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CA accountant barred from operating tax scheme
Lawyer News | 2006/12/09 17:24

WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Los Angeles has permanently barred Stephen Drake of Prescott, Ariz., and Kenneth Sorenson of Buellton, Calif., from promoting or operating an alleged tax fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced today.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California signed the civil permanent injunction, which the defendants agreed to without admitting wrongdoing. The order also bars Sorenson, a CPA whose office in is Solvang, Calif., from preparing federal income tax returns for customers based on the alleged tax fraud scheme.

The government alleged in the complaint filed in this case that Drake and Sorenson devised and operated a scheme that helped some members of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians claim bogus deductions on their federal income tax returns to offset income the members receive from the Band’s casino operations at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif. The complaint also stated that each Band member received over $300,000 in casino distributions in 2004 and over $400,000 last year.

The injunction order requires Drake and Sorenson to mail a copy of the injunction to all customers who participated in the scheme and to any other persons to whom they sold a similar scheme in the past five years.



Grand Jury Indicts Alaska Republican For Extortion
Court Feed News | 2006/12/09 17:16

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Anchorage, Alaska, has indicted Thomas T. Anderson, a current elected member of the Alaska State House of Representatives, on charges of extortion, conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

The seven-count indictment returned on Dec. 6, 2006, charges Anderson with two counts of extortion, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy, and three counts of money laundering in connection with the use of a sham corporation to hide the identity of the bribery payments. The indictment further alleges that Anderson solicited and received money from an FBI confidential source in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to perform official acts to further a business interest represented by the confidential source.

The indictment also alleges that from July 2004 to March 2005, Representative Anderson, along with an individual identified as “Lobbyist A,” solicited and received $26,000 in payments from an FBI confidential source, in exchange for Anderson’s agreement to take official acts as a member of the Alaska State Legislature. According to the indictment, Anderson and Lobbyist A participated in the creation of a sham corporation to conceal the existence and true origin of the payments, and used the sham corporation to funnel a portion of the $26,000 to Anderson.

According to the indictment, the FBI confidential source was a consultant for a private corrections company located outside the state of Alaska, and Anderson and Lobbyist A initiated contact with the FBI confidential source in order to solicit bribery payments. The FBI confidential source, however, never communicated those solicitations or any other information to the corrections company due to the undercover nature of the operation. The corrections company was not implicated in the corrupt activities that are alleged in the indictment.

If convicted, Anderson faces a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the extortion counts; a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $500,000 fine on each of the money laundering counts; a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $250,000 fine on the bribery count; and a maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count.

An indictment is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nicholas A. Marsh and Edward P. Sullivan of the Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Acting Chief Edward C. Nucci, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph W. Bottini and James A. Goeke from the District of Alaska. The case is being investigated by Special Agents of the FBI.



HP agrees to settle California pretexting suit
Legal Career News | 2006/12/09 14:06

Hewlett-Packard reached a $14.5 million settlement agreement with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Thursday in an unfair business practices suit stemming from HP's allegedly fraudulent attempts to obtain certain phone records, a practice known as "pretexting." Lockyer "commended the firm for cooperating instead of stonewalling" and announced that $13.5 million of the settlement would be used for privacy rights investigations in state and local cases. The remainder will pay for civil penalties, investigations, and other costs.

Since September, HP has been embroiled in an elaborate corporate spying scandal. In order to discover the source of boardroom leaks, the company allegedly hired outside detectives to call phone companies, posing as executives and reporters in attempt to obtain phone records. In November, former chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, and outside private investigators Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner pleaded not guilty in Santa Clara County Superior Court to felony charges stemming from their roles in the corporate spying scandal. Dunn resigned in September before testifying at a hearing before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, during which she admitted that she was aware of the plan, but was also told the actions were legal by corporate attorneys.



Judge rules in favor of single-member districts for Osceola
Court Feed News | 2006/12/09 10:24
The following is a statement by Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, on order of a remedial voting plan in U.S. v. Osceola County:

“We are extremely pleased with today’s court ruling, which orders a five single-member district remedial plan to replace Osceola County’s unlawful at large election system,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Moving forward with elections next spring under a lawful plan is an important victory for all the residents of Osceola County, Fla. and particularly for its Hispanic citizens who have been denied the right guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act to full and equal participation in the democratic process in county government.”


Bush Meets with Congressional Leaders on Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/08 19:22

President Bush says it was a very constructive meeting with Republican leaders who now control Congress and Democratic leaders who will take charge in January.

"We talked about Iraq," he said. "We talked about the need for a new way forward in Iraq. And we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

The president assured Democrats that the "White House door will be open" when they become the majority party in the next Congress, and said he hopes they can meet regularly.

"The reason you meet on a regular basis is so that the American people can know that we are working hard to find common ground. That is what they expect us to do. They expect us to work on big problems and solve them," he said.

Mr. Bush thanked outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert who lost their leadership positions in last month's electoral defeat for Republicans. With Democrats set to take charge of Congress in January, the president said he looks forward to working with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bipartisanship is central to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which said the United States deserves a debate on Iraq that prizes substance over rhetoric.

Among the study group's recommendations are talks with Iran and Syria and the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

But, following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, President Bush said there will be no direct talks with Iran until it gives up what he says is its nuclear weapons program. Iran has long denied that is seeking to make nuclear weapons. It says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush also said there would be no dialogue with Syria until it stops interfering in Lebanon.

As for troop levels, Mr. Bush said he needs to be "flexible and realistic" about U.S. withdrawals from Iraq.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president will also consider pending reports on Iraq from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council with the goal of making an address to the nation on the issue sometime before Christmas.



Roy Belfast Jr. Indicted on Torture Charges
Court Feed News | 2006/12/07 17:46

WASHINGTON – A federal Grand Jury in Miami charged Roy Belfast Jr. with various crimes related to the alleged 2002 torture of a person in Liberia, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida, Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Assistant Director Joseph Billy Jr. for the Counterterrorism Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today.

           Roy M. Belfast Jr., 29, aka Chuckie Taylor, aka Charles Taylor, Jr., aka Charles Taylor II, aka Charles McArther Emmanuel, was charged in an indictment returned today by a federal grand jury in Miami with one count of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, and one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The indictment charges Taylor, son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, with participating in the torture of an individual on or about July 24, 2002, in and around Monrovia, Liberia. The defendant, who was born in the United States, is alleged to have been serving in his father’s government in Liberia at the time of the incident.

According to the indictment, on or about July 24, 2002, the victim was abducted from his home and transported to various locations, finally arriving at the residence of then-Liberian President Taylor.  The defendant observed questioning of the victim at this location.  The victim was then transported for continued interrogation to the residence of a co-conspirator, who was a member of the Liberian Special Security Service.

           According to the indictment, while at this residence, the defendant and others tortured the victim. The torture included repeatedly burning the victim's flesh with a hot iron, burning various parts of his body with scalding water, including forcing the victim to hold scalding water in his hands at gunpoint, repeatedly electrically shocking the victim's genitalia and other body parts, and rubbing salt into the victim's wounds.

“This marks the first time the Justice Department has charged a defendant with the crime of torture,” said Assistant Attorney General Fisher. “Crimes such as these will not go unanswered.”

“The allegations in this case include acts of torture, such as burning flesh with a hot iron, burning flesh with scalding water, and applying electric shocks,” U.S. Attorney Acosta stated. “Such conduct is criminal and constitutes torture and must be prosecuted.”

“Today’s indictment against Charles "Chuckie" Taylor marks a key milestone in ICE’s longstanding efforts to bring human rights violators to justice,” said Assistant Secretary Myers.  “This is a clear message that the United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators.”              

“This case is a demonstration of our tireless efforts to ensure that justice is served,” said Assistant Director Joseph Billy, Jr. of the FBI.    

         This defendant is currently in federal custody in connection with a criminal charge of passport fraud, to which he pleaded guilty on Sept. 15, 2006.  His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2006. This defendant is being prosecuted under a statute that criminalizes torture and provides U.S. courts jurisdiction to hear cases involving acts of torture committed outside the United States if the offender is a U.S. national or is present in the United States, regardless of nationality.

           The statutory maximum penalty for conviction on all offenses is life imprisonment.

           An indictment is merely an accusation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

           The joint investigation is being conducted by ICE and the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John Cox of the Criminal Division, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rochlin of the Southern District of Florida, and Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the National Security Division.



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