HSI, Caribbean Corridor Strike Force seize 330 kilograms of cocaine, arrest 6

June 8, 2012

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 8, 2012 released the following:

“SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), officers and special agents assigned to the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force arrested six Dominican Republic nationals on drug trafficking charges earlier this week. The individuals tried to introduce 330 kilograms and one kilogram of heroin with an estimated street value of $8 million into the United States.

“Through these arrests and seizures we are sending a clear message Puerto Rico will not be a safe haven for criminals looking to ship drugs into Puerto Rico and the United States,” said Angel Melendez, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. “ICE and its federal and local partners are committed to working together to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into Puerto Rico.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers onboard a marine surveillance vessel detected the six men aboard a suspicious 25-foot unmarked fiberglass boat transiting illegally towards Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received notification from a CBP officer of the ongoing situation and proceeded to divert the Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus to interdict the suspect vessel.

The Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and detained Jairo Torres-Balbuena, 29; José Manuel Rodríguez, 30; Anheli Regalado, 25; Berner Balbuena-Perreaux, 38; Jorge King, 52; and Juan Polanco-Rodríguez, 35; following the discovery of 15 bales of suspected contraband which later tested positive for cocaine and heroin during a field test.

Coast Guard personnel transferred custody of the six Dominicans, the suspect vessel, and the seized contraband to awaiting HSI special agents in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

Those arrested were transferred to the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting the outcome of their case. They had their initial hearing before US Magistrate Judge Bruce McGiverin June 6 and remain detained.

The strike force is an initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office created to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Caribbean. It is part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force that investigates South American-based drug trafficking organizations responsible for the movement of multi-kilogram quantities of narcotics using the Caribbean as a transshipment point for further distribution to the United States. The initiative is composed of HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI, Coast Guard, CBP and Puerto Rico Police Department’s Joint Forces for Rapid Action.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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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.

Jason Cornish Charged in a Criminal Complaint with Allegedly Knowingly Transmitting Computer Code with the Intent to Damage Computers in Interstate Commerce

July 5, 2011

The U.S. Attorneys Office District of New Jersey on July 1, 2011 released the following:

“NEWARK, NJ—A Georgia man who allegedly froze the operations of a New Jersey pharmaceutical company where he had worked by deleting portions of its computer network has been federally charged in connection with the alleged attack, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Jason Cornish, 37, of Smyrna, Georgia, was arrested this morning near his residence by special agents of the FBI on a complaint charging him with knowingly transmitting computer code with the intent to damage computers in interstate commerce. He is expected to make an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Janet F. King in Atlanta federal court.

“The computers on which companies do business are the engines of the 21st century economy,” U.S. Attorney Fishman stated. “Malicious intrusions are against the law, regardless of motive. Hacking attacks devised as personal revenge can have serious repercussions for perpetrators as well as victims.”

“As the general public is becoming increasingly aware, the impact of cyber intrusions can be substantial, whether it occurs at home, a commercial institution, or with critical national infrastructure,” said Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward. “In this instance, Jason Cornish allegedly was able to inflict great damage to Shionogi, Inc., with the stroke of a few computer keys. Unfortunately, given his choice to misuse his considerable cyber skills, his actions now have him facing a potential decade-long prison sentence and untold financial repercussions.”

According to the complaint unsealed today:

Cornish was an information technology employee at Shionogi, Inc., a United States subsidiary of a Japanese pharmaceutical company with operations in New Jersey and Georgia. In late September 2010, shortly after Cornish had resigned from Shionogi, the company announced layoffs that would affect B.N., Cornish’s close friend and former supervisor.

In the early morning hours of February 3, 2011, Cornish gained unauthorized access to Shionogi’s computer network. Cornish used a Shionogi user account to access a Shionogi server. Once he accessed the server, Cornish took control of a piece of software that he had secretly installed on the server several weeks earlier.

Cornish then used the secretly installed software program to delete the contents of each of 15 “virtual hosts” on Shionogi’s computer network. These 15 virtual hosts (subdivisions on a computer designed to make it function like several computers) housed the equivalent of 88 different computer servers. Cornish used his familiarity with Shionogi’s network to identify each of these virtual hosts by name or by its corresponding Internet Protocol address.

The deleted servers housed most of Shionogi’s American computer infrastructure, including the company’s e mail and Blackberry servers, its order tracking system, and its financial management software. The attack effectively froze Shionogi’s operations for a number of days, leaving company employees unable to ship product, cut checks, or communicate by e-mail. Shionogi sustained at least $300,000 in losses responding to the attack, conducting damage assessments, and restoring the company’s network to its prior condition.

The FBI’s investigation revealed that the attack originated from a computer connected to the wireless network of a Smyra McDonald’s where Cornish had used his credit card to make a purchase minutes before the attack. Cornish also gained unauthorized access to Shionogi’s network from his home Internet connection using administrative passwords to which he had access as an employee.

The count with which Cornish is charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Fishman thanked special agents of Newark FBI’s Cyber Crimes Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; and in Atlanta, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin, with the investigation leading to this morning’s arrest. Mr. Fishman added that the investigation is continuing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth B. Kosto of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section in the Office’s Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The 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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ATF Director to Resign, Agency Sources Say

June 21, 2011
Kenneth E. Melson, ATF Director
Kenneth E. Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in 2009. (Eric Gay / Associated Press / August 13, 2009)

Los Angeles Times on June 21, 2011 released the story:

Kenneth E. Melson’s exit would be the biggest response yet to the uproar over an operation that allowed the sale of weapons to suspected agents of Mexican drug cartels.

By Richard A. Serrano and Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

The acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is expected to step down because of a controversial gun-running investigation that allowed weapons to be sold to suspected agents of Mexican drug cartels, according to two sources inside the agency.

Kenneth E. Melson’s resignation, which could happen as early as this week, is the most significant repercussion yet from a growing public outcry over the code-named Fast and Furious operation, under which ATF agents watched while straw purchasers acquired more than 1,700 AK-47s and other high-powered rifles from Arizona gun dealers and delivered them to others.

Hundreds of the weapons turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including in southern Arizona last December where a Border Patrol agent was shot to death.

At a House hearing last week, internal government documents showed that Melson was closely involved in overseeing the operation and received weekly briefings. Documents released by Congress showed that he asked for and received log-in information and a link to an Internet feed so that he could watch some of the illegal straw purchases taking place in an Arizona gun store.

Melson became acting director in April 2009 and has remained in place because gun rights groups have held up confirmation of the proposed permanent director, Andrew Traver, head of the ATF’s Chicago field office.

“Traver has been deeply aligned with gun control advocates and anti-gun activities,” the National Rifle Assn. said in January. “This makes him the wrong choice to lead an enforcement agency that has almost exclusive oversight and control over the firearms industry, its retailers and consumers.”

Sources in the agency, who asked not to be identified because the process remained fluid, said Traver could not serve as acting director while his nomination remained under consideration. So it was not clear whether Traver would step in immediately or whether someone else would be named acting director.

“Melson is out,” one source said. “Traver is flying into Washington to meet with the Justice Department,” the ATF’s parent agency. “The administration still favors him because he will do what the Department of Justice instructs him to do.”

But the source said that Traver, although close to Obama through their Chicago connections, did not have “the rank and file” support from agents around the country.

“We need someone permanent in that slot,” the source said. “It’s been five years since we’ve had a permanent director. That’s the rub.”

A second source, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said “the feeling on the inside is that Melson is going to resign and that they will have Traver in place in Washington to do a press conference and show there is no gap in the leadership.”

Officially, the ATF declined to address the reports.

“Melson continues to be focused on leading ATF in its efforts to reduce violent crime and to stem the flow of firearms to criminals and criminal organizations,” Scot Thomasson, the agency’s chief spokesman, said Monday. “We are not going to comment on any speculations” about his status as head of the agency.

Melson’s resignation would mark the most significant response yet to the outcry over Fast and Furious. But it would probably fall far short of resolving questions in Congress and among Mexican lawmakers over who authorized the operation.

In interviews with The Times, several disgruntled agents have said they were told the operation had been approved at the highest levels in Washington.

The operation marked a rare instance in which ATF agents allowed guns to “walk” into the hands of criminals, ostensibly with the goal of catching higher-ups in gun-trafficking organizations.

“We want to know what felony stupid bad judgment led to allowing this investigation at the highest levels,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said at last week’s hearing.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Monday that Melson’s departure would not clear up his committee’s questions.

“It would be a shame if the Justice Department makes Mr. Melson the only fall guy for this disastrous strategy — there’s plenty of blame to go around at both the ATF and the Justice Department,” Grassley said in a statement. “A resignation by the acting director would be, by no means, the end of our inquiry. Congressman Issa and I are eager to talk to Mr. Melson and hear his side of the story as soon as possible.”

A clue to where the congressional inquiries are going might lie in a sealed document that was inadvertently released partially because of the investigation. The document makes it clear that at least one wiretap application under Fast and Furious, in March 2010, was signed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Department officials reacted angrily when the document’s heavily redacted cover letter was recently made public, saying it justified their refusal to turn over other sensitive documents.

One ATF source, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly, called Melson a career Justice Department attorney who “got terrible advice from his inner circle. Ken Melson is an attorney. He was not raised as an agent. …If you spend just 10 minutes in our academy for new agents, you know our mission is to deny guns to criminals. And yet they told Melson this was OK.”

Three agents from ATF’s Phoenix office testified before Issa’s committee last week that they had repeatedly objected but were told to back off surveillance once the guns were transferred to third parties.

“Several special agents in the group, including myself, became increasingly concerned and alarmed at [Phoenix management’s] refusal to address or stop the suspected straw purchaser from purchasing additional firearms,” Agent Olindo James Casa told the committee.

“On several occasions I personally requested to interdict or seize firearms in such a manner that would only further the investigation,” he said, “but I was always [ordered] to stand down and not to seize the firearms.”

Mexican lawmakers believe that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded with weapons smuggled in the operation. And the ATF has estimated that at least 372 of the guns have been recovered in Arizona and Texas, mainly at crime scenes.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The 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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“Operation Big Winner” Leads to a Federal Indictment of 20 Individuals with Various Federal Drug Related Charges

June 15, 2011

United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Arkansas on June 14, 2011 released the following press release:

“Little Rock – Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today a sweep of arrests in Central Arkansas stemming from eighteen count indictment involving federal drug offenses. The federal indictment is the result of an investigation, “Operation Big Winner,” which charged 20 defendants with various federal drug related charges. As of today, seventeen defendants are in custody.

The DEA Little Rock District Office High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Group #62, which is composed of Special Agents from DEA and Task Force Officers from the Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, North Little Rock Police Departments, Benton Police Department, and Jefferson County Sheriffs Department opened an OCDETF Operation sponsored by DEA. As part of the OCDETF investigation, officers were deputized under the OCDETF Operation from the following agencies: Arkansas State Police, Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, Sherwood Police Department, and the Central Arkansas Drug Task Force.

This investigation targeted a large scale drug trafficking organization distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine ice in the central Arkansas area. The methamphetamine ice was smuggled from Mexico to Central Arkansas for distribution.

Today’s “Operation Big Winner” was conducted by the DEA, United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Arkansas State Police, Pulaski County Sheriffs Department, Sherwood Police Department, North Little Rock Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, Central Arkansas Drug Task Force, Benton Police Department, White County Sheriffs Department, Lonoke County Sheriffs Department, and the Arkansas National Guard.

On Friday, June 10, 2011, three federal search warrants were executed by the above agencies in White County and Lonoke County. A total of seven defendants were arrested and taken into custody. These defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Jerome K. Kearney for plea and arraignment Friday.

Today additional federal arrest warrants were executed by the above agencies. A total of ten defendants were arrested. Those taken into custody will appear before United States Magistrate Judge Jerome K. Kearney for their initial appearance this afternoon.

Five defendants remain at large at this time and law enforcement is actively pursuing these defendants.

This case is the result of the investigative work of federal, state and local law enforcement members in the HIDTA program,” stated Thyer. “HIDTA provides federal resources to help reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. With such a broad law enforcement reach, we are able to take drugs and those who seek to peddle them off our streets and out of our communities.”

ASAC Bryant stated, “Through the combine team effort of local, state, and federal law enforcement, this drug trafficking organization was dismantled. Methamphetamine continues to be the number one drug threat to the citizens in Arkansas. This organization was distributing multi-pounds of methamphetamine ice per week in Central Arkansas. This team effort of law enforcement led to the seizure of seven pounds of methamphetamine ice, which did not reach the citizens in our communities. Law enforcement agencies also seized the following items as a result of this investigation: thirteen weapons, seven vehicles, six motorcycles, two boats and one tractor.”

The investigation is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anne Gardner of the Eastern District of Arkansas United States Attorneys Office.

An indictment contains only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The 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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