HOUSTON – A 42-year-old Manvel resident has been ordered to prison following his conviction of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Toan Tran pleaded guilty Jan. 4, 2021.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ordered Tran to serve 120 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted the blatant, fraudulent scheme and the fact that Tran preyed on his friends and co-workers. Several of the victims testified about the hardships his theft had caused for them and their families. After hearing from several of the victims, Judge Hughes noted the Tran’s “treachery” by stealing from friends and co-workers.
At the time of his plea, Tran admitted that in 2017 he used a fake investment account to convince a local businessman to sell him a media outlet. Tran showed the businessman funds in the account, but they had been altered. They fraudulently displayed $7 million when, in fact, he never had over $100,000 at any one time. Tran subsequently bankrupted the business and defaulted on the payments.
Tran also admitted to using the same scheme to persuade several co-workers to invest in his company from 2015 through 2017. Some victims invested their life savings and never saw any return.
In total, investors lost over $705,000 as a result of Tran’s scheme.
Tran was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
FBI – Texas City conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas H. Carter prosecuted the case.
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August 31, 2021What GAO FoundThe Department of Defense (DOD) has taken steps to establish its concept for conducting security force assistance, including broadly defining the term and identifying actions needed to plan for and prepare forces to execute these activities. For example, in October 2010, the department issued an instruction that broadly defines security force assistance and outlines responsibilities for key stakeholders, including the geographic combatant commands and military services. DOD also identified gaps in key areas of doctrine, organization, and training related to the implementation of security force assistance and tasks needed to address those gaps. The tasks include reviewing joint and service-level doctrine to incorporate security force assistance as needed and developing measures to assess progress in partner nations. Citing a need to clarify the definition of security force assistance beyond the DOD Instruction, DOD published a document referred to as a Lexicon Framework in November 2011 that included information to describe how security force assistance relates to other existing terms, such as security cooperation.The geographic combatant commands conduct activities to build partner nation capacity and capability, but face challenges planning for and tracking security force assistance as a distinct activity. Notwithstanding DODs efforts to present security force assistance as a distinct and potentially expansive activity and clarify its terminology, the commands lack a common understanding of security force assistance, and therefore some were unclear as to what additional actions were needed to meet DODs intent. Specifically, officials interviewed generally viewed it as a recharacterization of some existing activities, but had different interpretations of what types of activities should be considered security force assistance. Further, some command officials stated that they were not clear as to the intent of DODs increased focus on security force assistance and whether any related adjustments should be made in their plans and scope or level of activities. As a result, they do not currently distinguish security force assistance from other security cooperation activities in their plans. DOD intended the Lexicon Framework to provide greater clarity on the meaning of security force assistance and its relationship to security cooperation and other related terms. However, some officials said that they found the distinctions to be confusing and others believed that additional guidance was needed. GAOs prior work on key practices for successful organizational transformations states the necessity to communicate clear objectives for what is to be achieved. Without additional clarification, the geographic combatant commands will continue to lack a common understanding, which may hinder the departments ability to meet its strategic goals. Moreover, the system that the commands are directed to use to track security force assistance activities does not include a specific data field to identify those activities. The commands also face challenges planning for and executing long-term, sustained security force assistance plans within existing statutory authorities, which contain some limitations on the types of activities that can be conducted.The services are taking steps and investing resources to organize and train general purpose forces capable of conducting security force assistance based on current requirements. For example, to conduct activities with partner nation security forces, the Army and the Air Force are aligning certain units to geographic regions, and the Marine Corps has created tailored task forces. However, the services face certain challenges. Due to a lack of clarity on how DODs increased emphasis on security force assistance will affect future requirements, they are uncertain whether their current efforts are sufficient or whether additional capabilities will be required. Further, services face challenges in tracking personnel with security force assistance training and experience, particularly in identifying the attributes to track.Why GAO Did This StudyDOD is emphasizing security force assistance (e.g., efforts to train, equip, and advise partner nation forces) as a distinct activity to build the capacity and capability of partner nation forces. In anticipation of its growing importance, DOD has identified the need to strengthen and institutionalize security force assistance capabilities within its general purpose forces. Accordingly, a committee report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to report on DODs plans. GAO evaluated: (1) the extent to which DOD has established its concept for conducting security force assistance, including defining the term and identifying actions needed to plan for and prepare forces to execute it; (2) the extent to which the geographic combatant commands have taken steps to plan for and conduct security force assistance, and what challenges, if any, they face; and (3) what steps the services have taken to organize and train general purpose forces capable of conducting security force assistance, and what challenges, if any, they face. 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- Military Personnel: DOD’s Transition Assistance Program at Small or Remote Installations
July 22, 2021What GAO Found The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides counseling, employment assistance, and information on federal veterans benefits, among other support, to transitioning servicemembers who are separating from the military. From fiscal years 2018 through 2020, seven of the nine selected small or remote installations exceeded, on average, DOD’s TAP compliance target of 85 percent of separated servicemembers completing all TAP requirements. The information delivered during TAP and the components of the program are standard across all military installations, regardless of the size or location of the installation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only certain servicemembers were eligible to participate in TAP virtually, including those servicemembers in remote or geographically isolated locations. According to officials of the Military-Civilian Transition Office (MCTO), servicemembers who attended TAP sessions virtually prior to the pandemic received the same transition information as those who attended TAP sessions in person. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all nine of the small or remote installations in GAO’s review shifted to virtual delivery of TAP sessions for all servicemembers, according to officials at those installations. DOD monitors TAP across all installations, regardless of size or geographic location, through a standard form used by all four military services and by conducting course surveys. DOD officials told GAO that there are no additional monitoring activities or metrics specific to small or remote installations. Officials whom GAO interviewed—including those of the military services and at the nine selected small or remote installations—discussed common challenges with TAP delivery and participation, as well as ways they were mitigating these challenges where possible. For example, TAP officials at several remote installations stated there were limited local employment opportunities available to servicemembers post-separation. However, a few officials stated that they had built relationships with local employers to provide networking opportunities to servicemembers. Also, Army officials stated that they provide virtual career fairs that are available to all servicemembers regardless of location. The shift to fully virtual delivery of TAP support at the start of the pandemic also presented common challenges among the installations in GAO’s review, including not having a live virtual option for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits briefing and having caps on the number of servicemembers in virtual classes. An official at one installation said the installation was able to provide servicemembers access to informal VA information sessions with their local VA office to supplement the self-paced virtual VA briefing. Why GAO Did This Study Approximately 200,000 servicemembers each year leave the military and transition to civilian life. To help servicemembers with potential challenges they may face during this transition, such as finding and maintaining employment, DOD is mandated by law to require that eligible separating servicemembers participate in TAP. House Report 116-442, accompanying a bill for the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, directed GAO to review servicemember participation in formal Transition Assistance Programs at small and remote military installations in the United States. This report describes: (1) the extent to which active-duty servicemembers at selected small or remote military installations within the United States are receiving required transition services; (2) the extent to which DOD is monitoring TAP at small or remote military installations; and (3) challenges that exist in implementing TAP at selected small or remote military installations. GAO reviewed relevant laws and guidance documents, and analyzed data provided by the Military-Civilian Transition Office (MCTO) and the military services. GAO also interviewed officials from MCTO, the military services, and TAP staff at nine small or remote installations in the United States selected to achieve at least two installations for each military service and for variation in geographic location. GAO identified remote military installations as those 50 or more miles from a city of 50,000 people or more, and small installations as those with 350 or fewer projected servicemember separations for fiscal year 2021.
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August 25, 2021The drawdown from Iraq is a complex operation of significant magnitude. Established drawdown timelines dictate a reduction in forces to 50,000 troops by August 31, 2010, and a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by December 31, 2011. While DOD has made progress toward meeting these goals, a large amount of equipment, personnel, and bases remain to be drawn down. Moreover, escalating U.S. involvement in Afghanistan may increase the pressure on DOD to efficiently execute the drawdown. Due to broad congressional interest in drawdown issues, GAO performed this work under the Comptroller General’s Authority. GAO examined (1) the extent to which DOD has planned for the drawdown from Iraq in accordance with set timelines, and (2) factors that may impact the efficient execution of the drawdown. To evaluate these efforts GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from over 20 DOD organizations in the U.S., Kuwait, and Iraq.Several DOD organizations have issued coordinated plans for the execution of the drawdown and created new organizations to oversee, synchronize, and ensure unity of effort during the drawdown. To date, DOD reports that its drawdown efforts have exceeded its goals. For example, in January 2010, DOD reported that it had exceeded its target figure for withdrawing wheeled and tracked combat vehicles in Iraq, among other items, by over 2,600 pieces, yet a large amount of personnel, equipment, and bases remain to be drawn down. However, DOD has not (1) fully included contracted support in its operational planning for the drawdown, (2) allowed sufficient time in its guidance to ensure that all contracted services can be put on contract in a responsible manner, or (3) clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of various contract validation review boards. Several other issues may impede the efficient execution of the drawdown from Iraq. First, challenges associated with the planned simultaneous transition of several major contracts may lead to the interruption of vital services. Second, DOD has not determined whether the benefits of transitioning its major base and life support contract in Iraq outweigh the costs and risks of doing so. Third, shortages of contract oversight personnel may increase the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Fourth, key decisions concerning equipment that will be retrograded from Iraq have yet to be made. And finally, DOD lacks precise visibility over its inventory of equipment and shipping containers. While DOD has begun to address some of these issues, GAO has not fully assessed DOD’s actions.
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