USAID tamped down internal criticism over Egypt work: report


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Auditors and employees at the U.S. Agency for International Development say critical assessments of the agency’s work in Egypt were removed from a report before it was released by the agency’s inspector general, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The 21-page report was trimmed to nine pages and among the details cut was the payment of $4.6 million in what was described as bail money to the Egyptian government in 2012 to free 16 American non-government workers who had been arrested, the newspaper said.

The Americans were from organizations that USAID had hired to promote democratic programs in Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in 2011. The son of Ray LaHood, who was then U.S. transportation secretary, was among them.

The inspector general’s office (OIG) of the USAID, the government agency that administers foreign civilian aid, put together a confidential draft audit of the agency’s work in Egypt that the Post said questioned the wisdom of the program and whether it was legal to use government money to post the bail.

The final report released five months later had excised those findings and other criticisms, the newspaper said. It also cited USAID employees who said the agency’s OIG, which is supposed to act as an internal watchdog, had become an in-house defender.

They said negative findings had been removed from audits between 2011 and 2013, although in some cases, those findings were included in confidential “management letters” and financial documents. A Post analysis showed that more than 400 negative references had been removed from USAID draft audits before their final versions were issued.

USAID did not have an immediate response to the Post’s report. But a State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday the inspector general’s draft report on USAID’s programs in Egypt contained “inaccuracies” that were cleared up during a meeting between OIG staffers and then-U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was standard practice to meet with OIG officials prior to a report being issued.

She said the bail money was paid by non-governmental organizations from money they received from the U.S. government for their Egyptian programs. Psaki said the U.S. government’s connection to the bail money was made public in 2012.

The newspaper said several auditors and USAID employees felt they had been undermined and some had hired attorneys to file complaints or discrimination claims.

Michael G. Carroll had been serving as USAID’s acting inspector general, but withdrew his nomination on Wednesday without giving specific reasons. He plans to remain with the agency as a deputy inspector general.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Tom Brown)

New England Compounding Center Supervising Pharmacist Arrested at Logan International Airport




A Canton, Massachusetts, man was arrested today at Boston’s Logan International Airport in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation of New England Compounding Center (NECC) by the Justice Department’s Civil Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.





 





Glenn Adam Chin, 46, was attempting to board a plane to Hong Kong when he was arrested by federal authorities on one count of mail fraud.  He is scheduled to appear before Chief Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts later today.  The maximum sentence under the statute is 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.





 





The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch have conducted an active ongoing criminal investigation of NECC since the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak began in the fall of 2012.  Following the outbreak, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 751 patients across the country were diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, compounded at NECC.  The CDC reported that of those 751 patients, 64 died.  





 





Chin was a supervising pharmacist at NECC who was involved in compounding the contaminated MPA that caused the outbreak.  The criminal complaint charges Chin with participating in a scheme to fraudulently cause one lot of MPA to be labeled as injectable, meaning that it was sterile and fit for human use, and shipped to one of NECC’s customers, Michigan Pain Specialists.  As alleged in the affidavit, after receiving the MPA from NECC, doctors at Michigan Pain Specialists injected the drug into their patients believing it to be injectable as labeled.  As a result, 217 of those patients contracted fungal meningitis, and 15 of those patients died.





 





Although the criminal investigation of Chin and others is ongoing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged and arrested Chin today after federal authorities learned that he was planning to leave the country on an international flight that was scheduled to depart this morning. 





 





If you are a victim in the NECC matter you may call the U.S. Attorney’s Office victim assistance message line at 888-221-6023 or email

usama.victimassistance@usdoj.gov


to obtain case status information or assistance.  You may also find information at: 

http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/news.html


.





 





U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery for the Civil Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge James Royal of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Special Agent in Charge Vincent Lisi of the FBI’s Boston Field Division; Inspector in Charge Kevin Niland of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Hughes of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General Northeast Field Office and Resident Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service-Office of Inspector General in Boston, made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by George P. Varghese and Amanda P.M. Strachan of U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s Health Care Fraud Unit, and John W.M. Claud of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.





 





The details contained in the complaint are allegations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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U.S. veterans health probe says cannot link deaths to broken system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A probe into long waits for medical treatment at Veterans Affairs facilities in Phoenix found cover-ups of delays and a break-down in ethics but could not conclude that anyone died as a result of “unacceptable and troubling lapses” in care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ inspector general, an internal watchdog, released a final report on Tuesday documenting how Phoenix officials masked months-long wait times to try to achieve two-week targets used for salary and bonus awards.

The watchdog has found that manipulation of appointment data is a “systemic problem” around the country, and has since opened up investigations at 93 other facilities.

The revelations have embarrassed President Barack Obama, who had promised to improve services for veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The scandal prompted former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in May.

The inspector general said it could not substantiate an allegation made by a whistleblower in Phoenix that 40 veterans had died while waiting for care.

“While the case reviews in this report document poor quality of care, we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the deaths of these veterans,” the report said.

The report documented 45 cases where “unacceptable and troubling lapses” in care affected veterans, 28 of whom experienced “clinically significant delays” in getting treatment for a range of medical, surgical and mental health issues, however. Six of those patients died.

The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Republican Jeff Miller, said the report “paints a very disturbing picture”.

“We have seen no evidence that the corrupt bureaucrats who created the VA scandal will be purged from the department’s payroll anytime soon,” he said.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he was “relieved” the report did not find patients had died because of delays, but said officials needed to be held accountable.

The investigation found that while about 1,400 veterans were on official electronic waiting lists, more than 3,500 additional people were on hidden wait lists.

“These veterans were at risk of never obtaining their requested or necessary appointments,” the report said, noting that the officials who ran the Phoenix facilities were aware unofficial lists existed.

In a statement included with the report, new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald apologized to veterans and said the department was moving to fix the problems.

Obama on Tuesday announced steps to improve availability of mental health care for military personnel and told the American Legion’s national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, that his administration would address the wait lists issue.

“Misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities with long wait times and folks cooking the books is outrageous and inexcusable,” he said.

“What I want you to know directly from me, is we are going to get to the bottom of these problems, we are going to fix what is wrong, we are going to do right by your families.”

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

SunTrust Mortgage Agrees to $320 Million Settlement



The Department of Justice today announced an agreement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. that resolves a criminal investigation of SunTrust’s administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). 



 
As detailed in documents filed today, SunTrust misled numerous mortgage servicing customers who sought mortgage relief through HAMP.  Specifically, SunTrust made material misrepresentations and omissions to borrowers in HAMP solicitations, and failed to process HAMP applications in a timely fashion.  As a result of SunTrust’s mismanagement of HAMP, thousands of homeowners who applied for a HAMP modification with SunTrust suffered serious financial harms.



 
SunTrust has agreed to pay $320 million to resolve the criminal investigation into SunTrust’s HAMP Program.  The money is divided as follows:






In addition to the significant payment, SunTrust has agreed to implement certain remedial measures aimed at preventing future problems like those that led to this investigation.  Specifically, it will increase loss mitigation staff, monitor their mortgage modification process, and provide semi-annual reports regarding compliance with the agreement.





 
This settlement makes clear the Department’s commitment to supplementing its enforcement work with support for prevention programs.  The grant fund established by this settlement will help distressed homeowners avoid the harms that befell SunTrust customers.  This is real relief for housing agencies, which will compete for grants to increase their counseling and other services to homeowners across the country. 



 
“Instead of helping distressed homeowners, SunTrust’s mismanagement drove up foreclosures, decimated individual credit and increased costs for hardworking men and women across our nation,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “This resolution will provide much-needed restitution for victims. It will make available substantial funds to help other homeowners avoid foreclosure. And it will result in the kinds of systemic changes needed to ensure that this will not happen again.  This outcome demonstrates yet again that the Justice Department will never waver in its ongoing pursuit of those whose reckless and willful actions harm the American people and undermine our financial markets.”



 
“The $320 million resolution of this long-running investigation requires SunTrust Mortgage to compensate its customers for the harm caused by the company’s false promises in administration of the Home Affordable Modification Program in 2009 and 2010 – conduct thoroughly described in the Statement of Facts that accompanies the settlement documents,”  U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today.  “Up to $284 million will be paid in restitution directly to the victims of SunTrust’s conduct.  SunTrust will also establish a $20 million grant fund which will be distributed to agencies working with distressed homeowners and provide $16 million in asset forfeiture funds that will be used by law enforcement for future mortgage fraud investigations.  The company has also agreed to make specific changes in its operations designed to prevent similar problems in the future.



 
“SunTrust has done the right thing by agreeing to this novel package of restitution, remediation, and prevention, which represents a significant victory not only for SunTrust customers, but also for Americans who will receive counseling and other assistance when faced with financial challenges,” U.S. Attorney Heaphy said.  “This settlement demonstrates the commitment of the Department of Justice and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program to hold financial institutions accountable and provide restitution to those harmed by their conduct.”



 
“Today’s agreement with SunTrust underlines the importance of holding accountable those individuals and companies who pledge to ensure that homeowners are protected at all times; especially during times when the homeowner is seeking to save their home through a loan modification.  SunTrust has conceded that their HAMP program had numerous deficiencies and has harmed a significant amount of homeowners.  This behavior will not be tolerated.  We are proud to have worked with our law enforcement partners on this case,” said Michael P. Stephens, Acting Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.



 
“HAMP was designed to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for homeowners in dire straits, but TARP recipient SunTrust, rather than assist homeowners in need, financially ruined many through an utter dereliction of its HAMP program,” said Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP).  “This criminal investigation uncovered that SunTrust so bungled its administration of the program, that many homeowners would have been exponentially better off having never applied through the bank in the first place.  Unwilling to put resources into HAMP despite holding billions in TARP funds, SunTrust put piles of unopened homeowners’ HAMP applications in a room.  SunTrust’s floor actually buckled under the sheer weight of unopened document packages.  Documents and paperwork were lost.  Homeowners were improperly foreclosed upon.  Treasury was lied to.  The negligence with which SunTrust administered its HAMP program is appalling, miserable, inexcusable, and repulsive.  Real people lost their homes, and many others faced financial ruin.  Ending this behavior and, where necessary, forcing institutions to change their culture through law enforcement by SIGTARP and our partners will help begin the process of restoring faith in financial institutions and healing public trust.”



 
The investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the United States Postal Inspection Service. 



 




 

As Memorial Day approaches, U.S. eyes ongoing problems in the VA

As the nation heads into the Memorial Day weekend, ready to honor the men and women who died serving in its armed forces, the country is also trying to understand the latest series of problems rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs. Here are some questions and answers about the continuing scandal.

Are these the first complaints to hit the veterans health system?

The overwhelming majority of veterans praise the quality of healthcare they receive, but there have always been complaints about wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics. In 2001, the General Accounting Office issued a report warning that wait times for medical services at VA clinics were excessive — and dangerous. Since then, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have created a whole new generation of veterans needing physical and mental treatment, making the problems worse.

What put the issue in the spotlight again?

A doctor at a VA facility in Phoenix sent letters to the department’s inspector general in December complaining about delays in care. Whistleblowers in Arizona alleged that there was a secret waiting list to make it appear that veterans were getting their care within the targeted 14 days, but in reality the patients weren’t getting needed care.

There were also allegations that as many as 40 people may have died while on the lists, though no deaths have been tied to the delays. “We didn’t conclude, so far, that the delay caused the death,” VA Inspector General Richard Griffin said at a Senate hearing. “It’s one thing to be on a waiting list, it’s another for that to be the cause of death.”

Meanwhile, Rob Nabors, a top Obama administration official, was in Phoenix on Thursday as part of the ongoing investigation.

How did the scandal spread?

The complaints in Arizona prompted officials and former medical personnel from other hospitals to come forward to complain about long waiting times, poor healthcare delivery and an overly bureaucratized culture that was resistant to needed change. As of this week, the inspector general’s office said 26 facilities around the nation were being examined.

Is there a political component?

Yes. First there are the constituent groups such as the American Legion that represent veterans, which have called for the current head of the VA, former Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, to step down.

What about the political parties and the split in Congress?

Both Democrats and Republicans are upset at the delays and the possibility that there may have been deaths as a result. The obligation to take care of returning warriors is felt deeply in both parties and the nation. But some Republicans say the problems represent a failure of the Obama administration as the nation’s manager, and that the troubled veterans healthcare system proves the government’s inability to deal with such issues through Obamacare. The administration denies both sets of claims.

What happens next?

First, investigations at hospitals are continuing. Federal prosecutors are looking to see if any laws were broken in Phoenix and who may be responsible. Civilian investigations are also continuing and Robert Petzel, the VA’s top official for health affairs, resigned before he was slated to retire. Petzel testified that he knew health clinics were using inappropriate scheduling procedures as early as 2010.

Second, various legislation is pending in Congress to give top VA officials more control over the bureaucracy. The House has already passed a bill that would give the VA secretary more power to discipline the 450 career employees who serve as hospital directors or executives in the agency’s 21 regions.

Third, the rhetoric on all sides will certainly increase, as will the number of heads likely to roll.

“So if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period,” President Obama told reporters this week after meeting with Shinseki. “Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct it will be punished.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Former Executive Director of Public Charter School Sentenced to Nine Months in Prison for Stealing $29,000 in Funds

WASHINGTON—Monique S. Murdock, 45, the former executive director of Nia Community Public Charter School, was sentenced today to nine months in prison on a federal theft charge stemming from the embezzlement of $29,000 in funds meant for the school.

The sentence was announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Charles J. Willoughby, Inspector General for the District of Columbia; Steven Anderson, Special Agent in Charge, Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education; and Robert E. Craig, Special Agent in Charge of the Mid-Atlantic Field Office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Murdock, of Fort Washington, Maryland, pled guilty in November 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of theft from a program receiving federal funds. As part of her guilty plea, Murdock also admitted making unauthorized purchases with a government-issued purchase card while she worked for another employer in Virginia.

She was sentenced by the Honorable Richard J. Leon. Upon completion of her prison term, Murdock will be placed on three years of supervised release; Judge Leon ordered that the first three months of that time be spent on home confinement. Judge Leon also ordered Murdock to pay more than $40,000 in restitution for her crimes. Finally, he ordered her to pay an additional $29,000 forfeiture money judgment.

According to the government’s evidence, Murdock was a co-founder of Nia Community Public Charter School and its executive director from June 2006 through October 2008. As the executive director of the Northeast Washington school, she had the primary responsibility of overseeing its fiscal management.

Public charter schools are independently operated public schools that are open to all District of Columbia residents. Enrollment is on a space-available basis. Public charter schools receive public funds based on the number of students they enroll. Nia Community Public Charter School, for example, received funding through the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, as well as through the U.S. Department of Education.

Between July 2006 and August 2008, the school received more than $3.3 million from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. The school also received more than $548,000 from the U.S. Department of Education during the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years.

From March 2008 through August 2008, Murdock signed five checks on the school’s account, totaling $29,000, and converted them to her own personal use and benefit.

The theft charge involved the money stolen from the charter school.

The guilty plea also resolved a criminal investigation in Virginia. After separating from the school, Murdock was hired in August 2009 as a Child Youth and School Services Assistant Director by the Cody Development Center in Fort Myer, Virginia. In this position, she was provided with a government purchase card that was to be used for buying work-related items.

As part of her plea, Murdock admitted that from February 2012 through December 2012, while employed by the Cody Development Center, she used her government purchase card to make $11,773 in unauthorized gift card purchases.

Murdock’s restitution payments will include $29,000 to the U.S. Department of Education and another $11,773 to the U.S. Department of Defense.

The theft from Nia Community Public Charter School was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General. The activities at the Cody Development Center were investigated by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense.

U.S. Attorney Machen, U.S. Attorney Boente, Assistant Director in Charge Parlave, Inspector General Willoughby, Special Agent in Charge Anderson, and Special Agent in Charge Craig commended the work of those who investigated the matters. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, including Paralegal Specialists Krishawn Graham and Diane Hayes and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine K. Connelly, who assisted with forfeiture issues. Finally, they thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Lionel André, who prosecuted the case.

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Colombia tribunal restores ousted Bogota mayor


BOGOTA (Reuters) – A Colombian tribunal on Tuesday ordered that Gustavo Petro be restored as mayor of Bogota, just weeks after he was officially ousted from the post over mismanagement.

The 54-year-old former guerrilla left office on March 19 when President Juan Manuel Santos ratified a decision by the Council of State, the senior judicial authority that dismissed him over the poor handling of waste collection.

It was not immediately clear if Tuesday’s ruling by a Bogota tribunal could be appealed or over-ruled by Santos. The city has had two stand-in mayors since Petro left.

“Bogota’s superior tribunal protects political rights, that are the human rights of Bogota’s citizens and mine,” Petro said on his Twitter account.

Petro’s dismissal was declared in December by right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez over the mayor’s attempt to reclaim management of waste collection from private operators. Poor planning resulted in garbage piling up in the streets before the duties were returned to private contractors.

The inspector general’s office probes mismanagement by public officials.

Santos has previously said that he would restore Petro to office if a judicial ruling is made in the former mayor’s favor.

Petro’s ouster caused nationwide controversy. Many saw the decision by Ordonez to also ban Petro from holding public office for 15 years as particularly unfair and a move by the traditionally right-leaning political establishment to undermine leftist opponents.

It also raised concerns about political participation by Marxist FARC rebels if ongoing peace talks are successful.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is negotiating a five-point peace accord with the government to end a half-century of conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people.

Petro had been a member of the now-defunct M-19 guerrilla movement which disbanded to embrace politics.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Three Men Charged with Allegedly Defrauding the FCC of Approximately $32 Million

WASHINGTON—Three individuals have been indicted for their alleged roles in an approximately $32 million fraud against a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program designed to provide discounted telephone services to low-income customers.

The charges were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Inspector General David L. Hunt of the FCC Office of Inspector General (FCC-OIG), and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

Thomas E. Biddix, 44, of Melbourne, Florida; Kevin Brian Cox, 38, of Arlington, Tennessee; and Leonard I. Solt, 49, of Land O’Lakes, Florida, were charged by a criminal indictment returned on April 9, 2014, and unsealed today in federal court in Tampa, Florida. The indictment charges the three defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 15 substantive counts of wire fraud, false claims, and money laundering. The court also authorized a seizure warrant seeking the defendants’ ill-gotten gains, including the contents of multiple bank accounts, a yacht, and several luxury automobiles.

As alleged in the indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme to submit false claims with the federal Lifeline Program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, a not-for-profit corporation designated and authorized by the FCC. The program aims to provide affordable, nationwide telephone service to all Americans through discounted phone service for qualifying low-income customers.

The indictment alleges that the defendants owned and operated Associated Telecommunications Management Services LLC (ATMS), a holding company that owned and operated multiple subsidiary telephone companies that participated in the Lifeline Program. Biddix, chairman of the board at ATMS, and Cox and Solt allegedly caused the submission of falsely inflated claims to the Lifeline Program between September 2009 and March 2011 that resulted in ATMS fraudulently receiving more than $32 million.

The investigation has been conducted by the FBI, FCC-OIG, and IRS-CI. The United States Marshals Service provided assistance coordinating the seizures of assets.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Andrew H. Warren and Kyle Maurer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with assistance from Darrin McCullough of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Columbia, the Western District of Tennessee, and the Middle District of Florida.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Leader of Identity Theft Ring Sentenced for Stealing More Than 600 Identities and Causing More Than $1 Million in Losses




The leader of an identity theft ring that stole more than 600 identities from U.S. government employees and others was sentenced today to serve 12 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.


Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting United States Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia,
Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service’s Washington Field Office and Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. of the Fairfax County Police Department made the announcement.


Jenaro Blalock, 31, of Clinton, Md., pleaded guilty on Oct. 29, 2013, to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

 
Blalock was also ordered to pay full restitution to victims.


According to court documents, between June 2011 and July 2013, Blalock and co-leader Christopher Bush recruited women with access to identity information through their employers to steal more than 600 identities, primarily belonging to employees of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

 
Blalock provided blank driver’s licenses so that Bush could make fraudulent driver’s licenses bearing the victims’ real names, addresses and dates of birth.

 
Blalock also made fraudulent credit cards bearing victims’ names.

 
Members of the identity theft ring, including Blalock, used those fraudulent driver’s licenses and victims’ social security numbers to open instant credit lines at retailers and obtain rental cars, which were frequently sold on the black market with altered vehicle identification numbers.

 
According to information provided at sentencing, the identity theft ring caused victim losses of between $1 million and $2.5 million.


On Jan. 17, 2014, Bush was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison for his role in the scheme.


This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service
and the Fairfax County Police Department, with assistance from the City of Fairfax Police Department, Prince George’s County Washington Area Vehicle Enforcement, Prince George’s County Financial Crimes Section, the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, the Delaware State Police, the Maryland State Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State

.


The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Peter Roman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Kelly of the Eastern District of Virginia.




 







# # #

U.S. health secretary calls for probe of Obamacare website launch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday asked the department’s inspector general to investigate the performance of private contractors in the flawed launch of the Obamacare website.

The healthcare enrollment website, a key part of President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare law, crashed on its October 1 launch and was subjected to weeks of emergency fixes.

“I am asking the Inspector General to review the acquisition process, overall program management, and contractor performance and payment issues related to the development and management of the HealthCare.gov website,” Sebelius said in a blog post.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires most Americans to have at least enrolled in health coverage by the end of next March or pay a penalty.

The number of people seeking health insurance under the law more than doubled in November to around 250,000, according to a government report released on Wednesday, showing Obamacare is still far from its goal of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The website’s disastrous debut created a political crisis for Obama and fellow Democrats.

Sebelius, who is scheduled to testify before a congressional panel later Wednesday, also said she had asked Marilyn Tavenner, the chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to create a new chief risk officer position at CMS.

The new official’s first assignment would be to review information technology contracting and identify the “risk factors that impeded the successful launch of the HealthCare.gov website,” Sebelius said.

Late last month, the Obama administration announced that QSSI, a unit of health insurer UnitedHealth Group, would serve as a general contractor to oversee repairs to HealthCare.gov.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by W Simon and Meredith Mazzilli)