Tagged: fraud

Canada’s right-wing government is falling apart on its own

It’s a good thing for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he’s been out of the country.

Last weekend, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from whatever was about to emerge at the trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, the Conservative leader took off for Iraq and Kuwait.

He ostensibly made the surprise trip to bolster the troops there who are training Kurdish fighters. However, to more cynical political observers, the visit was a blatant attempt to win back military support after last year’s brutal budget cuts to veterans services and benefits. But really? It was all about the photo ops, the stage-managed appearances before the red maple leaf blazing behind fighter jets carefully arranged nose-to-nose just so…

Then there was the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born man captured at age 15 in Afghanistan and imprisoned for nearly half his life at Guantanamo Bay. In 2012, he was finally repatriated to Canada after pleading guilty in 2010 before a US military tribunal to five war crimes. Sentenced to eight years to be served in Canada, he won bail late last month in an Alberta court…

The Harper government, which trots out Khadr as the very scary model of a terrorist, going so far as to bar media access to him, did everything it could to fight his release – as expected. It announced an appeal of the bail decision and then, when it seemed that the proceedings couldn’t be stopped, tried for a stay.

But, on Thursday, Khadr won his freedom on strict conditions and emerged before a horde of reporters. Social media exploded with Canadians’ overwhelmingly favourable reactions to his charisma and humble demeanour, with many remarking on how Khadr’s appearance put the lie to the Harper government myth of the cut-throat, murderous terrorist, the political football they kick around as they play to their base in their terrorists-under-every-bed tactics…

The week grew worse still…Damaging evidence was being produced in the Ottawa courtroom where Senator Mike Duffy, a former Canadian TV star, is facing 31 charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud related to his living and travel expenses.

Conservative MPs were called to testify that taxpayers were subsidising party fundraising efforts by flying Duffy around the country. Even more detrimental to the PMO were revelations of emails exchanged between Harper’s most trusted senate appointees and his top staffers documenting attempts to alter an audit report and conceal its findings.

Probably the week’s most stinging blow came from Harper’s home province of Alberta where, on Tuesday, in a stunning election upset, the provincial NDP won a majority, toppling a 44-year reign by the Conservatives…

Resource sector shares immediately dropped. Newly elected premier Rachel Notley had promised to terminate government support for the Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, and the Keystone XL pipeline to the Texas Gulf coast, two projects that have been the centrepiece of the Harper government’s economic strategy. She also discussed raising the royalties that resource companies pay to the public treasury, royalties that are reportedly the lowest in the world.

When the prime minister returns from his travels, he may find that the political chickens have come home to roost.

Best quote? Opposition leader Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party charged, “This is pure Richard Nixon”.

How to win friends & buy influence in Washington DC — Google edition

The Wall Street Journal recently published a report based on accidentally released documents about FTC’s two-year investigation into Google. The 160-page document concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.” I am sure Yelp and others would agree with that conclusion, and are contemplating further action.

The search results manipulation by Google has resulted in complaints that are far worse than anything FTC could have done — people have complained of declining quality and user experience. The emergence of social and mobile environments have taken some zing out of Google. Nevertheless, the WSJ report and reading through the excerpts made me wonder if there is a correlation between FTC investigation and Google’s lobbying efforts…

And after Om’s intro to the topic – we might look back at this:

Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation

After the embarrassing leak of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigation that described how Google shifted around its search results to harm competition, Google News has shifted its search results to harm journalism, promoting instead a fluff piece glorifying Google…

The exposé of Google’s “strategy of demoting or refusing to display, links to certain vertical websites in highly commercial categories,” as described in the FTC’s 2012 investigation, which concluded that “Google’s conduct has resulted – and will result – in real harm to consumers and to innovation,” was essentially erased from existence in 2013 when Google agreed to make a few minor changes to avoid a federal antitrust lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal noted that the FTC Commission watered down its public conclusions issued about Google before letting the company off the hook, leaving the findings of the staff investigation secret for two years.

Daniel Lyons reply is included in the AppleInsider article as an update.

Read it – and judge for yourself.

Dumb crook of the day

Joey Patterson

An Idaho fugitive was caught Saturday after he made a post on Facebook inviting friends to join him at batting practice in Boise.

KTVB TV station in Boise says…that Caldwell police officers showed up at the softball field after seeing the post on social media and arrested 22-year-old Joey Patterson.

He was wanted on a felony warrant for violating his probation on a fraud case out of Twin Falls. Patterson was booked into Canyon County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

Caldwell Police Sgt. Joey Hoadley says police often use social media to track down a fugitive. Hoadley says “even fugitives can’t keep from updating their Facebook status, and it leads to some great arrests.”

Har!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. You don’t become a petty crook because you’re extra smart.

Snuggies — as seen on TV — came with hidden charges and fraud

A marketing company known for its Snuggie infomercials settled state and federal claims that it stuck consumers with hidden charges that almost doubled the cost of the product, a blanket with sleeves…

The company lured consumers with attractive “buy one, get one free” offers but didn’t adequately disclose that additional fees and handling charges almost erased the promise of the “free” item, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Through confusing ordering processes, consumers sometimes were sold additional items which they didn’t intend to buy, Schneiderman said…

Hawthorne, New York-based Allstar Marketing Group LLC, which also sells the Perfect Brownie Pan and Magic Mesh screen, agreed to pay $8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission and New York state probes, Schneiderman said. The company also agreed to change the ordering process and make it clearer…

There was no finding that the company broke any laws, Allstar said in a statement. The company said it will provide “multiple opportunities for customers to confirm their orders before placing them” and will “clarify ordering and return procedures…”

Marketers must clearly disclose all costs, including processing and handling fees, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

IMHO, what these scumbags are guilty of is behavior pretty the norm for a lot of the crap I see being sold to folks as “exclusive” and “seen only on TV”. When you’re not being hustled by hidden charges, you often run the risk of outright lies and myths worthy of a SuperPAC campaign commercial.

Copper busted for using stolen license plate — ignored 500+ tickets

oliu

A police detective faces felony charges for using stolen license plates to avoid tolls on Florida’s Turnpike.

Sweetwater police detective Octavio Oliu surrendered Thursday, more than a year after he was suspended from the tiny, scandal-ridden department in Miami-Dade County…

Sweetwater Mayor Jose Diaz said 42-year-old Oliu had been on unpaid leave…

The investigation began in August 2013 when a highway patrol trooper stopped Oliu’s SUV. The trooper ran a computer check of the Michigan license plate and found it had been reported stolen.

Oliu is accused of racking up over 500 SunPass toll violations and red-light camera citations.

He’s charged with official misconduct and organized scheme to defraud.

What’s his claim for innocence? He was working undercover? He didn’t notice he had a Michigan plate on his car?

Har!

Hospitals could face penalties for missing electronic health record deadline

More than half of U.S. hospitals were on the hook to meet a new set of “meaningful use” of electronic health records criteria — known as the stage 2 criteria — by the end of the fiscal year that ended in July. The new study’s data, which was gathered in late 2013, suggests that many may have missed the milestone. At the time, only 5.8 percent of those hospitals were on track to adopt all 16 of the stage 2 meaningful use goals.

Hospitals that bill the Medicare program and didn’t meet the criteria in fiscal year 2014 will be subject to financial penalties in fiscal year 2015…

The criteria, set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, include relatively easy items such as using electronic health records to enter orders for medication as well as lab and radiology tests, to chart patients’ vital signs and to record patient demographics. More difficult activities include sharing electronic health record data with patients online, sharing electronic data with other providers who care for the same patients and submitting electronic data to vaccine registries…

The criteria are the second tier of compliance with the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as HITECH. The act requires hospitals to move from paper to electronic recordkeeping. At first, only a basic set of criteria is required, but once a hospital starts down the path, it must meet higher benchmarks at scheduled dates. The more than half of hospitals that were scheduled to meet the stage 2 meaningful use criteria in 2014 were the first wave to begin adopting digital medical records.

The study determined that the number of hospitals adopting electronic health records continues to rise steeply. Nearly 60 percent of hospitals now have at least a basic system. And 90 percent of those were on track to achieve many of the 16 core criteria.

The study suggests that, where hospitals are not able to meet criteria, they aren’t always to blame. Vendors must upgrade their products to make necessary functions available to meet the criteria. These challenges, however, appear to be concentrated in specific types of hospitals.

“Policymakers may want to consider new targeted strategies to ensure that all hospitals move toward meaningful use of electronic health records,” Adler-Milstein said. “We found that rural and small hospitals lag behind, suggesting a need to expand federal efforts to help these institutions select, purchase, implement and successfully use electronic health records in ways that earn them incentive payments and enable them to engage in new care delivery and payment models.”

Overdue. Way overdue. One of the best things we can thank Obama for – at two levels.

I really enjoy being able to access my medical records, diagnoses and communications – and love seeing them available between my physicians. Two of the four physicians on my Medicare chart are there: my GP and my eye doctor. Mostly just annual checkups; but, I’m glad they can see other’s work. The other two have just as perfunctory a relationship – and I’m confident they’ll soon be on board.

The best reason in the world to get hospitals into the mix makes me feel great – as a cynical geek. Because computational analysis is turning up crooked hospitals, administrators and healthcare conglomerates all over the country. And I love it.

When a hospital’s billing practices distort general rules of practice – it shows up. When a hospital is requesting ten times the national/regional average of one kind of profit center test – it shows up. Etc.

Like I said. Overdue.

Dark pool greed drove Barclays’ policy

Barclays Plc was so bent on lifting its private trading venue to the upper ranks of Wall Street dark pools that it lied to customers and masked the role of high-frequency traders, according to New York’s attorney general.

Barclays falsified marketing materials to hide how much high-frequency traders were buying and selling, according to a complaint filed by Eric Schneiderman. Barclays runs one of Wall Street’s largest dark pools, a private trading venue where investors can trade stocks mostly anonymously.

Schneiderman has taken a leading role in seeking to reform how equities trade in the $23 trillion U.S. stock market, examining whether exchanges and dark pools give unfair perks to high-frequency traders. His suit against Barclays says clients such as institutional investors were the losers, led to believe they were safe from predators on a trading venue where aggressive trading strategies were in fact encouraged…

SEC Chairman Mary Jo White on June 5 voiced concern about the level of trading on venues where bids and offers are kept private, masking the true depth of demand for shares. Yesterday, the SEC said it would test a program to limit the amount of trading — now roughly 40 percent of volume — handled off public exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market.

Schneiderman’s action will fortify a suspicion among critics of dark pools and high-frequency firms, which proliferated in the past decade with advances in computer power and efforts to spur competition among U.S. trading venues. Namely, that in the rush to attract traders to their markets and boost profits, the venues have catered to computerized market makers to the detriment of individuals…

In the complaint, filed in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Schneiderman said Barclays told customers that it was protecting them from “aggressive, predatory or toxic” high-frequency traders, while secretly courting them.

Perhaps executives of the really big banks of the world truly believe there are only degrees of deceit – and therefore nothing criminal can occur. They lie to themselves as readily as they lie to their customers.

The question is one of fraud. The charge is grounded in the fraud they committed.

RTFA for a lot more detail and background.

Thanks, Mike

New York Congressman hit with 20-count indictment

grim Grimm

A two-year investigation into U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm’s campaign finances resulted in his indictment on Monday — on federal charges of cheating the government out of taxes on his restaurant.

Grimm was slammed with a 20-count indictment charging he fraudulently underreported the wages he paid his workers at Healthalicious on the Upper East Side and concealed the eatery’s actual income…

Grimm, 44, is also charged with obstruction and perjury for allegedly lying about his involvement in the business in a sworn deposition…

The feds said Grimm ran the day-to-day operations of the restaurant between 2007 and 2010, and “engaged in schemes to fraudulently under-report the wages he paid his workers — many of whom did not have legal status in the United States — and fraudulently under-report the true amount of money the restaurant earned to both federal and New York State tax and insurance authorities.”

He pulled off part of the scam by paying a “large portion” of employees’ pay in cash, “thereby lowering the restaurant’s payroll tax costs,” the feds said.

In all, prosecutors said, he hid more than $1 million in Healthalicious sales and wages…

FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos noted that…“As a former FBI agent, Rep. Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery and integrity. Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn. Rep Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury and obstruction,” Venizekos said…

Last week, Grimm’s lawyer said the investigation into his Republican client was politically motivated and predicted he would be vindicated of whatever the charges were…

Grimm made headlines in January after threatening a New York 1 reported who’d asked him about the investigation.

In the exchange, which was caught on camera, Grimm said, “Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.”

A real class act – Congressman Grimm. As an ex-Marine, an ex-FBI agent, you’d think the concept of standing up for law and order might have made an impression on him. Though his behavior towards the press – and not so incidentally ordinary working people in his employ – makes it seem that exploitation is more in his line.

Prison, indictment, no problem in Illinois primary

In the Illinois primary elections, today, candidates on Chicago’s Democratic ballot will include someone who served a prison term for bribery, another who is due to go on trial on bribery charges this spring and a third charged with bank fraud.

“It’s a terrible indictment” of the local political culture, said Dick Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches at University of Illinois at Chicago. “There is still a patronage-based political army on the West Side of Chicago.”

Political experts say all three candidates are either guaranteed victory or heavily favored to win.

The candidates include Isaac “Ike” Carothers, a former Chicago alderman who was sentenced to 28 months for bribery and tax fraud, and is now running for commissioner of the Cook County Board. He was released from prison in late 2011.

Derrick Smith, a state representative, was expelled by the Illinois House in 2012 after he was charged with taking a $7,000 bribe, but then won his seat back and is now running for re-election. His trial date has been set for the spring.

A third candidate, state Representative La Shawn K. Ford, has been charged with bank fraud for alleged actions before he was elected a legislator in 2006. He is running unopposed in his primary…

Chicago, the state’s largest city, ranked first in the nation in public corruption over the past three decades and has had 1,531 public corruption convictions since 1976, according to a 2012 analysis of U.S. Department of Justice statistics…

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, both Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle have urged voters not to back the younger Carothers. They have endorsed another candidate, attorney Blake Sercye.

But both Smith and Ford have the backing of powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan.

It’s been a long time since I lived in Chicago…but I recall standing offers from alley mechanics to get me any car I wanted. Cheap. Stolen, of course. I could pick out model, color, options. It would come with license and title.

FDIC sues banks over Libor manipulation and fraud

Bank of America, Citigroup and Credit Suisse Group AG were among 16 of the world’s biggest banks sued by the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for allegedly manipulating the London interbank offered rate from 2007 to 2011.

The FDIC, acting as receiver for 38 failed banks…claimed that institutions sitting on the U.S. dollar Libor panel “fraudulently and collusively suppressed” the rate. Also named in the suit, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court, is the British Bankers Association, an industry group that oversaw Libor.

Regulators around the world have been probing whether firms colluded to manipulate interest-rate benchmarks including Libor, which affects more than $300 trillion of securities worldwide. Financial institutions have paid about $6 billion so far to resolve criminal and civil claims in the U.S. and Europe that they manipulated benchmark interest rates.

The cost for global investment banks could climb to $46 billion, analysts at KBW, a unit of Stifel Financial Corp., said in a report last year…

The failed banks “reasonably expected that accurate representations of competitive market forces, and not fraudulent conduct or collusion,” would determine the benchmark, the FDIC said in its complaint…

Investigators claim the banks altered submissions used to set the benchmark to profit from bets on interest-rate derivatives or to make the lenders’ finances appear healthier…

The FDIC alleges the banks committed fraud and violated U.S. antitrust laws in fixing the U.S. dollar Libor benchmark. It’s seeking unspecified damages on behalf of the failed banks, including punitive damages and triple damages for price-fixing.

The FDIC still echos the standards of Sheila Bair. It’s been a little while since she left; but, she set critical standards. Required reading for anyone interested in earning a living in finance and still maintaining the odd principle or two her book: Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself.

Within the FDIC and the American banking community she always stands for small banks, community banks vs Wall Street’s version of Gargantua. She sat down and negotiated with the biggest bank presidents as equals and she tried like hell to be more equal than they – even with Congress ready and willing to give away the farm, the treasury and every taxpayer’s contribution to some of the worst examples of American capitalism.

She left the FDIC to work for a spell for the Pew Charitable Trusts; but, banking is what she knows best and she chose to leave the United States to work for a Spanish bank with a cleaner reputation than most of our own. She still asks out loud why no big American bank has ever offered a directorship to a bank reformer like Simon Johnson – or, I’d say, Sheila Bair.

And when she gives a talk to the staff of a bank she used to oversee as regulator – her fee goes to charity. A practice I don’t expect to witness every day from any of our former Congress-critters.