Half of Facebook parents joined to spy on kids?

You think half those adults on Facebook are there because they love Facebook? No, no. These are merely parents engaged in covert operations.

I had always imagined that adults entered the world of Facebook because they wanted to re-enact their teenage years, find a new lover, or “connect” with long-lost relatives whom they never really liked.

Yet a new piece of research has proved mind-altering.

My failure to regularly read the Education Database Online has been mitigated by Mashable and has led me to a new appreciation of the adult world.

For these vital statistics reveal that American parents aren’t trying to imitate children so much as spy on them.

It’s perfectly well-known that children can be trusted about as much as news stories in Pravda during the Brezhnev era.

So parents feel forced to take the radical step of joining them so that they can beat them. In a psychological sense, you understand.

Indeed, this study suggests that half of all parents sign up with Facebook at least partly in order to see what drugs their kids are taking, who they are consorting with and what they really think about, well, their parents.

An excitable 43 percent of parents admit that they check their kids’ Facebook pages every day.

Some 92 percent of them make it so easy for themselves by openly becoming Facebook friends with their kids.

Some might reach the inevitable conclusion that American parents aren’t very bright.

If they are making it so obvious they are snooping on their kids by friending them, might they not imagine that the kids, in turn, will not express themselves fully on Facebook, instead choosing to go to Tumblr, Instagram, or some other relatively recondite place?

Might that be one reason why several recent studies suggested that kids think Facebook is old?

The Education Database Online figures offer that a third of kids would defriend their parents “if they could.”

I, though, am left fascinated as to how much adults are exposing themselves.

Surely the kids — just, you know, for fits and giggles — trawl around their parents’ Facebook pages and speculate as to which of their Facebook friends are former (or even current) lovers.

Surely the kids take a look at these people’s profile pictures and pray that they never, ever end up as wizened and alcohol-sodden as some of them appear.

Given that the kids are far, far more tech savvy than their parents will ever be, might they be far better spies than their parents?

While the adults think they’re being clever in following the kids, I suspect it’s the kids who get more information out of this social-networking exchange — information that they’ll choose to use just when they need it.

Blackmail never goes out of style.

View Source

10 Security Devices to Help Keep Your Family Safe

The sky’s really the limit these days in terms of the levels of defense you can install to protect your home and family. If you’re just the least bit tech-savvy, you can equip your home with a surveillance system that only a few years ago would have cost thousands for a professional to install and monitor. Throw up a few Webcams around the outside of your house, and you could catch burglars in the act just by turning on your cell phone — even if you’re thousands of miles from home. But by the same token, you could thwart a robbery with a low-tech $10 door alarm.
So, what do you need to keep your home and family safe? A state-of-the-art home alarm system? A wireless doorbell equipped with a hidden camera? A baby monitor with a night vision camera? Mandatory iris scans for all visitors? It obviously depends on your situation and budget (and, let’s face it, level of paranoia), but here are 10 options to consider — from the bare-bones to the insanely high-tech — if you want to beef up the defense around the people you love the most.

10: GPS Tracking Devices

Nowadays, you can track just about any object you can slap a GPS transmitter on — cars, bikes, motorcycles, kids, dogs, you name it. If you want to protect your car in case it’s stolen, just install a tracking device in the trunk. Worried about your newly licensed teen driver? There are GPS devices out there — some that can be linked to your cell phones — that will monitor his or her speed and location (and even alert you when the car enters an unapproved location). You can also mount a camera on the dashboard that will allow you to monitor your teen’s every move while he or she is in the car. And don’t forget about Fido — the dog can even get in on the act when you attach a tiny GPS monitor to his collar.

9: Alarm Systems

Most people who have home alarm systems live under the assumption that the setup will prevent them from ever being robbed. A fair assumption, right? Not necessarily. While it’s true that a potential burglar might pass up a home that clearly has an alarm system, police response times in many areas are so slow that the culprit will probably have time to get away even if an alarm does go off. However, studies do show that robbers leave faster (and thus take less stuff) when there’s an alarm system in place. And neighborhoods that have a high density of home alarms are generally safer. So that’s a little bit of comfort — and you’ll also get a decent discount on your homeowner’s insurance if you have an alarm system. So, when in doubt, just get one.

8: Home Surveillance Equipment

Private home security cameras used to be the domain of the very rich (or very paranoid), but they’re pretty common these days, and you don’t even need a professional to install them. Just mount a few (fairly inexpensive) wireless cameras in strategic locations, connect them to your home computer network, and voila — you have your very own surveillance system.
You can watch the camera feed from anywhere with Internet access — all you have to do is enter an IP address into any Web browser, even the one on your cell phone. It’s pretty simple, but if all this sounds like too much trouble, you can always install a dummy camera (complete with blinking LED light) in a prominent spot — who knows, it could be enough to keep intruders at bay.

7: Video Intercom Systems

Sometimes it’s just not a good idea to open the door when a stranger is ringing the doorbell. (OK, it’s never a good idea to open the door for a stranger.) Sometimes even peering through a window or opening a curtain to see who’s standing on the other side of the door is not a good idea. And yes, we admit it — sometimes it’s just too much of a hassle to walk across the house to see who’s there.

Video intercom systems let you get a good look (and even a listen) at visitors without having to get too close. They also provide crucial distance and time if the caller does not, in fact, have good intentions.

So if you’d like to put another level of security between you and the stranger at the door, a video intercom system is the way to go.

6: Child Abduction Alarms

If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of panic that arises when you lose sight of your child in a public place. After a seemingly endless couple of minutes of frantic searching, you usually find your kid hiding in a rack of clothes or striking up a conversation with a fellow 3-year-old. A child abduction alarm could spare you some undue panic — and possibly stop your child before he or she goes too far. Yes, that’s a scary name, but in all likelihood it will just help you curb chronic wandering. Your kid wears the transmitter around his or her neck, and you hold on to the receiver, which you can set for between about 6 and 30 feet (1.8 to 9 meters). It won’t keep your children glued to your side at every minute, but at least you’ll have peace of mind if they stray.

5: Magnetic Door Alarms

If you’re not quite ready to spring for a full home alarm system — or if you want an extra layer of protection on top of the system you already have — you might want to look into magnetic door alarms. You place the small, two-piece plastic devices on either side of a door opening, and when the door is opened as little as a centimeter and a half, it sets off an extremely loud (110-plus decibels) alarm. Of course, a $10 alarm isn’t going to call the police — and a seasoned thief will know this — but it could be enough to scare away a more inexperienced burglar. Some also tout magnetic door alarms as a way to keep small children from wandering outside, but we’re wondering what those 110 decibels would do to the poor kid’s ears …

4: Baby Monitor with Wireless Night Vision Camera

Back in the day, people kept an “eye” on their sleeping babies by using their ears: Silence was a good thing. No crying or screaming equals a soundly sleeping child, right? Then audio baby monitors hit the market, and parents could be aware of every whimper from anywhere in the house. But silence was still a good thing. Then came video monitors, and parents could be aware of their child’s every movement from anywhere in the house — because what if silence isn’t a good thing? Now we have monitors with wireless, multi-angle, night vision cameras and handheld LCD screens. Is this a good thing? We say anything that gives parents a little peace of mind in the middle of the night can’t be entirely bad.

3: Tasers

Guns are certainly an option for protecting yourself, your family and your home, but we think we’ll leave that can of worms unopened on these pages. But if you’re looking for an effective nonlethal weapon with which to deter intruders, a Taser might be for you. Yes, pepper spray and mace could very well incapacitate a trespasser, but you never know how strong the effect will be. Stun guns do the job, too, but the gun has to make physical contact with the victim, which could mean putting yourself in harm’s way. With a Taser, you can be 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from the victim. Interestingly, a police study in New Zealand showed that in 80 percent of cases, perpetrators were scared away by the mere display of the Taser’s laser sight.

2: Wireless Doorbell with DVR

It sounds pretty ingenious — a wireless doorbell with a hidden camera that records everyone who comes to your door. Most of these systems record high-resolution images (with audio) in a memory card that you can insert into your computer or phone, allowing you to see who’s been at your home. The only catch is — the system is activated only when the doorbell is pressed. So sure, it could come in handy if you realize you just missed the doorbell ringing and want to know who was there (or if you’re just curious about who rings your doorbell while you’re away), but it probably won’t help you catch a thief — unless that thief happened to ring the doorbell before he broke in to your home.

1: Robot Guards and Drone Helicopters

So far, pretty much everything we’ve listed in this article has been attainable for the masses — regular folks who want to protect their homes and families in a reasonably affordable way. But what if you have money to burn (and an insane amount of goodies to protect)? Well, you could start off with a couple of robot security guards that can spot intruders with infrared beams and shoot them with paint guns. A daily fly-over or two by a camera-equipped drone helicopter never hurts, and it also might be a good idea to require all visitors to submit to an iris scan. If you’re thinking about budget, most obscenely rich people spend about 25 percent of their property value on security. So get to it!

View Source

Lawyers: Jackson Jr., wife intend to plead guilty to charges

Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi intend to plead guilty to federal charges alleging the former congressman misused $750,000 in campaign funds while she understated their income on tax returns for six years, their lawyers say.

Jackson Jr., 47, a Democrat from Chicago, was charged in a criminal information Friday with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

Sandi Jackson was charged with one count of filing false tax returns. She faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

Jackson Jr. is accused of diverting $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

Federal authorities allege that Jackson Jr. used campaign funds to purchase a $43,350 men’s gold-plated Rolex watch, $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, and $9,588 in children’s furniture. The purchases were made between 2007 and 2009, according to the criminal information, which authorities noted is not evidence of guilt.

Other expenditures listed by prosecutors include $10,105 on Bruce Lee memorabilia, $11,130 on Martin Luther King memorabilia and $22,700 on Michael Jackson items, including $4,600 for a “Michael Jackson fedora.”

The government also alleged that Jackson Jr. made false statements to the House of Representatives because he did not report approximately $28,500 in loans and gifts he received.

“He has accepted responsibility for his actions and I can confirm that he intends to plead guilty to the charge in the information,” Jackson Jr.’s attorney Brian Heberlig said.

Sandi Jackson is accused of filing incorrect joint tax returns with her husband for calendar years 2006 through 2011, reporting income “substantially less than the amount of income she and her husband received in each of the calendar years,” with a substantial additional tax due.

Her attorneys released a statement saying she has “reached an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office to plead guilty to one count of tax fraud.”

Jackson Jr. stepped down from the House of Representatives on Nov. 21, citing both his poor health and an ongoing federal probe of his activities. In a statement then, he said he was doing his best to cooperate with federal investigators and to accept responsibility for his “mistakes.”

In a statement, Jackson Jr. said:

“Over the course of my life I have come to realize that none of us are immune from our share of shortcomings and human frailties. Still I offer no excuses for my conduct and I fully accept my responsibility for the improper decisions and mistakes I have made. To that end I want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment and while my journey is not yet complete, it is my hope that I am remembered for the things that I did right.”

Sandi Jackson’s attorneys released a statement saying she “has accepted responsibility for her conduct, is deeply sorry for her actions, and looks forward to putting this matter behind her and her family. She is thankful for the support of her family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., said he wanted to attend President Barack Obama’s speech Friday at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago but traveled to Washington, D.C., instead, to be with family members while they waited for the federal charges to come down.

“This has been a difficult and painful ordeal for our family,” the civil rights leader said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he would “leave it up to the courts system” to determine his son’s fate.

“We express our love for him as a family,” he said.

Jackson Jr.’s political fortunes sank beginning late in 2008, when he sought unsuccessfully to have Gov. Rod Blagojevich appoint him to the Senate seat that came open with the election of then-Sen. Barack Obama to the White House.

Jackson Jr. or an emissary reportedly offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich, who now is in federal prison for crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat. Jackson Jr. was never charged in the case, which became the subject of an ethics probe in the House.

Last June, Jackson Jr. began a mysterious leave of absence for what originally was called “exhaustion” but later emerged as bipolar disorder. He spent months in treatment and won re-election Nov. 6 despite never returning to service in the House or staging a single campaign appearance.

A campaign to replace him is being conducted now in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of the South Side and south suburbs.

Jackson Jr. was first elected to Congress in 1995. Sandi Jackson was a Chicago alderman until she resigned her post last month. They have two children.

Sandi Jackson’s firm, J. Donatella & Associates, has been paid at least $452,500 from her husband’s campaign committee since 2002, Federal Election Commission reports show.

The former congressman’s campaign committee reported $105,703 in cash on hand on last Nov. 26, FEC reports show. Leading up to the last election, it reported $1 million in contributions and $1.06 million in operating expenditures, reports show.

Once considered a potential candidate for mayor of Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years because of the Blagojevich scandal and also because of news reports in 2010 that a suburban Chicago businessman told federal investigators he twice paid to fly a woman — a hostess from a Washington, D.C. bar — to Chicago at Jackson’s request.

In the wake of the reports, Jackson Jr. issued a statement calling the woman a “social acquaintance” and describing the matter as a “private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago.”

Jackson Jr. subsequently told the Tribune editorial board he had apologized to “my absolute best friend, my wife.”

Still, he also acknowledged he asked longtime supporter Raghuveer Nayak to pay to fly the woman from Washington to Chicago. House ethics rules prohibit members from soliciting gifts of personal benefit. Jackson said Nayak’s purchase was “a friendly gesture” by “a close and dear friend of mine, one who knows members of my family, has worked with members of my family, has been a friend of our family’s for a number of years.”

The woman’s travel was “not a personal benefit to me, I don’t believe, under the House rules. A benefit to the person for whom he bought the ticket. He didn’t buy tickets for me. Did I direct him? I did.”

View Source

Examples of Identity Theft Schemes – Fiscal Year 2013

The following examples of identity theft schemes are written from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the cases were prosecuted.

Husband and Wife Sentenced for Fraud and Identity Theft

On January 30, 2013, in Roanoke, Va., Michelle A. Ferguson, of Roanoke, Va., was sentenced to 29 months in prison for conspiracy to commit fraud and stealing the identities of others. Her husband, William J. Ferguson Jr., was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his participation in the conspiracy to commit fraud. According to court documents, the Fergusons operated a tax return preparation business out of their Roanoke home and committed fraud in two specific manners. When meeting with clients face-to-face to prepare their taxes, the Fergusons would have their clients sign the return without reviewing its contents. The returns were set-up to have any refunds deposited directly into an account controlled by the Fergusons. To maximum refunds, the Ferguson, without the knowledge of their clients, included phony Schedule C’s, Profit and Loss from Business, to the returns. Once the tax refund was received by the Fergusons, they would write a check to each client for a fraction of the total refund received. In addition, the defendants filed false tax returns using stolen social security numbers. The individuals who had their identity stolen did not receive any portion of the proceeds obtained through the false claim for refund.

Tax Preparer Sentenced for Identity Theft and Tax Fraud

On January 29, 2013, in Boston, Mass., Rosa Ivette Colon, of Milford, Mass., was sentenced to 61 months in prison and three years of supervised release for filing hundreds of false income tax returns for her clients and identity theft. She was also ordered to pay $400,000 in restitution to the IRS. In August 2012, Colon pleaded guilty to a 32-count indictment charging her with aggravated identity theft, filing false claims with the IRS, and forging endorsements on United States Treasury checks. Colon operated a business called X-Press Taxes in Somerville, Mass. During the tax years 2004 through 2010, she prepared hundreds of false income tax returns for her clients. On numerous occasions, when preparing income tax returns for clients, Colon prepared two different versions of the return. Colon gave one version of the return to the client, but filed another version seeking a larger refund with the IRS, and kept the additional fraudulent amount for herself. In addition, Colon submitted false personal income tax returns to the IRS on her own behalf. Colon also unlawfully used the identities of three individuals in connection with her fraudulent tax refund scheme.

Dominican National Sentenced for Identity Trafficking Scheme

On January 29, 2013, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rafael Joaquin Beltre-Beltre, formerly of Caguas, Puerto Rico, was sentenced to 63 months in prison for his leading role in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents. In addition Beltre-Beltre will forfeit $424,793 in illegal proceeds and be deported to the Dominican Republic after the completion of his sentence. On September 4, 2012, Beltre-Beltre pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identification fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for financial gain and one count of international money laundering. Beltre-Beltre admitted that he and his co-conspirators sold personal identifying information pertaining to real Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, including minors, and that he knew some of the identities would be used to commit tax fraud and some would be used to fraudulently apply for U.S. passports.

Florida Man Sentenced for Income Tax Fraud

On January 24, 2013, in Tallahassee, Fla., Marvens Jean-Paul, of Opa Locka, Florida, was sentenced to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay $280,285 in restitution. Jean-Paul pleaded guilty in 2012 to two counts of conspiracy to file false claims, seven counts of wire fraud, and four counts of aggravated identity theft based upon his involvement in schemes to file false claims for more than $1 million in federal tax refunds in 2010 and 2011. According to court documents, Jean-Paul admitted to stealing personal identifying information from an office on the campus of a Florida university. Illegally using the information, Jean-Paul and his co-conspirators filed false tax returns. At Jean-Paul’s direction, his co-defendants, Kimle Fils-Aime and Guerline St. Charles, cashed tax refund checks generated by one of the schemes at a bank where they worked as tellers. In addition, Jean-Paul arranged for the illegally obtained tax refunds to be loaded onto prepaid debit cards, which were used to wire transfer cash. Fils-Aime was previously sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay $86,748 in restitution. St. Charles was previously sentenced to five years’ probation, with eight months’ home detention, and ordered to pay $73,320 in restitution.

Florida Woman Sentenced on Identity Theft and Fraud Charges

On January 23, 2013, in Jacksonville, Fla., Regina Ward, of Gainesville, Fla., was sentenced to 13 months in prison and three years of supervised release for charges related to identity theft, fraud against the United States, and Treasury check fraud. Ward was also ordered to pay $6,500 in restitution to the IRS. According to court documents, in February 2012, Ward met with an undercover agent (UC) posing as an individual willing and capable of cashing United States Treasury checks without proper identification. Ward presented the UC with a Treasury check for $12,727, in the name of another individual. Ward negotiated a check-cashing fee with the UC and advised that she had other checks that she needed to cash. Ward sold the Treasury check to the UC for $6,500. Later that same month, Ward met with the UC again and attempted to cash two additional Treasury checks. During the meeting, Ward sold ten stolen identities for the purpose of filing fraudulent federal income tax returns. She sold these identities for $850 each.

Read More

Lawmakers reintroduce cyberthreat information-sharing bill

Two U.S. lawmakers have reintroduced a controversial cyberthreat information-sharing bill over the objections of some privacy advocates and digital rights groups.

As promised, Representatives Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, have reintroduced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill that would allow private companies to share a wide range of cyberthreat information with U.S. government agencies.

New legislation is needed to protect the U.S. from cyberattacks coming from Iran and other countries, said Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. Cyberattacks have “exploded into what is an epidemic,” he said during a briefing on the bill. “We are in a cyberwar—most Americans don’t know it, most folks in the world probably don’t know it—and at this point, we’re losing.”

The bill can help U.S. agencies and businesses address their toughest cybersecurity problems, Rogers said. “It’s not a surveillance program, it’s in real time, at the speed of light, exchanging zeros and ones when it comes to malicious software to catch it and stop it,” he said.

Several privacy and digital rights groups have said the bill allows companies to share too much private information with government agencies, without sufficient oversight. The U.S. House of Representatives passed CISPA last April, but the legislation failed to advance in the Senate after the White House threatened a veto over privacy concerns.

The privacy protections in the new bill are “woefully inadequate,” Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior policy counsel at civil liberties group the Constitution Project, said in an email. “If passed in its current form, it would allow companies that hold sensitive personal information to share it with the federal government, including with agencies that have a history of domestic spying, which could then potentially use the information for purposes totally unrelated to cybersecurity,” she added..

Rogers and Ruppersberger said they’ve addressed privacy concerns in the new bill, although several privacy groups still voiced opposition to CISPA. The lawmakers have worked with privacy groups and will work with the White House as the bill moves forward, Ruppersberger said.

The two sponsors engaged in “lengthy negotiations” on privacy concerns, Ruppersberger said. The new bill has narrowed the definition of information that can be shared and sets strict restrictions on the government’s use and searching of the data, the sponsors said.

The two lawmakers introduced CISPA a day after President Barack Obama signed an executive order focused on allowing federal agencies to share cyberthreat information with U.S. businesses and on creating voluntary cybersecurity standards for operators of critical infrastructure.

The bill is needed in addition to the executive order to enable wider sharing of cyberthreat information than the order allows, Rogers said. While Obama’s order allows federal agencies to share cyberthreat information with companies, the bill would allow agencies to share classified information and would allow U.S. businesses to share cyberthreat information with each other and with government agencies.

CISPA also protects businesses that share cyberthreat information from lawsuits.

Some tech companies and trade groups, including Verizon Communications and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, praised the bill. The sharing of cyberthreat information is a “critical missing link in our efforts to detect and deter cyberattacks,” Michael Powell, NCTA’s president and CEO, wrote in a letter to the sponsors.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and Demand Progress, a digital rights group, both repeated their opposition to CISPA.

“CISPA does not require companies to make reasonable efforts to protect their customers’ privacy and then allows the government to use that data for undefined national-security purposes and without any minimization procedures, which have been in effect in other security statutes for decades,” the ACLU said in a statement.

View Source

Eleven South Florida Residents Charged in $34 Million Stolen Identity Tax Refund Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, announced the unsealing of a 43-count indictment charging defendants 11 South Florida residents with stolen identity tax refund fraud. Charged in the indictment are Henry Dorvil, aka “D,” 35, of Hollywood; Herve Wilmore Jr., 29, of Aventura; Dukens Eleazard, aka “DK,” 33, of Pembroke Pines; Marie Eleazard, aka “Fanfan,” 32, of Miami; Jesse Lamar Harrell, 26, of Miramar; Luckner St Fleur, aka “Nene,” 32, of Miami; Ruth Cartwright, aka “Princess,” 30, formerly of Plantation; Miguel Patterson, 35, of Miami; Brandon Johnson, 29, of Miami Gardens; John Similien, 24, of Plantation; and Marc Leroy Saint Juste, 26, of Tamarac. Defendants Dorvil, Harrell, Patterson, Johnson, and Saint Juste made their initial appearances in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow in Fort Lauderdale at 1:00 p.m. today. Defendant Cartwright was arrested in the Northern District of Georgia and will make her initial appearance there. Defendants Wilmore, both Eleazards, St Fleur, and Similien remain at large.

Specifically, each defendant is charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, commit wire fraud, and commit aggravated identity theft, all in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. § 371; as well as two counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., §§ 1343 and 2. In addition, defendants Dorvil, Wilmore, Dukens Eleazard, Marie Eleazard, Harrell, St Fleur, Cartwright, Patterson, Johnson, and Similien are charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C. §§ 1028A(a)(1) and 2. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of $443,449.07 seized from a bank account; a 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT Premium Sport and 2010 Nissan Maxima registered to defendant Dukens Eleazard; a 2011 Infiniti M37 registered to defendant Marie Eleazard; and a 2010 Porsche purchased by defendant Wilmore.

According to the indictment, the defendants recruited knowing participants and unknowing victims to put businesses, bank accounts, and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) in the defendants’ names. The defendants used this information to execute their fraud scheme, including tax refund fraud. The defendants also used the personal identification information of real people, including some deceased, to file false income tax returns with the IRS. In this way, the defendants received IRS refund checks [U.S. Treasury checks and Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) checks] at addresses and bank accounts that they controlled. To avoid having the fraud discovered, the defendants negotiated the fraudulently obtained income tax refund checks at each other’s businesses.

According to the indictment, from about January 2009 through March 2012, the defendants filed with the IRS approximately 6,961 federal income tax returns, requesting refunds totaling approximately $34,096,321. Of the 6,961 field tax returns, 2,763 used the identities of deceased individuals.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, “Stolen identity refund fraud is spreading in South Florida like an out of control wildfire. Two days ago, we announced charges against 14 individuals in six separate cases on charges of stolen identity refund fraud. Today, in just one case, we are charging another 11 individuals who used stolen identities, including that of almost 3,000 deceased persons, to file fraudulent returns seeking close to $35 million in tax refunds. My office, in conjunction with the members of the South Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Strike Force, will continue to prosecute these thieves, not just to punish them, but also to deter others from thinking they can get away with stealing honest taxpayers’ hard-earned refunds.”

Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez stated, “These defendants conspired to use the personal identification information of taxpayers, including deceased individuals, to file false income tax returns with the IRS. These actions not only pose a serious problem for taxpayers but adversely affect the integrity of our tax system. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to remain vigilant in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting those individuals who seek to willfully defraud the United States Treasury and have a blatant disregard for the victims of their schemes.”

“Unfortunately, this is another example of the rapidly growing wave of stolen identity tax refund fraud,” said Xanthie C. Mangum, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami Division. “The FBI continues to actively target these fraudsters who seek illicit gains by victimizing hard-working taxpayers.”

Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Paula Reid stated, “The existence of identity theft in the South Florida region is an unfortunate criminal epidemic. At any time, anyone is subject to being a victim. The investigative efforts of the law enforcement community must remain strong and unwavering as the offenders’ continuous success and harm with this stealthy crime cannot prevail.”

If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy count, 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and two years consecutive in prison for each count of aggravated identity theft.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, FBI, and USSS. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Department of Labor, and the Social Security Administration for their help on this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil.

View Source

Feds: UPS was target of $1.2 million fraud scheme

A UPS employee and an Indianapolis contractor are accused of scamming Sandy Springs-based UPS out of more than $1.2 million.

They allegedly converted company money into gift cards to buy things like cars and flat-screen TVs.

The UPS employee, Mark Gleason, 48; and Dayton R. Sloan II, 60, of D&S Construction were arrested Friday and charged with wire fraud and money laundering, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett.

The prosecutor said Gleason set up a maintenance contract with D&S in 2011. The company was hired to provide general contracting services for UPS at more than three dozen locations in Indiana and Illinois, Hogsett said.

Between January 2011 and December 2012, UPS paid D&S more than $1.2 million, the prosecutor said. The invoices allegedly were signed by Gleason, who was authorized to sign off on invoices up to $5,000.

The alleged scheme was said to work like this: Once Gleason paid D&S, Sloan would deposit the money in a D&S corporate account, then buy hundreds of thousands of dollars in prepaid Visa gift cards. Gleason and Sloan allegedly used the cards for personal purchases or gave them to relatives.

A bank D&S Construction used and a seller of the prepaid gift cards became suspicious and alerted authorities, prosecutors said.

An audit by UPS audit revealed many of the invoices were for “unorthodox” purchases and other invoices were fraudulent, Hogsett said. Some invoices Gleason filed had the names of other supervisors on them.

Gleason allegedly used the gift cards to buy more than $7,000 in jewelry and paid for nearly $3,000 for corrective eye surgery. He also used the cards, which were in denominations up to $100, toward more than $40,000 in automobile purchases.

Gleason and Sloan could face up to 20 years on each count of wire fraud and up to 10 years on each count of money laundering as well as fines and restitution, the prosecutor said.

View Source

Companies use cyberdefense to limit damage

SEATTLE — Disclosures last week about network intrusions at the New York Times and the Federal Reserve demonstrate that some companies have begun taking progressive steps to detect – and limit damage – from persistent cyberintruders.

Thieves and spies are hacking into company networks as intensively as ever. But some large organizations are starting to limit the damage they can do, once inside. Information about successful defense strategies are being more widely shared for the greater good.

“If you stop the bad actor from taking action on his or her objective, you win,” says Steve Adegbite, director of cybersecurity at defense giant Lockheed Martin.

In the past 18 months, U.S. companies and agencies have more readily acknowledged that breaches are occurring daily and have moved to update systems for detecting persistent intruders and limiting the damage they can do, security experts say.

The New York Times hired forensics firm Mandiant, which used military-style counter-intelligence tactics to detect and cripple intruders, who appeared to be based in China. The paper then surprised many in the security community by sharing details of Mandiant’s findings.

“It’s turning a page,” says Kurt Baumgartner, senior security analyst at Kaspersky Lab. “They immediately disclosed what the attackers were looking for, down to the reporters’ material the attackers were hunting.”

A day after the Times disclosure, The Wall Street Journal announced that it, too, detected and blocked network intruders, who also appeared to originate from China. Last Thursday, the Federal Reserve disclosed a breach of one of its internal websites. The hacking collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for the hack. The intruders got access to emergency contact information for 4,000 banking executives. But the agency said no critical operations were affected.

Those cases illustrate how companies and agencies are focusing on tactics to flush out intrusions in progress and prevent attackers from accessing the most valuable intellectual property, says Eddie Schwartz, chief information security officer at security firm RSA.

“There is a growing awareness that organizations are under constant attack in terms of nation-state espionage, organized criminal theft and hacktivist action and that they must implement equally advanced and committed defenses,” says Schwartz.

Security analysts hope that other breached organizations, led by the Times’ example, share detailed intelligence about both successes and failures in defending against cyberintruders.

“It’s like being at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting — first you have to acknowledge you have a problem,” says Gunter Ollmann, chief technology officer at security consultancy IOActive.

Chris Petersen, chief technology officer at tech systems provider LogRhythm, cautions that cybercrime has become a rich and resilient global industry that won’t soon relent. “The motivations driving malicious cyberactivities continue to rise,” he says. “There is money to be made, points to get across and war to wage.”

View Source

New U.S. commander takes the helm in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — Marine Gen. John Allen relinquished command of coalition forces in Afghanistan on Sunday, expressing optimism about the nation’s future but saying the world will keep a close watch on how the government handles next year’s elections and whether it follows through on promised reforms.

“The big benchmark for all of us is going to be the election,” Allen told reporters moments before a simple ceremony in which he handed the battle colors to another U.S. Marine general, Joseph Dunford.

The last Afghan elections, held in 2009, were marred by violence and allegations of corruption. Elections are scheduled for next year, a time when most security will be the responsibility of the Afghan security forces and the American presence will be significantly reduced.

“The international community is in this to a point, but it won’t be in this to a fault,” Allen said. “What that means is we will all watch the outcome of the election.”

AFGHANISTAN’S FUTURE: Will Taliban take political path?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged to combat endemic corruption in his country and improve government transparency. “The rhetoric has to be accompanied by action,” Allen said.

Hoping to avoid a repeat of history, U.S. officials have emphasized the importance of continued support of Afghanistan after 2014 when most U.S. combat forces will leave.

The Soviets withdrew nearly all support for Afghanistan’s government after its troops left the country in 1989, leading to the collapse of the Soviet-backed government and civil war several years later.

By contrast, the United States and its allies have pledged to continue supporting Afghanistan’s military and economy even after most foreign troops are gone.

But Allen said the United States and its allies will expect to see improvements in governance and efforts to reduce corruption.

“The normal follow through on counterinsurgency is the development of governmental capacity,” Allen said.

Still he said such improvements usually lag behind security progress and urged the international community to exercise patience.

“We all have to recognize the limits of the capacity of the Afghan people and the government at this particular moment,” Allen said.

On a military level, Allen said the coalition campaign over the past couple years has been successful in pushing the Taliban out of key towns and cities and bolstering the capabilities and confidence of Afghan security forces.

“We are winning,” Allen said simply during a speech at an awards presentation before departing Kabul.

Allen has been nominated to the top NATO job in Europe. He was to fly out of Kabul after the ceremony Sunday after 19 months in the job.

Allen earned a reputation as both an aggressive commander and cerebral officer. In Iraq in 2007 he helped lead a successful effort to consolidate and broaden a tribal revolt against al-Qaeda in Iraq’s western desert.

Dunford is a well-respected troop commander who led a Marine regiment during the U.S.-led attack into Iraq in 2003. His aggressiveness and coolness under fire earned him the moniker Fighting Joe.

View Source

Hacker publishes private photos, paintings of George W. Bush

A hacker, known by the pseudonym Guccifer, hacked into the email accounts of several members of the Bush family, including President George W. Bush’s sister, and published a cache of private emails and photographs online. The Secret Service says it has opened an investigation into the matter.

The emails reveal that the Bushes were highly concerned about the health of George H.W. Bush, who was recently released from the hospital following a week of intensive care. Indeed, George W. Bush in December sent an email to family members to collect anecdotes and “acts of kindness” that he could use to compose a eulogy. One of the released photos showed the elder Bush in the hospital.

One email, forwarded by White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, contained a personal message from President Obama, who wrote, “Michelle and I haven’t wanted to impinge on you while you are recuperating, but please know that we are thinking of you and the entire family.” The emails also show a surprising closeness between the elder Bush and his successor and former rival, Bill Clinton, who is referred to by the family as Bubba. One photo shows Clinton with George H.W. Bush at the family’s house in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The hacker also published George W. Bush’s address in Texas, as well as the four-digit code needed to access his compound.

The most intriguing images, which have been the subject of some easy mockery, are of painted self-portraits done by George W. Bush, including one of him in the shower and one of him in the bath, both utterly safe for work.

The Smoking Gun, which has been in contact Guccifer, reports that the hacker is unconcerned about being caught. “I have an old game with the f—ing bastards inside, this is just another chapter in the game,” Guccifer told the site.

View Source