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Showing posts from May, 2009

Man Indicted for Trafficking in Illegally-Imported Sperm Whale Teeth

A Massachusetts man has been charged in U.S. District Court in Boston with crimes related to the illegal importation and illegal trafficking of sperm whale teeth, the Justice Department announced today.

On May 13, 2009, a federal grand jury sitting in Boston, returned an indictment that was unsealed today against David L. Place of Nantucket, Mass. The indictment charges Place with multiple counts of conspiracy and Lacey Act violations for buying and illegally importing sperm whale teeth into the United States, as well as selling the teeth after their illegal importation. Place was arrested this morning at his home on Nantucket.

The indictment alleges that from 2001 to 2004, Place knowingly purchased and imported sperm whale teeth into the United States in violation of federal law. Sperm whales are classified as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora…

Multi-Agency “Operation Mansion Hill” Nets Guns, Drugs, and Cash

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the indictment of five Albany County residents for taking part in a highly organized heroin and cocaine distribution operation centered in the Capital District.

As a result of the investigation, dubbed “Operation Mansion Hill,” nearly 100 grams of cocaine with a street value of approximately $9,000 along with three semiautomatic pistols and $12,000 cash were seized. In the Indictment, filed with the Albany County Supreme Court, a Grand Jury charged five people with possession and/or sale of narcotics and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Additionally, one defendant was charged with multiple weapons possession offenses.

The indictment was the result of a four month multi-agency investigation led by Attorney General Cuomo’s Organized Crime Task Force and the Albany Police Department. Also participating in the investigation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force, the United States Drug Enforcement Administratio…

Another Commercial Fisherman Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Harvesting of Rockfish

Keith A. Collins, a commercial fisherman licensed in Maryland, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., to 13 months in prison for illegally overfishing striped bass also known as rockfish, the Justice Department announced.

He was also fined $4,500 and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $70,569 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Restoration Account. He was further sentenced to two years of supervised release.

"This prison sentence as well as past sentences in this case should serve as a warning to unscrupulous fishermen who consider illegally harvesting or underreporting their rockfish catch. You will be prosecuted and you will face stiff sentences," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Fishing limits in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways have been enacted to protect a healthy sustai…

DUANE READE TO PAY $240,000 TO SETTLE EEOC LAWSUIT FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION

Duane Reade Inc., a well-known New York drugstore chain that operates more than 200 stores in metropolitan New York, will pay $240,000 and furnish other substantial relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Duane Reade unlawfully created, maintained and failed to remedy a hostile work environment at one of its Bronx stores by subjecting several female employees to sex and pregnancy harassment. The store manager, Madiaw Diaw, frequently made vulgar remarks about women’s private parts, sexually propositioned female employees, made lewd comments about their pregnancies and bodies, assigned unfavorable job duties to pregnant employees and repeatedly grabbed female employees, including grabbing their buttocks.

Further, the EEOC said, the employees who complained and filed discrimination charges with the agency were retaliated against by being subject…

Cumo Announces Arrest Of Former ACS Worker

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the arrest of a former New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) worker for falsifying public records in order to cover up her failure to perform required home visits.

According to the complaint, Stephanie Sabouni, 27, of Brooklyn, was employed by ACS as a Child Protective Specialist from October 2005 through June 2007. At the time of the allegations, Sabouni was working in the Educational Neglect Unit of ACS, which handles neglect cases relating to chronic school truancy. When assigned a case alleging neglect, Sabouni was required to visit the child or children at home within 48 hours. Sabouni allegedly failed to make the required visits in several of her assigned cases. To cover her tracks she made false entries into the ACS computer system reflecting that she had made home visits to several families with whom she never actually met.

“Covering up misdeeds by faking official computer records is a serious crime, and thi…

Nominees Sought

Deadline for nominations is May 29, 2009

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking nominations for the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement. The USPTO administers the NMTI program on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce. The deadline for nominations is May 29, 2009.

The nominations can be made for an individual, a team of up to four individuals, a company or a division of a company. The honorees are chosen for their outstanding contributions to the nation’s economic, environmental and social well-being through the development and commercialization of technological products, processes and concepts; technological innovation; and development of the country’s technological manpower.

>> Click here to learn more about nomination guidelines and to submit a nomination.

Brown Files Criminal Charges Against Three Individuals Who Operated $200 Million Ponzi Scheme

Redding - Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. last night filed 79 criminal charges against three men who "callously swindled" thousands of individuals, including many retirees who lost their life savings, in a $200 million Ponzi scheme.

The defendants -- James Stanley Koenig, 57, of Redding; Gary T. Armitage, 59, of Healdsburg; and Jeffery A. Guidi, 54, of Santa Rosa -- were arrested late last night and are now in custody. Bail has been set at $5 million each.

"These three men callously swindled thousands of individuals out of $200 million to bankroll their extravagant lifestyles," Brown said. "They took investors money and used it to pay for an 80-acre castle estate, a Lear jet, luxury homes and fancy cars. The Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed under its own weight, causing hardship to thousands, many of whom were retirees who lost their life savings."

The charges, filed in Shasta County Superior Court, mark the culmination of a year-long investigation,…

Five Defendants Sentenced in Puerto Rico Corruption Case

Five defendants were sentenced this week for their participation in a corruption scheme involving the 2000 resident commissioner and 2004 gubernatorial campaigns of a former governor of Puerto Rico, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The defendants were sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico by U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Barbadoro, sitting by designation from the District of New Hampshire.

Former Puerto Rico Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá , 47, and Luisa Inclán Bird, 49, a legal advisor for the San Juan resident commissioner office when Acevedo Vilá served as resident commissioner, were acquitted on March 20, 2009, of all criminal charges related to the scheme.

The five defendants sentenced were:

Jorge Velasco Mella, 39, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who was sentenced on May 21, 2009, to three years probation, including…

ARRESTS OF STATE EMPLOYEES

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced criminal charges against one former and one current employee of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for using their positions to gain access to confidential tax information in order to benefit their friends.

According to the complaint, Susan Mackey, 50, of Curtis Drive in Castleton, repeatedly accessed confidential tax records of a friend’s ex-husband, so that her friend could use that information against her ex-husband in family court proceedings. Mackey was a thirty-year Tax Department employee before her resignation in October 2008.

In a separate complaint it is alleged that, Diane Buehler, 48, of Stanek Road in Schenectady, instructed an employee to delete more than $3,500 in penalties owed by a colleague’s boyfriend to the State of New York. To cover her tracks, Buehler drafted a bogus complaint letter from her colleague’s boyfriend, and had her colleague send the letter back to her through inter-office mail. Buehle…

Securities and Wire Fraud Conspiracy?

Michael Wayne Sulfridge, a resident of Union Grove, Ala., and former vice president of corporate finance at Image Entry, Inc. (Image Entry), pleaded guilty today to fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from the company’s 2001 acquisition by Sourcecorp, Inc. (Sourcecorp).

Sulfridge, 44, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, as well as tax evasion.

According to the plea agreement and evidence presented during the plea hearing, Image Entry, of London, Ky., is a data processing company that operated nearly a dozen facilities located in the Southeastern and Midwestern United States. Sourcecorp is a consulting and information management corporation located in Dallas that purchased Image Entry in March 2001.

According to the plea agreement and evidence presented during the plea hearing, the terms of the purchase agreement provided that in addition to the $33 million paid at closing, an additional sum of appro…

MAVERICK TUBE TO PAY $175,000 TO SETTLE EEOC RETALIATION LAWSUIT

Conroe, Texas-based Maverick Tube Corporation will pay $175,000 to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in June 2007, (C.A. 4:07-cv-02033 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division), charged that in May 2005, Maverick Tube retaliated against Andra Williams by firing him after he reported to its president and chief operating officer the safety manager’s racially offensive comments.

The company investigated Williams’s complaint and, as a result, discharged the manager. But, less than a month after he reported the comments, Williams was fired after he was falsely accused of saying he would call the company’s president to report his supervisor if he was not permitted to have a requested vacation day. Before conducting any investigation into the allegation made against Williams, the regional human resources manager stated in an e-mai…

Stanford Financial Group Chief Investment Officer Charged with Obstruction of Justice

federal grand jury in Houston returned a two-count indictment today charging Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group (SFG), with conspiring to obstruct a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proceeding investigating SFG, as well as a substantive count of obstructing the SEC proceeding, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer and acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Tim Johnson announced.

The federal court in Houston will be issuing an order summoning Pendergest-Holt to appear in the near future for arraignment. Pendergest-Holt has been free on a $300,000 bond since being charged with obstruction in a criminal complaint issued from the Northern District of Texas on Feb. 26, 2009.

According to the indictment, Stanford International Bank Ltd. (SIBL), marketed certificates of deposits (CDs). In a December 2008 monthly report, SIBL purported to have more than 30,000 clients and $8.5 …

CRIMINAL INDICTMENT AND CIVIL LAWSUIT AGAINST WESTERN NEW YORK HOSPITAL CONTRACTOR

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the indictment and civil lawsuit against a Western New York hospital contractor for bribing a county worker in a massive Medicaid scam.

Deborah Kantor, 55 of Tonawanda, and her company, H.I.S. Holdings, Inc. (H.I.S.), a debt collection agency that services Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and other western New York hospitals, is accused of bribing Michael Albrecht, a Niagara County Department of Social Services (DSS) employee, in exchange for assistance in approving Medicaid coverage for certain hospital patients.

The Attorney General also announced the filing of a lawsuit against Kantor and H.I.S. in Niagara County Court seeking recovery of $732,787 which represents the amount of fraudulent Medicaid benefits the State paid as a result of the alleged scheme. The suit also seeks an additional $2,198,362 in damages from Kantor and H.I.S. for fraud under the State’s False Claims Act and Social Services Law.

“These allegations outline an…

Montana Legislature Passes Bill re Paralegal Fees

NALA member Barbara A. Bessey, CP, has advised that the Montana Legislature has passed a bill which provides that “in any case or proceeding in which attorney fees are awarded to the prevailing party, the court may, as a component of the attorney fees, include reasonable fees of a paralegal”! Text of the bill is posted on the NALA web site. The bill also defines “paralegal” as a “person qualified through education, training or work experience who is employed or retained to perform, under supervision by a licensed attorney, substantive legal work that: (1) requires a substantial knowledge of legal concepts; and (b) in the absence of the paralegal, would be performed by an attorney. The bill goes on to list qualification so of those who may use the title “paralegal.” Great job Montana paralegals!!

See, http://www.nala.org/NalaNews2.aspx

FREE CREDIT REPORT

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights under the FCRA and how to order a free annual credit report.

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. You can order your free annual credit report online at annualcreditreport.com. More...

Justice Department to Monitor Elections in Texas

On May 9, 2009, the Department of Justice will monitor municipal elections in the cities of Farmers Branch and Hondo, Texas, to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities for the elections in Farmers Branch and Hondo based on the special coverage provisions. The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in these jurisdictions, and Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from OPM, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. In calendar year 2008, for example, 1,060 fede…

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO REACHES AGREEMENTS WITH SIX HOME HEATING OIL/PROPANE PROVIDERS OVER DECEPTIVE CONTRACTS & PRACTICES

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office has reached settlements with six New York-based home heating oil companies serving the Hudson Valley, Catskills, Southern Tier and North Country for various violations over the past year, including improperly adding surcharges for credit card payments and failing to provide required notifications to consumers.

The agreements with Paraco Gas Corporation, Depew Oil Company, Inc., Vaincourt Fuels, Wilson Oil, Kuno Oil and Russo Fuel end various deceptive practices and provide refunds to more than 500 consumers who were wrongfully charged, as well as penalties and costs to the state.

“Home heating costs account for a substantial portion of most hard-working New Yorkers household budgets, and any illegitimate or surprise costs added to the bill are unacceptable,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “It is particularly disturbing when companies take advantage of consumers purchasing such a basic and needed service. I continue to urge a…

Pyramiding of Employment and Unemployment Taxes Exceeds $1 Million?

The United States has filed a lawsuit against New York attorney Thomas B. Pruzan, d/b/a the Pruzan Law Firm, seeking to put an end to Mr. Pruzan’s repeated failure to timely deposit and pay the employment and unemployment taxes due from his law firm, as well as his failure to timely file employment and unemployment tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

The government complaint alleges that since the quarter ended September, 30, 1997, Mr. Pruzan has deliberately failed to make current employment tax deposits, and has, instead, used those funds as working capital, a practice referred to as "pyramiding." The complaint further alleges that Mr. Pruzan’s noncompliance with his federal tax obligations has resulted in a balance due to the government of more than one million dollars.

According to the complaint, despite the Internal Revenue Service’s best efforts over the past five years, Mr. Pruzan has made very minimal payments of his tax debt, and all attempts to induce comp…

CUOMO ANNOUNCES NATIONWIDE INVESTIGATION INTO DEBT SETTLEMENT INDUSTRY

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a nationwide investigation into the debt settlement industry, subpoenaing fourteen debt settlement companies and one law firm. Companies in the debt settlement industry often prey upon consumers who find themselves unable to keep up with credit card payments during these difficult economic times.

“Today, millions of hardworking Americans are finding themselves imprisoned by debt. In response, a rogue industry has stepped in, offering consumers false hope, charging tremendous fees, and leaving them in a worse financial situation,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Our mission is clear: to hold unscrupulous businesses accountable; to rein in a renegade industry; and to ensure that people are not victimized when faced with financial hardship.”

As part of his broad investigation of the debt settlement industry, Cuomo today issued subpoenas to fourteen debt settlement companies and one law firm: American Debt Foundation, Inc.; American Financial …