Tagged: Theft

Secret Service agent bound for prison for stealing what he was investigating


Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock

A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.

Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.

During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.

The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…

Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?

Protect and Serve at the highest level — emphasis on High!


Bags of heroin recovered from Lowry’s car

An FBI agent in the District fired for stealing heroin, collected as evidence, for his personal use has been charged with 64 criminal offenses and, through his attorney, said he would plead guilty and focus on avoiding a drug relapse.

The 33-year-old former agent, Matthew Lowry, had been part of a team targeting violent drug traffickers who cross between Maryland and the District. His misconduct compromised cases and forced the dismissal of charges against 28 defendants. It also exposed weaknesses in the handling of drug evidence in the FBI’s Washington field office…

The case represents a stunning turn for the Maryland resident, who graduated near the top of his class at the University of Maryland, earned a graduate degree while working full time for the FBI and tried to follow his father’s distinguished career in law enforcement. He was found six months ago, seemingly incoherent, on a lot near Southeast Washington’s Navy Yard with open bags of heroin in his agency car…

Friends had noticed Lowry’s erratic behavior, but knew that he had a new baby at home and was having trouble in his marriage. They took Lowry to a fellow agent’s apartment that night.

But the next day, agents were cleaning out the trash in the car when they found the drugs. Inside were evidence bags, full of heroin, that had been cut open…

The Washington Post obtained more than 600 pages of internal documents, memos and transcripts of interviews with Lowry’s fellow agents that detail how he managed to obtain the drugs and the personal events leading to his downfall.

In those documents, Lowry described how he took advantage of procedures that allowed a single agent to sign out drugs for lab analysis and did not track whether the packages reached their purported destination. As a result, Lowry was able to store drug evidence in his car, sometimes for as long as a year, with no questions asked. Lowry described how he forged signatures of agents on forms and evidence seals, repackaged drugs in bags and used store-bought laxatives to replaced heroin he had taken to avoid discrepancies in package weight…

Many of the 28 defendants whose cases were dismissed had already pleaded guilty and had been sent to prison, some for up to 10 years or more. Within two months, all of them had been freed and sent home with the convictions erased. Those charges had been filed based solely or substantially on drug evidence that Lowry stole from.

A scary example of unintended consequences – even from a drug addict.

ATM strikes back

Hot foam may soon send criminals running if they damage ATM. ETH researchers have developed a special film that triggers an intense reaction when destroyed. The idea originates from a beetle that uses a gas explosion to fend off attackers.

Its head and pronotum are usually rusty red, and its abdomen blue or shiny green: the bombardier beetle is approximately one centimetre long and common to Central Europe. At first glance, it appears harmless, but it possesses what is surely the most aggressive chemical defence system in nature. When threatened, the bombardier beetle releases a caustic spray, accompanied by a popping sound. This spray can kill ants or scare off frogs. The beetle produces the explosive agent itself when needed. Two separately stored chemicals are mixed in a reaction chamber in the beetle’s abdomen. An explosion is triggered with the help of catalytic enzymes…

The researchers use plastic films with a honeycomb structure for their self-defending surface. The hollow spaces are filled with one of two chemicals: hydrogen peroxide or manganese dioxide. The two separate films are then stuck on top of each another. A layer of clear lacquer separates the two films filled with the different chemicals. When subjected to an impact, the interlayer is destroyed, causing the hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide to mix. This triggers a violent reaction that produces water vapour, oxygen and heat. Whereas enzymes act as catalysts in the bombardier beetle, manganese dioxide has proven to be a less expensive alternative for performing this function in the lab…

While protective devices that can spray robbers and banknotes already exist, these are mechanical systems, explains Stark. “A small motor is set in motion when triggered by a signal from a sensor. This requires electricity, is prone to malfunctions and is expensive.” The objective of his research group is to replace complicated control systems with cleverly designed materials.

Clever, yes? Effective, very likely? Likely to be instituted in the United States? Doubtful – we have enough lawyers and politicians dedicated to making the work environment as safe for criminals as we do for protecting victims.

NYPD sued over coppers stealing White Castle hamburgers from Brooklyn men – and then arresting them!

Two Brooklyn men are suing the NYPD cops who took their freedom and allegedly tried to take their White Castle hamburgers.

It was Halloween 2012 in Coney Island, the neighborhood reeling from Hurricane Sandy, when Danny Maisonet and Kenneth Glover had a craving for sliders.

They were getting out of a taxicab, carrying a bag of the burgers, when they walked into cops rounding up a group of men suspected of looting a supermarket on Neptune Ave., lawyer Robert Marinelli said in the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The cops — it’s unclear if they were kidding or starved out of their minds — demanded the bag of food. The plaintiffs refused to turn over the burgers…

Glover and Maisonet claim they were struck with flashlights and handcuffed. They were charged with obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct — not looting.

Officer Angelo Pizzarro swore in the complaint that Glover and Maisonet were standing in his way and forced him to walk around them while struggling with the alleged looters.

The charges against the duo were ultimately dismissed.

I’d wait a year or two before admitting to eating White Castle hamburgers. Though, I imagine a certain amount of time was wasted waiting to see if these phony charges were going to proceed to trial.

Truly, some coppers think they are above the law – and the rest of humanity.

Target data theft highlights backwards US transaction security

The massive data breach disclosed by retailer Target Corp last week is likely to teach its U.S. customers a painful lesson in payment card security and build support for an anti-fraud technology now sitting on the shelf.

For years, U.S. merchants and banks have balked at adopting a well-established system that uses credit and debit cards that store information on computer chips. The technology, ubiquitous in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, makes it harder for thieves to misuse data compared with cards that store data only on magnetic stripes.

The stores and credit card issuers don’t want to spend the money needed for a secure change.

The delay may prove costly to Target’s U.S. customers. The third-largest U.S. retailer said unknown hackers stole data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards used at its stores in the first three weeks of the holiday season.

Now, after years in which U.S. companies tolerated fraud as a cost of doing business, high-profile breaches such as the one at Target are raising demand for increased card security…

An early switch to the global card system may not have prevented the Target data theft but the chip technology would have reduced the value of the stolen data by making it harder for hackers to reuse the customer information. For one thing, the new systems are better at detecting counterfeit cards…

In much of Europe, 94 percent of sales terminals use the chip system, according to a 2012 report by consulting firm Javelin Strategy & Research. The figure was 77 percent in Canada and Latin America. That compares with only 10 percent of U.S. sales terminals with upgrades…

Consumers, who are generally not held responsible for covering for fraudulent purchases, have had little incentive to push for change. But the rising fraud rates also mean more dangers of identity theft.

You might think banks and credit card companies would have realized by now the additional risks offered by increasing identity theft. The concept of educated self-interest apparently has as little effect on the managers of big banking systems as it does the average American voter. :)

Obama should return Guantanamo to Cuba


That’s right – it’s called an invasion!

U.S. President Barack Obama should return the naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, and some detainees could stay on at a U.S.-run jail there, a former U.S. envoy to Cuba said.

Obama, by negotiating a deal with Cuban leader Raul Castro about the base on the communist island, could build a long-term relationship with its people, said Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. interests section in Havana from 2005-2008…

The U.S. base is a “historic anomaly” even though the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, Parmly wrote.

“The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantanamo,” he said, citing that 1977 U.S. return of the waterway to Panama as a precedent.

The 26-page paper by the retired diplomat, obtained by Reuters, is to appear shortly in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, published by the Fletcher School in Massachusetts.

“Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is not U.S. territory. Cuba is the ultimate owner,” Parmly said.

Like Panama, Guatanamo is the creation of US military and economic interests. The needs of a sovereign nation never entered the equation in the past. How likely are Congressional thugs to decide to face the requirements of sovereignty or international law?

Overdue.

Scandal in South Korea over revelations of corruption in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants

Like Japan, resource-poor South Korea has long relied on nuclear power to provide the cheap electricity that helped build its miracle economy. For years, it met one-third of its electricity needs with nuclear power, similar to Japan’s level of dependence before the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima plant.

Now, a snowballing scandal in South Korea about bribery and faked safety tests for critical plant equipment has highlighted yet another similarity: experts say both countries’ nuclear programs suffer from a culture of collusion that has undermined their safety. Weeks of revelations about the close ties between South Korea’s nuclear power companies, their suppliers and testing companies have led the prime minister to liken the industry to a mafia.

The scandal started after an anonymous tip in April prompted an official investigation. Prosecutors have indicted some officials at a testing company on charges of faking safety tests on parts for the plants. Some officials at the state-financed company that designs nuclear power plants were also indicted on charges of taking bribes from testing company officials in return for accepting those substandard parts.

Worse yet, investigators discovered that the questionable components are installed in 14 of South Korea’s 23 nuclear power plants. The country has already shuttered three of those reactors temporarily because the questionable parts used there were important, and more closings could follow as investigators wade through more than 120,000 test certificates filed over the past decade to see if more may have been falsified…

With each new revelation, South Koreans — who, like the Japanese, had grown to believe their leaders’ soothing claims about nuclear safety — have become more jittery. Safety is the biggest concern, but the scandals have also caused economic worries. At a time of slowing growth, the government had loudly promoted its plans to become a major builder of nuclear power plants abroad…

The nuclear industry, they say, was built around the notion that South Korea’s industries needed inexpensive power, leading Kepco to build plants quickly and operate them cheaply.

“South Koreans have guzzled cheap electricity while turning a blind eye to the safety concerns of their nuclear power plants,” said Yang Lee Won-young, a leader at the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement. “They may end up paying dearly.”

Our history in the United States is almost the opposite in terms of economics. Back in the day – when I worked in a corner of the industry supplying components for nuclear powerplant construction – they were treated as the world’s newest, biggest cash cow. Frankly, I doubt that’s changed much. Which is one of the reasons I support the political battle for solar farms, wind farms, over nuclear power plants, nowadays.

Not only does the cost per nuclear megawatt continue to increase – in the United States. The opposite is happening in the other alternative sources. The economies of scale in the production of components is still driving installed costs down for wind and solar.

Governor billed taxpayers for sunscreen, dog vitamins


“I’m the ideal Republican candidate for President”

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife used taxpayer money to pay for sunscreen and dog vitamins, the Washington Post reported on Monday, a disclosure that comes as the Republican leader is said to be under scrutiny by the FBI.

The newspaper, citing spending records it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also said the McDonnells used state employees to run personal errands for their adult children and billed the state for deodorant, shoe repairs and a digestive system “detox cleanse.”

The Washington Post has previously reported that McDonnell, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016, was under investigation by the FBI and a grand jury over a $15,000 catering bill from his daughter’s wedding in 2011 that was paid for by a campaign donor…

The governor has acknowledged that he stayed at the Roanoke, Virginia, home of the campaign donor, Jonnie Williams, and drove Williams’ Ferrari sports car back to Richmond.

Williams is the chief executive of Star Scientific Inc, a nutritional supplements maker in the Richmond area.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI is looking into whether the governor’s office helped advance the business interests of Williams in exchange for the gifts…

You have to love Republican family values – as practiced. The same hypocrites who prate all through election cycles about honesty and old-fashioned virtue – once they get into office the regal greed they foreswear takes priority in every aspect of their lives.

Gambling nun found guilty of stealing $130K from rural churches

A Catholic nun has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $130,000 from rural churches in the US state of New York to fuel a casino gambling addiction, police have said.

Sister Mary Anne Rapp, 68, was arrested in November when the theft was uncovered during a routine audit.

The nun, of the order of the Sisters of St Francis, said she stole the money between 2006-2011…She is due to be sentenced on 1 July and could face six months in jail.

She may also have to pay “reasonable restitution” for the money she spent at casinos in western New York, according to the Daily News of Batavia newspaper.

Sister Rapp, a nun for almost five decades, has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, the newspaper reported…She was placed on leave in 2011 and agreed to attend addiction treatment.

I wonder what would have happened if she had a winning streak?

More realistically – I wonder what would have happened if she was a poor Borinqueña housekeeper stealing from the churches – instead of a nun?

Thieves get to fatal crash in Carlsbad, NM, before coppers — steal the victim’s tires, rims


If you’re coming to visit the Carlsbad Caverns – try not to have an accident on the way

When Carlsbad police heard of a fatal car crash Wednesday morning, they weren’t expecting what they saw when they arrived on the scene. Parts of the victim’s car were missing – an indication that someone had not only found the man hours earlier, but had also stolen from him in what were perhaps his last moments.

Steven Roy Reese, 26, of Carlsbad, was reportedly traveling southbound on the dirt road adjacent to the irrigation canal between Lea Street and Boyd Drive when he lost control of his vehicle, according to a press release from the Carlsbad Police Department. Officers believe Reese overcorrected to regain control, causing his 1996 Ford Explorer to flip two times and land on top of him. Reese was dead when police arrived on the scene, and a report from the Office of the Medical Investigator revealed Reese had been dead for approximately 8-12 hours before police found him…

Some time during the night, an unknown person reportedly removed Goodyear Wrangler tires, two Ford factory aluminum wheels and the battery from Reese’s 1996 Ford Explorer. This behavior is certainly unusual, Carlsbad police Lt. Jennifer Moyers said, and extremely insensitive.

The area in which the accident happened, about half a mile south of Lea Street, is not well traveled, so it’s not unusual that the police weren’t called immediately after the crash took place, Moyers said.

“But typically when we have something like this happen, people call in right away. It’s terrible,” she said of the thief who she believes may have found the car lying on its side during the night.

Moyers said the person who stole the parts from Reese’s car could definitely face criminal charges. “There could be a couple of charges – theft and failure to give notice of the accident,” she said.

If the person tries to sell the stolen items, that would be an additional offense as well, Moyers said.

Life in the American West?