October 6, 2022

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Meth dealer heads to prison

15 min read
A 51-year-old Corpus Christi resident has been ordered to federal prison after selling large amounts of meth from a Corpus Christi residence

More from: March 1, 2022

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    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) extramural research spending totaled about $510 million in fiscal year 2019—nearly half of the $1.1 billion in total spending on VA research. Of the $510 million, federal sources, such as National Institutes of Health, funded $382 million (75 percent), and nonfederal sources, including private entities, academic institutions, state and local governments, and foundations, funded $128 million (25 percent). Spending at the 92 VA medical centers that conducted extramural research in fiscal year 2019 ranged from less than $2 million to more than $10 million (see figure). VA medical centers’ nonprofit research and education corporations (NPC) and academic affiliate partners administered the grants that accounted for 91 percent of the spending. Figure: Extramural Research Spending by VA Medical Centers that Conducted Extramural Research in Fiscal Year 2019 VA has made efforts to promote and support VA medical centers’ partnerships with academic affiliates—for example, by coordinating a mentoring program for local VA research officials—and considers effective affiliations as an enhancement to research. However, VA’s Central Office officials have not provided examples of successful practices for strengthening research partnerships with academic affiliates. Having such practices would promote collaborative opportunities for VA medical centers with academic affiliates, particularly for medical centers that have poor communication with affiliates. Additionally, VA’s Central Office has provided general guidance but not specific tools to VA medical centers for determining when an NPC or an academic affiliate should administer a project’s extramural funds. Having specific decision-making tools could help medical centers make more informed decisions to provide optimal support for the research. VA research, which has contributed to many medical advances, may be funded by VA’s appropriation or extramurally by other federal agencies and nonfederal sources. To access extramural funding, investigators at VA medical centers usually work with an NPC or academic affiliate partner to submit a grant proposal. Once a grant is awarded, medical centers’ partners administer the grant by distributing funding, fulfilling reporting requirements, and performing other administrative activities. GAO was asked to review VA’s extramural research. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how much VA spent on extramural research in fiscal year 2019 and (2) the efforts VA has made to support medical centers’ partnerships for extramural research. GAO analyzed VA policies, documents, and data. It also conducted site visits and interviewed officials from VA’s Central Office and from a nongeneralizable sample of VA medical centers, NPCs, and academic affiliates, which GAO selected to represent variation in geographic location and funding. GAO recommends that VA (1) provide more information to VA medical centers on strengthening research relationships with academic affiliates and (2) develop decision tools to help VA medical centers determine whether NPCs or academic affiliates should administer extramural grants. VA agreed with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or neumannj@gao.gov.

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  • Medicaid Behavioral Health: CMS Guidance Needed to Better Align Demonstration Payment Rates with Costs and Prevent Duplication
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    What GAO Found In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) selected eight states to participate in a time-limited demonstration to establish certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHC). These states, in turn, certified 66 behavioral health clinics as CCBHCs. Required to provide a broad range of behavioral health services—mental health and substance use services—CCBHCs are reimbursed by state Medicaid programs using clinic-specific rates designed to cover expected costs. Under the demonstration, states receive enhanced federal funding for CCBHC services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. GAO found that five of the eight demonstration states reported generally increased state spending on CCBHCs, which officials from these states attributed to an increased number of individuals receiving treatment, an increased array of services provided, or both. In contrast, officials from the other three demonstration states did not report that the demonstration resulted in greater state spending. Officials from two of these states noted that the demonstration resulted in spending decreases, citing factors such as the demonstration’s enhanced federal Medicaid funding. Officials from the remaining state said the effects on spending were unknown. In addition, four of the eight states assessed potential cost savings from the demonstration resulting from reductions in the use of more expensive care, such as emergency department visits. Officials from three of the four states viewed the results of their assessments as suggestive of potential cost savings, while officials from the fourth state did not. GAO’s review of payment guidance for the demonstration from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency within HHS that oversees Medicaid at the federal level, found that the guidance lacked clear and consistent information on better aligning CCBHC payment rates with costs and preventing duplicate payments. For example: CMS guidance gives states the option to rebase their initial payment rates after the first demonstration year (i.e., use data on actual costs incurred and number of client visits during the first demonstration year to recalculate rates for subsequent years). CMS officials said rebasing would mean states would not have to rely on anticipated cost and client visit data after the first year, and would align rates more closely with costs. While officials said CMS expected all states to rebase their rates at some point, CMS’s guidance does not reflect this expectation, or provide details on rebasing, such as suggested time frames. CMS guidance conflicts as to whether CCBHCs that are also Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)—safety net providers that generally provide some behavioral health services—should receive CCBHC and FQHC payments for the same client on the same day if provided services overlap. Addressing these weaknesses is important to help ensure that Medicaid CCBHC payments meet requirements for Medicaid payments under federal law, including that they be consistent with efficiency, economy, and quality of care, and are sufficient to ensure access to care. Why GAO Did This Study Behavioral health conditions affected an estimated 61.2 million adults in 2019. Congress has taken steps to expand access to behavioral health treatment, including authorizing the CCBHC demonstration, which is intended to improve the availability of community-based behavioral health services. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on states’ experiences participating in the CCBHC demonstration. Among other objectives, this report describes what states reported about how the CCBHC demonstration affected state spending on behavioral health services; and examines CMS guidance for states on Medicaid CCBHC payments. GAO reviewed documentation from and interviewed Medicaid and behavioral health officials from the eight CCBHC demonstration states, as well as federal officials tasked with demonstration oversight. GAO also reviewed documentation and interviewed officials from a nongeneralizable sample of three CCBHCs, which GAO selected for a number of reasons, including variation in geographic location.

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  • Readout of Meeting between Department of Justice and the Central Bureau of Investigation of Government of India
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    Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, together with colleagues from the Consumer Protection Branch and the FBI, met this week with Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials in New Delhi to further strengthen law enforcement cooperation. They discussed means for combating emerging crime trends, including fighting rising telemarketing fraud.

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  • Issuance of the Updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory
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    Seven individuals were charged in an indictment in the District of South Carolina with laundering over $750,000 of fraudulently obtained funds, including over $390,000 obtained from a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. The seven individuals used a variety of methods to launder the money, including laundering the money through a casino. The indictment also identifies over $2.1 million in funds from twelve different bank accounts allegedly associated with the fraud scheme as subject to forfeiture which agents seized.

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  • Rebuilding Iraq: Resource, Security, Governance, Essential Services, and Oversight Issues
    In U.S GAO News
    Rebuilding Iraq is a U.S. national security and foreign policy priority. According to the President, the United States intends to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom and has a vital national interest in the success of free institutions in Iraq. As of April 30, 2004, billions of dollars in grants, loans, assets, and revenues from various sources have been made available or pledged to the reconstruction of Iraq. The United States, along with its coalition partners and various international organizations and donors, has embarked on a significant effort to rebuild Iraq following multiple wars and decades of neglect by the former regime. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), established in May 2003, was the U.N.-recognized coalition authority led by the United States and the United Kingdom that was responsible for the temporary governance of Iraq. Specifically, the CPA wasresponsible for overseeing, directing, and coordinating the reconstruction effort. On June 28, 2004, the CPA transferred power to a sovereign Iraqi interim government, and the CPA officially dissolved. To pave the way for this transfer, the CPA helped the Iraq Governing Council develop the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period in March 2004. The transitional law provides a framework for governance of Iraq while a permanent government is formed. In June 2004, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 provided international support to advance this process, stating that, by June 30, CPA will cease to exist and Iraq will reassert full sovereignty. Resolution 1546 also endorsed the formation of a fully sovereign Iraqi interim government; endorsed a timetable for elections and the drafting of an Iraqi constitution; and decided that the United Nations, at the Iraq government’s request, would play a leading role in establishing a permanent government. Resolution 1546 further noted the presence of the multinational force in Iraq and authorized it to take all necessary measures to contribute to security and stability in Iraq, in accordance with letters annexed to the resolution. Such letters provide, in part, that the multinational force and the Iraqi government will work in partnership to reach agreement on security and olicy issues, including policy on sensitive offensive operations. Resolution 1546 stated that the Security Council will review the mandate of the multinational force in 12 months or earlier if requested by the government of Iraq and that it will terminate the mandate if requested by the government of Iraq. As part of our broad effort to monitor Iraq reconstruction, which we undertook at the request of Congress, this report provides information on the status of the issues we have been monitoring, as well as key questions that will assist Congres in its oversight responsibilities. Specifically, this report focuses on issues associated with (1) resources, (2) security, (3) governance, and (4) essential services. For the essential services issue, we focused on the Army Corps of Engineers’ Restore Iraqi Electricity project, a major component of the U.S. assistance effort to rebuild the power sector.As of the end of April 2004, about $58 billion in grants, loans, assets, and revenues from various sources had been made available or pledged to the relief and reconstruction of Iraq. Resource needs are expected to continue after the transfer of power to a sovereign Iraqi interim government. Of the funds available, the United States obligated about $8 billion of the available $24 billion in U.S. funds. The CPA obligated about $15.5 billion of the nearly $21 billion in available Iraqi funds. The international community pledged nearly $14 billion. In December 2003, the CPA put into effect an Iraqi-led process to coordinate reconstruction efforts. An October 2003 U.N./World Bank assessment noted that Iraq’s ability to absorb resources as the country gains sovereignty and decision-making authority will be one of the most significant challenges to reconstruction. The security situation in Iraq has deteriorated since June 2003, with significant increases in attacks against the coalition and coalition partners. The increase in attacks has had a negative impact on military operations and the work of international civilian organizations in Iraq. As part of the effort to provide stability, the coalition plans to transfer security responsibilities from the multinational force to Iraqi security forces and to dissolve Iraqi militias operating outside the central government’s control. During the escalation of violence that occurred during April 2004, these security forces collapsed in several locations. However, key elements of the CPA’s transition and reintegration process remain to be finalized. With U.S. and others’ assistance, Iraqis have taken control of government institutions at the national and subnational levels. National ministries are providing some services to citizens as their facilities are being rebuilt, reforms are being introduced, and their staffs trained. According to the head of the now-dissolved CPA, all ministries were under Iraqi authority as of the transfer of power on June 28, 2004. However, the security situation hinders the ability of the ministries to provide needed services and maintain daily operations. To reform the rule of law, ongoing efforts have begun to establish a functioning independent judiciary, although courts are not at their pre-war capacity. However, efforts to rebuild Iraq’s judicial system and restore the rule of law face multiple challenges. U.S. officials said that rehabilitating and reforming Iraq’s judicial system will likely take years. The Coalition considers reconstruction of the power sector critical to reviving Iraq’s economy, supporting essential infrastructure, improving daily well-being, and gaining local support for the coalition presence in Iraq. The CPA set a goal of 6,000 megawatts of generating capacity by June 30, 2004, in anticipation of the higher demand for power during the summer months. As part of the overall effort to achieve this goal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has undertaken $1.4 billion in work under the Restore Iraqi Electricity (RIE) program. As of late May, the Corps anticipated that 59 of the 66 RIE projects expected to help meet the goal would be completed by June 30. However, electrical service in the country as a whole has not shown a marked improvement over the immediate postwar levels of May 2003 and has worsened in some governorates. RIE contractors report numerous instances of project delays due to difficulties in getting employees and materials safely to project sites. Further, the security environment continues to affect the cost of rebuilding the power sector.

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  • Georgia Man Sentenced to Prison for Running Ponzi Scheme
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    A Georgia man has been sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for running a Ponzi scheme that ensnared over a hundred victims, and induced college students and others to part with money for his own personal benefit.

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  • Higher Education: Office of Federal Student Aid Is Beginning to Identify and Address Its Workforce Needs
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) recently began its first formal workforce review to identify staffing needs and skills gaps, according to officials. Without a workforce review, officials told GAO that FSA staffing levels and expertise had not sufficiently adjusted as student aid programs grew in size and complexity. GAO’s analysis found that staffing remained relatively flat from fiscal year 2010 through 2019, and FSA officials said that staffing levels have not kept pace with loan portfolio growth. For example, FSA’s Direct Loan volume increased approximately 450 percent and the number of borrowers increased almost 150 percent from fiscal years 2010 through 2019, while the number of FSA staff increased 6 percent.   In 2020, FSA began taking steps to review its workforce by identifying staffing needs and skills gaps. These steps included: Workforce requirements assessment. FSA recently completed an assessment that compared the office’s fiscal year 2020 staffing levels to its employees’ workload. According to the assessment, FSA is understaffed in many of its program and operational offices. Consequently, staff did not complete almost 20 percent of FSA’s workload in fiscal year 2020, despite staff working overtime and supervisors completing extra work. In fiscal year 2021, FSA plans to begin incorporating information from the workforce requirements assessment into its staffing process and plans to update each office’s staffing requirements annually. Skills gaps assessment. FSA is currently assessing the capabilities of its workforce to identify gaps in existing staff’s skills. Preliminary FSA recommendations from analyses of five offices focus on increasing training and improving staff’s leadership, technical skills, and soft skills. According to officials, the results will be used to inform future staff training. GAO did not independently evaluate the findings and recommendations identified through FSA’s workforce assessment activities. While conducting its workforce review, FSA took more immediate steps to address indications that staff lacked certain skills and some offices were understaffed, including: Prioritized hiring. FSA program offices worked with the Human Capital Group to prioritize hiring certain positions in critical areas in fiscal year 2020 which, according to officials, eased workload distribution across the organization.  Increased hiring. FSA increased hiring in fiscal year 2020 by 17 percent compared to the previous fiscal year to 1,462 employees, according to FSA data, and primarily relied on staffing flexibilities unique to FSA to fill those positions. Reorganized the agency. On March 29, 2020, FSA reorganized to meet current workforce needs and create a more agile organization, according to officials. Officials said the reorganization was also intended to address staff concerns about having more work than they could handle.  Why GAO Did This Study FSA manages all federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. FSA’s responsibilities have grown significantly in recent years and its loan portfolio now exceeds $1.5 trillion, making it the largest consumer lender in the country. However, little is known about how FSA has adjusted the size and composition of its workforce in response to the office’s increased responsibilities. To examine how FSA has identified and addressed its staffing needs, GAO interviewed FSA officials who develop staffing policies and manage the staffing process, and conducted two group interviews with Human Capital staff who implement staffing policies. In addition, GAO reviewed documentation on FSA’s workforce assessment efforts and hiring, recruitment, and retention activities. GAO also analyzed FSA human capital data on FSA’s federal employees from fiscal years 2010 through 2020, and determined it to be reliable for our purposes. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.

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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivered a Policy Address Regarding Voting Rights
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    Good afternoon. It’s wonderful to be here in the Great Hall with the dedicated staff of the Civil Rights Division, joined by our Deputy and Associate Attorneys General, and by our newly-arrived Assistant Attorney General, Kristen Clarke. Welcome. I have tremendous respect for the work you do every day to protect civil rights for everyone in America.

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  • Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations
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  • Five Tax Shelter Promoters and Two Appraisers Indicted in Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury sitting in Atlanta, Georgia, returned a superseding indictment on Feb. 24 charging seven individuals with conspiracy to defraud the United States and other crimes arising out of their promotion of fraudulent tax shelters involving syndicated conservation easements dating back nearly two decades. One of the defendants, Herbert Lewis, was previously charged in an indictment returned on June 9, 2021.

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