Jon Stewart Calls for Sanity in a Climate of Fear

Sanity Rally Dwarfs Beck's August Event
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    By Steve Rensberry
  rensberrypublishing.com 
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   (RPC) - 10/31/10 - Judging by the latest estimates, the Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" rally in August was dwarfed in size by the crowd that converged on Washington D.C. on October 30 for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear."
   Attendance was estimated at between 200,000 and 250,000, compared to roughly 85,000 for the Beck rally.
   If you were looking for succinct, you got succinct. If you were looking for humor, you got humor. If you were looking for inspiration and some straight talk for fear mongers and those in need of anger management classes, well, even a tea party supporter might come away with something -- or not.
   "We live now in hard times, not end times," Steward said in the final speech of the rally.
   His advice for the media in general: "If we amplify everything, we hear nothing."
   An estimated 1,150 regional "Restoring Sanity" rallies were held in close to 85 countries, according to a report from Christian Science Staff Writer Stephen Kurczy, "Jon Stewart's 'Rally to Restore Sanity' energizes expats from Paris to Prague."
   At a blog post on www.huffingtonpost.com/, Arianna Huffington is cited for comments she made during an October 31 appearance on the CNN broadcast "Reliable Sources," in which she disagrees with host Howard Kurtz's reference to Stewart as a liberal.
   "What makes him and Colbert special is the fact that they use satire to speak truth to power, whether that power is liberal, conservative, in the media, in politics," Huffington said.
   Neither was he all that unfair in his criticism of the media, she said.
   "The message at the end is incredibly important -- what we in the media tend to cover, whether it's Balloon Boy, or Reverend Jones burning the Quran -- at the expense of other things that are happening around the country, where we put our magnifying glass, as he put it, is incredible important," Huffington said.
   Entertainers at the rally included Cat Stevens, the O'Jays, Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kid Rock, Sam Waterston, John Legend, The Roots, and others.
   For further reading: http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/

Voters Back Workplace Flexibility, Job Quality

   WASHINGTON - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 10/31/10 -- New data collected for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research by Precision Opinion finds widespread support across party lines, gender, race and ethnicity for policies that will assist working families and protect workers’ rights, especially for low income workers. The majority of registered voters favor political candidates who will promote policies that increase workplace protections from unfair treatment, and provide paid leave and flexibility to meet family care giving demands—and women consistently show greater support than men.
   “To excite voters, and especially women voters, political parties can address the pressing need for policies to improve work-life flexibility and balance, as well as to provide basic protections, such as paid sick days, to help workers care for their families,” IWPR Executive Director Barbara Gault said.
   For example, likely voters overwhelmingly support paid leave for family care and child birth, quality and affordable child care, paid sick days, a right to request a flexible schedule, a right to refuse overtime, and a higher minimum wage. Across the board, women support such work-life policies more than men, as do parents with children under the age of 18 value such work-life policies more than those without children under the age of 18.
   Three out of four (76 percent) endorse laws to provide paid leave for family care and childbirth—81 percent of women and 71 percent of men. Racial/ethnic minority voters support these policies (92 percent of African Americans and 86 percent of Hispanics) more than White voters (72 percent). Democrats promote these policies (88 percent) more than either Republicans (68 percent) or Independents (70 percent).
    Similar patterns are seen in support for laws to improve the quality and affordability of child care and after-school care. Three-quarters of voters agree with these policies— 79 percent of women and 75 percent of men. African Americans (88 percent) and Hispanics (84 percent) are more likely than Whites (73 percent) to factor child care arrangements into their electoral choices. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans, and 71 percent of Independent voters see a role for government in promoting high quality, affordable child care.
    Paid sick days legislation, which would require businesses to provide leave when workers or their children are ill, has been introduced each year since 2005 in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. More than two-thirds of registered voters (69 percent) endorse laws to provide paid sick days; 74 percent of women and 63 percent of men. A majority of both Republicans (57 percent) and Independents (59 percent) favor such laws, but even more Democrats (84 percent) support paid sick days laws.
Eighty-two percent of registered voters support legislators who will work for stronger laws to challenge discrimination and unfair treatment on the job—with support at 90 percent among respondents aged 18-39.    
   More women favor such policies (86 percent) than men (77 percent).
    For more information, please see the full press release with graph on IWPR’s website.
   Results shown are for registered voters drawn from a nationally representative sample of 2,080 adults surveyed by Precision Opinion using telephone interviews and random digital dialing in September and October 2010. The results shown are preliminary with a margin of sampling error for the survey of ±2.2 percentage points. Funding for this Institute for Women’s Policy Research survey was provided by the Rockefeller Foundation.
   News Release Source: BUSINESS WIRE

Report: Consumer Confidence Rises In October

   ARLINGTON, Va. - (BUSINESS WIRE) -10/26/10 - Consumer confidence in the overall economy improved in October, according to the latest figures released recently by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and CNET. The CEA-CNET Index also shows confidence in consumer spending on technology is down slightly from last month.
   The CEA-CNET Index of Consumer Expectations (ICE) increased for the third straight month to 167.1 in October. The ICE, which measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, rose 3.7 points but remains down seven points from this time last year.  
   “Consumer sentiment in the overall direction of the economy is slowly shifting,” CEA chief economist and director of research Shawn DuBravac said. “Uncertainty remains pervasive but the overall sentiment has risen three consecutive months showing that consumers are seeing marginal improvement in their economic outlook.”
    The CEA-CNET of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE) is down from last month. The ICTE, which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, fell 1.6 points to 79.3. ICTE remains at the same level as one year ago.
    “As we move into the important holiday season, the consensus view for holiday retail remains tepid, consistent with a mired sentiment. However, tech continues to show resiliency,” DuBravac said. “We expect consumer tech retail sales will be the leading category within overall holiday sales.”
    CEA’s 17th Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study, released last week, shows that interest in electronics this holiday will be at an all-time high. Consumers will spend $232 on CE gifts, up five percent from last year and the highest level since CEA began tracking holiday spending.
   Nearly a third of consumers’ total gift budgets will be allocated to CE. The study found consumers will spend an average of $1,412 this holiday, including $750 on gifts. Notebook/laptop computers, the iPad and eReaders are among the most wanted gifts this year.
    The CEA-CNET Indexes comprise the ICE and ICTE, both of which are updated on a monthly basis through consumer surveys. New data is released on the fourth Tuesday of each month. CEA and CNET have been tracking index data since January 2007. To find current and past indexes, charts, methodology and future release dates, log on to: CEACNETindexes.org.

Quinn's Job Announcement Not in Latest Report

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    By Jennifer Wessner    
  Illinois Statehouse News
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   SPRINGFIELD –10/23/10 - If you listened to Gov. Pat Quinn on the stump this week, you heard him hand out over $300 million in and create almost 5,000 jobs. But those job numbers don’t add-up with the latest jobless report in Illinois.
   Quinn traveled to Moline, Rochelle and Chicago this week announcing state projects, and new jobs at each stop.  The money for the new projects is from Illinois’ $30 billion statewide construction plan that lawmakers approved back in 2009. The jobs from the new project appear to be scattered across the state, and across the calendar.
   On Wednesday the governor announced the release of $270 million dollars to 18 school districts around the state for the new construction. Quinn said the projects would “be creating 3,700 new construction jobs to area residents.”
   But many of those 18 districts said they started work on their projects months ago, and some are nearing completion.
   Illinois latest jobless report shows a jump in construction jobs, but not nearly the number of jobs Quinn touted this week.
   September’s job numbers show 700 new construction jobs were created last month.
   Annie Thompson with Governor Pat Quinn’s office said the new jobs are not included in the September jobless report and said she doesn’t know if it will be included in the October report.
   No one seems to know if the numbers by the Governor’s count are new jobs, old jobs, or current jobs.
Beth Spencer, communications director from Illinois AFL-CIO, said it doesn’t matter if the jobs were created or will be created.  The important part is that people are going back to work.
   “Part of the beauty of being a sitting governor is it’s your prerogative to make these announcements and it’s his pleasure and his prerogative. We’re just excited that it’s happening.”
   In the manufacturing sector, Quinn announced 250 new jobs at a new rail car manufacturing facility being built in Rochelle.
   Greg Baise, president of Illinois Manufacturing Association, said the timing of the job creation claims is not surprising.
   “It’s not unusual for governors to make claims like that, especially 12 days before a gubernatorial election,” Baise said. “So I guess we give governor’s a little latitude with these kinds of things.”
   Greg Rivara, spokesman for the IDES, said there is real improvement in Illinois.
   “[The state] added 8,600 jobs in the month of September and for the year so far Illinois has added 50,700,” Rivara said. “So we’ve had some positive economic job growth in the state. At the same time the unemployment rate has gone down. The unemployment rate fell for the sixth straight month to reach 9.9 percent.”
   Eleven thousand 800 people did lose their job in September, but Rivara said that was offset by 20,900 people finding jobs in September. Illinois’ unemployment rate is still slightly higher than the national rate, which is sitting at 9.6 percent.  Thompson with the governor’s office is quick to say that Illinois has added over 50,000 new jobs over the past six months.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News. (Released Oct. 21.2010)

Men Charged in $7 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

   NEWARK, N.J. – 10/21/10 – A former mortgage broker and his purported co-conspirator in a mortgage fraud scheme were arrested recently on a criminal complaint which alleges they conspired to defraud various mortgage lenders of more than $7 million by conducting at least 50 fraudulent real estate transactions involving residential properties in New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
   Eddie Dukhman, aka Eddie Dukeman, 34, of Sewaren, N.J., and Frank Corallo, 37, of Maywood, N.J., were arrested recently by special agents of the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 
   Dukhman was arrested at his home. Corallo, who awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in an unrelated scheme, was arrested when he reported to pretrial services concerning that case. Both defendants were expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp in Newark federal court.
   According to the complain that was unsealed, Dukhman, supposedly in the real estate business, and Corallo, a former mortgage broker, engaged in a conspiracy to defraud mortgage lenders from January 2007 to December 2009.
   Dukhman, with the assistance of two attorneys, arranged to purchase properties owned by financial institutions – commonly referred to as real-estate-owned or REO properties.  Corallo recruited other individuals to purchase those same properties at around the same time, referred to in the complaint as the “borrowers.” 
   Dukhman, Corallo and other unidentified co-conspirators employed numerous fraudulent techniques to effect their scheme – including falsifying financial documents, HUD-1 settlement statements (HUD-1s) and residential loan applications; causing borrowers to apply and obtain loans on properties that they did not own; and failing to record deeds with the county clerk’s office. 
   Specifically, Dukhman and Corallo caused fraudulent loan applications and HUD-1s to be submitted to mortgage lenders claiming that the purchaser of the REO property was the borrower (rather than Dukhman); that the borrowers put money down at the closing; that the properties would be the primary residences of the borrowers; that the borrowers had more assets and earned more than they actually did; and that the purchase price was almost twice that actually paid by Dukhman.
   When the loans were approved, the two attorneys identified in the complaint as “GT” and “EF” furthered Dukhman’s scheme by depositing the proceeds of the loans in one of their respective attorney trust accounts.
   Either of the two attorneys would then act as closing agents for Dukhman, who would purchase a REO property using the proceeds of the mortgage fraud scheme. After paying the closing costs, the attorneys distributed the proceeds of the mortgage fraud to Dukhman, Corallo and their co-conspirators. 
   After the attorneys gave Dukhman the deed to an REO property, he had it altered to reflect a sale between the REO bank and the borrower for the purchase price listed in the fraudulent documents submitted to the lenders.   Altered deeds were filed in the county clerk’s office – leaving Dukhman out of the title history.
   Additionally, Dukhman set up shell companies to receive the proceeds of the fraud. To that end, proceeds were funneled through financial institutions in the United States and ultimately transferred to various foreign accounts, including an account in the Cook Islands.  The government is seeking to forfeit the money in that account. 
   In all, Dukhman and Corallo conspired to defraud numerous mortgage lenders out of more than $7 million.
The wire fraud conspiracy count with which each of the defendants is charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
   U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and special agents of the Secret Service, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge James Mottola, with the investigation leading to the criminal Complaint.
   The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stacey A. Levine of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Heath Care and Government Fraud Unit and Peter Gaeta of the office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Dozens Indicted for $163M+ in Health Care Fraud

Racketeering charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, $250,000 fine
   WASHINGTON — 10/19/2010 - Seventy-three defendants, including a number of alleged members and associates of an Armenian-American organized crime enterprise, were charged in indictments unsealed on Oct. 13 in five judicial districts with various health care fraud-related crimes involving more than $163 million in fraudulent billing, according to a joint announcement by Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler, FBI Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division Kevin Perkins, and Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson.
   In this national, multi-agency investigation, 52 were arrested on Oct. 13 by FBI agents in the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever perpetrated by a single criminal enterprise and charged by the U.S. Department of Justice.
   The defendants are charged with engaging in numerous fraud activities, including highly-organized, multi-million-dollar schemes to defraud Medicare and insurance companies by submitting fraudulent bills for medically unnecessary treatments or treatments that were never performed. According to the indictments, the defendants allegedly stole the identities of doctors and thousands of Medicare beneficiaries and operated at least 118 different phony clinics in 25 states for the purposes of submitting Medicare reimbursements.
   “The emergence of international organized crime in domestic health care fraud schemes signals a dangerous expansion that poses a serious threat to consumers as these syndicates are willing to exploit almost any program, business or individual to earn an illegal profit,” Grinder said. “The Department of Justice is confronting this evolving threat here and abroad through a number of initiatives including a strengthened Attorney General’s Organized Crime Council and the creation of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) to ensure that we are focused and coordinated in our efforts to combat international organized crime.”
   Forty-four defendants were charged in two indictments unsealed today in the Southern District of New York with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit the following acts: health care fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, fraud in connection with identity theft, credit card fraud, and immigration fraud.
   In addition, seven defendants were charged in the District of New Mexico with health care fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering, forfeiture, and aggravated identity theft. Six defendants were charged in the Southern District of Georgia with health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and aggravated identity theft.
   Six defendants were charged in the Northern District of Ohio with health care fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. Lastly, 10 defendants were charged in two indictments in the Central District of California with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, criminal forfeiture, aggravated identity theft, aiding and abetting, and causing an act to be done.
  “The international organized crime enterprise known as the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian, fleeced the health care system through a wide-range of money making criminal fraud schemes. The members and associates located throughout the United States and in Armenia, perpetrated a large-scale, nationwide Medicare scam that fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $100 million of unnecessary medical treatments using a series of phantom clinics,” Perkins said. “We want to restore the confidence in the nation’s health care system and assure practitioners we will not stand by and let their identities be used for criminal gain.” 
According to the charges filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, the Mirzoyan-Terdjanian Organization is named for its principal leaders, Davit Mirzoyan and Robert Terdjanian.
   The leadership of the organization is based in Los Angeles and New York, and its operations extend throughout the United States and internationally. Among the defendants charged with racketeering is Armen Kazarian, who is alleged to be a “Vor,” a term translated as “Thief-in-Law” and refers to a member of a select group of high-level criminals from Russia and the countries that has been part of the former Soviet Union, including Armenia. This is the first time a Vor has ever been charged for a racketeering offense, and the first time since 1996 that a known Vor has been arrested on any federal charge.
  The racketeering charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
   The conspiracy to commit bank fraud charges each carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The conspiracy to commit money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
   The conspiracy to commit money laundering charges each carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with identity theft charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
   The aggravated identity theft charges each carry a required two-year consecutive prison sentence to any other sentence imposed, the conspiracy to commit credit card fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit immigration fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
   The charges announced today are merely allegations, and defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
   The defendants charged in each district will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys from each of the respective districts in which the cases were charged. The cases were investigated by special agents from the FBI’s Los Angeles and New York field offices.
   Source: FBI National Press Release

Former Bank President Guilty of Embezzlement

Antonucci is First Defendant Ever Convicted of Fraud Against the Nation's Troubled Asset Relief Program; Faces Up To 135 Years
   NEW YORK – 10/12/10 - Charles J. Antonucci, Sr., former president and CEO of The Park Avenue Bank, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Oct. 8 to multiple criminal charges, including fraud, bribery and embezzlement.
   The announced was made jointly by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Neil Barofsky, Superintendent of the Banks of New York (NYSBD) Richard Neiman, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Homeland Security Investigations office James Hayes, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI New York office Janice Fedarcyk and Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC-OIG) Jon Rymer.
   The charges to which Antonucci pleaded guilty include securities fraud relating to Antonucci’s attempt to fraudulently obtain more than $11 million worth of taxpayer rescue funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), bank bribery, embezzlement of bank funds, and participating in a $37.5 million scheme that left an Oklahoma insurance company in receivership.
   "In March, Charles Antonucci become the first defendant charged with attempting to steal from the taxpayers' investment in TARP. Today, he becomes the first to be convicted. Today's plea marks an important chapter and demonstrates that SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will ensure that would-be wrongdoers who seek to profit criminally from this historic program will be caught, charged, and brought to justice," Barofsky's said.
   According to the complaint previously filed in Manhattan federal court, statements made during the guilty plea proceeding and other information in the public record, The Park Avenue Bank was a federally-insured and state-chartered bank that was headquartered at 460 Park Avenue, New York, New York, with retail branches in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The bank's clients consisted primarily of small businesses, for whom the bank made loans, extended lines of credit, and maintained depository accounts. As of the end of 2009, the bank had approximately $500 million on deposit, and over $520 million in assets. Antonucci served as president and CEO of The Park Avenue Bank from June 2004 to October 2009, and also served on its Board of Directors.
   "Over the past few years, New York has seen too many cases of unscrupulous individuals using their positions at financial institutions for their own personal gain, leaving a shaken financial system in their wake. Charles Antonucci used his role at a state-chartered bank to defraud TARP and the system it was meant to stabilize," Superintendent of Banks and Member of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel Richard Neiman said. "I am particularly proud of our bank examiners and Criminal Investigations Bureau for their diligence and persistence in substantiating this fraud, and the cooperative efforts of the state and federal agencies that contributed to today's resolution."
   On March 12, 2010, the NYSBD seized the offices, branches, and assets of the bank, citing ineffective management and inadequate capital, and immediately appointed the FDIC as receiver. Three days later, on March 15, 2010, federal authorities arrested Antonucci at his home in Fishkill, N.Y., for engaging in a broad range of illegal conduct that contributed, in part, to the bank’s demise.
   With his guilty plea, Antonucci became the first defendant convicted of fraud on the TARP, a program whose purpose was to provide funds to viable financial institutions to stabilize and strengthen the nation's financial system, and to enable those financial institutions to increase the flow of financing to U.S. businesses and consumers.
   TARP funds were made available to qualifying banks; one of the critical elements of the TARP qualification process was the capital position of the applicant bank, which was evaluated by the FDIC as one of the bank’s regulators. Among other things, Antonucci misled the FDIC and NYSBD by misrepresenting the source of millions of dollars of money that he claimed to have invested in the bank out of his own pocket to recapitalize the bank. He then attempted to use that sham recapitalization to fraudulently obtain over $11 million in TARP funds by convincing the bank’s regulators that Antonucci had recapitalized the bank when, in fact, he had not.
   Specifically, Antonucci pleaded guilty in count one of the information to deceiving the FDIC and NYSBD by falsely stating that he had invested $6.5 million of his own funds into the bank. Instead, Antonucci had engaged in a complicated round-trip loan transaction in which he merely borrowed from the bank itself the funds that he purportedly invested in the bank, meaning that the bank received no additional capital from the transaction. When the bank’s regulators began investigating the source of the purported $6.5 million capital infusion, Antonucci lied to them about the true nature of the transaction.
   Antonucci also pleaded guilty to engaging in fraud in connection with the offer and sale of securities relating to the bank’s application for TARP funds through the Capital Purchase Program. As charged in count two of the information and in the complaint, Antonucci tried to induce the U.S. Government to provide TARP funds in exchange for securities issued by the bank by misrepresenting the bank’s capital position. In furtherance of this scheme, Antonucci fraudulently used the round trip transaction to support his application, in, among other things, telephone calls to FDIC regulators reviewing the bank’s TARP application, and falsely represented that his purported substantial, personal capital contribution to the bank should factor in favor of the bank’s TARP application.
   Again, the supposed personal contribution by Antonucci was actually money loaned by the bank itself. Ultimately, the bank’s application for an $11,252,480 investment from TARP was denied.
Antonucci also pleaded guilty to a pattern of self-dealing and accepting bribes to influence his decisions as the president and CEO of the bank. For example, as charged in count three of the information and described in the complaint, Antonucci accepted bribes from customers of the bank, including but not limited to over $250,000 in cash bribes, free use of a customer’s airplane, and free use of another customer’s luxury automobile, in exchange for Antonucci’s approval of various banking transactions. Indeed, on more than ten occasions in 2008 and 2009, Antonucci used a private plane owned by a co-conspirator (CC-1) to fly to, among other places, Florida, Panama, Arizona (so that Antonucci could attend the Super Bowl) and Augusta, Ga., (so that Antonucci could attend the Masters Golf Tournament).
   All the while, Antonucci approved over $8 million in overdrafts on accounts for entities controlled by CC-1 at Park Avenue Bank.
   In addition to this self-dealing, Antonucci pleaded guilty to personally embezzling and misappropriating bank funds, as charged in count four of the information. Among other things, Antonucci approved a $400,000 loan through the bank to an entity he controlled called Easy Wealth, through which Antonucci obtained tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds. Antonucci also had the bank pay rent to him for one or more properties that he owned and which the bank did not use, including a property in Fishkill, N.Y., and directed bank employees to perform substantial work on non-bank matters in which he had personal financial interests.
   To hide and repay a $2.3 million loan that was part of the fraudulent round-trip loan transactions described above, between June and October 2008, Antonucci and his co-conspirators engaged in a series of sham transactions using the funds of another Park Avenue Bank depositor, General Employment Enterprise, Inc. (GEE). As charged in count five of the information, to hide these transactions from GEE’s auditors, Antonucci caused a counterfeit certificate of deposit (CD) to be created by Park Avenue Bank, making it appear that GEE’s $2.3 million had been invested in a 90-day CD at the bank.
   In fact, and as Antonucci well knew, there was no CD, and the $2.3 million was wire transferred from GEE’s account into an account controlled by Antonucci, which was then used to repay a loan. Later, when GEE’s auditors requested certification from Park Avenue Bank that the CD existed, Antonucci fraudulently signed that certification, when he knew that no CD in fact existed.
   Further, from July 2008 through November 2009, as charged in count six of the information, Antonucci conspired with others to defraud the state of Oklahoma Insurance Department in connection with the $37.5 million sale of an insurance company that was later placed in receivership. In connection with this, Antonucci made various false statements to the Oklahoma Insurance Department regarding the financial state of the insurance company.
  As part of his guilty plea, Antonucci also admitted the $44 million in forfeiture allegations in the Information, and reached an agreement with the government to pay an $11.2 million money judgment and forfeit various assets owned by him.
   Antonucci, 59, faces a maximum sentence of 135 years in prison on the charges to which he pleaded guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced by the U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald on April 8, 2011.
Antonucci resigned as president and CEO of the bank in November 2009.
    "The TARP fund was designed to strengthen American financial institutions during unprecedented economic difficulties. Mr Antonucci devised a scheme to subvert federal banking laws at the taxpayers expense, exploiting a soft economy for his own personal gain. ICE, through its El Dorado Task Force, will continue to work to expose this type of financial duplicity that poses a significant risk to the stability of banks and other institutions that are of critical importance to the American economy," HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr., said:
    Following the NYSBD’s seizure of the bank on March 12, 2010, the FDIC, as receiver entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Valley National Bank, Wayne, N.J. Valley National Bank assumed all deposits and certain assets of Park Avenue Bank, except certain brokered deposits, which are being paid out by the FDIC.
   Bharara praised the investigative work of SIGTARP, the NYSBD and its Criminal Investigations Bureau, HSI, the FBI, the FDIC-OIG, and New York High Intensity Financial Crime Area. Mr. Bharara added that the investigation is continuing.
  The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Asset Forfeiture Units. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Zornberg, Zachary Feingold, Danya Perry, and Kan Min Nawaday are in charge of the prosecution.
   "Charles Antonucci committed serious crimes, including flagrant self-dealing, but perhaps the most offensive affront to taxpayers was his admitted attempt to defraud TARP. The FBI is determined to ensure the integrity of a program created to strengthen the financial system, not line the pockets of swindlers," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said.
   This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, on which Bharara serves as Co-Chair of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Working Group and Barofsky serves as Co-Chair of the Rescue Fraud Working Group.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Skyrocketing Cancer Treatment Costs a Concern

Oncologists Report Patients Rationing Medication, Avoiding Treatments
   WASHINGTON - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 10/9/10 - Ninety five percent of the nation's oncologists report a rise in their patients' concerns over treatment costs in the past six months, according to a survey conducted by MDLinx (www.mdlinx.com), one of the U.S.'s largest doctor portals. More than 60 percent of US oncologists regularly visit the websites of MDLinx, whose services help physicians stay current with latest and most important medical research in each specialty.
   The survey of 106 U.S. oncologists was conducted from August 20 to August 30, 2010. Respondents were asked about their patients’ financial concerns over the first six months of 2010. Eighty four percent of respondents said they had invested more time and effort into the financial planning of patients' treatments in the last six months than at any time previously. Sixty-seven percent of responding doctors reported patients rationing medications or forgoing treatment due to financial and insurance coverage concerns.
   Aki Tomaru, CEO of M3 USA, which owns the MDLinx site, says that oncology patients' heightened financial challenges may be the result of several factors.
   "We believe that the change in the air in the United States regarding medical coverage has injected an additional measure of anxiety for what is already often the most anxious times of these people's lives," Tomaru said. "In addition, the continuing grinding effect of the worldwide economic downturn has its obvious effects as well."
    Wisconsin-based oncologist Dr. Shahid Shekhani says that patients are canceling appointments, follow up visits, and even treatment due to financial concerns. “I just had a young grandmother, in her 60s, halt lung cancer treatment that would have extended her survival in order to preserve her family’s finances and her ability to leave an inheritance to her children.”
    MDLinx aggregates medical articles and research from more than 1,200 peer-reviewed journals and leading news media every weekday. Its physician editors rank, sort and summarize this content into 36 medical specialty sites and more than 800 subspecialty sections. MDLinx is owned by M3 USA, a Sony Group Company. The company specializes in creating effective communication channels between physicians and industries who wish to reach them.
   For more information, visit the corporate site at www.usa.m3.com.

Former Insurance Broker Pleads Guilty in Scheme

    NEWARK, N.J. – 10/7/10 - A former partner of the New Jersey-based insurance brokerage firm Smith Gatta Gelok pleaded guilty today to a $20 million fraudulent loan scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
    Gavin Gatta, 48, of Wayside, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh to criminal information charging him with wire fraud.
    According to the information to which Gatta pleaded guilty and statements made in court, Gatta is a former partner at Smith Gatta Gelok (SGG), an insurance brokerage firm based in Monmouth County, N.J., which assisted businesses in purchasing commercial insurance. When businesses could not pay the entire insurance premium up front, SGG also would assist them in obtaining financing for the premium from one of several premium finance companies (PFCs).
   Gatta admitted that in 2003, he began preparing fake applications for premium financing on behalf of customers who did not need or request such financing and, in fact, previously had paid the full premium to the insurance carrier. Gatta would submit these fake applications to one of several PFCs and ask that the loan funds be sent back to SGG on behalf of the customer.
    Gatta used these fake applications for financing to steal more than $20 million in illicit proceeds, which he used to fund extravagant personal expenses such as jewelry and luxury automobiles – including a Mercedes, a Porsche, an Aston Martin and several Ferraris.
    “Even with his name on the company letterhead, Gavin Gatta wasn’t satisfied with an honest living,” Fishman said. “Instead, he traded it all for quick, stolen millions. The fake deals he made put big money in his account and high-end cars in his garage. But like so many others, his life built on lies couldn’t last. Whether your victims are individuals or institutions, we are working to uncover your crimes and take the proceeds of your sham success.”
    “This has become a far too familiar story,” said Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark divisiod Michael Ward said. “An individual commits a white collar crime, surrounds him or herself with the trappings of success, quickly squanders the ill-gotten proceeds trying to support an extravagant lifestyle, and in the end is exposed and held accountable. Gavin Gatta followed this script from inception to epilogue, and despite the expensive jewelry and numerous luxury automobiles, is simply the latest to plead guilty in this pattern of activity.”
    The wire fraud count to which Gatta pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark, with the investigation that resulted in today’s guilty plea.
   The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Kelly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark. It was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

Back Taxes in Illinois? No Worries — For Now

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      By Bill McMorris 
  Illinois Statehouse News
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   SPRINGFIELD, IL — 10/5/2010 — Tax evaders, late filers and others delinquents and debtors have been granted a stay of execution, as the state looks to ramp up collections from those who have yet to file income taxes.
   Those who owe back taxes have through Nov. 8 to make good with the state without fear of penalties or fees. The program was enacted by Gov. Pat Quinn in order to draw delinquent tax filers from the woodwork, who might otherwise continue to duck the state. The governor is confident the program can generate millions in additional revenue for a state reeling in debt and mired in unpaid bills.
   “Every so often we have found that this is a good way to bring forward men and women in Illinois, businesses, as well, that owe money to the state and see this as the best time to do it,” Quinn said.
   The amnesty program that started Friday helps debtors to the state by allowing them to pay off their back taxes without any of the sizable interest rates, fines and penalties associated with filing late. The Department of Revenue, however, will not be as forgiving after the five week amnesty period ends. Department Director Brian Hamer issued a warning to delinquent filers as stern as Quinn was optimistic.
   “Taxpayers who don’t pay during the moratorium program will be subject to double interest and double penalties and they will face our ever more sophisticated and efficient toolbox of enforcement capabilities,” he said.
   Department estimates say the moratorium will generate anywhere from $100 million to $250 million.
Illinois last saw a tax amnesty program in 2003, in which the state made more than $500 million, though there are no studies looking at the actual effectiveness of such programs. Quinn hopes to generate as much money as possible from late filers as the state works to cover some debts of its own–namely $6 billion in unpaid bills–by year’s end.
   “It is something that has proven itself in the past to trigger [a] response from the individual taxpayers and business taxpayers that they come forward and pay what they owe without question,” he said. “It has realized a significant amount of money in the past; we hope to do so in the current time.”
   The General Assembly last spring passed the program with only one dissenting vote–from the Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington.
   “Sen. Brady has opposed the tax amnesty program because it becomes an incentive for delinquent taxpayers who simply wait for the next program to pay late taxes,” said Patty Schuch, spokeswoman for the Brady campaign.
   Information about the tax amnesty program can be found on the website for the Illinois Department of Revenue: http://www.revenue.state.il.us/Amnesty/AmnestyQandA.htm.
   Story courtesty of Illinois Statehouse News.

BP to Pay Single-Facility Clean Air Act Penalty

WASHINGTON - (EPA) -10/3/2010 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department announced on Sept. 30 that BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to pay a $15 million penalty to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations at its Texas City, Texas petroleum refinery.
   The penalty is both the largest ever assessed for civil violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention regulations, also known as the risk management program regulations, and the largest civil penalty recovered for Clean Air Act violations at an individual facility.
   “BP’s actions at the Texas City refinery have had terrible consequences for the people who work there and for those in nearby communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today's settlement, in conjunction with other actions already taken by EPA and other federal agencies at Texas City, demonstrates the agency's continuing commitment to actively and vigorously working to hold BP accountable and to make them comply with our nation’s environmental protection laws wherever the company operates.”
    “The Clean Air Act is intended to prevent not only accidents like the fatal March 2005 accident, it also penalizes accidents like these three that result from poor practices and cause air pollution,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement emphasizes the serious nature of the fires and releases of hazardous air pollutants that occurred at BP’s Texas City Refinery and puts industry on notice that the Department of Justice and the EPA will aggressively pursue those who fail to comply with the laws that protect our environment.”
    The settlement, which is subject to court approval, addresses violations stemming from two fires that occurred at the refinery on March 30, 2004 and July 28, 2005, and a leak that occurred on August 10, 2005. During the three incidents, each of which resulted in the surrounding Texas City community to shelter-in-place, thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released. The settlement also resolves allegations that BP failed to identify all regulated hazardous air pollutants used at the refinery in plans submitted to EPA.
    The EPA identified the Clean Air Act violations addressed in the settlement during a series of inspections of the Texas City refinery initiated after a catastrophic explosion and fire on March 23, 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others.
   In addition to the Clean Air Act General Duty Clause and risk management program violations resolved by today’s settlement, EPA also identified violations of other Clean Air Act requirements at the refinery relating to the control of benzene, ozone-depleting substances, and asbestos.
   Exposure to benzene can significantly harm human health and exposure to asbestos, a known human carcinogen, can cause two types of cancer: lung cancer and mesothelioma. These other violations were resolved in a February 2009 settlement that required BP to spend more than $161 million on pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring, and improved internal management practices at the refinery, as well as pay a $12 million civil penalty and perform a $6 million on a supplemental project to reduce air pollution in Texas City and the surrounding area.
    With the Sept. 30 settlement, the federal government will have recovered approximately $137 million in criminal, civil, and administrative fines related to process safety violations at the Texas City refinery. In addition, BP Products has performed approximately $1.4 billion in corrective actions and the company will spend an estimated additional $500 million, to improve safety at the refinery as required by settlements entered into with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the criminal Clean Air Act plea agreement following the fatal March 23, 2005 explosion.
    The Clean Air Act General Duty Clause and risk management program regulations contain a comprehensive set of requirements to prevent accidental releases of hazardous air pollutants, an important objective of the Clean Air Act. These regulations require owners and operators of facilities, such as petroleum refineries, to, among other things, perform adequate and timely equipment inspections and repairs, train employees involved in the operation and maintenance of equipment, evaluate the consequences of changes to operating practices and equipment, and ensure that operating procedures contain clear and comprehensive instructions.
    BP’s Texas City refinery is the third largest in the United States, with a production capacity of more than 460,000 barrels of oil per day.
    The proposed settlement was lodged today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
    Source: http://www.epa.gov/. For more information: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/rcra/bptexas.html

The Arms Debate

Not All American's Have the Right to Bear Arms

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2018