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Local man sentenced for $317 million N95 mask scam

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More from: February 16, 2022

  • Three Men Sentenced for $2.7 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    Three men were sentenced yesterday in the Middle District of North Carolina for fraudulently seeking over $2.7 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. 

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  • Three Individuals Affiliated With the Oath Keepers Indicted in Federal Court for Conspiracy to Obstruct Congress on Jan. 6, 2021
    In Crime News
    Three individuals associated with the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization focused on recruitment of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel, were indicted today in federal court in the District of Columbia for conspiring to obstruct Congress, among other charges.

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  • Readout of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s Call with Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland met virtually with Karen Andrews, Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs.

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  • Two Former Correctional Officers Charged with Accepting Bribes and Smuggling Contraband into Federal Prison
    In Crime News
    As part of the Justice Department’s continuing efforts against prison corruption, a federal grand jury in the District of Kansas returned two indictments on Sept. 22 charging two former correctional officers with smuggling drugs and other contraband into Leavenworth Detention Center.

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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad
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  • 30th Anniversary of the Closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site
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  • Pharmacist Arrested for Selling COVID Vaccination Cards Online
    In Crime News
    A licensed pharmacist was arrested today in Chicago on charges related to his alleged sale of dozens of authentic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination cards on eBay.

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  • Neil Young & Joni Mitchell remove their songs from Spotify
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) Global Emerging Technology Summit
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  • Readout of Roundtable Event with Attorney General Barr and Members of State and Local Law Enforcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming
    In Crime News
    On Thursday, August 13th, Attorney General William P. Barr visited Cheyenne, Wyoming to lead a roundtable discussion with over 30 Wyoming police chiefs, sheriffs and other members of state and local law enforcement. The Attorney General was joined by U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen, DEA Acting Director Tim Shea and Interim Director of Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Forrest Williams. The Attorney General in his opening remarks conveyed his gratitude for the critical work local law enforcement officers do every day to protect their communities.

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  • Owner of Montana Construction Company Pleads Guilty to Employment Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Great Falls, Montana, businessman pleaded guilty today to employment tax fraud, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme for the District of Montana.

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  • Puerto Rico Legislator Indicted for Theft, Bribery, and Fraud
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a 13-count indictment against legislator María Milagros Charbonier-Laureano (Charbonier), aka “Tata,” a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, as well as her husband Orlando Montes-Rivera (Montes), their son Orlando Gabriel Montes-Charbonier, and her assistant Frances Acevedo-Ceballos (Acevedo), for their alleged participation in a years-long theft, bribery, and kickback conspiracy.

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  • Congratulations on Cabo Verde’s Presidential Elections
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  • Justice Department Sues to Block U.S. Sugar’s Proposed Acquisition of Imperial Sugar
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today to stop United States Sugar Corporation (U.S. Sugar) from acquiring its rival, Imperial Sugar Company (Imperial Sugar). The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleges that the transaction would leave an overwhelming majority of refined sugar sales across the Southeast in the hands of only two producers. As a result, American businesses and consumers would pay more for refined sugar, a significant input for many foods and beverages.

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  • Uruguay Independence Day
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  • Former Taliban Commander Charged with Killing American Troops in 2008
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in New York unsealed a superseding indictment today charging an Afghanistan national with federal terrorism-related offenses spanning approximately 2007 to 2009 and stemming from his role as a Taliban commander in Afghanistan.

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  • Social Security Disability: Ticket to Work Helped Some Participants, but Overpayments Increased Program Costs
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Disability beneficiaries participate in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency program (Ticket to Work) by assigning a “ticket” to service providers who, in turn, provide help with employment. SSA compensates the service providers when Ticket to Work participants achieve designated levels of work and earnings. Using SSA data from 2002, when the program began, through 2018, the most recent year available, GAO estimated that 5 years after starting Ticket to Work, participants’ average earnings were $2,451 more per year than that of similar nonparticipants. However, the majority of participants remained unemployed 5 years after starting Ticket to Work. Based on GAO’s analysis, the costs of Ticket to Work exceeded the savings in disability benefits to SSA by an estimated $806 million from 2002 through 2015, the most recent year with reliable savings data. Savings accrue when Ticket to Work participants receive lower benefits or leave the disability rolls due to earnings from work. GAO estimates that participants were slightly more likely to leave the rolls (9.7 percent) than nonparticipants who are similar across a range of characteristics such as age, gender, disability type, and education level (8.6 percent). A greater percentage of participants left the disability rolls due to work rather than for other reasons, such as medical improvement (see figure). Percentage of Beneficiaries Who Left SSA’s Disability Rolls 5 Years after Starting Ticket to Work versus Similar Nonparticipants, By Reason, 2002-2015 Note: Percentages were computed for Ticket to Work participants who began the program from 2002 through 2010 at 5 years after they started Ticket to Work and for a sample of similar nonparticipants. Parts may not sum to total because of rounding. GAO estimates that SSA incurred an additional $133 million to $169 million in costs (above the $806 million) from disability benefit overpayments to Ticket to Work participants. Overpayments can occur when beneficiaries who work do not report earnings to SSA or SSA delays in adjusting their benefit amounts. SSA incurs costs when it allows a beneficiary to keep overpayments or expends resources to recover them. GAO estimates that Ticket to Work participants were more than twice as likely to receive overpayments 5 years after starting the program than nonparticipants. While SSA is investigating the root causes of overpayments across its benefit programs, it has not focused on overpayments among Ticket to Work participants, who face unique circumstances due to their ties to service providers. For example, participants may mistakenly think that service providers report their earnings to SSA. Addressing the root causes of overpayments among Ticket to Work participants would reduce repayment burdens on affected participants and increase savings for SSA and taxpayers. Why GAO Did This Study SSA pays billions of dollars in Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits to people with disabilities. To help beneficiaries obtain employment and reduce dependence on disability benefits, Ticket to Work was established in 1999. The Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 contains a provision for GAO to study the effects of the program. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which Ticket to Work has led to increased earnings and other benefits for participants, and how the costs and savings from Ticket to Work compared over time. GAO conducted statistical analyses of SSA beneficiary data, analysis of Ticket to Work costs, a literature review, and interviews with program officials, service provider representatives, and disability policy experts.

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  • Monsanto Successor Companies Agree to Clean Up Remaining Surface Contamination at Sauget Superfund Sites under Federal Settlement
    In Crime News
    Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC, successors to Monsanto Company, will complete the cleanup of four former landfills and waste lagoons in Sauget, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

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  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation Chair Dr. Abdullah
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Advanced Plastic Recycling
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Plastic waste in the U.S. has grown tenfold from 1970 to 2018, while recycling rates have remained low. Mounting plastic waste in landfills and oceans can contaminate ecosystems and adversely affect human health and wildlife. Chemical recycling technologies have the potential to improve plastic recycling, but several challenges remain. The Technology What is it? Plastics are found in many everyday items—including food packaging, water bottles, bags, and appliances. They are largely made from fossil fuel-based chemicals combined with various additives—such as stabilizers or flame retardants—to achieve a desired result (e.g., strength, rigidity, color, heat resistance). The majority of plastic waste in the U.S. ends up in landfills, with a relatively small portion incinerated and an even smaller portion recycled. The accumulating plastic waste in landfills generally does not biodegrade or break down. Figure 1. Methods of plastic waste disposal in the U.S. Plastic recycling technologies reprocess or remanufacture plastic waste for reuse. Currently, the dominant technology for plastic recycling is mechanical recycling, which uses physical processes—such as sorting, grinding, washing, separating, drying, and re-granulating—to recover plastics that can be substituted for virgin, or new, plastics. However, mechanical recycling technology is expensive, labor intensive, and generally results in lower quality plastics than virgin plastics. Consequently, industry is considering advanced recycling technologies— namely, chemical recycling—as an alternative or complement to mechanical recycling. Chemical recycling technologies use heat, chemical reactions, or both, to recycle used plastic into virgin-equivalent plastic, fuel, or other chemicals. In addition, recent advances in sorting technology—one of the physical processes common to both chemical and mechanical recycling technologies—may also increase the efficiency of chemical recycling and lead to increased plastic recycling. For example, artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to increase automated sorting efficiency. Similarly, another advanced technology efficiently sorts materials by identifying their molecular vibrations. How does it work? Chemical recycling can promote a closed-loop system, known as a circular economy, wherein plastics are reused rather than discarded in landfills or incinerated. There are three general categories of chemical recycling technologies: conversion, decomposition, and purification. Figure 2. Closed-loop chemical recycling Conversion focuses on converting polymers—long-chain hydrocarbon molecules built from smaller repeating units called monomers—in mixed or sorted plastics into smaller molecules. This can occur through a variety of techniques, including pyrolysis and gasification. Pyrolysis, sometimes called “plastics to fuel,” turns plastic waste into a synthetic crude oil that can be refined into diesel fuel, gasoline, heating oil, or waxes. This process involves heating the plastic waste to high temperatures (300-900°C) in the absence of oxygen. Different forms of pyrolysis use different temperatures, pressures, and processing times. Gasification also heats plastic waste to high temperatures (500- 1300°C) in a low-oxygen environment to convert plastic waste to synthesis gas, or “syngas.” Syngas—a fuel mixture containing mainly hydrogen and carbon monoxide—can be combusted for electric power generation or converted into other fuels or chemicals, such as ethanol and methanol. Decomposition breaks down polymers in sorted plastics into monomers to produce new plastics. This decomposition can be done with heat or chemicals. Chemical decomposition uses solvents to break the polymers into monomers. Some decomposition technologies use enzymes to break down polymers at temperatures as low as room temperature, resulting in less energy consumption. Purification uses solvents to separate polymers from additives or contaminants. Unlike other types of chemical recycling, purification does not break or modify the polymer. Purification may be used with mixed or sorted plastics.  How mature is it? While technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification are mature, their use in plastic recycling is relatively new, due in part to the low cost of virgin plastic material and the challenges associated with recycling contaminated or complex plastic products. Conversion is currently the most mature of the chemical recycling technologies, with several companies using pyrolysis, and at least one company using gasification on a commercial scale. Several companies are also developing, or are in the initial phases of piloting, thermal and chemical decomposition. Purification is the least mature chemical recycling technology, although research into it is ongoing. Advanced sorting technologies vary in maturity, with molecular vibrations for material identification already in use, and artificial intelligence sorting still under development. Opportunities Resource conservation. Chemical recycling can produce raw materials of virgin quality, thereby decreasing demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources. Reduced landfill use. A significant amount of plastic waste ends up in landfills. New technologies could reduce the need for landfills, which may reduce the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. New markets. Developing advanced recycling technologies could promote domestic business and employment. Chemical recycling creates a market for plastic waste and a new way to reuse some plastics. Challenges Adoption hurdles. Companies looking to use chemical recycling may face several hurdles, including process and technology challenges, high startup and operating costs, underdeveloped domestic markets for recycled products, and limited incentives for recycling innovation and investment. Suitability. Chemical recycling may not be suitable for all types of plastic, particularly when polymer chains are irreversibly bonded together. Competition. Virgin plastics are typically cheaper to produce than recycled plastics, in part due to transportation costs and limited recycling infrastructure, making it hard for recycling processes to compete. Policy Context & Questions With the volume of plastic waste expected to grow over time, some key questions for policymaker consideration include: What steps could the federal government, states, and other stakeholders take to further incentivize chemical recycling rather than disposal? What are the potential benefits and challenges of these approaches? What steps could policymakers take to support a transition toward a circular economy, including innovation and investment in manufacturing and recycling capacity? What might policymakers do to promote advanced recycling technologies while also reducing the hazards associated with existing plastic production and recycling methods? For more information, contact: Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov.

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