Science and Technology News

Friday, July 21, 2017

Criminal Justice Technology in the News

Law Enforcement News

DMV Facial Recognition Device in Nevada Nets '92 Prison Escapee From Minn.
StarTribune, (07/12/2017), Paul Walsh
A North Las Vegas man is back behind bars after facial recognition technology used by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles helped identify him as Robert F. Nelson, who escaped from a Minnesota federal correctional facility in 1992. Nelson will have to serve his remaining sentence plus additional time as penalty for the escape.
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Azle Improves 911 Response With Free Mobile App
CBS DFW, (07/12/2017), MaryAnn Martinez
The Azle (Texas) Police Department has implemented use of a free app called Siren GPS to help dispatchers and officers find local residents who call 911 from their cell phones. The app provides the exact location of a cellular caller; the agency says about four-fifths of 911 calls now originate from cell phones.
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Old-fashioned Horse Sense: New Mounted Unit Gives Police Advantage on Patrol
Boulder City Review, (07/12/2017), Hali Bernstein Saylor
The Boulder City Police Department recently went back to the past with the addition of a new mounted patrol unit, consisting of one dedicated officer and his personally owned, police-trained horse. The introduction of the unit ends an eight-year effort by Officer Scott Pastore, and the department hopes to use the officer and his horse to improve community relations as well as supplement search efforts with the horse's ability to go places that vehicles cannot.
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Michael Streed, "Sketchcop," Puts a Face to the Case for Maryland Police
Fox 45 News, (07/14/2017), Joy Lambert
Michael Streed, the only sketch artist employed by the Baltimore Police Department, has spent the past 37 years combining his love of drawing with his desire for public service. Many police departments are laying off sketch artists due to the proliferation of digital recording, leading Streed to develop two computer programs that allow non-artists to use pre-built facial components to create composite images.
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Attorney General Sides Against Vermont DMV's Facial Recognition Program
Burlington Free Press, (07/18/2017), Elizabeth Murray
A controversial facial recognition program used to combat identify theft by the Department of Motor Vehicles will remain suspended, according to the state's Attorney General. The suspension remains in effect until and unless the legislature authorizes the use of the program.
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Council Forms to Advance Use of UAS in Public Safety
Unmanned Aerial Online, (07/18/2017), Betsy Lillian
The newly formed National Council on Public Safety UAS offers a website with numerous UAS resources, including links to Federal Aviation Administration rules and guidelines. The group will focus on promoting education, training, best practices and other resources related to public safety and UAS. The group includes vice chairs from the law enforcement and emergency management fields.
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While Not a New Tool, Wiretapping Now Used as New Way to Fight Human Trafficking
WFSU Public Media, (07/18/2017), Sascha Cordner
As state attorneys and law enforcement look for ways to combat human trafficking, they are increasingly turning to an older tool: wiretapping. Although the process of authorizing a wiretap can be complicated, according to a former Florida U.S. District Attorney, the results can prove worthwhile. Wiretapping is also seeing a resurgence in combatting white collar crime, she says.
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FBI Issues a Warning to Parents About the Privacy and Safety of Internet-Connected Smart Toys
Beta News, (07/18/2017), Mark Wyciślik-Wilson
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center recently released a public service announcement encouraging parents to be aware of cyber security concerns before purchasing Internet-connected toys for their children. The FBI warns parents that the toys use technology to collect personal information and store it in the cloud. The agency also reminds them to check privacy agreements and be aware of incidents that have already occurred in the United States and in other countries.
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Courts News

FBI's Dark Web Sting Activity in SC Prison Mail Bomb Plot Kept Secret by Judge
The State, (07/14/2017), John Monk
In South Carolina, Federal Magistrate Judge Paige Gossett has agreed with prosecutors that FBI agents need not answer defense questions about how an FBI dark web sting made a prison inmate believe he was ordering a bomb through the mail. The inmate, who is serving a sentence for murdering his ex-wife's father, is accused of plotting to order a bomb through the mail and having his nephew use it on his ex-wife.
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Corrections News
COMET Uses GPS, Polygraphs to Keep Tabs on Sexual Offenders
Herald Mail, (07/17/2017), Don Aines
In the state of Maryland, Division of Parole and Probation agents use GPS tracking devices to supervise nearly 3,000 sex offenders under the Collaborative Offender Management Enforcement Treatment (COMET) program. Individuals enrolled in the program have committed offenses such as rape, attempted rape and other sex offenses. Various factors such as age, type of offense and prior record are considered when determining the level of supervision for each offender.
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Alcorn County Prison on Lockdown After Largest Contraband Bust This Year
Jackson Free Press, (07/13/2017), Arielle Dreher
The Alcorn County Regional Correctional Facility in Jackson, Miss., recently went on immediate lockdown when a search turned up more than 100 contraband cellphones in addition to bags of loose tobacco and inmate-made weapons. Officers found contraband hidden in ceilings, in the back of television sets, inside garbage cans and in one employee's desk.
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Lawmakers Question Effectiveness of GPS Ankle Monitors Following Murder of OSU Student, (07/11/2017), Rob Sneed
Two Ohio state legislators have begun inquiring into whether offender tracking devices give Ohio residents a false sense of security. Brian Golsby is accused of killing Reagan Tokes, an Ohio State University student, while wearing a GPS monitoring device. Golsby's device had no exclusion or inclusion zones, and he is accused of committing a number of robberies and assaults while wearing the device.
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Study: GPS Rules Send California Juveniles Into Jail Cycle
U.S. News & World Report, (07/12/2017), Michael Balsamo for the Associated Press
A research report from the University of California, Berkeley, and the East Bay Community Law Center says that in California, rules for juveniles who are sentenced to wear GOP ankle monitors vary from county to county, and are in some cases unrealistically and unnecessarily strict, returning the youth to prison for minor infractions. Some counties require a parent to be present in the home at all times or mandate that low-income families must install landline phones. Families also may be required to pay monthly fees for their children to remain in the program.
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Why a Bill to Allow Corrections Officers to Use Body Scanners on Rikers Never Came to Pass
Spectrum News, (07/12/2017), Zack Fink
A debate about the levels of radiation exposure to which inmates would be subjected has resulted in no vote on a measure that would have allowed New York State corrections officers to use body scanners. The bill passed the State Senate, but never came to a vote in the House because of the debate about the danger, or lack thereof, in exposing inmates to radiation on a regular basis.
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How Using Outdated Technology With Deaf Inmates Risks Lawsuits and Prison Staff Safety
CorrectionsOne, (07/10/2017), Doug Wylie
Correctional institutions sometimes deny deaf inmates access to telephone and communication services due to a lack of knowledge about those individuals' rights to communication services. Laws require facilities to provide accommodations to give deaf individuals the same communications access as hearing inmates, but in a number of instances, facilities fail to do so. These instances can result in costly financial settlements.
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Member of Conspiracy to Import and Traffic Counterfeit Electronic Products Sentenced

An Italian national who smuggled counterfeit electronics, including Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods, from China for sale in the U.S. was sentenced today to 37 months in prison.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick of the District of New Jersey; Acting Special Agent in Charge Debra Parker of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark; and Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal made the announcement.

Rosario La Marca, 54, a resident of Naples, Italy, pleaded guilty on February 22, before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, to smuggle goods into the U.S., and to structure financial transactions, and Count Two, charging him with trafficking in counterfeit goods. Judge McNulty imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to facts admitted during the plea, from July 2009 through February 2014,  La Marca, Andreina Becerra, 32, a Venezuelan national, Roberto Volpe, 35, an Italian national, and Jianhua Li, 42, conspired to smuggle into the U.S. from China more than 40,000 electronic devices and accessories bearing counterfeit Apple and Sony trademarks. The estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for an equivalent number of genuine items would have exceeded $15 million. The devices were shipped separately from the labels bearing counterfeit trademarks in order to avoid detection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The devices were then labeled and packaged after they passed through customs.

The defendants then re-shipped the devices to conspirators all over the U.S. Proceeds from the sales of the devices were funneled back to the defendants’ accounts in Florida and New Jersey via structured cash deposits – broken into multiple deposits of less than $10,000 each to avoid bank reporting requirements – and a portion of the proceeds was then transferred to conspirators in Italy, further disguising the source of the funds.

The defendants made more than 100 illegal wire transfers totaling more than $1.1 million to Hong Kong to facilitate their criminal activity. 

In addition to the prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced La Marca to one year of supervised release.

Volpe and Becerra have both pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and await sentencing. Li has pleaded not guilty. The charges contained in the indictment against him are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was jointly investigated by the HSI Newark Seaport Investigations Group and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit, with significant assistance from Europol and Italy’s Guardia di Finanza.

The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie Schwartz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Kebharu Smith of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

AlphaBay, the Largest Online 'Dark Market,' Shut Down

‘Dark Net’ Site Was Major Source of Fentanyl and Heroin, Linked to Overdose Deaths, and Used By Hundreds of Thousands of People to Buy and Sell Illegal Goods and Services Anonymously over the Internet

The Justice Department today announced the seizure of the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay, which operated for over two years on the dark web and was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.  The international operation to seize AlphaBay’s infrastructure was led by the United States and involved cooperation and efforts by law enforcement authorities in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as the European law enforcement agency Europol.

On July 5, Alexandre Cazes aka Alpha02 and Admin, 25, a Canadian citizen residing in Thailand, was arrested by Thai authorities on behalf of the United States for his role as the creator and administrator of AlphaBay.  On July 12, Cazes apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand.  Cazes was charged in an indictment (1:17-CR-00144-LJO), filed in the Eastern District of California on June 1, with one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering, one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, six counts of distribution of narcotics, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, four counts of unlawful transfer of false identification documents, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of trafficking in device making equipment, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Law enforcement authorities in the United States worked with numerous foreign partners to freeze and preserve millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies that were the subject of forfeiture counts in the indictment, and that represent the proceeds of the AlphaBay organization’s illegal activities.

On July 19, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California filed a civil forfeiture complaint against Alexandre Cazes and his wife's assets located throughout the world, including in Thailand, Cyprus, Lichtenstein, and Antigua & Barbuda. Cazes and his wife amassed numerous high value assets, including luxury vehicles, residences and a hotel in Thailand. Cazes also possessed millions of dollars in cryptocurrency, which has been seized by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

According to publicly available information on AlphaBay prior to its takedown, one AlphaBay staff member claimed that it serviced over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors.  Around the time of takedown, there were over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay, and over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services. Comparatively, the Silk Road dark web marketplace, which was seized by law enforcement in November 2013, had reportedly approximately 14,000 listings for illicit goods and services at the time of seizure and was the largest dark web marketplace at the time.

“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net.  The dark net is not a place to hide. The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are. We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave. I believe that because of this operation, the American people are safer – safer from the threat of identity fraud and malware, and safer from deadly drugs.”

“Transnational organized crime poses a serious threat to our national and economic security,” said Acting Director Andrew McCabe of the FBI. “Whether they operate in broad daylight or on the dark net, we will never stop working to find and stop these criminal syndicates.  We want to thank our international partners and those at the Department of Justice, the DEA and the IRS-CI for their hard work in demonstrating what we can do when we stand together.”

“The so-called anonymity of the dark web is illusory,” said Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA. “We will find and prosecute drug traffickers who set up shop there, and this case is a great example of our commitment to doing exactly that. More to come.”

“AlphaBay was the world’s largest underground marketplace of the dark net, providing an avenue for criminals to conduct business anonymously and without repercussions,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS-CI. “Working with our law enforcement partners – both domestically and abroad – IRS-CI used its unique financial and cyber expertise to help shine a bright light on the accounts and customers of this shadowy black marketplace, and we intend to continue pursuing these kinds of criminals no matter where they hide.”

“This ranks as one of the most successful coordinated takedowns against cybercrime in recent years,” said Executive Director Rob Wainwright of Europol. “Concerted action by law enforcement authorities in the United States and Europe, with the support of Europol, has delivered a massive blow to the underground criminal economy and sends a clear message that the dark web is not a safe area for criminals. I pay tribute to the excellent work of the United States and European authorities for the imaginative and resourceful way they combined their efforts in this case.”

AlphaBay operated as a hidden service on the “Tor” network, and utilized cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero and Ethereum in order to hide the locations of its underlying servers and the identities of its administrators, moderators, and users. Based on law enforcement’s investigation of AlphaBay, authorities believe the site was also used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from illegal transactions on the website.

An investigation conducted by FBI Atlanta and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia identified an AlphaBay staffer living in the United States. That investigation is ongoing.

The investigation into AlphaBay revealed that numerous vendors sold fentanyl and heroin, and there have been multiple overdose deaths across the country attributed to purchases on the site.  

According to a complaint affidavit filed in the District of South Carolina against Theodore Vitality Khleborod and Ana Milena Barrero, an investigation into an overdose death on February 16, in Portland, Oregon, involving U-47700, a synthetic opioid, revealed that the drugs were purchased on AlphaBay from Khelborod and Barrero. According to another complaint affidavit filed in the Middle District of Florida against Jeremy Achey, an investigation into a fentanyl overdose death in Orange County, Florida, on February 27, revealed that the lethal substance was purchased on AlphaBay from Achey.

Charges contained in an indictment and/or complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This operation to seize the AlphaBay site coincides with efforts by Dutch law enforcement to investigate and take down the Hansa Market, another prominent dark web market. Like AlphaBay, Hansa Market was used to facilitate the sale of illegal drugs, toxic chemicals, malware, counterfeit identification documents, and illegal services. The administrators of Hansa Market, along with its thousands of vendors and users, also attempted to mask their identities to avoid prosecution through the use of Tor and digital currency. Further information on the operation against the Hansa Market can be obtained from Dutch authorities.

The operation to seize AlphaBay’s servers was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California; Acting Director Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI, Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA and Europol Executive Director Robert Mark Wainwright.

The case is being investigated by the FBI including FBI Sacramento Field Office and DEA, with substantial assistance from the IRS-CI. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations also assisted in the investigation. The case against Cazes was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul A. Hemesath and Grant B. Rabenn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, and Trial Attorneys Louisa K. Marion and C. Alden Pelker of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Substantial assistance was provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and Special Operations Division.  Additionally, the following foreign law enforcement agencies provided substantial assistance in the operation to seize AlphaBay’s infrastructure: Royal Thai Police, Dutch National Police, Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau (LCPB), Royal Canadian Mounted Police, United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, Europol, and French National Police.