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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Thursday, August 22, 2013
Florida Woman Sentenced for Role in Reverse Mortgage Fraud Scheme
A Miami title agent and former mortgage broker was sentenced today for her role in a reverse mortgage loan fraud scheme.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge Lester Fernandez of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) made the announcement after sentencing by Senior Judge Richard W. Goldberg, sitting by designation in the Southern District of Florida.

Yesenia Pouparina, aka “Yesenia Campos,” 42, was sentenced today to 46 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $207,810 in restitution. Pouparina was convicted in February 2013 of four counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Pouparina, a licensed title agent in the state of Florida, sought to obtain a reverse mortgage loan worth more than $400,000 on her own property in the name of her mother, an individual who failed to meet the requirements of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.  She submitted a false loan application and doctored records in support of that application, misrepresenting her mother’s eligibility to participate in the program.  Pouparina acted as the title agent for the loan and disbursed the loan proceeds directly to her own personal bank accounts.  Pouparina also enriched herself by collecting fees generated by the loan, and further profited by using the loan proceeds in connection with her business as a hard-money lender in other mortgage deals.  

Following Pouparina’s conviction on the fraud counts, the jury also found forfeitable three bank accounts controlled by the defendant, which were seized by the government during the course of the investigation.

This case was investigated by HUD-OIG.  Trial Attorney Sandra L. Moser of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Today’s conviction is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorney’s offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Lessons From Vibrant Response

Weekly Address: Making Higher Education More Affordable for the Middle Class | The White House

Weekly Address: Making Higher Education More Affordable for the Middle Class | The White House


Readout of Secretary Hagel's Call with Egyptian Minister of Defense General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

           Pentagon Press Secretary George Little provided the following readout:

           "Today Egyptian Minister of Defense Al-Sisi called Secretary Hagel in Malaysia to discuss developments in Egypt. Minister Al-Sisi updated Secretary Hagel on the security situation throughout Egypt, as well as progress on the political roadmap. Secretary Hagel stressed the importance of an inclusive, transparent political process that includes all Egyptians, and that differences must be resolved without violence. Minister Al-Sisi also updated the Secretary on security developments on the Sinai Peninsula, and Secretary Hagel expressed appreciation for Egypt's efforts to ensure the security of the U.S. Embassy facilities and all U.S. personnel serving in Egypt."


Ex-Im Bank Approves $105.4 Million Loan to Finance SpaceX Launch

Washington, D.C. – Continuing its support of the space industry in America, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has authorized a $105.4 million loan to Space Communication Ltd. of Ramat Gan, Israel, to finance the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launch of the Amos-6 communications satellite, the purchase of American made-solar arrays, and insurance brokered by Marsh USA (Marsh)

The transaction is Ex-Im Bank’s third in support of a SpaceX launch, and it will support approximately 600 U.S. jobs, according to bank estimates derived from Departments of Commerce and Labor data and methodology. In June of 2013, Ex-Im Bank announced that it had approved financing for the launches of two satellites manufactured by Space Systems/Loral LLC, and in November of 2012 the Bank announced that it had approved financing for the launches of two Boeing-manufactured satellites.

“Ex-Im Bank is always ready to help the American space industry boost its international sales and export its products to important markets,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “Our support of American launches and exports levels the playing field for U.S. companies and keeps highly-skilled, well-paying jobs on American soil.”

Satellite financing represents Ex-Im Bank’s most prominent stand-out sector in the Bank's newly transformed portfolio. Just three years ago, satellites accounted for only $50 million in authorizations per year. This year numbers as the third consecutive year in which Ex-Im Bank's satellite sector authorizations will have topped $1 billion.

Amos-6, a geosynchronous satellite, will replace Space Communication’s Amos-2 and cover markets in Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The satellite will also provide pan-European coverage and broadband services in Europe and Africa.

The launch is scheduled for 2015.

Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches rockets and spacecraft. It is the first private company to build, launch, and dock spacecraft at the International Space Station, a mission previously accomplished only by government space entities.

“We appreciate Ex-Im Bank’s support of both SpaceX and the U.S. space industry,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer. “With export financing for contracts like the AMOS-6 mission, Ex-Im Bank helps SpaceX compete successfully with international launch service providers, bringing overseas satellite launch business and high-tech jobs back to American soil.”

ATK Space Systems Inc., a participant in the transaction and a manufacturer of the solar arrays for the satellite, is a member of the ATK Aerospace Group. The company provides a broad portfolio of products and services that include integrated satellite bus systems, world-class multidisciplinary engineering services, and market-leading integrated thermal-control systems.

Founded in 1871, Marsh is a global leader in insurance brokering and risk management. The company has approximately 26,000 colleagues who collaborate to provide advice and transactional capabilities to clients in over 100 countries.


High-Level International Conference on Water Cooperation
Daniel A. Reifsnyder
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Dushanbe, Tajikistan
August 21, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Like others, we wish to thank President Rahmon and the Government and people of Tajikistan for their leadership on these important issues and for their warm hospitality.

The message of this conference should be simple: There is no alternative to cooperation on water.

We have heard repeatedly of the incredible challenges that nearly every one of us now faces and will continue to face. I don’t think there is one among us who does not appreciate – at a personal level – the importance of water. Our economies depend on it, our environment depends on it, and our lives depend on it. We know this is true for ourselves and for our neighbors.

As demands rise and supplies decline – as variability increases – there will be conflicts among competing uses and among competing users. There will be legitimate disputes over who has access, and over when and how water is used. There will also be less room for mistakes and a greater need to get the most value out of every drop.

This can be done. In the United States, we have more than 20 large river basins and more than 20,000 small watersheds. We share several rivers with our neighbors. The availability of water and the demand for water varies greatly across these basins, as do the interests of the public in how these resources should be managed.

We have a range of institutional arrangements that support joint research, data sharing and cooperative decision-making. We are working with Canada, jointly managing our shared river systems to optimize power production, protect the environment, and minimize the risks from floods. With Mexico, we recently put in place a provisional agreement that enables Mexico to store water.

I am pleased that this conference is so strongly focused on positive examples of cooperation. There seem to be common strands that run through each of these examples -- among them: (1) a thorough understanding of the problems each participant faces; (2) an appreciation of the concerns that arise from these problems; (3) a willingness to share data and information, which increases trust and confidence; (4) a willingness to work together in various arrangements and mechanisms to address shared problems jointly; and (5) a strong belief that cooperation produces better, more durable results.

I am also pleased to be here discussing some of the mechanisms that support cooperation on shared waters -- such as the Shared Waters Program (SWP) at the United Nations Development Program. The SWP is a multi-donor platform for establishing new, or strengthening existing, regional mechanisms for advancing cooperation on shared waters. Initial U.S. funding is currently supporting SWP activities in several basins. The focus of this initiative will be on laying the ground work -- for example, through meetings, workshops, legal/technical/facilitation expertise that establish a foundation -- for cooperative work between and among countries on shared waters. Once that ground work is laid, we expect that long-term capacity building and institutional reform will be supported through traditional bilateral and regional development assistance efforts. The SWP thus complements these development activities.

Mr. Chairman, in closing, let me say that there really is no choice. The history here is clear – without cooperation economic growth is slower and insecurity grows. Through cooperation, communities and countries can fully realize the multiple benefits of shared water resources, and work toward a more secure water future.

I thank you.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alabama Tax Return Preparers and 19 Foreign Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Defraud the United States, Identity Theft and Money Laundering
Justice Department announced that a 14-count superseding indictment was unsealed today, charging JB Tax Professional Services Inc., Jacqueline J. Arias and Jose Bayron Estrada, of Spruce Pine, Ala., along with 19 foreign nationals, many of whom resided in the New Orleans area, with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by filing fraudulent income tax returns.  The indictment also charges certain defendants with aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Most of the defendants were previously indicted in May 2013 and arrested in June 2013.

According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy obtained Forms W-2, often by purchasing them for cash, for the purposes of filing fraudulent income tax returns. Conspirators further obtained individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) for use in filing fraudulent tax returns, in some cases using false applications filed with the assistance of Arias and JB Tax Professional Services.  An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a social security number. Both Arias and the business were designated by the IRS as certified acceptance agents, which are entrusted by the IRS with the responsibility of reviewing the documentation of an ITIN applicant’s identity and alien status for authenticity, completeness and accuracy before submitting their application to the IRS.

The charging documents allege that the defendants used the social security numbers of real persons to conduct mail and wire fraud.  The defendants also allegedly disguised and concealed the proceeds of their fraud by agreeing to conduct certain types of financial transactions.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Each defendant faces a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge.  Each aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence, and the defendants charged in the money laundering conspiracy count face a possible maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. The defendants will also be subject to fines, mandatory restitution and forfeiture if convicted.

The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees Homeland Security Investigations; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, in partnership with the St. Tammany Parish, La. and Jefferson Parish, La. Sheriffs’ Departments.  The case is being prosecuted by Tax Division Trial Attorneys Hayden Brockett and Kevin Lombardi.


Court Enters Final Judgments by Consent Against SEC Defendants Giuseppe Pino Baldassarre and Robert Mouallem

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on August 16, 2013, the Honorable Allyne R. Ross, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, entered final judgments by consent against Defendants Giuseppe Pino Baldassarre and Robert Mouallem. The final judgments permanently enjoin Baldassarre and Mouallem from future violations of Sections 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The final judgments also (i) order Baldassarre and Mouallem to pay total combined disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $21,932.03, which is deemed satisfied by the forfeiture orders entered against them in a parallel criminal action, and (ii) bar Baldassarre and Mouallem from participating in any offering of penny stock. In addition, the judgment against Baldassarre prohibits him from acting as an officer or director of a public company.

On December 7, 2011, the SEC filed its complaint against Baldassarre, Mouallem, and Malcolm Stockdale alleging that from at least October 2009, they engaged in a fraudulent broker bribery scheme designed to manipulate the market for the common stock of Dolphin Digital Media, Inc. The complaint alleged that they engaged in an undisclosed kickback arrangement with an individual who claimed to represent a group of registered representatives with trading discretion over the accounts of wealthy customers.


Fire consumes a once-healthy California redwood tree.  Credit: USFS


California's iconic redwoods in danger from fire and infectious disease
Pathogen that causes sudden oak death leaves redwoods vulnerable to fire
First it was sudden oak death, the oak disease caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, that threatened California's extensive coastal forests.

Now these forests' stately trees are facing a new menace: the combined effects of sudden oak death and fire. And this time, the iconic redwoods are at risk.

Usually resistant to the effects of wildfires, California's coast redwoods are now burning as fast as other trees. Why?

Into the redwood forest

To find answers, plant pathologist David Rizzo of the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) and colleagues monitored more than 80,000 hectares of forests near Big Sur, Calif. In their plots, tanoaks, California bay laurels and coast redwoods grow.

The study began in 2006. "In 2008, almost half our plots were burned by wildfires that lasted the better part of a month," says Rizzo.

That was the beginning of the end for many coast redwoods, surprising researchers who expected the trees to be fire-proof.

The key to the redwood deaths, discovered Rizzo, Margaret Metz and Kerri Frangioso of UC Davis, along with Morgan Varner of Mississippi State University and Ross Meentemeyer of North Carolina State University, lies in the sudden oak death pathogen.

"If redwoods didn't live in forests affected by the disease," says Metz, "they could withstand fires just fine."

The biologists recently reported their results online in the journal Ecology, published by the Ecological Society of America.

After the fires were under control, the scientists returned to their study plots. Half had long been infested with the sudden oak death pathogen; half had been spared. The redwoods' mortality risk, it turned out, was four times higher in the sudden oak death plots as in healthy plots.

"The disease likely created more fuel for wildfires as dead tanoak branches fell," says Rizzo. "The loss of the oaks also would have decreased the amount of shade, drying out the forest and turning it into a tinder box, one not even redwoods could survive."

Pathogens + fires = dead redwoods

The forest ecosystem disturbance that happens when a pathogen like sudden oak death becomes established and starts killing trees, says Rizzo, "clearly isn't the only one that may be important to that forest."

Sudden oak death has killed millions of trees in the coastal forests of California and Oregon. It was first linked with the mortality of tanoaks and coast live oaks in the San Francisco Bay area in the mid-1990s. In 2000, Phytophthora ramorum was confirmed as the causal agent.

Analyses of the pathogen's genetic structure indicate that a single introduction sparked the wave of disease. It likely originated at a nursery in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Since then, scientists have found that the pathogen has infected plants in 45 genera, including ferns. "These host species are important parts of the forests along the California coast and at the wildland-urban interface," says Rizzo.

The pathogen's current range extends more than 435 miles from the Big Sur area in central California north to Mendocino County, with smaller affected areas in Humboldt County, Calif., and Curry County, Ore. Forests along Big Sur are among the most affected, with 100 percent of tanoaks infected in some stands.

Many of those forests are also prone to wildfires. "There's a growing concern that dead trees from the disease may make wildfires worse," Metz says.

The 2008 wildfires were the first in forests affected by sudden oak death. The largest fire, called the Basin Complex, was ignited by a lightning storm in June. It burned more than 95,000 hectares in the Big Sur region.

In September, the Chalk Fire started south of the Basin Complex perimeter; it burned an additional 16,000 acres. "More than 40 percent of our 280 plots went up in flames, 98 in the Basin Fire, and 23 in the Chalk Fire," says Rizzo.

A month after containment of the Basin Complex fire, the researchers surveyed 61 plots to measure burn severity before the forest could change with the onset of California's winter rains. "These measurements serve as our baseline data on ecosystem responses to interactions between fire and infectious disease," says Rizzo.

Key hidden high in the forest canopy

When sudden oak death kills tanoaks, it alters the trees in ways that leave neighboring redwoods vulnerable, the researchers found.

Flames are carried high into the tree canopy by the dead tanoaks; they then scorch the crowns of surrounding redwoods. Injury to the redwoods' crowns is what likely caused the trees to die in the 2008 fires, the scientists believe.

"Humans are causing widespread changes throughout our world, including greater wildfires related to changing climate and from increasing infectious diseases due to more modes of transportation," says Sam Scheiner, program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the joint NSF-NIH Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, which funded the research.

"This study shows that these changes can combine in unexpected ways that can be very destructive. More such research is needed if we are to prepare for what's to come."

Rizzo agrees. "We're moving species around the globe at high rates, and global warming has increased fire severity. There may be all sorts of consequences, among them, dead and dying coast redwoods."

-- Cheryl Dybas, NSF

Friday, August 23, 2013

President Obama Holds a Town Hall on College Affordability | The White House

President Obama Holds a Town Hall on College Affordability | The White House


Growing Engagement, Cooperation Mark Hagel's Second Asia Visit
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

HONOLULU, Aug. 23, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here yesterday on the first leg of a trip to the Asia-Pacific region to meet with counterparts and leaders from several countries and to attend a defense ministers meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
This is the secretary's second trip to the region since June.

Before visiting Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines in the days ahead, Hagel stopped at Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe Bay here to thank 200 Marines and sailors for their service to the nation and to honor their part in President Barack Obama's strategic U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

"This rebalance is not only about our security interests in this area, it's about a partnership of prosperity for this region of the world -- over 6 billion global citizens today," the secretary said.

Threats that confront the world today are not unique to a region, a country, a religion or an ethnic group, he added. The threats are universal and they make alliances even more important than they have been in the past.

"You are all part of it," Hagel told the Marines and sailors. "You are at the front end, ... the cutting edge, ... and what you do and how you do it is particularly important as to how the world sees America and how they view our ... intentions."

On Aug. 25 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a senior defense official said, Hagel will meet with his recently appointed counterpart, Defense Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. Hagel first met with Hishammuddin in June at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. During the meeting, both leaders emphasized the importance of working bilaterally and multilaterally toward greater stability in Southeast Asia. They also discussed cyber issues and transnational threats.

"Malaysia-U.S. defense ties have dramatically improved over the last several years," the defense official said. "We're doing a lot more cooperative activity, [and] we're doing a lot more together. This is an opportunity for them to really touch base on the bilateral defense relationship and see where we're headed in the years ahead."

Hagel also will meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss overall defense relations and regional issues, including Hagel's recent consultations with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan, "which I think will be of great interest throughout the region," the defense official said.

Later in the week, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Hagel will meet with his Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, whom the secretary also met with during the Shangri-La Dialogue. There, they reaffirmed the importance of deepening ties in support of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, an initiative of Presidents Barack Obama and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono calling for closer ties between the two governments and societies.

In Singapore, the defense leaders also reviewed progress made in recent years to increase exercises, training and regular defense policy dialogues.

"With Indonesia, we also have a significant increase in defense cooperation over the last several years," the senior defense official said.

From Sept. 5 to Sept. 13, the United States and Indonesia will co-chair a counterterrorism ground exercise agreed upon by the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting plus eight countries, or ADMM Plus, the defense official said.

ASEAN was formed in 1967. Its 10 member states are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Defense ministers from these nations are attendees of the annual ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, or ADMM. The ADMM-Plus is made up of the 10 ASEAN members and its eight dialogue partners: the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

In Jakarta, Hagel will meet with Yudhoyono, a respected leader with great influence in the region, the defense official said. "He's entering his last year in office," the official added, "so it's a nice opportunity to thank Indonesia for a lot of tremendous cooperation over the last several years."

The ADMM Plus meeting begins Aug. 28 in Brunei. This is only the second time the full 18-member ADMM Plus ministerial meeting will be held, and another senior defense official said it's important for the United States to be there for two reasons.

The first, he said, the forum is proving to be extremely action focused.

"The ADMM countries have three multilateral exercises this year, [and] one of our focuses in the rebalance to Asia is shifting from a history of almost [all] bilateral engagements to do more multilateral engagements, to do more with groups of countries to meet common challenges," he said. "ADMM is giving us a very good way to do that."

Brunei recently hosted a major humanitarian assistance-disaster response-military medicine exercise that included all 18 of the countries that will be at the ADMM Plus meeting, the official said, and will involve more than 3,000 personnel.

"We see those as part of the wave of the future -- how common challenges are going to be handled in this region," he explained. "So being at ADMM is an opportunity to continue focusing with this group of countries on doing those kinds of action-oriented [activities] on the defense side."

The second reason, the official said, is that ADMM offers a good opportunity to engage with partners all in one place.

"The secretary will be able to have bilateral engagements ... [and] he'll also see a few other of his ministerial counterparts for short side meetings," the official said.

After the ADMM Plus meeting, the secretary's final stop will be Manila in the Philippines.

There, Hagel will talk with President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario about ongoing negotiations for a framework agreement that would allow U.S. forces to operate on Philippine military bases and in Philippine territory and waters to help build Philippine armed forces capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

"The negotiations just got underway a week ago and will be ongoing for some time," the defense official said.

Kids protecting grandparents

Kids protecting grandparents


Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Lieutenant General Terry Robling August 22, 2013
Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Troop Event at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii

           Lt. Gen. Terry Robling:  Good afternoon, Marines.  I'm Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, the commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, and I'd like to welcome you here today.

           Before we start, I'd like to recognize a few special guests.  We got Senator Mazie Hirono and members of her staff here, Senator Brian Schatz and members of his staff here, Representative Colleen Hanabusa and members of her staff here, and representing Representative Tulsi Gabbard is Mike Miyagi  and a member of his staff.  So, thank you all for being here.

            This is a very historic day for us.  It's the first time we've been able to really meet and speak with our secretary of defense on Marine Corps Base Kaneohe.  But before I introduce him to you, I'd like to introduce you to him.  So when I call out your unit, I'd like you to shout out with an oorah.  Where are my Marine Corps Base Hawaii Marines?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  How about headquarters battalion?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  combat logistics battalion?

           MARINES:  Oorah.

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  That's it?  combat logistics battalion?

           MARINES:  Oorah.

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  First Battalion, 12th Marines?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  There you go.  Marine Corps Group 24?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  First Battalion, Third Marines?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  And, finally, where are my wounded warriors?

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           LT. GEN. ROBLING:  Okay, outstanding.  Well, I'm very proud of all of you on this historic occasion, and this time I'd like you to join me in welcoming our 24th United States Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Chuck Hagel.

           SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:  Thank you, General.  Oorah, Marines!

           MARINES:  Oorah!

           SEC. HAGEL:  Thank you for allowing me to first thank you and your families for what you're doing.  And I want you to know how much we appreciate your service and your sacrifice to our country.  I also want to acknowledge your congressional delegation, who is here today, who has already been announced.  I want to thank them for their support.  You have no stronger congressional delegation in Washington who supports you more than your delegation from Hawaii, and they are very helpful to all of us.

           So, senators, congressmen, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.

           I know something about you all.  I know the kind of work you do.  I know what you mean to our country, but I also know what you mean to our presence in this part of the world.  You are at the front end.  You are at the cutting-edge of security, of stability, of prosperity.  That's a big task.  That's a big responsibility.  And we're very proud of what you're doing.

           I want to particularly acknowledge the wounded warriors for your sacrifices and what you continue to do for our country.

           I'm also much aware of the Lava Dogs, as they have made our country proud with -- with their outstanding performance in the exercises in Thailand and Korea.  Thank you.  The Marine Aircraft Group 24, your exceptional work -- all of you, every day, do so much for all of us.  And I want to acknowledge that.

           I'm on my way to the ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus, which will be held in Brunei later this week.  I'm going to stop first in Malaysia and Indonesia and then Brunei for the ministers meeting and then to the Philippines and then go back -- back to Washington.

           I'm going to try and reinforce much of what your leaders here in this part of the world, and particularly headquarters here, the general, all your commanders, Admiral Locklear, all of our institutions headquartered here in Hawaii are doing to promote our interests in stability and friendship and partnership in this part of the world.

           You're all much aware of our rebalance that President Obama initiated a couple of years ago.  And I wanted to talk directly to some of our friends in this area of the world about that.  I had my first opportunity to directly assess and discuss our rebalancing when I was at the -- in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, with many of the ASEAN leaders, and other nations, like Russia, European allies, China, who -- some will be in Brunei.

           But this rebalancing is not only about security.  It is not only about our security interests in this area.  It's about a partnership of prosperity for this region of the world.  Over six billion global citizens today.  We are all now a part of one market.  And the threats that confront the world are not unique to a region, to a country, to a religion, to an ethnic group.  These are universal threats, and alliances become even more important than they've been in the past.

           That means coalitions of common interests, partnerships, recognizing that prosperity and a future for all people and freedom depends on many pillars of construction.  Certainly, security is one.  But it's not the only one.

           So this is a partnership that we are working through and enhancing and strengthening in this part of the world.  You are all part of that.  As I said, you are at the front end of that.  You are at the cutting edge of that.  And what you do and how you do it is particularly important as to how the world sees America and how they view our interests.

           But probably more important is how they view our intentions.  And that's always important in dealing with people around the world.  So, thank you again for what you do.

           That's a little bit about what I'm doing out here, other than the congressional delegation, and Governor Abercrombie gave me a visa to come in for a day and 24 hours so I can swim tonight before dinner, and then go on further west.  But it's always a pleasure being here.

           And before I take your questions, I want to also thank the people of Hawaii.  The people of Hawaii, who have hosted our installations and all of you, the magnificent and gracious hospitality and support they've given us all should be acknowledged, and I want to let the people of Hawaii know how much we all appreciate them for what they have done and what they continue to do for all of us.

           Okay.  General, I'd be glad to respond to questions or any advice that you have for me.  I know Marines are very tentative and bashful, hardly ever say what they think.

           Q:  Yes, sir.  Sergeant Jensen, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, Charlie Company.  My question pertains to the transferring of the Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to your dependents and whether or not that program will stick around due to all the financial constraints going on.  And additionally, when that service member goes to apply to transfer those benefits to their dependents on the VA website, they're not allowed to do that without committing to another four years' obligation, even though they've already met the regulated terms.  I'm just wondering if that's something that can be fixed on the website or not, sir.

           SEC. HAGEL:  Okay.  Well, that's -- first of all, it's a VA website, did you say?

           Q:  Yes, sir.

           SEC. HAGEL:  I'll ask Secretary Shinseki about that, since I don't have anything to do with his website.  But I was just with him twice this week.  And as you know, Secretary Shinseki is a former chief staff of the United States Army and a great, great American and great leader and made many sacrifices in Vietnam.  As a matter of fact, he and I served in the same division in Vietnam in the same year.  I didn't know Shinseki then, but we've gotten to be good friends.  I'll find out about the website.

           Back to your bigger question.  I was one of the four co-sponsors of that bill when I was in the United States Senate.  And we passed that bill in 2008.  It's a piece of legislation I'm very proud of.  I had been involved in that effort for many years before we got it passed.

           There was a very significant Marine and United States senator at the time who led the charge by the name of Jim Webb, who you all know wrote the first really defining book on Vietnam, won a Pulitzer Prize for it, who has been a good friend of mine for 30 years.  He and I were the two Vietnam veterans that teamed up on that with two World War II veterans, John Warner, another tremendous leader for our country and former secretary of the Navy, and Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey, who just passed away a couple months ago.

           So I know something about that bill, since I helped write it.  That bill was intended to do exactly what you just asked in your first sentence, among other things.  It needed to be brought up to date from the time the Montgomery Bill was passed, because when the Montgomery Bill was passed -- and that was appropriate, I thought, at the time -- I wasn't in the Congress -- but it was a different time.  It was an all-volunteer service, and so on.

           And, by the way, I used the G.I. Bill when I came back from Vietnam, used it, as did my brother.

           So it was time to do that.  And there were some clear intentions that we had that we wanted that we wrote it, and one was the transferability of benefits.  Now, as to one of the specific parts of your question about our budget issues and sequester, in particular, which has forced us all to re-evaluate programs.  And as you know, we've had to make some tough decisions and choices.

           That bill, that law is one that we want to protect in every way we can, because we think it is -- is the right thing to do for our people.  We've committed to do that for our people.  And we think it enhances our people, it enhances our country.  It's a smart investment in our country.  It's a smart investment in you, in your families.  Education can't be disconnected from security -- from the future of our country.

           So we'll continue to do everything we can to protect every element and fund every part of that bill.  And I'll check on the website.  Thank you.

           Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  Lance Corporal Stacey from CAS.  My question is, due to the downsizing of the Marine Corps or military-wide, what is the challenges that you face as far as keeping the appearance to the public of our military polished?

           SEC. HAGEL:  I'm sorry.  The last part -- of our military what?

           Q:  Just keeping -- as far as the public eye, keeping our military looking strong without any, I guess, lack of confidence?

           SEC. HAGEL:  Yes, I get it.  Good question.  Important question.  In fact, that question is one that I deal with, as well as our leaders deal with every day, for the -- for the very reasons you asked, but the implications that were present in your questions on projecting -- are we projecting weakness and lack of confidence when we -- when we talk about the downsizing and the limitations of financial resources?

           There is a balance to that, and you're exactly right as to how we tell the story.  First, I think it's important that, as always, every leader -- no matter what area that you lead in -- you first have to be honest, and you have to be direct, and you must be clear with the situation.  You couldn't be effective Marines without those things.  First of all, you wouldn't follow a leader who was not clear, direct, honest, if for no other reason you wouldn't trust him.  You would have no confidence in him.

           So I start there in answering your question.  We've got to be honest with the American people.  We have to be honest with the Congress.  The Congress has to know our best assessment as leaders of our national security institution, what and how our capacity, our capabilities would be affected with large cuts in our budget.

           Second, can we do things better?  Can we do things more effectively, more efficiently?  It is a different world.  We've just come out of one war in Iraq; we're winding down the second war in Afghanistan.  Doesn't that mean that resources will be freed up?  Yes.  We've been through this kind of downsizing in the history of our country before, as we have unwound from Desert Storm and Vietnam and Korea and World War II and so on.

           But we've made it very clear, as direct and honest and clear as we can be, whether it's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey, or your leaders here, or leaders all over the world in this institution, that even with these cuts -- and they are severe -- and they may be even more severe -- that there is no question, America has the most significant military capability in the world.  There is no military close to this military.

           And we have made it very clear to the American people, to our friends and allies, and to our adversaries that that is the case.   And we are not without resources.  We are not without capability.  And you can measure that by any metric.  You start with the strength of any institution, first, is your people.  You are the best-trained, the smartest, the best-led, most professional military force this country's ever had, and that is not to minimize the service of every generation of military men and women who've served the United States of America.  That's not to marginalize their service at all.

           What I've just said is a fact.  Our NCO Corps -- is a corps enlisted like no other armed force in the world has.  No one is even close to having an enlisted NCO corps like we have in our institution.  The technological superiority, every element of that, no one's even close to it.  Even with our downsized budget, and projected to even more downsize, there's not a country in the world even close to our military budget.  We have alliances which don't diminish our strength and our interests, but they enhance our strength in our alliances.

           So when you look at the balance sheet here, we are going to be the best, most capable, strongest military force in the -- in the world for a long time to come.  At the same time, as I said, we've got to be clear and direct with the reality of the consequences of continued significant budget cuts and how fast those budget cuts are coming, because they give us very little flexibility in the tough decisions that are going to have to be made.

           Institutions as big as our Defense Department -- I don't know of one bigger in the world -- but any institution is constantly re-evaluating -- has to -- its effectiveness, its efficiency.  How can you do it better?  And there are different threats in the world.

           I mean, 10 years ago, how many of us would have thought too much about cyber warfare as a threat?  Cyber warfare represents one of the greatest threats to the security of America of any threat out there.  Certainly, nuclear war is a clear and large and overwhelming threat, the damage a nuclear exchange could do.

           But cyber is this quiet, insidious attack on our systems, our country.  Without any nation firing a shot, invading us, sailing a ship against us, putting a bomber in the air against us, sending a missile against us, my point is, the threats are changing, the challenges are changing.

           Ten years ago, yes, terrorism was a threat, but what's going on today in the Middle East, for example, what's going on in North Africa, elements of terrorism and the coordination of the coalition of terrorist groups is -- is now something we've never seen before.  That's going to require different kinds of strategies and thinking.

           And that doesn't mean we're going to not need our Army or our Marines or ground forces, for example.  We'll always need those forces.  But it's new strategic thinking, new strategic reviews.  And we'll get there.  We'll come out of this stronger and better than we went in.  Thank you.

           Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  Lance Corporal Wasser, HMLA-367.  Last month, you gave a speech at the Pentagon on the topic of sequestration.  And in your speech, you brought up ideas that you had on making major military cuts to all the branches.  So to go off of basically all of what you just said, how soon are -- do you expect us to be reaching the goal of the cuts that you've been talking about, sir?

           SEC. HAGEL:  Well, I think reductions, realignments, all that go into what we just went through in a 90-day exercise, which I noted in that speech, the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which gave us some sense of what the realities are, based on three budget options, how that would then direct our choices, how that would direct our cuts, how that would direct reductions and consolidations, as we prepare for our budget year, as we move into the fall, as we present to the Congress a new budget early next year, as well as the quadrennial review, which is mandated by Congress every four years to essentially red team and put in a group of experienced, respected experts to come in and take a look at what we're doing, how we're doing it, and come up with suggestions and ideas as we move forward.

           And I just met with the group this week, as a matter of fact, and present that to the Congress and to me and to our leaders.  It all flows right into the same intersection.  To answer your question, we're making consolidations and reductions now.  Part of that is as a result of what the Congress mandated over the last couple of years on reduction of forces.  We are bringing our force structure down with Marines, with Army.  That's not new.

           What is new is the abruptness and the steepness that we'll be forced to make those reductions if we're not allowed to bring this down year after year and give us some time to strategically plan for it.  So we're making the reductions now.  We're making some decisions now.  They'll continue to be made as we -- as we flow out.

           One of the other biggest problems we have is the uncertainty of what our resource base is going to be.  I don't have to ask the members of Congress for clarification on this.  They are as frustrated, I suspect, as I am in our leaders.  We don't know what kind of budget we're going to get next year.  Is sequestration going to play out, which is now the law of the land?  That means another $52 billion to $54 billion cut in the next fiscal year for us, if that continues.  So we have to plan for that.  That is the law of the land, unless something changes.

           Will there be an adjustment made by a budget -- a new budget agreement by the Congress and the president before that occurs?  I don't know.  Will we have a continuing resolution based on the numbers for this fiscal year?  Next fiscal year begins in about six weeks, October 1st.  I don't know.

           You can't turn an enterprise like the Defense Department, as big as this is, around in a -- in a year or two or three months or four months.  So that uncertainty is -- is as big a problem for us as anything else.

           We're not whining about it.  It's -- it's what it is.  And what the Strategic Choice Management Review was all about when I directed that a few months ago, let's get on with it.  These are the realities.  Life's tough.  I wish I controlled more things than I do.  So do you.  But I don't.

           And so I'm living in a world of reality.  I'm not living in a world like you all, either.  You're not living in any -- any world but what is the real world, not the world that you wish it would be, not the world that you hope it would be, or not the world that maybe you think will be.  It's the world of what it is.

           So we have to plan for that.  And I -- and I think this is going to make you stronger.  I have tremendous faith in our people, in our culture, in the commitment of all of you, and people all over the world to our values and who we are as a people and as a nation.  So we'll come out of this stronger than we went in.

           Q:  Thank you, sir.

           STAFF:  One more.

           SEC. HAGEL:  One more question?  Okay.

           Q:  Good afternoon, sir.  Sergeant Okimsy, Headquarters Battalion.  My question was actually going to pertain to sequestration and cutbacks, but now I ask about, what does the future look like in retirement in the military since there are talks of changes to that?

           SEC. HAGEL:  Well, thank you.  You see, that's the advantage of being a former senator -- and no offense, Senators -- is that when you get one question, you take the opportunity and you just answer six or seven, whether you're asked or not.  So I'm glad I was able to answer part of that question that you had.

           But the future for retirement, there's no question that -- not unlike our entitlement programs in the United States, Social Security and Medicare -- they are unsustainable with the path they're on, for the reasons I suspect most of you know.  Now, that doesn't mean that we're going to cut off retirement benefits, but if we address those adjustments that are going to be required out into the future, just like in Social Security or Medicare, if we make some adjustments now and we're smart, then we can adjust what we need to adjust and assure that the benefits that you've earned that we've promised are going to be there.

           For all of you, when you retire, your benefits should not be impacted by whatever tough choices that we're going to have to make, but there are things we can do now with TRICARE.  Health care benefits for retirees, for example, are -- are the biggest part of the increases that are growing year by year by year, not unlike in the civilian world.  So how do we adjust to that and assure those benefits?  The people have earned them, and we've committed to them.  We're do it.  They're going to be there.

           But we're going to have to adjust and make some changes on how we come at it in the out-years on the formulas used.  They won't hurt anybody.  You can make these kinds of things whether it's in Social Security -- I had introduced over the years in Social Security bills on just a cost-of-living allowance.  If you just take that for Social Security, for example, and you make some adjustments there, it's astounding how many billions of dollars you save over the course of just a few years, if you make just a tiny adjustment there, take one index or another.

           Now, I'm not going to play games with you on saying that your benefits are going to increase.  They're probably not going to increase.  But you're not going to be hurt.  You're not going to be hurt.

           Okay.  Thank you very much.

           STAFF:  Thank you very much.

           STAFF:  Thank you.

           SEC. HAGEL:  Thank you.

           All right, now -- first of all, I want you to know I want to get a picture taken with each of you, but you don't have to have your picture taken with me.  It might -- it might hurt your reputation.  So if you want a picture taken with me, it would be my honor.  And we'll line up over here.  Thank you.  Semper Fi, Marines.  Thank you.

           MARINES:  Oorah!


August 22 2013

Federal Court Enters $2.2 Million Default Judgment Order against Florida-based Global Precious Metals Trading Company and its Owner, Michael Ghaemi, for Operating a Fraudulent Off-Exchange Precious Metals Scheme

Defendants Misappropriated over $800,000 of Customer Funds, Virtually All of the Customer Funds Solicited and Accepted to Purchase Precious Metals

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that it obtained a federal court default judgment Order against Global Precious Metals Trading Company, LLC (GPMT) of Coral Gables, Florida, and its principal Michael Ghaemi of Miami, Florida, charged with running a fraudulent precious metals scheme and misappropriating customers’ funds (see CFTC Press Release 6587-13, May 13, 2013).

The Order, entered by Federal District Judge Ursula Ungaro on August 12, 2013, requires GPMT and Ghaemi to pay a $1.26 million civil monetary penalty, $736,979 in restitution, and to disgorge $186,860 in ill-gotten gains. The Order also imposes permanent trading and registration bans against them and prohibits them from violating the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, as charged.

The Order finds that, from at least July 16, 2011 to August 2012, GPMT and Ghaemi illegally solicited and accepted approximately $800,000 from nine U.S. retail customers to purchase physical precious metals, such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, on a financed basis, and defrauded the customers in connection with the precious metals transactions.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 expanded the CFTC’s jurisdiction over transactions like these and requires that such transactions be executed on or subject to the rules of a board of trade, exchange, or commodity market. This new requirement took effect on July 16, 2011. According to the Order, the financed precious metals transactions offered by GPMT and Ghaemi were off-exchange and therefore illegal.

The Order further finds that GPMT and Ghaemi defrauded their retail customers by claiming to sell actual physical metals, making loans to customers to purchase those physical metals, and arranging for storage of the physical precious metals, when, in fact, they did not purchase or store precious metals, even as they charged customers interest on their loans and storage fees.

The Order further finds that GPMT and Ghaemi misappropriated virtually all of their customers’ funds and lost virtually all of those funds to either personal or other unauthorized use of the funds or through speculative margin trading in an account at a London brokerage. As a result, customers were left with no precious metals and with only a fraction of their funds having been returned to them, according to the Order.

The CFTC thanks the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority for its assistance in this matter.

CFTC Division of Enforcement Staff responsible for this case are Camille Arnold, Heather Johnson, Joseph Konizeski, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard Wagner.

CFTC’s Precious Metals Fraud Advisory and Enforcement Actions

In January 2012, the CFTC issued a Precious Metals Consumer Fraud Advisory to alert customers to precious metals fraud. The Advisory states that the CFTC had seen an increase in the number of companies offering customers the opportunity to buy or invest in precious metals. The Advisory specifically warns that companies often fail to purchase any physical metals for their customers, instead simply keeping the customer’s funds. The CFTC’s Advisory further cautions customers that leveraged commodity transactions are unlawful unless executed on a regulated exchange.

In recent months, the CFTC has brought several actions against entities and individuals who purport to buy precious metals and transfer ownership of those metals to customers, when insufficient metal, or no metal at all, is in fact purchased and delivered


Hagel, Georgian Defense Minister Meet at Pentagon
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met at the Pentagon yesterday with Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
"Secretary Hagel praised Georgia's efforts to enhance civilian oversight of the armed forces, as these actions are a strong example of democratic progress through defense reform," he said.

Hagel expressed U.S. support for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, Little said, and highlighted its holding fair elections and continuing to consolidate democratic gains as effective measures to advance those efforts.

The two leaders agreed to continue to broaden U.S.-Georgian defense cooperation, he added.




In the week ending August 17, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 336,000, an increase of 13,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 323,000. The 4-week moving average was 330,500, a decrease of 2,250 from the previous week's revised average of 332,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.3 percent for the week ending August 10, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending August 10 was 2,999,000, an increase of 29,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,970,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,985,750, a decrease of 1,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 2,986,750.


The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 279,026 in the week ending August 17, a decrease of 3,997 from the previous week. There were 311,857 initial claims in the comparable week in 2012.

The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.2 percent during the week ending August 10, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 2,876,094, an increase of 16,087 from the preceding week's revised level of 2,860,007. A year earlier, the rate was 2.5 percent and the volume was 3,167,174.

The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending August 3 was 4,438,656, a decrease of 148,207 from the previous week. There were 5,594,498 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2012.

No state was triggered "on" the Extended Benefits program the week ending August 3.

Initial claims for UI benefits filed by former Federal civilian employees totaled 1,437 in the week ending August 10, a decrease of 276 from the prior week. There were 2,361 initial claims filed by newly discharged veterans, an increase of 126 from the preceding week.

There were 21,208 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending August 3, a decrease of 622 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 33,235, a decrease of 1,235 from the prior week.

States reported 1,501,068 persons claiming Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits for the week ending August 3, a decrease of 51,842 from the prior week. There were 2,326,635 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2012. EUC weekly claims include first, second, third, and fourth tier activity.

The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending August 10 were in Puerto Rico (5.0), New Jersey (3.6), Alaska (3.5), Connecticut (3.4), New Mexico (3.2), Pennsylvania (3.2), California (3.0), Nevada (2.8), Rhode Island (2.8), and Virgin Islands (2.8).

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending August 10 were in South Carolina (+907), New York (+762), Oregon (+685), Mississippi (+419), and Indiana (+400), while the largest decreases were in California (-4,105), Ohio (-1,554), Texas (-894), Florida (-881), and Georgia (-712).


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New York Maintenance and Construction Company Owner Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Failing to Pay Payroll Taxes
Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division, announced today the guilty plea of Thomas Nastasi III, 46, of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., to one count of willful failure to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the payroll taxes of his company, Nastasi Maintenance & Construction LLC.  Nastasi pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in the Southern District of New York.

According to the previously filed indictment and statements made during Nastasi’s guilty plea, from 2001 through 2011, Thomas Nastasi III owned and operated several Manhattan construction and maintenance companies, including Nastasi Maintenance & Construction.  As the president of the companies, Nastasi was responsible for withholding payroll taxes from his employees and paying them over to the IRS.  Those taxes included the employees’ income taxes, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.  Nastasi accumulated over $1.7 million in payroll taxes that were owed but never paid to the IRS. Those taxes included the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes for his employees.

Court documents and statements also established that instead of paying the companies’ payroll taxes to the IRS, Nastasi used company funds to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses, for items including boat-related expenses and cigars. Nastasi also made false statements to the IRS in the course of its attempts to obtain delinquent tax returns and collect the corporate and personal taxes owed by Nastasi and his companies.

“Employers who use taxes withheld from their employees’ paychecks to fund their own lavish lifestyles instead of paying over the funds to the government show a blatant disregard not only for the law, but also for all honest taxpayers who work hard and play by the rules,” said Assistant Attorney General Kathy Keneally.  “Business owners who commit these crimes not only face jail time, but also must repay the stolen taxes, with interest and penalties.”

“Business owners who misdirect employment taxes to their own personal ends are stealing from their employees and all taxpayers’ futures,” said Richard Weber, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation. “Thomas Nastasi III funded an extravagant lifestyle with his ill-gotten gains, including $67,000 spent on cigars. When investigated, he made false statements in an attempt to obstruct our special agents.  IRS Criminal Investigation vigorously pursues anyone who collects taxes and fails to timely remit those taxes.”

Sentencing is set for Dec.19, 2013, at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Paul Gardephe.

Assistant Attorney General Keneally thanked special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their efforts in this case.


Inspired by nature: textured materials to aid industry and military
Innovation Corps team developed metals and plastic that repel water, capture sunlight and prevent ice build-up

The lotus leaf has a unique microscopic texture and wax-like coating that enables it to easily repel water. Taking his inspiration from nature, a University of Virginia professor has figured out a way to make metals and plastics that can do virtually the same thing.

Mool Gupta, Langley Distinguished Professor in the university's department of electrical and computer engineering, and director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Lasers and Plasmas, has developed a method using high-powered lasers and nanotechnology to create a similar texture that repels water, captures sunlight and prevents the buildup of ice.

These textured materials can be used over large areas and potentially could have important applications in products where ice poses a danger, for example, in aviation, the automobile industry, the military, in protecting communication towers, blades that generate wind energy, bridges, roofs, ships, satellite dishes, and even snowboards.

In commercial and military aviation, for example, these materials could improve airline safety by making current de-icing procedures, which include scraping and applying chemicals, such as glycol, to the wings, unnecessary.

For residents in the frigid northeast, many of whom rely on satellite systems, "it could mean they won't lose their signal, and they won't have to go outside with a hammer and chisel and break off the ice," Gupta says.

The materials' ability to trap sunlight also could enhance the performance of solar cells.

Gupta and his research team first made a piece of textured metal that serves as a mold to mass-produce many pieces of plastic with the same micro-texture. The replication process is similar to the one used in manufacturing compact discs. The difference, of course, is that the CD master mold contains specific information, like a voice, whereas, "in our case we are not writing any information, we are creating a micro-texture," Gupta says.

"You create one piece of metal that has the texture," Gupta adds. "For multiple pieces of plastic with the texture, you use the one master made of metal to stamp out multiple pieces. Thus, whatever features are in your master are replicated in the special plastic. Once we create that texture, if you put a drop of water on the texture, the water rolls down and doesn't stick to it, just like a lotus leaf. We have created a human-made structure that repels water, just like the lotus leaf."

The process of making the metal with the special texture works like this: the scientists take high-powered lasers, with energy beams 20 million times higher than that of a laser pointer, for example, and focus the beams on a metal surface. The metal absorbs the laser light and heats to a melting temperature of about 1200 degrees Centigrade, or higher, a process that rearranges the surface material to form a microtexture.

"All of this happens in less than 0.1 millionth of a second," Gupta says. "The microtexture is self-organized. By scanning the focused laser beam, we achieve a large area of microtexture. The produced microtexture is used as a stamper to replicate microtexture in polymers. The stamper can be used many, many times, allowing a low cost manufacturing process. The generated microtextured polymer surface shows very high water repellency."

In the fall of 2011, Gupta was among the first group of scientists to receive a $50,000 NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) award, which supports a set of activities and programs that prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory into the commercial world.

Such results may be translated through I-Corps into technologies with near-term benefits for the economy and society. It is a public-private partnership program that teaches grantees to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and offers entrepreneurship training to faculty and student participants.

The other project members are Paul Caffrey, a doctoral candidate under Gupta's supervision, and Martin Skelly of Charleston, S.C., a veteran of banking in the former Soviet Union who serves as business mentor and is involved in new business investments.

The team participated in a three-day entrepreneurship workshop at Stanford University run by entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. "We are still pursuing the commercial potential," Gupta says. "The idea is to look at what market can use this technology, how big the market is, and how long it will take to get into it."

-- Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Action Targets Hizballah’s Leadership Responsible for Operations Outside of Lebanon

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated four members of Hizballah’s leadership responsible for operations throughout the Middle East, further exposing Hizballah’s pernicious activities that reach beyond the borders of Lebanon.  These designations include senior members of Hizballah responsible for activities ranging from assisting fighters from Iraq to support the Assad regime in Syria, to making payments to various factions within Yemen, and to military leaders responsible for terrorist operations in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq.

Belying Hizballah’s claim to be a domestic Lebanese “resistance” organization, its expansive global network seeks to extend its malign influence, and the influence of Hizballah’s patron Iran, throughout the Middle East and beyond.  The Treasury Department will continue to combat Hizballah’s terrorist activity inside and outside Lebanon with all available tools and will continue to work with partners around the world to make it clear that Hizballah’s militant and extremist activities should not be tolerated by any nation.

“Whether ferrying foreign fighters to the front lines of the Syrian civil war or inserting clandestine operatives in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, Hizballah remains a significant global terrorist threat,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.  “So long as Hizballah spreads instability, conducts terrorist attacks and engages in criminal and illicit activities around the world, we will continue to sanction Hizballah’s operatives, leaders and businesses, wherever they may be found.”

The individuals sanctioned today were designated pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and their supporters for acting for, or on behalf of Hizballah.  U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the individuals designated today, and any assets of those designees subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.

Khalil Harb
In the years prior to Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Khalil Harb served as the deputy commander for Hizballah’s central military unit’s southern Lebanon region from 1988 to 1992, and as the commander for this region from 1992 to 1994.  From 1994 to 1997, Harb served as the commander of Hizballah’s central military operations.  By 2000, Harb supervised Hizballah military operations inside Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, and Turkey.

In late November 2000, Harb was given responsibility for overseeing work of the Islamic Resistance, including assisting with the smuggling of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives from Syria into the West Bank via Jordan.  By late 2003, Harb was head of the Syrian/Jordan/Israel/Egypt operations unit, which was subordinate to Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad council.

In March 2006, Harb served as Hizballah’s chief of military liaison with the Palestinian factions and Iran, dealing almost exclusively with Palestinians and Iranians inside and outside the territories.  Prior to this posting, Harb had served as Hizballah’s chief of military special operations.  During the summer of 2006, Harb was given command of a Hizballah special operations unit in southern Lebanon, which engaged the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in July 2006, at the Lebanese-Israeli border where IDF Special Forces entered Lebanon.  In early 2007, Khalil Harb was chief of Hizballah’s Unit 1800, also known as Hizballah’s Nun Unit, the Hizballah entity responsible for supporting Palestinian militants and conducting Hizballah operations in the countries surrounding Israel, and he travelled to Iran for meetings regarding coordination between Hizballah, Iran, and the Palestinians.

In February 2010, Harb, serving as the leader of the Palestinian activities for Hizballah, planned unspecified attacks against Israeli officials in Israel, in retaliation for the assassination of former Hizballah External Security Organization (ESO) chief Imad Mughniyah.  By mid-May 2010, Hizballah created a new position for Harb as “advisor to the Secretary General,” which provided Harb oversight of Hizballah Unit 1800, which he previously commanded.
As of 2012, Harb was responsible for Hizballah’s Yemen activities and was involved in the political side of Hizballah’s Yemen portfolio.  Harb also served as commander of a Lebanon-based Hizballah special unit that focused on Israel.  Since the summer of 2012, Harb has been involved in the movement of large amounts of currency to Yemen, through Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., and in late 2012, Harb advised the leader of a Yemeni political party that the party’s monthly Hizballah funding of $50,000 was ready for pick up.

Muhammad Kawtharani
As the individual in charge of Hizballah's Iraq activities, Kawtharani has worked on behalf of Hizballah's leadership to promote the group's interests in Iraq, including Hizballah efforts to provide training, funding, political, and logistical support to Iraqi Shi'a insurgent groups.  A member of Hizballah's Political Council, Kawtharani also helped secure the release from Iraqi custody of Hizballah operative Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior Hizballah commander designated by the Treasury Department in November 2012 who was responsible for numerous attacks against Coalition Force in Iraq, including planning a January 20, 2007 attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center that resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers.

Over the last year, Kawtharani has assisted in getting fighters to Syria to support the Assad regime.

Muhammad Yusuf Ahmad Mansur
Muhammad Yusuf Ahmad Mansur (Mansur), a member of Hizballah since at least 1986, once served in a Hizballah military unit operating in south Lebanon.  Around 2004, Mansur was transferred to Hizballah’s Unit 1800.  Mansur was subsequently dispatched to Egypt to work with Unit 1800 under Muhammad Qabalan, and in 2008, the cell escalated its operations to target tourist destinations in Egypt.  Mansur served as the Egypt-based cell leader.  By early 2009, Egyptian authorities had disrupted the Hizballah cell and arrested and detained Mansur and dozens of other individuals for planning to carry out terrorist operations against Israeli and other tourists in Egypt.  Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in November 2009 publicly acknowledged that Mansur was a Hizballah member involved in transporting arms and equipment to Palestinian militants.  In April 2010, an Egyptian court sentenced Mansur to 15 years for his involvement in the cell, which was subordinate to Hizballah’s Unit 1800.  However, in late January 2011, the imprisoned members of the Hizballah cell escaped and Mansur returned to Lebanon.  In February 2011, Mansur appeared on Lebanese television with Hizballah officials at a Hizballah rally in Beirut.
Muhammad Qabalan

Hizballah terrorist cell leader Muhammad Qabalan (Qabalan) once served as the head of a Hizballah infantry platoon.  In 2008, Qabalan, as a leader in Hizballah’s Unit 1800, was serving as the Lebanon-based head of the Hizballah Egypt-based terrorist cell targeting tourist destinations in Egypt and was coordinating the cell’s activities from Lebanon.  In April 2010, an Egyptian court sentenced Qabalan in absentia to life imprisonment for his involvement in the cell, which was subordinate to Hizballah’s Unit 1800.  As of late 2011, Qabalan worked in a separate Hizballah covert unit operating in the Middle East.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Justice Department Settles Fair Housing Lawsuit with Multi/Tech Engineering Services Inc.

The Justice Department announced that Multi/Tech Engineering Services Inc., an engineering firm based in Salem, Ore., has agreed to pay more than $60,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that it had violated the Fair Housing Act by designing Gateway Village Apartments with steps and other features that made it inaccessible to people with disabilities.

“Steps, narrow doors and other accessibility barriers prevent people with disabilities from exercising the same rights to obtain housing of their choice that other people enjoy” said Acting Assistant General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels.  “We will hold builders and designers accountable and those who fail to follow the law will face enforcement action.”  

This settlement will assist in compensating victims of discrimination and in removing accessibility barriers at Gateway Village, a 275 unit apartment complex in Salem.  In May 2013, the Justice Department and the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO) also reached a settlement with the developers of the property to resolve the rest of the lawsuit, filed in September 2011.  The settlement must still be approved by the court.

Under the terms of the parties’ agreement, Multi/Tech will pay $32,000 to a settlement fund to compensate individuals with disabilities who were impacted by the accessibility violations.  Multi/Tech will also contribute $21,000 to the corrective actions already being undertaken by the developer according to the prior settlement agreement to make Gateway Village accessible to people with disabilities.  These corrective actions include removing steps from sidewalks, widening interior doorways, reducing threshold heights, replacing excessively sloped portions of sidewalks and installing properly sloped curb ramps to allow people with disabilities to access the sidewalks from the parking areas.  In addition, Multi/Tech will pay $7,902.70 in damages to the FHCO, the plaintiff-intervenor, whose investigation revealed the accessibility violations.    

“The right to accessible housing is a fundamental protection afforded by law,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Amanda Marshall. “I am committed to working with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, and our federal, state and local partners to ensure that those who design and construct housing units make them accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.”

The lawsuit arose as a result of a complaint filed by FHCO with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

“For more than two decades the law has required that newly-built multifamily housing provide equal access to people with disabilities,” said Bryan Greene, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Throughout that time, HUD and the Department of Justice have educated builders, design professionals and others on those requirements, most recently through guidance issued this past April.  Where those efforts fail, our agencies will gain compliance through enforcement of the law."

 Individuals who are entitled to share in the settlement fund will be identified through a process established in the settlement. Those who believe they were subjected to unlawful discrimination at Gateway Village, either when they lived there or when they considered living there, should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743 mailbox # 9993, or e-mail the Justice Department at .

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.  Among other things, the Fair Housing Act requires that newly constructed multifamily housing with four or more units contain certain accessibility features so that the housing is accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.


Readout of Secretary Hagel's Meeting With Denmark's Minister of Defence Nicolai Wammen

           Pentagon Press Secretary George Little provided the following readout:

           "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Danish Minister of Defence Nicolai Wammen met Wednesday at the Pentagon, reaffirming the two countries' strong defense relationship based upon shared approaches to defense and security issues, and pledging to continue to deepen military cooperation.

           "The two leaders highlighted the long friendship between the two nations' armed forces, as well as present-day cooperation in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led operations in Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, and cyber defense.  Secretary Hagel and Minister Wammen also discussed the ongoing violence in Syria and the situation in Egypt.

           "The leaders also discussed the developments in Afghanistan's national security forces' capability to address the country's own security challenges and the role of NATO post-2014.  Hagel and Wammen underscored their belief that the United States and Denmark should work to maintain and increase interoperability and implement lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan.  They both agreed on the importance of exploring new approaches to bilateral and multinational cooperation for the benefit of both nations and of NATO as a whole.

           "Hagel and Wammen discussed exchanging lessons learned in defense materiel and logistics.  They also discussed opportunities to cooperate on veterans' initiatives.  Hagel and Wammen agreed on the inauguration of annual policy-level staff discussions that would develop plans for cooperation in more detail.

           "Secretary Hagel expressed appreciation for Denmark's close partnership, and Minister Wammen invited Secretary Hagel to visit Denmark at his earliest convenience."


Long healthy life?
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

A study indicates that how many of your remaining years will be healthy as a senior citizen varies according to who you are and where you live.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at national health data on the number of years after age 65 that people had good health. The CDC’s Man-Huei Chang:

“Across all of the states, healthy life expectancy was about 14 years, on the average.”

Mississippians averaged the fewest healthy years after they turned 65, and Hawaiians averaged the most. State by state, men consistently averaged fewer years than women. Blacks fairly consistently had fewer healthy years than whites.

Healthy living habits, such as not smoking, reduce the odds that people die early.

The study was in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Learn more at

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.


Hagel, Danish Defense Minister Discuss Continued Cooperation
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Danish Defense Minister Nicolai Wammen met today at the Pentagon, reaffirming the two countries' strong defense relationship based upon shared approaches to defense and security issues, and pledging to continue to deepen military cooperation, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"The two leaders highlighted the long friendship between the two nations' armed forces, as well as present-day cooperation in North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led operations in Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, and cyber defense," Little said in a statement summarizing the meeting.

"Secretary Hagel and Minister Wammen also discussed the ongoing violence in Syria and the situation in Egypt," Little added.

The two defense leaders also discussed the developments in the capability of Afghanistan's national security forces to address the country's own security challenges and the role of NATO in Afghanistan after the alliance's current mission ends there at the end of 2014, Little said.

Hagel and Wammen underscored their belief that the United States and Denmark should work to maintain and increase interoperability and implement lessons learned from operations in Afghanistan, the press secretary said.

"They both agreed on the importance of exploring new approaches to bilateral and multinational cooperation for the benefit of both nations and of NATO as a whole," he added.

In addition, they discussed exchanging lessons learned in defense materiel and logistics and opportunities to cooperate on veterans' initiatives, Little said. They also agreed on the inauguration of annual policy-level staff discussions that would develop plans for cooperation in more detail.

"Secretary Hagel expressed appreciation for Denmark's close partnership, and Minister Wammen invited Secretary Hagel to visit Denmark at his earliest convenience," Little said.



The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that New York-based hedge fund adviser Philip A. Falcone and his advisory firm Harbinger Capital Partners have agreed to a settlement in which they must pay more than $18 million and admit wrongdoing.  Falcone also agreed to be barred from the securities industry for at least five years.

The SEC filed enforcement actions in June 2012 alleging that Falcone improperly used $113 million in fund assets to pay his personal taxes, secretly favored certain customer redemption requests at the expense of other investors, and conducted an improper “short squeeze” in bonds issued by a Canadian manufacturing company.  In the settlement papers filed in court today, Falcone and Harbinger admit to multiple acts of misconduct that harmed investors and interfered with the normal functioning of the securities markets.

“Falcone and Harbinger engaged in serious misconduct that harmed investors, and their admissions leave no doubt that they violated the federal securities laws,” said Andrew Ceresney, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “Falcone must now pay a heavy price for his misconduct by surrendering millions of dollars and being barred from the hedge fund industry.”

The settlement, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, requires Falcone to pay $6,507,574 in disgorgement, $1,013,140 in prejudgment interest, and a $4 million penalty.  The Harbinger entities are required to pay a $6.5 million penalty.  Falcone has consented to the entry of a judgment barring him from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization with a right to reapply after five years.  The bar will allow him to assist with the liquidation of his hedge funds under the supervision of an independent monitor.

Among the set of facts that Falcone and Harbinger admitted to in settlement papers filed with the court:

Falcone improperly borrowed $113.2 million from the Harbinger Capital Partners Special Situations Fund (SSF) at an interest rate less than SSF was paying to borrow money, to pay his personal tax obligation, at a time when Falcone had barred other SSF investors from making redemptions, and did not disclose the loan to investors for approximately five months.

Falcone and Harbinger granted favorable redemption and liquidity terms to certain large investors in HCP Fund I, and did not disclose certain of these arrangements to the fund’s board of directors and the other fund investors.

During the summer of 2006, Falcone heard rumors that a Financial Services Firm was shorting the bonds of the Canadian manufacturer, and encouraging its customers to do the same.

In September and October 2006, Falcone retaliated against the Financial Services Firm for shorting the bonds by causing the Harbinger funds to purchase all of the remaining outstanding bonds in the open market.

Falcone and the other Defendants then demanded that the Financial Services Firm settle its outstanding transactions in the bonds and deliver the bonds that it owed.  Defendants did not disclose at the time that it would be virtually impossible for the Financial Services Firm to acquire any bonds to deliver, as nearly the entire supply was locked up in the Harbinger funds’ custodial account and the Harbinger funds were not offering them for sale.

Due to Falcone’s and the other Defendants’ improper interference with the normal interplay of supply and demand in the bonds, the bonds more than doubled in price during this period.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Conway T. Dodge, Jr., Robert C. Besse, Ken C. Joseph, Mark Salzberg, Brian Fitzpatrick, and David Stoelting.  The SEC’s litigation was handled by Mr. Stoelting, Mr. Besse, Mr. Salzberg, Kevin McGrath, David J. Gottesman, and Bridget Fitzpatrick.


Readout of Secretary Hagel's Meeting With Georgia's Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania

           Pentagon Press Secretary George Little provided the following readout:

           "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania met today at the Pentagon.

           "Secretary Hagel acknowledged Georgia's continuing contribution to International Security Assistance Force, and thanked Minister Alasania for the sacrifices Georgia's soldiers and their families are making.

           "Secretary Hagel praised Georgia's efforts to enhance civilian oversight of the armed forces, as these actions are a strong example of democratic progress through defense reform.

           "Secretary Hagel expressed United States support for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration efforts, and highlighted its holding fair elections and continuing to consolidate democratic gains as effective measures to advance those efforts.

"The two leaders agreed to continue to broaden United States-Georgian defense cooperation."



From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

It’s bad for a teen to smoke, but smokeless is no good, either. Smokeless tobacco – things like dip, snuff and dissolvable – are also cancer-causers. And a study indicates about 1 in 20 middle school or high school students use smokeless. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health saw that in national survey data.

The scientists also saw the power of peer pressure. Researcher Constantine Vardavas:

“Adolescents who had a friend that used smokeless tobacco were 10 times more likely to use smokeless tobacco themselves.”

For comparison, teens with a family member who used smokeless were only 3 times more likely to use it.

Nearly all of the smokeless users reported it’s easy to get the stuff.

The study in the journal Pediatrics was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: August 19, 2013