Category Archives: National News

Marie Fredriksson, the female half of the Swedish pop duo Roxette, has died at age 61

Roxette singer Marie Fredriksson, known for the global smash hits “The Look” and “It Must Have Been Love,” is dead at 61 after a long illness according to reports.

Learn more about Marie Fredriksson

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DEA Issues Warning Over Counterfeit Prescription Pills From Mexico

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The Drug Enforcement Administration is alerting the public of dangerous counterfeit pills killing Americans. Mexican drug cartels are manufacturing mass quantities of counterfeit prescription pills containing fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid that is lethal in minute doses, for distribution throughout North America.

“Illicit fentanyl distribution has made drug use more life threatening than ever in the Pacific Northwest,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “Alarmingly, this year we have seized more than 16 kilograms of fentanyl, which equates to more than 8 million dosage units.”

Based on a sampling of tablets seized nationwide between January and March 2019, DEA found that 27 percent contained potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.

“Capitalizing on the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse in the United States, drug trafficking organizations are now sending counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in bulk to the United States for distribution,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “Counterfeit pills that contain fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin are responsible for thousands of opioid-related deaths in the United States each year.”

Fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids remain the primary driver behind the ongoing opioid crisis, with fentanyl involved in more deaths than any other illicit drug.

A lethal dose of fentanyl is estimated to be about two milligrams, but can vary based on an individual’s body size, tolerance, amount of previous usage and other factors. The full Fentanyl Signature Profiling Program Report on the recent drug sampling and testing is available here: https://admin.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DEA_Fentanyl_Signature_Profiling_Program_Report-Oct-2019.pdf

8 Year Old Maryland Trick-Or-Treater Dips Into His Stash To Refill Empty Bowl On Porch

National News

Act of Kindness: 8 year old Jackson Champagne from Gambrills, MD was trick-or-treating when he noticed an empty candy bowl left on a porch. He is seen in the video saying “O, no!” and then dipped into his own bag to refill an empty candy bowl. The story and video has since gone viral.

Above: The story made national news

Above: Video posted to Facebook from Nest camera

DOJ Announces Large Child Porn Bust With 337 Arrested Worldwide From Case – Abused Minors Rescued

South Korean National and Hundreds of Others Charged Worldwide in the Takedown of the Largest Darknet Child Pornography Website, Which was Funded by Bitcoin 

Dozens of Minor Victims Who Were Being Actively Abused by the Users of the Site Rescued

Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for his operation of Welcome To Video, the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content.  The nine-count indictment was unsealed today along with a parallel civil forfeiture action.  Son has also been charged and convicted in South Korea and is currently in custody serving his sentence in South Korea.  An additional 337 site users residing in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Washington, D.C. as well as the United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia have been arrested and charged.   

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), made the announcement.

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “This Administration will not allow child predators to use lawless online spaces as a shield.  Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to working closely with our partners in South Korea and around the world to rescue child victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes.”

“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.  “We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve.”

“Through the sophisticated tracing of bitcoin transactions, IRS-CI special agents were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, identify the administrator of the website and ultimately track down the website server’s physical location in South Korea,” said IRS-CI Chief Don Fort.  “This largescale criminal enterprise that endangered the safety of children around the world is no more.  Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, we will continue to work with our federal and international partners to track down these disgusting organizations and bring them to justice.”

“Children are our most vulnerable population, and crimes such as these are unthinkable,” said HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs.  “Sadly, advances in technology have enabled child predators to hide behind the dark web and cryptocurrency to further their criminal activity.  However, today’s indictment sends a strong message to criminals that no matter how sophisticated the technology or how widespread the network, child exploitation will not be tolerated in the United States. Our entire justice system will stop at nothing to prevent these heinous crimes, safeguard our children, and bring justice to all.”

According to the indictment, on March 5, 2018, agents from the IRS-CI, HSI, National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom, and Korean National Police in South Korea arrested Son and seized the server that he used to operate a Darknet market that exclusively advertised child sexual exploitation videos available for download by members of the site.  The operation resulted in the seizure of approximately eight terabytes of child sexual exploitation videos, which is one of the largest seizures of its kind.  The images, which are currently being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), contained over 250,000 unique videos, and 45 percent of the videos currently analyzed contain new images that have not been previously known to exist.

Welcome To Video offered these videos for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin.  Typically, sites of this kind give users a forum to trade in these depictions.  This Darknet website is among the first of its kind to monetize child exploitation videos using bitcoin.  In fact, the site itself boasted over one million downloads of child exploitation videos by users.  Each user received a unique bitcoin address when the user created an account on the website.  An analysis of the server revealed that the website had more than one million bitcoin addresses, signifying that the website had capacity for at least one million users. 

The agencies have shared data from the seized server with law enforcement around the world to assist in identifying and prosecuting customers of the site.  This has resulted in leads sent to 38 countries and yielded arrests of 337 subjects around the world.  The operation has resulted in searches of residences and businesses of approximately 92 individuals in the United States.  Notably, the operation is responsible for the rescue of at least 23 minor victims residing in the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, who were being actively abused by the users of the site.

In the Washington, D.C.-metropolitan area, the operation has led to the execution of five search warrants and eight arrests of individuals who both conspired with the administrator of the site and were themselves, users of the website.  Two users of the Darknet market committed suicide subsequent to the execution of search warrants.

Amongst the sites users charged are:

  • Charles Wunderlich, 34, of Hot Springs, California, was charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
     
  • Brian James LaPrath, 34, of San Diego, California, was arrested in the District of Columbia, for international money laundering; and was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release;
     
  • Ernest Wagner, 70, of Federal Way, Washington, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
     
  • Vincent Galarzo, 28, of Glendale, New York, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
     
  • Michael Ezeagbor, 22, of Pflugerville, Texas, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
     
  • Nicholas Stengel, 45, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography and money laundering and was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release;
     
  • Eryk Mark Chamberlin, 25, of Worcester, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to possession  of child pornography and is pending sentencing;
     
  • Jairo Flores, 30, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts to receipt and possession of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release;
     
  • Billy Penaloza, 29, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts to possession and receipt of child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22, 2019;
     
  • Michael Armstrong, 35, of Randolph, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts, to receipt and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.  Restitution will be determined at a future date;
     
  • Al Ramadhanu Soedomo, 28, of Lynn, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced in the District of Massachusetts (Boston), to serve 12 months and one day followed by five years of supervised release;
     
  • Phillip Sungmin Hong, 24, of Sharon, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts (Boston), to receipt and possession of child pornography and is pending sentencing;
     
  • Eliseo Arteaga Jr., 28, of Mesquite, Texas, pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Texas to possession of prepubescent child pornography. He is pending sentencing;
     
  • Richard Nikolai Gratkowski, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, a former HSI special agent, was arrested in the Western District of Texas.  Gratkowski pleaded guilty to the indictment charging one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of access with intent to view child pornography.  Gratkowski was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution to seven victims and a $10,000 assessment;
     
  • Paul Casey Whipple, 35, of Hondo, Texas, a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, was arrested in the Western District of Texas, on charges of sexual exploitation of children/minors, production, distribution, and possession of child pornography.  Whipple remains in custody awaiting trial in San Antonio;
     
  • Michael Lawson, 36, of Midland, Georgia, was arrested in the Middle District of Georgia on charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography.  He was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release following his plea to a superseding information charging him with one count of receipt of child pornography;
     
  • Kevin Christopher Eagan, 39, of Brookhaven, Georgia, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in the Northern District of Georgia;
     
  • Casey Santioius Head, 37, of Griffin, Georgia, was indicted in the Northern District of Georgia for distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography;
     
  • Andrew C. Chu, 28, of Garwood, New Jersey, was arrested and charged with receipt of child pornography. Those charges remain pending;
     
  • Nader Hamdi Ahmed, 29 of Jersey City, New Jersey, was arrested in the District of New Jersey, for sexual exploitation or other abuse of children.  Ahmed pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of distribution of child pornography.  He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 1, 2019;
     
  • Jeffrey Lee Harris, 32, of Pickens, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in the District of South Carolina for producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography;
     
  • Laine Ormand Clark Jr., 27, of Conway, South Carolina, was arrested and charged in U.S. District Court in South Carolina Division for sexual possession of child pornography;
     
  • Jack R. Dove III, 38, of Lakeland, Florida, was arrested in the Middle District of Florida for knowingly receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
     
  • Michael Matthew White, 39, of Miami Beach, Florida, was arrested in the Southern District of Florida for coercion and enticement;
     
  • Nikolas Bennion Bradshaw, 24, of Bountiful, Utah, was arrested in the State of Utah, and charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and was sentenced to time served with 91 days in jail followed by probation;
     
  • Michael Don Gibbs, 37, of Holladay, Utah, was charged in the District of Utah with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography;
     
  • Ammar Atef H. Alahdali, 22, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution;
     
  • Mark Lindsay Rohrer, 38, of West Hartford, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in the District of Connecticut to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release;
     
  • Eugene Edward Jung, 47, of San Francisco, California, was indicted in the Northern District of California on possession of child pornography and receipt of child pornography;
     
  • James Daosaeng, 25, of Springdale, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced in the Western District of Arkansas (Fayetteville) to serve 97 months in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release;
     
  • Alex Daniel Paxton, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, was arrested and indicted in Franklin County Ohio Court of Common Pleas for pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor;
     
  • Don Edward Pannell, 32, of Harvey, Louisiana, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Louisiana for receipt of child pornography. He is pending sentencing;
     
  • Ryan Thomas Carver, 29, of Huntsville, Alabama, was arrested and charged under Alabama State Law.  He was charged federally in the Northern District of Alabama with possession of child pornography. His case is pending in Huntsville, Alabama;
     
  • Andrew Buckley, 28, of the United Kingdom, pleaded guilty to 10 offences in the UK of possession and distribution of indecent images of children, possession of extreme and prohibited images and possession of a class A drug.  He was sentenced to serve 40 months in prison for the distribution of indecent images and possession of class A drugs. Buckley is also subject to an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order;
     
  • Kyle Fox, 26, of the United Kingdom, pleaded guilty to 22 counts including rape, sexual assault, and sharing indecent images, and was sentenced to serve 22 years in prison; and
     
  • Mohammed Almaker, 26, of Fort Collins, Colorado, was arrested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), charged with KSA Law involving the endangerment of children.  He is awaiting judicial proceedings in furtherance of criminal charges.
     

A forfeiture complaint was also unsealed today.  The complaint alleges that law enforcement was able to trace payments of bitcoin to the Darknet site by following the flow of funds on the blockchain.  The virtual currency accounts identified in the complaint were allegedly used by 24 individuals in five countries to fund the website and promote the exploitation of children.  The forfeiture complaint seeks to recover these funds and, ultimately through the restoration process, return the illicit funds to victims of the crime.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

The international investigations were led by the IRS-CI, HSI and the NCA.  The Korean National Police of the Republic of Korea, the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom and the German Federal Criminal Police (the Bundeskriminalamt), provided assistance and coordinated with their parallel investigations.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Criminal Division provided significant assistance.   

The cases are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zia M. Faruqui, Lindsay Suttenberg, and Youli Lee, Paralegal Specialists Brian Rickers and Diane Brashears, Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick, and Records Examiner Chad Byron of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney C. Alden Pelker of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.  Additional assistance has been provided by Deputy Chief Keith Becker and Trial Attorney James E. Burke IV of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and former U.S. Attorney’s Office Paralegal Specialists Toni Anne Donato and Ty Eaton. 

Above: screenshot of seized website

Oregon PUC Finds And Reports Abuse Of Lifeline Tax Funds By Sprint

National News

FCC LEARNS THAT SPRINT RECEIVED TENS OF MILLIONS IN LIFELINE SUBSIDIES—BUT PROVIDED NO SERVICE

Got Paid for Consumers Who Used No Minutes, No Data

The Federal Communications Commission has learned that Sprint Corp. claimed monthly subsidies for serving approximately 885,000 Lifeline subscribers, even though those subscribers were not using the service. That would be a violation of a key rule—the “non-usage” rule—designed to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program. The 885,000 subscribers represent nearly 30% of Sprint’s Lifeline subscriber base and nearly 10% of the entire Lifeline program’s subscriber base.

“Lifeline is an important component of our efforts to bring digital opportunity to low-income Americans, and stopping waste, fraud, and abuse in the program has been a top priority of mine since I’ve been at the Commission,” Chairman Pai said. “It’s outrageous that a company would claim millions of taxpayer dollars for doing nothing. This shows a careless disregard for program rules and American taxpayers. I have asked our Enforcement Bureau to investigate this matter to determine the full extent of the problem and to propose an appropriate remedy.”

Lifeline helps make phone and broadband service more affordable for low-income consumers. Providers participating in the program receive a $9.25 monthly subsidy for most Lifeline subscribers, which the company must pass along to the consumers as a discount. For most consumers served by the mobile Lifeline product marketed by Sprint and many other providers, the subsidy makes the service free to the consumer.

However, the program has been fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse. While ongoing FCC reforms have taken a bite out of waste, the latest report by the FCC Inspector General shows that 18.5% of payments made by the program were improper.

The non-usage rule requires Lifeline providers of “free” service to de-enroll subscribers who don’t use their phones—a rule meant to protect Lifeline from wasting payments on service not provided. The FCC developed this and other rules after investigations showed that companies hawked free Lifeline service aggressively and indiscriminately, knowing that they would get paid each month even if consumer didn’t use their phones. And because the consumer paid nothing, he or she had no incentive to relinquish the subscription.

Under the non-usage rule, providers of free service may only be reimbursed for a Lifeline subscriber if that subscriber has used the service at least once in the past 30 days. Providers must de-enroll inactive subscribers after giving them 15 days’ notice. Program-wide, the rule resulted in approximately 3.1 million de-enrollments in 2018.

Sprint’s apparent disregard of the non-usage rule initially came to light as a result of an investigation by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

“I thank the Oregon Public Utility Commission for its work,” Pai said. “States are an important partner with the FCC in both helping low-income consumers get access to affordable communications through Lifeline and cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.”

FBI SEEKING INDIVIDUAL WHO MAY HAVE INFORMATION REGARDING THE IDENTITY OF A CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the public’s assistance with obtaining identifying information regarding an unknown male who may have critical information pertaining to the identity of a child victim in an ongoing sexual exploitation investigation.  Photographs and an informational poster depicting the unknown individual, known only as John Doe 41, are being disseminated to the public and can be found online at the FBI website at https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/ecap.

The video depicting the unidentified male, John Doe 41, shown with a child, was first noted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in March of 2018; therefore, the video is believed to have been produced around 2016 to 2018.

John Doe 41 is described as an African American male, likely between the ages of 18 and 20 years old.  He appears to be a thin-framed individual with black hair.  Anyone with information to provide should submit a tip online at https://tips.fbi.gov , or call the FBI’s toll-free tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).  The public is reminded no charges have been filed in this case and the pictured individual is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

This individual is being sought as part of the FBI’s Operation Rescue Me and Endangered Child Alert Program (ECAP) initiatives, both of which represent strategic partnerships between the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Operation Rescue Me focuses on utilizing clues obtained through in-depth image analysis to identify the child victims depicted in child exploitation material, while ECAP seeks national and international media exposure of unknown adults (referred to as John/Jane Does) who visibly display their faces and/or other distinguishing characteristics in association with child pornography images.

Breaking National News: Possibly Two Active Shooters in Texas Shooting At Motorists On Roadway.

nationalbrkpolice.png

National Breaking Alert: Reports of at least 20-30 people injured in Odessa and Midland Texas. Shooters are firing at motorists and or people in area randomly. 

Update * We believe there are two shooters in two separate vehicles. One suspect is believed to be at the Cinergy in Midland and the other is believed to be driving on Loop 250 in Midland. The two vehicles in question are: gold/white small Toyota truck and a USPS Postal Van. Please stay away from these areas and stay indoors.

There are reports of an active shooter at the Home Depot in Odessa. For the safety of the public and law enforcement please stay away from the area and stay in your homes. We will update with more information as soon as possible.

Multiple police agencies are responding and urging everyone to stay off the roadways.

From Odessa, TX Police:

Active Shooter! Please Share!

A subject (possibly 2) is currently driving around Odessa shooting at random people. At this time there are multiple gunshot victims. The suspect just hijacked a U.S. mail carrier truck and was last seen in the area of 38th and Walnut. Everyone is encouraged to get off the road and use extreme caution! All law enforcement is currently searching for the suspect and more information will be released as soon as it becomes available.

Note: Different media outlets are reporting different numbers for victims. We have seen up to 30 so far reported by CBS News.

Update 9-1-19 by AP reports 7 fatalities and 22 injured. Follow the link below for updates on the AP news website.

https://www.apnews.com/e765453e0fc34cbbb75311763d4b3709

National Breaking: Active Shooter Incident

Several police officers have been injured during an active shooter situation at a residential building near Temple University in North Philadelphia

ACTIVE SHOOTER

– Home in Philadelphia

– Narcotics officers were on scene

– Police were making arrests

– Gunfire erupted, trapping officers

– At least 5 officers shot

– 6th officer injured in crash

– Suspect(s) firing at police

– Suspect not in custody

Information above is preliminary from multiple sources

As of last report at posting time shooting is active now

Update at 4:35pm Pacific

Shooter is continuing to fire shots at officers at the scene of the active shooting in the Tioga-Nicetown area of #Philadelphia.

Additional Mass Shooting Has Occurred In Dayton Ohio

National News Update: At least 9 killed and 16 injured after mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio; suspect also dead.

This follows a mass shooting attack in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, and comes 1 week after the California garlic festival mass shooting attack.

According to reports the suspect in Dayton shooting was wearing body armor and had high-capacity magazines; he was shot and killed by police “in less than 1 minute” – mayor

Suspect is 24 year old male. One of the victims is the shooters 22 year old sister. Victims range from 22 to 57 years in age.

National Breaking: Active Shooter Incident In Texas. 18 Reported Injured

Police in El Paso, Texas, say they are responding to an active shooter

Active shooter in the area of Hawkins and Gateway East in El Paso. Stay away from the Cielo Vista Mall area. (Source: El Paso Police)

Scene is still Active. We have multi reports of multiple shooters. Please avoid area police conducting search of a very large area.

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