Prison term for woman who hustled fraudulent student loans to pay for plastic surgery

A Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison after fraudulently soliciting $600,000 in student loans mainly used to pay for cosmetic surgeries.

Meredith Shuster, 36, of Cranberry, Pa., a suburb north of Pittsburgh, used her parents’ identities to solicit the loans. She then used about half the money on a series of cosmetic surgeries to alter her appearance, prosecutors said. The other half went toward myriad personal expenses…

Shuster’s lawyer argued she suffers from a condition called “body dysmorphic disorder” that caused her to feel compelled to constantly change her appearance.

Federal prosecutors said because nearly half the money went toward other expenses, the diagnosis wasn’t relevant and Shuster deserved to serve prison time.

U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak ordered the prison term, $632,613 be paid to the federal government in restitution and a 5-year probationary period upon Shuster’s release.

Gotcha!

Saudi Arabia court jails Facebook cyber-activists


Press TV file photo

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced seven cyber activists to between five to 10 years in prison for inciting protests, mainly by using Facebook…The men were arrested in September last year, according to Human Rights Watch and their trial began in April.

They were charged with posting online messages to encourage protests, although they were not accused of directly taking part in demonstrations.

It is seen as the country’s latest move against online political dissent…

The longest sentence of 10 years was reportedly given to an activist who set up two Facebook groups allegedly explaining the best protest techniques.

The rights group said the men had all admitted contributing to Facebook pages supporting the leading Shia cleric Tawfiq al-Amer, who was held in February 2011 after calling for a constitutional monarchy.

His arrest provoked anti-government rallies inspired by a wave of popular revolt in the country’s Eastern Region, where much of its crude oil is sourced.

The seven men were sentenced on 24 June for “allegedly inciting protests and harming public order, largely by using Facebook“…

Several of the defendants said they had been tortured into signing confessions, according to HRW.

The case contained two elements that the Saudi authorities are particularly sensitive about, the BBC World Service’s Middle East editor Sebastian Usher reports – political criticism expressed online and protests staged by the Shia minority in the east of the country.

Life in a world full of peace. How peace is achieved – or is it controlled – is another matter. From here, it looks like the peaceable kingdom is working harder than ever to shut down dissent.

Gran gets prison time along with her sons – for drug trafficking

A grandmother in Liverpool was sent to prison Friday…for helping her sons launder the proceeds from their heroin trafficking business.

Christine Fitzgibbon, 60, was given a two-year sentence at a hearing in Crown Court in Manchester, The Liverpool Echo reported. Her son, Jason, 40, got 16 years and his younger brother, Ian, 39, 14 years and six months.

The brothers were arrested in 2011 when police foiled a plan to import a large quantity of heroin from Turkey. Investigators said the drugs had a street value of 7 million pounds.

“The drug dealing involved huge quantities of both heroin and ecstasy,” Paul Mitchell, the prosecuting lawyer said. “It involved the importation of multi-kilogram quantities of the drugs into this country and then the onward supply of those drugs. The scope of the enterprise was truly breathtaking.”

Mitchell said investigators seized large amounts of cash, some of it found in Christine Fitzgibbon’s home, and described her as the family “banker.” The Department of Work and Pensions said she was collecting benefits while enjoying a large income from her sons’ business.

As the slogan so aptly states, “A family that preys together stays together”.

How imprisoning a Gitmo inmate costs taxpayers $900,000 a year

It’s been dubbed the most expensive prison on Earth and President Barack Obama cited the cost this week as one of many reasons to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which burns through some $900,000 per prisoner annually.

The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects.

With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.

By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say.

And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.

The high cost was just one reason Obama cited when he returned this week to an unfulfilled promise to close the prison and said he would try again.

Obama…said that the prison, set up under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and long the target of criticism by rights groups and foreign governments, is a stain on the reputation of the United States.

‘It’s extremely inefficient,’ said Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, who has followed developments at Guantanamo Bay since 2005.

‘That … may be what finally gets us to actually close the prison. I mean the costs are astronomical, when you compare them to what it would cost to detain somebody in the United States,’ Gude said…

Obama pledged to close the prison within a year after first taking office in January 2009 but his efforts ran aground, partly because of congressional opposition, from both Republicans and some in his own Democratic Party, to transferring prisoners to the United States.

Inmates started a hunger strike in February that has swelled to some 100 prisoners and has led to force-feeding of 23 of the prisoners.

With the camp back under a critical spotlight, Obama told a news conference on Tuesday he would renew efforts to shut it down. He has an array of options, some of which would be more achievable than others…

Above the annual operating cost, capital spending on the prison could rise again if the Pentagon receives the funding it says it needs to renovate the place.

General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, told a House of Representatives panel in March that he needed some $170 million to improve the facilities for troops stationed at the base as part of detention operations.

Kelly said the living conditions were ‘pretty questionable’ and told the panel, ‘We need to take care of our troops.’

Or we could act like we have functional brains – put the convicted into mainland supermax prisons, send the unconvictable, unindicted back to their home countries or a helpful surrogate country and go back to at least a pretense of being a law-abiding civilized nation. Close down Gitmo and give the land back to the Cubans.

Nearly half of Gitmo prisoners are now on hunger strike


Gallo/Getty

The number of detainees taking part in a hunger strike at the US-run Guantanamo Bay military prison has grown to 77, an increase of 25 in just the past few days, according to a US military spokesman.

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House said in a statement that of the detainees refusing food, 17 are receiving “enteral feedings,” a process involving being force-fed via tubes.

Five of the inmates have been admitted to hospital, although none faces “life-threatening conditions,” House said…

The hunger strikers are protesting against their incarceration without charge or trial at Guantanamo over the past 11 years.

“They say they want their freedom,” Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, said. “Or they’ll die trying to get it…”

Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj, who spent six years at the Guantanamo Bay prison, said: “They used dogs on us, they beat me, sometimes they hung me from the ceiling and didn’t allow me to sleep for six days.”

Brandon Neely, a US Military Policeman and former Guantanamo guard, told Al Jazeera that detainees were “treated horribly”.

Neely said he regularly watched detainees being beaten and humiliated, as well as watching a medic beat an inmate.

Despite an order in 2011 by Barack Obama, the US president, to close Guantanamo down by the end of that year, there are no current plans to shut the prison.

American politicians all seem bound by a system of ethics which denies culpability, rejects responsibility for their actions – especially when they violate laws they otherwise praise. Passing the buck has become the number one sport inside the Beltway.

Republican War on Women – New Mexico style

If a Republican legislator in New Mexico gets her way, women who have abortions after being raped could face jail time for “tampering with evidence.”

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad) introduced a bill yesterday that requires rape victims to see their pregnancies through during the course of their sexual assault trial, or be charged with third-degree felony evidence tampering.

Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.

If convicted, a rape victim could face up to three years in prison.

The dimwit Republican who introduced this piece of crap legislation has changed her story a couple of times over the course of the day as it finally sank into her brain that normal human beings were outraged. By this evening’s news cycle, she was trying to claim that someone in the legislature printing office must have misprinted her bill. She will withdraw it – “correct it” – and reintroduce it, tomorrow.

Just another link in the chain that Republicans would fasten to the ankles of every American woman – if we let them.

Cat arrested while sneaking cellphone and saw into Brazil prison

A cat carrying a saw and a mobile phone was “detained” as it entered a prison gate in northeast Brazil, Brazilian media reported on Saturday.

Prison guards were surprised when they saw a white cat crossing the main gate of the prison, its body wrapped with tape. A closer look showed the feline also carried drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries and a phone charger.

All 263 detainees in the prison of Arapiraca, a city of 215,000 people in the state of Alagoas, are considered suspect in the plot, which is being investigated by local police…

The cat was taken to an animal disease center to receive medical care.

Phew! Was he a cat burglar in his spare time?

Florida crook gets a decade in prison for Medicare fraud


Not the same amenities as a million-dollar McMansion

When Luis Alejandro Sanz got out of prison for drug trafficking, he soon found his new criminal fortunes in Miami’s emerging cottage industry: Medicare fraud.

The convicted felon started a home healthcare company, using his wife Elizabeth as the straw owner to hide himself from authorities.

The couple cashed in. Their Miami-Dade business, Ideal Home Health, billed Medicare $45 million for purportedly providing nursing services for homebound diabetic patients — raking in $30 million in taxpayer dollars.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams sent Luis Sanz, 58, to prison for 10 years and Elizabeth Acosta Sanz, 45, for nine years, saying the couple made a “mockery” of the beleaguered federal program for the elderly and disabled. The Sanzes, who bought a $1.3 million West Miami-Dade home with their ill-gotten gains, paid kickbacks to recruiters and patients for services that were never provided or needed…

“Every single day, they had one purpose: to steal as much money as they could from Medicare,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Bernstein told the judge. “Medicare paid because these people were good at fooling Medicare…”

“The case of Luis Sanz really encapsulates what’s been happening in Miami” since the 1990s, when many drug traffickers began gravitating to the Medicare rackets because it was seen as profitable and less risky.

Do you think that Florida voters electing a governor whose clinics set the record for a criminal fine for fraud might have given these crooks that idea? Republican Rick Scott’s firm – Columbia/HCA – paid over $2 billion fine for fraud.

Last year, Medicare adopted new measures designed to combat the failed “pay and chase” model of doling out dollars for claims, then pursuing the scammers after they have run off with the money. As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare received $350 million to develop stricter screening of healthcare providers and more sophisticated software for detecting fraudulent claims…

The upgrades in screening and technology came in response to massive taxpayer losses in South Florida — regarded as the nation’s healthcare fraud capital — and other parts of the country.

Yes – of course the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican opposed these changes.

Milestone: Prison time for Katrina killer cops

Four former New Orleans policemen convicted of shooting unarmed people following Hurricane Katrina were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Wednesday in what the U.S. government described as the most important police misconduct case since the Rodney King beating nearly two decades ago.

The four former officers – Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso – were sentenced by a federal judge to between 38 and 65 years in prison. A fifth former officer – Arthur “Archie” Kaufman – who did not participate in the killings but engineered a four-year cover-up of the crimes was sentenced to six years…

In both the Los Angeles and New Orleans cases, the federal government stepped in to prosecute the police officers for misconduct after local efforts failed.

In its own way, a tale of what passes for justice in America. So much for trust in States Rights.

The five former New Orleans officers sentenced on Wednesday were among a dozen officers who responded to a radio call that police were being shot at near the Danziger Bridge in eastern New Orleans just days after Hurricane Katrina…

James Brissette, 17, and Ronald Madison, 40, were killed in the shooting spree.

In reports filed by the officers or on their behalf, they claimed they shot only after being threatened or fired on and that they had seen weapons in the victims’ hands…

Lance Madison, who was with his brother when Ronald Madison was killed, and who was later arrested and jailed on false charges, told the judge on Wednesday that “I truly don’t know why I am alive today…These officers shot Ronald down like an animal,” he said. Turning to the defendants, he said: “You are responsible for the nightmares that have devastated my family…”

Federal prosecutors and the FBI took up the case in 2009 after a previous case brought by the New Orleans district attorney was thrown out because of a prosecutor’s misconduct.

In the minds of many the ultimate corruption in any local political system is police corruption. Whether there is a thread of payoffs from criminal gangs or systematic racism – there is an overlying disease that infects every police department in the United States. Cops protect cops. Regardless of crimes committed, regardless of the indecency and corruption being protected by a wall of silence, members of police departments will not report crimes committed by fellow officers or testify against them excepting truly unusual circumstances.

It’s not new in New Orleans nor anywhere else in this holier-than-thou nation. Whether we look back at the Rodney King beating or the Knapp Commission findings of corruption in the NYPD – the culture of police departments in this land reinforces an ethic no different from that of the Mafia and other crime fraternities. It has nothing to do with slogans about “Protect and Serve” painted on the side of patrol cars.

I had a member of my family retire early from the NYPD sick at heart with the corruption of his precinct captains. A dear friend here in New Mexico left the first police department he worked in – in this state – because of frustration over the cabals and lack of ethical standards in the department. They were the exception that proves the rule.

The overwhelming members of most police departments are honest hardworking men and women. Don’t mistake my criticism. They do themselves and the public a disservice when they turn a blind eye to the corruption and criminal behavior like these murders of ordinary citizens simply trying to survive a horrible disaster.

Irish food producer/distributor jailed for garlic tax fraud

One of Ireland’s top food producers has been found guilty of dodging taxes on more than 1,000 tons of imported Chinese garlic and sent to prison.

Paul Begley admitted running a scam from 2003 to 2007 in which he instructed his Chinese suppliers to produce false export invoices labeling garlic as apples. Irish import duties on apples are just 9 percent but on garlic up to 232 percent.

The fraud allowed Begley to avoid €1.4 million in tax. He has been trying to repay the sum since Dublin Port customs officers discovered the deception in 2007 but still owes €700,000.

A Dublin judge sentenced Begley to six years in prison

Phew! Anyone notice tax avoiders in the USofA getting lambasted with a comparable penalty?

OTOH, why such a monster tariff on garlic? Are they preparing to defend against a vampire invasion?