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Additional charges outlined for Bayonne cop


BAYONNE – A city law enforcement officer already charged by federal officials with alleged police brutality has additionally been charged with allegedly obtaining a fraudulent loan, one intended for lower income residents, according to a criminal complaint handed down by the United States District Court, the District of New Jersey.

Domenico Lillo, 44, a Bayonne police officer, and his wife, Rose, a clerk in the city’s Building Department, appeared in federal court in Newark on Friday, Jan. 30, for their initial appearance on the two charges, according to Matt Reilly, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office.

Count one charged that the couple, “Did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with themselves and others to commit an offense against the United States, namely: to embezzle, steal, purloin and convert to their use, and the use of others, money and things of value to the United States and of a department and agency thereof …” The agency was the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Count two charged that Mr. Lillo “Did knowingly and willfully make a material false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation to special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. HUD, Office of Inspector General.”

According to the criminal complaint, the Lillos and a relative allegedly took out a mortgage together to purchase a house in Bayonne in 2012.

Following that, Mrs. Lillo allegedly “caused” the relative to submit a home improvement loan application to the city’s Department of Community Development – an agency that receives federal money – that listed the relative as the sole owner of the new home, the complaint said.

The relative had an annual income of $24,000 from Social Security and a pension, which qualified him for the $20,000 home rehabilitation loan, according to the complaint.

The check was issued on June 20, 2012. Sometime during July 2012, the Lillos allegedly moved into the new home, according the complaint.

Additionally, the complaint charges that when special agents of the FBI and HUD-OIG visited Mr. Lillo in March 2013 to question him about whether he had allegedly fraudulently obtained the $20,000 loan that “he [allegedly] falsely stated he lived across the street” in a different house.

Mrs. Lillo was released on an unsecured bond of $10,000, according to Will Skaggs, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office.

Mr. Lillo had been arrested by the FBI on Jan. 23 and charged with allegedly violating a defendant’s civil rights by using excessive force during a 2013 arrest, as well as allegedly falsifying records in an attempt to conceal the alleged crime, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

Lillo allegedly struck the subject of an arrest warrant with a flashlight while the individual was handcuffed and not resisting arrest on Dec. 27, 2013, according to federal authorities.

Lillo is one of the defendants in a federal lawsuit filed last November by Brandon Walsh, 26, and his family, according to a report on

Read more: Hudson Reporter – Additional charges outlined for Bayonne cop

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Murder suspect’s right to remain silent was violated by police, judge rules Judge says detectives violated Miranda right of Mark Andrews, accused of killing neighbor

Mark Andrews, left, is on trial for murder in the shooting death of his neighbor, Colleen Barga-Milbury. At right is his attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu. 


Jurors in an Atascadero murder trial will not see the defendant’s videotaped confession, a judge ruled Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, saying detectives who interviewed him violated his right to remain silent.

Mark Andrews, 51, is charged with murder in the shooting death of his neighbor, Colleen Barga-Milbury, 52.

According to court documents, during a roughly three-hour interview with detectives at the Atascadero Police Department in May 2013, Andrews admitted that he “shot her (Barga-Milbury) in the gut.” But defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu argued that the confession should be tossed out because the detectives violated his client’s so-called Miranda right.

Under the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, suspects are allowed to invoke their right to silence during interrogations by law enforcement.

Andrews, who once told police he has schizophrenia, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

During his interview with detectives, Andrews initially denied involvement in Barga-Milbury’s murder. At one point — as noted on page 83 of the 171-page transcript — he told detectives he didn’t want to talk anymore.

“I want to go home,” Andrews told them. “I’m finished talking. I want to go home. That’s my right.”

The detectives continued to question him, and eventually Andrews confessed.

Deputy District Attorney Matt Kraut argued that the Miranda ruling did not apply in Andrews’ case because Andrews hadn’t been arrested nor identified as a suspect until the end of the interview.

Acting on a tip, police had stopped Andrews earlier that day, May 24, at a Circle K convenience store in Atascadero. They briefly questioned him in the Circle K parking lot about his whereabouts the day of the killing and asked whether he could help them.

They asked Andrews about his mental health history and whether he had weapons in the home he shared with his mother. When Andrews said he did have weapons, investigators said, they asked to search his home.

Both Andrews and his mother consented to a search of his room, and detectives found a rifle, expended shell casings that matched those found at the crime scene and a nutcracker figurine, an investigator with the county District Attorney’s Office, Casey Neall, testified in a motion hearing Monday.

Barga-Milbury’s house, he added, had several nutcrackers.

“She was a collector of them,” Neall testified.

After the search, Nicholas Coughlin, a detective with the Atascadero Police Department, asked Andrews whether he would go with investigators to the police station for more questioning. While Andrews was led to an interrogation room and questioned, Kraut said, he still was not in custody.

When Andrews asked to stop the interview, Kraut said, it was a “momentary expression of frustration,” not an invocation of his right to remain silent. After belching loudly, Andrews later asked detectives what they wanted to know.

“The officers didn’t do anything illegal or wrong,” Kraut said.

But Funke-Bilu said Andrews wasn’t free to leave the station and, hence, was in custody. And the “momentary expression of frustration” argument, he said, applies to a subject who
loses his temper.

“There’s no indication my client lost his temper,” Funke-Bilu said.

Knowing Andrews had mental health issues, Funke-Bilu argued, the detectives toyed with him and wouldn’t stop questioning him until he confessed.

Superior Court Judge John Trice tossed out the confession, saying Andrews was in custody when he was driven to the station in the back of a police car.

“It sounds like somebody’s being transported as a possible suspect,” he said.

When Andrews told detectives he wanted to go home, Trice ruled, he invoked his right to remain silent. Any statements after that, he added, would be suppressed as a sanction.

As a result of the ruling, attorneys on both sides will have to reconsider their trial strategies before opening statements begin this morning.

Read more here:


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U.S. lawyer of released ‘Queen of the Pacific’ says cartel vixen just wants to go home

  • Mexico Drug Queen.jpg

    Sandra Avila Beltran, the Queen of the Pacific, after her arrest on Sept. 28, 2007. (AP2007)

The Miami-based attorney who represented Sandra Avila Beltrán – the flirtatious vixen believed to have run part of the Sinaloa cartel who was released from prison over the weekend by a Mexican judge – says the so-called “Queen of the Pacific” just wants to go home.

“I’m not currently in touch with her,” attorney Stephen G. Ralls told Fox News Latino. “But at this point, I feel certain she wants to reunite with her family and make up for lost time.”

Of course, Avila Beltrán’s isn’t just any family.

Her family tree includes the former Guadalajara Cartel kingpins Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo.

She was arrested by Mexican authorities in 2007, in connection with the seizure of a boat loaded with more than nine tons of cocaine — the shipment was traced back to her and her then-boyfriend, the Colombian drug lord Juan Diego Espinosa Ramírez, a.k.a., “The Tiger.”

From the start she got the media’s full attention for her good looks and neat presentation.

When police captured Avila Beltrán in a Mexico City café, she asked if she could freshen her makeup, according to the New York Times. Then cameras caught Avila Beltrán, who was wearing tight jeans and stiletto heels, flipping her hair and winking at officers.

The odd behavior continued in prison. A doctor was allowed into her cell to administer Botox injections. And in a “60 Minutes” interview, she complained that not allowing her to receive restaurant deliveries violated her human rights.

Initially charged with trafficking and organized crime, the bigger charges against her were eventually dismissed.

“A lot of the attention was because of the belief that she was a major actor in the [Sinaloa] cartel—the first and most prominent female cartel leader,” Ralls added. “But in fact there has never been any solid evidence that she’s personally been involved in any drug activity.”

Avila Beltrán was extradited to the United States in 2012, and in federal court in Miami—with Ralls at her side—she pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for Espinosa Ramírez’s drug trafficking ring.

She was sentenced to six years but was credited with time served in Mexican jails.

After being deported back to Mexico in August of 2013, Avila Beltrán was immediately jailed on old charges of money laundering.

Ralls was surprised. “Days before she was released and returned to Mexico,” he said, “the Mexican attorney general said that there were no pending charges against her.”

So for him, her release this weekend was easy to understand.

“I believe the Mexican federal district court judge,” Ralls told FNL, “determined that it was a form of double jeopardy. That the money laundering charges that were levied after her return from the U.S. had already been covered in her original sentence.”

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U.S. Government and Top Mexican Drug Cartel Exposed as Partners

 Lets Not forget Operation “Fast and Furious”

Relying on over 100 interviews with current and former government functionaries on both sides of the border, as well as official documents from the U.S. and Mexican governments, Mexico’s El Universal (Mexico’s Newspaper) concluded that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Justice Department had secretly worked with Mexican drug lords. The controversial conspiring led to increased violence across Mexico, where many tens of thousands have been murdered in recent years, the newspaper found after its year-long probe. The U.S. agents and their shady deals with Mexican drug lords even sparked what the paper called a “secret war” inside Mexico.

The newspaper’s investigation also confirmed long-held suspicions that U.S. authorities were signing secret agreements with Mexican drug cartels — especially Sinaloa, which CIA operatives have said was a favorite for use in achieving geo-political objectives. Supposedly without the knowledge or approval of officials in Mexico, ICE and DEA, with a green light from Washington, D.C., made deals with criminal bosses allowing them to avoid prosecution for a vast crime spree that has included mass murder, corruption, bribery, drug trafficking, extortion, and more. In exchange, cartel leaders simply had to help U.S. officials eliminate their competitors — certainly a win-win scenario for crime bosses who prefer to operate without competition or fear of prosecution.

As The New American first reported in early 2011, a high-ranking operative with the Sinaloa cartel had outlined elements of the criminal agreements with U.S. authorities in official court documents. “The government of the United States and its various agencies have a long history of providing benefits, permission, and immunity to criminals and their organizations to commit crimes, including murder, in exchange for receiving information against other criminals and other organizations,” trafficker Jesus Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada-Niebla argued in U.S. court filings cited by El Universal. The New American has also reported extensively on the Zambada-Niebla case and what it reveals.

Experts quoted in the Mexican paper echoed other analysts who have spoken out in recent years, saying that the U.S. government scheming handed the Sinaloa cartel de facto status as the primary powerhouse. In fact, during the period when El Universal says the relationship between American officials and Sinaloa chieftains was most active — 2006 through 2012 — drug war-fueled violence in Mexico surged to unprecedented levels. There are numerous indications that despite official denials, top Mexican officials may have been aware of the schemes, or even involved in them.

Also part of the U.S. government deal with Sinaloa, analysts and Zambada-Niebla have said, was the Obama administration’s “Fast and Furious” gun-running program to arm Mexican cartels at U.S. taxpayer expense. Most recently, a whistleblower from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said that U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, killed with a Fast and Furious gun, was murdered by criminals working for the FBI. “It is clear that some of the weapons were deliberately allowed by the FBI and other government representatives to end up in the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel,” stated a motion filed in U.S. court by Zambada-Niebla’s defense team, adding that the U.S. government has documents showing that the weapons were provided by authorities pursuant to the agreement with Sinaloa.

According to former officials and drug kingpins, the agreements between Sinaloa and Washington also allowed the criminal empire to ship multi-ton quantities of hard drugs across the border into the United States. In all, El Universal said there had been at least 50 meetings in Mexico between U.S. government agents and senior Sinaloa bosses, along with many more phone calls and e-mails. The criminal syndicate’s leaders “were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States and were also protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution,” Zambada-Niebla’s court filings state, adding that the U.S. government has the documents proving it. “Indeed, United States government agents aided the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.”

Unsurprisingly, none of the American federal agencies implicated in the machinations would comment on the revelations. However, citing court documents and official records it published online — as well as numerous interviews with federal agents, convicts, and analysts — the paper was able to conclusively confirm what experts and even officials have been arguing for years: The U.S. government is deeply intertwined with the drug trade. It was not clear what statutory or constitutional authority Washington, D.C., believes would authorize its functionaries to participate in, protect, and facilitate wanton criminal activity.

Mexican authorities, meanwhile, were reportedly kept largely out of the loop surrounding DEA meetings and agreements with top leaders in Mexico’s most notorious criminal syndicates. Officials in Mexico also claimed to be in the dark about the Obama administration’s program to arm the cartels with U.S. weapons. According to analysts quoted in the El Universal report, if it is true that Mexico City was unaware, that only adds to the troubling implications of the unlawful scheming between U.S. officials and criminal bosses from Mexico and Colombia to Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.

Among other concerns, experts highlighted violations of human rights, infringements on the sovereignty of other nations, and more. It also helped fuel the devastating violence that has plagued the nation and claimed the lives of between 50,000 and 100,000 people in less than a decade. If Mexican authorities in fact approved the U.S. government’s drug-running schemes in Mexico, they broke the law, too, legal experts told the paper, saying the Mexican Constitution could not be trumped by bilateral agreements or anything else.

The latest revelations in the El Universal report came just days after the emergence of more explosive information implicating the CIA in drug-trafficking yet again. In an investigative article for Narco News entitled “DEA Case Threatens to Expose US Government-Sanctioned Drug-Running,” veteran drug-war journalist Bill Conroy highlights another U.S. government investigation that, perhaps inadvertently, ended up implicating the infamous American intelligence agency in major cocaine trafficking operations once more. Citing official documents and numerous U.S. officials, the piece also notes that CIA-sponsored drug running has been a persistent and ongoing problem.

In fact, it would not be the first time that the DEA has stumbled on major CIA drug-running operations. Even former DEA chief Robert Bonner, during an explosive interview with CBS, revealed that his agency had learned that the U.S. intelligence outfit unlawfully imported a ton of cocaine into the United States in cooperation with the Venezuelan government. According to the agency’s inspector general, the CIA was indeed working with traffickers but received a “waiver” from the Justice Department purporting to allow the government crime spree to remain secret. More recently, a Mexican official accused the CIA of “managing” the global drug trade.

The Mexican investigation follows decades of explosive revelations and accusations, many documented by The New American, suggesting that Washington, D.C., plays a crucial role in facilitating the international drug trade. In fact, more than a few officials, drug lords, and analysts have even said that the CIA and other secretive U.S. and foreign agencies actually run …, laundering the profits, and more. The DEA was even investigated by Congress last year for helping to launder drug money, while the ATF was exposed supplying U.S. weapons to Mexican cartels. ICE has reportedly been allowing cartel hit men into the United States to murder. So far, none of the high-ranking officials responsible for the lawlessness have truly been held accountable. 


Posted in Drug Bust, Law Enforcement Arrest | Leave a comment

Lawyers criticize William Paterson’s handling of rape allegation after charges dismissed

A Passaic County grand jury decided not to indict five William Paterson University students arrested on sexual assault charges. 

The future of five William Paterson University students remained unclear Friday, days after a grand jury declined to indict the freshmen on charges brought by campus police accusing them of participating in a dorm room gang rape.

All charges were dismissedagainst the five 18-year-olds — Darius Singleton, of Jersey City, Termaine Scott, of Vineland, Garrett Collick, of Paterson, Jahmel Latimer, of Hoboken, and Noah Williams, of Camden — but it was unclear if they would be allowed back at school after officials previously said they were barred from campus.

Lawyers for some of the students were critical of William Paterson University for not turning the case over to experienced sex-crime investigators with the county prosecutor’s office before filing charges and for public statements made by school President Kathleen Waldron.

The University on Friday declined to answer a series of questions about the campus police force’s handling of the case or say if the students would be allowed to resume classes. In a statement Thursday night, the school said it’s own “student conduct process” was continuing, but would not elaborate.

One defense lawyer, Ron Ricci, of Woodland Park, who represented Latimer, said he was considering litigation against the school and its police department. Ricci pointed to public statements from Waldron, which he said portrayed his client as guilty days after the allegations were reported in November.

In a statement after the arrests, Waldron said the men were barred from campus and expressed concern for the “courageous victim.” Waldron said she was “angry and dismayed that this crime was committed on our campus and allegedly by students.”

The defense lawyer questioned why campus police apparently did not immediately alert the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office when the sexual assault allegations were reported. The office maintains a staff specially trained in sex-crime cases available to police around the clock. It was unclear if any policy existed that would require local police departments to call prosecutors in alleged sexual assault cases.

“We have to see why William Paterson police decided to charge [the students] when there was overwhelming evidence that this was not a crime,” Ricci said.

“I know that every other police department in Passaic County would have contacted the prosecutor’s office upon the allegation,” he added. “That’s how it always works.”

Ricci said there was a “ton of evidence” that exonerated his client, but he declined to detail specifics of the case.

“If we’re going to talk about it, it’s going to be in a civil lawsuit,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it at this time.”

A grand jury opting not to indict on charges after police make an arrest is uncommon, he added. In other cases, the “no bill” comes when no charges have been filed.

“It’s not like this was a not guilty at trial,” Ricci said. “This was a no bill that a group of people from Passaic County found that there wasn’t even probable cause to charge these kids.”

Ricci noted the bail for the accused students was quickly lowered from $200,000 to $50,000 at a hearing in December and the case had not at the time been investigated by prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Ricci described his client as a well-liked student with good grades who was the first in his family to attend college.

“I think he’s doing well, but he has been very depressed. His mother is very concerned with his well being,” Ricci said. “He’s trying to get his life back in order.”

Laura Sutnick, a Hackensack-based lawyer who represented Collick, said her client hoped to continue his college education after the charges were dismissed.

“I think he’s relieved by the grand jury decision, but the damage of an arrest will be lifelong because one day he’s studying for mid-terms and the next he’s inside the Passaic County Jail,” Sutnick said. “Everything was on hold because he had these serious charges over his head.”

Sutnick she her client has not made any decisions about returning to the University and believed he had been suspended, pending a hearing conducted by the school.

“I don’t know whether or not he would feel comfortable or confident going back to William Paterson University knowing that they didn’t support him at all, ever,” she said.

Collick has struggled to find work after being kicked out of school, in part, because of the widespread media coverage of the allegations, she said.

Sutnick also criticized the college president’s written statements issued after her client’s arrest.

“I think those statements were outrageous and without factual support,” she said.

After meeting with Collick, Sutnick said she knew immediately that the allegations required a thorough investigation. She credited the work of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Squitieri, who she said led an extensive investigation after campus police made the arrests. Sutnick also said campus police should have alerted the specially-trained prosecutor’s office unit responsible for sex crime investigations.

Campus police, however, failed to interview various witnesses and seek evidence that could have cleared the students, she added.

Like other defense lawyers interviewed, Sutnick declined to elaborate on specifics of the case, but said there was a collection of evidence. Grand jury proceedings are held in secret and prosecutors have not offered detailed comment on the case.

Fellow students at William Paterson stood by the accused after the arrests, with about a dozen attending a December court hearing to show their support.

“These are good boys,” Savannah Falzarano, a college junior who met them at a summer program, said at the time. “Go onto campus and ask students. You can ask anyone.”

Judy Fallon, a public defender who represented Williams, said she believed he would continue his studies.

While the men no longer face criminal charges, their lawyers pointed to the likely lasting impacts of the allegations and arrest.

“They all have the experience of jail,” Fallon said. “That will be with them forever.”

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Federal prosecutors drop dozens of stash house sting charges


(AP file photo)

CHICAGO – The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago has quietly dropped dozens of serious narcotics conspiracy charges stemming from undercover stings involving fictional drug stash houses, a federal law enforcement technique critics contend amounts to entrapment and displays racial bias against minorities.


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Former Police Officer Sentenced To Federal Prison

A former police officer will spend five years in prison for stashing heroin and cash in her home after her ex-husband was arrested.

A former police officer will spend five years in prison for stashing heroin and cash in her home after her ex-husband was arrested.

Convicted felon Jeromy Suazo, 33, was arrested for unlawfully carrying a firearm while at a Pueblo bar. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, after his arrest Jeromy called his ex-wife Gloria Suazo from the Pueblo County Jail and asked her to find the money and drugs he’d hidden in his apartment and move them to her home. Unbeknownst to Jeromy, his call was being monitored. However, authorities say they got to Jeromy’s apartment too late to catch his ex-wife in the act.

After getting a warrant to search Gloria’s home, law enforcement found the cash and heroin Jeremy had discussed in the phone call. Gloria, a Walsenburg police officer at the time, was arrested.

In October of last year–after pleading guilty to federal charges–Gloria was out on bond when she was allegedly caught selling cocaine in front of her children. The DOJ says that case is still pending in federal court.

Wednesday, the DOJ announced Gloria’s sentence: five years in federal prison for charges of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. After her release, she’ll have to serve three years on supervised release. The former police officer–now a convicted felon–will never be able to carry a firearm.

Jeromy Suazo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and carrying a firearm as a felon.

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Federal Agent Pleads Guilty in Insurance Fraud Scheme

MCALLEN, TX—Reynaldo Gonzalez, 38, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Gonzalez is a deputy U.S. Marshal in San Antonio who was previously assigned to the Southern District of Texas. He is currently on administrative leave.

Gonzalez was charged in April 2014. He was set to begin trial next week, but opted to plead guilty today.

Gonzalez purchased an accident-only insurance plan from the American Family Life Assurance Company (Aflac) in May 2005. The plan is commonly known as supplemental insurance and is designed to mitigate expenses incurred by policyholders during injuries that are not otherwise covered by major medical insurance.

As part of his plea, Gonzalez admitted that on or about March 24, 2009, he faxed a claim form containing false and fraudulent information to Aflac headquarters in Columbus, Ga., indicating he had been examined by a physician for ankle pain four days prior. To accomplish the fraud, Gonzalez used a physician’s signature and tax identification number without the physician’s knowledge or consent.

Gonzalez admitted that he was not, in fact, seen by this physician on that date. Further, the last time he was examined by this physician was actually in October 2007.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who accepted the plea today, has set sentencing for April 23, 2015, at which time he faces up to 20 years of federal imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI with assistance from the Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Linda Requénez and Michael Day are prosecuting the case.

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Former CIA Officer Convicted for Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information and Obstruction of Justice

A former CIA officer was convicted today by a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of illegally disclosing national defense information and obstructing justice.

Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director James B. Comey, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and made the announcement.

“This is a just and appropriate outcome,” said Attorney General Holder. “The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it. As this verdict proves, it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs. And I want to thank the investigators, prosecutors and support staff who made this outcome possible for their relentless efforts in advancing a complex case that spanned multiple years.”

“He violated his sworn duty to protect our nation’s secrets and he betrayed our country,” said FBI Director Comey. “The FBI will continue to pursue these cases vigorously.”

“Jeffrey Sterling was trusted with the nation’s most sensitive secrets and chose to expose them—putting our national security at risk, and endangering lives in the process,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “These cases are challenging, but vitally important to our efforts to secure critical intelligence on behalf of the American people.”

“Over 10 years ago a disgruntled former CIA employee disclosed extremely sensitive classified information to a journalist,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “That classified information was critical to our national defense, and releasing it was illegal and went against Mr. Sterling’s professional commitments to the CIA. Mr. Sterling’s vindictive and careless choices ultimately led us here today and to this unanimous verdict. I would like to thank the trial team and our partners at the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Central Intelligence Agency for their hard work and commitment to this case.”

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, 47, of O’Fallon, Missouri, was convicted today in the Eastern District of Virginia of six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, and one count each of unlawful retention of national defense information, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstruction of justice. Sterling was indicted on Dec. 22, 2010, and arrested on Jan. 6, 2011. Sentencing is scheduled for April 24, 2015.

According to evidence presented at trial, Sterling was employed by the CIA from May 1993 to January 2002. From November 1998 through May 2000, he was assigned to a classified clandestine operational program designed to undermine the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He was also the operations officer assigned to handle a human asset associated with that program, a person identified at trial as Merlin. Sterling was reassigned in May 2000, at which time he was no longer authorized to receive or possess classified documents concerning the program or the individual.

In connection with his employment, Sterling, who is a lawyer, signed various security, secrecy and non-disclosure agreements in which he agreed never to disclose classified information to unauthorized persons, acknowledged that classified information was the property of the CIA and also acknowledged that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information could constitute a criminal offense. These agreements also set forth the proper procedures to follow if Sterling had concerns that the CIA had engaged in any “unlawful or improper” conduct that implicated classified information. These procedures permit such concerns to be addressed while still protecting the classified nature of the information. The media was not an authorized party to receive such classified information.

In August 2000, Sterling pursued administrative and civil actions against the CIA. Evidence at trial showed that Sterling, in retaliation for the CIA’s refusal to settle those actions on terms favorable to him, disclosed information concerning the classified operational program and the human asset to a New York Times reporter working on an unpublished article in early 2003 and a book the reporter published in January 2006. Sterling’s civil and administrative claims were ultimately dismissed by the court.

Evidence demonstrated that in February and March 2003, Sterling made various telephone calls to the reporter’s residence and e-mailed a newspaper article about the weapons capabilities of a certain country that was within Sterling’s previous clandestine operational assignment. While the possible newspaper article containing the classified information Sterling provided was ultimately not published in 2003, evidence showed that Sterling and the reporter remained in touch from December 2003 through November 2005 via telephone and e-mail. In January 2006, the reporter published a book that contained classified information about the program and the human asset.

Evidence at trial showed that Sterling was aware of a grand jury investigation into the matter by June 2006, when he was served a grand jury subpoena for documents relating to the reporter’s book. Nevertheless, between April and July 2006, Sterling deleted the e-mail containing the classified information he had sent from his account in an effort to obstruct the investigation.

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DEA program capable of tracking movements of millions, ACLU says

License plates tracked by law enforcement agencies shared with DEA to create national database, documents show

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been quietly collecting data on millions of Americans since 2008 using license plate readers as part of the widening of a program originally aimed at locating drug traffickers, according to documents received by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The records show that the program, called the National License Plate Recognition Initiative, is capable of tracking the movements of everyday Americans all over the country, a press release by the ACLU said Monday. The documents, which also revealed a proliferation of license plate readers in the United States, did not reveal the budget for the program.

“The DEA’s license plate reader programs raise serious civil liberties concerns, and the agency should be open about what it is doing so that those activities can be subject to public debate,” an ACLU press release said Monday. “When programs are secret, we have no way of challenging them or ensuring they conform with our values and the law. Before accountability comes transparency.”

The DEA referred Al Jazeera’s request for comment to the Department of Justice, of which it is a part, but the DOJ had not responded at the time of publishing. A DOJ spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the program complies with federal law.

“It is not new that the DEA uses the license-plate reader program to arrest criminals and stop the flow of drugs in areas of high trafficking intensity,’’ the spokesman said.

The ACLU received the documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the DEA about the agency’s National License Plate Recognition Initiative, which connects DEA license plate readers with those of other law enforcement agencies around the country.

The ACLU received one undated slide that showed there were more than 343 million records in the program’s database at one point. The documents revealed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, collects data on “nearly 100 percent of land border traffic,” — more than 793 million license plates between May 2009 and May 2013 — and shares its data with the DEA. In addition, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies shared information with the DEA for the program, according to documents.

The ACLU said the heavily redacted documents revealed that the DEA program allows data mining of license plate reader data “to identify travel patterns.” The DEA said the program targets the roadways believed to be commonly used for transporting contraband, although it was unclear how that determination was made.

“Is the DEA running all of our license plate reads through a program to predict our likelihood of committing a crime? Are we all suspects if we drive on a certain road? What else does the DEA think it knows about us just from the collection and analysis of our locations via license plate reader data?” asked the ACLU press release.

The documents also suggest that the DEA retains license plate information for six months for “non-hit” data, or records that are not matched to any crime. Under its original policy, the DEA retained that data for a longer period of time, the release added.

“While this is an improvement from previous statements of DEA retention policy, it is still far too long,” the ACLU release said. “The government should not collect or retain information revealing the movements of millions of people accused of no crime.”

The information disclosed so far by the DEA leaves many questions unanswered, the ACLU said, including how many license plate readers the program can access. In a sign that the program was set to widen further, documents showed a “significant investment” by the federal government into automatic license plate readers and “unregulated and largely unseen location tracking programs.”

The DEA itself has deployed 100 license plate readers that the ACLU knows of, but that doesn’t include the much larger number of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies’ readers or the CBP readers — which share information with the DEA. It is unclear if private corporations that deploy such readers share information with the DEA, the ACLU said. The exact number of license plate readers the DEA has access to through the program remains unknown.

It is also unclear which policies govern the use of license plate readers or the use of the license plate reader database, the ACLU added. More documents will be released “documenting the federal government’s significant investment in automatic license plate readers and its unregulated and largely unseen location tracking programs” in coming weeks, according to the ACLU release.

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