Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Jersey:

Mayors, rabbis arrested in NJ corruption probe
Jul 23, 2009
By Edith Honan

NEWARK (Reuters) - Dozens of New Jersey politicians, officials and prominent rabbis were arrested on Thursday in a sweeping federal probe that uncovered political corruption, human organ sales and money laundering from New York to Israel, officials said.

The 10-year investigation, dubbed "Operation Bid Rig," exposed influence-peddling and bribe-taking among a network of public officials and a separate multimillion dollar money-laundering ring that funneled funds through charities operated by local rabbis, said the U.S. Attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey.

The cast of the 44 arrested featured Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Peter Cammarano, who took office three weeks ago in the industrial city visible across the Hudson River from New York.

Others accused were mayors of nearby Secaucus and Ridgefield, state Assemblymen, a deputy mayor, city council members, housing, planning and zoning officials, building inspectors and political candidates.

"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's white collar crime and public corruption program in New Jersey, who has worked on the investigation since it began in July 1999.

"It has become ingrained in New Jersey's political culture," he said, calling corruption "a cancer."

Central to the investigation was an informant who was charged with bank fraud in 2006 and posed undercover as a real estate developer and owner of a tile business who paid off officials to win project approval and public contracts in northern New Jersey, according to documents in the case.

The public officials stand accused of taking bribes for pledging their help getting permits and projects prioritized and approved or steering contracts to the witness...

"The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra. "The victims are the average citizens and the honest business people in this state. They don't have a chance in this culture of corruption."

The public corruption uncovered by the informant led him to the separate money-laundering network by rabbis who operated between Brooklyn, Deal, New Jersey, and Israel, authorities said. They laundered some $3 million for the undercover witness between June 2007 and July 2009, authorities said.

"These complaints paint a disgraceful picture of religious leaders heading money laundering crews acting as crime bosses," Marra said. "They used purported charities, entities supposed set up to do good works as vehicles for laundering millions of dollars in illicit funds."


Rabbis accused of money-laundering were Saul Kassin, chief rabbi of a large Syrian Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn; Eliahu Ben Haim, principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal; Edmund Nahum, principal rabbi of another synagogue in Deal; and Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn.

The probe also uncovered Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, who is accused of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. According to the complaint, Rosenbaum said he had been brokering sale of kidneys for 10 years.

"His business was to entice vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 which he would turn around and sell for $160,000," said Marra.

Several of the public officials were accused of taking bribes of just $10,000, authorities said. Cammarano, at 31 the youngest ever mayor of Hoboken, was charged with taking $25,000 in bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Taxpayers pay to break-up Democratic fundraiser; compare to Cheryl Cox fundraiser

Some people just can't stand for anyone to disagree with them. A neighbor was apparently enraged by a Democratic fundraiser in Cardiff, and the Sheriff's department was ready and willing to add dogs and a helicopter to the effort to shut down the party. I suspect the complainer didn't mind the noise of the helicopter since the complaint was not motivated by noise, but rather by politics. It seems the angry neighbor was making plenty of noise himself before the police came, shouting obscenities to party-goers.

Compare this story to the story of a fundraiser for Republican Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, in which a visitor was arrested, not the hosts. Clearly, fundraisers go differently in San Diego county depending on whether or not you're a Republican like District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriffs Bill Kolender/Bill Gore.


On 6/27/09, at about 2112 hours, Deputy ***** and *****, Clinician ***** responded to 1366 Rubenstein Avenue, Cardiff, Calif, regarding a Loud Democratic Rally with Loud Speakers.

The reporting party's residence is located on Summit Avenue just west of 1366 Rubenstein Avenue. The reporting party told dispatchers he was willing to sign and wanted deputy contact. It was later learned that the rally was a fundraiser for Francine Busby who is running for Congress.

Upon arriving at 1366 Rubenstein Avenue, Deputy ***** and Clinician ***** walked down a long driveway and found an open front door. They noticed that some type of rally or party was taking place. Deputy ***** asked someone outside where the homeowner could be found. The person told Deputy ***** they were somewhere inside the house.

Deputy ***** and Clinician ***** walked inside and asked another person where the homeowner was. That person pointed at a female later identified as Shari Lynn Barman. Deputy ***** approached Barman and attempted to inform her that the rally was causing a disturbance for one of her neighbors. Deputy ***** noticed Barman wearing a name tag with the first name of Shari written on it. Deputy ***** asked Shari what her last name and date of birth was, so he could document the contact with her and complete his first responder notification.

She refused to tell Deputy ***** her last name or D.O.B. and walked away from him several times. Deputy ***** followed her and continued to ask for her last name and D.O.B. and she refused his request. As Barman walked away from Deputy ***** again he grabbed her wrist to prevent her from walking away. She resisted and tried to break free of his grasp. Deputy ***** attempted to handcuff Barman as she screamed to the crowd of about 25-40 people. The crowd surrounded Deputy ***** and began pulling Barman away from him.

The crowd was successful in taking Barman away from Deputy ***** and they continued surrounding him. Clinician ***** was pushed out of the way by the crowd and kicked on the back of her leg by an unknown suspect. Deputy ***** took out his pepper spray and used it on the crowd which effectively stopped them from advancing on him. Additionally, it gave him an opportunity to go into the crowd and take Barman back into custody. He attempted to handcuff Barman as she struck him several times on his arms and upper torso with her hands.

Another female later identified as Pamela Ann Morgan began pulling at Deputy *****'s arms trying to prevent him from arresting Barman. Deputy ***** arrived and took Morgan into custody which allowed Deputy ***** time to handcuff and secure Barman. Barman was arrested for 243 (b) P.C.-Battery on a Police Officer and 148 (a) P.C.-Obstructing a Police Officer and was later booked into the Vista Jail. Morgan was arrested for 148 (a) P.C., issued a citation and released from the Encinitas Station. Deputy ***** sustained several scratches and minor swelling on both of his arms.

Source of information: Sgt. Jack Reynolds, Encinitas Patrol Station


Here's another story about San Diego County Sheriff's department:

Sheriff's Deputy Hired Despite Failed Psych Evals

July 10, 2009

Lowell Bruce, a deputy sheriff who fatally shot his wife in their Alpine home in 2006, twice failed the county's psychological evaluations and was rejected for employment by eight other law enforcement agencies, but was ultimately hired by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department anyway.

According to 1993 employment applications, rejection letters from the county of San Diego and other documents contained in a 2007 wrongful death lawsuit filed by his wife's parents, Bruce was told his history of violence was the reason he failed the exams and would not be hired.

Nonetheless, in 1998, five years after failing the evaluations, Bruce became a deputy assigned to the Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility in Santee.

"The county clearly understood and appreciated that he was unfit for duty and prone to violence, but hired him anyway," the 2007 lawsuit said. "Not only did the county recklessly hire Bruce, but thereafter provided him with a Glock handgun, and allowed him to take it home with him ... Bruce was permitted to take that weapon home, and as a result, at least six lives were forever altered."

Those lives included Bruce and his wife, Kristin Marie Maxwell-Bruce, 38, their two young boys, and her parents, Jim and Kay Maxwell.

However, during pretrial motions in June 2008, U.S. District Judge John Houston dismissed the plaintiffs' claim that the county was negligent in hiring Bruce as a deputy. Houston agreed with the county that Bruce "already had psychological issues before the county hired him and that he would have had the same issues whether or not the county hired him."

The psychological evaluations showed a history of physical violence and that Bruce "would tend to resort to violence as a way of resolving interpersonal differences with others," the lawsuit said.

On the second evaluation, which Bruce instigated as part of an appeal, the private psychologist who contracted with the county to perform the evaluation informed him in a rejection letter: "My recommendation, in part, was made due to your history of physical altercations with others and test results which suggest that you lack more creative ways of resolving differences with others. In a corrections setting this behavior and the lack of other means to resolve interpersonal problems, would not be successful."

He was then rejected by the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego Harbor Police, Chula Vista Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department and three public safety agencies in Washington State, according to the county application.

The documents were found by friends of the Maxwells who assisted them in sifting through Bruce's belongings in the weeks after the shooting.

Despite having the knowledge that Bruce failed the psychological test twice, and being rejected by at least eight other law enforcement agencies, he was still ultimately hired by the Sheriff's Department, and went on to fatally shoot his wife, the plaintiff's complaint said.

The lawsuit alleges the Sheriff's Department's of "careless and reckless hiring policies or practices led to the issuing of a gun to Bruce, which then led to the death of Kristin."...

Kristin Maxwell's Lonely Death

Voice of San Diego
July 10, 2009

After San Diego County sheriff's Deputy Lowell "Sam" Bruce shot his wife in the face in front of their 4-year-old son, Kristin Marie Maxwell-Bruce was able to walk to the kitchen phone and dial 911.

As she waited for medical help on that December evening in 2006, Kristin was alert and talking -- but it was with some difficulty because the bullet had destroyed half her tongue and the left side of her jaw.

She told her mother she was worried about her teeth; her mother assured her they could be fixed. Upon arrival at the Alpine home, medics found that Kristin's vital signs -- pulse, body temperature, blood pressure and respiratory rate -- were within normal range.

But Kristin's family claims a shocking series of blunders and delays by Sheriff's investigators and medics resulted in a lonely and unnecessary death an hour later for the 38-year-old mother of two.

The evening was capped by a violent encounter between deputies and Kristin's distraught father -- a sequestered witness who was pepper-sprayed, clubbed and handcuffed when he tried to leave sheriff's custody to tell his wife that their only child was dead, according to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in December 2007 by Kristin's parents, Jim and Kay Maxwell.

"During the last hour of Kristin's life, defendants refused to let her parents see her, refused to let them speak to her or comfort her, and refused to let Jim and Kay Maxwell see, speak to or comfort each other," the lawsuit said. The sheriff's officials "prevented Kristin from receiving proper medical treatment, falsely imprisoned Kristin and the Maxwells, and prevented the Maxwells from association with their daughter in the last hour of her life."

Meanwhile, the shooter, Lowell Bruce, a corrections deputy at Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility in Santee, was never handcuffed, and was permitted to make a phone call on another deputy's cell phone, the lawsuit contends.

Adding to the family's outrage were two discoveries soon after the shooting: Friends sifting through Lowell Bruce's belongings discovered documents indicating the deputy had twice failed psychological examinations when applying to work for the Sheriff's Department in 1993. But despite that initial rejection by the department, and at least eight other agencies, five years later the Sheriff's Department did ultimately hire and arm a man they'd deemed too violent for the job.

Also, at a debriefing about the incident attended by Sheriff's officials, one of the deputies got into a heated exchange with a sergeant, telling the sergeant he "fucked the crime scene up" because he "didn't want to let the ambulance leave."...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

San Diego sheriff's department raids Francine Busby fundraiser

Okay, Bonnie Dumanis, this is getting to be a bit one-sided. You prosecuted a young man for trying to take a picture at Republican Cheryl Cox's fundraiser. Let's see how you handle a case of far greater abuse at a Democratic fundraiser. The very least that should be done is to make the caller (who was not a neighbor) pay for the cost of the helicopter and charge him with making a false police report.

Why were a canine unit and helicopter deemed necessary for this action? What on earth did the caller say, if anything, to make the sheriff's department pull out all the stops? Or was it the sheriff's department that overreacted?

Who Was Busby's Party Pooper?

Voice of San Diego
July 2, 2009

On June 26, at 9 p.m. someone called the San Diego Sheriff's Department and made what the department has described as a "noise complaint." The call resulted in several deputies, a K-9 unit and a helicopter being deployed to a private residence where a political fundraiser was being held for congressional candidate Francine Busby.

The evening ended in chaos, with the host of the fundraiser in jail accused of obstructing a peace officer and battery on a peace officer and several middle-aged guests alleging excessive force by a deputy who they claim shot pepper spray indiscriminately at a crowd of guests.

Of all the questions to surface since that evening, the identity of the mystery caller to the Sheriff's Department, and the nature of his or her complaint remain perhaps the most perplexing. Because the department won’t reveal any information about the caller and won't release any documents or recordings of the incident, the public has no way of knowing if the caller was a disgruntled neighbor, upset about noise from the party, or a political saboteur, intent on disrupting Busby's fundraiser.

For her part, Busby wants to know if the caller was the same person who hid in some bushes on a plot adjacent to the home where the fundraiser was held and heckled her while she made a speech to supporters. She has asked the Sheriff's Department to clear the air by releasing a recording of the phone complaint.

The Sheriff's Department issued a statement saying that it received a noise complaint from an individual regarding the fundraising event. But the department has refused to elaborate on the incident because it is currently under internal investigation.

Sanford Toyen, a Sheriff's Department legal advisor, said the records are exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act because they are records of a law enforcement investigation.

But public records law expert Terry Francke disagreed. Francke said while the department may keep the identity of the complainer secret, it is required to make public the basic facts of the complaint under the CPRA.

"Merely using a label like 'noise complaint' is insufficient," Francke said.

Kevin Keenan, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said the Sheriff's Department has to play a delicate balancing act between releasing information about what could be a malicious complaint and protecting the privacy of the individual who made the call.

But Keenan said the department could release certain information about the incident -- for example, whether the complaint was made by a neighbor or someone who did not live near the party and could not legitimately make the claim that they were disturbed by it.

"When there's a vacuum of information and a lot of legitimate concerns, it's usually the best policy to get the information out there," Keenan said.

According to the Sheriff's Department, a deputy based in Encinitas was called to the residence on Rubenstein Avenue in Cardiff after the department received the noise complaint at about 9 p.m. on July 26.

About an hour before the deputy showed up, Busby had made a brief speech on the back patio of the large house where the fundraiser was being held.

That speech prompted the mystery heckler to launch his reported tirade.

As Busby spoke to the crowd through a public address system, a man hidden behind trees and bushes on a neighboring lot started to shout obscenities and insults about her policies, said four people who attended the party. The profanity-laced invective went on for several minutes before one of Busby's supporters decided to shout back, Busby said.

"Somebody yelled back at him. Whoever he was, he was hidden in the bushes, we couldn't see him," Busby said.

There are three homes whose gardens back onto the yard where the fundraiser was being held. In interviews, the residents of all three of those homes said they had no idea who might have shouted at the group gathered for the fundraiser. All of the residents said they were Democrats and said they had not heard any noise from the party until the Sheriff's Department helicopter showed up...