Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category


Yes, it is true. As the following email states I am about to have $800,000 of someone else’s money deposited into my account!!!!! Continue reading

Feds Bust Ring of Alleged Casino Cheaters

By Kevin Poulsen EmailFebruary 11, 2009 | 6:36:30 PMCategories: Hacks and Cracks  

Roulette Federal prosecutors in Tacoma, Washington are charging four alleged members of a cheating ring that hit roulette tables at three Indian casinos before being arrested last November.

The men are accused of pulling a simple scam that takes advantage of the variably-colored “non-value chips” issued at roulette tables to identify different gamers’ bets. Every player at the table is assigned one of eight colors. The chips have a default value of $1 each, but a high roller who wants to bet more on each spin can ask the croupier to count his chips at a higher value, such as $25.

In a series of visits to Washington Indian casinos last fall, one member of the gang would play at the $1 level, while slipping the no-value chips into his pocket, the FBI says. Security cameras captured one of the men heading to the men’s room, where the government believes he passed a stack of 60 chips to a confederate — one Jorge Armando Acosta — before returning to the table and cashing out.

Acosta then approached the same table and got chips of the same color, but played them at $25 a chip, according to an FBI affidavit (.pdf). He allegedly worked his pocketed chips into the game, and eventually cashed out, earning $24 profit for each chip.

The gang allegedly scored $11,520 in eight visits to the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma over four days in late October, before moving on to the Clearwater Casino, where alert security staff detected the suspicious activity and briefly backroomed the shifty crew. They showed up at the Snoqualmie casino on November 10 and were busted again. This time they were arrested.

Acosta, Federico Ricardo Fermin, Marcos Antonio Peynado and Joan Manuel Jimenez Cordero are all charged in a criminal complaint with Theft of Funds from a Gaming Establishment on Indian Lands. Fermin, Peynado and Cordero allegedly participated by playing at the table with non-value chips of different colors, to help ensure that the money player would get the color he needed. They’re also suspected of serving as “blockers” in the scam, shielding the other players from the casino’s surveillance — poorly, it seems.

Original Article

AP IMPACT: Drugmakers’ push boosts ‘murky’ ailment

By MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Business Writer Matthew Perrone, Ap Business WriterSun Feb 8, 11:41 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Two drugmakers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year to raise awareness of a murky illness, helping boost sales of pills recently approved as treatments and drowning out unresolved questions — including whether it’s a real disease at all.

Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants — more than $6 million donated by drugmakers Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the first three quarters of 2008 — to nonprofit groups for medical conferences and educational campaigns, an Associated Press analysis found.

That’s more than they gave for more accepted ailments such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Among grants tied to specific diseases, fibromyalgia ranked third for each company, behind only cancer and AIDS for Pfizer and cancer and depression for Lilly.

Fibromyalgia draws skepticism for several reasons. The cause is unknown. There are no tests to confirm a diagnosis. Many patients also fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome and other pain ailments.

Experts don’t doubt the patients are in pain. They differ on what to call it and how to treat it.

Many doctors and patients say the drugmakers are educating the medical establishment about a misunderstood illness, much as they did with depression in the 1980s. Those with fibromyalgia have often had to fight perceptions that they are hypochondriacs, or even faking their pain.

But critics say the companies are hyping fibromyalgia along with their treatments, and that the grantmaking is a textbook example of how drugmakers unduly influence doctors and patients.

“I think the purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs,” said Dr. Frederick Wolfe, who was lead author of the guidelines defining fibromyalgia in 1990 but has since become one of its leading skeptics.

Fredrick Wolfe, Director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and one AP – Fredrick Wolfe, Director of the National Databank for Rheumatic Diseases and one of the nation’s most … Whatever the motive, the push has paid off. Between the first quarter of 2007 and the fourth quarter of 2008, sales rose from $395 million to $702 million for Pfizer’s Lyrica, and $442 million to $721 million for Lilly’s Cymbalta.

Cymbalta, an antidepressant, won Food and Drug Administration approval as a treatment for fibromyalgia in June. Lyrica, originally approved for epileptic seizures, was approved for fibromyalgia a year earlier.

Drugmakers respond to skepticism by pointing out that fibromyalgia is recognized by medical societies, including the American College of Rheumatology.

“I think what we’re seeing here is just the evolution of greater awareness about a condition that has generally been neglected or poorly managed,” said Steve Romano, a Pfizer vice president who oversees its neuroscience division. “And it’s mainly being facilitated by the fact the FDA has now approved effective compounds.”

The FDA approved the drugs because they’ve been shown to reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients, though it’s not clear how. Some patients say the drugs can help, but the side effects include nausea, weight gain and drowsiness.

Helen Arellanes of Los Angeles was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in September 2007 and later left her job to go on disability. She takes five medications for pain, including Lyrica and Cymbalta.

“I call it my fibromyalgia fog, because I’m so medicated I go through the day feeling like I’m not really there,” Arellanes said. “But if for some reason I miss a dose of medication, I’m in so much pain.”

A single mother of three, Arellanes sometimes struggles to afford all her medications. She said she is grateful that a local Pfizer sales representative occasionally gives her free samples of Lyrica “to carry me through the month.”

The drugmakers’ grant-making is dwarfed by advertisement spending. Eli Lilly spent roughly $128.4 million in the first three quarters of 2008 on ads to promote Cymbalta, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Pfizer Inc. spent more than $125 million advertising Lyrica.

But some say the grants’ influence goes much further than dollar figures suggest. Such efforts steer attention to diseases, influencing patients and doctors and making diagnosis more frequent, they say.

“The underlying purpose here is really marketing, and they do that by sponsoring symposia and hiring physicians to give lectures and prepare materials,” said Wolfe, who directs the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases in Wichita, Kan.

Similar criticisms have dogged drugmakers’ marketing of medicines for overactive bladder and restless legs syndrome.

Many of the grants go to educational programs for doctors that feature seminars on the latest treatments and discoveries.

Pfizer says it has no control over which experts are invited to the conferences it sponsors. Skeptics such as Wolfe are occasionally asked to attend.

The drug industry’s grants also help fill out the budgets of nonprofit disease advocacy groups, which pay for educational programs and patient outreach and also fund some research.

“If we have a situation where we don’t have that funding, medical education is going to come to a screeching halt, and it will impact the kind of care that patients will get,” said Lynne Matallana, president of the National Fibromyalgia Association.

Matallana founded the group in 1997 after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A former advertising executive, Matallana said she visited 37 doctors before learning there was a name for the crushing pain she felt all over her body.

A decade later, her patient advocacy group is a $1.5 million-a-year operation that has successfully lobbied Congress for more research funding for fibromyalgia. Forty percent of the group’s budget comes from corporate donations, such as the funds distributed by Pfizer and Eli Lilly.

Pfizer gave $2.2 million and Lilly gave $3.9 million in grants and donations related to fibromyalgia in the first three quarters of last year, the AP found. Those funds represented 4 percent of Pfizer’s giving and about 9 percent of Eli Lilly’s.

Eli Lilly, Pfizer and a handful of other companies began disclosing their grants only in the past two years, after coming under scrutiny from federal lawmakers.

The message in company TV commercials is clear. “Fibromyalgia is real,” proclaimed one Lyrica ad. Researchers who’ve studied the condition for decades say it’s not that simple.

Since the 1970s, Wolfe and a small group of specialists have debated the condition in the pages of medical journals. Depending on whom you ask, it is a disease, a syndrome, a set of symptoms or a behavior disorder.

The American College of Rheumatology estimates that between 6 million and 12 million people in the U.S. have fibromyalgia, more than 80 percent of them women. It’s not clear how many cases are actually diagnosed, but Dr. Daniel Clauw of the University of Michigan said pharmaceutical industry market research shows roughly half are undiagnosed. People with fibromyalgia experience widespread muscle pain and other symptoms including fatigue, headache and depression.

After 30 years of studying the ailment, rheumatologist Dr. Don Goldenberg says fibromyalgia is still a “murky area.”

“Doctors need labels and patients need labels,” said Goldenberg, a professor of medicine at Tufts University. “In general, it’s just more satisfying to tell people, ‘You have X,’ rather than, ‘You have pain.'”

While Goldenberg continues to diagnose patients with fibromyalgia, some of his colleagues have stopped, saying the condition is a catchall covering a range of symptoms.

Dr. Nortin Hadler says telling people they have fibromyalgia can actually doom them to a life of suffering by reinforcing the idea that they have an incurable disease.

“It’s been shown that if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your chances for returning to a level of well-being that satisfies you are pretty dismal,” said Hadler, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who has occasionally advised health insurers on how to deal with fibromyalgia.

Hadler said people labeled with fibromyalgia are indeed suffering, not from a medical disease but from a psychological condition. Instead of drugs, patients should receive therapy to help them “unlearn” their predicament, he said.

Research by the University of Michigan’s Clauw suggests people with fibromyalgia experience pain differently because of abnormalities in their nervous system. Brain scans show unusual activity when the patients experience even minor pain, though there is no abnormality common to all.

Clauw’s work, however, illustrates the knotty issues of drug company funding. He has done paid consulting work for the drugmakers, and he’s received research funding from the National Fibromyalgia Research Association, which receives money from the drugmakers.

While Clauw acknowledges that Lyrica and Cymbalta do not work for everyone, he has little patience for experts who spend more time parsing definitions than helping patients.

“At the end of the day I don’t care how you categorize this — it’s a legitimate condition and these people are suffering,” Clauw said.

UC admits misleading public about buyout-taker

Monday, February 9, 2009

(02-08) 18:25 PST — UC Berkeley officials have acknowledged misleading the public in the controversial case of a high-paid executive aide who left her job at the university’s headquarters and the next day began a new job on the Cal campus – qualifying for a $100,202 severance check along the way.

In November, when the severance payment became public, The Chronicle asked for an explanation of how Linda Morris Williams could get a buyout for leaving her $200,400-a-year headquarters job in Oakland and starting her new job paying the same salary in the office of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Williams and UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof released a statement suggesting that the Berkeley job opportunity had developed coincidentally after she had applied for the buyout.

“At the time of my Voluntary Separation Program application, the associate chancellor position on the Berkeley campus was not open and therefore played no role whatsoever in my decision making,” Williams said at the time.

In their latest statement, Williams and Mogulof apologized “for our initial statement that unintentionally created an impression” that Williams was unaware of the possibility of future employment at the Berkeley campus.

“We sacrificed clarity and detail for the sake of brevity,” Mogulof said in an interview. “We had no reason to be intentionally misleading.”

A review of documents and e-mails obtained under the state Public Records Act showed Williams was well aware of the UC Berkeley job when she filed for the buyout on Jan. 22, 2008 – including talks with Birgeneau.

E-mails show she had been virtually assured by Birgeneau’s close aides that the job was hers and was even placed on a UC Berkeley organizational chart five days before she applied for the buyout.

Linda Williams started a new job at UC Berkeley one day a... (U.C. Berkeley) 

Williams was one of 155 former employees in the UC president’s office to receive severance payments under a voluntary termination program designed to shrink the headquarters’ payroll.

Under the program created by then-UC President Robert Dynes, 16 headquarters employees got severance checks and landed other UC jobs. Williams collected the most.

She had previously come to the public’s attention during the university’s salary scandal in 2006 after Dynes waived some rules and gave her some benefits, including a $44,000 relocation allowance and a low-interest $832,500 home loan, for which she was not otherwise entitled.

In her new position at Berkeley, Williams oversees whistle-blower complaints and public records requests, along with crisis management duties as associate chancellor – government, community and campus liaison.

Williams and Birgeneau declined to be interviewed and directed all inquires to the campus’ main spokesperson, public affairs Executive Director Mogulof.

Although apologizing for Williams’ earlier, misleading statement, Mogulof insisted that it was not false.

Mogulof said that Williams’ prospective job at UC Berkeley was not a “done deal” when she applied for the buyout because Birgeneau’s request to hire her without advertising the opening had not yet been approved; she had not yet received a formal offer letter; and her salary had not yet been set.

“Linda Williams acted in complete compliance with the letter and spirit of the UC Voluntary Separation Program set up by the Office of the President to reduce staff in those offices,” Birgeneau told The Chronicle in December. “She applied for the severance program before the associate chancellor position on the Berkeley campus became available and before I offered her the position.”

Williams’ severance was paid in November, but the series of events leading up to it began at least a year earlier, on Nov. 7, 2007.

That was the day, UC officials said, Birgeneau met with Williams to discuss her taking the associate chancellorship, a position still in the conceptual stage. Just the day before, the chancellor’s staff had drafted an outline of the position’s responsibilities.

E-mails show that job talks between Williams and high-ranking UC Berkeley officials continued during the 11 weeks leading up to the Jan. 22, 2008, date when she applied for the buyout from her job as a senior adviser to Dynes. On that same day, the chancellor sent a letter to his human resources office saying Williams was “an ideal candidate” for the associate chancellor slot.

In that letter, the chancellor proposed to appoint Williams at her then-current annual salary of $200,400, requesting permission to expedite her hiring.

Just four days before filing her buyout application, Williams sent an e-mail to a soon-to-be UC Berkeley colleague urging that her hiring be publicly announced.

“Thanks for moving things forward,” she wrote. “The ‘news’ is all over the place … someone, or multiple people, congratulates me daily. However, getting the announcement out will be helpful.”

On Feb. 1, 2008, the chancellor’s request for a hiring waiver was granted, based on Williams’ special skills and the hardship of conducting a full search during UC’s budget crisis and the need for a smooth transition.

Williams left her old job on April 30 and began her new one on May 1. On Nov. 20, 2008, the UC Board of Regents discussed Williams’ $100,202 payout in closed session, then approved it as the last item on the board’s agenda.

Five days after The Chronicle reported on the payout to Williams, the new president of the University of California system, Mark Yudof, announced that employees in his office no longer will be allowed to collect full severance checks and then be rehired at other UC locations.

Linda Williams’ new job


Nov. 7: UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau discusses an associate chancellorship job with Linda Williams.

Nov. 19: UC Office of the President in Oakland, where Williams worked, announces employee buyout program.


Jan. 17: A draft UC Berkeley organizational chart shows Williams as an associate chancellor.

Jan. 18: A UC Berkeley official e-mails the chart to Williams, who thanked the official for “moving things forward.”

Jan. 22: Williams applies for a $100,202 severance payment from the UC Office of the President.

Jan. 22: Birgeneau requests a waiver to hire Williams without advertising the job.

Jan. 30: Williams’ buyout application is approved by the UC Office of the President.

Feb. 1: Birgeneau gets the wavier to hire Williams.

Feb. 8: Birgeneau sends a letter offering the job to Williams.

Feb. 10: Williams accepts the offer.

Feb. 12: Birgeneau announces the hiring of Williams.

April 30: Williams’ last day with the UC Office of the President.

May 1: Williams’ first day at UC Berkeley.

Nov. 20: UC Board of Regents approves Williams’ $100,202 severance payment.

Sources: UC documents, e-mails and interviews with officials

E-mail Jim Doyle at

This article appeared on page B – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Savings lost to Madoff, elderly forced back to work



Friday Feb 6, 2009Photo

By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) – After losing his entire life’s savings to disgraced fund manager Bernard Madoff, 90-year-old Ian Thiermann abandoned retirement and now works the aisles of a grocery store to make ends meet.

 Handing out fliers hawking avocados and pork ribs at a supermarket in Ben Lomond, California, Thiermann is one of many facing dramatic lifestyle changes after losing their savings in Madoff’s suspected $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

 Thiermann wasn’t even aware he had invested with Madoff until December 15, when a friend who managed his investments called him on the telephone. “He said, ‘I’ve lost everything and you have lost everything.'” For Thiermann, that meant $750,000.

 Days after the release of a list of thousands of Madoff customers — from Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax to actor John Malkovich — a picture is emerging of a scandal that has reverberated far beyond America’s still-wealthy to those who have lost nearly everything.

 elderlyAnd swept up in the pain are many who should be savoring the twilight of their lives in peaceful retirement rather than scrambling for a living.

 Thiermann, owner of a pest-control company in Los Angeles before retiring 25 years ago, enjoyed returns of 10 to 12 percent each year on his savings for about 15 years regardless of whether markets rose or fell. He lived on those returns, devoting much time to nonprofit work.

 “We don’t have any cash reserves now. And we still owe money on our houses,” he said in a telephone interview. He learned of his losses while shopping in a local grocery store with his wife, Terry.

 “The store manager who we know very well said, ‘What’s wrong?’ We said, ‘Have you heard about this Madoff?’ And he said, ‘Oh my god!” Thiermann explained. “I now work there as a beginner and I deeply appreciate it.”

 About 2,490 miles to the east in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Maureen Ebel has also surrendered a comfortable retirement, and works as a cleaner after losing her family savings of $7.3 million to Madoff.

 On December 17, six days after learning of her losses, the 60-year-old widow found work cleaning the home of a friend and caring for a 93-year-old woman. Ebel’s husband, a doctor, died in 2000 at age 53. The former nurse is also selling her luxury Lexus SUV and a winter home in Florida.


 “On the first day I went to work, after pushing that vacuum cleaner around, I came home and said to myself ‘this is what my life has come to,’ and I held onto my dog and I cried,” Ebel said in a telephone interview.

 In Pompano Beach, Florida, 73-year-old Irwin Salbe also expects to return to work after losing about 75 percent of his investment portfolio to Madoff, who according to court documents confessed to his sons on December 10 that the firm’s investment-advisory business was “basically a giant Ponzi scheme.”

 Such schemes use money from new investors to pay distributions and redemptions to existing investors.

 Salbe said his family investments with Madoff date back to the 1960s, although he declined to say exactly how much. 

“We were pretty heavily in it with my children and my grandchildren. They all had accounts with mine. We’re all in it and it’s substantial,” he said.

 “Now we’re downsizing. I had two cars. We’ve gotten rid of one. I’ve canceled some trips. I’ve reduced my expenses with every opportunity. We don’t eat out like we did. If we go out, we got to a neighborhood place like for a pizza,” he said.

 “I used to get my income from there. Now, there’s no more expensive dinners. I don’t hug my kids anymore like I used to,” he said. “The image of Madoff’s main clientele is of rich people. That’s not true. A lot of people have been devastated like me,” said Salbe, who had met Madoff several times.

 Salbe, a general manager for a newspaper and magazine distribution company in New York before retiring in 1991, inherited the Madoff investments when his father died in 1984. Over the years, he poured in his own money and eventually parked his entire retirement savings with Madoff.

 “I’m going to definitely have to go back to a part-time job,” he said.


 In Wisconsin, Abby Frucht ponders the fate of her parents, whose $1 million in life’s savings seemingly evaporated with the collapse of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, Madoff’s investment-advisory business. Her parents lived off the money in a retirement home in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

 “My dad is 85 and my mom is 79. We don’t know how long they can stay there. We’re working that out now,” she said.

 Her father suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and may not fully comprehend what’s happening, she said in a telephone interview. “They are very elderly and can’t possibly go back to work. They are very comfortable and happy where they are.”

 Her parents have enough savings to stay in New Mexico another two months. After that, they may have no choice but to move in with her in Wisconsin. “My sisters and I have power of attorney over them so we have been putting our heads together to try and find a way to keep our parents comfortable.”

 Some want industry regulators or the government to pay.

 After losing money to Madoff, Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, said both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority could be held liable for investors’ losses.

 “The brokerage industry is responsible for this because these are the people that caused all of this,” he said.

 (Reporting by Jason Szep; editing by Richard Chang)


(; +1 617 856 4343; Reuters Messaging:


(For more on the Madoff scandal, please visit here)

Man gets probation for Ohio nuke plant cover-up

Sat Feb 7, 1:08 pm ET

TOLEDO, Ohio – A former nuclear power plant engineer in Ohio has been sentenced to three years on probation and fined $4,500 for helping to cover up the worst corrosion ever found at a U.S. reactor.

Andrew Siemaszko (si-MAS’-ko) was sentenced Friday in federal court in Toledo, Ohio. He had faced up to five years in prison.

He was convicted of misleading regulators in 2001 in order to delay a safety inspection at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant along Lake Erie.

Inspectors later found an acid leak that nearly ate through the reactor’s 6-inch-thick steel cap.

Defense attorneys have said Siemaszko was set up as a scapegoat because he spoke out about safety concerns.

The plant operator, FirstEnergy Corp., has paid $33.5 million to settle civil and criminal cases.


Information from: The Blade,


CIA Agent Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Covert Credit Cards

By Kevin Poulsen EmailFebruary 06, 2009 | 4:41:53 PMCategories: Spooks Gone Wild  


A 16-year veteran of the CIA pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal fraud charge after using undercover agency credit cards to run up $75,000 in personal expenses, including costly hotel stays and a $700 watch.

Steven J. Levan, 48, worked as a case agent at the CIA until his recent termination over the fraud.  According to an affidavit (.pdf) by a U.S. postal inspector who investigated the case, Levan made unauthorized personal use of four special credit cards that, while not officially billed to the government, are “customarily paid by the agency.”

“The agency had to pay the defendant’s fraudulent charges on those credit cards, in order to maintain the means by which the agency protects the identity of certain of its employees,” reads the affidavit.

Despite the relatively mild charges, Levan’s been held without bail since his arrest on January 12, based on the government’s assertion that the former spy could begin peddling national security secrets to foreign powers to raise more money.  Levan’s attorney slammed the espionage rhetoric as “rank speculation” in a motion for bail (.pdf) last month.

Veteran CIA spy Steven J. Levan used a covert government credit card to buy himself a $700 Raymond Weil watch — garrote not included.

“Nothing about the underlying allegations relate to espionage or the deprivation of honest services,” wrote Federal Public Defender Michael Nachmanoff. The lawyer acknowledged that Levan has suffered from financial difficulties.

Government filings in the case don’t name the CIA as Levan’s former employer, but Nachmanoff’s bail motion does. Levan apparently joined the agency after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1982, then receiving a Master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval War College and spending four years in the Army.

Judging from his salary tier, Levan occupied a fairly senior position in the CIA: as a GS-15, he earned between $115,000 and $149,000 a year, the top level for government civil service. He’s lived in Virginia — where the CIA is headquartered — and the Washington DC area since 1987, “with the exception of several tours overseas,” wrote Nachmanoff.

In a plea deal with prosecutors this week, Levan agreed to abandon his bid for release on bail, and he pleaded guilty to a single count of access device fraud for running up $7,446 on one of the CIA credit cards at the Staybridge Suites hotel in McLean, Virginia.

Levan also admitted (.pdf) using the identity information on the CIA cards to obtain two more credit cards he had sent to his home. Additionally, he stole another covert credit card from a different, unnamed, government agency, and lifted a coworker’s personal credit card to ring up another $15,000.  In all, the losses topped $100,000.

The government has agreed to recommend a term of no more than a year in prison, and full restitution, when Levan is sentenced on May 1.

Levan is the second CIA official to be outed by allegations of criminal conduct in recent weeks. In late January, ABC News published the name of the former station chief of the CIA’s outpost in Algeria, who’s come under suspicion in the alleged date-rape of several women there.

According to court records, Levan is separated from his wife, who lives in his house with the couple’s children. He committed much of the fraud while living at a Residence Inn in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Under an assumed identity, naturally.