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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Former Mississippi Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Orchestrating Assault on Inmate

Kenny McLaughlin, 35, a corrections officer at the Stone County Regional Facility in Stone County, Miss., pleaded guilty today in federal court to ordering the beating of an inmate at the detention facility.   
 
According to court documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, on May 12, 2008, McLaughlin, while working as a corrections officer, ordered an inmate to arrange an unwarranted assault on another inmate.   As a result of McLaughlin’s order, the victim was assaulted by two fellow inmates in the shower area of the cellblock. McLaughlin was aware of the assault as it happened but did not notify any other officer or medical personnel of the assault. The victim suffered fractured ribs, cuts to his face and bruises to his chest.
 
“Law enforcement officers do not have the right to order that an individual, whether incarcerated or not, be beaten by others,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy L. Austin Jr. of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.   “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting law enforcement officers who violate the constitutional rights of individuals in their custody.”
 
The statutory maximum sentence for this offense is 10 years in prison.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 26, 2013.
 
This case was investigated by the Gulfport Resident Agency of the Jackson, Miss., Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda R. Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and Trial Attorney Dana Mulhauser of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

U.S. Marshals Arrest McKeesport Homicide Suspect



Pittsburgh, PA - McKeesport Homicide suspect Mark Leonard was apprehended hiding in the basement of a residence in the 1200 block of Morrow Street, Wilkinsburg, PA, at approximately 9:40 am this morning. He was found trying to secrete himself above furnace duct work to evade capture when U.S. Marshals discovered him and affected his arrest with assistance from officers from the Wilkinsburg Police Department. Leonard, age 32, was charged by the Allegheny County Police with Criminal Homicide and Firearms offenses for his alleged involvement in the January 11, 2013 shooting death of Jayemond Bailey inside the Street Stars Bar in McKeesport. Approximately 20 other patrons were inside the bar at the time of the shooting. Allegheny County Police secured a warrant for Leonard on January 16, 2013 following their investigation.

Leonard is originally from the Hill District and is known to frequent McKeesport and the Manchester section of Pittsburgh. Following his arrest, Leonard was turned over to Allegheny County Police Homicide Detectives.

U.S. Marshal Steve Frank attributed today’s success of taking another violent fugitive off the streets of Western PA to the joint effort of the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Allegheny County Sheriffs, and Westmoreland County. These agencies, along with the United States Attorney’s Office, are participating members of the U.S. Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force (WPAFTF).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fugitive Identified and Located by U.S. Marshals After 31 Years on the Run

Alexandria, VA – U.S. Marshal Bobby Mathieson announces the capture of Ronald Orville Garcia. Garcia was wanted by the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) in Virginia after failing to appear for court in 1982 on drug charges. Deputy U.S. Marshals for the Eastern District of Virginia (E/VA) and District of Nebraska’s Metro Fugitive Task Force (MFTF) working with Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office were able to confirm the identity of 64-year-old Garcia Tuesday afternoon. The MFTF then arrested Garcia based on his warrant.

In 1981, the DEA within E/VA arrested Garcia for allegedly selling cocaine. The subject was released on bail while awaiting trial, expected to appear for all court appearances. In early 1982, Garcia did not appear for a scheduled hearing. As the enforcement arm of the federal courts, the U.S. Marshals immediately began efforts to locate and apprehend Garcia for Bail Jumping. In late 2002, and again in 2005, the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California (C/CA) issued additional federal arrest warrants against Garcia for Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute. Since that time, the DEA and U.S. Marshals have collaborated in an effort to capture this fugitive.

In January, Deputy U.S. Marshals (DUSMs) in Norfolk, VA were contacted by officials in California. Deputies learned of a male living in California who allegedly stole the identity of a person in another state. It is suspected that by using the other person’s identity, the male in California illegally obtained a California Driver’s License. DUSMs confirmed the male as Garcia and tracked him to his residence in Sonoma County, CA.

While continuing investigations, DUSMs within both E/VA and the District of Nebraska (D/NE) were contacted by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s. Sheriff’s deputies informed DUSMs that they had contacted a male pursuant to a traffic stop. It is believed that the suspect was traveling back to California when stopped by the sheriffs. Garcia allegedly provided a Washington state license to law enforcement officers which displayed his picture but a name other than his true identity. The subject later claimed to be Garcia. Upon further questioning and verifications with USMS E/VA, Lancaster County authorities eventually learned of the subject’s true identity. Garcia is now currently awaiting extradition to either E/VA or C/CA.

To many, it seemed as though this fugitive had disappeared forever. However, the U.S. Marshals remained steadfast and continued to work diligently for approximately 31 years to capture him. Thanks to the joint efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, justice will be served on 64-year-old Ronald Garcia. U.S. Marshal for the D/NE Mark Martinez stated, “This fugitive fled from another state to Nebraska, this is a great example of the tenaciousness and relentless character of United States Marshals Task Forces.”

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested more than 36,300 federal fugitives and 86,700 state and local fugitives in fiscal year 2012. Our investigative network and capabilities allow for the unique ability to track and apprehend any fugitive who attempts to evade police capture, anywhere in the country, on very short notice.

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Forsyth County, North Carolina Sheriff to Resolve Employment Rights Claim of a North Carolina Army National Guard Soldier

The Justice Department announced today that it reached an agreement with Forsyth County, N.C., and Sheriff William T. Schatzman of Forsyth County to resolve allegations that they violated the employment rights of North Carolina Army National Guard soldier Michael Russell under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

The Justice Department’s complaint alleged that Sheriff Schatzman and Forsyth County violated USERRA by terminating Russell’s employment with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office without cause and without notice within one year after his reemployment following his return from active military duty.  Russell, an Iraq war veteran, had worked as a deputy sheriff and sergeant deputy sheriff with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office since 1989.  In February 2010, Russell completed a one-year deployment to Iraq with the North Carolina Army National Guard, and returned to his position with Forsyth County as a sergeant deputy sheriff.  On Nov. 29, 2010, less than one year following Russell’s reinstatement to his sergeant deputy sheriff position, Sheriff Schatzman and Forsyth County discharged Russell from his employment without cause.  According to the Justice Department’s complaint, Russell’s employment as a deputy sheriff was terminated because of Sheriff Schatzman’s belief that Russell had supported the election campaign of another candidate for Forsyth County Sheriff, Dave Griffith.  However, Russell did not support Griffith’s campaign for Forsyth County Sheriff and his termination was therefore without cause.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against service members with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations.  USERRA also provides service members such as Russell special protection from discharge from their civilian employment after returning from uniformed service, such as a deployment lasting more than 180 days.  Under USERRA, individuals who have served over 180 days may not be discharged from their civilian jobs within one year of their return from military service, except for cause

Under the terms of the agreement, which was filed as a Consent Decree in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Schatzman and Forsyth County have agreed to pay $96,000 in lost wages to Russell.  Schatzman and Forsyth County have also agreed to provide Russell with an employment reference letter that accurately reflects the content of his performance evaluations prior to his termination.
“USERRA affords military members who leave their civilian careers behind for significant periods of time to serve our country certain protections against unjust terminations,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “It is important that veterans have the opportunity to readjust to civilian life and their careers free from worry about termination without cause.”

The Justice Department initiated the lawsuit after Russell filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated the matter and determined that the complaint had merit.  This case was handled by the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'Fugitive of the Week', Vodie Bishop, Arrested by Worcester Police

Concord, NH - 'Fugitive of the Week' Vodie Bishop, 21, most recently of the Worcester, Mass. area was arrested Monday evening by the Worcester Police Department.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had requested the assistance of the U.S. Marshals – NH Joint Fugitive Task Force back in Aug. 2012. Bishop was wanted on arrest warrants for three counts of Failure to Appear for Felonious Sexual Assault.

As part of this investigation, Bishop was aired in the weekly feature known as the 'Fugitive of the Week' on Aug. 23rd, 2012. The 'Fugitive of the Week' is broadcast on WTPL-FM, WMUR-TV, The Union Leader, The Nashua Telegraph and prominently featured on the internet.

On Monday, Worcester Police Department, were conducting a welfare check of an individual by the name of “JR” who was possibly suicidal in the Kelly Square area. An Officer located “JR” and in the process of identifying him learned that his true identity was that of Bishop. Bishop had fled Manchester, NH area due to the extensive media attention brought by the ‘Fugitive of the Week’ program. A frisk of Bishop found that he was carrying several baggies of what is believed to be crack cocaine in his pocket. Bishop was arrested and brought to the Worcester Police Department for processing on the outstanding arrest warrants and for possession of a class B drug with intent to distribute. Bishop is being held at the Worcester County Jail in Worcester pending his initial court appearance.

Since the inception of the New Hampshire Joint Fugitive Task Force in 2002, these partnerships have resulted in over 5,370 arrests. These arrests have ranged in seriousness from murder, assault, unregistered sex offenders, probation and parole violations and numerous other serious offenses. Nationally the United States Marshals Service fugitive programs are carried out with local law enforcement in 94 district offices, 85 local fugitive task forces, 7 regional task forces, as well as a growing network of offices in foreign countries.

SFS hosts training exercise with civilian law enforcement

by Staff Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
460th Space Wing Public Affairs


3/27/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 460th Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog Section hosted a training exercise with regional civilian law enforcement agencies March 20 at a training facility here.

Working dog teams from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Denver Sheriff Department and Transportation Security Administration participated in the exercise, which provided an opportunity to share techniques and build camaraderie between the organizations.

"It's very important to get together and train together so we can learn from each other. Each one of us has our own little tricks to doing things," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly, 460th SFS military working dog trainer. "We all have the same goals in mind, and that's just to make the dogs better."

Combining training also means combining resources, a valuable opportunity for both the dogs and handlers.

"We try to mix it up. We do different training sites, different venues. We use different training aides. That way we're always mixing it up for the dogs," said Deputy J.J. Smith, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department explosive detection K9 handler. "We're always trying to provide environments where the dogs may end up. We use a movie theater. We use a warehouse. We use a school, cars, packages -- you name it.

"If there's a situation we may encounter, we try to train on it," said the handler who works with Flash, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois.

Just as the various physical training resources offer enhanced training for the dogs and handlers, so too does the relationship-building opportunity. As the handlers get to know one another better, they share stories and lessons learned.

"Our relationships work out really well. ... I really enjoy working with all the other agencies. It gives me a chance to pick up new things for my tool box," Kelly said. "If we're having a problem with a certain aspect of our canine training, they might have an input as far as how to fix that problem or make our dogs advance to another level."

The civilian law enforcement agencies also benefit, as they gather knowledge of the 460th SFS handlers' deployment experiences.

Local handlers learn a lot from recollections of the dog and handler relationship in "actual conditions," Smith said, referring to military missions in the deployed environment. "A lot of times they can bring back ideas of what they've actually seen over there.

"The bottom line is, for every organization, everybody has a different way of training canines, and everybody's idea is just as valid as another's," he added. "The ultimate goal is to get their canine team better. We're not machines, but we're training so we have a high success rate."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Puerto Rico Man Faces Life in Prison for Mass Shooting in 2009

Alexis Candelario-Santana, 41, faces life in prison following his conviction of murdering eight people and an unborn child and attempting to murder 19 others during a mass shooting at a Puerto Rico pub in 2009, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.

 On March 8, 2013, Candelari-Santana was convicted of 28 counts of violent crime in aid of racketeering activity, one count of racketeering conspiracy, nine counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and one count of possession of a firearm with a prior conviction. These offenses occurred on Oct. 17, 2009, in what became known as the “La Tombola Massacre.”

 The counts of conviction on capital murder charges necessitated a separate penalty phase of the trial.  That phase began on Monday, March 15, 2003. On Saturday, March 23, 2013, the jury announced it was unable to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict. As a result, a sentence of life in prison will be imposed.  There is no parole in the federal system.

 According to the evidence presented at trial, from approximately 1993 through 2003, Candelario-Santana was the leader of the drug trafficking organization that operated principally in Sabana Seca, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.  The organization purchased its drugs in bulk, processed and packaged the drugs and sold them at Sabana Seca through numerous sellers, runners and enforcers under Candelario-Santana’s control.  The organization sold crack, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, and members of the organization routinely possessed firearms in order to protect the drug points. In addition, the evidence introduced at trial established that, between 1995 and 2001, Mr. Candelario-Santana either personally killed, or ordered others to kill, 13 individuals whom he viewed as threats to his drug trafficking organization or as being disloyal members of his drug trafficking organization.

 In approximately 2002, Candelario-Santana was arrested and charged in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with numerous murders.  Sometime after Candelario-Santana’s arrest, co-defendant Carmelo Rondón-Feliciano took charge of the organization.  Candelario-Santana ran the drug trafficking organization from prison until approximately 2006, when he was marginalized by co-conspirator Wilfredo Semprit-Santana and Rondón-Feliciano.  According to evidence presented at trial, Candelario-Santana was infuriated at being removed from power within the drug trafficking organization.

 On Sept. 25, 2006, Rondón-Feliciano was arrested and charged in the District of Puerto Rico with federal drug trafficking crimes.  These charges stemmed, in part, from Rondón-Feliciano’s distribution of narcotics in Sabana Seca.  After Rondón-Feliciano’s arrest, co-conspirator Semprit-Santana took charge of the organization.

 In February 2009, Candelario-Santana was released from prison.

 On Oct. 17, 2009, Semprit-Santana held the grand opening of a pub he rented called La Tómbola, located in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.  The event was heavily attended, with people congregating inside and outside the establishment.  At approximately 11:50 p.m., Candelario-Santana, co-defendant David Oquendo-Rivas, and others, drove to La Tómbola.  When they arrived, they immediately opened fire on the patrons located outside.  Candelario-Santana and Oquendo-Rivas entered La Tómbola and opened fire on the people inside.  Nine people and an 8-month unborn child were killed as a result of the gunfire, and 19 other victims were shot and injured.  The individuals killed included Candelario-Santana’s godson, Rondón-Feliciano’s stepson and Candelario-Santana’s cousin. The evidence introduced at trial demonstrated that 335 expended shell-casings were recovered from the La Tombola crime scene.  The ballistics evidence established that eight .9 mm semi-automatic pistols, three 40 caliber semi-automatic pistols, two 45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, three AK-47-type assault rifles and one AR-15-type assault rifle, were used at the La Tombola crime scene.

 Candelario Santana will be formally sentenced on June 21, 2013.

The case was investigated by FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Department, with the collaboration of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Instituto de Ciencias Forenses; and the Puerto Rico Department of Justice.  The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney María Dominguez-Victoriano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcela Mateo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Trial Attorney Bruce R. Hegyi of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Unit.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Four Police of Puerto Rico Officers Indicted on Federal Civil Rights, Obstruction of Justice and Perjury Charges

A superseding indictment against four Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) officers was announced today by Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division; Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico; and Carlos Cases, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Juan Field Office.
 
POPR Lieutenant Erick Rivera Nazario and Officer David Colon Martinez were indicted on civil rights charges alleging that they violated the constitutional rights of Jose Irizarry Perez while he was celebrating the local election results at the Las Colinas housing development in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 5, 2008.   Rivera was also charged with violating the civil rights of Irizarry Perez’s father, Jose Irizarry Muniz.   In addition, Rivera, Colon, Officer Miguel Negron Vazquez and Sergeant Antonio Rodriguez Caraballo were indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI and a federal grand jury.
             
According to the 18 count superseding indictment, while Colon held and restrained Irizarry Perez, Rivera and another POPR officer assaulted Irizarry Perez with their hands and a police baton, which resulted in bodily injury to Irizarry Perez.   The superseding indictment alleges that Irizarry Perez was thereby deprived of his right to be free from unreasonable seizures by those acting under color of law.  Although Irizarry Perez died as a result of injuries he sustained on Nov. 5, 2008, the superseding indictment does not include charges that his death resulted from the defendants’ conduct.  Rivera, who was a supervisor at the time of the incident, was also charged with failing to intervene and failing to keep Irizarry Perez and his father from harm when an officer whom Rivera supervised assaulted the victims in Rivera’s presence.  
 
In addition, the superseding indictment alleges that all four of the charged officers made false statements concerning the incident to the FBI and to the federal grand jury which had been investigating the incident.   Colon and Negron were also charged with obstruction of justice for submitting false police reports and for providing misleading information to the Puerto Rico prosecutor that initially investigated the matter.   Rivera was additionally charged with obstruction of justice for submitting a false police report, and Rodriguez was charged with obstruction of justice for providing misleading information to the Puerto Rico prosecutor.     
 
If convicted, Rivera faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each of three charged counts of civil rights violations; a maximum of 20 years in prison for one charged count of obstruction of justice by submitting a false police report; and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for one charged count of making a false statement to the FBI and one charged count of making a false declaration to the grand jury.  
 
If convicted, Colon faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for one charged count of a civil rights violation; a maximum of 20 years in prison for one charged count of obstruction of justice by submitting a false police report and two charged counts of providing misleading information to the local prosecutor; and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for one charged count of making a false statement to the FBI and one charged count of making a false declaration to the grand jury.  
 
If convicted, Negron faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for one charged count of obstruction of justice by submitting a false police report and one charged count of providing misleading information to the local prosecutor; and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for one charged count of making a false statement to the FBI and one charged count of making a false declaration to the grand jury.  
           
If convicted, Rodriguez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for one charged count of obstruction of justice by providing misleading information to the local prosecutor; and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for one charged count of making a false statement to the FBI and one charged count of making a false declaration to the grand jury.  
 
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
 
This case is being investigated by the San Juan Division of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose A. Contreras from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Shan Patel from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Two Colorado Law Enforcement Agencies to Improve Communication with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a cooperative settlement agreement with the Arapahoe, Colo., County Sheriff’s Office under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   This agreement is a companion to one reached on March 8, 2013, with the city of Englewood, Colo.
 
The Justice Department received complaints by individuals who are deaf, the Colorado Association of the Deaf and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition that officers for the city of Englewood and the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office were not providing qualified sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services when needed for effective communication with people who are deaf, including arrestees, victims and witnesses.   The department’s complainants had also filed a lawsuit based on the same allegations in federal district court, Lawrence et al. v. City of Englewood, et al. While the department initiated investigations into the allegations against Englewood’s police department and the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, and considered intervening in the private lawsuit, it also reached out to the parties to see if there were grounds for a cooperative resolution.   All parties, including city of Englewood’s Police Chief John Collins and Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, expressed a commitment to ensure full compliance with the ADA.  
 
The resulting settlement agreements include some model ways to ensure people who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to communicate effectively with law enforcement.   For instance, officers for Englewood and Arapahoe County will use this pictogram to ask whether a deaf or hard of hearing person requests a sign language interpreter: www.justice.gov/opa/images/sign-lang-small.gif.
 
Once the person expresses a need for a sign language interpreter, Englewood and Arapahoe have agreed to provide one under most circumstances, often within an hour of the request.
 
“People who are deaf or hard of hearing need to be able to communicate clearly with police and sheriff officers, whether they are crime victims, witnesses, arrestees, detainees, or just members of the public,” said Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Citizens of the City of Englewood and Arapahoe County should be proud of their leaders. I also have to express gratitude to the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition and the Colorado Association of the Deaf for their important work – and creative problem-solving-- in this area.”  
 
“Englewood Police Chief John Collins and Arapahoe County Sheriff J. Grayson Robinson deserve our thanks and appreciation for their effort to provide effective models for Colorado’s – and the nation’s – law enforcement communities to work with deaf and hard of hearing citizens,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado John Walsh.  “I strongly encourage law enforcement agencies throughout Colorado to follow their lead and adopt these tried-and-true measures.  Doing so is simple, cost-effective, and will enhance law enforcement agencies’ protection of public safety while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”  
 
Under the settlements, the city of Englewood and Arapahoe County will each pay $35,000 to the private plaintiffs.   In addition, they will enter into contracts with qualified sign language interpreters to ensure ready availability, train their staff on the ADA, appoint ADA coordinators, post signs indicating the availability of sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, provide text telephones and volume control telephones, modify their handcuffing policies for people who use sign language or hand writing to communicate, stock and provide hearing aid and cochlear implant processor batteries in the detention facility, and adopt policies consistent with the ADA.   The private plaintiffs also signed these agreements, which resolved the Department of Justice’s investigations as well as the private lawsuit.
 
For more information on the ADA and law enforcement, visit www.ada.gov. Those interested in finding out more about these settlements or the obligations of law enforcement under the ADA may also call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov . ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Confessions of a text offender

by Kelly M. Lee, Contractor
Air Force Safety Center


3/18/2013 - Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- As the emergency contact for my mother and sister, and because I'm a single mom, I'm never far from my phone. My reality is that I have to have my phone near me at all times. A side effect of this is that I have developed an obsessive compulsion with texting. If I receive a text message, I HAVE to grab the phone and respond almost immediately. And, I've gotten in the habit of having a thought and texting it - right then, right there. If I need to remember something for work, I'll text it to my email. It's convenient, it's done, and it's effective.

Here's the clincher -- I don't have enough self-control to receive a text and ignore it. This means, while my phone sits in my passenger's seat and my kids are in their car seats, and I'm actively driving, I'll pick up that phone and read what it says. I am THAT person!

It gets worse ... I work in safety! So here I sit, very aware of just how stupid I'm being and I can't stop. I've seen the video of the person swerving into traffic and being smashed into pieces. I've seen the billboards of the parents of the daughter whose last text while driving was "where r u?" So, what's a text addict to do? How do I work with my known compulsion to stop my texting and driving?

The only answer, for me, is to physically separate myself from the phone. I can leave it on. I know when I receive a text message. ALL text messages can wait. The school doesn't text. My mom doesn't text. My sister will call if there's an emergency. Repeat the phrase - ALL text messages can wait. So, I've separated myself from the phone, and all text messages can wait. Furthermore, I've asked friends not to text during my commute to and from work and I don't text anyone prior to driving. Yes - I'm pathetic, but that's been established!

So, that leaves phone calls. I'm separated from my phone, I receive a phone call, there is no message left - it can wait. I receive a phone call, there is a message. I can wait until I get to my destination or I can pull off the road, get the phone, and listen to the message - putting the phone back out of my reach afterwards.

I write this article because I feel like I can be the accident that never happened. I needed to be realistic about my lack of self-discipline. I needed to take steps to ensure I don't pick up that phone while driving. I needed to remove the temptation. I am that person who doesn't think it will ever happen to her. I am lucky - damn lucky - it hasn't happened to me already. I'm not writing this article from a wheelchair, at my kids' gravesites, or from jail. "I'd rather be lucky than good" just doesn't fit this scenario. I want to be safe! I want my kids to be safe! I want the innocent people on the roads with me to be safe! I challenge you all to make that extra effort to save yourself from you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Security Contractors Plead Guilty in Virginia to Illegally Obtaining $31 Million from Contracts Intended for Disadvantaged Small Businesses

Executives at two Arlington, Va.-based businesses have pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $31 million in government contract payments that should have gone to disadvantaged small businesses.
 The guilty pleas were announced today by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin.

 “These executives used their knowledge and experience to abuse a program created to ensure minority small business owners could compete for government contracts,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “They not only illegally obtained millions from the United States, they also victimized legitimate minority owners who didn’t get the bids.”

“Keith Hedman and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained valuable government contracts intended for minority-owned small businesses, and pocketed millions of dollars for themselves,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.  “They abused an important government program, and will now face the consequences.”

“This investigation confirmed that these executives repeatedly took actions that gave them a fraudulent advantage in the contracting process,” said NASA Inspector General Martin.  “I commend the outstanding efforts of our agents and our law enforcement partners involved in this case in protecting the integrity of the 8(a) program.”

 According to court documents, Keith Hedman, 53, of Arlington, formed an Arlington-based security service consulting company in approximately 2001.  Hedman formed the company, listed as Company A in court filings, with an African-American woman who was listed as its president and CEO to enable the company to participate in the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Section 8(a) program, which enables certain small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses.  In 2001, Hedman’s company received approval to participate in the 8(a) program on the basis of the African-American president and CEO’s listed role, but when she left the company in 2003, Hedman became its sole owner and the company was no longer 8(a)-eligible.

 Hedman admitted that in 2003 he created a shell company, listed as Company B in court records, to ensure he could continue to gain access to 8(a) contracting preferences for which Company A was not qualified.  Prior to applying for the shell company’s 8(a) status, Hedman selected an employee, Dawn Hamilton, 48, of Brownsville, Md., to serve as a figurehead owner based on her Portuguese heritage and history of social disadvantage, when in reality the new company would be managed by Hedman and senior leadership at Company A.  To deceive the SBA, they falsely claimed that Hamilton formed and founded the company and that she was the only member of the company’s management.  They continued to mislead the SBA through 2012, even lying to the SBA to overcome a protest filed by another company accusing Hedman’s former company and the shell company of being inappropriately affiliated.

 From Company B’s creation through February 2012, Hedman – not Hamilton – exercised ultimate decision-making authority and control over the company by controlling its finances, allocation of personnel and government contracting activities.  Hedman nonetheless maintained the impression that Hamilton was leading the company, including through forgeries of signatures by Hamilton to documents she had not seen or drafted.  Hedman also retained ultimate control over the shell business’s bank accounts throughout its existence.  In 2011, Hedman withdrew $1 million in cash from Company B’s accounts and gave the funds in cash to Hamilton and three other co-conspirators. In total, Hedman and Hamilton secured through the shell company more than $31 million in government contract payments, which generated more than $6 million in salary and payments for the conspirators that they were not entitled to receive.

 In addition, Hedman admitted that he agreed to pay a $50,000 bribe through the shell business to a U.S. government contracting official for the official’s help in securing contracts for Company B.

 Hedman and Hamilton pleaded guilty on March 13 and March 15, 2013, respectively, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to major government fraud and face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a multimillion-dollar fine for that charge. Hedman also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  Hedman agreed to forfeit more than $6.3 million, and Hamilton agreed to forfeit more than $1.2 million.  Hedman is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.  Hamilton’s sentencing is scheduled for June 21, 2013, before U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III.

 In addition, the following individuals have also pleaded guilty to major fraud or conspiracy to commit major fraud:

• David George Lux, 62, of Springfield, Va., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.  Lux served as the chief financial officer at Company A from 2007 through February 2012 and performed work for Company B throughout that time while officially on Company A’s payroll.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14, 2013, by Judge Brinkema.

• Joseph Richards, 51, of Arlington, pleaded guilty on March 14, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Richards served as the chief operating officer and chief of staff for Company A from 2005 through 2008 and then vice president from 2010 through February 2012.  He also served as Company B’s chief of staff from 2008 through 2010.  According to court documents, Richards performed work for Company B throughout his time at both companies. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14, 2013, by Judge Brinkema.
• David Sanborn, 60, of Lexington, S.C., pleaded guilty on March 13, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Sanborn served as vice president at Company A from 2001 through 2009 and the company’s president from 2010 through February 2012.  According to court documents, Sanborn performed work for Company B from its inception while on Company A’s payroll.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28, 2013, by Judge Hilton.
 This case was investigated by the NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the SBA OIG, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the General Services Administration OIG and the Department of Homeland Security OIG.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chad Golder and Ryan Faulconer, a former Trial Attorney for the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.