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Operation Island Express II Nets Two Document Suppliers in Puerto Rican Identity Trafficking Scheme

Posted: 1:14 am ET

 

On March 14, 2017, USDOJ announced that two identity document suppliers were sentenced to prison for their role in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents:

Francisco Matos-Beltre, 43, a Dominican national who became a U.S. citizen in 2013, formerly of Philadelphia, was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison and three years’ supervised release. Isaias Beltre-Matos, 46, a Dominican national and legal permanent resident formerly of Providence, Rhode Island, was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison and three years’ supervised release. Both defendants were sentenced before U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of the District of Puerto Rico. Beltre-Matos pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2016, to conspiracy to commit identification fraud and commit human smuggling for financial gain. Matos-Beltre pleaded guilty on Sept. 14, 2016, to conspiracy to commit identification fraud and commit human smuggling for financial gain.

According to admissions made in connection with the pleas, identity document runners located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators, identified as identity document suppliers and brokers, located in various cities throughout the United States allegedly solicited customers for the sale of social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $400 to $1,200 per set. The defendants also admitted that the conspirators used the U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

According to the pleas, Beltre-Matos admitted that he sold identity documents to customers, who generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport, according to the plea agreement. Matos-Beltre also admitted to being a document supplier and that he bought and transferred identity documents belonging to real people to document brokers. Matos-Beltre admitted that he knew his customers would fraudulently use the documents that he provided.

Diplomatic Security special agents record evidence seized during a training exercise to execute a search warrant in suburban Washington, D.C., July 21, 2009. U.S. Department of State Photo.

USDOJ also announced the contact info for potential victims:

Potential victims and the public may obtain information about the case at: www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/beltrerj.html. Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation may contact the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) and its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tipline. Anyone who may have information about particular crimes in this case should also report it to the ICE tip line or website.

Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.htmlwww.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.htmlwww.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft; and www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.

USDOJ credits the Chicago offices of ICE-HSI, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI for leading the investigation, dubbed Operation Island Express II.  Also cited are HSI San Juan and the DSS Resident Office in Puerto Rico, the HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2).  Trial Attorneys Marianne Shelvey of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section prosecuted the case, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico was cited for providing assistance.

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Burn Bag: Where Grievances Won’t Get Brushed Under the Rug?

Via Burn Bag:

“For the person who got sexually assaulted while working as a FSO at the State Department at one of their missions, and who doesn’t want to report it to State Dept officials and/or the police, he/she can always go to the Legat office, or at a smaller Embassy find out which Legat covers their Embassy and report the crime to their office.  Legats and Assistant Legats are FBI agents who work overseas, and they are not affiliated with the State Dept.  Therefore, their grievances won’t get brushed under the rug, and they can make sure some REAL accountability is obtained.”

via tenor.co

 

Related posts:

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Staffing the State Department: Campaign Staffers and Supporters Find a New Home

Posted: 1:16 am ET

 

We’ve previously posted in this blog the names of the Trump landing team at the State Department (see Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar NamesTrump Transition: Additional Agency Landing Team Members For @StateDept).

On March 8, ProPublica released the names of more than 400 individuals who were hired by the Trump Administration across the federal government. These jobs do not require Senate confirmation.  ProPublica notes that its list represents Trump administration hires primarily made between Jan. 20 and Jan. 30, according to the Office of Personnel Management. It also says that at least a few of the officials have since moved to other agencies or left the government. The names were obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests to federal agencies.

Below are the names from the ProPublica list hired at the State Department.  Based on this list, it looks like only one from the Trump Landing Team (Ambassador Charles Glazer) has remained at the State Department as senior advisor. The rest of the names appear to include mostly former Trump campaign staffers. Note that GS for Grade level refers to the pay scale for federal employees. SES stands for Senior Executive Service, who serve in top positions the government.

If you have any information about members of the Trump beachhead teams or their roles in the agencies, contact ProPublica at beachhead@propublica.org to add to their list or via Signal at (774)-826-6240. Here is a guide for how to leak to ProPublica.

Via ProPublica

State Michael Dougherty (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State John Eanes Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Emily Eng (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/26/17
State Matthew Flynn Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Katherine Giblin Special Assistant GS-14 1/20/17
State Charles Glazer Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Julia Haller Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Jennifer Hazelton (see) Special Assistant GS-14 1/23/17
State Abigayle Jones (see) Staff Assistant GS-12 1/20/17
State Federico Klein (see) Staff Assistant GS-09 1/23/17
State Amanda Middlemas Special Assistant GS-13 1/24/17
State Hunter Morgen (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Matthew Mowers (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/20/17
State Christina Perrone (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/23/17
State Margaret Peterlin (see) Senior Advisor SES 1/25/17
State Pamela Pryor (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Jack Sewell (see) Staff Assistant GS-07 1/20/17
State Jared Smith (see) Staff Assistant GS-11 1/23/17
State Danielle Stoebe Staff Assistant GS-05 1/20/17
State Robert Wasinger (see) Senior Advisor GS-15 1/20/17
State Katheryn Wellner Special Advisor to Transition GS-15 1/23/17

 

Related items:

 

One Ridiculously Shy Secretary of State Plays ‘No See, No Hear’ Game With Press Corps

Posted: 6:25 pm ET
Updated: March 9, 3:05 am: added a video of Andrea Mitchell ejected from Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir’s presser

 

One day after C-SPAN captured Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Atty General Jeff Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly scurried out of the room while ignoring questions from the press on the new Trump travel ban, Secretary Tillerson was seen briefly for some photo-op with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State on March 7, 2017. NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell was on hand to ask questions. She was quickly hurried out of the room by staffers who fortunately, yes, fortunately, were not riding on a motorized podium.

On March 2, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also had a photo-op with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State.   And gosh darnit, Andrea Mitchell was also there to ask questions, but was escorted out with nothing but a memory (and a video) of the shy T-Rex.  Play that video again. Did you catch that T-Rex smile?  That’s the smile you have when you’re thinking, ‘That’s Andrea Mitchell asking me some questions, and I did not have to answer any of them because … hey, isn’t this great!?”

Folks, if the State Department bans Andrea Mitchell from in-person events with Secretary Tillerson, can we please have one more video of her being escorted out before you do that so we’ll have three in our collection? Also if that happens, we’ll have to make a plea for photoshop ninjas to switch Secretary Tillerson with the Naked Guy fella in this GIF below. That way, every time folks asks what’s going on at the State Department, we can just post the ‘nothing to see here’ GIF with T-Rex.

 

Snapshot: Discretionary spending by the federal government, FY2016

Posted: 2:38 am  ET

 

Via the Congressional Budget Office, February 2017:

Discretionary Spending is spending that lawmakers control through annual appropriation acts. Below is a breakdown of discretionary spending for FY2016 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016).

  • $1.2 Trillion | Discretionary spending by the federal government in 2016
  • $584 Billion ($0.6 Trillion) | Spending on national defense, which accounted for nearly half of the discretionary total, in 2016
  • $52 Billion | International Affairs, which accounted for the smallest nondefense spending
Via CBO

Via CBO

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Ex-CIA Sabrina de Sousa Granted Partial Pardon by Italian President Mattarella

Posted: 2:19 am  ET

 

We’ve followed the case of Sabrina de Sousa in this blog since 2009. She previously worked as an FSO for the State Department from 1998 to 2009. In a July 2013 interview with McClatchyDC, Ms. De Sousa confirmed that she worked under cover for the CIA in Milan, Italy.

 

According to the Guardian, the office of Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a statement late Tuesday saying that De Sousa had been granted a partial pardon. It means a reduction of her four-year sentence of detention by one year.  The statement cited by media reports indicate that De Sousa “would be able to serve her sentence with “alternative measures” to detention, meaning that she could avoid spending any time in jail.”

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“America First” Budget Targets @StateDept Funding ( Just 1% of Total Federal Budget)

Posted: 3:13 am  ET

 

We recently posted about the Trump budget for FY2018 that will reportedly proposed funding cuts of up to 30% for the State Department (see  With @StateDept Facing a 30% Funding Cut, 121 Generals Urge Congress to Fully Fund Diplomacy and Foreign Aid@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump’s First Budget Proposal?@StateDeptbudge Special Envoy Positions Could Be in Trump’s Chopping Block — Which Ones?). We understand that this number could actually be closer to 40%, which is simply bananas, by the way.  It would be ‘must-see’ teevee if Secretary Tillerson appears before the House and Senate committees to justify the deep cuts in programs, foreign aid, diplomatic/consular posts, embassy security, staffing, training, or why we’re keeping just half the kitchen sink. Just a backgrounder, below is the budget request composition for FY2016:

fy2016-sfops-budget-request

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Previous posts on FS funding:

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On February 27, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney showed up at the WH Press Briefing to talk about President Trump’s budget.  Before you are all up in arms, he said that what we’re talking about right now is “not a full-blown budget” which apparently will not come until May.  So this “blueprint” does not include mandatory spending, entitlement reforms, tax policies, revenue projections, or the infrastructure plan and he called this a “topline number only.” Agencies are given 48 hours to respond to OMB (holy camarba!). Excerpt below from his talk at the James S. Brady Briefing Room:

As for what it is, these are the President’s policies, as reflected in topline discretionary spending.  To that end, it is a true America-first budget.  It will show the President is keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office.  It prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities; protecting the nation and securing the border; enforcing the laws currently on the books; taking care of vets; and increasing school choice.  And it does all of that without adding to the currently projected FY 2018 deficit.

The top line defense discretionary number is $603 billion.  That’s a $54-billion increase — it’s one of the largest increases in history.  It’s also the number that allows the President to keep his promise to undo the military sequester.  The topline nondefense number will be $462 billion.  That’s a $54-billion savings.  It’s the largest-proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan administration.

The reductions in nondefense spending follow the same model — it’s the President keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do.  It reduces money that we give to other nations, it reduces duplicative programs, and it eliminates programs that simply don’t work.

The bottom line is this:  The President is going to protect the country and do so in exactly the same way that every American family has had to do over the last couple years, and that’s prioritize spending.

The schedule from here — these numbers will go out to the agencies today in a process that we describe as passback.  Review from agencies are due back to OMB over the course of the next couple days, and we’ll spend the next week or so working on a final budget blueprint.  We expect to have that number to Congress by March 16th.  That puts us on schedule for a full budget — including all the things I mentioned, this one does not include — with all the larger policy issues in the first part of May.

[…]

Q    But we’re not talking about 2 or 3 percent — we’re talking about double-digit reductions, and that’s a lot.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  There’s going to be a lot of programs that — again, you can expect to see exactly what the President said he was going to do.  Foreign aid, for example — the President said we’re going to spend less money overseas and spend more of it here.  That’s going to be reflected in the number we send to the State Department.

Q    Thank you very much.  One quick follow on foreign aid.  That accounts for less than 1 percent of overall spending.  And I just spoke with an analyst who said even if you zero that out, it wouldn’t pay for one year of the budget increases that are being proposed right now.  So how do you square that amount?  So why not tackle entitlements, which are the biggest driver, especially when a lot of Republicans over the years have said that they need to be taxed?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Sure.  On your foreign aid, it’s the same answer I just gave, which is, yes, it’s a fairly part of the discretionary budget, but it’s still consistent with what the President said.  When you see these reductions, you’ll be able to tie it back to a speech the President gave or something the President has said previously.  He’s simply going to — we are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.  So we will be spending less overseas and spending more back home.

 

See three separate threads on Twitter with some discussion of the proposed cuts.

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@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump’s First Budget Proposal?

Posted: 3:40 am  ET

 

Via Bloomberg:

Trump’s first major fiscal marker will land in the agencies one day before his first address to a joint session of Congress. […] The Pentagon is due for a huge boost, as Trump promised during the campaign. But many nondefense agencies and foreign aid programs are facing cuts, including at the State Department. The specific numbers aren’t final and agencies will have a chance to argue against the cuts as part of a longstanding tradition at the budget office.

Note that in fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon has had nearly $600 billion at its disposal. According to Newsweek, that’s twice the size of the defense budget before the 9/11 attacks and more than 10 times the amount the State Department received for diplomacy. For fiscal year 2017, then President Obama had asked Congress to increase Pentagon spending by $22 billion, while his State Department request has remained flat, at $50 billion.  And now, potentially a 30% cut? We hope to have a follow up post when we have further details.

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IRS to Start Certifying Unpaid Taxes of $50K+ in Early 2017 For Revocation/Denial of US Passports

Posted: 1:16 am  ET

 

In December 2015, we reported in this blog  about the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” or “FAST Act.” One item included in the FAST Act, which had been signed into law, affects the State Department and the traveling American public. Section 7345 provides for the revocation or denial of U.S. passports to applicants with certain tax delinquencies considered ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ –that is, a tax liability that has been assessed, which is greater than $50,000 and a notice of lien has been filed. (see New Law Authorizes Revocation or Denial of U.S. Passports to Certain Tax Delinquents).

A recent IRS notice says that the agency has not yet started certifying tax debt to the State Department but that such certifications will begin in early 2017. The website here currently provides information “for informational purposes only” but will be updated to indicate when the process has been implemented. Excerpt:

If you have seriously delinquent tax debt, IRC § 7345 authorizes the IRS to certify that to the State Department. The department generally will not issue or renew a passport to you after receiving certification from the IRS.

Upon receiving certification, the State Department may revoke your passport. If the department decides to revoke it, prior to revocation, the department may limit your passport to return travel to the U.S.

Certification Of Individuals With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt

Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $50,000* (including interest and penalties) for which a:

–Notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted or

–Levy has been issued

Some tax debt is not included in determining seriously delinquent tax debt even if it meets the above criteria. It includes tax debt:

–Being paid in a timely manner under  an installment agreement entered into with the IRS

–Being paid in a timely manner under an offer in compromise accepted by the IRS or a settlement agreement entered into with the Justice Department

–For which a collection due process hearing is timely requested in connection with a levy to collect the debt

–For which collection has been suspended because a request for innocent spouse relief under IRC § 6015 has been made

Before denying a passport, the State Department will hold your application for 90 days to allow you to:

–Resolve any erroneous certification issues

–Make full payment of the tax debt

–Enter into a satisfactory payment alternative with the IRS

There is no grace period for resolving the debt before the State Department revokes a passport.

Read more here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/revocation-or-denial-of-passport-in-case-of-certain-unpaid-taxes.

Note that the passport denial for individuals who owe more than $2500 in past-due child support, based on a certification by the responsible State child-support agency to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been challenged and upheld in two cases before Federal courts: Eunique v. Powell, 281 F.3d 940, 2002 (9th Cir. Cal. 2002 – statute does not violate Fifth Amendment freedom to travel internationally); Weinstein v. Albright, 261 F.3d 127; 2001 (2nd Cir. 2001 – statutory and regulatory scheme comports with due process and equal protection).

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White House Issues Clean-Up Memo For Trump Ban to Exempt Green Card Holders

Posted: 1:09  am ET

 

On February 1, White Counsel Donald F. McGahn II released a memo intended to provide “Authoritative Guidance on Executive Order Entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (Jan. 27, 2017).”

Section 3(c) of the Executive Order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” (Jan. 27, 2017) suspends for 90 days the entry into the United States of certain aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12). Section 3(e) of the order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of certain foreign nationals from countries that do not provide information needed to adjudicate visas, admissions, or other benefits under the INA.

I understand that there has been reasonable uncertainty about whether those provisions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States. Accordingly, to remove any confusion, I now clarify that Sections 3(c) and 3(e) do not apply to such individuals. Please immediately convey this interpretive guidance to all individuals responsible for the administration and implementation of the Executive Order.

The EO clearly states  “I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants.”  So the EO drafters had to idea what are green card holders? Or they just want to tame the blowback right now.

Here is Section 3 (c):

(c)  To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on
relevant agencies during the review period described in
subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review
and maximum utilization of available resources for the
screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate
standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign
terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the
INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant
and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from
countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8
U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of
the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United
States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for
90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign
nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty
Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United
Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Here is Section 3 (e)

(e)  After the 60-day period described in subsection (d)
of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security,
in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to
the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on
a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of
foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling
on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas,
C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3,
and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the
information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this
section until compliance occurs.

The full WH memo is here:

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