Michael Marotta, 26, of Sewell, New Jersey, pleaded guilty today to making threatening interstate communications.
- Annual Bankruptcy Filings Fall 29.7 Percent
In U.S CourtsJanuary 28, 2021Bankruptcy filings fell sharply for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2020, despite a significant surge in unemployment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Kazakhstani Foreign Minister Tileuberdi
January 6, 2022
- 21 Alleged Gang Members and Associates Charged in RICO Indictment
March 4, 2022A federal indictment was unsealed today charging 21 alleged members and associates of the Simon City Royals gang with a racketeering conspiracy involving murder, attempted murder, narcotics trafficking, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and money laundering.
- Former U.S. Army Employee Pleads Guilty to Kickback Scheme to Steer U.S. Government Contracts
July 21, 2021A former civilian employee of the U.S. Army’s Directorate of Public Works pleaded guilty today for his role in a kickbacks scheme to steer government contracts for work at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait.
- On the Passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa
November 12, 2020Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
- MS-13 New Jersey Leaders Convicted of Racketeering Offenses and Murder
November 17, 2021A federal jury in New Jersey convicted three El Salvadoran nationals on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges, including murder in aid of racketeering, stemming from their participation in Mara Salvatrucha, a violent international criminal racketeering enterprise commonly known as MS-13.
- Afghanistan: Actions Needed to Improve Accountability of U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan Government
August 23, 2021The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Defense (DOD) award direct assistance to Afghanistan, using bilateral agreements and multilateral trust funds that provide funds through the Afghan national budget. GAO assessed (1) the extent to which the United States, through USAID and DOD, has increased direct assistance, (2) USAID and DOD steps to ensure accountability for bilateral direct assistance, and (3) USAID and DOD steps to ensure accountability for direct assistance via multilateral trust funds for Afghanistan. GAO reviewed USAID, DOD, and multilateral documents and met with U.S. officials and staffs of multilateral trust funds in Washington, D.C., and Afghanistan.The United States more than tripled its awards of direct assistance to Afghanistan in fiscal year 2010 compared with fiscal year 2009. USAID awards of direct assistance grew from over $470 million in fiscal year 2009 to over $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2010. USAID awarded $1.3 billion to the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) in fiscal year 2010, of which the bank has received $265 million as of July 2011. DOD direct assistance to two ministries grew from about $195 million in fiscal year 2009 to about $576 million in fiscal year 2010, including contributions to fund police salaries through the United Nations Development Program-administered (UNDP) Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA). USAID and DOD have taken steps to help ensure the accountability of their bilateral direct assistance to Afghan ministries, but USAID has not required risk assessments in all cases before awarding these funds. For example, USAID did not complete preaward risk assessments in two of the eight cases GAO identified. Although current USAID policy does not require preaward risk assessments in all cases, these two awards were made after the USAID Administrator’s July 2010 commitment to Congress that USAID would not proceed with direct assistance to an Afghan public institution before assessing its capabilities. In these two cases, USAID awarded $46 million to institutions whose financial management capacity were later assessed as “high risk.” USAID has established various financial and other controls in its bilateral direct assistance agreements, such as requiring separate bank accounts and audits of the funds. USAID has generally complied with these controls, but GAO identified instances in which it did not. For example, in only 3 of 19 cases did USAID document that it had approved one ministry’s prefinancing contract documents. DOD personnel in Afghanistan assess the risk of providing funds to two security ministries through quarterly reviews of each ministry’s capacity. DOD officials also review records of ministry expenditures to assess whether ministries have used funds as intended. DOD established formal risk assessment procedures in June 2011, following GAO discussions with DOD about initial findings. USAID and DOD generally rely on the World Bank and UNDP to ensure accountability over U.S. direct assistance provided multilaterally through ARTF and LOTFA, but USAID has not consistently complied with its risk assessment policies in awarding funds to ARTF. During GAO’s review, DOD established procedures in June 2011 requiring that it assess risks before contributing funds to LOTFA. The World Bank and UNDP use ARTF and LOTFA monitoring agents to help ensure that ministries use contributions as intended. However, security conditions and weaknesses in Afghan ministries pose challenges to their oversight. For example, the ARTF monitoring agent recently resigned due to security concerns. The World Bank is now seeking a new monitoring agent and does not anticipate a gap in monitoring. In addition, weaknesses in the Ministry of Interior’s systems for paying wages to police challenge UNDP efforts to ensure that the ministry is using LOTFA funds as intended. GAO recommends that USAID (1) establish and implement policy requiring risk assessments in all cases before awarding bilateral direct assistance funds, (2) take additional steps to help ensure it implements controls for bilateral direct assistance, and (3) ensure adherence to its risk assessment policies for ARTF. In commenting on the first recommendation, USAID stated that its existing policies call for some form of risk assessment for all awards and that it has taken new steps to ensure risk assessment. GAO retained its recommendation because existing USAID policies do not require preaward risk assessments in all cases. USAID concurred with GAO’s other recommendations.
- Tajikistan Independence Day
September 8, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Department of Justice Fiscal Year 2022 Funding Request
May 28, 2021The President today submitted his Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 to Congress, totaling $35.3 billion for the Department of Justice (DOJ).
- New Jersey Man Charged with Tax Evasion and Filing False Returns
March 17, 2021A federal grand jury in Newark, New Jersey, returned an indictment today charging a New Jersey man with tax evasion and filing false tax returns.
- Briefing with Senior State Department Officials On U.S. Engagements at the United Nations and on the Margins of High-Level Week
September 22, 2021
- Four Plead Guilty to Multi-State Dogfighting Conspiracy
June 1, 2021Four defendants pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting and conspiracy charges for their roles in an inter-state dogfighting network across the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
- Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Sentenced to 27 Years in Prison for Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
September 16, 2021A dual national of the United States and Ireland was sentenced today to 324 months, or 27 years, in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release for conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
- Biodefense: After-Action Findings and COVID-19 Response Revealed Opportunities to Strengthen Preparedness
August 4, 2021What GAO Found Key federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Agriculture (USDA), developed a range of interagency response plans to prepare for nationally significant biological incidents. These strategic, operational, and tactical level plans address responding to a broad spectrum of biological threats, including those that are intentional, accidental, or naturally occurring. DHS, DOD, HHS, and USDA conducted numerous interagency exercises to help prepare for and respond to a wide variety of biological incidents, such as anthrax attacks, influenza pandemics, and diseases affecting plants and animals. Specifically, GAO identified 74 interagency biological incident exercises conducted from calendar years 2009 through 2019. Number of Interagency Biological Incident Exercises Conducted, Calendar Years 2009 through 2019 GAO’s analysis of after-action reports for selected interagency biological incident exercises and real-world incidents, as well as the COVID-19 response, identified long-standing biodefense challenges. GAO found that the nation lacked elements necessary for preparing for nationally significant biological incidents, including a process at the interagency level to assess and communicate priorities for exercising capabilities. Further, it determined that agencies do not routinely work together in monitoring results from exercises and real-world incidents to identify patterns and root causes for systemic challenges. Assessing and communicating exercise priorities and routinely monitoring the results of the exercises and incidents will help ensure the nation is better prepared to respond to the next biological threat. Why GAO Did This Study The COVID-19 pandemic shows how catastrophic biological incidents can cause substantial loss of life, economic damage, and require a whole-of-nation response involving multiple federal and nonfederal entities. The 2018 National Biodefense Strategy outlines specific goals and objectives to help prepare for and respond to such incidents. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct monitoring and oversight of federal efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from COVID-19. This report addresses: (1) interagency plans key federal agencies developed, and exercises they conducted, to help prepare for biological incidents; and (2) the extent to which exercises and real-world incidents revealed opportunities to better achieve National Biodefense Strategy objectives. GAO reviewed biological incident plans and after-action reports from exercises and real-world incidents from calendar years 2009 through 2019, including a non-generalizable sample of 19 reports selected based on threat scenario and other factors. GAO interviewed federal and state officials to obtain their perspectives on plans, exercises, and the COVID-19 response.
- Federal Judges Reinventing the Jury Trial During Pandemic
In U.S CourtsAugust 27, 2020A group of federal judges around the country are reinventing the jury trial so that it is not only a fair forum for the administration of justice, but also a safe experience for everyone in the courtroom, including defendants and jurors.
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Tajikistan Foreign Minister Muhriddin
June 1, 2021
- Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability Office
March 10, 2021In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO’s work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In addition, GAO reported on 35 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO’s High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO’s centennial, GAO’s FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving issues. Hallmarks of GAO’s work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO’s backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO’s mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government’s responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO’s work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties.
- Trafficking: Use of Online Marketplaces and Virtual Currencies in Drug and Human Trafficking
February 14, 2022What GAO Found Drug and human traffickers are increasingly using online marketplaces and virtual currencies to connect with buyers and obscure the source of payments, according to agency documentation and interviews with agency officials. However, according to the Department of Homeland Security, traffickers continue to primarily use cash. Online marketplaces facilitate trafficking by providing anonymity, connecting buyers and sellers, and allowing a range of payment methods, including virtual currencies (see figure). These marketplaces often use the “dark web,” a hidden part of the internet that users access using specialized software. Traffickers use virtual currencies and peer-to-peer mobile payment services because transactions are somewhat anonymous, making detection by law enforcement more difficult. However, all transactions on a public blockchain (the technology used by some virtual currencies) can be tracked to some extent. Summary of Participants Involved in Drug Trafficking Using Online Marketplaces and Virtual Currency Several federal law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute trafficking cases involving virtual currency and online marketplaces, including through interagency partnerships. In addition, federal regulators oversee financial institutions’ processes and controls to comply with anti-money laundering requirements, including reporting of potential trafficking activities to law enforcement. State regulations such as licensing requirements for money transmitters and other virtual currency businesses also can help impede trafficking, although such requirements vary by state. Law enforcement and others can use blockchain analytics tools to investigate suspected illicit activity that uses virtual currencies, but these tools can be of limited effectiveness. Many virtual currency transactions are permanently recorded on public blockchains, allowing them to be matched to user information collected by virtual currency platforms that comply with anti-money laundering requirements. However, law enforcement’s ability to detect and track illicit uses of virtual currencies may be hindered by criminals’ use of privacy technology, and by some market participants’ noncompliance with anti-money laundering requirements, according to law enforcement officials and analytics firms. Why GAO Did This Study Drug and human trafficking are longstanding and pervasive problems. Federal law enforcement agencies have noted the use of online marketplaces, such as social media sites and messaging platforms, in drug and human trafficking. Further, agencies have expressed concern about traffickers’ increased use of virtual currencies—that is, digital representations of value that are usually not government-issued legal tender. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 includes a provision for GAO to review how a range of methods and payment systems, including online marketplaces and virtual currencies, are used to facilitate drug and human trafficking. This report examines what is known about drug and human traffickers’ use of online marketplaces and virtual currencies, efforts by federal and state agencies to counter such trafficking, and benefits and challenges virtual currencies pose for detecting and prosecuting drug and human trafficking, among other objectives. GAO reviewed federal agency and industry documentation and GAO’s relevant body of past work; interviewed officials at federal and state agencies and industry and nonprofit stakeholders; and reviewed recently adjudicated cases involving the use of virtual currencies in drug or human trafficking. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements at (202) 512-8678 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Gretta Goodwin at (202)512-8777 or email@example.com.
- Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women: New Efforts Are Underway but Opportunities Exist to Improve the Federal Response
November 1, 2021What GAO Found The total number of missing or murdered Indigenous women—referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women in this report— is unknown because, for several reasons, federal databases do not contain comprehensive national data on all AI/AN women reported missing. For example, federal law requires federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies—but not tribal law enforcement agencies—to report missing children under the age of 21, but not those over 21. In addition, instances of missing AI/AN women may be underreported due to mistrust of law enforcement and other reasons. Implementation of data-related requirements in two laws, enacted in October 2020, present opportunities to increase and improve data on the number of missing or murdered Indians, including AI/AN women. For example, Savanna’s Act requires tribal consultations on how to improve tribal data relevance and access to databases. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken some steps to analyze data in federal databases related to cases of missing or murdered AI/AN women, including publishing more detailed single-year statistics in 2020 on missing persons by race, gender, and age. However, data analyses efforts are in the early stages, and DOJ does not have a plan to continue these efforts past November 2021. Developing such a plan could provide DOJ and other stakeholders with information to better understand the nature of the missing or murdered AI/AN crisis and identify emerging trends. Artist Installation of Red Dresses to Depict the Disappearances and Deaths of Indigenous Women, the National Museum of the American Indian, 2019 Relevant DOJ and Department of the Interior (DOI) law enforcement agencies that investigate cases of missing or murdered Indian women in Indian country have engaged in other efforts to address the crisis, but they have not implemented certain requirements to increase intergovernmental coordination and data collection in the two 2020 laws, which remain unfulfilled past their statutory deadlines. For example, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Attorney General, to appoint members to a Joint Commission on Reducing Violence Against Indians by February 7, 2021, but as of October 15, 2021, no members have been appointed, and a draft plan to meet this requirement does not include milestones for all interim steps. Developing plans to meet this and other unfulfilled statutory requirements would provide more assurance that DOJ and DOI will meet their legal responsibilities, and support tribal partners in reducing violent crime. Why GAO Did This Study According to researchers, AI/AN women in the U.S. experience higher rates of violence than most other women, and tribal and federal officials have stated that this incidence of violence constitutes a crisis. Various federal officials and tribal stakeholders have raised concerns about challenges with cross-jurisdictional cooperation and a lack of comprehensive national data on cases. GAO was asked to review the federal response to the missing or murdered AI/AN women crisis. This report examines the extent to which (1) the number of missing or murdered AI/AN women in the U.S. is known and (2) DOJ and DOI have taken steps to address the crisis. GAO reviewed available data on missing persons and violent deaths, relevant reports, and agency documentation, including agency policies and procedures. Using agency data—which were determined to be reliable for location selection—and qualitative factors, GAO selected seven locations to interview federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials; tribal officials; and nongovernmental victim service providers on the federal response to the crisis.
- North Carolina Woman Sentenced for Production and Distribution of Child Pornography
April 27, 2021A North Carolina woman was sentenced Monday to 50 years in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release for production and distribution of child pornography.