Archive for January, 2016

Hundreds of badges, credentials, cell phones and guns belonging to Department of Homeland Security employees have been lost or stolen in recent years — raising serious security concerns about the potential damage these missing items could do in the wrong hands.

Inventory reports, obtained by the news site Complete Colorado and shared with, show that over 1,300 badges, 165 firearms and 589 cell phones were lost or stolen over the span of 31 months between 2012 and 2015.

The majority of the credentials belonged to employees of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while others belonged to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees.

The lost or stolen guns also mostly belonged to CBP employees, though others were cited as belonging to TSA and ICE workers. The agencies all fall under DHS.

The missing badges and guns suggest a shocking lack of security from federal law enforcement officers and represent a significant security risk, experts say.

“It’s scary that you’d have that number of credentials out there that someone could manipulate,” Tim Miller, a retired Secret Service special agent, told

While Miller said the phones are likely to have enough protocols in place to prevent them from being used for nefarious purposes, the badges and credentials are an entirely different matter and could allow access to sensitive areas such as cargo.

“The thing that’s particularly concerning is that if you get real credentials, it’s very easy to manipulate them, and you’ve got someone else’s picture on what law enforcement would see as valid,” Miller said. “Then you factor in terrorism, it’s a significant concern that people would run around with authentic credentials and be able to access areas they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.”

When reached for comment, DHS did not dispute the inventory report data — which Complete Colorado, a Colorado-based online news site, had obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The reporter who obtained the data also works with Denver-based free-market think tank the Independence Institute.

In a statement to, a DHS spokesman said they strive to be “good stewards of government resources” and have improved oversight and reduced the number of lost or stolen items over the past few years.

“If a credential holder loses or has their credentials stolen, the holder must report the incident to their supervisor and credential issuance office immediately,” spokesman Justin Greenberg said. “Once the incident has been reported, this information is entered into appropriate DHS and law enforcement databases, which disables use of the lost or stolen item.”

He also noted that DHS encrypts all mobile devices, laptops and tablets.

Miller said officials need to be doing more, considering the sheer number of guns and badges that have been lost or stolen.

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Editor’s note: In 300 words or fewer, this series spotlights people in our community whose stories typically go untold.

It’s still dark outside as Michael Fallon walks up the stairs to work, passing a saber-toothed tiger on his left. He unlocks the front door and flicks on the lights, illuminating the 40-foot wingspan of a Texas Pterosaur hovering above him.

Fallon is the first one at work every day and the last one out. Until the next employee arrives around 9 a.m., the Texas Memorial Museum’s 66 million-year-old Monasaur skeleton keeps him company.

“A lot of people kid me about that movie ‘Night At The Museum,’” he said. “If the animals were to come alive, it would be spooky, but in reality, it’s just very quiet.”

Most of his workday is spent in his security nook inside the museum’s Great Hall. Two computer screens stare back at him with live surveillance footage of the museum grounds.

At all times, he is ready to respond to a crisis. After nine years in the U.S. Air Force and 23 with UTPD, he is well versed in emergency protocol, although at the museum he rarely has to use it.

“If I can keep people happy and safe, that makes me happy,” he said.

In 2010, Fallon retired from UTPD because it was time for a new chapter in his life. He said being a cop is a young man’s game, and as he moved deeper into his 50s, he wanted a change of pace.

The museum provided just that. Michael gets to see every patron who comes through the museum, from retirement home groups to pre-K classes. He watches each of them experience the same wonder and awe he feels every day from his security nook.

“I think people should appreciate natural history so they know what was here long before we were and appreciate what we have now,” he said. “It humbles you.”

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In 2008, a new federal law creating stricter penalties for criminals who engaged in intellectual property theft was enacted to keep pace with globalization, e-commerce, and technology advances.

Fast forward to 2016: Technological advances continue at an even faster pace, dramatically increasing the threat posed by criminals who steal trade secrets, produce and/or traffic in counterfeit products, and infringe on copyrights. One important factor in this increase is the global expansion of online marketplaces, which aids international and domestic criminal organizations in trafficking in counterfeit goods.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a new strategy that involves partnering more closely with businesses in an effort to combat these types of crimes more effectively. Said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “Through this new approach, we intend to provide information and resources to individuals and companies that will help them identify and disrupt attempts on their intellectual property, extend greater protection to American commerce as a whole, and safeguard the health and safety of individual Americans.”

And the FBI—working with its investigative partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC)—will play an integral part in this strategy.

The Bureau has already been collaborating for years with brand owners, copyright holders, and trademark holders because we know the harm that intellectual property theft causes: legitimate businesses lose billions of dollars in revenue and suffer damaged reputations, consumer prices go up, the U.S. and global economies are robbed of jobs and tax revenue, product safety is reduced, and sometimes lives are even put at risk. FBI efforts with these businesses to date have involved shared information, aggressive criminal initiatives based on current or emerging trends, and investigations.

Under the FBI’s new strategy, we’re expanding our efforts to work with third-party entities—such as online marketplaces, payment service providers, and advertisers—that may inadvertently enable the activities of criminals.

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Almost 75 years after they were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of five U.S. sailors who perished when their battleship was sunk, have been identified, the Pentagon said Monday.

The five men, who were exhumed last year from their graves in Hawaii and examined in special military laboratories, were among 429 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma was torpedoed and capsized.

They had been buried as “unknowns.”

The battleship’s loss of life at Pearl Harbor was second only to the 1,100 lost on the USS Arizona, whose wreck remains a hallowed Pearl Harbor historic site.

The men identified were Chief Petty Officer Albert E. Hayden, 44, of Mechanicsville, Md., in St. Mary’s County; Ensign Lewis. S Stockdale, 27, of Anaconda, Mont.; Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce, 21, of Labette County, Kan.; Petty Officer 1st Class Vernon T. Luke, 43, of Green Bay, Wisc.; and Chief Petty Officer Duff Gordon, 52, of Hudson, Wisc.

The Oklahoma had a complement of about 1,300, including 77 Marines.

The identifications are the first to come from a project that began last April when the Defense Department announced plans to exhume an estimated 388 of the Oklahoma’s unknowns.

The effort was sparked after researcher and Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, in 2003, used National Archives files to get officials to dig up a casket believed to contain an Oklahoma sailor’s remains.

That sailor, Ensign Eldon Wyman, was duly identified, and in 2007 a second casket was unearthed and the remains within were also identified as an Oklahoma sailor.

The remains were returned to their families.

The latest identifications were made by comparing pre-war dental records with the teeth of the exhumed sailors, said Air Force Lt. Col. Holly Slaughter, spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s newly created Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which is doing the work.

During the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, which plunged the U.S. into World War II, many Oklahoma sailors jumped overboard as the battleship rolled over in about 50 feet of water.

But hundreds were trapped below decks.

Thirty-two were rescued by intrepid crews who heard them banging for help, cut into the hull and made their way through a maze of darkened, flooded compartments to reach them.

Others managed to escape by swimming underwater to find their way out. Some trapped sailors tried to stem the in-rushing water with rags and even the board from a board game. One distraught man tried to drown himself.

In the months, and years, after the attack, the handling of the crew’s remains was plagued by error, confusion and poor record keeping.

Most of the dead were found in the wreckage during the months-long salvage operation, especially after the Oklahoma was righted in 1943, according to a memo by DPAA historian Heather Harris.

By then, the bodies had been reduced to skeletons.

By 1944, the jumbled skeletons, saturated with fuel oil from the ship, had been buried as unknowns in two Hawaiian cemeteries, Harris’s report said.

Three years later, they were dug up and taken to a military laboratory near Pearl Harbor for attempted identification.

The chief tool then also was the comparison of the dental records with the teeth of the deceased. And 27 tentative identifications were made, but they were rejected as incomplete by the authorities.

Gordon, Hayden, Luke, and Stockdale were among those 27, Slaughter said in an email.

In 1949, all the remains were formally declared unidentifiable. And by 1950, they had been reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, often called the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.

There they rested until last year.

The first exhumations took place June 8, and the last four caskets were dug up Nov. 9.

Sixty-one rusty caskets, still with their carrying handles, were retrieved from 45 graves. The caskets were heavily corroded and had to be forced open with mauls and crowbars.

After the remains were removed, they were cleaned and photographed, and most of them were flown to the DPAA lab in Nebraska for further analysis. Skulls were retained in a DPAA lab in Hawaii, where forensic dentists are based.

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FireKeepers Casino Hotel’s security staff has received a series of highly-specified training sessions to ensure safety at the 236,000-square-foot property in Emmett Township.

In a media release on Monday, the casino highlighted its security training measures for its more than 100 on-site security officers. The casino’s security training program prepares its officers with a number of areas including officer conduct, customer interaction, human trafficking, drug awareness and active shooter training, among others.

The training programs are directed by George Jenkot, vice president of security and surveillance; Dale Isbell, director of security and surveillance; Sam Abdo, training and special events supervisor of security; and the casino’s security supervisors and officers.

“All of our training sessions focus on the various facets of the property and are designed to raise awareness and help our Team Members recognize potential issues and learn when to report them to Security,” Jenkot said in the release. “It is the responsibility of our Team Members to watch and report and it is Security’s responsibility to provide the education so they can do so.”

Among the casino’s programs, the human trafficking program is designed for officers to recognize and react to the signs of human trafficking. The drug awareness program is a similar training session overseen by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Police, the Special Operations Detective from Calhoun County and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Its active shooter training is among the casino’s most extensive programs, created to help officers recognize warning signs and keep guests and employees safe in the event of an active shooter situation.

The casino said it intends to implement a series of refresher training courses for veteran officers this year.

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Thomas W. Lucas, Jr. was such an effective liar that he was able to convince hundreds of investors—even members of his own family—that he had inside information about a Disney resort to be built in Texas that would make the nearby scrubland worth a fortune for those who bought it ahead of time.

Of course, there was no “Frontier Disney,” as Lucas claimed, but using false documents, forged signatures, and phony presentations, he was able to pocket nearly $450,000 in real estate fees over a four-year period and cause investors to lose approximately $20 million.

“Thomas Lucas Jr. fooled savvy investors and very intelligent people,” said Special Agent Rick Velasquez, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Dallas Division. “He was a very believable guy.”

From 2006 to 2010, Lucas defrauded more than 250 investors. He claimed to have insider information regarding a Disney resort and theme park planned for a rural area about 50 miles north of Dallas. He was giving investors a chance to buy surrounding land outright, or to purchase options to buy the land near the supposed resort. The 65 investors who purchased options lost every cent they invested—more than $8 million. Some investors, including Lucas’ father and uncle in the family real estate business, purchased land outright, believing the Disney story.

“There was not one grain of truth in Lucas’ presentations,” Velasquez said, “but his pitch was very elaborate, and it fooled a lot of people. He duped his own family.”

Lucas claimed to have letters between Disney and a management firm saying that the company had acquired enough land to make the deal happen. He included the letters—complete with forged Disney officials’ signatures—in his presentations to investors, along with detailed maps, concept plans, and images that were later discovered to be lifted from the Internet, some from Disney websites.

According to Lucas, Disney planned to make the big announcement about the resort at a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving in 2006. When that didn’t happen, he told investors there were delays. “Then the announcement was going to be Super Bowl 2007, 2008. Then it was Fourth of July at the Beijing Olympic games,” Velasquez said. “He was just trying to keep investors and potential investors on the hook.”

With each delay, Lucas would sweeten the pot with some new bogus e-mail from a Disney executive or other bit of tantalizing information meant to persuade people the project was still on track. Eventually, investors became suspicious, and one made a complaint to the FBI.

Velasquez, who specializes in financial fraud cases, says the scheme went on for so long because Lucas was believable—and also because investors could not resist the temptation of making large returns on their money.

When confronted by investigators about his claims, Lucas falsely blamed the supposed Disney information he received on a man he met at a methadone rehab clinic, who had since died. In 2014, Lucas was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of lying to the FBI.

Last September, after a jury trial in which Lucas maintained his innocence but was found guilty on all charges, a judge sentenced the 35-year-old to 17.5 years in prison. “That was a stiff sentence for a white-collar crime,” Velasquez noted, “but he defrauded a lot of people and showed no remorse.”

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Fort Bragg visitors from some states will no longer be allowed to use only their driver’s license to enter the post.

Officials have said the nation’s largest military installation has begun enforcement of the REAL ID Act, a 10-year-old law meant to help lawmakers detect fake identification following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Fewer than half of all states currently comply with the law, but most others, including North Carolina and Virginia, have received an extension to comply by Oct. 10.

Residents of states without an extension – including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and Washington – will no longer be able to use their state-issued identification “effective immediately,” said Fort Bragg spokeswoman Christina Douglas.

Those visitors will need to use some other form of identification, such as a U.S. passport, or be escorted at all times on the installation.

Fort Bragg officials said the process for gaining access to post is unchanged for the vast majority of visitors.

“If you have a DOD-issued ID card, you can use it at the gates as you always have,” said spokesman Tom McCollum.

The REAL ID Act was born out of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission report in 2004.

That report noted that preventing terrorists from obtaining state-issued identification documents was critical to national security.

The law does not create a national identification card or database of driver’s license information, but instead sets national standards for states to use to help prevent the use of fake IDs, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The law serves as a mandate on federal agencies, and participation by states is voluntary, although federal agencies are prohibited from accepting identification from noncompliant states for many official purposes.

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Private K-12 schools and higher education institutions in Tennessee would have the ability to create policy that would permit qualified people to carry handguns in all buildings and on all campuses owned and operated by the private school, according to a newly filed bill by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.

The legislation, which was filed on Monday, would require the chief administrative officers of private K-12 schools and higher education institutions to set a policy on carrying handguns on the property and buildings of each school and institution.

According to the legislation, qualified persons include anyone not prohibited from possessing a handgun and who also has a valid Tennessee handgun carry permit.

Although Bell’s legislation would not require a private school to allow all qualified people the ability to bring their guns into a building, it would mandate the school’s chief officer to create a policy.

The private institutions are given the ability to decide who is allowed to carry a weapon on the premises.

Bell told The Tennessean the bill is not a direct reaction to state Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s opinion that was issued last September in which the attorney general said people can’t bring guns to a church, religious entity or private school if the property is being used for a school event.

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Walmart sued over ammo sale

Twenty-year-old Robert Jourdain had been drinking for hours before he walked into a Walmart store early on the morning of July 5 and bought a box of .38-caliber ammunition, court papers say.

Shortly before 3 a.m., Jourdain left the Northampton Crossings shopping center in Lower Nazareth Township and got into the white Mercedes Benz sport utility vehicle where Todd West was waiting with a Smith & Wesson revolver. Within an hour, West allegedly used the bullets to kill three people in a random shooting spree on the streets of Easton and Allentown.

The victims’ families have filed a lawsuit against Walmart that one expert says could succeed despite federal protections for gun and ammo dealers. The families claim that Walmart and its employees were negligent in selling the ammunition to Jourdain because they should have known he was too young to buy it legally and was mentally impaired by alcohol.

“The bottom line here is that Walmart sold .38-caliber handgun ammunition to an underage person in the middle of the night, and that ammunition was used to kill several people,” said Philadelphia attorney Matt Casey, who filed the suit last week.

“Ultimately, a jury will decide whether that sale was consummated in a way that breached Walmart’s duty to the victims,” Casey said.

Killed in the rampage were Kory Ketrow, 22, of Easton, who was shot twice just steps from his Lehigh Street home; and Francine Ramos, 32, and Trevor Gray, 21, both of Allentown, who were attacked as they sat in Ramos’ car at Sixth and Greenleaf streets.

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The new policy only allows a few exceptions for when employees can remove their ballistic vests

A new body armor policy, put in effect on Jan. 1, requires all Cleveland EMS personnel to wear a ballistic vest at all times, unless they are inside a station or hospital.

The Cleveland EMS general order on ballistic/body armor, issued on Dec. 21, 2015, directs personnel working in an operational capacity to wear body armor at all times while on duty unless the EMT, paramedic, captain or sergeant is engaged in tasks inside an EMS base facility, inside or on the grounds of a hospital, attending training at EMS headquarters, attending a court hearing, or at a medical appointment.

Employees are to wear the ballistic vests either under their shirt or inside an external vest carrier over their shirt.

Employees are also responsible for cleaning and inspecting their body armor.

Previously Cleveland EMS personnel were only required to wear body armor on specific call types, such as assaults and active shooters.

Cleveland EMS staffs 18 ALS ambulances and responds to more than 100,000 emergency calls per year.

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