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New York City Public School Employee Pleads Guilty
Court Feed News | 2006/12/15 16:37

A New York City Public School custodial engineer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the New York City Department of Education and its predecessor, the Board of Education of the City of New York (collectively NYCDOE), the Department of Justice announced.

Kenneth Loeffler, a custodial engineer and resident of Valley Stream, N.Y., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to participating in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with a kickback scheme used to defraud NYCDOE. Beginning in approximately July 1997 and continuing until at least June 2003, Loeffler received approximately $6,000 in kickbacks in exchange for allocating contracts for industrial cleaning and maintenance supplies to companies associated with his two unnamed co-conspirators. These kickbacks were paid through cash, dinners and tickets to sporting and theater events. “The Antitrust Division will prosecute anyone who subverts the competitive process, particularly where public monies are involved,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division.

As a NYCDOE custodian, Loeffler was responsible for purchasing goods and services necessary for the maintenance of NYCDOE schools to which he was assigned. In July 1999, NYCDOE began requiring its custodians to engage in competitive bidding before making purchases or awarding contracts worth more than $250 to vendors who were not on NYCDOE’s list of approved vendors and to award contracts to the bidder who provided the “maximum quality for the minimum price.” Also under the competitive bidding policy, employees are required to submit bid summary sheets for each purchase and to get written bids for purchases or contracts worth more than $5,000.

After NYCDOE’s implementation of the competitive bidding policy, Loeffler accepted kickbacks in exchange for ensuring that he would not invite potential competitors who were not co-conspirators to bid on contracts awarded by NYCDOE schools for industrial cleaning and maintenance supplies, the Department said. Also, the Department said that some of the kickbacks Loeffler received were the result of his participation in a phony invoice scheme whereby NYCDOE paid for supplies delivered only in part or never delivered at all.

Today’s case is the second to arise out of an ongoing investigation of fraud and bidding irregularities in the award of contracts for industrial cleaning and maintenance supplies being conducted by the Antitrust Division, the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In November 2006, a former NYCDOE custodial engineer pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with participating in a similar kickback scheme.

Loeffler is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 371, which carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim, if either of those amounts exceeds the statutory maximum fine.



Former Enron CEO reporting to prison
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 17:27

Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling is expected to report to a minimum security federal prison in Waseca, Minnesota to begin a 24-year sentence for fraud, conspiracy and insider trading after a three-judge panel of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Tuesday against his application for bail pending appeal of his sentence. Skilling had earlier been allowed to postpone his prison date while the bail application was considered. Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote for the court: Our review has disclosed serious frailties in Skilling's conviction..., difficulties brought by a decision of this court handed down after the jury's verdict, as well as less formidable questions regarding the giving of jury instruction on deliberate ignorance. Yet Skilling raises no substantial question that is likely to result in the reversal of his convictions on all the charged counts. We are not then persuaded that any resulting sentence will likely exceed the expected duration of his appeal.



Overriding of gun-bill veto kills local laws
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 17:25

The Ohio Senate voted Tuesday to override outgoing Gov. Bob Taft's veto of a bill that will wipe out local gun laws, marking the first time in 29 years the legislature has rejected a gubernatorial veto.

Members of the Ohio Senate voted 21-12 Tuesday to override outgoing Ohio Governor Robert Taft's veto of a revised concealed-carry gun law that Taft claimed would preempt local gun-related legislation in some 80 Ohio communities. The House approved an override last week, making this the first time since 1977 that the Ohio legislature has successfully overcome a veto by the state's chief executive.

In his veto message last week, Taft noted that the new legislation would effectively replace several stricter local legal regimes, including assault weapons bans in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo, and emphasized the importance of allowing local communities to make laws appropriate to their own challenges and circumstances. Supporters of the new legislation have emphasized the importance of statewide legal uniformity.

A majority of respondents to an Ohio survey said overriding local gun laws was a bad idea, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Hamden, Conn.-Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The vote was the first override by the legislature since lawmakers rejected a veto by Gov. James Rhodes of an election revision bill in 1977.

"The governor strongly believes his veto was the right thing to do and that our cities should have the ability to protect their citizens through reasonable firearms regulation," said Taft spokesman Mark Rickel.

The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which opposes concealed carry, accused lawmakers of giving in to the powerful and politically generous National Rifle Association.

"The passage of HB 347 and the override of Gov. Taft's veto is an appalling arrogance against the will of and respect for the people of Ohio to govern themselves," coalition Executive Director Toby Hoover said in a statement.



Judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Court Feed News | 2006/12/13 16:49

The US Department of Justice filed an appeal Tuesday against a November 28 ruling  by US District Judge James Robertson declaring that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency."

Government lawyers argued in court papers that printing readily distinguishable bill denominations at the urging of the American Council of the Blind would put undue burdens on the vending machine industry and would impose significant costs on the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces American paper money. The government also argued that blind persons could already use personal readers to distinguish bills or opt to make payments by credit card instead.

The United States is the only nation of some 180 using paper currency that produces undifferentiated same-size same-color bills in all denominations. Approximately 1.3 million Americans are legally blind.



Portland archdiocese settles clergy abuse claims
Court Feed News | 2006/12/12 23:19

The US Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland has settled child sex abuse lawsuits with about 150 people, court-appointed mediators US District Judge Michael Hogan and Oregon Circuit Judge Lyle Velure announced. They reported that "the vast majority of the known tort claims were settled... the Archdiocese has agreed to pay...the few remaining unresolved known tort claims...and future tort claims." The amount of the settlement was not disclosed, but Hogan said the diocese had more than $50 million in assets of its own in which to cover the settlements. AP has more. The Seattle Times has additional coverage.

The Portland archdiocese, which filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, was the first one to file for bankruptcy in the face of civil litigation over sex abuse claims. Since then, the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport have also filed for Chapter 11 protection in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the clergy. In June, a federal judge allowed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Portland archdiocese to continue, rejecting the Vatican's bid to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The lawsuit, filed in 2002 in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, alleged that the Vatican, the Archdiocese of Portland and the archbishop of Chicago conspired to protect a priest by transferring him from city to city, even though the church knew he had a history of committing sexual abuse. Earlier this month, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled 45 sexual abuse lawsuits for $60 million.



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.



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