A chief counsel at ICE, Raphael Sanchez, resigned Monday after his four-year scheme of stealing seven immigrants’ identities and spending $190,000 on credit cards and Amazon accounts opened in their names was exposed.
This required forging social security cards and drivers licenses from the ICE database. Not to be confused with the Vigilant database ICE now accesses for new prey:
(Accolades are in order for Alameda, CA, whose residents recently nixed a $500,000 contract for a Vigilant license plate reader network.)
The 44-year-old Seattle-based lawyer, whose job description is “immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”, claimed three illegal immigrants as dependents on his tax returns with impunity, but got pinched when he used a Chinese national’s permanent resident card to pay his electric bill.
Through his own lawyer, Sanchez offered “sincere and immense regret” and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His recommended sentence is four years.
Despite Pentagon comptroller David Norquist echoing military leaders’ “pleading” with Congress to save $2,000,000,000 PER YEAR by closing “tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world” [our emphasis], our entitled representatives have so thoroughly refuted the move that Defense didn’t even broach the subject in their 2019 budget request. According to Washington Times, the improbable decision to conduct a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is out of the question this election year.
The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and took a decade to complete. It is estimated to have cost $24 billion and the Pentagon estimates it will save about $4 billion per year.
The House Armed Services Committee dismissed the Pentagon’s request last year, because America was founded on the basis of a stifling cent Federal government whose chief objective is to provide military and contracting jobs indefinitely.
As the IRS gears up for tax season, they’re dogged by the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service‘s damning details of last year’s effort to recover $920 million that was mistakenly not confiscated. Private collection agencies and IRS itself were allowed to pocket 25% commission—each–of what they scored for the Feds.
IRS’ target group unfortunately included many struggling taxpayers. The 4,100 targets had a median household income of $41,000 (national median last year was $59,039, according to the Census Bureau); 28% made less than $20,000, and some received Social Security, making them ineligible for shakedown by IRS ground rules.
19% were below the federal poverty level.
Of those bullied into “installment agreements” by the collectors, 45% could not afford to make the payments because they had income that was less than their allowable living
According to the report obtained by ThinkProgress, the agencies got paid for accounts actually settled by IRS:
The IRS is aware that it is paying commissions to [collection agencies] with respect to work done by the IRS, but has
no plans to change its procedures to attempt to identify payments that were clearly not attributable to [agencies]…
Also, the initiative cost $20 million but recovered just $7 million.
A revenue-neutral FairTax, collected with every purchase to punishe consumption rather than production, eliminating the IRS, is still out of the question.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is back under the microscope.
Last week’s Office of Inspector General report scrutinized VA secretary David Shulkin (below) for attending the Wimbeldon tennis tournament–and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark–last July in conjunction with the London Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs.
The Obama-appointed Undersecretary is the only Trump nominee to wield unanimous 100-0 consent from the Senate from his 2017 confirmation to head VA.
Washington Post, who apparently got the story first in September, noted Shulkin previously denied reaching out to Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games head Victoria Gosling to poach the tennis tickets (worth thousands on the street). It turns out Shulkin did exactly that, and got served when OIG found Gosling could not come up with the first name of Shulkin’s wife, Dr. Merle Bari. This did not match Shulkin’s story that Gosling was a friend, so the exchange did not require ethics clearance.
Dr. Bari proved to be a very expensive
add in add on to the delegation, adding $4300 in plane tickets alone to the $122,000, 11-day European extravaganza funded by the VA’s taxpayer-provided budget. Her status as “invitational traveler” cleared the VA ethics office just two weeks after her husband directed the agency to determine “essential” travel to “decrease employee travel and generate savings.”
Shulkin (2016 net worth: $17 million) repaid the government for Bari’s ticket.
A member of the security team’s expense voucher included “an inexplicable $3,825 overpayment for airport parking and a $2,718 overpayment for lodging.”
The report mentions another unusual expense: VA had official “Trip Book” itineraries printed for the entourage, 15 copies at a cost of $100 each.
The best part? Shulkin’s chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson (below) resigned Friday after altering emails to VA’s ethics lawyer to suggest Shulkin received an award on the trip’s Denmark leg (which would have justified his wife’s traveling at taxpayer expense). OIG, of course, found Shulkin had no idea of the malfeasance.
(Wright Simpson flew in economy class, but changed her connecting city, adding $2900 to the cost of her ticket.)
Two other staff members indulged in the trip, with six (6) security employees requiring “several additional days of advance travel.” So several of the trip itinerary booklets were apparently extras.
It’s unclear if Shulkin has yet rewritten VA hiring guidelines as he promised last December when USA Today found the agency has routinely–in violation of Federal law–employed physicians with revoked medical licenses for the past 15 years.
Besides Shulkin, four other Trump officials are under investigation for lavish travel using government funds. EPA head Scott Pruitt, for example, traveled from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch his first-class flight to Rome, according to CNBC. Pruitt, according to the EPA, is awarded first or business class (for his frequent travel on jumbo jets to spread environmental protection) to avoid repeating past “security threats.” The Hill:
Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights on the taxpayer dime.
Paul Manafort‘s release from house arrest looks even less likely, as Robert Mueller‘s long awaited Russia probe turned up evidence of his “additional criminial conduct…[including] a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”
It’s unclear if the still-pending $10 million bail deal will proceed for Manafort’s alleged overstatement of income by his company DMP International to secure a $9.5 million mortgage for his other venture, Summerbreeze LLC. No additional charges are yet filed, and D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (below) has everyone under gag order as her office aims for an October trial.
On February 16, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities for spreading anti-Hillary and pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election via (according to Politico) identity theft, fake accounts, carefully orchestrated trips and outreach, a concerted social media strategy and even real live rallies across the United States secretly planned from Russia.
Specifically: Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them)[.]”
According to The Hill, the Russians sought to suppress support among black voters for Hillary Clinton, creating fake accounts on social platforms including Facebook and Instagram with names like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks” — and suggesting that she was not strong enough on issues germane to African-Americans.
Thanks to our sources: