Federal prosecutors: Defense bid to remove Bulger judge ‘frivolous,’ immunity claim ‘absurd’

July 10, 2012

The Washington Post on July 9, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press,

BOSTON — Former mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s request to remove the judge at his upcoming trial is “frivolous and unsubstantiated” and should be dismissed, federal prosecutors said Monday in a court filing.

Their motion also calls “absurd” a related claim by Bulger’s attorney that the one-time FBI informant shouldn’t be prosecuted on charges he participated in 19 murders because the government promised him immunity for past and future crimes.

Bulger’s attorney J.W. Carney Jr. filed a motion last month to remove Judge Richard Stearns because he was a top federal prosecutor during a period when Bulger is accused of having committed crimes with impunity. The defense motion argued that the judge would do what he could to shield his former colleagues and could not be impartial. Carney said he might call the judge as a witness.

Carney had said he would file a motion to dismiss the charges against Bulger, who’s 82, because “a representative of the federal government” gave Bulger blanket immunity during the 1970s.

A former Bulger cohort, who also was an FBI informant, used a similar defense, which was rejected by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The cohort is serving a life sentence.

Prosecutors said Bulger “has utterly failed to identify anyone who supposedly promised the defendant immunity from prosecution for committing such crimes as murder. Thus, there is no factual basis for the motion and it should be summarily denied.”

They said the claims in the recusal motion “are little more than unsubstantiated speculation.”

Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., last year after 16 years on the run. His trial has been set for next March.

His girlfriend, Catherine Greig, who was captured with him, pleaded guilty last March to conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud and conspiracy. She admitted she helped Bulger while he was a fugitive, using false identities, accompanying him to medical appointments and picking up his prescriptions. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Prosecutors say Bulger and Greig, who’s in her early 60s, posed as married retirees from Chicago and had a stash of more than $800,000 in cash and dozens of weapons in their apartment when they were captured.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


James ‘Whitey’ Bulger girlfriend, Catherine Greig, agrees to plead guilty to three charges

March 13, 2012

The Boston Globe on March 12, 2012 released the following:

“By Milton J. Valencia and Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff

Catherine Greig, girlfriend of alleged murderous gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, has agreed to plead guilty to charges that she helped him to escape capture while he was on the lam for 16 years.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court today, Greig said she would plead to three charges — conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, and identity fraud — without an agreed-upon recommendation for sentencing by the government and her attorney. Greig is slated to go before a federal judge Wednesday.

In a statement of facts signed by Greig, also filed in court, she said, “I engaged in conduct that was intended to help Bulger avoid detection from law enforcement and to provide him with support and assistance during his flight from law enforcement.”

She admitted that she and Bulger had obtained false identification documents including driver’s licenses and Social Security cards of real people.

She admitted that she used one fake identity to pick up medicine and obtain medical services between 2002 and 2011, and used other aliases while dealing with a dentist who treated Bulger while they lived in Santa Monica, Calif.

Greig said she never used the fake identities “to defraud anyone else of money, good or other property, although I do readily agree that I was in possession of the false identities and that I used the false identities to fill out forms to obtain medical services.”

The documents were filed after relatives of people who were allegedly murdered by Bulger met with prosecutors.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting at US District Court in Boston, Tom Donahue and Steve Davis said prosecutors told them that each charge Greig faces carries a maximum five-year sentence, but that, under federal sentencing guidelines, she could serve as little as 32 months in prison. They also said prosecutors had told them that Greig, 60, would not be forced to testify against Bulger and that the government was not seeking forfeiture of her house.

Donahue and Davis said prosecutors didn’t disclose what sentence they would recommend. Prosecutors declined to comment in a statement issued this afternoon.

Donahue said he was disappointed by the news and felt the government should have been tougher on her.

“She helped that guy on the run,” he said. “We could have had these answers 16 years ago. She’s a criminal, she’s not a victim. She’s a criminal,” he said.

Davis said he understood that Greig was not the murderer — Bulger allegedly murdered 19 people — but Davis was disappointed by “the fact that the government has not put a tight enough grip on everything.”

“What they want out of this is they want the conviction,” he said.

Davis’s sister, Debra, was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981. Donahue’s father, Michael, was allegedly shot and killed by Bulger in 1982 on the South Boston waterfront.

Relatives of at least four of Bulger’s alleged victims attended the meeting.

Bulger, who fled just before his January 1995 federal racketeering indictment after being warned by his former FBI handler that he was about to be arrested, was a fixture on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. He was finally captured on June 22 in Santa Monica, with Greig, a former dental hygienist who lived in South Boston and Quincy.

The FBI found more than $800,000 cash and 30 weapons hidden inside the walls of the rent-controlled apartment where the couple had lived as Charles and Carol Gasko for at least 13 years, according to the FBI. They also found numerous false identities allegedly used by the couple.

Since they were returned to the Boston area last year, Greig has remained jailed without bail at a Rhode Island facility, and Bulger is being held at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.

Greig’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, has argued in court that her only crime was falling in love with Bulger and that she had no knowledge of any of his crimes. He also said she would not cooperate against Bulger.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Minnetta Walker an Ex-TSA Officer Admits to Aiding Drug Suspects Through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport

August 29, 2011

The Buffalo News on August 26, 2011 released the following:

“By Dan Herbeck

Says she helped them get through security

A former federal security officer admitted Friday that she helped members of a local drug gang smuggle cash through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Minnetta Walker, who was arrested in March after an 11-month investigation, admitted that she helped an alleged member of the drug ring use a fake name for traveling and helped him bypass security scanners at the airport.

The 43-year-old Buffalo woman also admitted that she once warned two of the man’s alleged drug associates that federal agents were tailing them in the airport.

The case raises disturbing questions:

  • Did Walker, an employee of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, act alone?
  • Is her case an indication of serious security problems at the airport?
  • If Buffalo drug dealers can evade airport security to smuggle cash, could terrorists use the same methods to smuggle dangerous weapons or substances?

Federal officials said they could not provide specific answers to those questions Friday afternoon, but no other officials of the TSA or the airport are charged in the case, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

Hochul said he hopes the case will cause the TSA to take a close look at security at airports in Buffalo and other cities, to determine whether improvements need to be made.

“It is certainly of concern to the Department of Justice,” said Hochul, the region’s chief federal prosecutor. “I would certainly recommend that there be an ongoing review … There definitely needs to be a learning experience [for] all of us.”

The tactics Walker used are being closely examined to make sure others cannot repeat them, said George W. Gast, who oversees airport security as chief of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police.

Walker was arrested after an investigation by Buffalo agents of the FBI, NFTA Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

In a related case Thursday, a former employee of the Buffalo city clerk’s office pleaded guilty to a felony, admitting that she made up a false birth certificate that an alleged drug dealer, Derek Frank, used for interstate travel.

Regina McCullen, 53, a former customer assistant who was fired by the city in May, pleaded guilty to an identity fraud conspiracy charge.

The Buffalo News learned that at least one other person — an individual who is close to McCullen and works for an airline — is also expected to be charged criminally in the case.

Walker has not been charged with receiving payoffs or gratuities of any kind from the drug traffickers she helped, Hochul said. The prosecutor said he really doesn’t know at this point why Walker did it.

When District Judge Richard J. Arcara asked Walker why she helped the drug dealers, she had little information for him.

“I don’t know … I wasn’t thinking,” she said.

But her court-appointed attorney, James DeMatteo, said Walker told him she did have a reason, and it wasn’t money.

“She told me that Derek Frank is a close friend of her family, and that she did this for one reason — to help a friend,” DeMatteo said. “I know the government doesn’t believe her, but I don’t know of one piece of evidence they have that she got money from any of these guys. She certainly hasn’t been out buying expensive cars or jewelry.”

Walker is sorry for her actions, and after taking her plea, she “burst into tears” in a courthouse elevator and “was almost out of control,” DeMatteo said.

“She’s made a huge mistake. She’s lost an excellent job with a decent paycheck and excellent benefits,” DeMatteo said.

Before the TSA fired her after her arrest, Walker told a judge she made about $40,000 annually as a behavioral detection officer at the airport.

Her job was to walk around the airport, looking for suspicious individuals who might be planning some criminal activity. Instead, she admitted she spent at least some of her working hours accompanying drug suspects as they walked through security checkpoints without undergoing close examination of themselves or their carry-on luggage.

Because Walker was close by Frank’s side, other TSA workers let him slide through the checkpoints with a minimum of scrutiny, authorities said.

According to a TSA spokeswoman, Lisa Farbstein, it would be unfair for Walker’s actions to reflect on more than 47,000 TSA workers who work to ensure the safety of travelers.

TSA worked closely with federal prosecutors and agents on the probe, Farbstein said.

“The agency aggressively investigates all allegations of misconduct,” Farbstein said. She said the agency has a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal actions such as Walker’s.

While Walker is believed to be the first TSA worker to be criminally charged in Buffalo, the agency has had scandals in other cities.

In February, two TSA officers at Kennedy International Airport were charged with stealing $39,000 from a piece of luggage. A TSA supervisor in Newark, N.J., was charged last year with stealing thousands of dollars from foreign passengers, mostly people who could not speak English.

After an internal investigation in June, the TSA announced that it would seek the termination of 30 workers at the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii. The probe focused on the improper screening of passenger baggage.

Speaking about the Buffalo probe on Friday, Hochul commended the work of the lead prosecutor on the case, Mary Catherine Baumgarten.

Under advisory sentencing guidelines, Walker faces a federal prison term in the probable range of 18 to 24 months. She pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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