UK Charges USG Spouse Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn’s Car Crash Death

 

We previously posted in early October that an American diplomat’s wife suspected of involvement in a fatal crash that killed 19-year old Harry Dunn in Croughton, in central England has left the UK under diplomatic immunity (see U.S. Diplomatic Spouse Suspect in Fatal Traffic Collision Departs UK Under Diplomatic Immunity).
The spouse previously identified in media reports as Anne Sacoolas was charged on December 20 with “causing death by dangerous driving.”
UK Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith, said: “Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.”  She also announced that “Now that the CPS has authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas we have started extradition proceedings.”
    • Anne Sacoolas (28/08/1977) has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving in relation to the death of Harry Dunn outside RAF Croughton on 27 August 2019. Extradition proceedings are now underway
    • Our guidance on extradition proceedings can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/extradition
The Daily Mail reports that Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence officer (assigned to RAF Croughton) was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police – once on the day after the crash, and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the US.
The Dunn family’s lawyer says that their “case in the judicial review is that Anne Sacoolas never has immunity as the secret UK-US agreement for RAF Croughton did not grant it and in any case under international law/prerogative powers it is not possible to grant family members more immunities than the actual diplomat.”
The State Department and Sacoolas’ lawyer have both issued statements to the press (see below).

 

 

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@StateDept Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy Seoul

 

Via USDOJ:

State Department Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy

A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were arrested today for their role in an international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón of the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement.

Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 53, and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 39, were indicted by a grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, and charged with conspiracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods.  According to the indictment and other court documents, from September 2017 through December 2019, Thompson Jr. and Zhang allegedly sold counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags from e-commerce accounts to persons throughout the United States.

Thompson Jr. is employed by the U.S. Department of State as an Information Programs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.  Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms, all from within a secure space within the Embassy designed to protect classified information.  Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon.  Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.  Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon are prosecuting the case.

At the State Department, the Information Programs Officer (IPO) manages the Information Programs Center (IPC)  and is responsible for all IPC systems, programs, and telecommunications operations. According to the FAM, the IPC is primarily responsible for all classified Information Resource Management communications and systems.
Count 1 of the Grand Jury Charges is Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods) (18 U.S.C. § 2320(a))

“From at least in or about September 2017 and continuing until at least the date of this Indictment, in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, Defendants, GENE LEROY THOMPSON, JR., a.k.a. Eugene Leroy Thompson, Jr., and GUOJIAO ZHANG, a.k.a. Becky Zhang, a.k.a. Becky Thompson, knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with each other and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to intentionally traffic in goods, namely Vera Bradley handbags, while knowingly using on and in connection with such goods counterfeit marks, the use of which counterfeit marks was likely to cause confusion, mistake, and deception; Indictment . Page 1 Revised April 2018 Case 6:19-cr-00561-MC Document 1 Filed 12/11/19 Page 1 of 7 In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320(a).”

Item #9 of the Indictment notes:

“On or about April 23, 2018, Vera Bradley sent cease-and-desist letters to the coconspirator’s home in Nyssa, Oregon. On or about April 26, 2018, that co-conspirator conveyed the information in the cease-and-desist letter to THOMPSON, JR. via e-mail, saying that Vera Bradley is “requesting that you immediately cease and desist from offering for sale any Vera Bradley counterfeit products and destroy any violating products.” THOMPSON, JR. replied, “OK, I thought this would happen. Stop all shipment.” THOMPSON, JR. then sent an e-mail to ZHANG stating, “Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you.”

Also item #10 further notes:

“Subsequently, Defendants began creating e-commerce accounts in the name of aliases and used those accounts to continue selling counterfeit Vera Bradley merchandise.”

Download Thompson Indictment

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Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war #hardreading

 

 

Watchdogs’ Lawsuit Against Pompeo For Trump-Putin Notes Under Federal Records Act Moves Forward

 

Via American Oversight:

American Oversight and Democracy Forward, a pair of left-leaning watchdog groups, sued Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the archivist of the United States in June over the missing notes. The groups charge that Pompeo violated the Federal Records Act by allowing Trump to reportedly confiscate meeting notes prepared by State Department employees and for failing to preserve them.

In a ruling from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

The order by McFadden, a Trump appointee, means that the lawsuit will be allowed to move forward and gives the government until Jan. 10 to say whether Pompeo complied with federal records law or show why he was not obligated to do so. Pompeo will then have until the middle of March to produce the State Department’s record of evidence.

Read more below:

@StateDept Releases First Ukraine-Related Documents Under FOIA

 

The State Department is about to get inundated once more with FOIA requests.  Anyone anticipating an “FOIA surge” this time around? You may download the documents here, the first set in a court-ordered document production via American Oversight.
The November 1 court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the State Department must search for and produce by November 22, 2019 records from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl containing any readouts or summaries of President Trump’s July call with the President of Ukraine.
We’ve looked through a hundred pages of these newly released documents, and while the most notable are the telephone calls between Mr. Giuliani and the secretary of state (two calls referred to in the Hale deposition), there does not appear to be any documents specific to readouts and summaries of the July 25 call.
So, how soon do you think before we’ll see those documents?

 

USDOJ: Armenian Citizen Pleads Guilty for His Role in For-Profit U.S. Visa Fraud Scheme

 

Via USDOJ:

Armenian Citizen Pleads Guilty for His Role in For-Profit U.S. Visa Fraud Scheme

A man residing in Glendale, California, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to unlawfully bring in aliens and visa fraud for his role in a multi-year visa fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit.

Hrachya Atoyan, 32, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara in the Eastern District of New York.  Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie.  According to the indictment, Atoyan allegedly participated in a transnational network of co-conspirators who engaged in a widespread visa fraud scheme to bring Armenian citizens into the United States by fraudulently claiming to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the Armenians were members of performance groups, and thus qualified for P-3 “Culturally Unique Artist” visas.

“Exploiting the P-3 non-immigrant visa classification system for culturally unique artist and entertainers makes a mockery out of the legitimate performers for whom that visa was intended,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “We will work hand in hand with our law enforcement partners to rid the system of fraudsters, like Mr. Atoyan and his co-conspirators, who seek to take advantage of and profit from our immigration system.”

“Atoyan’s guilty plea brings down the curtain on an elaborate visa fraud scheme to falsely portray applicants as artists and entertainers in order to circumvent our country’s P-3 visa program,” said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York.

“The Diplomatic Security Service builds strong teams overseas and in the United States to protect the integrity of all U.S. visas and travel documents – especially those, like the P-3 visa, which allow for entertainers to visit the United States to perform in culturally unique events and deepen our understanding of different cultures,” said Todd J. Brown, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service.  “DSS values our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies around the world to prevent and jointly combat U.S. passport and visa fraud. Deterring, detecting, and investigating U.S. passport and visa fraud is essential to safeguarding our national security.”

[…]

The P-3 nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to temporarily travel to the United States to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, under a program that is culturally unique.  A U.S. employer or sponsoring organization is required to submit a USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, along with supporting documentation, attesting that the performances in the United States are culturally unique.

In February 2018, Stella Boyadjian of Rego Park, New York; Atoyan; and Diana Grigoryan, aka “Dina Akopovna,” 42, of the Republic of Armenia were charged in a 15-count indictment with visa fraud and with conspiracy to: defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the United States.  Boyadjian and Grigoryan were also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian was charged with aggravated identity theft.  Boyadjian previously pleaded guilty on March 4, 2019 in the Eastern District of New York.

As alleged in the indictment, Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation (BAMA) based in Rego Park, New York.  Boyadjian used the Big Apple Music Awards Foundation as well as formal and informal music industry contacts in the United States and Armenia to perpetuate the scheme.  Atoyan, Boyadjian, and others solicited Armenian citizens who wanted to come to the United States and charged them between $3,000 and $10,000 to be included on the Form I-129 Petitions.  Boyadjian and other associates in Armenia then acquired fraudulent performer certificates and organized staged photo sessions where the aliens wore traditional Armenian folk outfits to make it appear as though they were traditional Armenian performers.  After being trained how to defeat U.S. visa interviews, the individual aliens presented these certificates and photos to U.S. consular officers during their visa interviews.  Once the Armenians entered the United States, some would pay Boyadjian and her associates additional money to be included in another fraudulent petition asking for P-3 visa extensions.  As alleged in the indictment, Atoyan himself came to the United States on a P-3 visa obtained in connection with a Form I-129 submitted by BAMA.

Pence to Lead Ceasefire Delegation to Turkey, Erdogan on Ceasefire — Nah, But Come Visit!

 

SDNY Alleges That Political Donors Target a Career U.S. Ambassador For Removal With Sludge People Assist

 

It is no longer news when political donors end up with ambassadorships. We just did not know until today that political donors apparently are now also able to affect the removal or the recall of a career ambassador according to the indictment (see p.8) from the Southern District of New York. The SDNY alleged that these political donors sought assistance from “Congressman-1” in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (that would be Marie Yovanovitch). The effort was conducted in part at the request of Ukrainian officials.
Congressman-1 has not been indicted nor identified in the indictment. SDNY said that investigations are ongoing.
The recall of Ambassador Yovanovich in May 2019 followed a persistent campaign for her removal among conservative media outlets in the United States. The State Department reportedly told RFE/RL  on May 6,  that Ambassador Yovanovitch “is concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.” And that “her confirmed departure date in May aligns with the presidential transition in Ukraine,” which elected a new president in April.
We now know that none of that is true. What other truth-sounding stuff are they telling us?
Those who are quick to point out that she was appointed United States Ambassador to Ukraine by President Obama, should know that Ambassador Yovanovitch was first appointed United States Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan by President George W. Bush.  She was also appointed United States Ambassador to Armenia by President George W. Bush, but her tenure in Yerevan, as a career diplomat, spanned the Bush Administration and the  Obama Administration (2008-2011). We’ve seen folks insists on calling her an Obama “holdover,” perhaps they’ll think otherwise if they realize that she was a Bush “holdover” before she became an Obama “holdover. Career people do tend to serve from one administration to the next.
We expect that we’ll hear more about this case in the days ahead. What is clear to us right now is if this could happen to Ambassador Yovanovitch who has over three decades of dedicated service, this could happen to anyone in the U.S. diplomatic service.
Also, Ambassador P. Michael McKinley, Senior Advisor to Pompeo, Quits.
Read the full SDNY Indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman here (PDF).

Related posts:

 

@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is a follow-up to our post on April 16, 2019 @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud.  On October 4, 2019, the Justice Department announced the conviction of State Department Contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino of  13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

State Department Contracting Officer Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was convicted today of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Marc Meyer of the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Zaldy N. Sabino, 60, of Fort Washington, Maryland, was convicted of 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.  Sentencing has been set for Feb. 14, 2020.

Sabino was indicted in April 2019.  According to the indictment, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm allegedly engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $239,300 in cash payments from the Turkish owner while Sabino supervised multi-million dollar construction contracts awarded to the Turkish owner’s business partners and while Sabino made over a half million dollars in structured cash deposits into his personal bank accounts.  Sabino allegedly concealed his unlawful relationship by, among other things, making false statements on financial disclosure forms and during his background reinvestigation.

The Department of State’s Office of Inspector General, led by Steve A. Linick, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Ex-Diplomat William Patrick Syring Gets 60 Months in Prison For Hate Crime

 

We’ve posted previously about William Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer who was indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) on February 21, 2018.  Syring was previously charged in 2006 for similar threats in four emails and three voicemails. He retired from the State Department in July 2007 and he pled guilty to that previous case in June 2008. He was sentenced on federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 12 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. He reportedly was released from prison early in January 2009.
In February 2018, he was again  indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.
On August 15, USDOJ announced that Syring was sentenced to 60 months in prison for committing hate crime by threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.  He will be in prison until 2024.

Via DOJ: Virginia Man Sentenced To 60 Months In Prison For Committing Hate Crime By Threatening Employees Of The Arab American Institute

William Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, Virginia, was today sentenced to 60 months in prison for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin, threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce.

“Threats aimed to intimidate individuals based on their ethnic or racial origin are despicable violations of civil rights freedoms protected by our constitution,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to fight to preserve the basic rights of people to live, work, and speak in their communities without the fear of hostility based on racism.”

“Investigating hate crimes is one of the FBI’s highest criminal priorities; these hateful acts are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to intimidate an entire community,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who seek to violate the civil rights of the people of our community through violent threats.”

Evidence presented at trial established that from 2012 to 2017, Syring sent over 700 emails to AAI employees, culminating in five death threats in 2017. According to court documents, Syring previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending threatening emails to AAI employees. Evidence presented at trial showed that Syring used nearly identical language that he admitted were threats in 2008 as he did in 2017.

According to testimony in court, AAI employees were frightened of Syring because he had sent them death threats in the past and continued to do so over a decade later. Additionally, according to witness testimony, many AAI employees lived in fear that Syring would follow through on his threats and physically harm them. They further testified to the toll it took on them personally and their families and loved ones.

On May 9, Syring was convicted on all 14 counts in the indictment, including seven hate crime charges and seven interstate threats charges. The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.

Co-founder of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby, who along with his staff were the recipients of Syring’s threats wrote about it here:

click on image to see full piece.

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