -- interrupted their regular programming to cover the assassination for four straight days. The JFK assassination was the longest uninterrupted news event on television until the coverage of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

4. It led to the first and only time a woman swore in a U.S. president

Hours after the assassination, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president aboard Air Force One, with Jacqueline Kennedy at his side, an event captured in an iconic photograph. Federal Judge Sarah Hughes administered the oath, the only woman ever to do so.

5. Oswald had tried to assassinate Kennedy foe

Eight months before Oswald assassinated JFK, he tried to kill an outspoken anti-communist, former U.S. Army Gen. Edwin Walker. After his resignation from the U.S. Army in 1961, Walker became an outspoken critic of the Kennedy administration and actively opposed the move to racially integrate schools in the South. The Warren Commission, charged with investigating Kennedy's 1963 assassination, found that Oswald had tried to shoot and kill Walker while the retired general was inside his home. Walker suffered minor injuries from bullet fragments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Al Sharpton Investigation Finds Millions in State and Federal Taxes owed by @TheRevAl, his non-profit company @NationalAction, and his for-profit company Raw Talent and Revals Communications

An investigation by The New York Times found that Rev. Al Sharpton owes more than $4.5 million in current state and federal taxes.

The figure includes taxes from Sharpton's personal income as well as from his for-profit company, Raw Talent and Revals Communications. Sharpton apparently owes more than $3 million in personal federal tax liens and $777,657 in state tax liens. Raw Talent and Revals Communications, meanwhile, owe another $717,329 in state and federal tax liens.

Sharpton's non-profit company, the National Action Network, has apparently underpaid the government federal taxes as well. The National Action Network's tax liability increased from $900,000 in 2003 to almost $1.9 million in 2006.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Beltran Veyva Drug Cartel Kingpin Extradited to United States from Mexico

One of the alleged leaders of the Beltran Leyva Organization, a Mexican drug-trafficking cartel responsible for importing multi-ton quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States, was extradited to the United States from Mexico on Nov. 15, 2014, and made an initial appearance yesterday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay of the District of Columbia.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, New York Division Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) made the announcement.

“Over the past two decades, the Beltran Leyva Cartel has distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of dangerous narcotics and engaged in a campaign of violence that sparked drug wars and jeopardized public safety across North America,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Today’s extradition of alleged kingpin Alfredo Beltran Leyva is an important step toward stamping out an organization that has ruined the lives of so many.  The Justice Department is committed to working with our international partners to bring the rest of the organization to justice.”

“The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltran Leyva represents a significant milestone in combating transnational criminal organizations,” said FBI Assistant Director Campbell.  “It is through collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners that the United States will stem the tide of this continuing threat.”

“For years Alfredo Beltran Leyva, along with his brothers, was responsible for not only smuggling tons of cocaine to the United States, but also for the violence that has plagued the lives of Mexican citizens,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Hunt.  “His extradition to the United States is an example of a commitment to international cooperation and the rule of law.”

“The illegal drugs distributed throughout the United States by the Beltran Levya Cartel ruined countless lives in this country and sowed violence and chaos throughout Mexico,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Edge.  “The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltran Levya to face justice here for his crimes is a great victory for ICE HSI and our partner agencies.”

Alfredo Beltran Levya, 43, was indicted on Aug. 24, 2012, for international narcotics trafficking conspiracy in connection with his leadership role in theinternational drug-trafficking cartel bearing his family name.

According to a motion for pretrial detention filed by prosecutors, between the early 1990s until his January 2008 arrest by Mexican law enforcement, Beltran Levya allegedly led the Beltran Levya Organization with his brothers Hector Beltran Levya and Arturo Beltran Levya, the latter of whom was killed in a December 2009 shootout with the Mexican army.  Since the 1990s, the Beltran Levya Organization, together with the Sinaloa Cartel, allegedly directed a large-scale drug transportation network, shipping multi-ton quantities of cocaine from South America, through Central America and Mexico, and finally into the United States via land, air and sea.  The organization also employed “sicarios,” or hitmen, who allegedly carried out hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, kidnappings, tortures and violent collections of drug debts, at the direction of the organization.

Following the January 2008 arrest of  Alfredo Beltran Leyva by Mexican law enforcement authorities, the Beltran Leyva Organization severed its relationship with the Sinaloa Cartel, which was blamed for the arrest.  This resulted in a violent war between the two drug cartels, and the murder of thousands of citizens in Mexico, including numerous law enforcement officers and officials.

On May 30, 2008, the President added the Beltran Leyva Organization to the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  On Aug. 20, 2009, the President specifically designated Beltran Leyva as a specially designated drug trafficker under the same Kingpin Act.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

U.N. convention against organized crime Ratified by Barbados

The Government of Barbados has ratified the U.N. Convention on Transnational Organized Crime as well as three supplementary protocols dealing with human trafficking and firearms.

Parties to the Convention accept "the obligation to criminalize participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption and the obstruction of justice," the Barbadian government said in a statement.

Joseph Goddard, permanent representative of Barbados to the United Nations, handed over the instrument of ratification at U.N. Headquarters in New York.

Barbados also ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children; the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

The Convention's aim is to promote cooperation between states to prevent and fight international organized crime more effectively.

The pact is composed of 41 articles outlining a framework to eliminate safe havens for criminal organizations, protect witnesses and stop money laundering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Eliezer Lazo Sentenced to 175 Months in Prison for Extortion Conspiracy

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the sentencing of Eliezer Lazo, 41, of Miami-Dade County. U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard sentenced Lazo to 175 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, the Court ordered Lazo to pay a $17,500 fine, and to forfeit his right to $1.49 million in cash, several real properties and a vehicle.

Lazo pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit extortion for his role in an alien smuggling operation that moved approximately 1,000 Cuban migrants from Cuba to Mexico, and then the United States. According to court documents, many of the Cuban migrants pre-paid for their illegal journey to the United States. Other migrants were Cuban baseball players who paid for the journey by entering into a contract with Lazo’s company—Estrellas del Beisbol—in which the migrants agreed to pay Lazo a share of their respective earnings from U.S. baseball teams. A third group of migrants, comprising of approximately 100 migrants, did not pre-pay for their journey and were held and restrained in Mexico. These migrants were beaten during phone calls with family members who were forced to pay $10,000 for the release of their relatives.

Personal Security Gear