@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Gets 87 Months in Prison For Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is the conclusion to the court case of a State Department contracting official charged with bribery and procurement fraud (see @StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud; @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud).  On February 14, 2020, USDOJ announced that the former contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino was sentenced to 87 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised released.
Via USDOJ:
State Department Contracting Officer Sentenced to Prison for Bribery and Procurement Fraud Scheme=

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was sentenced today to 87 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release after he was convicted of 13 counts 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 sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady after Sabino’s conviction on Oct. 4, 2019.  In addition to his term of imprisonment, Sabino was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

According to the evidence at trial, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $521,862.93 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 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.

 

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DynCorp Pays $1.5M to Resolve Kickback Allegations in Baghdad, Iraq

 

This is a follow-up to a 2017 case about a former government contractor sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a government contract kickback scheme that caused a loss of more than $3.4 million to the U.S. Department of State.

According to court documents, Wesley Aaron Struble, 49, a U.S. citizen of Batangas, Philippines, engaged in a conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act in 2011 and 2012 while employed in Iraq as a government contractor. Initially employed by a business identified in court documents as Company B, Struble learned that another business, identified in court documents as Company A, was seeking a lease of real property for use related to a U.S. Department of State contract. Struble knew that Company B was paying approximately $124,000 per month to a third business, identified in court documents as Company C, for a lease of real property. According to court documents, Struble became a manager for Company A, and together with another manager for Company A, engaged in a conspiracy with associates of Company C to make the lease of property available to Company A at an inflated rate of $665,000 per month.

(See That time when a real property lease in Iraq jumped from $124,000/mo to $665,000/mo).
Last month, USDOJ announced that DynCorp Pays $1.5M to Resolve Kickback Allegations:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – DynCorp International, LLC (DynCorp), located in McLean, has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle civil fraud allegations involving two former DynCorp officials, Wesley Aaron Struble and Jose Rivera, who solicited and accepted kickbacks from an Iraqi subcontractor in connection with DynCorp’s lease of property for its operations in Baghdad, Iraq on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.

Struble and Rivera previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to violating the Anti-Kickback Act for their role in soliciting and accepting at least $390,000 in cash kickbacks from the Al-Qarat Company in exchange for influencing DynCorp’s lease of property in Baghdad at a lease amount higher than the previous lease. The lease costs were included with services for international civilian policing that DynCorp billed under a U.S. Department of State contract in 2011 and 2012.

The settlement resolves the alleged liability of DynCorp for violation of civil penalties under the Anti-Kickback Act and the civil False Claims Act arising out of Struble’s and Rivera’s fraudulent conduct while employed by DynCorp.

The resolutions obtained in this matter were the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Department of State Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The matter was investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Roushdy. The civil claims settled by this False Claims Act agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.

The original announcement is available here.

Libyan National in 2012 Benghazi Terrorist Attack Sentenced to More Than 19 Years in Prison

 

On October 31, 2017, we posted about the capture of Libyan national Mustafa al-Imam by U.S. special forces in Misrata, on the north coast of Libya. He was alleged to be involved in the 2012 deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.  An unnamed official told the AP at that time that the suspect was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport to the United States. (see Libyan National Charged in 2012 Attack on U.S. Special Mission and Annex in #Benghazi).  On June 17, 2019, DOJ announced that hel was found guilty of terrorism charges in the 2012 attack of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. (see Libyan National Mustafa al-Imam Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges in 2012 Benghazi Attack (June 24, 2019).
On January 23, 2020, DOJ announced that Mustafa Al-Imam was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison. See below:

Mustafa Al-Imam Sentenced to More than 19 Years in Prison for September 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya

Mustafa al-Imam, a 47-year-old Libyan national, was sentenced today to 236 months in prison on federal terrorism charges and other offenses stemming from the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty died in the attack.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, Jay Tabb, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.

“We have not rested in our efforts to bring to justice those involved in the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, which led to the death of four courageous Americans – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – and we never will,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable.  I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors – and all of their partners in the U.S. government – who are responsible for this important investigation.”

“Today’s sentence demonstrates the United States’ continuing commitment to pursue justice against those who commit terrorist acts against the United States no matter how far we must go or how long it takes. Mustafa al-Imam played an important role in the terrorist attack that destroyed the U.S. Mission and the CIA Annex in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue justice against all those who murdered these four American heroes and who seriously injured our personnel defending these U.S. facilities overseas.”

“The tragic loss of four American lives in the Benghazi attacks will never be forgotten and today’s sentencing of Mustafa al-Imam is an important reminder of that,” said Jay Tabb, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “The FBI is committed to investigate and bring to justice all individuals involved in acts of terrorism against U.S. facilities or citizens and will use the full range of our resources to pursue such cases.”

“Mustafa al-Imam played a significant role in the 2012 Benghazi attack, one that ultimately claimed American lives,” said Assistant Director William F. Sweeney, Jr. “While nothing will ever change the outcome of this horrific event, today’s sentencing is a reminder that the safety of Americans—whether at home or abroad, civilian or otherwise—will always be our top priority. If you commit an act of terrorism, we will find you and bring you to justice.”

Al-Imam was captured in Libya on Oct. 29, 2017, and brought to the United States to face trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  He was found guilty by a jury on June 13, 2019, following a six-week trial, of one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and one count of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. He was sentenced by the Honorable Christopher R. Cooper.

According to the government’s evidence, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, a group of extremists, armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades, and other weapons, swept into the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, setting fires and breaking into buildings.  During that violence, Ambassador Stevens, Mr. Smith, and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent Scott Wickland valiantly tried to protect themselves when the attackers stormed into the Ambassador’s residence, sheltering in a secure area.  However, when the attackers could not gain entry to the secure area, the attackers set fire to the residence.  Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith suffocated from the thick, black smoke that enveloped the residence.  Special Agent Wickland, who tried to guide them to safety, was injured and repeatedly took small arms fire while trying to rescue Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith.

Al-Imam arrived at the Mission shortly after the attack began, accompanying Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the leader of an extremist militia named Ubaydah bin Jarrah and one of the planners of the attack.  During the attack on the Mission, al-Imam maintained contact with Khatallah in a series of cellphone calls, including an 18-minute phone call that took place during the height of the attack.  Members of Ubaydah bin Jarrah, as well as other extremist groups, were caught on surveillance video attacking the Mission.  After the American security personnel withdrew from the Mission, al-Imam, Khatallah, several UBJ members, and other extremists entered the Mission’s office and removed sensitive information, including maps and other documents related to the location of the CIA’s Annex in Benghazi.  

Following the attack at the Mission, in the early hours of Sept. 12, 2012, the violence continued at the CIA Annex, first with gunfire and then with a precision mortar attack.  While defending the Annex, Mr. Woods, Mr. Doherty, DSS Special Agent David Ubben, and CIA security specialist Mark Tiegen were hit by a precision mortar attack, leading to the deaths of Mr. Woods and Mr. Doherty.  Special Agent Ubben and Mr. Tiegen were seriously wounded but survived.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with substantial assistance from various other government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the two victim agencies, the CIA and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section provided significant assistance.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Cummings and Karen Seifert of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  Assistance was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Coleman and Jolie Zimmerman, Paralegal Specialist Donna Galindo, detailed Paralegal Specialist Ashley Davis, Intelligence Research Special Dustin Powell, contract Document Management Analyst Michael Watts, Victim-Witness Advocates Yvonne Bryant, Tonya Jones, Laverne Perry and Wanda Queen, and Litigation Technology Chief Leif Hickling. Earlier stages of the prosecution were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo and former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Opher Shweiki and Julieanne Himelstein.

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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).

 

 

@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!